Tag: Donald Trump

Betsy DeVos’ Silence is Deafening

Last night, during his State of the Union Address, the current Occupant of the White House did what he almost always does when it comes to undocumented immigrant children and…

Last night, during his State of the Union Address, the current Occupant of the White House did what he almost always does when it comes to undocumented immigrant children and the native-born offspring of undocumented (and even documented) immigrant parents: He denigrated them.

The mother of four who serves Trump as U.S. Secretary of Education, an avowed Christian charged with transforming American public education as well as defending the futures and lives of those very children and youth, sat there, tacitly agreeing with every profanity he lodged against them and their communities.

Given her past record, this is certainly not shocking. But it also shouldn’t be this way. This silence in the face of demagoguery, this acquiescence to policies, practices and ideas geared toward harming our most-vulnerable children and the communities who love them, is one more example of how Elizabeth Prince DeVos is unqualified to lead in American public education.

Contrary to the statement of American Enterprise Institute scholar (and Maryland State Board of Education President) Andrew Smarick, there was a lot of awfulness about Trump’s speech, both in its delivery and its rhetoric. Elizabeth Bruenig of the Washington Post astutely noted that his speech was little more than a litany of “ethnically-inflected nationalism”, that consisted of “scapegoating” and appeals to “creating thick borders between us and them so that we will feel more like an us.” As Dropout Nation readers already know, Trump and is ilk think mothers, fathers, and children who aren’t White or of European descent are the ‘them’ that need to be cleansed from American society.

The fact that Trump didn’t offer much in the way of a thought on education — other than touting vocational education programs long used to keep poor and minority children from high-quality college-preparatory education (as well as fail in terms of addressing the reality that the knowledge needed for success in traditional colleges are also needed for success in technical schools and apprenticeships run by community colleges) — was the only comforting thing about it. Because he didn’t tar systemic reform with his endorsement.

But the worst of his vitriol was reserved for immigrants regardless of legal status.

Trump wrongfully argued that America’s immigration laws, a dysfunctional messy legacy of racial, ethnic and religious bigotry, allows too many emigres to sponsor “unlimited numbers of relatives for citizenship when, in fact, they can only spouses, children, parents and siblings (and even for the last group, it can take as long as 20 years to gain legal entry in the first place). He also claimed that the immigration system’s so-called “visa lottery” — which actually involves a background check, an interview and requirements such as having a high school diploma or two years of training in a high-skilled job — doesn’t have any requirements for entry.

Trump also insinuated that undocumented emigres were little more than criminals. This  prominently mentioning MS-13, the gang originally formed in Los Angeles, Calif., that has become a menace to Central American nations since the early 1990s thanks to U.S. foreign and immigration policies (including deporting its members to Central American nations such as Honduras and El Salvador) that have led to more people from those nations (including so-called Border Children that several Congressional Republicans have denigrated) fleeing to our shores. Despite the fact that most MS-13 members are native-born Americans, Trump still claimed that they were an invading horde because of supposedly open borders.

Betsy DeVos has been a silent and willing collaborator in Trump’s bigotry against Black, Brown, and immigrant children as well as their families and communities.

Even worse than that, Trump insinuated throughout his speech that Dreamers, the 780,000 children, youth, and young adults (including 9,000 teachers working in classrooms) who now face deportation thanks to his move last September to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, weren’t worthy of protection or even contributors to American society. This included his declaration that “Americans are dreamers too”, essentially arguing that only native-born Americans are worthy of consideration He also doubled down on the proposal his administration issued last week, which would only allow Dreamers to gain citizenship after a cumbersome 12 year process– even though most of the youths have already been in this country all but a few years of their lives, end up gainfully employed as adults, and been citizens of this country in all but paper.

There was nothing in Trump’s speech that acknowledged how Dreamers working in our traditional public, charter and private schools (including those recruited by Teach For America) are helping native-born and immigrant children gain the knowledge they need for lifelong success. Not one word accepting the reality that America has always been a nation of immigrants, men and women who, despite state-sanctioned bigotry (which always extended to the descendants of enslaved Africans as well as American Indians and Alaska Natives already on this soil), managed to be contributors to the nation’s political, social and economic fabric. What he did instead is engage in even more of his bigoted demagoguery, doubling down on his nasty statements about immigrants made earlier this month during a meeting to work out a deal to help Dreamers gain citizenship.

What did DeVos do while Trump smeared the immigrant children under her watch and the emigres who teach in schools? Nothing. Last night, she issued one statement focused on a meeting she will have with the Occupant today. Then this morning, she issued another, calling on Congress to “to act in the best interest of students and expand access to more education pathways“, a nice way of she wants to keep poor and minority children from accessing traditional higher education and gaining college-preparatory learning.

Sad. Immoral. But not shocking. Because this isn’t the first time Betsy DeVos has had little to say about President Donald Trump’s bigotry.

As chair of the American Federation for Children, she was silent after he won the Presidential election back in November 2016. Instead of demanding that he apologize for his rank demagoguery against immigrant and minority children during his campaign, she declared  that she would work with him.

When Trump nominated her to become Secretary of Education, she neither refused his invitation nor called on him to recant his bigotry nor sought to distance herself from his nastiness. Again, she said nothing at all, and, in fact, appeared at one of his events celebrating his victory.

Months later, when Trump false claimed that White Supremacists participating in the Unite the Right terrorism in Charlottesville, Va. were only partly responsible for the violence that resulted, DeVos, now firmly in her job as Secretary of Education, still said nothing. Save for a memo to her staff that condemns bigotry, she stayed silent.

A month later, when the administration announced that it was ending DACA and putting undocumented immigrant children, youth and adults on the path to deportation, DeVos and her minions at the Department of Education offered nothing in the way of a plan to help them. She kept her silence while proceeding to scale back the agency’s role in protecting the civil rights of poor and minority children.

DeVos only seems willing to speak out when it comes to denigrating systemic reform, especially when it comes to the focus on stemming achievement gaps and protecting the civil rights of children. But when it comes to defending children, especially those targeted by the Trump regime, she utters nothing and proves her complicity in the administration’s efforts at low-grade ethnic cleansing.

Of course, DeVos hasn’t been alone in her silence in the face of Trump’s bigotry. Far too many erstwhile school reformers have been all too willing to say nothing. Rick Hess and his team at the American Enterprise Institute, along with other conservative school reformers, have spent more time being the amen corner for DeVos and the administration than being moral champions for our most-vulnerable children.

