PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Rating States' Commitment To Public Education

In the wake of National School Choice Week, the Brookings Institution released a report card on the largest school districts, which were ranked according to how open the districts are to school choice. That reflects a common assertion among education “reformers” that maximizing choice will always be best for students, a presumption also evident in scorecards from right-wing groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and corporate-minded reform groups like Students First.

But such an assumption is not true. We know that charter schools, for example, have a mixed record of success and failure. And a recent report from scholars at Berkeley, Duke, and MIT found that the test scores of Louisiana students who won a voucher to attend a private school “dropped precipitously in their first year of attending private school, compared to the performance of lottery losers.”

This week the Network for Public Education released a different kind of report card, one that grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to how well they support their public schools. “Valuing Public Education: A Fifty State Report Card” was released at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where Network for Public Education co-founder and president, education historian Diane Ravitch, and NPE Executive Director Carol Burris spoke about the report.

Ravitch said the NPR report is based on factors that have proven to be important to the success of public schools. The report draws on the work of the University of Arizona’s Francesca Lopez and a team of researchers. They identified 29 measurable factors that could be used to evaluate states on six criteria: use of high-stakes testing; professionalization of teaching; resistance to privatization; school finance; spending taxpayer resources wisely; and “chance for success.” The latter category recognizes that factors outside schools that are influenced by policymaking decisions also have a big impact on schools and students, such as the percentage of children living in poverty even though someone in the household works full time, and the extent to which schools are segregated racially and ethnically.

Grading in the report is tough: while some states receive “A” grades in particular categories, no state earns higher than a C overall, and a majority were graded D or F. Ravitch said those scores reflect in part the impact of the “unprecedented assault” that is being waged against public education and the teaching profession, as well as the “unconscionable” number of American children now living in poverty.

Burris, a 2013 New York state high school principal of the year, said improving a school is hard work and happens incrementally over time – “there are no silver bullets.”

Regarding school finances, she said, the report considers not only funding levels but whether money is spent on things that are known to make a difference, such as class size in elementary schools.

Ravitch said that the current policy framework grounded in high-stakes testing has proven to be a failure, and that standardized tests in general reflect income levels more than anything else. Burris said that closing the opportunity gap is essential to closing the achievement gap, noting that schools with a high percentage of children in poverty need resources like social workers, guidance counselors, and nurses. But many poorer schools have been “stripped clean” of those resources, said Ravitch.

The report, “Valuing Public Education: A 50 State Report Card” is available online, and as an interactive map.

PFAW

MD House Overrides Voting Rights Veto

2/5/16 Update: PFAW has sent a new veto override message to the Maryland Senate. Their vote was to have taken place on January 21, but was postponed to today, and is now not expected until next week.

In early 2015, the House and Senate in Maryland voted to restore voting rights for formerly incarcerated persons.

Then in May the legislation was stopped in its tracks by a veto from Governor Larry Hogan . . . until now. This afternoon the House voted 85-56 in favor of overriding the veto.

As sponsors Cory McCray and Alonzo Washington wrote in The Baltimore Sun last year:

In representative democracy, the right to vote is a fundamental interest. When folks have their access to the ballot box restricted, they lose their ability to have a voice in the decision making process. These folks are our neighbors, our friends, and even our family members. These folks have children who attend our schools. These folks care about when the recreation centers are closing. They care about high unemployment rates or cuts to program funding. They pay taxes just like the rest of us. Yet ex-offenders are systematically denied the right to vote until after any parole or probation is served.

PFAW members and supporters in Maryland called on delegates to stand up to Governor Hogan.

Tomorrow the Senate is expected to follow suit. We’re poised to win on this critical issue!

PFAW

Washington State moves to #GetMoneyOut

We just won an important victory in our fight to create a democracy that is of, by and for the people.  Earlier this week, Initiative 735, calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn cases like Citizens United and get big money out of politics, was certified by the Washington Secretary of State, meaning that after months of petition gathering the people of Washington state will be able to officially weigh in at the ballot box come November on the influence of big money in politics. 

