Why civic participation? "Reforming and improving our democracy depends on repairing its very foundation of citizen representation and participation. And reform requires infrastructure that guarantees citizen input in governance (such as fair and equitable access to the polls), a free, fair, and robust media, and a political system that lessens the role of money in politics. Civic participation and democracy are synonymous." To read this article, click here


November 9, 2018
What happened to the Matthew Whitaker confirmation hearing? Better yet, where are the Republicans who are a check on Trump but who keep proving that they have no respect for  their oaths?   Did they not swear that they would: "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that they would bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that they would take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that they would well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help them God?" If so, why are they ignoring the fact that "t he promotion of Whitaker is unconstitutional?" 

Also, Can Trump fire Sessions? According to journalists: "t he Federal Vacancies Reform Act may not apply to a scenario where the head of the agency has been fired" or since Trump asked Sessions to resign.
 
The majority of Americans need these questions answered for they already know Trump has no respect for the role of the POTUS. Americans also know that Trump hates the press. But Trump is also a so-called POTUS who has lied over 6000 times. This qualifies as a presidential crisis. Most Americans have, therefore, completely stopped listening to him and rely on the press to ask the hard questions and provide the truthful answers that will keep them informed about his latest acts of disrespect for the United States of America. This applies to the Whitaker scenario --- and Trump's ongoing need to downplay or hide how he won the presidency. 

While we all know Americans wanted Hillary to win based on the results of the popular vote --- we also know that Trump still wants Americans to forget about Russia's interference in the presidential election. Most importantly, he still wants Americans
to believe that he won fair and square in spite of " 17 U.S. intelligence agencies; two congressional committees that investigated the issue; his own Defense secretary, the director of national intelligence, his national security adviser; and private cybersecurity experts" --- who say there was Russian interference in the election. But Americans have no intention of forgeting about the Russians and the 2016 presidential election. They still support "a full and thorough investigation of the Russian govenment's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election." Clearly, Americans still want to know if he colluded with the Russians to win the election. 

If he did not  collude with the Russians, why is he doing everything possible to prevent the investigation from taking place? Why is an obstruction of justice case building against him, including with the firing of Sessions along with a pile of evidence that he cannot deny? More to the point, why is he showing the world that he is profoundly guilty so much so that he is willing to "fire" anyone and everyone who does not bow down to him and/or collude with him in protecting the Russians? Is this not proof that  he has something to hide and protect? (Here is a recent guide to the Trump/Russian affair.)

Does he really think that Americans support the Russians in doing everything that they could do to place him in the role of the POTUS? No, Americans want him (and the Russians) to know that stealing an election is easier said than done for what appears to be done can be completely undone, too --- a lesson learned "in the making" that's tied to this morality tale and Trump's legacy. The plot has only thickened with the firing of Sessions. In fact, every decision Trump makes and every lie that he creates will only lead to more chaos and, in turn, more questions about what will he do next to  cover up his crimes against the United States of America. 

At the same time, the U.S. Senate is such a failure as an institution, on so many fronts (gun control, etc.) but, especially as a check on Trump that no one knows what they do on behalf of the American people. Everyone agrees, however, that the U.S. Senate is
afraid of Trump and cannot stand without him even though they have more in common with him than they like to admit. On the other hand, Americans have rejected Trump's authoritarian style of governance (with the midterms results in mind) and expect the Republicans to do the same whatever the cost to their status. This task seems to create a dilemma for the Republicans --- a dilemma that shows that they lack the will to fulfill their roles. . . due to Trump and their own special interests, which they place at the top of their priority list. Yet, it is the type of dilemma that speaks volumes about who they are in reality  --- in spite of what they, actually, say. 

That the midterm elections produced such a historic blue wave (a wave that has not happened in 40 years or since Watergate) is clear evidence that Americans were just waiting to let Trump (and the Republicans)  know that he is unfit for his role as the POTUS. This fact with plenty of proof tied to the power of each vote --- with democratic wins all across the nation --- will forever serve as a  referendum on his presidency, a referendum that says he is failing to serve America. The Republicans are in this same boat for they, too lack the ability to act in moral or truthful ways in serving Americans.

And so, as the world watches Trump's attempt to cover up his crimes against the United States of America, the question remains: What will elected officials do to save Americans from this imposter known as Trump whose chaos continues daily? What will they do since Americans believe Conway and Katyal who say:   "President Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid?"


November 7, 2018

What are elected officials doing to protect the press ( here, herehere  and here) from Trump? Trump cannot pull press credentials from a journalist simply because he does not like the questions that they ask him. Will someone tell him that the press serves on behalf of the public not him? Trump is confused. They are not his servants. This is not Russia. This is not Saudia Arabia. 