Save for civil rights-oriented reformers, a few in the conservative and centrist Democrat camps such as former Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester Finn Jr., and, most-notably, Education Trust, Emerson Project, and Teach For America (the latter of which has been criticized for its steadfast support for Dreamers), other camps within the movement have stood idly by or have chosen to focus on other things. This is especially clear from weak and lackluster responses from reformers before and after yesterday’s State of the Union Address.

For a number of reasons, including an unwillingness to work with traditionalists such as the American Federation of Teachers (which has also been steadfast in defending DACA youth), they have offered little support for helping undocumented immigrant children, either on the policy front or on the ground in places such as Philadelphia, where they face the risk of detention and deportation just for trying to gain knowledge they need and deserved.

All of these reformers deserve shame. But DeVos, whose family remains a major player in subsidizing the movement, should be especially ashamed. By being more-concerned about ideology and agenda than about defending every child no matter who they are, she has made mockery of her professed faith, violated God’s Commandments (especially in the Beatitudes), and denigrated what was once a respectable legacy of expanding public charter schools and other forms of school choice. Like any Christian, DeVos is supposed to be a living sanctuary, not the tool of evil men. As Jesus Christ, who commanded all of us to do for the least of us, the Children of God, would not approve.

Each and every day, DeVos continues to prove that she is unfit for her office. Yesterday was just another example. For shame!


Featured photo courtesy of the New Yorker.

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Doug Jones’ Lesson for School Reformers

Your editor could have spent this morning focusing on news from yesterday’s news from Bellwether Education Partners that the state plans proposed as part of implementation of the Every Student…

Your editor could have spent this morning focusing on news from yesterday’s news from Bellwether Education Partners that the state plans proposed as part of implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act show that districts are going to be allowed to perpetuate harm to poor and minority children. But that point was made earlier this month. There’s also the dueling studies from Thomas B. Fordham Institute and University of Pennsylvania’s Consortium on Policy, Research and Education on Philadelphia’s efforts to overhaul school discipline. Being ill for the past few days, I’ll be tackling them in the next week.

What is on my mind has less to do with the details of policy. Instead, it is about an important lesson reformers should be learning today from Doug Jones’ victory yesterday over the notorious Roy Moore in yesterday’s Alabama U.S. Senate special election: The need to rally poor and minority communities in advancing systemic reform to help all children.

As many of you know by now, Jones, a former U.S. Attorney and scion of a political family that includes famed judge and U.S. Senator Howell Heflin, won what was previously considered an unlikely victory over Moore, a jurist who was twice removed from his role as chief justice of the Iron State’s supreme court for willfully ignoring failing to enforce federal rulings. A Democrat will now hold a U.S. Senate seat for Alabama for the first time in 20 years despite the state having a strong Republican majority and the efforts of President Donald Trump in the last few weeks to help Moore into office.

Certainly Jones was helped by Moore’s own problems. This included revelations over the past two months that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with at least six women under age 18 back when he was a district attorney during the 1970s and 1980s. That news, along with the threat Moore posed to the tenure of Mitch McConnell as senate majority leader, gave Congressional Republicans a convenient excuse to withdraw financial and political support for his campaign, and even led outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake to publicly support Jones’ run. Even without backing from those who could have been his colleagues in the senate, Moore still managed to garner 48.9 percent of voters.

What really mattered for Jones had little to do with Moore, but with the strong turnout among Black and other minority communities in Alabama. Exit polling conducted by the Washington Post shows that Black voters made up 28 percent of the electorate yesterday, a higher level of turnout than their overall numbers among all registered voters. More importantly, Black voters turned out at levels just a quarter or so below those of last year’s general election. In Jefferson County, home to Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, turnout was at 72 percent of levels last year, according to an analysis of data by Daily Kos.

Given that special elections in general attract significantly lower levels of voter turnout, the high levels are astounding. Especially when you consider that Alabama Republicans in control of state government have worked for the past decade to disenfranchise minority voters through efforts such as closing motor vehicle branches in Black communities, a key way of frustrating voter registration. Add in the fact that Jones attracted 60 percent of Alabama voters age18-29 and 61 percent of those in the 29-to-44 demographic — especially in a state in which Mitt Romney won the majority of them five years ago — and the results stand out.

Without Black votes as well as those of young people, Doug Jones would have never beaten Roy Moore in yesterday’s U.S. Senate race.

How did Jones manage to get more minority voters (as well as young voters) to support his bid? That credit goes to grassroots advocates, including Black churches and branches of the NAACP, who, with the help of national outfits, conducted strong get-out-the-vote campaigns on behalf of Jones and, more-importantly, against Moore. Activists reminded Black communities that a Moore victory would ultimately help the Trump Administration in its war on their communities and their children. They also noted that Jones’ victory takes away a seat from Senate Republicans, who now hold just a one-seat majority, making it even harder for them to pass measures such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that have little support even within the caucus.

Put simply, contrary to the arguments of many White Democrats (as well as pundits such as Jonathan Chait of New York, Frank Bruni of the New York Times and academic Mark Lilla), focusing on the efforts of Black, Latino, immigrant, and low-income communities for economic, social and political equality (which has often been derisively called “identity politics”), is critical to Democrat success in winning elections as well as in winning support from younger voters who are also concerned about these matters. Based on yesterday’s vote, as well as last month’s general election victories (in which Black, Latino, and immigrant votes played prominent roles), White Democrats should stop ignoring minority communities and put money into registering more of them (as well as fighting voter suppression efforts in states).

But it isn’t just important for the Democratic National Committee. The school reform movement must also embrace explicit and constant advocacy for poor and minority children and their communities as a critical component in advancing the transformation of American public education.

Reformers shouldn’t be divided over this at all. After all, as recent studies of the now-abolished No Child Left Behind Act has shown, focusing on socioeconomic achievement gaps improves outcomes for minority and White children (as well as struggling and high-achieving children of all backgrounds). More importantly, the most-successful efforts to expand school choice (including Virginia Walden Ford’s work in Washington, D.C., Steve Barr’s work with Latino communities in Los Angeles, and Parent Revolution’s Parent Trigger efforts), have been ones led by poor and minority communities who explicitly made the case for helping their own children escape failure mills that damaged their families for generations.

Yet this is is a point over which the movement has become divided. Conservative reformers balk over this because they still embrace a perspective, driven by their ideological conservatism, that chooses to ignore the legacies of state-sanctioned bigotry (from slavery to Jim Crow to the drug war) that are still reflected in American public education. Centrist Democrat reformers, on the other hand, prize political bipartisanship and getting “the politics” right over doing good, often at the cost of the vulnerable, failing to realize that bipartisanship and politics are only valuable if driven by the most-important goal nonnegotiable goal of helping those who are in need.

