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Calling Out Some “Ban Books, Protect Guns” Hypocrisy

So much manufactured to-do over protecting children from books instead of magazines….

The book-blaming, gun-excusing hypocrisy is just too easy to find among headlines these days.

Here’s a smidge of that smudge from lawmakers in five states:


Ban the books.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has called for legislation to restrict what children and teens can check out from public libraries.

“This is not about banning lifestyles or any other topic,” Landry said. “This is again, about protecting the innocence of children in this state. Any member of the press or public who says otherwise is purposely being dishonest about making this more about just protecting children.” (02/11/23)


Protect the guns.

“In this testimony, you stated the following in response to a question from Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.): ‘we do not finance the manufacture of military-style weapons for civilian use,’” Landry wrote.

Landry also said the response “called into question your ability to do business in several states, including Louisiana.”

The remark was a reference to a potential violation of Texas state law, where a newly enacted statute bars companies with more than 10 employees from discriminating against “a firearm entity or firearm trade association” if the companies seek to work with a governmental entity.

The bond commission SFO, dated December 2019, included a provision saying the state reserved the right to terminate a business relationship with any approved financial institution if the firm engaged in restrictive practices against law-abiding citizens, which included “the right to purchase and sell arms.” (10/18/21)


Louisiana has already pulled back from doing business with two banks – Bank of America and Citigroup – over the companies’ refusal to work with certain firearms manufacturers. Eliminating more banks could result in Louisiana receiving less favorable options when it comes to borrowing money and other financing deals, critics have warned. 

Bob Lamb, the bond commission’s former financial adviser, told State Treasurer John Schroder last year that Louisiana would likely lose money if it put more constraints on the number of banks it was willing to hire.  …

“Our bank list is getting short,” Lamb added. (02/17/23)



Ban the books.

The Arizona Senate has passed a bill that presumably would allow a parent to request that any book containing the words “he” or “she” – or “his” or “hers” – be forever banned from Arizona’s public schools.

No, really.

Senate Bill 1700 is part of the Republican-run Legislature’s ongoing hysteria over the LGBTQ community and our leaders’ weird paranoia that teachers and librarians are secretly plotting to sexualize our children.ither that, or it’s just a crass bid to pad their reelection bona fides as fully engaged, armed-and-at-the-ready culture warriors.


Protect the guns.

Changes in Arizona gun law are making their way through the legislature, affecting things like gun shows, guns on school campuses and even suppressors, sometimes called silencers.

Republicans hold the majority in the legislature and changes to gun laws are one of the ways they are using that power. Right now there are bills proposing that parents and guardians should be allowed to carry guns on a school campus if they have a concealed weapons permit, making sound suppressors legal, and taking away city and county authority to set rules for gun shows. …

State Senator Justine Wadsack’s district is mostly in northern Pima County, curving southeast into Vail. She’s proposed a bill to restrict any city or county’s ability to enforce gun laws more strict than state law—including anything that would interfere with a gun show.

We tried to reach Senator Wadsack to discuss her rationale for the bills, and tried to reach other sponsors or co-sponsors but we could not connect Monday. (02/27/23)



Ban the books.

A Republican-driven Senate bill limiting reading materials in school districts and public libraries has passed and is now on its way to the House floor.

Senator Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, is the author of Senate Bill 397.

He said the intention of the bill is to protect younger generations from reading inappropriate and “pornographic” material. …

The bill doesn’t just outline minors, though.

Anyone over the age of 18 would also have limitations when checking out a book at a public library.

“No print or nonprint material or media in a school district library, charter school library, or public library shall include content that the average person eighteen (18) or older applying contemporary community standards would find has a predominant tendency to appeal to prurient interest in sex,” SB 397 reads. (03/08/23)


Protect the guns.

A bill that would make Oklahoma a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary State’ is now headed to the Senate.

Sen. Warren Hamilton has filed Senate Bill 631.

The bill would prevent any future legislation by the federal government from infringing on the Second Amendment rights of Oklahomans.

“SB 631 states that the gun laws as they exist today are as restrictive as they’re ever going to be, and that they cannot be added to,” Hamilton said. “No governmental agency has the Constitutional authority to restrict magazines, ammunition, modern sporting rifles or AR pistols. This bill is simply a red line that clearly defines the limits of governmental authority regarding our unalienable, God-given, blood-bought, constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.” (02/25/21)



Ban the books.

Local efforts to remove books from school libraries are now moving to a statewide stage during Texas’ 88th legislative session. Lawmakers have filed bills to create uniform standards for which books should be available in public school libraries. One is from State Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, who filed House Bill 900. His legislation is a priority bill for Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, which means it has a better chance of passing.

Patterson said the goal of the bill is to remove sexually explicit material from school libraries. His involvement in this issue began over a year ago in Frisco. …

“We have to step up now to protect our kids,” he said. “And, we’re going to pass a statewide standard for the first time in the state of Texas.” (03/28/23)


Protect the guns.

“The Solution to Gun Violence Isn’t Public Policy” by State Rep. Jared Patterson

We are a nation in crisis. It’s not a gun crisis or even a mental health crisis. It’s a crisis of fatherlessness.

Each time we see such senseless violence unfold as the devastating shooting that made the small town of Uvalde a household name, we cry anew for policy solutions. But almost every such attack boils down not to who can buy what guns where, but instead to the devaluation and destruction of the family — especially the absence of strong fathers. …

As a state legislator, I love a good policy solution. I believe the government’s power should be limited but that it can be used for good. It’s incredibly satisfying when we can simply propose a new law that tidily corrects a previous oversight or misstep.

Of course, few societal challenges are that simple. But the pervasive sickness of sin and depravity that drives troubled young men to violence has a simple solution — though not an easy one. …

Fatherhood has tremendous power for good. It’s time we embrace the responsibility, for all our sakes. (06/16/22)


A bill from Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Plano, would permit election workers to carry firearms when performing electoral duties during early voting or on election day. Critics worried about security concerns at polling sites. (03/21/23)



Ban the books.

Mississippi could ban digital books that state law defines as “sexually oriented,” including books with depictions of “homosexuality” and “lesbianism,” from public and school libraries after a majority in the Mississippi House approved an amended version of Senate Bill No. 2346 on Wednesday.

When the Mississippi Senate passed the bill on Feb. 28, it was six pages long and focused on requiring websites where pornography makes up more than one-third of the content to implement an age-verification system. When the legislation reached the House, its Judiciary B Committee amended it, expanding it to also include bans on “obscene” and “sexually oriented” digital materials in libraries. It does not include physical books.

The bill prohibits public-school libraries for K-12 students and public libraries that serve adults and children alike from contracting with vendors for “digital or online resources” that violate the State’s pre-existing legal definition of “sexually oriented materials.”

The bill points to Mississippi Code Section 97-5-27, which says that “any material is sexually oriented if the material contains representations or descriptions, actual or simulated, of masturbation, sodomy, excretory functions, lewed exhibition of the genitals or female breasts, sadomasochistic abuse (for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification), homosexuality, lesbianism, beastiality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or the breast or breasts of a female for the purpose of sexual stimulation, gratification or perversion.”

House Judiciary B Committee Chairman Rep. Nick Bain, R-Corinth, introduced the amended Senate Bill No. 2346 on the floor Wednesday. He told fellow lawmakers that the goal of the legislation is “to protect minors from sexually illicit materials.” After his explanation, though, Rep. Shanda Yates, I-Jackson, rose to question the bill’s contents.

“Will the gentleman yield?” she said.

“I’m reluctant to,” Bain said. “But I will.” …

Yates pointed him to Section 8 of the bill, noting that it prohibits “sexually oriented” materials from public libraries and, unlike Section 7, which focused on K-12 schools, includes “no age limitation.” …

The chairman assured her that lawmakers would “fix it in conference” to ensure the prohibitions do not apply to adults.