Previous Questions:

​Do State Departments of Education  have the capacity (and political will) to develop high quality state standards, state curriculums, and state assessments? Do they have the capabilities to turn around low performing schools, in a timely manner, (or even to respond to mandated reporting requirements about school funding formulas or how the fair distribution of resources are being addressed) without federal interventions? (Hint Senator Alexander seems convinced that all states can do the job but recnt statistics work against his "off the cuff" statements. Consider this study or this article or this one --- including: The State. . . How Leadership Influences Student Learning as well as this one as you debate this topic. For more information on turnaround schools, click here.) 




​​July 2018

It is clear that Trump is harming immigrant babies and children by separating them from their parents. His inhumane leadership strategies keep proving that he is incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong or what is humanly possible to protect children --- as if critical decisions and solutions that serve the best interests of children are not within his moral code. He should be charged with breaking international laws. He should be charged with ignoring national standards for the treatment of children.

What then are elected politicians (with some sense of morality) doing immediately to protect powerless babies and children from his unAmerican policies --- policies that represent an extremely unrecognizable interpretation of American values?


April 18, 2018

What's going on in public school classrooms --- if whole schools are failing to serve their students? Parents need  regular detailed information about this concern that cannot wait until states actually start implementing ESSA. For instance, if wealthy students (attending a non-unionized elite boarding school) failed an Algebra class their parents would have ensured that the teacher would have been fired --- or received, at the least, intensive training (immediately) centering on the curriculum or subject content. (Note: Some educators do not think that teachers have " the depth of content knowledge necessary to ensure students understand the why and the where of (for instance) math, instead of just the how." Colleges of Education are a huge part of this problem for various reasons, etc. but do these problems also originate from state, district and school leadership practices that have nothing to do with teachers?)  These  implementation concerns tied to professional development are, of course, problems (i.e., associated with the CCSS) that need to be addressed.

And yet, if this same scenario would have happened to low income parents a million excuses would have been used against them, including blaming them for the teacher's failure to teach, the school officials' inability to lead and the students' failure to learn the content --- that was never taught. What are school officials doing to ensure the effective implementation of (CCSS) best practices in classrooms? What are politicians doing to help low income parents whose children attend low performing schools --- who school officials are ignoring? Who is holding school officials accountable for student achievement? If schools cannot offer parents this simple type of information on a regular basis are school officials blatantly ignoring the need for this type of tranparency and accountability information? If so, should they be blamed for the high drop out rates across the nation?


March For Our Lives, March 24th 

(Also refer to: "Schools Gun Control & Politicians"  by clicking here.) 


Will elected officials listen to the specific legislative demands of U.S. students who want comprehensive gun control laws in place across the nation, a demand that is tied to their " March For Our Lives" event that will take place on March 24th? Will elected officials ensure that their demands are a top priority and/or that specific legislative efforts are underway that will keep them safe and alive? Will they end gun violence and mass shootings in their schools today?" For more info on March For Our Lives, click here.  Note: According to this NY Times article, the majority of Americans support these gun control  goals. (I would add the need for federal standards on gun safes, changing the age requirement for gun use and ownerhip to 21,  funding actual research on gun violence, etc. ) They include:

Assault weapons ban 
Bar sales to all violent criminals  
Semiautomatic gun ban 
High-capacity magazine ban 
Universal checks for gun buyers 
Universal checks for ammo buyers 
Bar sales to people deemed dangerous by mental health provider 

Bar sales to convicted stalkers 
Require gun licenses 
Ammo purchase limit 
Centralized record of gun sales 
Report lost or stolen guns 
3-day waiting period 
Gun purchase limit 
Workplace weapons ban 
School weapons ban 
Guns that microstamp bullets 
Require gun safes 
Require safety training 

Fingerprint gun owners 


Please Note: " Airing Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 9/8c, Click here to view this video.  "Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action" will feature victims, classmates parents and community members who are calling on President Donald Trump and Washington lawmakers to take action following one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history — and the 18th school shooting of the new year. The Lead‘s Jake Tapper will moderate the discussion." 

Bravo to the POTUS who held a listening session that allowed students, parents and educators to talk about mass shootings in schools (but will he listen to their demands for bans on AR 15 guns?), click here to learn more.

To learn about the recently formed Coalition of States for Gun Safety, click here and here. For information on best practices and lessons learned ---- or the "call for advocacy, research, health education and promotion activities directed to preventing gun/firearm death, injury," click here

Also, please take the time to listen to a "speech by Emma Gonzalez, a student at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida where 17 people were left dead after a mass shooting, who calls out President Trump and the NRA by name at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida." Click here  to learn more.

Please note that: the "Women's March organizers are encouraging students, teachers and their allies to walk out of schools on March 14th , click here to learn more about Youth Empower of the Women's March who is organizing the protests against gun violence across the nation. For additional information, click here.  For a Live Stream of the Student Walkouts, click here


February 16, 2018

Why ask politicians about mass shootings?  "T he U.S. Congress has actually weakened federal gun laws by giving the gun industry immunity against most lawsuits, preventing the release of crime gun trace data, mandating the destruction of data from background checks within 24 hours, and limiting research that might threaten the gun lobby."

