Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Democrats Believe….

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Trump Nominates Folks From the Swamp

Monday, February 6th, 2017

15350456_1053079861470881_3683700321946841556_n - CopyPresident-elect Donald Trump does not have the traditional nominees of Washington insiders and donors to build out his Cabinet, but his transition team has spent the past several months quietly building a short list of millionaires and billionaires who could comprise one of the more eclectic controversial presidential Cabinets in history.

Here’s is President-elect Trump’s White House nominees to date:

Trump Chief Strategist

Bannon, 63, is perhaps Trump’s most controversial but unsurprising pick considering his counsel during the campaign. Bannon is a racists who took over the ultraconservative news site Breitbart. He’s a contentious pick for both Republicans and Democrats because of his anti-Semitic history and propagation of white supremacist beliefs. In the Summer of 2016, Bannon boasted to Mother Jones that he had transformed Breitbart into “a platform for the alt-right.” Bannon was also charged with domestic violence after reportedly attacking his now-ex-wife in 1996. He also takes pride in attracting the Christian Right to the alt-right movement.

Secretary of State

Bio: Rex W Tillerson is the Chairman and CEO of US oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil, having taken the company over in 2006. Tillerson, a native of Texas, has been with the company since 1975. The 64-year-old veteran oil executive has no government or diplomatic experience but he does have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite his lack of official government experience, Mr. Tillerson does have experience dealing with foreign governments, as Exxon Mobil operates in dozens of countries.

Attorney General

Bio: Jefferson B “Jeff” Sessions III currently serves as U.S. Senator from Alabama. Prior to his career in the U.S. Senate, Sessions was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, having been appointed by then-President Ronald Reagen. Sessions was elected Attorney General of Alabama in 1994 before being elected to the United States Senate in 1996. Thirty years ago a Republican Senate rejected his nomination as a federal judge because of allegations of racists history.

Secretary of Defense

Bio: General James Mattis is a 44-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Mattis brings with him a wealth of experience having served as commander of United States Central Command from August of 2010 to March of 2013, replacing General David Petraeus.

Mattis is beloved by the men who served under him, and earned the nickname “Warrior Monk” for a ferocious yet intellectual approach to leadership.

Secretary of Homeland Security

Bio: General Kelly is a distinguished military commander who is a widely respected by both his troops and Washington insiders.

With decades of experience leading U.S. Armed Forces, Kelly is a veteran of both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The retired general served as commander of United States Southern Command from November of 2012 until January of 2016.

Secretary of Treasury

Bio: Steven “Steve” Mnuchin is a successful banker. Prior to being tapped to lead the U.S. Treasury, Mnuchin was chief executive of Dune Capital Management, a privately owned hedge fund, and was a partner at Goldman-Sachs for 17-years. The 52-year-old former Goldman Sachs trader has spent most of his career on Wall Street. He supported Trump because he strongly supports gutting regulations on Wall Street.

Mnuchin served as the Trump campaign finance chairman.

Secretary of Labor

Bio: Andy Puzder is the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which include the Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s chains.

Prior to his career as CEO, Puzder was a commercial trial lawyer in St. Louis. From 1978 through 1983, he was an associate at the law offices of St. Louis attorney Morris Shenker who he represented in various matters. In 1984 he moved to The Stolar Partnership in St. Louis and worked with Charles A Seigel, another St. Louis area trial attorney. Puzder has served as president and CEO of CKE since September 2000.

Hired an illegal immigrant in his home. Accused of spousal abuse. Does not support a working minimum wage.

Secretary of Commerce

Bio: Wilbur Ross is a successful American investor and business man. Ross is known as a “turnaround artist” who has acquired failing businesses and made them profitable. Known for buying ailing companies in manufacturing and coal to turn around (often through layoffs), Ross is the one of the country’s richest executives. He has been a Trump ally for decades.

Although a registered Democrat, Ross an early supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Secretary of Energy

Bio: Rick Perry is the longest serving Governor in Texas history, having served as the state’s chief executive from 2000-2015.

Prior to serving as Governor, Perry was a member of the Texas House of Representatives, a capacity in which he served until 1991 when he was elected Texas agriculture commissioner. In 1999, Perry became Lt. Governor of Texas under George W. Bush, whom he succeeded when Bush was elected president.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Bio: Dr. Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon and GOP former presidential candidate.

At 33, Carson became the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital and earned fame for his groundbreaking work separating conjoined twins. In 2000, the Library of Congress selected Dr. Carson as one of its “Living Legends.” The following year, CNN and Time magazine named Dr. Carson as one of the nation’s 20 foremost physicians and scientists. He has no government or experience that would justify the position he was nominated for but he is a Trump supporter.

Secretary of Education

Bio: Betsy DeVos is the chairwoman of American Federation for Children which, according to the organization’s website seeks “to improve our nation’s K-12 education by advancing systemic and sustainable public policy that empowers parents, particularly those in low-income families, to choose the education they determine is best for their children.”

