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Education

Betsy DeVos Stupid Again

She makes the flames on the side of our face pissed.

It feels like it's been a whole month since we last discussed how much Betsy DeVos sucks. The education secretary with no practical education experience testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday, and she was just in a foul mood. DeVos is probably testy because every Democratic candidate, regardless of ideology, has declared they'll fire her ass on day one. Amy Klobuchar even said she'd do it within the first 100 seconds of her presidency.

Rep. Mark Pocan from Wisconsin got under DeVos's skin when he grilled her about charter schools, which DeVos loves more than all 17 of her yachts. He quoted her data that shows charter schools are for crap, and she got all Dr. Evil about it. She literally used air quotes when saying the word "question."

DEVOS: Everything you're citing is debunked, ridiculous, so I don't accept the premise of your "question."

Pocan correctly pointed out that the report he cited was not "debunked." The facts stand that the US government wasted $1 billion on charter schools "that never opened, or opened and then closed because of mismanagement and other reasons." Worse, the Education Department doesn't effectively monitor how the money is spent. Another report showed that the state with the most charter schools that simply never materialize (like The Music Man's band equipment) was Michigan, where DeVos stores her yachts and McMansion. The key data in the report came from DeVos herself (though we presume she never read the information personally).

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Culture Wars

Oh No, Campus 'Terrorists' Did Terror To Kent State Gun Girl, By Chanting About Diapers

Tin foil hats and Kaitlin's coming / One Dumb in O-hi-o.

Kaitlin Bennett, that nice young lady who wishes we had a monarchy made of guns, is getting some of the attention she craves this week, after one of her signature efforts to show up on a college campus and make a damn fool of herself asking slanted questions went awry Monday at Ohio University. Students gave her the warm reception that we old-timers used to give Brother Jed Smock when he'd show up and start yammering about forrrr-ni-CA-tion. But a pretty big crowd gathered and started yelling mean things at her, and she eventually fled to the safety of what appears to be either a giant F-350 Crew Cab pickup or perhaps a borrowed AT-AT. Bennett and supporters in the wingnuttosphere have taken to calling it a "riot," and are touting it as the latest example of "the Left's" war on free speech. In various videos taken by Bennett and others, people can be seen jeering loudly, chanting rudely, and a few even threw drinks at the truck.

The Washington Post notes that

Campus police have said the clash was not violent, did not result in arrests and "did not rise to the level of a riot," emphasizing that both Bennett and the crowd were exercising their First Amendment rights. They acknowledged "strong language and allegations that some unknown person(s) in the crowd splashed water."

Bennett, for her part, has been calling on Donald Trump to please support the First Amendment by eliminating all federal funding for colleges that "harbor terrorists" — the ones who rely not on pressure cooker bombs, but on flipping the bird and tossing soda, which could get in someone's eye.

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Education

Babies Hurt By Flint's Water Are Struggling In School. Thanks, Fiscal 'Conservatives.'

But look at all the money they saved!

The children of Flint, Michigan, haven't gone away. They're in school -- have been from the start of the 2014 water crisis, of course. But now the babies harmed at the very beginning of the lead poisoning emergency are reaching school age, and as public radio station WBUR's "Here and Now" reports, Flint schools have a far higher percentage of kids in special education than in schools in areas not treated to lead-poisoned water due to a Republican governor's fiscal shock policy.

[Flint's] rate of special education students has grown steadily since the water crisis began — 28% of students are in special education programs, while the national average is about 13%.

In response, over a dozen Flint families, with help from the ACLU of Michigan, the Education Law Center of New Jersey, and a private law firm, are suing the Flint school district and the Michigan Department of Education in federal court. They argue that the school district and state haven't been meeting their obligations to identify kids with special needs and provide them with an appropriate education as required by federal law. It's one of several ongoing lawsuits over the lead poisoning.

While the lawsuit was filed by 15 Flint families as plaintiffs, the attorneys are seeking to expand it to a class action that would cover all the kids in Flint. The case should be going to trial later this spring.

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Culture Wars

They've Found This Year's Culture War And It's Drag Queens, Books

Oh, and put those damn fool librarians in jail, too, for America.

A Missouri state representative has heard about all these Drag Queen Story Time shenanigans at public libraries, and he is very upset at the thought of all those communist preverts practicing their commie preversions in the sight of little kids, what with the drag queening and the reading and the proximity of people wearing things he does not approve of in the presence of children. Clearly, the answer is to comb through library collections and censor all the books that might upset parents, which is why state Rep. Ben Baker has introduced the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act, which would require all library districts to elect a review board that would have the authority to approve all library materials and events. Any library that failed to set up such a censorship board would lose its state funding.

Baker told NBC News the bill isn't aimed at censoring anything, heavens no! Instead, he explained, he just wants these danged drag queens stopped.