Questions: (Change Starts with Education)   For more information about these questions, 
click here.


January  2018. . . Revisited on November 7th with Sessions' forced resignation. . . Trump's chaos is pure madness. . .
Question:

What's happening to American instituions under Trump? What does it take to secure our U.S. Democracy? For instance, this site shows that the "release the memo" Russian bot tried to influence public opinion about the Nunes memo or his "cherry picked" content about the FBI and the DOJ.   Clearly, Nunes and Kelly missed the point in January: Americans need to make informed decisions based on the truth, not cherry-picked information about the FISA warrant ( a document consisting of at least 50 plus pages), especially since " four separate judges ultimately approved of the initial warrant and three applications to renew."  

What about now? Has Trump missed the point about Sessions? Can he simply fire someone even though everyone knows he is trying to protect himself from the Mueller investigation? Can the current Republicans be charged if they do nothing to stop it? 

At this point, Trump looks like a desperate, trapped animal swinging wildly at anyone or anything who (he thinks) is trying to catch him. But, he is confused. It is not the Americans he should be swinging at it is the Russians. Americans who are alert and knowledgeable  --- or who wonder if America has a foundation o n which to stand should always be concerned about accountable American institutions. What will Trump do when he realizes that the majority of Americans are growing tired of this type of U.S. presidency that's akin to a reality show built on one crisis after another crisis, full of daily drama and fawning, obsequious Republicans without any type of substance, a show without any type of committment to democratic principles on display? 

Will the POTUS  realize that his attempts to escape the investigation are simply not possible without also ignoring the Russians who are tied to him (his staff, in-laws, sons, etc.) in a type of regular come out, come out where ever you are frame - - - whose hands and DNA remain all over him? The only question left to ask is if their meetings involve choice or force? (i.e., In regard to his latest meetings with Russian agents at the WH ---  were they informational meetings, did they want something from him or  did they have certain requests in return for their shared secrets? Were they there  to tell him what to do and say or to back him into saying that there wasn't any Russian interference in the election, an impossible task since it would require all Americans to ignore what 17 American agencies said about the Russians? Were the Russians there to say that they know the names of the Russians who interfered in the election, etc.?) This observation begins with his on-going lies that have now turned into propaganda in the form of a four page memo with 50 pages of missing information, his demands for loyalty and, of course, his authoritative manner  that cannot operate without servility, obedience and compliance from his would-be subjects. Consider this
         
       We have direct evidence that the President asked the FBI Director for loyalty. He demanded it. He asked         the FBI Director to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn. The President fired the FBI Director. Then,         on national TV, he said he did it because of the Russian probe. Then he told the Russians in the Oval                   Office that he did it to relieve great pressure because of the FBI investigation. That is classic obstruction         of justice. The Washington Post today has a quote from one of the prosecutors of Watergate. He says: `           I helped prosecute Watergate. Comey's statement is sufficient evidence for an obstruction of justice                 case.''
 
What will it take for the Republicans to admit that he is obstructing justice? If he fires Rosenstein, too will Americans take to the streets and protest Trump's blatant obstruction of justice even if the Republicans will not?  The Republicans have a long list to choose from and yet they are doing nothing, an act that should be remembered at the 2018 elections and discussed in classes all over the world. Given these facts, do they know that: " The obstruction-of-justice statute holds that any individual who “corruptly . . . influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice” is guilty of the crime ."  

As it stands, it seems that the POTUS and Company (Fox News, etc.) somehow think they can outmaneuver Mueller and prevent him from carrying out an investigation. They are forgetting that the majority of Americans want and need the Mueller investigation in place to ensure that their liberties are protected." A four page memo is not going to hide the fact that the POTUS is working against the very American institutions who are charged with protecting the U.S.,  a POTUS who very few Americans identify with or believe in --- on moral grounds --- a POTUS who continues to shed light on his Russian connections  --- who proves his guilt on a daily basis by doing nothing to prevent or track another cyber attack. Does he really think that Americans do not understand the: "c oncept of verification, the insistence on evidence (that is not cherry-picked) and (true) standards of proof that apply in a courtroom or a medical lab --- things that ought to prevail in the White House? " Does he really think that Americans take what he says at face value?


In other words, Americans do not deserve this treatment from the POTUS. In fact, it  is an insult for the Trump Administration to believe that Americans could be manipulated into believing  propaganda or manufactured  lies about a four page memo without reading the 50 pages (at least) missing from it. Why would anyone want the POTUS or Nunes to make decisions for them when Americans can make their own informed decisions about a classified (?) document ( and do not need a president who cannot even admit he used the  s_ _ _ _ hole comment to speak for them).  

So,  once again the truth stands alone. . . and is left voiceless, disrespected and isolated.   With this view in mind, what are all elected officials doing to protect  the investigation, U.S. Democracy?