She has never held a public office or served in government. DeVos, 58, earned a name for herself in Michigan as an activist against public schooling. Critics contend that Trump picked DeVos because her family members, billionaire heirs to the scandalized Amway corporation, are long-time donors (200 million) to the Republican party. DeVos has also championed a push for voucher programs that funnel tax dollars away from public school into private schools or schools with religious foundations.

Secretary of Health and Human Services

Bio:Congressman Tom Price has represented Georgia’s 6th congressional district since 2005.

Before serving in the House of Representatives, Price was an orthopedic surgeon. Price has been instrumental in crafting legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), and implementing such legislation would likely be amongst his first tasks as Secretary of Health and Human Services. He was chosen solely to dismantle ObamaCare.

Secretary of Transportation
Bio: Before being chosen to serve as Donald Trump’s Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao served as Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush from 2001 through 2009, the first Asian-American woman to serve in a Cabinet position.

Chao has been married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since 1993.

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Dead [Red] to the Roots

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

art-gop-fascism-posterAt a time when demographics show a trend toward a growing numbers of Democratic majorities in America, in Tennessee, Republicans have concocted a scheme to turn everyone into Republicans. The scheme is not based on logic, facts or sound legislation, but it is important to remember those things don’t matter to Republicans.

The plan focuses on electing more Republicans in county and judicial positions. Is the plan a logical counter response to growing demographic changes and unpopular Republican Ideology or a Supermajority Legislation gone amuck?

Republicans believe deceptive actions to entrench their supermajority status will erode bipartisan efforts in elections at the local level. The recent effort by Ron Ramsey to recall three Tennessee Supreme Court Justices failed miserably with Tennesseans voting overwhelmingly to retain the Judges. Ramsey attempted to use dark money to defeat the Supreme Court Justices.

Thanks to dark money, not the “dead [red] to the roots” program, Republicans have enjoyed great electoral success that built a supermajority Republican Legislature, elect a Republican governor, two Republican U.S. Senators and seven of the state’s nine U.S. House seats.

The GOP, through dark money, has enjoyed huge success in fundraising compared to Democrats.

The TNGOP false claims that Tennesseans want the success we’ve seen at the state level brought to the local level is an illusion. The TNGOP also falsely claim that Tennesseans are tired of Democrats and [liberals] who have mismanaged taxpayer funds and failed to provide the service Tennesseans expect and deserve while they [the TNGOP] dismantle the very services and protections that help Tennessee families. Mismanaged taxpayer funds language is code words for providing funds for public education, food stamps, unemployment compensation and other public assistance that the TNGOP feverishly works to dismantle in Tennessee.

Tennessee Democrats are quick to point out that the majority of Tennesseans are not content with imposing TNGOP Tea Party agenda and ALEC legislation through the state’s backwoods Legislation. Republicans are now intent on pushing their brand of rigidity and extremism, at the expense of the common good of the people, onto local governments and government services.

Republican claims that “dead [red] to the roots” has resulted in growth of the TNGOP is an empty illusion, especially when you look at their efforts to “make it harder for Tennesseans to vote,” such as requiring photo identification to cast a ballot. Preventing every Tennessean the right to vote does not indicate that the “dead [red] to the roots” effort is a successful program that has turned everyone into mindless [zombie] Republicans, it simply points out voter suppression and other tactics to prevent voter’s full access to voting by the TNGOP helps the TNGOP to suppress the Democratic vote.

Any tactic that makes it harder for Tennesseans to exercise their constitutional right to vote is wrong and unpatriotic. It is outrageous to claim such tactics {dark money buying elections and voter suppression] are proof that “dead [red] to the roots” is a successful program or anything other than dirty politics gone astray. Tennessee was recently voted the most politically corrupt state for good reason. Last year Tennessee was voted the worst state legislation.

A Greed Driven Budget or April Fool’s Joke?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

WASHINGTON — Todays unveiling of Paul Ryan’s newest Republican budget exposed what Republicans will do if they gain complete control of Congress. His greed driven budget will allow the rick to harvest a windfall of tax cuts while the poor and middle class would be burdened with the painful costs. This budget will also allow Democrats to broaden the political difference between the two parties beyond health care, minimum wage and unemployment benefits.

Ryan laid out a budget plan that slashes $5 trillion in spending over the next decade on the backs of the poor and middle class. He falsely claims he would bring federal spending and taxes into balance by 2024, through drastic cuts to Medicaid and food stamps, and the total repeal of the Affordable Care Act just as millions are reaping the benefits of the law.

Domestic programs would be reduced to the lowest levels since modern government accounting while defense spending would increase. Medicare would be converted into a “premium support” system, where people 65 and older could purchase private insurance with small federal subsidies instead of government-paid health care. Subsidies in truth could not pay for health care of these people.

“We need to be a proposition party, not just an opposition party,” said Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin. “We believe we owe it to the [rich] country to offer an alternative to the status quo. It’s just that simple.”