PFAW members were among those that played a decisive role in this effort, participating in phone banks, sign-on letters, and signature gathering efforts that led to this exciting accomplishment. Getting Initiative 735 on the ballot was no small feat; as recently as December more than 50,000 signatures remained to be collected. Yet due to the hard work put forth by the WAmend coalition, along with support from PFAW members and many allies, we collected enough signatures so that Washington has the opportunity to become the 17th state to support a constitutional amendment overturning Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United. Such an amendment is critical to getting big money out of politics, and members of Congress, major reform groups and millions of Americans agree.

Public opinion is clear: voters support campaign finance reform, and when given the chance to vote in favor of it, they do. Just this past November, voters in Seattle and Maine passed measures that put in place or strengthened programs to amplify the voices of ordinary people in elections, and to provide opportunities for candidates who want to be competitive in fundraising without being beholden to a few big donors. On the amendment front, more than 680 towns and cities have passed resolutions supporting an amendment to the Constitution, in addition to the sixteen states that have already done so.  

While getting Initiative 735 on the ballot is a significant breakthrough, the work is far from over.  We need to win this at the polls in November. Voters in Washington state now have the power to be next in line when it comes to taking a stand for our democracy. While big money continues to pour into the 2016 elections, initiatives like this one remind us that our system is ultimately still accountable to “We the People.” 

PFAW

Supreme Court Goes Back to Work in January and Shows Again Why Election Day is Judgment Day

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

After a Holiday break, the Supreme Court returned to a full schedule of arguments and other activity in January. The crucial oral argument before the Court this month in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, as well as several cases that the Court agreed to review later this year, again show that on a variety of important issues, the Court has enormous influence but is closely divided. With the president elected in November likely to select as many as four new Supreme Court justices beginning as early as next year, the person we elect as president will be critical. That’s why Election Day 2016 will be Judgment Day for the Court and our rights and liberties.

Friedrichs is the latest battle in what the New York Times has called the “war on workers” and unions being waged by Justice Alito and other conservatives on the Court. A primary target of that war has been a decision almost 40 years ago inAbood v. Detroit Board of Education. In that case the Court determined that although workers cannot be forced to join a union or contribute to its political activities, since that would violate their First Amendment rights, they can be required to help pay for the costs of collective bargaining and related activities from which they benefit even if they are not union members. That solution to what would otherwise be a “free rider” problem is crucial to the ability of unions to effectively represent the interests of workers.  Even though a unanimous Supreme Court recognized the principle of Abood as recently as 2009, subsequent 5-4 decisions written by Justice Alito have criticized that ruling and effectively invited attempts to overturn it. That is exactly what the plaintiffs in Friedrichs, a small group of California teachers, are attempting to do, claiming they should not have to join or pay “fair share” costs to the state teachers union and that Abood should be overturned.

The justices’ comments at the oral argument made clear that the conservative 5-4 majority remains hostile to unions and Abood, and may well be prepared to overrule it this year. (As usual, Justice Thomas did not speak at the argument, but his negative views in this area have been made clear in past opinions). Particularly troubling were some comments by Justice Kennedy, who is often the “swing” vote on the Court, but in this case maintained that “free riders” are really “compelled riders” who, he claimed, are forced to support unions on “issues on which they strongly disagree.” Regardless of the merits of that claim, on which many have disagreed, it strongly suggests that there may now be five votes to overturnAbood, with disastrous consequences for unions and workers.

It is impossible, of course, to predict the precise outcome of a Supreme Court case based on the oral argument, and the Court could issue a decision that does not completely overrule Abood. The Court could send the case back to a lower court for specific fact-finding on issues like the impact of eliminating “free rider” payments on unions, as was suggested at one point in the argument, or could limit its holding to the specific case in California. Particularly if the Court chooses one of those alternatives, the question of who will replace older justices like Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Scalia when they retire will be critical. That is why the election in November of our next president, who will nominate such replacements, is crucial for the Court and workers’ rights. Even an outright overruling of Abood could be softened or revisited, but only if a progressive president is elected and selects more progressives Justices for the Court.