Question: 
Why did elected officials ignore  the voices of the 90% of Americans who support DACA? Why are they still ignoring the majority of Americans who see DACA as an urgent concern and priority that should have been defended and acted on long ago?  

Message to Republicans with the 2018 elections in mind: the lives of the Dreamers --- should never have been used as a bargaining chip --- for an imaginary wall. Trump's current idea is an insult, too for the path to citizenship for the Dreamers should not take up to 10 to 12 years (as if they are in the movie 12 Years a Slave ). He also believes that even after 12 years they will need to prove that they are worthy of becoming citizens. How on earth can a man who puts his hands up women's dresses and grabs them by their private parts make such a demand  when 16 women say he has committed sexual assault and, some say, rape? He has no moral ground to stand on.     His  solution is not a solution  at all for obvious reasons except to those who who share his limited views about a diverse nation but it does reconfirm why there is a need for more people of color and women to run for office. This lack of empathy by white male conservative politicians shows that they do not identify with the Dreamers or  understand the urgency of the Dreamers' plight and their need for permanent status. Since we know that this stance against the Dreamers is being led by racists (or unconcerned politicians) such as thirty-two year old Stephen Miller and racist right-wing John Kelly (who thought slavery should have been negotiated), we also now know that the government shutdown was, at its root, a stand and a fight for the U.S. Constitution and its equality basis rather than an attempt to compromise with racists.  shutdown when it was always about the demand for permanent status of the Dreamers still remains mind-boggling. In fact, anything less was compromising with Trump's racism.  

The demands should, therefore, stand: the Dreamers should be granted permanent status immediately --- but this list should also include the "Extended Chain Family Migration Program," and the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program" (and always focus on the critical demand for Trump to leave the Russian investigation alone for the sake of the U.S., which should entail everyone calling and/or emailing Republicans and Democrats, especially since Trump & Huckabee Sanders do not think anyone cares about the investigation).   These concerns are a part of a long list of agenda items attached to the POTUS. The Trump Administration knows that each and every concern has its own corresponding list of citizens who want these agenda items discussed and solved. At this point, the POTUS has very few accomplishments to his name but he does have this humongous list of problems tied to his presidency proving that he is unfit to be called a U.S. leader. Why should the Democrats let him off the hook as if he brand of politics is acceptable? 

How then could Trump's cavalier need to end the "Extended Chain Family Migration Program," and the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program" be considered bargaining chips in the first place if the devil is in the details requiring Democrats to support racist decisions, at their root, that feed a conservative racist base that even includes white racist Evangelicals? Do the Republicans and Democrats know that the 47% of voters who did not vote are now awake ---  due to these racist conservative politicians and voters who are even accepting of misogyny? Why would Democrats, therefore, ever think that they had  to support Trump's insanity, including but not limited to: his racist policies and sexual harrassment background , including his imaginary wall that will, nonetheless, cost the U.S. billions of dollars as if a wall  can really prevent people of color from entering the U.S.  ---  even though it will serve as a symbol of his racism? 


Update:

And now, Trump says he wants to know what he will get from the Democrats in exchange for giving the Dreamers permanent status in the U.S.  He is making this statement while forgetting that  most people want him impeached (sooner rather than later) for acting in dishonorable, anti-American ways while others or most Americans want, for the first time in history, a U.S. presidency. . . or his presidency nullified for his collusion with the Russians. This includes the noise American voters are making to bring attention to his overall treatment of humans (i.e., children, women, men, the disabled, people of color, immigrants, his own voters or base, including his demands for political alligence from the FBI, etc. which can all be documented).

This shows that most Americans understand this key point: "The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors." In other words, Trump made a promise to Americans about DACA that he did not keep. . . which, in turn,  caused a government shutdown, etc. . .  As a result, did Trump violate and abuse the public's trust on humanity grounds? Please recall: " Hamilton was not loose with words. If a President abuses or violates the public trust, he has committed “High Crime and Misdemeanors .” Since there are far too many examples to choose from the question becomes: where should Americans begin in pointing out his abuses of the public trust, a fact that will show up during the 2018 elections where the legitimacy of his presidency will be determined  --- which means the 2018 elections will not be kind to the Republicans so why should they expect anything in exchange for protecting the Dreamers except a recognition that he was slow to act in their favor. Under a racist POTUS, including racist Republicans, however, the question is still: how low will they go in ignoring and harming the Dreamers? Will the POTUS & Republicans keep treating the Dreamers as inanimate objects without human lives to lead as if they can live in limbo for 12 years? Will the Republicans keep acting if they are not promoting crimes against humanity --- based on their failure to act with any sense of urgency? This, of course, is the real question that is currently up for debate. 


