• Eugene Lang: For his spur-of-the-moment generosity that changed countless lives for the better

    Eugene Lang, who just died at 98, was a very successful investor who rose from poverty.  But that is not what makes his story so remarkable.

    It was something he began, on an impulse, in June 1981, when he spoke to a class of sixth graders at a Harlem Public School.

    The 61 students were black and Hispanic, and poor–as Mr. Lang himself had been at their age.

    He began by telling them how inspiring Martin Luther King had been, how important hard work is, and other familiar observations about how to make your own life and others’ better.

    But he quickly realized that these kids were on another planet and would simply ignore an old, rich white man, even though his background was as impoverished as theirs.

    He had grown up in a $12-a-month cold-water flat in New York, graduated from high school at 14, and went to work in a restaurant. A regular customer there talked with him, realized how brilliant his waiter really was, and arranged a college interview. Lang was accepted to one of America’s best colleges, Swarthmore, and given financial aid to make it possible for him to attend.

    As he spoke to the kids in Harlem, he must have seen a chance to pay back that regular customer a half-century later.

    So, on an impulse, he told the class something remarkable.

    He said he would give each of them a college scholarship if they were admitted to a four-year college.

    Stunned silence.

    Then, after the principal told him that only one or two would make it to college, he began to do more.

    He “adopted” the class and the school and began contributing in ways that would make them ready and eager to take advantage of his offer.

    With Lang’s help and the students’ commitment, the success rate was much higher, around 50%. As the New York Times says in his obituary:

    At least half of the original 61 sixth graders — they called themselves Dreamers — enrolled in public and private colleges, although The Daily News later reported that some students had misunderstood the offer as a promise to pay tuition even at expensive colleges and were bitter. Of those who passed up college, Mr. Lang often found them jobs.

    “I know I’m going to make it,” Aristides Alvarado, then a 20-year-old junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told an interviewer in 1989. “And someday I’ll be big — real big — and pay the tuition for my own class of Dreamers.”

    Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers at the time, observed: “Lang put up a lot more than money. He put himself on the line, too.” –New York Times

    Lang founded the “I Have a Dream Foundation” and established year-round enrichment programs. He persuaded many rich friends to open similar programs or contribute to his or others.

    Over his lifetime, he gave $150 million to charities, including $50 million to his alma mater, Swarthmore, and another $20 million to the New School for Social Research in New York.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Eugene Lang: a true mensch.

    May his memory be a blessing.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, March 21

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     The top three stories all involve public testimony by FBI Director James Comey

    1. Comey confirms his agency is conducting a counter-intelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, including any possible contacts with Trump campaign officials. He said no one was excluded from the investigation, but said little beyond that. (Washington Post report here.) 
    2. Comey said no US Government agency authorized any wiretaps or surveillance of Trump Tower. He added that no foreign agencies have been discovered doing such surveillance. Democrats focused on stories #1 and #2. (New York Times report on take-aways from the hearing here.)
      • Comment: Comey’s testimony directly contradict’s Pres. Trump’s tweet. So do the comments of senior members of Congressional Intelligence committees, who have been briefed on the matter. The White House is refusing to back down from its allegations and says it will present evidence later. Perhaps. But no one outside the White House is convinced.
      • Sidenote: Fox News judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, asserted last week that British intelligence had done the surveillance and had done so at the request of the Obama White House. That has been vigorously rejected by the British and has not been confirmed by another else. For that reason, Fox News has temporarily taken him off the air, according to the New York Times.
    3. Comey said that a major criminal investigation is being conducted into the “unmasking” of Gen. Michael Flynn’s name from an intercepted phone call with a Russian diplomat.  Republicans focused on this crime, led (as they are so often) by Rep. Trey Gowdy’s skilled prosecutorial questioning. (Los Angeles Times story here.)
      • Comment:
        • The release of Flynn’s name is a felony. US intelligence agencies charged with surveillance of foreign countries sometimes capture their conversations with US citizens. By law, the names of those citizens are supposed to be “masked,” that is, kept secret since they were captured without an appropriate court warrant.
        • VERY few people in the intelligence community, White House, and Department of Justice have access to these “unmasked names.” Professionals say it is probably less that two dozen, all senior political appointees of the Obama Administration, such as National Security Adviser Susan Rice, her number 2, Ben Rhodes, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director James Brennan, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, as well as the President.
        • One of those senior people leaked Flynn’s name to selected reporters, leading to a bombshell story in the Washington Post (link here), and then to Flynn’s resignation. It is possible, but less likely, that another senior administration official learned the information and then leaked it. But the crucial point is that the information itself was tightly held.
        • The FBI is now under enormous pressure to solve this.
      • My Advice: Once the groundwork has been laid, the Department of Justice should convene a Grand Jury and take testimony, under oath. Every official who had access to Flynn’s unmasked name should be questioned.