During January, the Court also agreed to review several important cases on other subjects this year. The case that has generated the most controversy is United States v. Texas, where lower courts have put on hold the president’s executive orders on immigration that would defer deportation enforcement against millions of undocumented immigrants who have children who are citizens or legal permanent residents and would be able to apply for jobs and stay in the U.S. for three years.  Twenty-six states led by Texas filed the challenge, and the huge partisan divide on the question almost guarantees that it will be an election issue this fall. The most extreme Justices on the Court (Scalia, Alito and Thomas) have voted against virtually every significant Obama initiative that has come before the Court, and the Court’s decision to add a question for the parties to address - whether the Obama order is consistent with the Constitution’s language that the president should “take care” that federal laws be “faithfully executed” -- suggests deep skepticism by some of the justices. The decision itself could have a huge impact not only on this specific issue, but also on the ability of a future progressive president to take other executive action in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. However this case is decided, there is also little question that these issues will return to the Court in 2017 or later, and the views of the president who will appoint future justices will be crucial to the results. 

The Court also decided in January to review several other important cases this year. In one, the Court has been asked to decide whether a state constitution can more strictly separate church and state than the increasingly conservative Supreme Court has and can prohibit any direct state financial aid to religious institutions. Thirty-five states have such constitutional provisions, and the Court is very divided on such religion issues, which are very likely to come up in the future as well. And in another big business vs. consumers case, the Court will consider what must be proven to prosecute someone for illegally using inside company information for stock or other trading. This issue has divided lower courts, one of which has adopted a narrow interpretation that has dealt a significant setback to the efforts of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to crack down on insider trading in the $3 trillion hedge fund industry. The Court is likely to be divided on this issue as well.

The Court’s decisions in both these cases later this year will be important in and of themselves. But they are also very unlikely to be the last word on the significant big business, consumer, and religion issues they raise. The fact that these and other crucial issues will be decided by this divided Court in the future, and the fact that four justices on the current Court will be over 80 in the next president’s first term, is what makes the identity of the president who will appoint future justices so important. Statements this month by both Democratic and Republican candidates show that, even as they also discuss other issues, they clearly recognize the importance of the election for the future direction of the Court. In short, Election Day 2016 truly is Judgment Day for the Supreme Court and for all of our rights and liberties.

PFAW

Supreme Court Rejects Attempt At Restrictive Six-Week Abortion Ban

There has long been a debate raging within the anti-abortion movement between those who have mapped out a careful strategy to slowly chip away at Roe v. Wade through incremental restrictions on abortion and those who want to launch legal broadsides against abortion rights in the hopes that one will take Roe down once and for all.

The incrementalists will have their big day in court on March 2, when the Supreme Court hears arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a challenge to a set of laws in Texas that seeks to cut off access to legal abortion even as the procedure remains legal. Whole Woman’s Health is the culmination of a decades-long strategy by groups like Americans United for Life to choke off abortion access by creating unnecessary regulations on clinics. These groups are also hoping to get the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe in the form of laws banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, just before when the court has said that abortion bans are legal.

But those who want to find a silver bullet to end abortion rights completely just had a day in court too … and it didn’t go well for them.

The Supreme Court today declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down North Dakota’s “fetal heartbeat” law, which would have banned abortion at about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know that they are pregnant. The law was clearly unconstitutional — one prominent anti-choice lawyer has called such efforts “futile” — but North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said that it was an “attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”

The boundaries of Roe v. Wade, it turns out, however much they may be weakened by incremental restrictions, still prevent banning almost all abortions.

Yet today’s rejection is unlikely to halt the efforts of “heartbeat bill” crusaders, the most prominent of whom is Religious Right activist Janet Porter, who is currently running for the legislature in her home state of Ohio in an effort to push such a bill through.