Question:
What are politicians doing to ensure that all  states across the nation offer all of their students a high, quality education? For instance, since Connecticut, etc. only has to offer its students a minimally adequate education what can parents do, across the nation, to support and promote equity and excellence for all students in their state? 

Question:
The Grand Old Party is not what it use to be. The Republicans' silence -- (when it comes to the actions of the President of the United States of America)--- shows that they have placed their own special interests before the needs of American citizens --- or an ally or God or what happened to Jo Cox .  Does it really take leaders from around the world to lead the discussions against the president's most recent racist positions?

What should voters say about this racist president? The only thing left for all Americans to do, if not the world to do, is to question their elected officials, publicly and on a regular basis ​and, ask then them what they are doing to save the U.S.  It is that bad. . .  They should call the whitehouse switchboard on a regular basis to prove that they do not embrace a divided world based on income inequality, racism, misogyny, deception, etc.  They should also remember what W.E.B Dubois wanted Americans to know when he stated: “We are all Americans, not only by birth and by our citizenship --- but by our political ideals. And, the greatest of those ideals is that all men are created equal.”  

How should elected officials respond to this self-serving racist president? How will elected officials who truly represent all Americans respond to their fellow politicians who, on the other hand, serve their own special interests, first and foremost based on their need for "things" stemming from greed --- things --- that pale in comparison to the horns on their heads? In other words, how can they work with elected officials who bow down to golden calves --- or to their corporate donors, in particular --- with the ink still not dry from the over 6000 lobbyists' input on Trump's tax bill --- or still remaining written notes on this tax bill --- while no one else has really had the time to read it? Will they keep Trump's profound inability to lead at the center of America's transparency and accountability concerns with the response of voters in mind? Will they discuss whether or not the "center will hold" or if Trump could be the slouching beast (in the poem by William Yeats) headed toward Bethlehem (6 miles from Jerusalem)?

With the current state of civic participation and with alien spaceships in the news has a certain threshold be met that has brought them here. . .? 
If Trump & Co. are trying to undermine U.S. Democracy (as demonstrated by  their evil "alienized version" of a Christmas  present in the form of greedy tax cuts for the rich),  they have brought attention to themselves, instead, in unfathomable ways. Currently,  The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program  is u sing b lack money   to study aliens. . .  or is it th other way around --- are they here to study him? The question is: Why have the aliens allowed themselves to be seen? Do they want us to know just how superior they are to humans when they are contrasted with the POTUS, in particular --- especially since they are intentionally allowing us to see how fast their space ships can travel in comparison to our own earthly built contraptions?   In fact, their space ships are so superior to ours that our scientists cannot even explain them. Or. . . are the aliens here simply to shame Trump and other conservatives for their greedy ways --- a kind of:  whatever you can do --- we can do better scenario  --- whenever we want to do so.  Why now though? Is it the unethical gerrymandering? Or. . . are they here to understand why Trump & Co. have embraced a type of mindset that has allowed them to harbor incomplete thoughts in which decency and fairness are constantly overlooked,  simple thoughts, clearly,  lost on Trump who keeps failing to recognize that humans are, indeed, sharing a planet with all other humans  --- a simple thought that may be more complicated in the greater scheme of things though with the aliens here.  

Surely, our alien visitors who are, outshining us by "showing up" in their advanced spaceships,  are
a reminder that Trump can try to isolate the U.S. from the rest of the universe (The U.N. etc.) --- but not
really. . .  Could it be that he is a subject worth studying since he has no idea that the only reason the U.S. is considered great is due to the many races of every color, shape and size who live here peacefully together, under one roof so to speak, a unified nation --- a nation that followed a path that led to its super power status based on basic human relations. These lessons learned, however,  elude  Trump whose ignorance is known in galaxies light years away now. Oh my.  Is Trump's incompetence creating a huge gap for a new planet to emerge? Are they here to rescue us? The world? The universe from this madness? Only the aliens know for sure. . .  


June/2017

Question:

Who's Interpreting ESSA, (our new national education law) for parents & community members in your state? (For ESSA review and feedback processes and concerns, please refer to the letter" sent by Senator Patty Murray & Representative Bobby Scott to Secretary DeVos on July 28th. Also, review this letter that focuses on the necessity of equity goals in the state plans.) 

Are federal, state and school representatives disseminating information, promoting 
discussions and/or engaging the public "about the law" based on the views of school officials only? Please note: Asking questions about social inclusion/exclusion and equality --- or democracy should be necessary questions to ask in a public school-based context  --- if challenges  to previous or existing norms are to be addressed, (i.e., Consider the SBOE in D.C. who asked parents and community members to fill out applications so that "SBOE officials could choose" who would be on their ESSA Task Force, a method that limits democracy. They also told parents and community members "who were not chosen for the task force" to send in their comments.  They could not, however,   participate or speak at the meetings.) Under these circumstances and/or to save invaluable time it is important to ask at the start of any state initiated process  if --- state educational leaders --- will be the only ones "ultimately" making "any and all" decisions in spite of the stakeholder engagement meetings

Again, knowing how stakeholder engagement meetings will be conducted and how agendas will be determined  --- or simply asking if certain provisions will be discussed at all (equity? implementation processes and timelines?), etc. --- should be considered critical questions that require immediate answers  for the sake of goal clarity,  inclusivity and especially in terms of the   evaluation of the participatory process. Most importantly, these mandatory questions set the stage for procedural justice and fairness since: "consultation without attention to power and politics will lead to voice without influence. Furthermore, change or reform of political institutions without attention to (methods for) inclusion. . . will only reinforce the status quo."  (Gaventa).