What has become clear is that explicitly focusing on the educational concerns of poor and minority children regardless of where they live, and expanding that to the criminal justice reform and other the social issues that end up touching (and are touched by) American public education, is critical, both in helping all children succeed as well as rallying long-terms support for the movement from the parents and communities that care for them. For those families, school reform must be invested in bettering the communities in which they live and in empowering their children to be leaders in adulthood. Anything less is unacceptable.

This starts by embracing the lessons learned by Barr, Ford and others in advancing reform. It means listening to communities as well as addressing the issues outside of education policy and practice that are of immediate concern to those communities. It also includes working with the churches and community organizations connected to the people who live in them, as well as working with national groups focused on issues that tie to education, including criminal justice reform. It even means philanthropists working outside of their comfort zones and supporting reform groups led by minority communities who have a better sense of the people they serve.

Reformers must also focus as much on the nuts-and-bolts of retail and wholesale politics as they do on working statehouses and policymakers. Recruiting men and women from Black, Latino, and other minority communities to run in school board races and other political campaigns is one critical step. Another lies in holding voter registration drives, which will help bring new voters to the polls and even help reformers prove their value to the politicians they need to help pass legislation. This includes targeting high school seniors who will soon leave school and become voters (as well

Finally, reformers have to go back to embracing the approach of addressing and stemming socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps, a strategy that was at the heart of No Child and a driving force in expanding charter schools and other forms of school choice. Contrary to the arguments of some conservative reformers, focusing on achievement gaps even helps White middle class children by improving the quality of teaching, curricula and school environments all students experience.

As Jones learned last night, and other Democrats have realized over the past month, boosting support from poor and minority communities is critical to winning the day. The lessons also apply to school reformers working to build better lives for our children.

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AFT’s $44 Million Spend

The American Federation of Teachers just filed its 2016-2017 financial disclosure to the U.S. Department of Labor. Once again, it has spent big on preserving its influence over education policymaking….

The American Federation of Teachers just filed its 2016-2017 financial disclosure to the U.S. Department of Labor. Once again, it has spent big on preserving its influence over education policymaking. Whether or not the spending will help in the Trump era — or if it will have the money down the road — is a different question.

The nation’s second-largest teachers’ union spent $44.1 million in 2016-2017 on political lobbying activities and contributions to what should be like-minded groups. This is a 29.6 percent increase over the same period a year ago. This, by the way, doesn’t include politically-driven spending that can often find its way under so-called “representational activities”.

As you would expect, AFT gave big to the nonprofits controlled by Hillary and Bill Clinton — including their eponymous foundation and the now-shuttered Clinton Global Initiative — collected $400,000 from the union in 2016-2017; this includes $250,000 directly to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation and $150,000 to the Global Initiative, which was shut down during the former Secretary of State’s unsuccessful presidential bid. Altogether, AFT gave $2.2 million to the Clinton-controlled groups over the past five years.

As Dropout Nation detailed over the last two years, the AFT worked assiduously to win over the Clinton machine in order to assure that it had influence over federal education policy if she won the White House. Besides the donations to the Clinton foundations as well as direct campaign spending, AFT had key supporters (including Democratic National Committee member Hartina Flournoy, a former union apparatchik, as well as Clinton campaign education adviser Ann O’Leary ) positioned to support its efforts.

As part of its effort to buy influence with the Clintons, AFT spent $10,000 with now-former acting DNC Chair Donna Brazile’s eponymous firm, a 90 percent decline over levels in 2015-2016. Oddly enough, it gave no money to Democrats for Public Education, the astroturf group that was attempting to replicate the efforts of the reform-oriented Democrats for Education Reform. Meanwhile AFT gave $175,000 to Center for American Progress, the ostensibly reform-oriented outfit founded by former Clinton Administration honcho (and Hillary’s campaign chairman), John Podesta; his communications with Weingarten (as well as with other key players) were leaked last year by Wikileaks.

Meanwhile AFT spent big on political campaigns on the national level. It poured $2.5 million into its Solidarity 527; those dollars, along with the $10.3 million spent by its main political action committee, worked hard to support Hillary and other unsuccessful Democrat candidates. AFT Solidarity, in particular, spent $843,614 against Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on behalf of Democrat rival Patrick Murphy, and spent another $328,590 against Ohio Sen. Rob Portman on behalf of former Gov. Ted Strickland, who co-chairs Democrats for Public Education on the union’s behalf.

AFT also gave $190,000 to Immigrant Voters Win, a PAC that was part of the Families Fight Back campaign organized by supporters of expansive immigration reform. The union also gave $345,000 to the Democrat-supporting House Majority PAC and poured $110,000 into the America Votes super-PAC.

AFT bet big on Hillary Clinton (right with John Podesta and Neera Tanden of Center for American Progress) — and lost even bigger.

None of the AFT’s spending helped either its cause, or that of Hillary and her fellow Democrats. The election of Donald Trump to the White House not only endangers the futures of poor and minority children, it also assures that neither AFT nor rival school reformers (including centrist Democrat s who supported Clinton), will have a voice in the executive branch. Trump’s appointment of school choice activist Elizabeth Prince (Betsy) DeVos hasn’t done much for conservative reformers and hardcore school choice activists. But it also denies AFT a role in policymaking at L’Enfant Plaza.

Matters may get even worse next year, thanks to the March’s confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the federal high court likely to strike down compulsory dues with a ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which is likely based on Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion three years ago in Harris v. Quinn, the AFT could lose at least 25 percent of its rank-and-file, leading to a major hit to its coffers as well as its ability to wield influence. Questions about Gorsuch’s conflict of interest on this matter (including giving a speech last week to a group that is involved in the lawsuit) may end up forcing him to recuse. But if it doesn’t, AFT, along with NEA, face a bleak political and financial future.

But until that ruling happens (if it does), AFT is spending big. Center for Popular Democracy and its action fund, which has done the union’s business by publishing reports aimed at stopping the expansion of public charter schools, collected $210,000 from the union in 2016-2017, about a third less than it received in the previous year. The fact that AFT President Rhonda (Randi) Weingarten no longer sits on its board is likely a factor in the lower levels of support.