They've had these drag queen story hours, and that's something that I take objection to and I think a lot of parents do [...] That's where in a public space, our kids could be exposed to something that's age-inappropriate. That's what I'm trying to tackle.

See? Not a bit of censorship; Baker just wants to protect the innocent children from people reading picture books while being fabulous. And if any librarian allows "age-inappropriate sexual material" in the library, that would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $500 fine. Gotta let those com-symp Library Science majors know who's boss. No word on whether the bill would also take action to eliminate the "sexy librarian" stereotype.

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Immigrants

ICE Made Up A Fake University To Trap Foreigns, Betsy DeVos SO JEALOUS

America safe at last from 250 people paying big bucks to overstay their visas.

We sure wouldn't want this story to be lost in the Thanksgiving news crater. Friday, while we were all digesting our cranberry business or sliding off roads after Google Maps lied to us (no injury, minor damage, we have insurance), the Detroit Free Press was bringing America an update on a sleazy sting operation ICE used to arrest some 250 immigrants, mostly students who'd legally entered the US from India and then lost their student visas. (The Washington Post also wrote it up Saturday.)

The scam was simple enough, as WaPo summarizes:

The University of Farmington, a fictitious school that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement marketed as a hub for STEM students who wanted to enroll and not "interrupt their careers," had a fake name, a fake website and a fake motto on its fake seal. "Scientia et Labor," the seal said, which means "Knowledge and Work."

Also, despite having a fake seal just like Trump University did, you can't blame Trump or even Stephen Miller for this one, since as the Free Press reports, the "University of Farmington" sting got rolling under the Obama administration, in 2015.

But in 2017, with Trump's Deport Everyone agenda in full swing, Homeland Security expanded the operation, with agents from ICE's Homeland Security Investigations division (HSI) setting up a fake office for the university and hiring "recruiters" to help sell the fake school to immigrants trying to stay in the USA. Lawyers for some of the recruiters have argued their clients were victims of entrapment, since they were told the university was perfectly legitimate.

As of Friday, the scheme has resulted in 250 arrests. Out of those, ICE says 80 percent "voluntarily" left the USA; 10 percent have been given final deportation orders, and the rest are contesting their deportation in one forum or another. The eight recruiters all pleaded guilty, too, despite the iffy tactics employed by ICE in the investigation, which included telling the recruiters they'd get tuition credit for recruiting other students.

Again, the government insists this is all excellent law enforcement, since those the scam caught really did have expired visas, and should have known the school was fraudulent since there were no classes, no classrooms, and no real degrees. Therefore, we should overlook some of the scummier parts of the operation, like the real-looking website, the agents posing as administrators and even assuring the "recruiters" it was all legal, or the lengths HSI went to to make it seem like the university might be a real school, or at least a fake school that had really fooled the feds.

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Education

Plucky Utah Fifth Graders Take On Homophobic Substitute Teacher And Win

Nice times!

Substitute teachers! Most of the time they were fun. You played some "heads up seven up," convinced them your last name was pronounced in various bizarre ways ("It's pronounced Smith, the everything is silent"), and generally had to do less real work than when the actual teacher was in. Unfortunately, for one fifth grade class at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah last week, their substitute teacher was not so much fun as she was a mean, vicious homophobic nightmare person.

Being that it was right before Thanksgiving, said substitute teacher decided to go around the classroom and ask all the kids to say what they were thankful for — along with hand-shaped turkeys, a fairly traditional activity. The kids varyingly said they were thankful for things like dogs and having the day off from school and things like that until eventually, she got to one boy who said "I'm thankful that I'm finally going to be adopted by my two dads."

That's nice, right? A kid getting adopted! What kind of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person would be a jerk about that? This broad, apparently.

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lawsplainer

Professor Bigot Says What? Anything He Likes, As Long As He's Not Discriminating IRL!

And Indiana University handles it beautifully.

So Indiana University Professor Eric Rasmusen is a bigot.

Rasmusen is a tenured professor at IU's Kelley School of Business. And he has written many things indicating he is not a fan of women, people of color, LGBTQ people, Muslims, or really anyone who isn't a cis white man. As an old cis white man, he apparently believes that only cis white men are entitled to dignity, basic human rights, and respect.

Earlier this month, Rasmusen tweeted an essay published by the alt-right Unz Review titled "Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably." But retweets are not endorsements, you say! Well when he shared this piece of garbage, he also felt the need to highlight this wonderful little assertion: "geniuses are overwhelmingly male because they combine outlier high IQ with moderately low Agreeableness and moderately low Conscientiousness."

Adorable.

Of course, there's never just one. Over the years, he has repeatedly denigrated all sorts of protected classes of people. He's a real sweetheart, as you'll learn below.

