But it's only for a year — to start.
If you want a vision of a possible future, maybe stop imagining George Orwell's "boot stamping on a human face, forever," and instead imagine a preschool class full of squirmy youngsters, learning and playing and generally being wonderful and sometimes a pain in the ass, as small children can also be.
What can I say? I love the pessimistic old English socialist who rightly feared the totalitarian impulse, but sometimes I end up feeling far more hopeful, like when I read about New Mexico's new initiative to completely cover childcare costs for most residents of the state for a year (free link to Washington Post). I can be a sap that way. I'm also the guy who tears up when Tom Joad tells his mother he'll be there in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready.
Starting May 1 and running through June 2023, the state will cover child care for families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which ought to cover most New Mexico families. It's easily the broadest state child care benefit in the USA, and the first state benefit to cover such a wide range of incomes. It'll be available to a family of four making up to $110,000 annually, as the Washington Post 'splains:
The state recently expanded a federal child-care subsidy to middle-class families. On Thursday, Lujan Grisham said it would eliminate co-pays for them, too. Officials estimate both changes will make child care free for a total of 30,000 families.
This is pretty freaking wonderful; Lujan Grisham announced the expanded benefit yesterday on her website and at a child care center in Albuquerque, and the video is worth skimming through, if only for the occasional shots of a tiny little girl doing her level best to show interest in all these grownups talking about policy.
With the workforce still recovering from pandemic chaos — not that life for working families was a picnic beforehand! — the expanded childcare benefits will give a lot of workers the option of going back to work, or even starting small businesses themselves because they'll have more flexibility. This isn't just good news for families; it'll also be a boost for businesses that have had a hard time filling positions in the unsettled pandemic economy.
Mario Cardona, the chief of policy and practice for Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable child care, called the announcement “the type of thing that we should be seeing across the country.”
Though other states, including Georgia, Virginia and Kansas, have expanded eligibility and made child care more affordable during the pandemic, none have gone as far as New Mexico, which has committed a historic and unusual amount of resources to the sector, Cardona said. Other states have largely relied on federal relief from the Cares Act and the American Rescue Plan to pay for child-care improvements, but the last of those dollars expires in 2024 and lawmakers may be hesitant, Cardona said, to roll out new programs using temporary money.
But with the federal bennies starting to run out in a couple years, how on earth will New Mexico pay for all this outrageous socialism? Easy peasy: It's not just using the federal pandemic funds. This has been a priority for the state for a while now:
New Mexico, by contrast, has created permanent pots of money. In early 2020, the state spent $300 million to create its Early Childhood Education and Care Fund. The endowment, which draws on taxes from oil and natural gas production, is projected to be worth $4.3 billion by 2025.
That endowment is especially important to Lujan Grisham's next goal, which is to make the expanded child care benefit permanent, by using some $127 million a year from another source, New Mexico's Land Grant Permanent Fund — but to allow the state to tap those funds, voters will need to pass an initiative in the November election.
On top of the expanded benefits for a year, Lujan Grisham also announced the state would use $10 million in discretionary funds from the American Rescue Plan to offer grants to new or expanded daycare centers, to make sure there's enough quality child care to meet the increased demand.
In addition, the state will beef up the child care workforce with a new stipend program that will pay up to $2000 per semester for early childhood professionals enrolled in state universities or community colleges; that's on top of an existing scholarship program to get more people enrolled in the field.
The new benefits will start helping a lot of working and middle-class families right away, as the Post explains:
Melissa Martinez, a single mother of a 3-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, said the news came as a great relief after the pandemic. Martinez said she has experienced tremendous financial setbacks over the last two years and has found herself unable to afford child care at times. The co-pay waiver will save her $120 a month.
“Unfortunately, $120 does go really far in a single-income household,” Martinez said. “That goes to pretty much all of our necessities, basic necessities like shampoo. You would be surprised how many bottles of soap I’ve been through because my little guys love to play in the bath.”
Why yes, when you're raising kiddos and you don't have a great big pile of birthday stock holdings from your rich dad, $120 extra a month can mean a hell of a lot. Martinez, who volunteers with a nonprofit that advocates for early childhood education and is therefore probably awfully biased in favor of children, told the Post that
she has met dozens of low-income families who have long been afraid to earn more money because they worried they would no longer qualify for the federal child-care subsidies states give low-income parents. By expanding the eligibility for the program, Martinez said she and other parents will feel empowered to look for better paying jobs.