Another big group of recipients is the NAACP and several of its affiliates. The old-school civil rights group itself received $90,000 from the union in 2016-2017, while chapters in Florida, New York and North Carolina collected another $65,000. Altogether, AFT financed NAACP to the tune of $155,000; of course, this doesn’t include the help NAACP receives from the union through payroll deductions from union dues that go towards paying membership fees.

Leah Daughtry now gets more money from the union than either Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.

AFT’s has gotten plenty for its chicken wing money. NAACP has pushed hard to halt the expansion of charter schools, presenting its arguments at events such as the annual education policy ‘braintrust’ hosted by another AFT beneficiary, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.  NAACP’s message is incoherent, often incorrect, and on education policy matters, irrelevant. But thanks to school reformers, who haven’t yet figured out that the outfit can be ignored, NAACP’s effort has gotten national attention, for which AFT is most-grateful.

AFT gave $60,000 to Democracy Alliance, the secretive progressive campaign collaborative to which it (along with National Education Association) belongs. That is unchanged from 2015-2016. Receiving even more money from the union is State Innovation Exchange, which aims to duplicate for progressives and Democrat state legislators the kind of legislative writing work done by American Legislative Exchange Council on behalf of Republican and conservative counterparts. SIX picked up $115,000 from the union in 2016-2017, double what it received in the previous year.

As for co-opting progressive groups? AFT handed $25,000 to Netroots Nation in 2016-2017, unchanged from the previous year, while it gave another $10,000 to Demos, the progressive think tank. The union also gave $60,000 to Gamaliel Foundation, whose efforts to fund supposedly grassroots progressive outfits are also funded by the union’s reliable vassal, Schott Foundation for Public Education; that is also unchanged. Speaking of Schott: AFT gave it $85,000, an 13.3 percent increase from 2015-2016; apparently, its efforts on behalf of the union and other traditionalists at the expense of Black children is making the union happy.

AFT gave $200,000 to Sixteen Thirty Fund, the outfit run by former Clinton Administration player Eric Kessler’s Arabella Advisors in 2016-2017; the group has also collected cash from NEA. It also gave $20,000 to Center for Media and Democracy, the parent of PR Watch (a 28.6 percent decrease). It also gave $60,000 to the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, which is also well-funded by the union’s Chicago affiliate; $50,000 to the Tides Foundation’s Advocacy Fund; and $10,000 to UnKoch My Campus, which is targeting the array of libertarian student and academic training outfits funded by natural resources billionaires (and Soros-like bogeymen for progressive groups) Charles and David Koch. United Students Against Sweatshops, which has helped AFT in its battle with Teach for America, picked up $10,000 in 2016-2017.   To reach youth, AFT also gave $31,500 to Community Labor United’s  Boston Youth Organizing Project.

Meanwhile AFT attempted to further inroads with Black and other minority outfits.

The union gave $80,000 to the aforementioned Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, allowing it to rub shoulders with the likes of House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Democrat Bobby Scott (who has already collected a $5,000 donation from the union to his re-election campaign), as well as buy prominent speaking spots for its leaders (including Weingarten’s number two, Mary Cathryn Ricker, who spoke on her behalf) at CBC’s annual conference. The union gave another $25,000 to CBC’s Political Education and Leadership Institute, giving it even more access to future Black leaders. It also gave $35,000 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute as a way to win over Latino congressional leaders.

AFT also gave $10,000 to Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, $5,000 to Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, $10,000 to the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, $12,500 to National Black Caucus of State Legislators, $15,000 to National Association of Black Journalists, $15,000 to Higher Heights Leadership Fund (which is tied to Women’s March organizer Tamika Mallory) and $25,000 to National Alliance of Black School Educators. The biggest single recipient of AFT’s largesse not named Schott: Rev. Leah Daughtry, who presided over last year’s Democratic National Convention; she collected $165,000 from the union in 2016-2017, getting a lot of teachers’ money.

At the same time, AFT gave to a variety of Latino organizations. This included $15,000 to UNIDOS, the former National Council of La Raza that changed its name earlier this year; $7,500 to the school reform-oriented MALDEF; $10,000 to National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators; $5,000 to National Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs; $10,000 to U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute; $16,667 to Hispanic Federation; $5,000 to Hispanic Heritage Foundation; $5,000 to the foundation named after labor leader Miguel Contreras, and $6,500 to Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. To build support among immigrant communities now endangered by the Trump regime, AFT has given more money to outfits working on their behalf. This includes $5,000 each to National Immigration Forum, National Immigration Law Center, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

AFT continues its efforts to co-opt the Atlantic Monthly. It gave $1.2 million* to the magazine in 2016-2017, double the previous year.  You have to wonder if Weingarten and her mandarins are kicking themselves for not offering to buy a stake in the Atlantic, which will soon be controlled by Laurene Powell Jobs’ reform-minded Emerson Collective, which has become a landing spot for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his former honcho on civil rights enforcement, Russlyn Ali.

As for the usual suspects? AFT gave $250,000 in 2016-2017 to Economic Policy Institute, whose policy solutions almost always resemble those of the union; that is unchanged from the previous year. The union also gave $25,000 to the American Prospect, which garnered notice back in August when it ran an interview of now-former Trump aide Steve Bannon by Robert Kuttner (who also cofounded Economic Policy); that is two-thirds less than what the union gave it a year ago. AFT also gave $75,000 through the University of Colorado Foundation to Kevin Welner’s National Education Policy Center, a 67 percent increase over 2015-2016; poured $10,000 to Committee for Education Funding (a 43 percent decrease over 2015-2016); and gave $50,000 to Alliance for Quality Education (unchanged from last year). As a reminder of the AFT’s unwillingness to support efforts to elevate the teaching profession it supposedly defends, the union gave $71,410 to Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, a key player in vetting the nation’s university schools of education.

Dropout Nation will provide additional analysis of the AFT’s financial filing later today. You can check out the data yourself by checking out the HTML and PDF versions of the AFT’s latest financial report, or by visiting the Department of Labor’s Web site. Also check out Dropout Nation‘s Teachers Union Money Report, for this and previous reports on AFT and NEA spending.


*Dropout Nation originally reported that AFT gave the Atlantic Monthly $900,000 in 2016-2017. But thanks to a reader, another spend with the magazine increases that number to $1.2 million.

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Telling the Histories of Our Sampsons

There once was a man named Sampson Moore. He was an enslaved African American. He gained freedom after the Confederates, who wanted to keep him a slave, were defeated during…

There once was a man named Sampson Moore. He was an enslaved African American. He gained freedom after the Confederates, who wanted to keep him a slave, were defeated during the Civil War. He lived through Reconstruction and Jim Crow. He was a farmer who lived in what is now Staunton, Va. He was also my great-great-great grandfather.