Even with those tough political choices, the budget would balance in 2024 only because Ryan is assuming his cuts would prompt a burst of economic growth to raise tax revenues above what independent economists forecast. Back to trickle-down economics. He also does not adjust the government’s revenue ledger to reflect the cost of repealing the health care law’s tax increases and Medicare cuts, which could add an additional $2 trillion.

The Ryan budget will be formally drafted on Wednesday in the Budget Committee and brought to a House vote on Friday — if Republican leaders can find 217 votes to pass it over the concerns of moderates who say it goes too far and conservatives who say it does not go far enough.

Regardless of the vote, the budget will be front and center in the coming campaigns.

Paul Ryan’s budget is close to the heart of core Republican values and beliefs: Deliver Wealth to the wealthy, Power to the powerful, and suffering to everyone else…

In all, Ryan said, spending would be cut by $5.1 trillion over the next decade. More than $2 trillion of that would come from repealing Mr. Obama’s health care initiative, the Affordable Care Act, a political move that may be much more difficult now that more than 10 million Americans have gotten health insurance through the law, either through private policies purchased on insurance exchanges, through expanded Medicaid or private policies purchased through brokers but subsidized by the law.

Such an [Ann Rand] approach “empowers recipients to get off the aid rolls and back on the payrolls,” Mr. Ryan wrote. More importantly, it stuffs money in the pockets of the rich and powerful.

The toughest cuts would come from domestic programs that have already been reduced steadily to rubble, since 2011, when Republicans took control of the House. Nor did Ryan shy away from hot-button issues.

Education funding would be cut by $145 billion over 10 years. Pell grants for college students would lose $90 billion. University students would start being charged interest on their loans while still in school, reaping $40 billion.

Under the greed driven world of Republicans, Federal subsidies for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting “can no longer be justified,” Ryan said.

Not even big bird and Sesame Street will be spared the pain of Ryan’s cuts. The arts, in addition to public television, will be wiped off the face of the earth.

Attack of Obama visit typical for today’s GOP

Friday, February 7th, 2014

tndp logoThe distinguished Tennessee Republican state chairman, in a Jan. 29 op-ed, criticized President Barack Obama for “campaigning” by coming to a Nashville public school. But the president no longer has to campaign: The American people already re-elected him.

Three-fourths of Chris Devaney’s op-ed attacked Obama and it is another example of how a once reasonable and respected Republican Party has become a tea party not of ideas but of extreme ideology, not of solutions but of reflexive opposition, not of bipartisan cooperation but of endless antagonism.

Unlike the Republican leader, students and faculty at McGavock High School appreciated the president coming to Tennessee. As the students listened to the president tell of overcoming struggles and trials during childhood — raised by a single mother, his family too often barely scraping by, his own sins and shortcomings — I could see in young eyes the growing belief they, too, could overcome their obstacles and achieve their own dreams.

Indeed, I was reminded of the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words.”

His life’s story demonstrated and amplified his words of opportunity and responsibility.

My Republican counterpart touted recent student test scores to claim credit for reforms put into place by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who worked with Democratic and Republican legislators and with teachers to earn Tennessee one of the first two Race to the Top grants — before Gov. Bill Haslam even took office.

The chairman also claimed Republicans have produced a thriving state economy, but we have watched GOP legislators waste time and our tax money on increasing the number of places where we can buy booze and pack pistols.

Meanwhile, Republicans haven’t produced any effective jobs legislation, and our unemployment rate still far exceeds the national average.

My esteemed colleague says Republicans want an “opportunity-for-all” economy to lift up Tennesseans “regardless of ZIP code” by creating “high-performing schools.” But, in fact, legislative Republicans are attacking public school teachers, undercutting public schools and want to give away our tax dollars for “vouchers” to subsidize not just respected private institutions but also sectarian schools and segregation academies.

Meanwhile, Republicans are abolishing inheritance taxes for millionaire and billionaire heirs and heiresses to create an “opportunity-for-the-rich” economy, helping a very few at the expense of working middle-class Tennesseans who pay the bill for these giveaways.

Tennessee Democrats, by contrast, are working to provide real solutions for jobs and education. We are fighting to raise the minimum wage, seeking tax incentives to grow small-business jobs, protecting public school students, fighting for pre-K education and demanding that Republicans let our family doctors and community hospitals care for 300,000 working Tennesseans and children instead of sending our Medicaid money to New York and California.

Tennessee Democrats aren’t wasting time casting partisan stones at someone from Washington who came to learn from, praise and inspire Tennessee teachers and students.

Instead of doing the bidding of moneyed special interests and the mega-rich, Tennessee Democrats are seeking to serve all Tennessee families.

Content in Tennessee

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

In 2010, the political landscape in Tennessee changed. A large stash of “dark money” sweeps the Tennessee Democratic Party from power, for the first time since Reconstruction. Candidates of the Republican Party were elected in mass, based on empty promises of job creation and a focus on education. It did not seem to matter that many of these candidates were not vetted; more less qualified to hold political office or even hold a regular job in the common job market. The voters did not seem to care they were electing unqualified people to office.