Why does this guy have a job?

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Education

New Ohio Law Would Provide Religious Students With A Safe Space From Facts

Our religious beliefs declare this post brilliant.

Ohio just decided to make their kids dumber. The state House of Representatives passed the Student Religious Liberties Act this week. The legislation will permit students to answer questions with any nonsense they want as long as it's what they think Jesus would do.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled House 61 to 31 or eleventy million to zero if you reject Satan's math. It will now move to the Senate, which religious-pandering Republicans also control. This is the relevant crazy-making portion of the text:

No school district board of education (...) shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student's work.

Ohio Rep. Timothy Ginter insists critics of the law are just possessed by liberal demons. The law will not in fact permit what it clearly says it will allow. Don't worry. Students can't refuse to answer test questions because the material conflicts with their religious views, but they can denounce their teachers as heretics. Gitner offers as a hypothetical Christian and Jewish students who believe (incorrectly) that the world was created just 6,000 years ago and is barely older than The Phantom of the Opera. He doesn't even bother to include anything a Muslim student might believe that also ignores observable scientific evidence.

The Simpsons - Bonerland youtu.be

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Education

Vice Calls Kamala A COP For ... Funding After-School Programs Till Workday's Done

The after-school special is inside the school!

Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a bill yesterday that would fund schools to experiment with making school schedules better meet the needs of working parents. Called the Family Friendly Schools Act, the proposal would relieve the child care burden for working families, which is considerable, as Mother Jones reporter Kara Vogt explains:

The majority of schools days end around 3 p.m., two hours before the end of 70 percent of parents' workdays. And most schools don't have a way to make up the difference. Fewer than half of all elementary schools—and fewer than a third of low-income schools—offer after-school care. Beyond that misalignment, schools shut down, on average, for 29 days during the school year, the majority of which are reserved for professional development, parent-teacher conferences, and myriad vacations and minor holidays the federal government doesn't recognize. That's a full two weeks' worth of days more than what the average American has in holidays, vacation, and paid leave combined.

On top of that, there's summer vacation, which was a fairly useful idea when America was mostly rural and kids were needed on the farm, but mostly leaves working parents desperate to find something to keep the kids safe and occupied for two or three months while they forget everything they learned. Thank Crom there's TV, video games, and friendly internet Nazis willing to keep the kids busy!

As a result, Vogt notes, during the school year, "3 percent of elementary-school students and 19 percent of middle-school students look after themselves from 3 to 6 p.m. on school nights," and parents who can afford to pay for after-school childcare shell out an average of $6,000 a year for it. (See also Vogt's longread on the problem at the Atlantic.)

Instead of solving the problem by blaming single moms for all social problems, Harris's bill would establish a five-year pilot program to fund grants of up to $5 million in 500 elementary schools that mostly serve low-income families. The schools, working with parents and community groups, would develop programs that would keep the schools open from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday during the school year, with no closures apart from federal holidays and emergencies. No school closures for in-service days or parent-teacher conferences; those would still go on, but the community partners would provide enrichment and activities for kids while they took place. And already overworked teachers won't simply be forced to work longer hours -- if they choose to, they'll be compensated for it.

Let's get out the washable markers and the butcher paper, spread out around the room, and take a look at how this would work, shall we?

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Education

Betsy DeVos Contemptible, Also In Contempt Of Court

Have we used that before? It still fits!

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was held in contempt in federal court last Thursday and fined $100,000 for failing to follow a court order to lay off debt collection from students who had applied for forgiveness of their student loans to a for-profit college. The students were supposed to be eligible for relief of their debts to schools run by super-fraudy Corinthian Colleges, which went belly-up in 2014.

Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim, in the San Francisco Federal District Court, ordered the Ed department to cough up $100,000, and while we wish it could come out of DeVos's own deep pockets, it will at least go to compensate students screwed over by DeVos and her merry band of fraud enablers, who have been entitled to debt relief since the Education Department under Barack Obama found Corinthian had defrauded them.

The New York Times story on DeVos's utter incompetence -- or outright malice? -- in handling the mess is a jaw-dropper. Almost every paragraph will leave you cursing.

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Education

Elizabeth Warren Gets Her Schoolmarm On

Free school lunch for all: The Rich.

Jonathan Kozol published his landmark exposé of the horrifying gaps in how America funds its public schools, Savage Inequalities, in 1991. That's long enough ago that children born the year it was published have had time to get degrees in education (and accumulate a load of debt), go into teaching, and perhaps become burned out by the very economic and racial inequities Kozol documented, which are still very much with us. In her latest campaign policy proposal, Elizabeth Warren offers a plan to massively overhaul how America funds K-12 public education, to make sure that -- for once -- the kids who start life with the fewest advantages can at least have a shot at an equal education to their peers from wealthier families in "better" neighborhoods. The plan has been getting a lot of attention for its pledge to stop the diversion of public school funds to for-profit schools, but Warren's call for progressively funding public schools is probably far more radical -- and important to get behind, whoever wins the nomination.