The facts that we do know about Sampson’s life tell us the uncomfortable facts and truths of American history that often get unmentioned to our children while they are in schools. Which is why we must push for civic and history education that is as honest in tackling the bad and ugly of our nation’s past as it is in celebrating the parts that are good.

As with so many former slaves, there’s a lot about Sampson we will never know about. He died 16 years before the Federal Writers’ Project embarked on its massive collection of first-hand accounts about life in bondage from once-enslaved Black people.

His death certificate states that he was born sometime in 1840. But Census records also record him giving different ages, meaning that he could have been born in 1830 or even 1835. Given that slaves weren’t even considered human, and therefore, unworthy of a proper recording of their birthdays, we will never know when he was truly born.

For many slaveowners, selling slaves to buyers in places as far as Louisiana and Tennessee was a great business. But it led to the breakup of Black families.

If Sampson’s life before the Civil War was like that of the surviving former enslaved Black people who recounted their lives for the Federal Writers Project, it was especially brutal. Chances are that he grew up with little to no clothes (and definitely no shoes) because slaveowners were always looking to reduce the costs of keeping the people they enshackled.

Besides the brutality of the slavemaster, Sampson also likely saw death all around. Particularly in places such as Augusta County, a gateway into Appalachia, slavemasters saved more money (and kept their often lower-than-national average production of corn and other crops for themselves and horses) by ensuring that enslaved Black children were malnourished, often on diets consisting of just a mush of cornmeal and buttermilk. As a result of the undernourishment, 60 percent of enslaved Black children in the nine Southern States in Appalachia died before age 10, according to Wilma Dunaway of Virginia Tech, one of the leading researchers on American slavery. This was higher than even the one-in-two chance of survival for slaves nationally.

Put bluntly: Sampson was a survivor. Probably even outlived his brothers and sisters.

Sampson Moore lived on what is now Arborhill Road in a section of what was unincorporated Augusta County called Beverley Manor. The land is now occupied by several farms, including one called Berry Moore. He could not read or write in 1880, according to the Census taken that year. But he managed to learn how to read by 1910, the second-to-last Census he participated in before he left this earth. Sampson owned his own land, one of the few Black men to do so. That probably made him very happy.

He was married to a woman named Elizabeth, who he also called Lizzie, who was also born in bondage. They first appear as a married couple in 1865, but may have actually been a couple earlier than that. This is because slaveowners often sent over enslaved Black men to other farmers in order to mate with Black women in order to birth more Black children for enslaving. Given her possible year of birth (1835), Elizabeth may have been the 15-year-old girl listed by the Census Bureau in 1850 as one of the enslaved of Archer Moore.

Slaves were never mentioned by name in the U.S. Census. Because no one was supposed to know them.

Elizabeth was unusual. She knew her mother and father, Morris and Lucy (also named Moore) and got to see them for years after the end of bondage. In 1880, they lived next door to her and Sampson, along with their children (including Samuel, my great-great grandfather). Sadly, Morris and Lucy died three years later. But they at least got a chance to experience freedom — and Elizabeth got to see her parents out of bondage.

Sampson wasn’t so lucky — and the same was true for so many other formerly enslaved Black people like him.

Because slavery was a financial enterprise that extended beyond merely owning the lives and liberties of Black people. As Dunaway details in books such as The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation, slaveowners in states such as Virginia and Maryland often sold and rented out enslaved Black people to other slaveowners in cotton-planting states such as Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. The slaveowners counted on such revenues, often garnered during spring planting and fall harvesting seasons, to offset the cyclical nature of farming, especially tobacco (whose prices were in decline for most of the 19th century).

Particularly for slave owners working smaller parcels of land in parts of Virginia such as Staunton and Augusta County that are the gateways into Appalachia, selling slaves was more-profitable than working the fields. Dunaway estimates that at least 100,000 enslaved Black people from places such as Augusta County were sold away and left the Appalachian South between 1840 and 1860 alone. This included teenage boys and girls being removed from their families before they turned 15. Two out of every five enslaved Black children were permanently removed from their homes and sold to slaveowners in the Deep South, according to Dunaway.

As they pursued profit, these slaveowners broke up Black families. Broke apart bonds of love between Black men and women formed despite slavemasters having whipped them, raped them, and  exploited them economically. Took children from the arms and love of their mothers formed despite the fact that their mothers often never got to wean their own children because they were breastfeeding the children of slave owners. Removed children from fathers who cared for them despite the degradation of oppression.

Slavery broke Black families apart. Few came back together. The legacy of the deliberate destruction of the building block of society resonates to this day.

Many of these families tried to find each other after the end of the Civil War. Most were often unsuccessful. This was the case with Sampson.

Three years into Reconstruction in January of 1868, Sampson mentioned his plight to an employee of the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, known to us today as the Freedmen’s Bureau. He told the a worker at the Staunton office looking at his case that mentioned that his father died before the end of the war and his mother had been “sold away South”. Sampson also mentioned a son named Andrew, who was 11 years old at the time of the recollection.

It is hard to know what happened to Andrew. But there are no mentions of a boy aged three or younger on Archer Moore’s slave schedule for 1860, and he doesn’t appear on the 1870 Census, the first in which Sampson and his family were no longer enslaved. There is a chance that Andrew may have been with Sampson for a short time, then died before he reached adulthood.

Sampson was one of many formerly enslaved Black men and women who had found themselves seeking help from the Freedmen’s Bureau. Sometimes it was about being owned wages for work done for former slave masters. Other times, it was about disputes they had with White men under which they apprenticed. In many cases, the Freedmen’s Bureau offices set up the very first schools Black children ever attended, settled disputes, even interceded on their behalf in court cases.

White former slaveowners who worked slowly and successfully to bring about Jim Crow hated the presence of the Freedmen’s Bureau and the expansive role the federal government was playing in Southern States. But for Black people like Sampson, as well as for people such as Hiram Revels (the first Black man ever to serve in the United States Senate), the Freedmen’s Bureau was the one tool they needed to ensure that they had a chance to at least have their civil rights and liberties defended and respected.