Parents and community stakeholders or the public overall should, therefore, ask how participatory democracy is being  promoted in states, districts and public schools.   With this statement in mind, should t he department of education, school officials or the  CCSSO make t he decisions about who gets to participate or who can essentially interpret ESSA for parents and community stakeholders? Keep in mind, it is one thing to provide information about ESSA but it is another thing all together to interpret it or to choose groups to interpret it for all parents and community stakeholders without their input on who these groups will be. 

Statement:
 
In response to the first question------ perhaps, they are nonprofits (chosen by the CCSSO or school representatives) who support school choice and charter schools. And yet, many parents and community stakeholders prefer school effectiveness over school choice and want some guarantee that equality, equity and excellence are school priorities. Given these facts, are school officials or leaders choosing people to interpret ESSA that they were not asked to choose? Are they, at the least, exposing parents and community stakeholders to a wide range of views --- supported by best practices and lessons learned --- beyond the longstanding biases of conservatives and teachers' unions or the narrow focus of the status quo agenda, especially at the state and local levels? If not, have they forgotten that as "public servants" their role, in essence, is to serve all children and, in turn, parents and community stakeholders, (a task that cannot be accomplished if they overlook the educational and political standpoints of marginialized communities)? 

With ESSA's emphasis on elevating the importance of decison-making at the the state and local levels to prevent federal overreach, it is critical that parents and community stakeholders interact with their state and local officials to decide what their overall state goals for supporting student achievement should be. To support procedural fairness, for instance, all stakeholders should become familiar with state, district and school-based past failures to better understand how these concerns were addressed (if they were addressed) in the hope that these mistakes, at the least, will not be repeated. Furthermore,  state and local school offiicals should be expected to discuss with the stakeholders the school-based factors that have marginalized, if not
excluded, weakened or overlooked the voices of parents and community stakeholders and the ways in which these practices have changed. Parent and community stakeholder views are critically important for they are their children's first or most immediate teachers and, therefore, have a lot to contribute to school-based conversations  --- even if their views differ, if not clash with the views of state officials, school leaders, teachers’ unions, lobbyists, etc. Moreover, it does not help matters at all when the school boards sound remarkably similar to the teachers' unions --- at the start and end of any engagement process --- or listening/learning tour(s) focusing on the needs of stakeholders. The operative words, in this sense, for these processes, should be "stakeholder engagement" not status quo involvement or engagement. 

To address this concern, parents and community stakeholders must understand how their views will be promoted, interpreted and counted in comparison to the views of teachers' unions, etc. They should also understand how state and local educational systems have equalized the playing field so that they, too can influence educational and political decisions tied to student achievement --- in the same way that teachers' unions and lobbyists do.  Clearly, no group should be placed in a position to declare that it represents all parents and community stakeholders nor should any one group determine the final state plans --- if  procedural fairness is the goal. This goal, of course, includes determining what lessons learned and best practices are in relationship to all children, especially underserved children (rather than allowing the political stances and biases of special interest groups to determine decisions). From this perspective, all decisions must be backed by a thorough systemic, research-based analysis pertaining to school-based decisions and the fair distribution of resources in districts ---- to ensure that children are served, first and foremost --- and/or to determine how these decisions will play out on the ground in schools --- or in reality --- based on the motivation and political will of school representatives. 
 
A case in point begins with ESSA’s omission of federally mandated teacher evaluations (Teachers' Unions fought for this provision.): states, instead, must decide how teacher effectiveness will be defined. More importantly, states must determine how parents and community members define or will define teacher effectiveness. What if the definition parents and community stakeholders choose includes holding teachers accountable for student performance? What if they want teachers’ evaluations tied to student test results even if teachers' unions do not? What if parents and community stakeholders think schools cease to be schools if teacher evaluations are watered down and lack meaning? (Note: The unions think the socioeconomic status of all children predetermines student achievement. They also do not think that low scores have anything to do with teacher performance in classrooms.) (Consider New Mexico, etc.). 