“It is the intent to prohibit or protect children from seeing this,” Bain said. “It is not the intent to outlaw things such as ‘The Scarlet Letter’ or—”

“Ernest Hemingway or ‘The Canterbury Tales’ or ‘Dracula,’ or ‘50 Shades of Grey’?” Yates offered.

Bain noted that the bill’s text additionally defines obscene materials as those without “literary or artistic value.” …

‘Pretty Sure We Just Banned The Bible’

The House previously passed its own bill, House Bill 1341, with most of the same language now in S.B. 2346 on Feb. 2, but that bill died in committee in the Senate on Feb. 28. That bill, whose principal author was House Speaker Philip Gunn, included the same definition of “sexually oriented” materials as the House’s amended S.B. 2346.

Yates spoke with Bain after catching the mistake she and others had made. “I said I’m pretty sure we just banned the Bible,” she recalled. The problem seemed solved when the bill died in the Senate, only to resurface again when the House Judiciary B Committee’s amendment inserted the same language into Senate Bill 2346.

Yates said she believes Bain when he says he will fix issues with the bill in conference, and attributed its flaws to sloppiness.

“I’m totally OK keeping porn away from kids, but the bill we passed does way more than that and that is not what the majority of us who voted for that original bill thought we were doing,” Yates said. (03/09/23)


Protect the guns.

During a recent interview on MidDays with Gerard Gibert, Representative Nick Bain, R-Corinth, noted that leaders within the National Rifle Association (NRA) have warned him of possible hindrances on gun sales nationwide.

According to Bain, the NRA claims that major credit card companies are planning to use commodity codes to block individuals from purchasing guns and ammunition with their products. The House Judicial B Committee chairman sees this measure as an infringement of Second Amendment rights.

Therefore, to prevent the possibility of such occurrences taking place in the Magnolia State, Bain is working with lawmakers within the Judicial B Committee to advance legislation that would outlaw credit card companies from blocking lawful transactions of firearms and accessories. …

“You want to buy some ammo at Walmart or your local mom-and-pop store and the credit card puts a block on it because they don’t want you using their company to buy ammo. We’re going to make that basically illegal. They cannot do that.” (01/30/23)


When I conduct class behind locked gates and locked doors, I do so chiefly and overwhelmingly because of the threat of firearms.

When my students and I regularly practice lockdown drills, we aren’t hiding from books.

We don’t need legislation to curb somebody’s library selection.

It is the guns, and not just underregulated availability of guns:

It is the ultra-right glorification of semi-automatic weapons, and the Christmas card gun photos, and the AR-15 lapel pins.

How asinine can you be?

In your idiocy, you are actually promoting gun violence as a viable solution to the disgruntled and unstable who are absorbing your ill-advised showcasing of weapons.

If you hold a public office and sport an AR-15 lapel pin in place of the American flag, or if you choose to take a holiday family picture in which the whole family is holding weapons, then you are the gasoline on the mass-shooting fire.

And if you are quick to ban books and slow to regulate firearms, then either you are intellectually bereft–which I do not believe– or you are willing to sell out genuine saftey for others, including children, in order to advance your own political career– which I do believe with my whole locked-gate, locked-room, lockdown-drilled, teacher heart.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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For the Dedicated Teacher

This brief post is for the dedicated teacher.

The teacher who is highly committed in both professional and personal life.

The teacher who places at a premium helping others:

Pretend that I am in front of you, with one hand on either cheek in order to direct your well-intended-yet-distracted attention to looking me in the eyes as I speak:

You must say “no” to some worthwhile, enticing commitments.

You must curtail your involvement in others with the goal of intentionally carving out time in your weekly schedule for rest.

As you think of adding “it,” whatever “it” is, you must say “no.”

You must build rest into your schedule, and you must be intentional about it. Otherwise, the time will get away from you, chipped away minute by minute in unrestful activity that appears noble and good in the short term but in the long term is paving the road to a future heart attack.

It is possible for the mind to be so committed to efficiency and task competion that the mind runs the body into the ground. Literally.

Say “no” to orchestrating your own future heart attack through overwork.

You know if this post is for you.

I know it is for me.

Take care of yourselves, my friends.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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DeSantis and Education: Sterilizing “Freedom.”

The current ultra-conservative education platform seeks to stifle all formal or informal discussion of diversity, equity, or inclusion in public K12 and postsecondary education, with Florida apparently leading such efforts.

Though as of yet not a formally-declared 2024 candidate, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis is in the GOP polls as an assumed and formidible GOP presidential primary candidate.

DeSantis, and the Florida legislature are working hard to exercise power over what courses or majors could exist in Florida universities, with legislative efforts to kill womens and gender studies and, as the Insider notes, “gut” a variety of majors. Meanwhile, the February 24, 2023, Tampa Bay Times reports that the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) “told school districts to produce detailed information about the programs and materials they use to address some of the state’s most hotly debated subjects.” Continuing:

In an email delivered late Tuesday, the department instructed superintendents to fill out a 34-question survey identifying titles of books and programs they have relating to sex education, social-emotional learning, culturally relevant teaching and diversity, and equity and inclusion, among other topics. It asked for specifics for student courses and employee training.

The department requested names and examples from district and charter schools. 

FDOE wants the information by Monday, February 27, 2023, though it did not offer any reason.

The FDOE request came on the same day that Florida HB 999 was filed by Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola). The bill would remove faculty input from the hiring process; prohibit hiring based on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); remove majors and minors related to Critical Race Theory, gender studies or intersectionailty.

This rewrite of the previous bill seeks to remove any mention of “politics,” including striking through statements such as, “Motivate students throughout the Florida State University to become aware of the significance of government and civic engagement at all levels and politics in general”; “Provide students with an opportunity to be politically active and civically engaged”, and “Nurture a greater awareness of and passion for public service and politics.”

Notice what else has been removed: Any hint of encouraging civic engagement or activism:

One goal of HB 999 appears to be creating a passive citizenry that is provided with some information but not any that might prompt the unpleasantness of activism against state-legislated decisions.

To do this, kill any college major, policy, or even classroom discussion that bucks the state’s politically-charged attempt to dictate viewpoint.

As the Insider points out, University of Michigan law professor, Julian Mortenson, tweets about this “breathtaking control of viewpoint”:

DeSantis has already been in the news for efforts to reshape New College of Florida into the image of conservative, private Hillsdale College in Michigan. (Hillsdale is considered a model for “anti-woke” higher ed.)

And if there is any mistake about DeSantis’ seriousness at enforcing his viewpoint-shaping, the very same Andrade who proposed the above HB 999, Politico reports, is also “working with DeSantis’ office” in drafting a bill to curtail freedom of the press, a protection that Andrade frames as “overreach” and a “private cause of action.”

Since all signs point to a DeSantis presidential run, and since he is polling so strongly, America would do well to pay attention to the havoc DeSantis is wreaking on true freedom in the name of authoritarian-enforced “freedom.”

What could happen nationally to K12 and postsecondary education under a DeSantis presidency?

Something that would make his ultra-right, anti-public-school, billionaire funder, former US ed sec Betsy DeVos, deeply satisfied:

The further crippling of American public schools and universities as those who wish to exercise DEI-sensitive hiring practices and pursue majors in the likes of gender and ethnic studies must escape to private schools and universities to do so.

Put the squeeze on public institutions to the degree that private institutions become the viable option foir those who otherwise would have benefited from the public institution.

The endgame of ultra-conservative, authoritarianism-as-“freedom” approach to public infrastructure:

Sterilize and starve the public entity so that those unwilling to toe the line are half-nelsoned into “choosing” the private entity.

Effective leaders do not clamp freedom by the neck, but you know who does?

Dictators. Despots.