Reconstruction would end with the emergence of Jim Crow with its brutal segregation and oppression of Black people. Despite this, Sampson would manage to raise 10 children, and see many of them, including my great-grandfather, Samuel, make it into adulthood. Samuel, in turn, would watch his daughter, Florine, leave the South as part of the Great Migration and settle in New York’s Nassau County, where she and her husband, Henry Stone, would raise my grandmother, the first person in our family to go to college. The story carries on today as my family and I live the life Sampson never had the chance to have, and fulfill the dreams he would never have a chance to see.

The least we can do for our Sampson Moores is teach our children about their enslavement and their fights to be free.

Certainly that is all well and good. But there is no way that the realities of Sampson’s life in bondage and oppression, along with those of other formerly enslaved Black people should be obscured with talk of happy endings. Especially since Black people of today, along with other minorities, are still fighting for their liberties and for their children to gain the high-quality education they need and deserve.

If anything, what we need now, more than ever in this time, is an honest discussion of how America’s legacy of slavery, segregation, and oppression continue to shape our politics and society. That begins with providing all children with honest, unflinching knowledge about what people like Sampson went through, from slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow.

As your editor pointed out in last month’s essay on Confederate statues, much effort has been dedicated, both by generations of segregationists as well as by academics embracing the Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War, to render the lives of enslaved Black people and their descendants invisible, and to forget that their talents and other contributions were to the overwhelming benefit of generations of White people. American public education has been complicit in this erasing of reality, especially through classroom instruction, (as well as curricula and standards, that have wrongly taught generations of children that the Civil War was merely a battle between two equally noble sides, and sidestepped, even minimized, the true brutality of slavery.

The consequences of this failure to fully educate children can now be seen everywhere, including a White House occupied by a historical illiterate embracing the kind of White Supremacy that would have been respectable in the 19th century. Even respectable discourse about matters such as reforming schools are clouded by the inability of some to fully understand why it is critical to transform systems that are living legacies of deliberate decisions by past generations of White people to deny liberty and freedom to enslaved and oppressed Black people.

This is where a strong, comprehensive civics education comes in. When all children are taught the full and honest facts about American history, they can deal thoughtfully with the issues facing the nation today.

The good news is that we now have opportunities to correct that failure to provide children with proper civic and historical education. Common Core’s reading standards allow for teachers to use original texts (including documents from Freedmen’s Bureau offices) as well as more-accurate books on the history of slavery. Thanks to sites such as Family Search and Ancestry.com, as well as other resources such as the Library of Congress (which houses the Federal Writers Project’s former slave recollections effort) teachers and even families can get their hands on these sources.

Another step lies in improving how we train teachers, especially those specializing in history, civics, and social studies. This is where organizations such as Teach for America, as well as university schools of education, come in. It is high time that those men and women who teach our children are fully knowledgeable about how America as much perpetuated denial of civil rights as it tried to fulfill the promise of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness espoused by the Founding Fathers.

Our children deserve a more-honest history. The Sampson Moores deserve to have their struggles and roles in American life acknowledged. Now is the opportunity to do both.

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Protect Our Immigrant Children

As you already know, the Trump Administration has declared open war on undocumented immigrant children and their families, as well as the 5.9 million native-born children of emigres to this…

As you already know, the Trump Administration has declared open war on undocumented immigrant children and their families, as well as the 5.9 million native-born children of emigres to this country who fled economic despair, political oppression and violent crime. For the school reform movement, it is another reminder of why we must fight harder to oppose what the regime is doing (and plans to do) to our most-vulnerable children and their families.

President Donald Trump made clear his bigotry toward Latino children (as well as his contempt for the rule of law) last Friday night when when he pardoned former Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The disgraced law enforcement official, whose long list of misdeeds includes failing to investigate alleged sexual assaults of undocumented emigres (including the molestation of 32 children), was convicted this month of contempt of court for violating a federal court order to stop discriminatory profiling of Latinos (including those native-born and undocumented who had no criminal record) to ascertain their citizenship status.

By pardoning Arpaio, Trump gives rogue cops and police departments the carte blanche to engage in criminal abuse of immigrants as well as blessed all kinds of police brutality and other violations of civil liberties of all Americans. Given the wide criticism he received over the last two weeks for failing to condemn White Supremacists who committed murder and mayhem earlier this month in Charlottesville, Va., the pardon is also a clear sign of where his administration stands when it comes to the federal role of protecting the civil rights of poor and minority communities.

Arpaio’s pardon comes on the heels of new reports that the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents are engaging in all kinds of roguery.

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed in a lawsuit on behalf of three undocumented immigrant youth that the federal agency is teaming up with police departments (including the 250 law enforcement agencies operated by traditional district schools) to pick up, detain, and ultimately, deport unaccompanied refugee children and other undocumented minors. The children, already vetted by other federal agencies, are supposed to be turned over to their parents or to the Department of Health and Human Services. Instead, ICE is violating federal law by placing them in detention centers halfway across the country from where they live, putting them in danger of being molested and assaulted.

In the particular case being represented by the ACLU, ICE teamed up with Suffolk County, N.Y., police officers to pick up three unaccompanied refugees from Honduras and El Salvador attending high school in New York’s Brentwood district for allegedly being members of the MS-13 gang. ICE agents and Suffolk County cops have proclaimed in court that the children admitted gang affiliation even though they have been unable to provide any physical evidence or corroboration.The Brentwood district allegedly conspired with ICE and Suffolk County cops by suspending students who were suspiciously picked up for deportation days later.

Through ICE, the Trump Administration has attempted to pry data from districts in order to conduct their operations as well as standing outside schools so they can pick up kids and parents entering schoolhouse doors. Such data is prohibited from being disclosed to ICE by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the law governing the release of school data, but district staffers aren’t always aware of this. As a result of the tactics, traditional districts are issuing guidance to school leaders and others to not release any data.

Meanwhile the Trump Administration has taken particular aim at “border children” from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala who fled to this country to escape violence. Two weeks ago, Homeland Security canceled the Central American Minors Parole, which allowed 3,000 such kids to remain in the country. This will likely lead to those kids, some as young as 11, to be deported, and shortchanging them of schooling they need and deserve. The move by ICE this month to deport Lizandro Claros-Saravia, who was set to attend Louisberg College on a partial athletic scholarship, shows that collegians who are destined to contribute greatly to America’s economy and society, will also be shown the door.

Things will likely get worse for immigrant children will likely in the next few months if the Trump Administration moves to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the initiative started under the Obama Administration to exempt emigres brought to the country as children from deportation. Some 760,000 children and young adults ages nine and older are protected under DACA. This includes 100 Teach for America recruits who are working in the nation’s traditional public and public charter schools.