This is a big heckin' deal, and it's been a central goal for Lujan Grisham, who campaigned on improving New Mexico's previously abysmal rankings for children's well-being. In addition to ramping up opportunities for child care, New Mexico this year also became one of the very few states to start providing a state child tax credit, too.
We could do this as a nation. It was in the Build Back Better bill, which would have provided child care and expanded the child tax credit that measurably reduced child poverty. The idea strikes me as far preferable to an agenda of attacking gay kids, censoring school books, and just generally making life crappier for America's children. But as I say, I'll take optimism where I find it. We could be so much better. Maybe we're all just part of one big soul, and we could act like it.
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That's some Fahrenheit, that Fahrenheit 451!
The Tennessee General Assembly passed an exciting new school censorship bill Wednesday that will give a politically appointed commission the power to decide what books are allowed in every school library in the state. No more worries about local control, because the commission will now be able to dictate what kids all over the state can read. And to sweeten the deal, the bill's House sponsor, state Rep. Jerry Sexton (R), said that if it were up to him, any books the commission didn't approve would be burned. Sadly for the more censorious culture warriors in the Lege, actually putting books to the torch didn't make it into the law. There's always next year!
We also feel compelled to point out that Rep. Sexton represents a place called "Bean Station," which frankly sounds a little too risqué for the good God-fearing people of Tennessee. Wouldn't want the ladyfolk to get ideas.
add members to the state's textbook commission and task the commission with providing guidance for schools when reviewing materials to ensure they are "appropriate for the age and maturity levels" of students.
We sure love it when promoters of moral panic use the Number of the Beast in their culture war bills. Idaho legislators, you'll recall, set out to jail librarians with HB 666 earlier this year, although the proposal died in the state Senate.
But merely providing guidance and creating general standards was apparently far too liberal and wimpy for Sexton. First, he added an amendment that would have required the commission to issue a list of "approved" instructional materials that could be used in Tennessee schools, thus making sure no teacher could ever pollute kids' minds with anything that hadn't been vetted at the state level. Flowers, by state decree, would be red, and teachers would damn sure color only within the lines.
That sparked a lot of controversy, so Sexton withdrew his amendment Wednesday morning; he quickly replaced it, however, with the amendment that eventually passed, which would require the expanded textbook commission to review the holdings of all school libraries in the state. The commission could approve or reject entire library collections, or single out particular materials for removal.
Because the House and Senate versions differ, the bill will have to get through a conference committee, where the stupid censorship provision might yet be stripped out before HB 2666 goes to Gov. Bill Lee (R) for a signature. Or hell, maybe it'll be made worse. It's that kind of year.
In debate on the amendment Wednesday, Sexton was asked by a Democratic colleague, Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville), what he thought should be done with any books that were removed from school libraries under his plan.
Clemmons: Let's say you take these books out of the library. What're you gonna do with them? You gonna put 'em in the street? Light 'em on fire? Where are they going?
Sexton: I don't have a clue, but I would burn them.
Clemmons: That's what I thought. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Sexton later clarified that while burning the books might be his preference, nobody needed to worry about any book burning no how, because after all, he wouldn't be a member of the commission, so stop your fretting.
He also offered the reassuring thought that "We're not banning books, we're just removing them from the library." Yes really.
Sexton also insisted that the textbook commission would really for sure only remove the most horribly blatant examples of objectionable books, although he didn't specify what they might be. Maybe only books with bad words, gays, sex, and maybe Jews? Who knows!
Further, as the Tennessean notes, the text of the bill doesn't actually define much of anything beyond requiring that materials be "appropriate for the age and maturity levels" of students, and that they also be "suitable for, and consistent with, the educational mission of the school." So really, a lot would depend on who ended up being appointed to the commission — not that there's the remotest chance it might end up being stacked with ideologues.
Oh, wait, there's already been an uproar over appointees to the commission, even in its current form. In 2021, the Tennessee House confirmed rightwing activist Laurie Cardoza-Moore, who made her name stirring up fears about a mosque being built in Murfreesboro, claiming that fully 30 percent of Muslims are terrorists and that the mosque would be a base for "radical Islamic extremists" bent on destroying Nashville's Christian music industry.