Unfortunately, the lack of qualification of candidates was not the only thing wrong with the “political winds of change” that affected Tennessee and many other southern states that created the perfect political storm. This political change was driven by much darker forces and was not based on the normal issues that affect most elections or spark most political up evil. This change was fueled by racism and hatred of President Obama. And it occurred at a time when control of political power was up for grabs for ten years, not just for an election cycle.

It occurred at a time when the political party who won the state, would control the state for ten years, and be allowed to redistrict the political landscape and reallocate the political power of a state. The masterminds of this political up evil had more important goals in mind than just political victory and they were more than happy to use hatred to achieve their vile agenda. Nor, did it matter that mindless teabaggers would serve as minions to assist the rich in reaching their goal.

We have since seen the devastation of this political change and the damaging impact it has had on the poor and middle class in our state and nation. It did not take long to realize the promises of job creation and focus on education were empty words “lies” by the GOP to simply gain power and control.

And since the election, the GOP has taken undemocratic steps to entrench their political power. Adopting measures to ensure voter suppression on the vary people their vile agenda has harmed the most: the old, young, poor, women, sick and minorities. They have attacked women healthcare, workers’ rights, gay rights, minority rights, civil rights, and dismantled the safety net that has successfully protected the poor, old, sick and middle class since the Great Depression, while continuing to give large tax breaks to the rich and corporations.

It does not seem to matter that they have lost national power as a party, they seem happy with the short term state power and/or regional power they have achieved and they have used this power to undermine national laws and political legislation.

Four years later, the attacks on women’s rights, voter’s rights, workers’ rights immigration, and civil rights has escalated by the GOP. Attacks on the poor and middle class have also escalated as the GOP attempts to dismantle and gut public education and social programs like Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and unemployment compensation.

Not since the Great Depression, has the GOP agenda been so void of a moral compass.Republicans are attempting to dismantle the vary programs designed to help those in need, during tough economic times, like now, when 40 million Americans need government subsidized food assistance to simply live and 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment compensation, yesterday, because of GOP cuts. In months, another 1.9 million will lose their unemployment compensation. The GOP don’t even seem concerned about the additional loss of 240,000 jobs that will occur from this loss of this money from the economy. Nothing, not even the welfare of the nation, is more important than their vile agenda.

In Tennessee, more than 20% of Tennesseans receive government assistance for food and experienced cuts in SNAP assistance. More than 18,000 Tennesseans lost their unemployment yesterday.

The GOP faithful calls these expenditures on humanity – waste and too expensive to afford, yet, they don’t hesitate giving large tax breaks to the rich and corporations. They spoke not one objection when it came to the costs of twelve years of two “unfunded” wars and giving corporate “welfare” to the greed driven military contractors. They never seem to have a problem with waste when it comes to giving large tax breaks to their rich friends but God forbid – we help the poor or middle class during tough economic times.

Four years later, unemployment in Tennessee is 8.1% while it is 7% nationally. The Tennessee legislature has not passed nor discussed one act of legislation related to job creation. Nothing has been done to strengthen public education, in fact the GOP works feverishly to dismantle it. The Republican “super majority” legislation has been more concerned with catering to their gun lobbyists’ friends and other special interest groups. Our governor is too busy handling his messy shady dealings to something that would actually help middle class folks like extending Medicaid for 170,000 Tennesseans.

Did Tennesseans get what they bargained for when the voted red in 2010? Is there any buyer’s remorse or are folks in Tennessee simply content with the sad state of affairs of our state as a result of that vote?

Bill Haslam’s Crusade Against the Middle Class

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

tndp logoBrandon Puttbrese was the Communications Director for the TNDP. Our families should be working their way into the middle class, not falling out of it. Tennesseans used to know that if they worked hard and played by the rules, they’d be able to care of their families, send their kids to college, and have a secure retirement, but today, the rules have been rewritten by lobbyists for the wealthy and well connected.
We have to reclaim security for working families and we can do it by restoring Tennessee values. To make progress for all Tennesseans, we must: put an end to the extremism and corruption in the government; invest in our future by rewarding hard work, expanding quality health care to all Tennesseans; and make sure everyone, from CEOs to working families, does their fair share and plays by the rules.

We’re not going to cut our way to prosperity or build a stronger middle class by giving more tax breaks to big corporations and millionaires. To expand the middle class, we must encourage and support our innovators, educators and builders. We need an economy that creates jobs of the future and rewards all hard-working Tennesseans — not one built on inside deals for well-connected CEOs and risky handouts for big special interests that threaten our entire economy and shortchange working and middle class families.

We need to restore security for the middle class and create an economy that rewards hard-working families. Instead, Bill Haslam has rubberstamped an extreme agenda that doesn’t create jobs and pushed top-down economic policies that pad his own pockets, reward his wealthy friends and damage the middle class.
Haslam’s tax plan will rack up $1 billion worth of massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, while he’s made big cuts to children’s services, higher education, health care, public safety and programs that help Tennesseans find work.