PFAW

PFAW, Code Pink and Allies Speak Out Against Trump

Donald Trump has established himself as the candidate of hatred and bigotry, and he's dragging the rest of the party along with him. Anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric has become the norm in the GOP presidential debates, as Trump's policy proposals become more absurdly racist and xenophobic -- like a ban on allowing any Muslims to enter the United States.

In the face of this, the progressive movement is standing up for what's right. Over 30,000 PFAW members have already pledged to stand strongly against fascist policies that restrict our basic rights, like the ones Trump has built his campaign on. And our allies at CODEPINK are leading the #StopHateDumpTrump campaign, calling on Americans of all political affiliations to speak out in every way possible against political fear-mongering.

Together, we are pledging to take action in the face of hatred and bigotry that stand in stark contrast to our fundamental American values. 

PFAW

Republican Presidential Candidates: End Your Campaigns of Hate

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

It seems there's no end to the Republican presidential candidates' campaigns of hate. As showcased by last week's Republican debate, their deeply-troubling rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims has become a standard talking point. It's impossible to turn on the TV without hearing the newest iteration of the candidates' hateful stances.

Sitting through last week's debate was nothing short of painful. Donald Trump doubled down on his commitment to ban Muslims from entering the United States. All the candidates were united in their anti-refugee stances.

Of course, it's not just debates where the Republican candidates spew their xenophobia. Their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies are flooding the airwaves. The ad Donald Trump released recently is focused on banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and paints immigrants as a danger to national security. Trump's fellow Republican contenders have been mirroring his language. As Marco Rubio campaigns throughout the country, he's repeating the talking point he used in the last debate, that all immigrants and refugees pose a terrorist threat to America. He also has gone so far as to accuse President Obama, our Commander in Chief, of having "deliberately weakened America." Ted Cruz, for his part, is trying to out-Trump Trump. He too released a new TV ad that falsely portrays immigrants as taking jobs and draining the U.S. economy and he'sproposing not only that the US should not accept any Syrian refugees, but that we should expel refugees who are already here.

That's not the American way. As President Obama said at the State of the Union: "We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn't a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of understanding what makes us strong."

It's time for the Republican candidates to end their campaigns of hate. The bigoted rhetoric and policy positions we're hearing from these candidates go against core American values. They don't merit discussion at the kitchen table, and they certainly don't merit discussion at a debate for those aspiring to the nation's highest office.

Sadly, I'm not holding my breath for Republicans to stop vilifying Muslims or immigrants.

As the Republican presidential candidates continue their attacks, it's critical that ordinary Americans stand up for the values we know are right. The message we heard from President Obama during the State of the Union, his call to embrace diversity and our history as a nation that welcomes immigrants and refugees, is rooted in our country's deepest principles, and no matter what happens in the GOP primary, that's the message we need to carry forward.

PFAW

As Anti-Abortion Groups Gather in D.C., A New High Profile For A Radical Movement

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

This week, many of the various factions of the anti-abortion movement will gather in Washington for the March For Life, an annual event that marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

The wide array of events surrounding the march reflect many of the strands of the anti-choice movement. This morning, far-flung members of the “rescue” movement -- those who protest outside of clinics and sometimes harass providers and patients -- joined local activists who have been protesting at a new Planned Parenthood building, much to the dismay of the elementary school next door. On Wednesday, a group of demonstrators elsewhere in Washington mistakenly protested outside of a closed Planned Parenthood building. Over the next few days, young activists will have two rallies and a conference dedicated just to them. Lawyers and law students will meet about legal strategies for turning back abortion rights. For the first time, there will be a conference focused on evangelicals.

But many of these events will be connected by the presence of one familiar face: David Daleiden, the young activist whose “sting” operation against Planned Parenthood has shaken up the anti-abortion movement. Daleiden isn’t scheduled for a main-stage slot at the march, but he’ll be making appearances at the Planned Parenthood protest, the evangelical summit, the lawyers’ event and a Family Research council event, along with a related Students for Life event on the West Coast on Sunday.