During her confirmation hearing, she explained that bad school textbooks are directly responsible for wrecking America:
While America slept, the hearts, minds and souls of our students were being influenced by disinformation. Tragically we have seen the result over the past few months; our streets have been filled with rioting destructive American young people who have not been taught the values entrusted to us by our nation's founders ... nor have they been taught our nation's history — history which many seem intent to destroy
Not surprisingly, Cardoza-Moore has also defended the January 6 2021 insurrection (it was ANTIFA!), circulated claims that the COVID-19 vaccine isn't really a vaccine, and insisted in 2020 that Black Lives Matter seeks to eliminate Christianity — so patriots need to get rid of all the evil textbooks that are misleading children and turning them into communists.
Sounds like just the sort of person Tennessee needs deciding what books will be allowed in Tennessee school libraries.
Man who used to have very own car elevator can't believe you lazy takers.
President Joe Biden signaled earlier this week that he may finally go ahead and forgive student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, in addition to once more extending the pandemic moratorium on student loan payments (and interest) through August. The details are still not worked out, but Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at Monday's daily briefing that Biden would "make a decision about any cancellation of student debt before the conclusion of that pause on student loans.”
Well by golly, Senator Willard Mittens J. Car Elevator McRichguy Romney took to Twitter to condemn Biden's potential student loan forgiveness, pointing out it could only be a cynical election-year cash giveaway to people who don't deserve it.
Desperate polls call for desperate measures: Dems consider forgiving trillions in student loans. Other bribe suggestions: Forgive auto loans? Forgive credit card debt? Forgive mortgages? And put a wealth tax on the super-rich to pay for it all. What could possibly go wrong?— Mitt Romney (@Mitt Romney) 1651079411
Desperate polls call for desperate measures: Dems consider forgiving trillions in student loans. Other bribe suggestions: Forgive auto loans? Forgive credit card debt? Forgive mortgages? And put a wealth tax on the super-rich to pay for it all. What could possibly go wrong?
As anyone knows, cynical cash giveaways to political supporters are meant to result in massive tax cuts for the rich, not debt relief for millions of Americans. Don't forget, the hot new Republican plan this year is to raise taxes on low-income folks.
Besides, Mitt Romney knows how people should pay for college. The could follow his example, as Ann Romney lovingly recalled in a 1994 Boston Globe interview, which people very ungraciously kept bringing up when ordinary guy Mitt was running for president in 2012.
Recalling her early years with Mitt, when they were young and having to scrape by, Ann remembered how they scrimped and saved, like any young married college couple in Utah in 1969:
They were not easy years. You have to understand, I was raised in a lovely neighborhood, as was Mitt, and at BYU, we moved into a $62-a-month basement apartment with a cement floor and lived there two years as students with no income. It was tiny. And I didn’t have money to carpet the floor. But you can get remnants, samples, so I glued them together, all different colors. It looked awful, but it was carpeting.
But by golly, they had each other, and they had their carpet samples, and they had love. It was a little bit like those idealistic bohemian dreamers in Rent, but without the Broadway production values or the AIDS.
Oh, and they had a little something else:
We were happy, studying hard. Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.
Oh, yes, the stocks were probably some help, come to think of it. She went on to explain that
The stock came from Mitt’s father. When he took over American Motors, the stock was worth nothing. But he invested Mitt’s birthday money year to year—it wasn’t much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because he believed in himself. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education.
As UCLA political science prof Andrew Sabl pointed out in 2012, that little bit of American Motors stock, having increased in value by a factor of 16 from an initial investment of "a few thousand" dollars, would conservatively have been worth about $60,000 in 1969, or in 2012 dollars, roughly $377,000. ($60K in 1969 dollars would come to a hair over $470,000 today.)
Somehow, they scraped by — you don't even want to think about the cost of carpet remnants these days! — and eventually Mitt, entirely through his own hard work and grit, managed to become America's richest senator today, with a net worth of about $450 million. So you can see why he doesn't see why anyone should have their student debts forgiven. Couldn't they just sell off a little of the stock their dads gave them?
In conclusion, Mitt Romney truly is a man of the people, as long as you remember that corporations are people, my friend.
And that's all we have for you today in terms of Rich People Talking Out They Asses About Student Debt ... or it was, until we saw this tweet from Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham (net worth a mere $40 million), who wants you freeloaders to make your moms work as waitresses to pay off your student loans.
My mom worked as a waitress until she was 73 to help pay for our college, even helped with loan repayment. Loan forgiveness just another insult to those who play by the rules.