Ron DeSantis


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Universal Money-Follows-the-Child: Talk About Bureaucratic Nightmare

The idea of taxpayer funding for K12 education following the student– “funding portability”– is not new. Following the COVID pandemic and the closing of schools (or following a virtual model that taxed family functioning and internet capabilities) has contributed to a rise in public willingness to consider funding portability. Conservative organizations like the Reason Foundation are ready to offer suggestions on how to institute universal funding portability “and ensure funds flow seamlessly across district boundaries.”

As I read the Reason article linked above, my first thought was on how it would require a monstrous bureaucracy to administer and track funding sent directly to the parents/guardians of each student. This cannot be understated. Consider the mess it would be, say, if the funding went to an old bank account, or wrong bank account. Consider the bureaucratic mess it would present if a child transferred schools at an inconvenient time. So many bank accounts to keep straight. So many payments or partial payments to track to parent from state, or from parent to correct school. Not just any school– the school at which student attendance has been verified.

Now think of this on the level of hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of students.

In order for the transfer of funds to proceed “seamlessly” (Reason’s word), it would entail rules and guidelines, and accountability departments and scheduled, incremental payments, and stop-payment procedures for the school the student no longer attended. It would mean an established appeals process when money was sent to the wrong school, or in the name of the wrong child even in the same household (say, if several children attend different schools, even in different counties or states).

I haven’t even mentioned the bureaucracy needed to to both combat and confront acts of fraud committed by those disbursing and receiving funds.

Universal funding portability would also mean school and district budgets being thrown into chaos because money supposed to arrive one child at a time doesn’t just show up like idyllic magic.

None of this is smooth, and none of this is easy, and none of this is wondrously seamless.

Astoundingly, the cost of the ballooned bureaucracy is not taken into consideration at all. A huge bureaucracy demands a diet of major money. And yet, the Reason Foundation just assumes some utopian, bureaucracy-free, auxilliary-cost-free “seamless” disburing and arrival of funds exactly where they should go and when. However, those of us residing in the real world know that anything resembling seamlessness must be well planned (including contingencies) and amply resourced by multi-level competence, which means…

Universal funding portability would require a monstrous (and mightily-financed) bureaucracy.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Ron DeSantis: Slapping an “Empowerment” Label on Fascism.

Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, is proud of micromanaging the selection of books Florida public school students may choose to read. Florida House Bill 1467 became law in July 2022. DeSantis sells this bill as instructional material “transparency”; however, many Florida teachers and librarians have stripped or covered their bookshelves for fear of being charged with a class-three felony if a public school student is exposed to a book that has not been vetted by a media specialist, librarian, or other personnel trained to filter out anything that could be “harmful to minors” because, among other issues, it “taken as a whole, is without serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” (Quite the path to travel to uncover this one statement: See here, which leads to here, which leads to here, which leads to here.)

What has happened is that in the name of “transparency,” DeSantis is fostering a culture of fear, as now, the word “pornography” has come to supplant even that which could have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

No doubt, DeSantis 451 is feeding off of teachers’ and other school staff and officials’ fearing being charged with “a felony of the third degree.”

Talk about a way to address a teacher shortage, as the February 02. 2023, notes:

Displaying or giving students a disallowed book, is a third-degree felony. A conviction is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Some believe that in itself could drive away potential teachers.

“What concerns me more, is there’s already a teacher shortage. And if you’re going to have teachers operate under a cloud of fear, it’s certainly not going to encourage anyone to go into the field,” said David Godwin, an educator and president of Santa Rosa County Professional Educators.

DeSantis says he is doing all of this “as part of the Year of the Parent”— so long as “the parent” agrees with DeSantis’ overreaching, book-restricting fear-stoking in Florida’s understaffed public school classrooms, that is. As for you other parents, those who dislike the government reaching right into the public school classroom in order to micromanage your’ child’s choice of books– you’re out of luck. No “empowerment” for you.

Empowerment does not empty bookshelves.

Fear of a class-three felony sure does, though.

What DeSantis is doing is not empowering parents. He is simply slapping a “parental empowerment” label on fascism.

Ron DeSantis


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Paul Vallas as Chicago’s Next Mayor?? Talk About a Terrible Mistake.

In January 2018, I posted about Paul Vallas, who was at the time dropping hints about becoming Chicago’s next mayor. Vallas ran and lost, winning only 5.4 percent of the vote in the February 2019 general election.

Four years later, in January 2023, Vallas is considered a real possibility (see also here and here) for at least landing in a mayoral-race runoff following Chicago’s February 28, 2023, general election.

Vallas as mayor would be bad news for Chicago. Full stop. On January 24, 2023, the Chicago Tribune posted this benign candidate bio for Vallas, but don’t be fooled, Chicago. Vallas is anything but benign.

Chicago voters need to be informed about what they would be getting should Vallas become mayor. Therefore, I am reposting some of the Vallas history I posted four years ago, in 2018.

Vallas is terrible with budgets and with fulfilling promises, but through it all, he has managed to serve and protect his own interests.

From my 2018 posting:


The January 26, 2018, Chicago tribune touches on Vallas’ previous connections to Gary Solomon, who is now serving a seven-year prison sentence for paying kickback cash to also-sentenced former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief, Barbara Byrd Bennett, in exchange for her awarding no-bid contracts to Solomon’s ed consulting company. The Tribune also notes, “Vallas previously has told the Tribune he stopped working with Solomon in 2010, but has declined to explain why.”

However, there is loads more to the Vallas controversy than his connection with Solomon. (For more on the Vallas-Solomon connection see this post by Connecticut blogger, Jonathan Pelto.)

In April 2014, I published a book that includes three chapters on Vallas, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. The Vallas-related chapter titles are as follows:

  • The Chicago Connection: The Daley-Vallas Years
  • Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: Wrecking Philadelphia
  • Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: No Good for New Orleans or Bridgeport

In order to offer readers a feel for exactly what Chicago would be getting (again), I would like to offer excerpts from those three chapters. (Even though I am limiting the excerpts, given the volume of information in the three chapters, this post is unusually long.)

The news is not good, but it is consistent: Vallas does his damage then exits, usually not smoothly but nevertheless relatively unscathed, only to land in yet another public-coffer-yielding opportunity for himself.

Here we go.

From the first chapter, The Chicago Connection: The Daley-Vallas Years:

During his remaining years as mayor, Daley appointed two Chicago Public Schools CEOs; the first was Paul Vallas.

The rest is counterproductive history.

Paul Vallas

Daley initially offered the schools CEO position to his Chief of Staff Gery Chico, who declined yet became president of the newly-created, Daley-appointed School Reform Board—and technically, the school CEO’s boss. Vallas was Daley’s next choice; as the City of Chicago’s budget director, Vallas had a reputation for managing budgets and for reconciling with those upset by Vallas’ budget cuts.10  In the newly-created position of CEO, Vallas was indeed part of a top-down, business model of management. Though he is credited with some “experience” teaching “in Downstate schools and on an American Indian reservation in Montana,”11 Vallas is not an educator. He neither holds degrees in education nor is he certified. Vallas has a B.A. in history and a masters in political science. He has been a revenue analyst, a public finance instructor, an aide to senate president, and executive director of the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission.12

Vallas is a businessman. A February 1996 Chicago Tribune article on Vallas notes his “education as a business” model in the following changes to “managing” education:

“…Some of the individual decisions Vallas and his team have made [include]-the idea of putting 40 schools in remediation and allowing principals to suspend teachers without pay or a hearing…. … Under the law, the new schools bosses essentially can hire and fire employees as they see fit, move out of the high-overhead Pershing Road headquarters, and use teacher pension money as well as funds once set aside for poor children to make ends meet in the district’s general operating fund. They can swoop into non-performing schools, take out adults they believe are causing problems-which they have done-and shift difficult students to one of several alternative schools planned.“13