     Healthcare Bill: House Republicans unveil changes to bill, on which they expect to vote this Thursday. According to the Washington Post,

    The tweaks addressed numerous GOP concerns about the legislation, ranging from the flexibility it would give states to administer their Medicaid programs to the amount of aid it would offer older Americans to buy insurance. They are the product of two weeks of negotiations that stretched from the Capitol to the White House to President Trump’s Florida resort.

    The bill’s proponents also appeared to overcome a major obstacle Monday after a key group of hard-line conservatives declined to take a formal position against the bill, known as the American Health Care Act. –Washington Post

    Comment: With these changes, the bill should pass the House. It will likely require significant changes to gain 50 votes in the Senate (the number needed for a Reconciliation Budget Bill, with VP Pence breaking the tie). The bill will then go to a conference committee to produce a single joint bill, repealing and replacing Obamacare. That bill will then have to pass both Houses before Pres. Trump can sign it.

    Comment: If this process seems unfamiliar, it is only because Pres. Obama never used “regular order,” even when he controlled both Houses. Until then, it had been the normal way to pass legislation (which, in turn, is the normal way the US passes its laws, not via bureaucratic rule-making).

     Neil Gorsuch hearings for Supreme Court  The NYT lists six highlights. Actually, there were zero.

    Comment: Gorsuch made a calm opening presentation, following by Republicans preening (accurately saying he is supremely well qualified) and Democrats complaining (accurately saying they would not be sitting here if Pres. Obama’s nominee had been given a hearing and a vote).

    That’s why Republicans are secretly so grateful to Mitch McConnell, who saved this seat for them. 

     Kudos to the University of Chicago:

    Free tuition for any children of Chicago Public School employees admitted to the University.

    The parents can be children of teacher, nurse, janitors, counselors–anyone employed by CPS, and do not have to be graduates of Chicago Public Schools. (WBEZ)

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  • When the “wrong people” fail the test . . . stop giving the test? Another case of identity-group politics harming kids

     New York state requires prospective teachers to take a basic test for reading and writing.

     A federal judge has evaluated the test and ruled it is fair and not discriminatory.

     No matter. This competency test for teachers is being stopped because it screens out too many minorities, reports the Associated Press.

    NEW YORK (AP) – New York education officials are poised to scrap a test designed to measure the reading and writing skills of people trying to become teachers, in part because an outsized percentage of black and Hispanic candidates were failing it. . . .

    Leaders of the education reform movement have complained for years about the caliber of students entering education schools and the quality of the instruction they receive there. A December 2016 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that 44 percent of the teacher preparation programs it surveyed accepted students from the bottom half of their high school classes.

    The reformers believe tests like New York’s Academic Literacy Skills Test can serve to weed out aspiring teachers who aren’t strong students.

    But the literacy test raised alarms from the beginning because just 46 percent of Hispanic test takers and 41 percent of black test takers passed it on the first try, compared with 64 percent of white candidates. –AP

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Comment #1: This revision is designed to help adult school employees (and potential employees) at the expense of children’s learning. 

    That misses the whole point of proper K-12 Education Policy. It should focus exclusively on what is best for the students, not the adult employees. In too many cities and states, it doesn’t.

    If what is best for kids is also best for teachers, as it often is, that’s great. If the two diverge, go with what is best for the kids. That should be the goal of education policy, even though students don’t have well-paid lobbyists or union organizations working for them. (Ah, see the problem!)

    In New York’s case, any help to minority teachers from slackening requirement will surely come at the expense of minority students in classes taught by poorly-qualified teachers. Who speaks for the kids?

    Comment #2: If the test’s content is not biased, and if it is directly related to the job, then the test is not biased, regardless of the outcome. Period.

    Unfortunately, progressives now consider a test biased if the outcome does not suit them, even if the underlying process is neutral and non-discriminatory.