 If Trump goes ahead and ends DACA, as many expect, children in elementary, secondary, and schools of higher education will be tossed out of the country when they should be learning and ultimately becoming the nation’s future leaders and builders of its economy. It also means that teachers who are improving the quality of education for poor and minority children will also end up being deported, harming the futures of the children they serve.

As it is, the Trump Administration has already begun targeting DACA emigres for deportation. This has resulted in even more allegations of roguery by ICE agents. In the case of Riccy Enriquez Perdom, who was briefly detained last week and then released after public outcry, ICE agents allegedly told her that her DACA status had expired even though it had been renewed seven months ago.

The consequences for children of undocumented emigres and those kids who are undocumented themselves can already be seen in our schools. As the New Yorker detailed back in March, children are skipping school out of fear that their parents and themselves may end up detained and deported, or, in the case of native-born children, end up in the nation’s child welfare systems. Those kids whose parents are rounded for deportation suffer dramatically; on average, the household of those children, whose parents were working, paying taxes, and contributing to communities, declined by 50 percent, according to a 2014 study by Robert Warren and Donald Kerwin of the Center for Migration Studies.

It is almost impossible for children to learn and gain the knowledge they need for brighter futures if they are in conditions of instability and poverty caused by government action.

That many undocumented immigrant children (along with their families) came to this country to find safety, political oppression and economic stability makes the efforts of Trump Administration to get rid of them even crueler than it first appears. Given that they are undocumented because of the nation’s broken immigration system (whose quotas are a legacy of the racial bigotry against earlier generations of Latinos, Jews, Irish and Chinese emigres), and that most have never committed a felony, the administration’s effort is  arbitrary, capricious, and unconscionable.

But the problem for undocumented immigrant youth extends beyond losing out on teaching and learning. Once picked up for deportation, a child is ensnared in an overwhelmed immigration court system that offers them no opportunities for due process.

The end of the day at Albertville Middle School. Statistics say the student body is 30% latino, but teachers think its higher. Many students were taken out of school when Alabama’s immigration laws were passed.

Judges aren’t required to give an undocumented immigrant child a lawyer who help them obtain a fair trial; 34 percent of the 56,663 children in immigration court in the 2013-2014 fiscal year had no lawyer representing them. When kids aren’t represented by lawyers, they are more-likely to be deported or placed in detention than those who aren’t; 68 percent of undocumented immigrant children without lawyers were ordered out of the country in 2013-2014, compared to just 6.1 percent of those with lawyers.

Even worse is what can happen to those children if they detained end up in detention centers (prisons and jails) in which sexual and other forms of criminal abuse is rampant. The likelihood of those abuses being addressed or even being reported is abysmally low. Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General investigated a mere 570 of the 33,126 allegations of abuse lodged by undocumented emigres in detention centers between 2010 and 2016, according to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement. Given that ICE is now looking to destroy documentation of such complaints, the likelihood of even more abuse is greater than ever.

This discrimination against undocumented immigrant children and native-born progeny of undocumented Americans (as well as against their families) is that it is based on an intellectually indefensible and absolutely immoral premise: That immigrants are a scourge to the nation. This thinking, almost as old as the racialism that is America’s Original Sin (and has often intertwined with racism to detrimental effect on generations of poor and minority children), continues to be embraced by the Trump Administration, many Congressional Republican leaders, and their supporters despite the overwhelming evidence that immigrants contribute greatly to this country’s economy and society. [The fact that Trump, along with nearly all of his staffers, are the descendants of emigres of the last two centuries, makes their nativism hypocritical.]

The good news is that some reformers have already stepped out to demand that the Trump Administration keep DACA in place. This includes Chiefs for Change, which issued a public call today asking for retain protections for undocumented immigrant children, as well as former U.S. Secretary of Education John King (who called out the administration in a speech last week to a group of school leaders. But reformers can do more.

One step lies in working with districts and school operators to help them give sanctuary to the undocumented. Districts such as Chicago have already taken these steps, refusing to cooperate with ICE and other law enforcement agencies in their deportation efforts. But those districts need help. The movement can reach out to immigration reform groups and others to develop ways to help those families evade deportation; this includes running bus services that can transport children from homes to schools without endangering their families, as well as work with community groups such as San Francisco’s Arriba Juntos to provide schooling to those in fear of appearing in schools.

Reformers can also offer their experience on the school data front to help immigration reform activists hold ICE and the federal government responsible. This includes advocating alongside immigration reform activists to oppose destruction of  records and complaints of abuse lodged by undocumented immigrants in detention center.

The longer-term step starts with supporting immigration reform efforts on overhauling the nation’s immigration system. Certainly reformers can’t help in directly crafting policy. But they can help give political support by simply signing on to letters, teaming up on advocacy efforts that advance both immigration and school reform.

Meanwhile school reformers can work on eliminating the presence of police officers in schools. Besides the documented evidence that the presence of law enforces leads to overuse of harsh school discipline and exacerbates the school-to-prison pipeline, they can also end up being used by ICE as tools to identify and deport undocumented immigrant children and their families. As a result, getting cops out of schools helps improve school cultures for all children.

The Trump Administration has once again made clear its policy agenda of harming the futures of poor and minority children. As reformers, we must make sure it fails in its immoral goal.

Featured photo courtesy of Chip Somodevilla.

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Remember the Monica Queens

Her name was Monica Queen. We know little about her. Because we weren’t supposed to know her. Or the other Black people that came before or after. Rectifying that legacy…

Her name was Monica Queen. We know little about her. Because we weren’t supposed to know her. Or the other Black people that came before or after.

Rectifying that legacy of America’s Original Sin of racialism, which has become the focal point of the debate over the removal of Confederate statues after the terrorism in Charlottesville, is as much a part of reforming American public education as building brighter futures for all children.

Thanks to the U.S. Census done in 1870, we know Monica was Black. We also know she lived in Anne Arundel County, Md., when she was 10-years old.

We know Monica had a mother and father. Their names were William and Susan. Her father was a farmer, probably one of many sharecropping after the end of the Civil War. He was 37 at the time the census was taken. Monica’s mother was two years older than her father.

She had three siblings, two brothers named John and Charles. She also had a sister. Her name was Miranda. All three were younger than her. But we don’t know if Monica was the oldest — and given that mortality rates were even higher for African Americans than for Whites, she may have not been.

Chances are that Monica was born into slavery. But given that the Old Line State had an equal number of freed and enslaved African Americans by the time she was born — a year before the Civil War — it is also possible that she was born free. But we won’t ever likely know.