A major push (and issue of controversy) in Vallas’ remediation of public schools involves his declaring schools to be “in educational crisis.” In September 1995, the School Reform board passed a nebulous school intervention plan hinging on criteria including a principal’s failing to implement the school improvement plan, develop a “reasonable” budget, ensure safe school facilities or complete school opening-day paperwork. Given the Amendatory Act of 1995 that already granted Vallas carte blanche in the running of Chicago’s schools, the School Reform Board was now merely offering a formality of agreement. Parents and community leaders were not included in any discussions of this “intervention” that could lead to principal and local school council member removal.14

Vallas also had the power to make budget cuts as he saw fit, which he did:

“Weeks after taking the reins as schools CEO, Vallas ushered in a new era of austerity where once there had been rampant waste in city schools. He banned all out-of-town trips by central office staff and clipped funding for catered meals after board meetings. This insulted many, including some of Vallas’ own staff. [Chief Education Officer Lynn] St. James and one of her top aides were called on the carpet for outfitting their offices with new furniture.”15

Vallas’ budget cuts also included sale of surplus property; lowering the amount of funds paid to the teachers’ pension fund; moving funds into the general fund that were formerly earmarked, and canceling a program for networking district computers.16 Indeed, he proclaimed not only a balanced budget but also a surplus. As a 1995 Chicago Tribune article reports:

“Vallas, while directing the bulk of the surplus to balance the budget over time, would use $35 million to: help schools extend the class day and year; move violent students from regular classrooms into several new alternative schools; send armies of tutors and mentors into schools to help students who consistently fail; and establish apprenticeship programs for high school students prone to dropping out. ‘Student performance improves when schools are better organized, when you have a longer school year and when you get violent students out of the schools,’ Vallas said. ‘Failure is not an option for us; we have to deliver.’”17

In truth, the question on which Vallas’ perceived “effectiveness” hinged was one raised by Bennett in 1987—dropout rates and test scores. To corporate reformers, such numbers—especially the test scores—are the primary indicator of education “success.” As the 1996 Chicago Tribune article continues:

“Conrad Worrill, professor at Northeastern Illinois University and head of the National Black United Front, said, ‘At this point in time [February 1996], it’s very difficult to judge this new school team. I think Mr. Vallas is projecting himself as the great savior of Chicago public schools, when in fact what he really is is a master of public relations. He seems to deal well with people. He speaks well and he has good presence. But the jury is still out. I haven’t seen test scores rise.‘”18

Vallas believes that the business model is the solution for achieving the ends of lower dropout rates and higher test scores:

“In line with his corporate style, Vallas said he soon will create a new position-local school business manager-so that principals can spend less time doing tedious jobs such as checking bus schedules and school cleanliness and more time trying to boost students’ test scores. Within a year, he said, more city high schools and elementary schools will merge into ‘corporate campuses,’ united by a common academic theme and funded by adoptive local corporations. One such site, at Wendell Phillips High School Academy, already is in the making. ‘This district has got to evolve and become more like a corporation. This is essentially a $3 billion business,’ Vallas has said, ‘and we’ve got to learn how to leverage our buying power.’”19

Vallas credited rising test scores to the system of placing schools on probation and “imposing curriculum” onto these schools; however, Donald Moore of Designs for Change refuted this connection.  In the 1997 article, Moore notes a trend in improvement over “the last seven years” (1990-1997); thus, the overall trend predated mayoral control. Three years later, Moore presented evidence to show that schools placed on probation in 1996-97 still had roughly 80 percent of students scoring below the national average in reading in the spring of 2000.28  …

In 1999, Vallas decided not to retain students who did not pass ITBS a third time. Astoundingly, amazingly, he made the declaration that these students would likely end up in special education:

“Schools chief Paul Vallas told the Tribune the system will not hold back any student a third time in the same grade; the student will be promoted. But those students also will be screened for placement in special education, and Vallas predicted that virtually all screenings will result in such placements.”47

When Vallas left Chicago, he was facing news of flattened test scores, a new union leadership poised to resist his and Daley’s increasingly punitive reform agenda, and public displeasure from Daley, the sole individual in charge of his employment as CEO.

Arguably, it was not a successful departure. Yet Vallas’ career as an education reformer was far from over.

And from the chapter, Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: Wrecking Philadelphia:

By spring 2001, the Daley-Vallas honeymoon was undeniably over. This reformer duo squabbled publicly via the press concerning their different views on such issues as retaining students multiple times for failure to pass ITBS and approaches to addressing the embarrassingly low first-day attendance rates at Chicago’s public schools. Add to that the not-so-amazing-and-astounding improvements in the public schools as a whole, and, well, that leads to a Chicago schools CEO who becomes the former Chicago schools CEO.

Paul Vallas did not “reform” Chicago’s public schools. He did promote an atmosphere of pressure and fear.1 Perhaps he thought he might do so statewide; following his exit as Chicago schools CEO, Vallas made a bid for Illinois governor but lost in the primary.2 The winner, Rod Blagejovich, would end up in prison for trying to sell Obama’s vacant senate seat, among other crimes.3

In need of employment and now with experience in disrupting public education, Vallas was a candidate for the position of chancellor of New York City’s schools; NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg was granted mayoral control of schools in June 2002, and he was searching for his first schools chancellor appointee. However, Vallas instead accepted the appointment as Philadelphia schools CEO.4 The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) had just been taken over by the state for both its low test scores and financial deficit.5

The year was 2002. Paul Vallas was going to save Philadelphia’s schools.

Philadelphia’s public schools did not stand a chance.  In “the most radical reform ever undertaken in a large, urban school district,”9 Philadelphia schools were to be privatized. Philadelphia Governor Mark Schweiker announced his plan to turn over management of SDP to Edison Schools, Inc. approximately 67% of SDP’s 264 schools were to be partially or completely privatized. The privatization plan had begun in August 2001 under then-Governor Tom Ridge and was passed on to Schweiker. Interestingly, the privatization process was postponed until after Ridge’s appointment as secretary of the newly-created Office of Homeland Security under G. W. Bush.10,11 

The projected cost of privatization: In excess of SDP’s $1.7 billion budget, $150 more per year over five years. In 1998, Superintendent Hornbeck, who resigned in June 2000 for lack of fiscal support,12 appealed to the state because he did not have sufficient funds to end the school year with a balanced budget. Never mind that SDP received a disproportionately low per-pupil funding as compared to other Pennsylvania districts….

Perhaps Vallas’ worst moment as a budgeter occurred on December 11, 2006, when he had to face the Philadelphia City Council and justify not just more budget cuts, but more cuts in an attempt to solve a deficit mid-school-year to the tune of $73.3 million.22  Keep in mind that the Philadelphia public school budget was already problematic in February 1998 when then-Superintendent Hornbeck appealed to the state that the $1.7 billion budgeted would not suffice for the entire school year. Fast forward to December 2006, when the budget was set at $2.04 billion, and Vallas was now lacking $73.3 million to balance it. This means that Vallas’ error set the actual available funding at approximately $1.3 billion—almost nine years after Hornbeck voiced his concerns and was met by punitive legislative action—and with the added burden of paying privatizers fees for their “services.” And what of those “services”? Did the dropout rate remarkably improve given the four years that Vallas had been CEO?  Consider this excerpt of the heated December 11, 2006, City Council meeting:

“…It was from Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. that Vallas took the most heat. Goode began by asking who sat in on Vallas’ final job interview and whether he remembered talking about the dropout rate then. Vallas said the entire School Reform Commission interviewed him and discussed the dropout rate. ‘How are young black males performing in the district and how has it changed during your tenure?’ Goode asked. Vallas said that most were still failing but that strides had been made.“23

This is not the promising response one wishes to offer when also acknowledging that the budget is incredibly in the red.