    The test itself has been ruled non-discriminatory, meaning that it has neutral content. The Obama Administration was moving to reverse these rulings based solely on outcomes they did not like, even if the content was neutral and the process fair. Under Eric Holder, the Dept. of Justice filed suits against employment tests, even if they were fair and directly relevant to the job requirements, solely because more minorities failed them. That viewpoint is firmly embedded in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, inherited by Jeff Sessions. Any wonder the “career civil servants” in that department are pushing back, reading to do everything they can to undermine the Administration? They have civil service protection, but the are highly politicized advocates and were put there by previous administrations for that very reason.

    More broadly, the whole idea that outcomes, not process, should be the legal measure of discrimination is wrong. If the outcomes show “too few” of group X or Y, we should focus on correcting the underlying reasons, not changing a subsequent result reached by a fair process.

    Comment #3: MEDIA BIAS: The Associated Press gave this story a seriously misleading headline. Local papers are repeating it.

    That headline is both slanted and inaccurate. The key word is “instead.”

    According to the article, the test did screen teachers for competence in reading and writing. That it, it did its job and did it using a neutral test, pre-tested for non-discrimination and approved by a federal judge. It also “weeded out” people who could not pass, whatever their race. More minorities than white failed, but many whites failed, too.

    But the test did not “weed out minorities” instead of screening teachers for competence. It weeded them out because it screened teachers for competence.

    The AP has written an editorial instead of a neutral, descriptive headline.

    Once upon a time, readers could count on the Associated Press for fair reporting, adhering to the Joe Friday rule, “Just the facts, m’am.” No more.

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  • PC gone mad, elementary-school edition

    This from the oh-so-hip corner of Massachusetts:

    Northampton police discontinue ‘High-Five Friday’ at elementary schools after complaints

    Since early December, Northampton police officers have greeted elementary school students with “high-fives” on Friday.

    The event was called “High-Five Friday” — billed as a way for officers to connect with students and show support for schools. But no longer. High-Five Friday was canceled last week following complaints from the public, Police Chief Jody Kasper said Sunday. . . .

    The complaints, according to a police department Facebook post on Saturday, centered around the questioned effectiveness of the program and some students who “might respond negatively to a group of uniformed officers at their school.”

    The post mentions children of color, undocumented immigrant children or other children who may have had negative encounters with law enforcement. …

    Gina Nortonsmith told the [school] committee the program was well-intentioned but “ill-considered, tone-deaf and potentially damaging.” –Daily Hampshire Gazette

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    A hearty thanks to Marty Geraghty and Sean Fitzgerald for picking up this load of ….

     

  • A high-school basketball coach who has made his players better people . . . for over four decades

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    Gene Pingatore–“Ping” to generations of players–has coached some greats, such as Isaiah Thomas.

    Working for decades at St. Joseph High School in suburban Chicago, he has won two state championships and is now approaching his 1000th win. Only 14 high school coaches have ever done that.

    But what makes his story so compelling is his lasting impact on the young men in his program.

    He thinks of himself, rightly, as a teacher.

    David Haugh tells the story beautifully in the Chicago Tribune. Here’s a sample:

    [Pingatore] always will cherish the experience of one team manager, in particular, 1986 graduate Ravi Rao. With uncommon confidence, Rao charged into practice one day and delivered Pingatore advice about a drill.

    “I said, ‘Would you like to be a manager?'” Pingatore recalled. “He said, ‘Yes,’ so I said, ‘Great, now get out of my gym and come back tomorrow.'”

    Over the next three years, Rao developed habits under Pingatore he believes helped him on the way to becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon after obtaining advanced degrees from Johns Hopkins and Virginia. Rao wrote Pingatore a note that maintains a special place in his heart.