Daleiden’s influence will likely be felt even at events where he isn’t present: The keynote speech at the march itself will be delivered by Carly Fiorina, the Republican presidential candidate who has routinely recited a false story of what she claims to have seen in one of Daleiden’s films.

The central role of Daleiden in this week’s events reflects the extent to which his project, which stemmed from one of the most radical strands of the anti-choice movement, has brought radical protest groups back to prominence and shifted the strategy and priorities of the more “mainstream” parts of the movement.

Last summer, Daleiden started releasing a series of videos, taken undercover in conversations with Planned Parenthood employees, which he claimed showed the women’s health organization illegally profiting off fetal tissue donated for research. Those claims didn’t hold up, but they opened up a new line of attack for the anti-choice movement -- along with a new wave of violence -- that culminated in the recent votes in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, something that anti-choice leaders say they will now be able to do once and for all if a Planned Parenthood foe is elected president. Planned Parenthood is now suing Daleiden and his accomplices.

This renewed focus on Planned Parenthood has helped to elevate the rescue movement, which Daleiden’s project grew out of. Two of Daleiden’s closest advisors, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman and Life Dynamics’ Mark Crutcher, helped to pioneer the strategy of cutting down access to abortion by making life miserable for abortion providers and patients. Crutcher has specialized in doing this through “sting” operations, including one that Daleiden’s was modeled after, and now hopes to train and “unleash a whole army of David Daleidens” on abortion providers.

Planned Parenthood has long been a target of these groups. After Daleiden started releasing his videos, anti-choice groups began directing their activists to protests in front of Planned Parenthood clinics led by some of the old guard of the rescue movement. This created what Newman described as “the largest coordinated protest of abortion clinics” since the prime of the rescue movement in the 1980s and 1990s.

Daleiden’s videos have also prompted a shift in how major anti-choice groups are talking about their work. Americans United for Life, the influential anti-abortion legal group, has been a leader in the strategy of pushing abortion restrictions in the name of “women’s health,” offering legislators anti-choice model bills through what it calls its “Women’s Protection Program.” But since Daleiden started releasing his videos, AUL has sensed an opportunity and started shifting its rhetoric toward legal rights for fetuses, launching what it calls an “Infants’ Protection Project” that quietly aims to build on “personhood” protections for fetuses.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the anti-choice campaign powerhouse Susan B. Anthony List, told ProPublica that in Daleiden’s videos, her group “saw our opening -- and we jumped all in.”

That has certainly also been the case with Fiorina and her fellow Republican presidential candidates, nearly all of whom say they want to remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood’s services to low-income women (none of which goes towards abortions), and several of whom have vowed to attempt to ban all abortion, some through a radical “personhood” strategy.

The official theme of this year’s March for Life is “Pro-Life and Pro-Woman go Hand in Hand,” a nod to the strategy of portraying abortion restrictions as protections for women. But it seems likely that it will be hard to escape Daleiden’s attack on Planned Parenthood and its aftermath.


PFAW

Divided Supreme Court Issues Good Decision in Important Class Action Case

On Wednesday of this week, in an important case on class actions previewed last September by PFAWF, the Supreme Court handed down a good ruling for consumers concerning class actions. This was an unusual development for the Roberts-Alito Court, which has generally gone along with big business efforts to limit class actions as an important remedy. This time, although Roberts and Alito (and Scalia) dissented, six justices led by Justice Ginsburg rejected a corporation’s effort to hurt consumers.

Class actions are a crucial type of lawsuit that allows consumers and others with relatively small individual claims to band together and seek large amounts of damages to help hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing. In this case, Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, the corporation had violated federal law by sending unwanted telephone solicitations to some 100,000 people. Jose Gomez got one of those solicitations and filed a lawsuit, asking  for the maximum statutory remedy for himself of $1500 but also seeking to bring a class action on behalf of the tens of thousands of other people who received the unwanted solicitations. The corporation tried to end the suit by offering to pay Mr. Gomez  his $1500 and then arguing that its offer ended the lawsuit and the basis for the class action.  If allowed, that would give corporations an easy and inexpensive way to prevent most class action lawsuits.