More cuts, more cuts:

“The School Reform Commission made more cuts last week and “conditionally authorized” Vallas to trim an additional $20 million, which would get the district the $73.3 million it needs to close the deficit.“24

Once again, Vallas was on his way out from a schools CEO position with displeasure toward him hanging in the air:

“The beginning of the end of his tenure happened when, just four months after he had told the Philadelphia City Council that the budget was balanced and a month after the SRC, by a 3–2 vote, had renewed his contract until 2010, the district suddenly was revealed to have a $73 million deficit.”

“Embarrassed SRC members, led by Whelan and James Gallagher, the president of Philadelphia University, pushed for Vallas’s ouster. In the spring of 2007, they took him to lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel and told him that they had lost confidence in him.“25

Four months later (April 2007), Paul Vallas would resign from yet another schools CEO position,26 but not before drawing a handsome salary and benefits for several years.

The budget slashings incurred by Philadelphia’s schools were not evident in Vallas’ own earnings. His initial salary was $275,000, and it increased to $285,000 in 2007. Interestingly, Vallas’ raises in 2008 and 2009 were tied to teachers’ raises in the collective bargaining agreement. Vallas was also eligible for annual performance bonuses up to 20% of his salary and 30 days a year of paid vacation. However, he did not remain in Philadelphia long enough to garner his $100,000 per year retention bonuses (effective July 2007).27

Vallas made an incredible budgeting blunder in Philadelphia. However, Philadelphia was not the only district suffering from Vallas’ budgeting decisions. By 2006, Vallas’ 1995 Chicago “miracle” budget “surplus” had begun to unravel.28 His 1995 decision to “trim” the budget by paying $83 million less into the Chicago teacher pension fund came home with a fury by 2008:

“The political horse-trading that has diminished all of the city’s pension funds can be viewed most dramatically through the recent history of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund. …

“This predicament can be traced to decisions made in the wake of Mayor Richard Daley’s takeover of the public school system in 1995.

“With help from allies in Springfield, the Daley administration pushed to have the pension code rewritten so property tax money that normally went to pensions would go to Chicago Public Schools coffers. Under the old law, the district’s pension bill was slated to be $93 million in 1995. Instead, it paid just $10 million.

“CPS officials went back to Springfield the following year and had the law changed again. This time, the district would have to put money into the pension only if the fund’s level fell below 90 percent.

“For the next decade, the district’s contribution to the retirement of tens of thousands of public school teachers was zero. In all, the pension holiday cost the teachers fund more than $1.5 billion from 1995 to 2009, according to fund documents. The state was supposed to help soften the blow by contributing to the fund, but that never happened.

“In 2004, it dipped below 90 percent for the first time, but because funding is based on results from two years earlier, that milestone didn’t affect the district until 2006. That year the school system had to contribute $36 million to the pension fund. The bill nearly tripled to $90 million in 2007, and by this year it was $340 million — an 844 percent increase in just four years.“29

This, dear readers, is the long-term result of Vallas Budget Management in Chicago: Short-term gain for long-term fiscal chaos.  Paul Vallas initiated this Chicago budget crisis by shaving off pension funding. Apparently, Philadelphia SRB members did not know of the Chicago Vallas Effect even as they were being publicly humiliated by the Philadelphia Vallas Effect. …

Philadelphia did not benefit from six years of Vallas, his never-ending budget cuts, his high salary, his empty promises to address the dropout rate, and his veneer of testing “success.”

In fall 2007, Philadelphia still had education-related problems, but they were no longer Vallas’ problems. Vallas had moved on to the Big Easy, where he continued his legacy of digging deeper fiscal ditches in the name of Vallas-brand educational “success.”

And, finally, from the chapter, Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: No Good for New Orleans or Bridgeport:

Vallas has been in the education reform business since 1995 with his appointment as CEO of Chicago schools. That didn’t work out; so, Vallas left for Philadelphia, where that didn’t work out, either. So, as reformers do when their time runs out in a city, he moved on. The next stop for the Vallas Education and Budget Disruption Plan was New Orleans, with its massive infusion of federal aid following Hurricane Katrina, where he would remain for several years before moving on to Bridgeport, where he ended up in the courts for lack of proper credentials. …

It truly astounds me that State Superintendent Paul Pastorek hired Vallas to run RSD (New Orleans’ Recovery School District) given that one primary reason for state takeover of Orleans schools in 2003 involved fiscal mismanagement. But hire Vallas Pastorek did. …

In 2008, Vallas’ “nearly unchecked administrative power” included the following reforms:

“…Vallas has changed pretty much everything, all at once, with little opposition. He lengthened the school day and year, adding seven weeks of instruction, including two more hours of math and 1.5 hours of reading each day. He started a “\’credit recovery’ program for students who fail core classes. He has remade RSD’s high schools into career-themed academies and opened a school for ‘overaged underachievers.’

“He is standardizing the curriculum and brought in Read180, a computerized program for older, struggling readers. He installed Internet-linked whiteboards in fourth- through 12th-grade classrooms and last year began handing out laptop computers to every high-school student.“16

As a “placed” corporate reform CEO, Vallas answers to no stakeholders in the newly-washed-away New Orleans. Actually involving the community in decisions affecting the community is a complex business, and Vallas prefers a dictatorial role, one where he gets to make the people’s decisions for the people and answer to no groups representing the people. Consider this 2008 exchange with New York Times reported Paul Tough:

“When I asked Paul Vallas what made New Orleans such a promising place for educational reform, he told me that it was because he had no ‘institutional obstacles’ — no school board, no collective bargaining agreement, a teachers’ union with very little power. ‘No one tells me how long my school day should be or my school year should be,’ he said. ‘Nobody tells me who to hire or who not to hire. I can hire the most talented people. I can promote people based on merit and based on performance. I can dismiss people if they’re chronically nonattending or if they’re simply not performing.’”17

It sure is easy to run a district by use of unchecked power.

Despite his carte blanche activity in RSD, Vallas continued to promote the idea that he would leave by 2010:

“Whatever happens, it’s clear Vallas won’t stick around too long — he has said as much.

“After Vallas left Philadelphia, his wife and three of his four sons returned to their native Chicago. Vallas spends four or five days there each month, and he has coyly suggested he might run for governor of Illinois in 2010 — he narrowly lost the Democratic nomination in 2002 to Gov. Ron Blagojevich.

“Vallas openly admits to grooming his chief of staff to take over, saying two years are sufficient to get his reforms in place.“18

About those trips to visit his family in Chicago: Apparently, Vallas developed a habit of using his Louisiana-taxpayer-funded automobile. This information was disclosed in the 2009 Louisiana Legislative Audit of RSD: 31 trips, with the state paying $974 for fuel and $776 for damages in an auto accident Vallas was faulted with while driving his Louisiana vehicle to a press conference in Chicago. Furthermore, Vallas did not maintain the required vehicle use log.

State Superintendent Paul Pastorek verbally approved of Vallas’ using his state vehicle for personal trips despite the state administrative code that notes use of state vehicles is limited to state business. Pastorek said he thought Vallas had only taken six trips. Apparently Pastorek never asked Vallas to account for use of his state vehicle.19  …

Four consecutive audits of RSD finances during Vallas’ time as superintendent yielded a lack of diligent fiscal oversight, at best. Vallas assumed superintendency of RSD in July 2007. In June 2008, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor Audit Management Letter included numerous mismanagement issues. In short, the corruption for which OPSB had become known pre-Katrina continued on Vallas’ watch. First, RSD employees had been overpaid $427,695 as of September 30, 2007. Furthermore, 34 laptops paid for with federal funds ($56,128) had been stolen in February 2007 (pre-Vallas); however, as of October 2007, RSD had notified in writing neither the district attorney nor the legislative auditor. Third, RSD charged the federal School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program for students not eligible to receive subsidized meals. The list continues.30

In an audit conducted in 2013 concerning modular campus construction for the period of January 2007 through September 2009 regards $6.1 million in “questionable payments for services beyond the scope of firms’ contracts, materials that were never provided, and unreasonably high rates”:

“The audit found that Arrighi-Simoneaux charged the RSD $170,571 for fuel for temporary generators that was never provided and $37,843 for 16 light pole foundations that were never built. An additional $472,852 that was charged for foundations “appears to be unreasonable for the service provided,” according to the audit. The firm billed at least $139,000 in work beyond the scope of the contract.