    “It said, ‘I am successful because I was part of your program,'” Pingatore said. “Teachers get that all the time. Don’t forget I’m a teacher. I’m a high school coach, but this is my classroom. … This whole thing here is more than just basketball. That’s what I want to call my book: ‘More than Basketball.'” –David Haugh, writing about Coach Gene Pingatore at St. Joseph High School

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, February 11

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump rejects Tillerson’s choice for No. 2 at State, Elliott Abrams  Tillerson wanted Abrams, an experienced strategist who had served in the Reagan Administration and in a more senior position under George W. Bush. Abrams had attracted opposition from both left (predictably) and some on the right for too close to neoconservatives and interventionists. (New York Times)

    Mr. Trump had a productive meeting with Mr. Abrams on Tuesday, according to a White House official and a person close to Mr. Abrams. But after it took place, Mr. Trump learned of Mr. Abrams’s pointed criticisms of the president when he was running for president, the administration official said. Among those criticisms was a column headlined “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate,” which appeared in May 2016 in The Weekly Standard.  –New York Times

    Comment: Trump’s decision appears to be based on personal pique and disloyalty, not policy issues, but we will learn more over the next few days.

     Newly-confirmed Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos physically blocked from entering Washington, DC, elementary school (WJLA, ABC7)

    The Washington Teacher’s Union organized a gathering outside of the school, but were not among the protesters who blocked her. –WJLA

    She eventually made it into the school.

    Comment: The Teacher’s Union peaceful protests are fully protected by the First Amendment. They are fine, whether you agree with their viewpoint or not. By contrast, the others, who tried to block DeVos entry and enter her car, deserve full-throated condemnation.

     Trump has very positive meeting with Japanese PM Abe, says US committed to defense of Japan (Reuters via CNBC) The US defense commitment represents a significant change from Trump’s rhetoric as a candidate

    At the same time, Pres. Trump had a positive phone call with China’s leader, Xi, reaffirming Washington’s traditional “one-China” policy.

    Comment: These are significant, positive steps to stabilize both deterrence (protecting Japan) and diplomacy (discussions with China).

     Michael Barone is worried–and for good reason–that liberals are not condemning street violence in the US

    The response of liberal politicians? So far as I know, there has been almost none. At the Powerline blog John Hinderaker links to a Grabien video showing Democratic politicians and celebrities making statements that some may take as endorsements of violence, such as Sen. Tim Kaine’s urging followers to “fight in the streets.” I suspect he would claim that he was speaking metaphorically and only urging peaceful protest. But it would be nice if he could find time to condemn the violence we have seen at Berkeley — and which is increasingly unsurprising on our college and university campuses, which have become the part of our society most hostile to free speech. Michael Barone on Berkeley riots in the Washington Examiner

    Comment: My answer to Barone’s question: Liberal politicians probably do care, but they care more about their political standing. That means they do not want to alienate the highly-mobilized left, much of which supports the violence or is simply too cowardly to speak out again it.

     To help build its self-driving cars, Ford spends $1 Billion to buy majority stake in Silicon Valley startup (Detroit Free Press)

    Comment: Ford is buying the expertise of Argo AI’s founders and their robotics expertise. Ford has already made considerable progress on its “virtual driver system”

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  • Learning from Another Failed Government Program

    Cash for Clunkers at the Department of Education

    Another expensive, failed government program is hardly news. We can salvage something only if we learn from the mistakes.

    We can learn two things from the $7 billion failure that was “School Improvement Grants,” the signature initiative of the Obama Education Department. An independent study found no improvements in student test scores, graduate rates, or college enrollment.  More money down the drain and, worse, more children caught in failing schools.

    What can we learn from the failure?

    (1) Ambitious programs are seldom tested on a small scale, where they can be monitored, modified and then scaled up or killed off. Instead, the Beltway bureaucrats roll them out from sea to shining sea at enormous cost. Bad idea.

    (2) It’s time to end these centralized experiments, dreamed up in Washington and inflicted on the country.

    ⇒ Allow cities and states to try their own experiments. Let them compete. I would even allow them to choose their own school lunches. I know, that’s crazy talk.

    From my op-ed at Real Clear Education. You can continue reading here.

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, January 18

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     German court rules burning a synagogue is a justified expression of criticism of Israel

    The article in the Jerusalem Post says

    A regional court in Germany has decided that a brutal attempt to set fire to a local synagogue in 2014 was an act meant to express criticism against Israel’s conduct in its ongoing conflict with Hamas.

    A German regional court in the city of Wuppertal affirmed a lower court decision last Friday stating that a violent attempt to burn the city’s Bergische Synagogue by three men in 2014 was a justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies.

    The court sentenced the three men – Muhammad E., 31, Ismail A., 26, and Muhammad A., 20 – to suspended sentences for tossing firebombs at the synagogue. and causing €800 worth of damage.