Also, I never should have benefited from being vaccinated and boosted when I caught COVID-19, or from the antiviral treatment that also may have helped me stay out of the hospital, because isn't that an insult to all the people who died before those options became available?
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Fucking jesus wow.
The Republican War on Education keeps rolling along, making sure that public schools will provide only education and services that would be acceptable in the Republic of Gilead. The latest attempt to protect "parental rights," we learn, comes from the town of Killingly, Connecticut, where many teens, parents, and educators have been calling for the high school to open a mental health clinic to provide counseling to teens, because the pandemic and the town's struggling economy have left a lot of young people struggling. The state legislature has made grants available that would cover the costs, and an area nonprofit, Generations Family Health Center, is ready to provide counselors to staff a Student Behavioral Health Center.
On the other hand, the local tea party and the Republican majority on the Killingly Board of Education are worried that counselors might discuss things with troubled teens that patriotic conservative parents don't agree with, so in March, the board voted down a proposal to set up a mental health center at Killingly High School. That oughta learn those teens who say they're in crisis who's boss! That March vote — and some outrageous comments by board leaders — prompted a formal complaint to the State Board of Education from parents who supported the clinic, accusing the board of failing to provide a safe school environment for Killingly students as required by state law. The state board is now investigating the complaint.
A survey conducted by a mental health nonprofit last year indicated that local students in grades seven through 12 would probably benefit from improved mental health services. Nearly 30 percent said they'd had thoughts of harming themselves, and a similar percentage said they have felt so sad or hopeless that it had interfered with their daily activities. 14.7 percent of the kids surveyed said they had seriously considered attempting suicide, and had made a plan to do so. This is also where we remind you that if you're having thoughts of suicide, you can call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255 for support, 24-7.
Mental Health, Schmental Schmealth
According to the complaint, at the March 16 school board meeting that voted down the counseling center proposal, Board Chair Janice Joly downplayed the results of the survey, asking why, if so many students really were suicidal, nobody had reported the results to the state's child welfare authorities. Informed that the survey was anonymous in order to get honest answers, Joly then suggested the kids were probably lying anyway: "How do you know they were honest responses? We're dealing with kids. They could have written anything. That's what kids do."
At the same meeting, Board Vice Chair Norm Ferron also complained about the survey, suggesting that the 14.7 percent number didn't seem especially large, and what even was the big deal?
Following the uproar over her remarks, Joly resigned from the Board of Education; the Republican majority on the board voted for Ferron to replace her as chair. He has explained that he voted against establishing a mental health center at the high school because kids might receive counseling on "controversial topics," and that would be very bad!
“Basically, what is a stranger to the parents can be advising their child on any issue,” he said. “They might be giving them counseling directly opposed to the views of the parents.”
Like for instance, maybe a kid is struggling with depression because of conflicts with their parents, but the parents know that they're right and the kid just needs to accept that? Totally unethical for the kid to air the family's dirty laundry with any old licensed clinical social worker, who might actually be a socialIST Daily Worker for all the parent knows!
Only Crazy People Want Mental Health Services
Before she actually left office, Joly wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper explaining that the issue wasn't really that teens in the town are in crisis, but rather that leftists just can't handle losing control of the school board:
“You all might recall that the majority of people in Killingly voted for the candidates they wanted to represent them back in November, and it wasn’t the Democrats,” Joly wrote. “Clearly, you are all struggling with that fact, rather like Hillary Clinton did when she lost the election.”
The main issue driving the election of the current school board in 2020 was conservatives' promise to restore the high school's racist Native American mascot, the "Redmen." The board accomplished that, and if the offensive mascot remains in place next year, the school district stands to lose $100,000 in annual grants from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund. Totally worth it to own the libs, of course.
Later, in a radio interview with WINY (we are not making up those call letters), Joly explained that she'd resigned not because she'd done anything untoward, but to protect her own safety, especially since her opponents were dangerously deranged, like the teenagers who'd testified at board meetings that they needed a mental health center at school:
I just felt like I wasn’t safe, and so I asked the town manager and the superintendent to provide police protection, because some of the people in the group had already professed that they had mental health issues, and I was afraid someone might attack me.
See? They admitted they were mentally unbalanced, so the answer was to vote against the student mental heath center and to point out its advocates were crazy, they said so themselves.