“Arrighi-Simoneaux’s unit pricing may also have been too high. For instance, the company charged $110 to drill each of 180 four-inch holes in wooden floors, though the task takes less than 30 seconds, auditors say.

“As for LH&J [Linfield, Hunter & Junius], the audit found that the company billed a number of basic design services under a higher rate reserved for special services. Those fees also seem to be high, according to the audit, citing a $560,000 charge to increase the width of buildings by 8 feet.“31

The information presented above is only an excerpt. What is clear is that fiscal oversight was seriously lacking on Vallas’ watch to the tune of millions upon millions of dollars in missing or stolen property, overpayments to employees, overpayments for goods and services, and payments for goods not purchased and services not rendered. Notice also that such gross fiscal mismanagement occurred year after year. Consider this excerpt from the legislative auditor’s report of RSD for fiscal year 2010:

“For the fourth consecutive year, RSD did not tag and report equipment as required by state equipment management regulations and did not maintain accurate information in the state’s movable property system, Protégé. As reported in a Louisiana Property Assistance Agency (LPAA) report on RSD, RSD failed to enter 13,247 assets into the asset management system within 60 days of receipt and 1,262 items valued at $2,141,347 could not be located. In our test of 10 equipment purchases and a physical check of 18 property items, we identified items that were not located, not tagged within 60 days, and tagged but not recorded in the property system. In addition, RSD reported 35 incidents involving 380 movable property items with an approximate value of $188,600 as missing or stolen in fiscal year 2010.

“For the fourth consecutive year, RSD identified overpayments made to employees, did not ensure that employee separation dates were accurate or timely, and did not have adequate documentation to support certain payroll charges. Payroll overpayment claims identified by RSD during fiscal year 2010 totaled $18,206. …

“For the third consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that certifications for payroll expenditures charged to federal programs were completed as required by federal regulations. …32

Apparently when billions in federal disaster relief are pouring in, there is no need to account for the money. The issues mentioned above were also mentioned in the RSD audit for fiscal year 2011:

“For the fifth consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that movable property was safeguarded against loss including loss, arising from unauthorized use and misappropriation. RSD’s annual certification of property inventory identified 403 unlocated items totaling $553,385. Of the 403 unlocated items, 346 items were computers. In addition, RSD reported 194 movable property items totaling $168,375 as missing or stolen in fiscal year 2011.

“For the fifth consecutive year, RSD identified overpayments made to employees, did not ensure that employee separation dates were accurate or entered timely, and did not have adequate documentation to support certain payroll charges.

“Payroll overpayment claims identified during fiscal year 2011 totaled $8,507. …

“For the fourth consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that certifications for payroll expenditures charged to federal programs were completed as required by federal regulations. …“33

During the course of his time as RSD superintendent, Vallas mismanaged RSD’s finances. In his first and perhaps only superintendency in which funding was amply available, Vallas failed to monitor the funds. He did manage to make dozens of car trips to Chicago, and he did manage to consult abroad, missing a total of six weeks of work away from RSD to do so.

Haiti, Chile, but Still RSD

While still superintendent of RSD, Paul Vallas began advising an international development bank in Haiti on rebuilding a school system following widespread natural disaster.34,35 Vallas did not run for Illinois governor or for any other political post, citing his “need to finish what he started” in New Orleans.36 If his goal was to leave most RSD schools as still within the “failing” designation as determined by the state while not adequately supervising RSD spending, then he accomplished his goal.  However, his physical presence in Louisiana leaves room for doubt about Vallas publicized dedication to RSD. Despite his noble words, Vallas missed 48 full days of work in Louisiana from February to October 2010 due to his traveling to Haiti. Whereas he did not collect pay for his time away, he was not present to serve in the capacity for which he was hired, as former BESE member Linda Johnson observes:

“’I think it was a misuse of his services,’ Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Linda Johnson said. ‘We pay him to do work in New Orleans. Until New Orleans no longer needed help, he should have stayed in New Orleans… Of course I want Haiti to return to a robust country with great education. However, I feel New Orleans is still in the state of recovery and needed him there,’ she said. ‘Large companies loan their people to help when disasters occur. However, I am certain they would not loan their people if they were also in need.’”37

In 2011, Vallas also “consulted” in Chile, where his privatization efforts were met with clear understanding from Chilean students:

“Dramatic student protests increased in the streets of Chilean cities as the Race To The Top style reforms increasingly tighten corporate control over Chile’s public schools less than a generation after the South American nation escaped the grip of the first round of reforms brought by the “Chicago Boys” during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. On July 14, [2011,] an estimated 20,000 people, mostly students, too[k] to the streets of Santiago to protest the neoliberal attacks on public education and higher education, only to be met with water cannons and tear gas, as well as police beatings which were caught on dramatic video. …

“According to a report from Reuters, more than 20,000 people demonstrated against the USA style reforms in Santiago, the capital, while being attacked by speeding military vehicles, some of which were equipped with water cannons and tear gas sprayers. Squads of heavily armored Chilean soldiers also attacked individual protesters who became isolated from the groups, but generally shied away from the main large group protests.“38

American education privatization efforts appeal to those abroad wishing to exercise continued control over institutions rightfully belonging to the public. The so-called “reforms” do not appeal to those who wish not to be lorded over by dictatorial-style education mandates. …

Vallas’ “consulting” did not end with Haiti and Chile. Despite Vallas’ delayed crash-and-burn “contribution” to the fiscal devastation of Chicago’s public schools; despite his $73 million “uh-oh” in Philadelphia, and despite his gross fiscal and property mismanagement in New Orleans, Vallas partnered with Cambium Learning to market “the Vallas model of reform’:

“The Vallas reform model includes not just improving academic performance, as other turnaround systems do, but also stabilizing districts by balancing their budgets and reorganizing their administrations. ‘We are committed to affordable change,’ Vallas says. ‘You will be amazed at the efficiencies and cost savings you can bring to a district.’”39

On January 1, 2012, Vallas was to officially assume the role of interim superintendent of Bridgeport’s schools and solve issues of Bridgeport’s $6 million budget deficit.41 Vallas’ pathway into Bridgeport comes via the new Connecticut State Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, who worked with Vallas in during a time that Pryor volunteered in both New Orleans and Haiti.42 …

However, Vallas did not possess the required credentials to become Bridgeport superintendent, even interim superintendent. …

The issue of the legality of all of this “waiving” of credentials was in Superior Court,47 and on July 10, 2013, Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Vallas was not a “properly credentialed superintendent” and that he needed to vacate his positon.48  However, true to that “foot in the door” reformer ploy, the illegally-state-run school board was in a rush to approve of Vallas’ permanent contract.49 On July 26, 2013, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Vallas can remain as superintendent pending his appeal.50

In their devoted haste to hand Bridgeport schools over to the state, business leaders set up a “fund” to pay for Vallas’ employment, the Bridgeport Education Reform Fund. Educational “consultants” are also paid out of this fund. The public does not get to know the secrets of the fund, including who the donors are or what the balance is. …

For almost two decades, Paul Vallas has sold himself as a corporate reformer. He is willing to slash tight budgets, and he is willing to mismanage ample budgets. He is willing to privatize districts, close schools, and fire teachers. He is willing to sacrifice all of those below him in a given district for the test scores, graduation rates, or school performance scores that he cannot seem to consistently raise. He has, however, managed to consistently collect fine salaries with benefits based on the unfounded reputation he has as a reforming miracle man.

He never seems to be out of a job for long, for someone with the cash, influence, and interest in promoting the shadow of corporate reform success is always at his door.