    The original synagogue in Wuppertal was burned by Nazis during the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938. –Jerusalem Post

     Betsy DeVos survives tough questioning, on path to confirmation as Sec. of Education according to Politico. (Story here.)

    Comment: Listening to Sen. Elizabeth Warren ask DeVos if she or her children had taken out student loans to go to college left me embarrassed as a fellow human being. When DeVos said “no,” that she and her family had been fortunate but that she had worked with children who had experienced student debt, Warren could see the answer was going in a bad direction and immediately cut off DeVos. Whether you agree with Warren’s views or not, this is demagoguery masquerading as inquiry.

     Samantha Power’s exit speech is a blistering attack on Russia  Time magazine has the story.

    Comment: It is a very strange world, indeed, to see a Republican president-to-be so restrained about Russia and to see the Democrats so hawkish.

    ◆ Related Story: NYT Editorial headlined, “Russia Gains When Donald Trump Trashes NATO”  Editorial here.

    Comment: The Times is absolutely right. Although NATO has serious flaws, including free-loading by allies, it is the lynchpin of US international relationships. Trump’s comments create serious dangers for America, particularly if they encourage Putin to think he can push harder against Russia’s European neighbors. 

     State Department sends $500 million to UN Climate Fund this week, just beating the change of administration  Obama had pledged $3 billion; he send $500 million in March, and now this next $500 million, according to the Washington Post. (Story here)

    Comment: I am sure Kerry and Obama are correct in thinking, “no one’s going to cut that check next week.”

     Why aren’t any Senators boycotting the Trump Inauguration, as more than 50 Congressmen are?  Simple, says the Washington Post. They are looking at broader constituencies, including lots of people who voted for the President-elect. For some, that’s people in their own state. For others, that’s a national electorate for a future presidential run.

    Senate Democrats represent far broader numbers of people and have to be respectable and responsive to, in most cases, millions of their constituents who voted for Trump. And 25 of them are up for reelection in 2018. “So there are 25 senators who probably think it’s risky,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who will join [Rep. John] Lewis’s boycott. –Washington Post

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Seth Charnes
     for the disturbing story about the firebombing of a German synagogue

    ◆ Andrew Aronson for the Betsy DeVos hearings

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Monday, January 16, the day honoring Dr. Martin Luther King

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     The Strategy of Delegitimating Trump  Rep. John Lewis, civil-rights leader from the MLK days, calls Trump’s presidency illegitimate because of Russian hacking. Republicans disagree, predictably. The New York Times, predictably, runs an article headlined: “In Trump’s Feud With John Lewis, Blacks Perceive a Callous Rival”

    The Congressional Black Caucus, whose motto is “The Conscience of the Congress,” is, predictably, lining up with Lewis, providing a strong invitation for more democrats to join in the claim that Donald Trump is not the legitimate president.

    Days before his inauguration, President-elect Donald J. Trump is engaged in a high-profile feud with some of the country’s most prominent African-American leaders, setting off anger in a constituency already wary of him after a contentious presidential campaign.

    Mr. Trump’s criticism of Representative John Lewis of Georgia, a widely admired leader of the civil rights movement, has prompted a number of Democratic lawmakers to say they will not attend his inauguration on Friday. –New York Times

     

     Trump blames “all those illegals” from the Middle East for troubles in the European Union.  Interviewed by the Times of London and Germany’s Bild, Trump says

    People, countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity. But, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it … entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. -Donald Trump interview

    The Los Angeles Times story about the interview and aides’ comments is here.

     Drumbeat of Teachers’ Unions against Trump’s nominee for Education  Expect plenty of headlines like this one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pa. educators have ‘worries’ about Trump’s Cabinet nominee

    Comment: In this news article, the word “wallet” appears in the second sentence and “billionaire” in the third. The first quote is from the state teacher’s union. In my opinion, the article is closer to an opinion piece than straight news.

     

     How American Charities Fund Terrorism  Interesting investigative report in National Review, focusing on American charities connected to Hamas.

    Some of the conclusions are debatable, though.

    By providing social services, Islamist terror groups gain political and moral legitimacy among the people under their control as well as among their supporters abroad. –Sam Westrop in National Review

    Comment: That’s an understandable position, but there is another view about these “indirect” benefits. It argues that, because Hamas completely controls Gaza, the provision of almost any social services to ordinary people there would count as benefiting Hamas, according to Westrop’s logic. That may be true politically, but it may cast too broad a net if it includes independent charities that do not work closely with Hamas. 