What if parents and community stakeholders want super data groups eliminated so they can tell who specifically needs targeted interventions --- and school officials, in spite of ESSA's requirements, still fail to count certain subgroups or even mask their performance  as they have done in the past?  What if parents and community members want and need school ratings that ensure that academic measures are the bulk of a state's plan  --- even if school officials do not?  And, what about useful indicators that differ from the choices of school officials? What if parents and community stakeholders want indicators that focus on  a leadership governance analysis and teaching analysis rather than ones that simply focus on the school climate or student engagement as educators want but without any mention of of race relations or classism (refer to Gaventa)? What if they want meaningful timelines that correspond to the educational needs of students rather than educators Note: Thus far, state timelines will cause students to wait more than a year or two (after ESSA’s passage in 2015) to benefit from its goals.).
 
How will they define what an underperforming school is, along with the timeline for a school to be designated as an underperforming school  --- and what if parents and community stakeholders want fines or penalities associated with accountability mechanisms? Will they want the 95% participation rate rather than the 67% rate for tests, attendance and graduation rates upheld in their state, especially since the push-out rates increase without goals and targets in place? And, what do they think about high-quality standards that states no longer have to demonstrate that they have --- since under this new law they only have to provide an "assurance" that they are implementing challenging standards? 
 
The 2nd, 3rd and 4th questions (focusing on  why should parents and community stakeholders must pay attention to how ESSA is being interpreted) ---  are all political questions that address the wide variety of special interest groups or lobbyists, at play, in the public education system.  For example, state officials, in the past, developed "low standards" (rather than ones that supported college and career ready standards) to ensure that their students could pass state assessments --- (a political strategy that was meant to protect their jobs. And yet, it was an ineffective stategy from the start for to rationalize this strategy they had to depend on deficit models , including but limited to:   racist theories (page 3 - cross-referenced or based on the literary imagination) , name calling  or stereotypes of the very children they were charged with serving --- in an effort to explain away their students' low test scores. This, of course, was and is a horrible practice for it  intentionally overlooks weak state, district, and school-based strategies tied to student achievement. (Is it any wonder that the college dropout rate is high in the U.S.?) Most of all, it is a  strategy that creates a domino effect that leads to a modified curriculum in classrooms and low pass scores on state tests or the PISA, NAEP, etc. --- or even the school to prison pipeline ---  produced by high dropout rates if schools are not the genuine article.

And still --- In this political environment --- where far too many educators have shortchanged children for decades ( and are still supporting some of these same strategies ) very few of them have brought up the most recent U.S. test scores (a type of accountability mechanism useful to stakeholders if not conservative politicians and teachers' unions) that are low for all groups on the most recent NAEP and PISA assessments in comparison to other nations. That the achievement gap has not improved for over forty years (according to many groups) means that that there is an urgent need for parents and community stakeholders to focus on what school officials actually do to support student achievement. Perhaps, research groups chosen by parents and community stakeholders should provide insights in support of the best decision-making processes or strategies for public schools since school leaders and officials often fail to address this need or fail to produce how (gold standard?) research or its effective implementation is monitored and supported --- if best practices are effectively implemented at all (especially in relationship to underserved schools... Consider the current state standards in some states or their failure to ensure that all students have research-based textbooks aligned to high-quality standards. Stakeholders should also ask why the teachers' unions and their lobbyists do not have campaigns that emphasize class ready teachers --- or demand research-based books for all students, etc.). 

In other words, before anyone states that the overall buy-in or the legitimacy of any final decisions were approved by parents and community stakeholders, it would make more sense for them to first ask if they were involved in the development of the plans and if they had an understanding of the issues.  Why? It is their children who will have to live with the ultimate results and consequences of school-based decisions --- decisions that must be based on the best solutions for all children (rather than the agendas of  special interest groups). To ensure that this type of process occurs parents and community stakeholders must demand that school officials create the opportuniity spaces for transparency, accountability, responsiveness and answerability, a key step that allows these concerns to take center stage in school govenance, discourse and decision-making in a timely manner. (Note: This discussion assumes that states and local school systems already have processes in place that support parents and community stakeholders in gaining access to a wide range of information, including the pros and cons of a particular issue. If state and local officials have not addressed this need: how can parents and community members talk about key subjects --- if they do not know what they do not know. . .? How can they sit at the tables where decisions are made --- before the decisions are made, if they have not been exposed to certain critical, if not controversial issues through training programs? How can their involvement lead to genuine input or authenic inquiries if they do not understand all aspects of pertinent accountability concerns?

Unfortunately, parents and community stakeholders already know that the very point of their presence (as participants) at school meetings is often missed or diminished when school representatives simply expect them to mimic or think and say what school representatives want them to say without any need for them to build their knowledge base, (a taboo point but one that needs to be discussed since it overlooks U.S. democratic ideals --- or the educative value of democracy.).  Moreover, since there has never been any formal recognition, to date, of the necessity of truly separating the law or ESEA/ESSA from politics --- the
best solution should involve opportunity structures for a wide range of groups to take on the role of promoting ESSA in open forums or in workshops, etc. where the pros and cons of all pertinent subjects are challenged and explored from different angles, in depth. (Note: State and local websites only serve a limited amount of stakeholders and are not thorough or an effective way to reach all stakeholders). In fact, if politicians, unions and lobbyists, etc. are the only ones expected to determine how schools are run in certain states, districts and schools, this practice should change for it has not worked in the past and it is not working now.  The public must step up and take back its role as equal partners in schools by becoming informed and educated about equity and excellence in schools --- stances that should be backed by lessons learned as well as gold and evidenced-based research --- even if Trump has banned gold standard research for school choice voucher studies in D.C.???).

