Utah Legislature Rep. Bill Wright tells public to get lost

Everybody knows vampires hate daylight

…so when the Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) vampires launched their hostile takeover of the Utah Association for Public Charter Schools (UAPCS) in order to get their Vouchers Plus program passed, the one thing they absolutely wanted to avoid was any sunshine or public comment on their plans.  Because we all know how that turned out last time.  For that, they would find no better friend than dairy farmer/bull semen merchant Bill Wright.

Wright, who has spent the better part of the last two decades in the Utah legislature while other people milk and service his cows, is the sponsor behind HB 116, which seeks to re-establish the plantation system in Utah by providing guest worker visas for Mexicans to furnish slave labor to Utah’s dairy industry.  Since the federal government is the traditional source in the United States for visas of any kind, presumably Utah will have to secede first for Wright’s law to take any effect, but don’t worry, there’s a plan in the works for that too. Continue reading


Parents for Choice one step away from obtaining Vouchers Plus

A Cruel Joke

Merlynn Newbold

Parents for Choice in Education‘s Charter School funding bill, HB 313, sponsored by Merlynn Newbold, passed out of the House Education Committee this morning by a narrow margin. So score one for the resurrected Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) and their KSL.com hire, über-lobbyist Chris Bleak, tasked with getting vouchers passed this session, come hell or high water.  It’s not for nothing that he’s been running a full time shop at the Capitol for the last four months running.

But the path to this morning’s rigged vote on the bill actually started more than four months ago.  More like 14 months ago, when PCE, tactically and conceptually trashed from its 2007 voucher campaign, decided it needed a facelift to make another run at vouchers.  The Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (UAPCS) was selected as the ideal victim vehicle, but first there was the inconvenient matter of its director, Steve Winitzky, being a wee bit hostile to PCE.  Suddenly, late in 2009, two vacancies appeared on the UAPCS board when two board members resigned for unrelated reasons. PCE saw its opening and pounced. Continue reading

Unmasking the anti-teacher/anti-public school rhetoric (VIDEOS)

Today, two great video tutorials to understand the truth behind the anti-teacher/anti-public school rhetoric, whether it’s coming from Parents for Choice in Education, their poster child Jeb Bush, or Barack Obama.  The attack on public education in Utah and the rest of the United States is not a partisan one.  It’s a neoliberal one.  Bush’s No Child Left Standing Behind is the godfather of Obama’s Race to the Top.  It’s a heads I win, tails you lose sort of thing: heads the privateers win, tails children (society) lose(s).

First, this one from Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia.  It’s a very short, engaging explanation of the problem with judging teacher performance through “value added measures” in order to hand out raises/bonuses.

In this second one, Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union explains to Paul Jay of The Real News Network why what U.S. schools are facing in this time of economic crisis is a “perfect storm of disaster”.  But she also explains how teachers are being unfairly “painted with the bad teacher brush,” how people have got to get over thinking of schools as “magic castles” disconnected from the reality around them, and finally, how using tests that are designed to measure student achievement as a basis for “high stakes decisions” about teachers/schools is a totally flawed concept. Nine minutes that will help you sort the truth from the hype.

After Jeb Bush’s PCE sponsored roadshow: a reality check


Jeb Bush's failed testing model: coming to Utah schools?

Jeb Bush was in Utah yesterday thanks to the pirates at Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) who are already gearing up for their renewed assault on Utah’s public education system when the legislature reconvenes in January.

His sales pitch: holding schools accountable by grading them, like he did in Florida, and holding third-graders back who test poorly in reading.  Legislators Wayne Niederhauser and Greg Hughes (the new board chair at the scandalously mismanaged Utah Transit Authority) are chomping at the bit to duplicate Bush’s program here and are already working on a bill.

Speaking of grades, we’ll give the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Lisa Schencker a B for her story on the Bush visit, because Lisa at least finds it worthwhile to mention that Parents for Choice sponsored the Bush roadshow.  Sadly, Elizabeth Stuart at the Deseret News, gets a D on this assignment, for completely avoiding mention of PCE and even beginning her story by calling Bush’s plan “avant-garde,” followed by something that looks suspiciously like a cut and paste from a PCE press release.

But for the real juice, take a look at what a Utah mom who used to live in Florida had to say about Jeb’s performance, in the DesNews comment section: Continue reading

PCE hoists Backpack Funding flag at UAPCS

Amazingly, although the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools (UAPCS) board members who are also affiliated with Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) continue to insist the relationship is meaningless or coincidental, the newly released UAPCS lobbying agenda tells a different story.  Utah’s charter schools have long been fighting for equity in funding (getting the legislature to allocate the same amount of money per capita to charter schools as to regular public schools – charter schools receive slightly less).  This year those charter schools who pay dues to the association sailing under the PCE flag will also be adopting the PCE “Backpack Funding” slogan.  Coincidence?  You decide.

Backpack Funding

What is it?  Well think of it this way. It’s basically vouchers with lipstick. Utah Moms Care has an excellent, dispassionate explanation of the concept here: Continue reading

Utah #1 in bigotry! Still! Again! Forever!

A very old joke.

The pilot’s voice over the intercom as the airliner begins its descent into the Salt Lake valley: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re approaching Salt Lake City.  Please set your watches back 30 years.”

Like I said, it’s an old joke.  After all, we scored the Olympics, proving that with a little bit of bribery and a temporary change in the liquor laws, we could hold our own with Nagano and subtropical Sochi.  You like us, you really really like us!

Right?  Wait.  What’s this?  Oh, blast it.  The New York Times is picking on us again.

Support for same-sex marriage is apparently accepted by 45% of the U.S. population, sometimes even more.  But not in Utah.  Nope.  With our pure intransigence we’ve bested Alabama, Mississippi, Idaho and a bunch of the other usual suspects.  While attitudes across the country have slowly been changing, now when you come to Utah you only need to turn your clock back to 1994. (Click here to see the complete story and click the map button to see how every other state besides Utah in the United States of America has evolved since then.)

A very clear example of why unions matter

Utah is well known for being a Right to Exploit state, which some people call Right to Work.  Unions here face an extremely hostile environment and unfortunately some of them react by performing almost as caricatures – buddying up with management, doing as little as possible, boasting to members about their accomplishments that in reality are pretty weak.  Yes, we have stories.

But the alternative is worse.

In the world proposed by Mike Morley and his friends at Parents for Choice in Education (and yes, they are the best of friends; in 2006 Morley received the “Distinguished Service Award” from Utah Grassroots, which claims to be a citizens group.  Donna Dahl is a board member and the group’s secretary.  She is also number two on the list of Governing Board members for the Parents for Choice in Education PAC, right behind Robyn Bagley.) there are no unions.  They’ll zero in on teachers unions for the moment, but really any union is a bad union because in their fantasy Ayn Rand world, the magical free market solves everything.

Here’s a look at how the magical free market is solving things for workers at the Mott’s apple juice plant in Williamson, New York.  Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which owns Mott’s has had a fantastically profitable year.  But due to the dreadful economy there is high unemployment in the area, and Mott’s can’t resist the temptation to jack profits even higher, at the expense of their employees.  They don’t need to cut wages but surrounded by a sea of hungry unemployed workers, they see that they can.

This is the world that Morley and PCE inhabit.  As the public school system is forced to make cut after cut, the pool of hungry unemployed teachers grows larger.  Some of them, desperate to work, go to teach at charters, where they can be fired at will, at any time, to make way for a cheaper teacher from the hungry sea.

Read and learn:  In Mott’s Strike, More Than Pay at Stake