     Why Women Are Colder than Men  The science behind that common difference. (Glamour Health)

     Political Correctness: so pervasive at American universities that German publications are running major series about it.  Spiegel has a thoughtful, two-part investigation in English (part 1 here), concluding that many campuses are utterly disconnected from ordinary citizens’ views and experiences. That disconnection and the excesses of the PC movement helped Trump win, they argue.

    Comment: I would add that what makes PC movements so troubling is their willingness to shut down others’ speech and their condescending sense that they are morally superior.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Timothy Favero
     for the Der Spiegel article, which I would not have seen without his suggestion

     

  • Parents volunteer to help Chicago school kids; teacher’s union blocks them

    It breaks your heart.

    Chicago’s public schools are broke–and broken.

    Overburdened by excessive pension obligations (because city politicians deferred payments for so long), the city has asked the state for money.

    The state is broke, too, so the Chicago schools won’t get anything close to what they need.

    That leaves the schools with serious budget gaps. That, plus declining school enrollments, has led to some layoffs for teachers, administrators, and support personnel.

    Among those laid off: the new librarian at the Pritzker Elementary School, who replaced a long-serving librarian who retired.

    The loss of Pritzker’s librarian galvanized the parents, who want to support their children in a quality school.

    The parents did a wonderful thing: they pitched in and volunteered to staff the library in rotating shifts.

    That exactly the kind of civic engagement we need in cash-strapped cities.

    The Teacher’s Union Says Volunteer Librarians Will Hurt Their Members

    Teachers’ unions constantly say, “it’s all about the children.”

    It is not.

    It is all about the union’s members. That’s what unions do, just as corporations maximize profit.

    If the children’s interests overlap those of union members, that’s great because it builds political support.

    If not, tough luck for the kids.

    That’s what happened at Pritzker Elementary.

    “NO WAY we’re gonna let volunteers run this school library,” said the Chicago Teacher’s Union. (DNA Chicago)

    The Chicago Teachers Union filed a grievance against the school because the roster of 40 volunteers would be taking a union-based job, Pritzker Principal Joenile Albert-Reese confirmed Monday, one day after the conundrum made national headlines when Pritzker parent Michael Hendershot penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the issue.

    The WSJ op-ed is here.

    Why was the librarian laid off? Because the school’s pupil-count was a bit low, which meant the school received less city and state money than expected.

    The Union Does What Unions Do

    The Teacher’s Union does exactly what unions are designed to do. It fights for its members.

    That’s true even if their members’ interests are directly opposed to the best interests of children, their parents, and taxpayers.

    Parents and taxpayers are supposed to defend themselves, and in our political system, they have every opportunity to try.

    Because teachers unions are well-organized and powerful, however, because their members’ livelihoods are at stake, they have compelling reasons to mobilize politically. In city after city, in state after state, they have persuaded politicians to back their position, not that of disorganized parents and taxpayers.

    The results are predictable. In big cities with entrenched teachers unions, schools are designed around the main goal of adult employment, union employment. That showed up in stark relief at Pritzker Elementary.

    When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the poor kids,” remember that 47% of Pritzker students are poor. (Data from the WSJ article.)

    When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the minority kids,”remember that 47% of Pritzker students are minorities.

    When you hear nothing at all from the unions, remember they are thinking, “it’s all about us.”

    Again, that “me, first” approach does not make them different from other organizations, whether they are manufacturing unions or profit-making businesses.

    The question we as outsiders should ask is whether, in helping themselves, they are helping or hurting us.

    The Political Connection

    The nexus between unions and politicians shows up across the country, but it is particularly strong in deep blue cities, the last redoubt of unions.

    But even in blue cities, things are changing.

    The pushback against politically-connected teachers unions is growing because the financial costs have been so high, the educational results so mediocre.

    This pushback will soon gain a powerful ally in Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s newly-designated Secretary of Education.

    That is exactly why Senate Democrats will resist her confirmation with every bone in their body (excepting, of course, their backbone).

    For children who want a better education, that fight is one of the most important in the new Congress.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip to
    ◆ Joe Morris
     for highlighting this story