Bill Haslam has doubled-down on extreme policies that hurt working and middle class Tennesseans — denying 400,000 citizens fully funded Medicaid coverage, letting big business and lobbyists write their own rules, cutting programs that invest in workers and their families, and eliminating rules and oversight that hold government officials accountable.

Haslam’s anti-public school policies fail our students and threaten our state economy—cutting teacher salaries, over-relying on expensive standardized testing, and diverting funds away from public schools to an out-of-state, for-profit corporation that streams classes on the internet.

Not only did Haslam pass the biggest budget in Tennessee history, Haslam’s corrupt inside dealing outsourced hundreds of Tennessee jobs and directed hundreds of millions worth of state contracts to business partners and wealthy campaign contributors.

Haslam made his fortune at Pilot Oil, where he and his family have made millions from a scheme that preyed on their own customers. Pilot Oil executives have admitted stealing from truck drivers and even targeting honest, hard-working new Americans.

Haslam has rubberstamped an extreme tea party agenda that doesn’t create jobs and, worse yet, harms security working and middle class families; from Haslam’s discriminatory voter ID law and guns in parking lots (even when business owners don’t want them) to defunding Planned Parenthood and eliminating workplace protections for LGBT Tennesseans.
Bill Haslam’s special interest dealing and constant secrecy proves he can’t be trusted. He won’t come clean about his secret relationships with high-powered lobbyists and he’s still hiding his income tax returns because he pays a lower rate than working Tennesseans. If we can’t trust him to be honest about his dealings, how can he be trusted to build a stronger middle class?

WEAKENING MIDDLE CLASS SECURITYRebuilding a fair economy that strengthens the middle class by attracting good American jobs investing in education, and expanding access to affordable health care should be our top priority. But Bill Haslam has a different view. Haslam slashed security for working families, rigged the rules to favor big special interests, and cut programs that strengthen the middle class. Instead of asking everyone to do their fair share, Haslam gave the wealthy and big corporations massive new tax breaks and hopes that job growth will trickle down from the top.

Hurt Working Families to Pad Profits for Corporate Special InterestsIf we’re going to build a fair economy, big corporations and wealthy CEOs have to play by the same rules as working families and the middle class. Bill Haslam and lobbyists have re-written the rules to put profits for special interests ahead of working families.

• Good-paying jobs are key for middle class security, but Haslam has signed multiple laws that drive down the wages of working men and women.

o Haslam eliminated prevailing wage rules on state contracts, which allows wealthy contractors to pad their profits by slashing the wages of workers.

o Haslam repealed local wage ordinances, boosting profits by cutting worker pay back to $7.25 an hour.

• One of Bill Haslam’s signature laws doesn’t put one more Tennessean back on the job, but it does cut payments to workers who get hurt on the job — by a third.

o It’s already difficult to make ends meet when a family member is out of work. Haslam’s new law not only increases bureaucratic red tape and burdens working families, it gives businesses a new financial incentive to fire injured workers.

• In Bill Haslam’s world, special interests don’t have to play by the same rules as the hard-working middle class. Haslam’s cap on damages law shields irresponsible and reckless businesses that injure and kill Tennesseans from being held fully accountable in court.

o By putting a price tag on Tennesseans, the law protects profits for businesses and corporations that harm our families. Haslam signed the measure into law even while his multi-billion dollar company Pilot Flying J faced lawsuits for negligence.

Eliminated Programs that Put Tennesseans Back to Work
With more than a quarter million Tennesseans looking for jobs, we need to build an economy that rewards responsibility and increases opportunity for our families. Bill Haslam’s top-down agenda has boosted profits for his business friends and out-of-state corporations while cutting programs that help hard-working families find jobs. As a result, there are more Tennesseans looking for good jobs today than there was a year ago.

• To date, Bill Haslam has blocked Medicaid expansion, a move that would create 18,000 good-paying jobs and provide a billion dollar boost to Tennessee’s health care economy.

• Instead of bolstering efforts to get Tennesseans back work, Bill Haslam shut down 34 career centers that helped citizens find and apply for jobs. The change in priorities means residents in 34 counties will have to drive elsewhere to get help with creating and posting resumes, skills training and other job-finding services.

• With unemployment rising in the state, the Haslam administration eliminated a rapid-response team that helped workers caught in mass lay-offs prepare for new jobs.

• Haslam fired 71 Economic and Community Development workers who assisted city and county leaders in planning for new growth. The move passed planning expenses onto local taxpayers.

Destabilizing Public Schools, Shortchanging StudentsThere is nothing more important to our economy than educating our children, and that’s not going to happen if we overcrowd our classrooms and divert money away from public schools. Preparing the next generation of leaders and innovators begins at home, but our public schoolteachers play a vital role in equipping our kids with the skills and knowledge they need to compete for the good-paying jobs of tomorrow. Bill Haslam’s top-down privatization agenda threatens our students’ economic future by driving away high-quality teachers and leaving our public schools less secure.