Area Teabaggers Have Concerns
Also "helping" to oppose the mental health center was a local Tea Party Patriots group and the couple who lead it. State Rep. Anne Dauphinais circulated her very own perfectly legitimate survey with many not at all leading questions, asking whether participants supported "schools counseling minor students on contraceptives, premarital sex, or abortion issues without parental knowledge or consent," or about religious beliefs or family values, or about "gender identity," because clearly those hot-button culture wars issues are the primary focus of mental health counselors who are out to warp children's minds. Strangely, another question asked whether schools ought to be allowed to advocate "for or against specific political parties or figures" without parental knowledge or consent, which suggests Rep. Dauphinais has some really odd ideas about what counseling involves.
For good measure, the survey also asked whether respondents supported the schools providing "medications" and vaccinations without parental consent, although liberal nitpickers pointed out that the school mental health clinic wouldn't be doing either. There is just no pleasing these people.
Not surprisingly, the survey's completely scientific results were touted by opponents of the counseling center; at a March 9 board meeting, Rep. Dauphinais's husband, Dale Dauphinais, called attention to the survey in public comments. Mr. Dauphinais is chair of the "Quiet Corner Tea Party Patriots," named for the region of Connecticut, not for tea partiers' demeanors. He explained that the proposed mental health center was an "unwarranted government intervention" and that "This is where they divide the parents and the students." After all, the chief objective of public education is to destroy the family and pave the way for Marxism, so why invite in mental health "professionals" to further mess around with high schoolers' minds?
Contacted for comment by the Connecticut Mirror, Mr. Dauphinais "declined to be interviewed about the health center and instead offered comments about the CT Mirror reporter who contacted him."
“You are not a reporter, you are a biased, dishonest propaganda machine,” Dale Dauphinias wrote in his emailed comment. “You have a better chance of interviewing God because of your dishonesty. Use that as my quote. I bet you won’t, and it will prove my point.”
The quote is right there in the story, so I guess Mr. Dauphinais now respects the reporter's honesty and integrity.
As for the school board, new chair Norm Ferron said that while he hadn't actually seen the questions, it provided very valuable information to counter that other stupid survey suggesting teens were in crisis:
“I’m not sure exactly specifically what that was, but I know it contradicted some of the other surveys that were done,” he said. “It was more inclusive of more parents.”
A survey's a survey, right? You have one where a substantial percentage of teens say they're depressed and suicidal, and another where a self-selecting bunch of rightwing parents oppose schools getting all nosy about private matters, so clearly there are many legitimate views on both sides.
As if mere technicalities like "the law" matter, Superintendent Robert Angeli pointed out at the board's April 14 meeting that under state law, minors can seek mental health services without parental consent or notification, but added that
Melissa Meyers, chief operating officer for Generations, informed him that instances of students accessing such services on their own in other towns were “exceedingly rare,” with parents typically brought into the conversations “hopefully, by the very first session.”
OK, sure, but that's no reason to have those secular humanist family-wreckers providing mental health services right in the high school, and maybe doing Critical Race Theory while they're at it. At the same board meeting, several members said they might support a pilot program for the mental health center if parents could direct that their kids not receive counseling without their consent, never mind what the state law says.
Board Decides To Kick Can Down Road Again
At a new Board of Education meeting last night, the board again decided to do nothing, despite testimony from parents supporting a school mental health center.
“From what I can see, Killingly has a mental health crisis, the students are asking for help,” said Ivy Ross, a parent of two children in the Killingly school district.
“In the months that we have been discussing and debating this, I know one child in my circle that has ended up in the ER for pre-suicide,” said Misty Murdock, a Killingly neighbor.
Following the public comments, two of the eight board members said they supported a motion to vote on the center, but the rest voted against putting it on the agenda, tabling the issue yet again. The Norwich Bulletin reports that the board didn't discuss when the question might come before the board again, if ever.
A public petition regarding the formal complaint to the state garnered enough valid signatures to require that the school board host a public meeting tonight where the six board members who voted "no" in March can explain themselves, but only if they want to — they're not obliged to answer any questions from the public.
Going forward, if the state board of education's investigation finds that Killingly School District is failing in its mandate to "provide the minimum services and supports necessary to deal with the social, emotional and mental health needs” of students, the state could order the district to make changes, although that process could take months. It should be fine, though, since maybe the kids are just making up all this "mental health" stuff anyway.
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