Let's just start with this. It is a hell of a thing, and a national disgrace, that in the Year of Our Lord 2019, a presidential candidate even needs to say this:

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Trump

Trump Appoints Illuminati Mind Power Warrior Magic Expert To Education Board

His pen name may or may not be 'Magus Incognito'.

We can no longer say that Donald Trump has never done anything for us. Why? Because he has given us the gift of appointing one George Mentz to the Commission on Presidential Scholars, a board that selects and honors 161 Presidential Scholars from across the country.

Why is this such a beautiful gift, you ask? Well, I think we all know that anyone Trump appoints is going to be terrible. He does not pick the best people, for anything. He picks the worst people, for everything. And you can be assured that George Mentz is, indeed, also the worst. But he is also a purveyor of some of the most hilarious batshittery I have ever seen in my life — and heck, if everyone Trump is going to appoint to everything is terrible, the least we can ask for is some quality entertainment.

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Sex

American Sexy Infections At All-Time High. Less Planned Parenthood, Please!

The omissionary position isn't helping.

Congratulations, America! With a giant festering pustule occupying the White House and getting an infectious ooze on everything he touches, America in 2018 achieved a record high number of infections from three sexually transmitted diseases, according to a new report from the US Centers For Disease Control. The CDC reports more than 2.1 million combined cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia! Way to go! Now that the Trump administration's gag rule on family planning funding for groups that so much as mention abortion has led Planned Parenthood to drop out of the Title X program, we can certainly look forward to a quick end to STD outbreaks, as crisis pregnancy centers take up the slack and tell people not to fuck, ever.

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Education

Joe Biden Has College Plan, Definitely Has Word 'College' In It!

I mean, okay.

Joe Biden yesterday released a higher education plan focused on strengthening community colleges, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions, and workforce training. The central features include making public community college tuition-free to all students enrolled in a two-year program and tweaks to Pell Grant and student loan programs that would make college more affordable.

The Biden plan is decidedly more modest than proposals from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Julián Castro, who all call for federal support for free tuition at four-year state colleges and universities. Instead, Biden's plan builds on Barack Obama's second-term community college proposal, from around the time Sanders was talking free college for everybody. We were originally planning on saying Biden wants to Make America 2015 Again, but Biden's proposal does have good ideas in it -- and may be more likely to actually get passed. And it is a ton better than what we have now. Let's dig in!

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2020 presidential election

What Dumb Wingnut Lie About Elizabeth Warren Shall We Debunk Today?

Elizabeth Warren appropriated her pregnancy.

With election season and impeachment both heating up, the (mostly) rightwing bullshit factory is swinging into gear and trying to find stuff that might tarnish Democratic candidates. At the moment, those without too many critical thinking skills are giddily announcing they've caught Elizabeth Warren in a HUGE LIE about having been fired from her first teaching job for being pregnant, because the school never wrote down "Fired for being a pregnant married lady" as the reason for her dismissal. It's bullshit, of course, and for the most part, respectable media outlets aren't buying into the wingnut (and a few unfortunate leftists') gaslighting. But as with the Obama birther conspiracy bullshit, just the existence of the gaslighting campaign makes a debunking necessary. Doing that debunking without reinforcing the bullshit is the trick -- and believers in (mostly) rightwing bullshit are remarkably resistant to mere facts. Which is, not for nothing, why it's taken 40 years to start doing anything about climate change. Worse, some supporters of other Democratic and/or Democrat-caucusing independent candidates are piling on, advancing the rightwing bullshit, because some people never learn.

Yes, it's all incredibly stupid, and relies on deliberately presenting misleading partial information and insisting minor differences in what Warren has said about the firing -- decades later -- constitute a "lie," even when there are no real inconsistencies in her statements. Let's unwind this fucktangle, shall we? We shall.

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Cops Behaving Badly

Orlando School Cop Keeping America Safe From Cranky Six-Year-Old Girl

And how did the school think arresting a six-year-old is a good idea?

A school resource officer in Orlando, Florida, has been suspended after arresting two children at a charter school last Thursday and trying to send them to juvenile detention. One of the kids, a 6-year-old, was cranky after not sleeping well, and had kicked at someone in the school office during a tantrum. (It's not clear yet what the other child, aged 8, supposedly did to deserve also being handcuffed and arrested.) Her grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, was called and informed the girl would be charged with battery and was on the way to juvie, which is about as America in 2019 as a story can get. No, hold on, it won't be that until Donald Trump praises the cop's quick action to protect the community from a young thug.

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