• Bill Haslam’s first education decision put a commissioner with only three years of classroom experience — Kevin Huffman — in charge of a $6 billion education budget.

o This shortsighted experiment has been a costly and abject failure for students. The top-down management style of Haslam’s education commissioner has drawn the ire of school superintendents, educators and parents, crashed morale, and driven away high-quality teachers.

o In September 2013, nearly half of the superintendents in the state signed a letter to Haslam saying educators did not “feel respected or valued” by his administration and that teachers felt “voiceless and powerless.”

• Our kids need great teachers, and we’re not going to recruit and retain those teachers if Haslam’s administration keeps attacking them. In 2011, Haslam signed a law taking away teachers’ right to negotiate together for decent wages and benefits, small class sizes and the kind of things only teachers know about like what works best in the classroom.

o The next year, Haslam proposed increasing classroom sizes — meaning your kids would get less one-on-one time with their teachers.

o While Haslam gave tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, his administration cut teaching salaries and financial incentives for teachers who earn advanced degrees.

o Haslam instituted a flawed teacher evaluation system that scores more than half of educators on the test scores of kids they don’t even teach; Haslam’s new mandates put less focus on student learning and more focus on bureaucratic paperwork.

o Rather than attracting great educators, Haslam’s top-down orders are costing us great teachers. In 2010, the year preceding Bill Haslam and Commissioner Kevin Huffman taking office, 1,524 teachers retired; by 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, 2,197 teachers retired — a stunning 44 percent increase. In 2012, one in five teachers who were eligible for retirement did so, approximately double the rate in 2010.

• Even though a standardized test never taught a child anything, Haslam’s administration has doubled down on high-stakes testing — at a cost of nearly $200 million year. Haslam’s top-down education policies are robbing students of critical thinking and forcing schools to “teach to the test.” Too many of our tax dollars are going to investors when they should be spent on students.

• Bill Haslam put corporate profits ahead of our children’s education. Instead of investing in small class sizes or expanding pre-K, Haslam diverted millions of tax dollars from public schools to a for-profit corporation that streams lessons to students over the internet.

o Last year students enrolled in Haslam’s for-profit school showed less growth than students in every other public school in the state.

o Haslam’s for-profit school scheme has failed students two years in a row. News reporters even caught the company deleting the bad test grades of students.

o Haslam’s own education commissioner called the for-profit school’s performance “unacceptable.” But instead of holding the for-profit school accountable for failing students, Haslam signed a new law protecting their multi-million dollar contract.
• When we should be strengthening public schools, Bill Haslam has proposed privatization schemes — like private school vouchers — that divert money away from public schools and have failed to deliver on the results that were promised wherever they were tried.

• Bill Haslam punished students by cutting $3.4 million from Nashville schools because the elected school board refused the application of a well-connected charter school. In retaliation, his administration then supported efforts to strip local school boards of the authority to approve charter school applications.

• On top of diverting money from public schools and undermining the educators who are shaping our students, Haslam’s top-down approach ignores the harsh realities facing Tennessee families:

o We will improve education by improving the lives of children. One out of four children in Tennessee live in poverty and Haslam signed a law to cut benefits for the children of Tennesseans who are out of work.

o More than 40 percent of expecting mothers in Tennessee don’t receive adequate pre-natal care. And while healthy mothers raise healthy children, Haslam has blocked funding to expand Medicaid, which could extend quality health coverage to 191,000 women in Tennessee.

• If Tennessee is going to win the good-paying jobs of the future and strengthen our economy, we must increase graduation rates at our colleges and community colleges. Unfortunately, Haslam’s plans are putting a good education out of reach thousands of Tennesseans.
o Under Bill Haslam, tuition rates have increased on working and middle class families in Tennessee every year, saddling students with more debt that hurts our economy.

o While tuition rates in Tennessee are increasing faster than most of the country, Haslam has slashed funding for higher education.

o Instead of investing in Tennessee colleges or in students by lowering tuition costs, Bill Haslam spent $5 million to advertise for an out-of-state, online college.

Blocking Health Care Security
Instead of working to strengthen Medicaid and improve access to affordable health care for all families, Bill Haslam has cut funding for important health care programs. Access to affordable, quality health care is key to building a stronger middle class, but Bill Haslam has made it harder for Tennessee families to get the care they need.

• Haslam opposed the Affordable Care Act and has blocked federal funds to expand Medicaid, an expansion that could extend quality health coverage to more than 330,000 working Tennesseans and invest billions in Tennessee’s economy.
o If Haslam continues blocking Medicaid expansion, more Tennesseans will die because they lack health coverage. Studies show Medicaid expansion would save lives; health coverage especially helps poor women and children in rural counties, the elderly, and black Tennesseans.

o Bill Haslam’s decision to deny working families Medicaid coverage has already caused hospitals to shut down programs and fire thousands of workers, which has costs our economy millions. Haslam’s continued indifference puts more than 50 hospitals at risk of closing, a shameful scenario that threatens to make health care less accessible to the rural families who need it.

o Haslam’s inaction on Medicaid is punishing the poor. 161,000 Tennesseans in working poor families who would qualify for Medicaid coverage will have nowhere to turn but emergency rooms, which hurts our hospitals and our economy.