There is much more to the three chapters than I included above. Too, beyond the writing of the book, in November 2013, Vallas announced his departure from Bridgeport to join former Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, as Quinn’s running mate– but not before he threatened to sue if the board did not reschedule his departure from February 7, 2014, to March 1, 2014– and pay him for the time.

Quinn lost; Bruce Rauner, a nightmare in his own right, won. So, no Paul Vallas as lieutenant governor. Vallas’ involvements between November 2014 and January 2017 are somewhat sketchy. An April 2016, Wharton Club of Chicago speaking engagement announcement introduces Vallas as follows:

He currently serves as the founding CEO of the School Construction Fund, a new national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting K-12 schools finance and operationalize their buildings. Paul also consults to underperforming school districts to help them more effectively leverage their finances to gain stability while increasing classroom resources that strengthen educational delivery, improve academic outcomes, and narrow the achievement gap.

Paul Vallas offering financial advice. After reading the chapter excerpts, pause and think on that.


Chicago, do not elect this man as your next mayor.

Just don’t.

Paul Vallas


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My Blog is 10 Years Old Today. :)

Today marked the 10-year anniversary of my blog.

I thought I might take a moment to mark the occasion.

In the past couple of years, my posting has decreased quite a bit. I am spending more time helping my mother do life, which is as it should be. What is wonderful is that over the past decade, the number of of pro-public-ed writers and publications (not the least of which are blogs) has proliferated, making it much more difficult for those who would destroy public ed to keep an unsuspecting public in the dark.

I am so glad for that.

Of course, the fight continues, but allow me to celebrate a few realities:

  • Bobby Jindal is no longer governor of Louisiana, and his 2016 presidential ambitions were a flop.
  • John White is no longer Louisiana state superintendent. In fact, he is not a superintendent anywhere at all.
  • Michelle Rhee is no longer DC school chancellor. She, too, is chancellor of nowhere at all.
  • Hanna Skandera is no longer NM school chief. She, too, is school chief of nowhere at all.
  • Joel Klein holds no sway over NYC schools. Chief of nowhere.
  • Teach for America (TFA) is losing its luster. Though it tries to reinvent itself, the bottom line is that the org depends upon class after class of willing recruits– a well that appears to be hitting bottom.

Yes, the fight continues. But today– today I take a moment to celebrate just a wee bit.

Happy Blogday to me. 🙂


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Conservative America’s New Authoritarianism: “Free Speech as Long as I Agree.”

Heads Up: It’s Political! (But what is not these days, eh?)

The My-Way Offense Guarantee: Those who believe that their free speech should squelch the free speech of those who do not agree with them will be offended by this post. I guarantee it.


We are certainly in an age in which the term, “free speech,” is indeed not free because of increasing conservative pressure to shape speech into that which a minority of extreme, right-wing conservatives would agree with.

Of course, that is not “free speech” at all.

In my school district, the St. Tammany Library Alliance is combating the right-wing conservative push to ban library books not to its liking. In its campaign declaring “Libraries Are for Everyone,” the Alliance is circulating a petition that states the following:

St Tammany Parish is a welcoming community to all and we stand firmly against banning books.  As such we endorse the following statements:

  • We believe that all young people in our Parish deserve to see themselves reflected in our library’s collection.
  • We know a large majority of Americans (75%) across the political spectrum oppose book bans.We stand in opposition to the St Tammany Parish Accountability Project’s proposed “Library Accountability Board” ordinance because we believe parents should not be making decisions for other parents’ children about what they read or what is available in our public libraries.
  • Banning books from public libraries is a slippery slope to government censorship and a violation of our first amendment rights.
  • We hold our library Director, board and library staff in high regard and trust them to do their jobs.

We are united against book bans and we ask that our Parish President and Council pledge to act to protect the rights of members of our community to access a variety of books, magazines and other media through our public libraries.

Those truly adhering to and protecting free speech are at risk of losing their jobs– and under increasing pressure to modify their speech in order to please the extreme, disgruntled few.

I gladly signed the petition. Even though it is not likely that I might choose to read certain books harbored in my local public library, there is something much greater at risk if I try to impose a self-tailored book purge, and that something is freedom itself.

Freedom is not freedom if I tailor the freedom of others to suit my own preferences.

A great irony is that some of the same folks who would shape education and curriculum into their preferred image also promote themselves as great advocates of “school choice.”

Consider, for instance, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis.

In September 2022, DeSantis signed what seems to be the largest private school choice expansion bill in US history. Meanwhile, Florida’s teacher shortage is sounding the alarms at 5,300 vacancies as of January 2023– over triple the number of openings as of 2018. If DeSantis really wanted Florida parents to have a choice, he would make sure Florida’s public school classrooms had qualified teachers to fill those vacant slots. He tried to recruit military veterans to complete a certification pathway to become teachers and fill the void. However, as of December 2022, ABCActionNews could only document via that 7 military veterans had actually completed the program. Meanwhile, the Florida Department of education issued a statement saying that the media misreported this effort as a “fix” for Florida’s teacher shortage and that the Department was processing 500 applications. The Department said that the true goal of the program was to show tht Florid values its veterans.

Okay. Sooo, no value for teaching an dno true goal to address the shortage, and even filling 500 slots is a far cry from filling 5,300 slots– which means that the Department did itself no favors in trying to bend this failure into a PR success.

DeSantis values school choice that moves students (and associated funding) from the public classroom to the private classroom. That’s the choice he prefers, which, in the end, is no choice at all for his constituents:

Florida parents cannot choose between publicly-funded private schools and fully-staffed public schools.

DeSantis wants to legislatively limit discussion in higher ed of what he considers “woke” concepts even as his department of education launches an essay contest for Black History Month. (Um, just so long as the winning essay includes nothing to offend any would-be-offended white people?)

Indeed, Florida’s college and university professors and instructors who teach courses that explore the history and reality of black and brown Americans are feeling the DeSantis-brought pressure to not offend any would-be-offended, extremely-conservative white people, as the January 13, 2023, Orlando Sentinel reports:

…On Thursday, Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, sent letters to presidents of the 12 state institutions, requesting records including lists of all diversity, equity and inclusion employees; a description of their responsibilities; and their salaries.

The purpose, he wrote, was to ensure students are receiving an education without “promoting an aggressively ideological agenda under the guise of diversity, equity and inclusion,” and to assess the “costs and benefits” of these initiatives.

Renner’s request follows one from DeSantis’ office last week, which sought a “comprehensive list of all staff, programs and campus activities” related to critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion at colleges and universities. Faculty unions decried the inquiry, saying they feared it could chill free speech on their campuses.

And faculty members say they’ve seen other signs that the governor has gained a foothold on their campuses, including the removal of the words “social justice” from the name of an office at UCF, which has been rebranded as the Office of Civil Discourse. The words “equity” and “equal” were also stripped from the office’s webpage.

This higher-ed, language-purge pressure comes on the heels of DeSantis’ effort to reconfigure Sarasota-based New College of Liberal Arts into his preferred, conservative image like that of Hillsdale College of Michigan by appointing six conservatives to the school’s board of trustees, as the January 14, 2023, Tampa Bay Times reports, with the goal of “top-down restructuring,” including a “new core curriculum from scratch,” according to board appointee Christopher Rufo.

In the New York Times via the Sentinel, Rufo succinctly states his true goal of catering to the preferences of ultra-right conservatives:

Rufo told The New York Times he and his new colleagues seek to transform New College into a public version of Michigan’s Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school.

“We want to provide an alternative for conservative families in the state of Florida to say there is a public university that reflects your values,” he said.

Instead of creating a Hillisdale-like conservative college from scratch, DeSantis via the likes of Rufo decided to kill off a liberal arts college that was the viable, free choice of more liberal Floridians and instead quash that choice to create a “choice” that suits right-wing conservative preferences.