The Supreme Court rejected the corporation’s ploy in a 6-3 vote. As Justice Ginsburg explained, if a plaintiff like Mr. Gomez rejects an offer, even if it is for the maximum amount that could be recovered individually, the case remains alive and able to be pursued  as a class action.  Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Alito and Scalia, dissented and argued, as they usually do, that the corporation should prevail , since it was willing to give Mr. Gomez “everything he asks for.” As Justice Ginsburg explained in response, that “would place the defendant in the driver’s seat”, improperly allowing corporations to spend minimal amounts to pay off individual plaintiffs and forestall class actions.

This decision will not remedy the damage that the Roberts-Alito Court has previously done, and could well do in the future, to limit class actions and harm consumers. And the Court left open the question of whether a corporation can stop a class action by formally placing the full amount of an individual’s claim in an account and getting a lower court to rule for the individual and dismiss the class action claim. This loophole should be closed by the Court, as the New York Times explained, to “protect what remains of the class action from the unrelenting efforts of business to undermine it.” At least in this case, however, even Roberts and Alito could not muster the votes needed to further harm consumers and help big business.

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Hosts Briefing & Rallies at the Supreme Court for Workers’ Rights Case

Just hours after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in a case that will likely have a profound impact on the rights of working people, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, People For the American Way hosted a member telebriefing to help unpack what’s at stake in the case.

On the call, PFAW Senior Fellow and constitutional law scholar Jamie Raskin explained that at issue in Friedrichs are “agency fees” that allow the costs of collective bargaining and other union benefits to be shared by all public sector employees rather than by union members alone. Attacking this practice amounts to “a broad-based assault on public sector unions,” Raskin said.

PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker situated the case within the context of the Roberts-Alito Court’s pro-corporate record, where the high court has consistently privileged the interests of corporations over the rights of individual people, such as in the Citizens United decision.

“Workers have a right to stand up for themselves” and to “represent their own interests,” Baker added.

Before the telebriefing, PFAW staff and supporters were at the Supreme Court demonstrating in support of the rights of working people as the justices heard arguments in the case.


You can listen to the full telebriefing below, and read affiliate PFAW Foundation’s new report on “Corporations, Unions, and Constitutional Democracy” here.

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PFAW

Hillary Clinton Lays Out Her Vision For the Supreme Court

In an op-ed today in the Boston Globe, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes on what may be the biggest issue at stake in the 2016 election: the future of the US Supreme Court.

The court’s decisions have a profound impact on American families. In the past two decades alone, it effectively declared George W. Bush president, significantly weakened the Voting Rights Act, and opened the door to a flood of unaccountable money in our politics. It also made same-sex marriage legal nationwide, preserved the Affordable Care Act not once but twice, and ensured equal access to education for women.

On Election Day, three of the current justices will be over 80 years old, which is past the court’s average retirement age. The next president could easily appoint more than one justice. That makes this a make-or-break moment — for the court and our country.

That’s true. As People For the American Way recently laid out in our Judgment Day report, virtually every single important issue—from voting rights to guns to reproductive freedom to workplace fairness to the environment and beyond—will be at stake before the Supreme Court. And because the Justices most likely to retire in the next few years come from both sides of the bench, our country has the opportunity to pull the Court from its dangerous rightward lurch of the last decade—or to solidify a far-right majority for a generation.

But just as important as preventing the next president from appointing more Justices in the mold of Scalia, Thomas and Alito, we need to elect a President who will appoint extraordinary jurists who understand the profoundly progressive nature of our constitution. In her op-ed, Senator Clinton lays out what that looks like.

As president (and a lawyer and former law professor), I’ll appoint justices who will protect the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or political viewpoint; make sure the scales of justice aren’t tipped away from individuals toward corporations and special interests; and protect citizens’ right to vote, rather than billionaires’ right to buy elections.