• After spending $10 million of taxpayer money to study health exchanges, Bill Haslam evaded his responsibility to Tennesseans when he decided against building a locally operated health insurance marketplace that would help our families get insured.

• Instead of working to solve health care problems facing Tennesseans, Haslam opposed the Affordable Care Act and would:
o allow insurance companies to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition, putting as many as 2.8 million Tennesseans at risk;

o re-institute lifetime caps on coverage, meaning those with long-term and life threatening illnesses may be cut off from their coverage;

o take away free preventive health care screenings like mammograms for women;

o no longer allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26;
o charge women up to 50 percent more for their coverage than men.

• As governor, Haslam cut funding for a program to aid Tennesseans with disabilities.

Slashing the Safety Net for Seniors
Tennesseans who’ve worked their whole lives deserve dignity in their golden years — they’ve earned it, and they deserve it. But to pay for his massive tax giveaways for corporations and the wealthy, Haslam slashed vital programs that Tennessee seniors rely on for a secure retirement.

• Bill Haslam cut millions from in-home care for seniors, forcing elderly Tennesseans out of the home they have lived in for years and into nursing homes.

• Haslam supports repealing the health reform law that has strengthened Medicare and saved Tennessee seniors $109 million on life-saving prescription drugs.

The GOP War on Education: A Case Example

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Michigan – Do you really want to know what Republicans think of public education? You have to look no further than the school district Buena Vista, a small community adjacent to Saginaw, Michigan. This Tuesday, people were shocked when it saw its school district suddenly shut down indefinitely. The closure followed the announcement by the school board on Monday night that it could no longer make payroll and its 27 teachers were laid off and all their benefits were terminated. Many questions remain unanswered while children remain at home and residents remain in shock.

An emergency public meeting was held Tuesday night which drew a crowd of about 100 parents, teachers and students who expressed anger and mistrust toward the school and state officials implementing the surprise shutdown. A list of questions and answers were passed out to those in attendance but officials refused to answer any questions not on the list.

The story for the board is that Buena Vista School District was mistakenly provided more than $500,000 from the state of Michigan to run a juvenile detention education program that is closed, so the state is now withholding all of the district’s funding for the months of April, May and June and part of July in order to recover the expenditures.

Many important questions could not be answered like: “Will high school seniors be able to graduate this year?”, “Why did the board spend the money meant for [juvenile detention program] Wolverine Center when it no longer existed?”, “why are children paying the price for an error by the school board?”…

Parents have demanded to know what the money had been spent on, but after attending the Tuesday emergency meeting, one parent noted. “it is clear that state and local officials have been—and continue to be—working hand in glove.”

A May 1 posting on the Buena Vista school district website states that the district is “taking the first steps toward confirming a financial emergency under Michigan Public Act 436”, which is the Emergency Manager law rammed through state congress after voters defeated an almost identical measure in November 2012. This was not mentioned at the public meeting.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s 2012 budget cut $1 billion from education statewide, while providing $1.8 billion in tax cuts to businesses. It was also recently revealed that a secret panel in the Snyder administration has been working with technology company executives behind the back of the public on a plan to establish so-called “value schools” which would operate on $2,000 less per student than the current state minimum by replacing teachers with long-distance video-conferencing technology.

Buena Vista is an unincorporated community whose population was around 8,000 at the time of the 2010 census. Most of the residents and students are African American. More than a third of its children lived below the official poverty level.

Attacks on public education and teachers have become a target by the GOP. It seems to be open season on public education. Across the nation, in red states, education takes a beating as taxes are funneled to tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. The GOP war on education continues!

Wing Nut Legislation from Nashville

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

One can only be amazed at the break neck speed with which the wing nut legislation is moving through Nashville. There is no longer need for debate or logic, ignorance based bills are passed in record time, most recently, one bill passed in six minutes, there is no longer need for intelligent discussion.

After two years of working hard for lobbyists, the Tennessee legislator has moved Tennessee into the national lime light of ignorance. The race to the bottom by the backwoods boys of the Tennessee legislator has paid off; Tennessee has become the blunt of jokes on a weekly basis on late night sitcoms. The wealth of ignorance by the legislation has produced a wind fall of material for late night comedians and national news networks.

Legislators like Marsh Blackburn have become regulars on news stations, as she insists the good people of Tennessee love the Sequester, the Sequester what will eventually give Tennesseans 40,000 lay off slips.

After four years of struggle, while unemployment moves upward across the state, the Tennessee House of Representatives capped off four years of foolishness with their signature bill that would let handgun owners with permits carry their weapons in their cars anywhere they go, putting an apparent end to a four-year fight between business owners and gun rights advocates.