Killing the choice with which one does not agree but which serves others is not choice.

Killing off what others prefer and replacing it with what you prefer Is. Not, Choice.

But such actions do garner national attention and will rally the support (and the votes) of those stuffed to the brim and blinded by their own self-righteousness.

National attention and votes are what I believe that anticipated presidential candidate DeSantis is truly after.

But it’s not just DeSantis. This strangulation of free speech is America’s new authoritarianism: “Free speech as long as I agree.”

Which, of course, is not free speech at all.

Watch out, America. Our democracy will not die from a mighty blow but from a thousand chips away at our freedoms– a chip-chip-chipping that will ultimately result in a terrible, irreversible fall that we can only blame on ourselves if we do not confront with a thousand grass-roots efforts this suffocation marketing itself as freedom.

Ron DeSantis, who supports America’s freedoms for the Right people.


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ChatGPT: Enabling Students to Cheat Themselves Out of Authentic Learning

When I started teaching high-school-level senior English six years ago, I quickly learned that I was going to have to devise both assignments and grading criteria that would withstand the sophistication and ease with which computer technology enables my students to cheat on my assignments– and cheat themselves out of authentic learning experiences.

I learned, for example, that the objectives of utilizing the internet for research needed to be separated from my tests because students were taking my test items and having Quizlet (a site that is supposed to assist teachers in constructing quizzes) answer the items for them in real time during my tests.

Of course, the immediate giveaway was the sudden rise in brain trusts speedily– and perfectly– completing my tests.

So, no more unlocked Chromebooks during my tests, and to be sure no other, unlocked devices are used to dodge the locked Chromebooks, tests are to be taken undermy watch as students are seated in my room.

As for those research objectives that I still needed to teach in this era of ever-easier cheating, I soon realized that including an interview component as a requirement for passing a major paper assignment does the trick. One cannot speak fluently (or at all, as the case often is) about a research paper one has not actually researched and written oneself.

Then came COVID. In 2020 and 2021, I was no longer able to conduct those in-person interviews, so I had to think of another tack.

As a result, I devised a research proposal assignment (as opposed to having students write a research paper). Moreover, I have learned not to issue the entire assignment at once but in sections, and to have students show me the sections as they are writing them. (I was able to do so even with COVID protocols in place by taking student laptops to my desk and having across-the-classroom conferences about the sections, but certainly the one-on-one conferencing that I do with each individual student is easier without having to socially distance).

Having students meet with me individually as they write the proposal assignment a section at a time really puts a damper on would-be cheaters. Some have tried to plagiarize the sections, but the section criteria are so specific that the plagiarism glares like a neon light in Vegas. I have the student erase the section nd rewrite in class, promising my guidance. That has worked well to steer students toward ethically completing their own writing assignments.

Now, there is the likes of ChatGPT, or artificial intelligence (AI) that generates superficially realistic student papers. AI paper generators hold the promise of robbing generations of high school and college students of the ability to produce and effectively communicate their own unique writing. However, one issue with ChatGPT, at least for now, is that it cannot effectively cite sources.

As the December 07, 2022, Plagiarism Today, notes, part of combating the AI problem may come in changing prompts. I have learned this already in how I both frame my writing prompts and require unusual assignment lengths that make a standardized response not quite fit. I have had students try to alter both my prompts and my length requirements to suit their preferences, and for such actions, students have paid a steep price gradewise.

Another strategy for comfronting AI assignment response is to incorporate an oral component into the assignment. For my papers, the oral component is the teacher-student interview about the student response. Furman (SC) professor Darren Hick noted in his December 15, 2022, Facebook post, that if he suspects an AI response to an exam, he tosses out the exam and requires an impromptu oral exam in its place.

Combating AI cheating necessitates human responses impervious to algorithms.

Such will increasingly be the indispensable component for literally cornering many students into authentically learning.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Education and “Aligning with Industry Demands”? Enough, Already.

According to his 12/16/22 tweet, US ed sec Miguel Cardona wants education to be in line with the “demands” of corporate America:

But he also wants teachers to know that teaching isn’t a job (not a “demand”?) but “an extension of life’s purpose,” which may mean that if corporate America “demands” teachers, then that corporate demand is somehow lofty since it is the demand to teach. (Hard to tell, but a day did pass from one tweet to the next, so new day, new catchphrase?)

On Day Three of this alienation-via-slogan, we’re back to tying K12 education (and beyond) to the economy, happily-ever-after for the demanding job market but not so much for the objectified, mail-order bride that is apparently the American high school graduate:

So. If my goal as a teacher of high school seniors is to stuff my kids into projected industry slots, according to 2023 Louisiana Workforce Commission projections, the following jobs are expected to grow by 400 positions or more from 2021 to 2023, and therefore represent the chief industry “demands” of the Pelican State for my Class of 2023 grads:

  • Waiters and Waitresses, 3,028, $8.93/hr.
  • Food Preparation Workers, 2,855, $8.99/hr.
  • Fast Food and Counter Workers, 2,617, $9.28/hr.
  • Home Health and Personal Care Aides, 2,491, $9.04/hr.
  • Cooks, Restaurant, 2,182, $11.58/hr.
  • Cashiers, 2,023, $9.49/hr.
  • Retail Salespersons, 1,908, $11.33/hr.
  • First-line Suoervisors of Food Preparation and Serving Workers, 1,620, $20.61/hr.
  • Labor and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand, 1,567, $13.15/hr.
  • Registered Nurses, 1,234, $31.84/hr.
  • Stockers and Order Fillers, 1,207, $11.86/hr.
  • Heavy and Tractor Trailer Truck Drivers, 1,131, $20.40/hr.
  • General and Operations Managers, 1,119, $47.62/hr.
  • Nursing Assistants, 1,060, $11.28/hr.
  • Construction Laborers, 961, $16.60/hr.
  • Light Truck or Delivery Service Drivers, 888, $14.81/hr.
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses, 860, $20.16/hr.
  • Bartenders, 763, $9.13/hr.
  • Carpenters, 677, $22.26/hr.
  • Lawyers, 664, $44.86/hr.
  • Driver/Sales Workers, 664, $15.00/hr.
  • Electricians, 644, $25.13/hr.
  • First-line Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers, 629, $17.71/hr.
  • Sailors and Marine Oilers, 621, $21.48/hr.
  • First-line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers, 556, $30.59/hr.
  • Dishwashers, 551, $9.60/hr.
  • Cooks, Fast Food, 545, $14.98/hr.
  • Accountants and Auditors, 535, $29.87/hr.
  • Hosts and Hostesses, Restaurant, Lounge, and Coffee Shop, 523, $9.37/hr.
  • Medical Assistants, 469, $14.61/hr.
  • Paralegals and Legal Assistants, 453, $22.73/hr.
  • Receptionists and Information Clerks, 442, $12.78/hr.
  • Security Guards, 426, $15.42/hr.
  • Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters, 418, $27.56/hr.
  • Medical and Health Service Managers, 409, $45.58/hr.
  • Office Clerks, General, 409, $12.04/hr.
  • Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Scientific and Technical Products, 406, $27.72/hr.

Of the 37 most in-demand 2023 Louisiana jobs listed above, roughly one-third (12) do not exceed $12.00/hr. in median compensation. Moreover, only one-third (again 12) exceed $21.00/hr. (or roughly $42K/yr., assuming 40hrs./wk.) in median compensation.

According to the state’s own projections, it seems that Louisiana’s 2023 market demands the greatest increase in workers subsisting as the working poor.

As for teaching as an “extension of your life’s purpose”: not in Louisiana in 2023. Teaching is projected to hold steady, with those exiting roughly equal to those entering.

But forget the “life’s purpose” lofty verbage. Let’s just go for respect for human beings as human beings and drop the tweets about using people to plug holes in economic demands.


Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog