Sunday, February 26, 2017

Don't miss what's behind the all the Trump noise

I probably don't have to cite all the sturm und drang surrounding all of Trump's tweets, executive orders, disenfranchising speech, attacks on the media, and his general sucking all of the air out of the room of public debate.  But we also can't take our eye off the ball about what the current GOP controlled Congress may be doing behind the curtain of all the noise.  You may already know that The Trump administration repealed an EPA rule requiring coal mining companies to clean up water polluted by mountain top mining, or that it repealed an SEC rule requiring oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.  Or that it plans to gut EPA rules regulating CO2 emissions.

What you may not yet know about is the introduction of H.R. bill 610, which would repeal a bedrock Federal educational law - the ESEA act of 1965, which among other things, establishes programs for special needs learners, AP classes, ESL classes, funding for low income schools, among other things - and replaces it in its entirety with block grants to states for voucher programs.  Additionally, the bill voids nutritional requirements for meals provided to children in schools.  

Here's the section on repeal of the 1965 ESEA act - the enitre thing is repealed in one sentence:

SEC. 102. Repeal of Elementary and Secondary Education Act and limitation on secretarial authority.
(a) Repeal.—The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq.) is repealed.
(b) Limitation on secretarial authority.—The authority of the Secretary under this title is limited to evaluating State applications under section 104 and making payments to States under section 103. The Secretary shall not impose any further requirements on States with respect to elementary and secondary education beyond the requirements of this title.
Next the bill takes whatever funding was allocated under ESEA and block grants it to states for voucher programs.  Any payments not made to states from existing appropriations go to deficit reduction.  Here's the relevant section:

SEC. 103. Block grants to states.
(a) Grants to states.—From amounts appropriated to carry out this title for a fiscal year, the Secretary shall award grants (from allotments made under subsection (b)) to qualified States to enable such States to carry out an education voucher program under section 105.
(d) Deficit reduction.—Any amounts remaining after allotments are made under subsection (c) for a fiscal year shall not be available for any purpose other than deficit reduction.
Section 105 essentially sets up the authority to block grant funds to states.  You can read the text of 105 (and the rest of the bill, it's pretty short) here.

Here's the text voiding nutritional requirements - they actually have the audacity to call it the "No Hungry Kids Act":

SEC. 201. Short title.
This title may be cited as the “No Hungry Kids Act”.
SEC. 202. Repeal of rule.
The rule prescribed by the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture relating to nutrition standards in the national school lunch and school breakfast programs published on January 26, 2012 (77 Fed. Reg. 4088 et seq.), and revising parts 210 and 220 of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, shall have no force or effect.
Whatever you think of the efficacy of these programs, a LOT of kids are impacted by and benefit from ESEA, and this is the kind of thing that should be debated in public.   I do have mixed feelings about educational requirments being uniformly imposed by Washington, D.C., but just blindly granting states Federal taxpayer money to do with as they wish - with no minimal requirements, no assurances for special needs children, no provisions for low income families, etc. - seems like poor policy.  Indeed, with 33 Republican governors and 32 state legislatures controlled by Republicans, it's not a stretch to think that a good amount of taxpayer funds will go to subsdize private, for-profit educational institutions, with much less accountability than public ones.

We need to keep our eye on the ball with all of the craziness hitting our public discourse. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Trump's Toxic Politics

Another personal story exemplifying the toxic atmosphere Trump’s politics have created in this country – I have received permission to identify this person relaying this story to me. Today, my friend and colleague at CBS, Joanna Fenton, boarded a crowded B train headed towards Brighton Beach, at 7:00 p.m. She sat next to a woman wearing a hijab, as well as a young man. All three have dark skin. The woman with the hijab was sitting in the seat closest to the door of the train.

At Atlantic Avenue, a white man with what seemed to be a Russian accent boarded the train which at this point, as is usual for this time, was very crowded. He elbowed his way to the space where Joanna and her seat-mates were, and shoved his elbow into the head of the woman wearing the hijab.

The woman said to the man, “Your elbow is in my temple”.

The man said “So what?”

Joanna and the young man told the Russian sounding man “Excuse me?"

The Russian sounding man said “Trump was right – you are all animals! You need to go back to where you came from!! No one wants you here!”

The young man tried to get up to confront the Russian sounding man – but Joanna and the woman wearing the hijab held him back, fearful for his safety. Seeing this, the Russian sounding man said “Trump is president, I can do what I want!!” And proceeded to continue to insult them through the train ride. Not one person – on a very crowded train – said anything.

The woman who was wearing the hijab told Joanna that she deals with this type of behavior on a daily basis, and that her sisters have given up wearing their hijabs due to their experiencing continued harassment. She told Joanna that she was born in Brooklyn and is a lifelong New Yorker. All three – Joanna, the young man and the woman are American citizens.

Joanna got off the train at Newkirk Avenue, and the young man moved to sit in-between the Russian sounding man and the woman wearing the hijab as the woman was fearful for her safety.

Joanna called me at 8:15 p.m. tonight her time – 5:15 p.m. my time, and I have never heard her so upset. She was angry, fearful, in tears and told me “I had not thought this would happen to or around me, and also thought that if it did happen, that it wouldn’t hurt as bad as it does. This is America, we are citizens, and – this is New York!! Supposedly one of the most liberal places in America!! I didn’t know it would hurt so much.”

I have relayed this story as Joanna has told it to me. She and I trust each other on a daily basis where team members have to deeply trust and rely on each other to get our jobs done. This is why I am telling you this story – the scariest part for me was not just what happened, but that no one on the train stepped up and came to their defense.

Dr. Martin Luther King said "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy".

Where do we stand at this time of challenge and controversy? Where do you stand?