Other bills like “don’t say gay” have gained even more national recognition and laughter. The more Tennessee is associated with bigotry, intolerance and ignorance, the more we are dragged down, economically and socially. What employer wants to relocate to a state that guts education and condemns science and technology?

Sadly, the current work of the legislature is focused on gutting workers compensation. Basis protection to workers who become injured at work will likely be dismantled when this legislation is rushed through without discussion or regret.

Other legislation moves toward gutting public education in the state. TNGOP touted K12 “virtual schools”, the savior of education, even as administrators of these schools were instructing teachers to delete and hide the falling grades of the students involved in this “voodoo” education option.

If you don’t like the K12 option, you can always go with the school voucher scam. Lobbyists are lining up to get their hands on tax payer education dollars in Tennessee. They want to pilfer, plunder, and profit from the privatization of public schools and the pickpocketing of public funds.

On another note, in the coming weeks, Gov. Bill Haslam and the state legislature will be making a decision on whether to fully implement the Affordable Care Act by expanding TennCare, our Medicaid program. It’s a decision that will have long-term effects on health care for working families and a huge impact on our state economy.

The legislation from Nashville affects every aspect of your life, from your education to your job, from your standard of living to your wellbeing as a senior citizen. If you don’t pay attention to laws that affect you, you will find yourselves with no “safety net” protection.

Renaissance of Liberalism?

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Poetic, in this greed filled age of conservatism; liberal issues dominated the 2012 election. With stunning results, in an election where pot is legal and gays are free to marry. Who would believe that a African American who campaigned to raise taxes on the rich would win his second election in America by a majority? This feat has not been accomplished by a Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt’s second election in 1936.

In many ways, the recent economic situation in America mirrored the events of the Great Depression. And in this election, only 25 percent of voters identified themselves as “liberal” in national exit polls. 35 percent proclaimed to be conservative while 41 percent called themselves moderates. There was a three percent point increase in those voters who called themselves liberal.

Demography and democracy advanced the progressive political ideas by a majority of voters. Before the election of Barack Obama, liberalism has been silent in America for several decades.

Abraham Lincoln’s push to erase the original southern sin of slavery from the land was a liberal achievement. Teddy Roosevelt’s embrace of the income tax was a liberal moment. Other liberal causes include the Women’s movement in 1920, Social Security entitlements in 1935, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Other events such as the creation of national parks, and laws against child labor, poisoning the environment, and the more recent move to give most Americans access to health care are liberal causes.

This brings us to the fascinating self-portrait of America at the genesis of the beginning of second term of the Obama era. A war is ongoing where the center-left majority wants to restore some equality to the growing imbalance between the very rich and the rest of us. If President Obama can successfully lead this coalition, he will be remembered among the greats.

For this to be successful, this will involve raising taxes on the top 2% and reforming entitlements enough to ensure their continued success and sustainability. Obama will have to make the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” work, address climate change or immigration reform and in the process, he can restore liberalism to greatness.

For at least a generation’s time, liberals in this country have been afraid to call themselves liberal, calling themselves progressives. One can argue why the left was cast into exile but the demonization of liberals by the conservatives’ relentless vile smear campaigns seems to be the most obvious reason.

Liberalism, in the purest form, is about expanding opportunity and human rights, while embracing science and logic. Liberalism created the entitlement programs, after the Great Depression, to protect the poor, old and the majority of Americans from failed Republican policies. Liberalism created the American middle class.

Liberals of the 20th century have had some amazing successes — regulation of monopolistic greed driven trusts, modernization of strong public schools, and ensuring a safe food supply.

The New Deal’s lasting legacy, Social Security, and its counterpart of the 1960s, Medicare, have allowed millions of American to live out their lives in dignity. These programs are now under attack by modern day conservatives driven by a vile agenda of greed, but now these programs are considered sacred by Americans of all political affiliations. Even the mislead teabaggers will fight you over their social security while they chant and rant against socialism.

Conservatism, in its desire to destroy social programs and entitlements have now lost its way. They abandoned fiscal responsibility in exchange for the Bush doctrine. Recently they have resorted to attacking women, rejecting science, demonizing immigration reform, restricting personal freedom, and adopting voter suppression laws in order to steal elections and/or remain relevant.

If you believe in science, technology, climate change, finding a path to citizenship for millions of hard-working immigrants, support strong public education and the right to marry the person you love, there is no place for you in todays Republican Party. Moderate Republicans are not welcome!

The neo-con wing of the Republican Party started a pair of disastrous unfunded wars that all but bankrupted the country in the wild west Bush era. And for leaders, the party put forth crackpots and wing nuts in 2012. The Republican Party is on its way of assuring its place as a regional party unless it adopts reasonable change. Talk of civil war in the Republican Party is discussed by TV political analyst and fills the dreams of modern day progressives and Democrats everywhere.

This election has created some strong possibilities for restoring liberalism in America. Obama has the unique opportunity to shore up a weakened middle class, address climate change and make the promise of health care expansion work. For now, the majority of Americans have Obama’s back. And should he succeed, the Democrats could enjoy a growing majority in the future.