With these goals in mind, it is time for all stakeholders and/or the public to join the conversations centering on ESSA --- or to move pass one-dimensional viewpoints or superficial conversations about school-based concerns. It's time to figure out if
school leaders and teachers are, indeed, supporting school equity and excellence in classrooms as well as promoting effective district and state governance goals, particularly in the development of policies and practices that address the achievement gap.
It is time to figure out how on earth school, district and state representatives can hold themselves accountable for state accountabilty plans (a clear conflict of interest)--- if the public is not engaged in this process and/or if they do not provide a wide range of public spaces for discussions focusing on ESSA at the state and level levels --- including per pupil spending, local budgets and overall state funding.  And still, even after the discussions are completed, they must also figure out if the overall process was fair, egalitarian and/or based on procedural justice. If parents and community stakeholders were never exposed to and trained by organizations or individuals with a track record of supporting public school children, particularly underserved children but only exposed to  the status quo and its interpretation of ESSA  ---  the process was flawed.  When all is said and done then, the standpoint of parents and community stakeholders count, too. . .  They, of course, know that   equality and democratic ideals create the foundaton for participation, a fact that proves why parents, community stakeholders and public school students must be included in any process focusing on  transparency and accountability in the public school system. . .


Previous Questions:

Statement:
 

Please refer to the April 12th Senate Hearing for more details... Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated, at the hearing, that it would cost 3.9 billion or a complete overhaul of state and local financial systems to equalize spending between schools, an impossible idea not worthy of consideration, from his perspective. He abruptly left his argument there without mentioning what the future holds for public school children, specifically poor children or how they can truly be served, if at all. (Note: He also mentioned that there was a huge coalition of educational organizations that did not want the comparability loophole addressed ---from unions to state organizations.) 

In other words, he never mentioned the purpose of Title One. He never mentioned poor children --- who just happen to be the beneficiaries of Title One.  Clearly, when this omission is addressed or the children are added to the equation or discussions, the comparability loophole will become more than just a loophole: it will become  legalized theft for it allows imbalances or inequities in school funding to continue so that funds intended for poor children show up in low poverty schools, which clearly is not or was not  the original intent of Title One (or President Johnson's War on Poverty). This gaming of the system has been allowed to go on for decades, which, in essence, wants the the public to believe (if they know at all) that "all teachers are created equal." If they are equal (when it comes to teacher effectiveness tied to student achievement or test results) why is there a loophole in place allowing the majority of effective, tenured teachers --- or productive teachers to be placed in low poverty schools rather than in high poverty schools? ESSA is silent on this issue. Given this fact, states only have to respond to public reporting requirements to  ensure that the public knows where inexperienced teachers are placed throughout districts --- unless states utilize the flexibility provision to support the fair distribution of effective teachers, a goal that conservative politicians and conservative teachers's unions are against. It is, therefore, up to the public to demand this change --- otherwise, in spite of the reauthorization of ESSA, everything will remain unchanged. 

For instance:

     The federal government prohibits districts from calculating comparability using actual                            expenditures. Instead, it chooses to treat teachers as interchangeable widgets. For example, if School        A has 10 teachers and School B has 10 teachers, they must be providing a comparable education. It          is this loophole in federal law—the “comparability loophole”—that is at the heart of school funding            inequities.  (Refer to: Robert Hanna, Max Marchitello, and Catherine Brown, March 2015)

During the hearing, Senator Alexander did say that the only recourse is for parents and stakeholders to use the ESSA reporting requirement (a requirement that addresses transparency and accountability concerns) to demand answers (and/or thorough explanations) about --- (I would say): the methodologies that states and local districts are using to equalize spending between schools including how they are supporting the supplement not supplant p rovisions. Clearly, they must focus on questions that underscore equality or the fair distribution of effective teachers in schools where low income students attend.

QUESTION(S)


What methodologies are your states and local districts using to equalize spending between schools? How are they eliminating disparities between schools "before" they receive any Title One funds? For instance, what actual expenditures are districts spending on teachers' salaries and benefits (based on the fair distribution of effective, tenured teachers in each school) before they receive federal  supplemental Title One funds? Are these methods fair and equitable? If not, how can the ESSA state flexibility provisions address these inequities?


To contact your elected officials, click here.
To contact your public school state officials, click here. 
To contact your school district leaders, click here.