Both Prince George’s County and Anne Arundel County only have birth and death records going back to 1898, long after Monica’s days on this earth. Records from circuit courts, which date from between 1865 to 1884, don’t account for all births because people weren’t required to report them, and neither do many churches (which did record births in the 19th century).

Sacred Heart Church, the birthplace of Catholicism in America, is also part of the immoral legacy of the nation’s Original Sin, with slaves buried without markers on its grounds.

But that’s only if Monica was free. If she was born a slave (more likely given that she doesn’t appear on the census of freed people taken a decade before), she didn’t even have a birth certificate. This is because enslaved Africans, being considered property and less than human under the laws of the United States and the State of Maryland, weren’t thought  worthy of such accounting.

Sometimes their first names — since they weren’t deemed worthy of having surnames — were accounted for by slave masters in various deeds, wills disposing of them to relatives, and other documents. But much of those bits of evidence have either been lost, burned, or hidden among all the other records in various archives.

The U.S. Census did account for slaves in a separate schedule in order to count at three slaves as one person; after all, each slave was considered three-fifths of a person in order to keep southern states such as Maryland from counting those they enslaved (and denied the right to vote) as people for political power. But those records also provide little other than first names. Because Black people like Monica Queen and her family weren’t considered people under law.

We know nothing about what happened to Monica in the intervening years. We don’t know if she ever fell in love, or had a beau, or even had a chance to have one. We do know that Monica died on October 9,1889, a Wednesday. But we don’t from what disease or ailment or accident she succumbed.

All we know is that after she died, Monica was buried in a far-off corner of Sacred Heart Church in Bowie, Md., far away from the graves of the White families who were its parishioners.

Enslaved Black people were given so little consideration that few recorded their existence. They were never supposed to be known as people.

Monica isn’t the only Black person buried on the Sacred Heart grounds. There are also the unmarked graves of slaves owned by Jesuit priests who ran the church and White Marsh, the Catholic Church plantation that once surrounded it. Even as the clerics heard confessions from the White families who lived in the community, started what is now Georgetown University, and began to build up what became the first diocese in the United States thanks to the elevation of John Carroll as bishop in 1790, they also profited, both personally and as members of the Catholic order, from the labors of enslaved Africans who were human being just like them.

Many of the White Marsh slaves would be sold off in 1838, both to satisfy the demands of Rome (which no longer wanted any part of the immorality) and to keep Georgetown afloat. Those that died before then are buried somewhere on the Sacred Heart grounds. Somewhere because, save for occasional mentions in journals and various records for financial purposes, the Jesuits didn’t think enough of the people they held in bondage to mark their existence on earth.

With 154 of those former plantation acres now being sold by the Jesuits to a developer, Elm Street, to be developed into homes, there is good chance that those graves will disappear.

What we don’t know about Monica or about the former slaves, and why that has come to pass, should be kept in mind by school reformers and others as the nation engages in the debate over the removal of statues to Confederate War dead as well as in dealing with how the legacies of America’s Original Sin perpetuate the public education systems that serve all of our children.

Contrary to the arguments of President Donald Trump and others who want to preserve Confederate statues, these objects were erected solely to erase the dark reality that people were fighting to secede from the union in order to keep people like Monica Queen in bondage. Those hunks of stone and metal were also part of a century-long campaign to render them and their descendants invisible, to declare their achievements unremarkable, and to forget that their talents and other contributions were to the overwhelming benefit of generations of White people.

It is high time for all the Confederate statues, tools of propaganda for covering up the immorality of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, to come down.

Over the decades, that campaign to cover up the evils of slavery (and erase the memories of Black people like Monica Queen) were at least partly successful in seeping into American public education. This includes the 188 schools (as of 2015) named after Confederate leaders that served nearly 200,000 children, many of whom are the descendants of enslaved Africans. It also includes state-approved textbooks influenced by so-called “Lost Cause” historians that conveniently ignored the overwhelming evidence that the Civil War was fought to preserve slavery (and not “states rights”).

Certainly the effort to remove the Confederate statues and names from public schools is part of the long-overdue admission that we have indulged a false narrative about the nation’s past, one that keeps us from bending the arc of history towards progress for every American. It is also an important step in providing all children with a thorough education about their nation that includes the bad and ugly alongside the good and honorable.

At the same time, removing those propaganda tools of racism is a redress to those owed more than can ever be repaid.

The creditors include the descendants of enslaved Africans who live today. They have been forced for far too long to pay for those statues and schools through their tax dollars, as well as deal with the legacies of state-sponsored racism that perpetuate themselves through public education and criminal justice systems.

But it isn’t just about the statues themselves. For far too long, Black people have been forced to accept and expect erasure, and denied knowledge of those who came before them. After all, unless they are descendants of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson’s slave (and likely sister-in-law) Sally Hemmings, few African Americans can trace their Black ancestry beyond the 1870 census or, as in the case of your editor, before 1830, when a man named Samson would appear on the rolls of a slave owner in Virginia.

Removing the statues is just another step towards celebrating those who came before them. The next step includes building statues of heroes such as Nat Turner and religious leader Richard Allen, as well as commemorating the contributions of enslaved Africans and others whose ordinary lives were just as heroic.

The other creditors are the enslaved and oppressed Black people of the past, who cannot collect on the debt, but deserve repayment anyway. Reimbursement for the torture, rape, murder, and denial of liberty done to them during their lives. Refund for being denied the ability to register the births of their children and put memorials on the graves of their loved ones. Payback for the memories they had lost forever to the ages because they weren’t considered human beings.

Restoration of their proper places as builders of the nation is the least we can do.

The final creditors are the Black children of today who are like what Monica Queen was at age 10 — and for whom we want futures better than what Monica had. For reformers, this means the transformation of American public education so that they (as well as all children) are provided high-quality education. It means building upon the implementation of Common Core’s reading and math standards by using original sources (including the records on slavery) to expand the minds of every child. This also includes overhauling the history lessons taught so that they know all that truly happened in this nation, especially to their ancestors.

And yes, it means renaming every school named for those evil Confederate leaders who wanted to keep our Black children in bondage. We would never send Jewish children to schools named after Heinrich Himmler. We shouldn’t be doing the same kind of thing to Black children.

Monica Queen deserved more in life than she ever got. Now we have a chance to make her name — as well as the names of every enslaved Black American — known and properly recorded for history. Even when we know just a little about them.

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