Secretary Clinton isn’t alone in laying out a progressive vision for the Court. Senator Bernie Sanders has spoken repeatedly about the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United and how we need to "overturn this disastrous decision.”  And Governor Martin O’Malley has promised to “appoint judges who don't think corporations are people.”

All of this is good news for progressives—and why People For the American Way has been pushing so hard for more conversation about the importance of the Supreme Court as we head into the 2016 election. But it’s not enough.

In the coming weeks and months we’ll continue to push candidates of both parties to make clear what kind of judges they’d appoint to our nation’s highest courts, because, as Secretary Clinton says, “There’s a lot at stake in this election. Nowhere is this clearer than in the US Supreme Court.”
 

PFAW

PFAW’s Latinos Vote! 2015 Highlights

2015 was a banner year for People For the American Way’s Latinos Vote! program, which works to expose and counter anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric and policies from the far-right, the Republican Party, and GOP presidential candidates.

In 2015, PFAW was on the ground in key states discussing the importance of the Latino vote and the extreme agendas of the Republican Party and its presidential candidates. Frequently, we were joined by PFAW board member and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta in our efforts. PFAW also launched numerous Spanish-language radio and digital ads as part of our program.

PFAW’s Latinos Vote! 2015 Highlights

GOP Debates

Colorado

Leading up to the Republican debate in Colorado, PFAW organized a Latino voters and leaders roundtable to address the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric and stances of the GOP candidates. Dolores Huerta and CO State Rep. Salazar headlined the event. Huerta also joined PFAW to participate in the My Country, My Vote rally in Boulder, CO before the debate.

Selected coverage:

NBC.com: Before GOP Debate, Political Opposites Condemn Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Fox News Latino: Latinos analizan inmigración y otros temas prioritarios en encuentro Denver

Univision Denver: Dolores Huerta conversa con votantes hispanos en Colorado

Telemundo Denver: Candidatos republicanos debatirán en Colorado

Latin Life Denver: “If We Don’t Vote The Haters Win,” Dolores Huerta, Colorado Latino Leaders and Voters Speak Out Against Republican Candidates

Wisconsin

Before the GOP debate in Wisconsin, Dolores Huerta joined PFAW staff and activists in Milwaukee to protest the extreme Republican candidates. PFAW partnered with local groups including Voces de la Frontera for a press conference and rally.

Selected coverage:

Univision: Debate republicano se llevaría a cabo en medio del tema migratorio

Latina Magazine: Dolores Huerta Sounds Off On the GOP Candidates for President

The Nation: A Billionaire, Some Millionaires, and a No-Show Senator Debate How Best to Block Wage Hikes

Telemundo Wisconsin: Dolores Huerta participó en una marcha en protesta al debate republicano en Milwaukee

CBS 58: 'Stop the Hate' Group to March Tuesday

Nevada

Huerta also traveled with PFAW to Las Vegas, Nevada for the most recent GOP debate. She participated in a Latino voters and leaders roundtable and spoke at the #NoHateDebate rally outside of the debate.

Selected coverage:

PBS Las Vegas: Ralston Live

El Tiempo: “Latinos decidan próximas elecciones”: Dolores Huerta

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Candidates Roll Through Las Vegas Ahead of Tuesday’s Debate

Univision Las Vegas: Varios manifestantes se expresan en contra de discursos anti-inmigrantes de pre-candidatos a la pres

An opinion piece by Dolores was also published on Univision.com before the debate: “Dolores Huerta: La guerra abierta de los republicanos contra latinos e inmigrantes.”

Statewide Elections

Virginia

Leading up to Virginia’s State Senate elections, PFAW launched the first Spanish-language ads to use Trump’s bigoted rhetoric to encourage voters to turn out to the polls. Dolores Huerta also joined PFAW staff and activists on the ground to get out the vote in Northern Virginia.

Selected coverage:

USA Today: How Trump is Helping Clinton: Latino Mobilization Takes Shape

Reuters: Trump Becomes Poster Boy for Efforts to Mobilize 2016 Latino Voters

Washington Post: Anti-Trump Ads to Soon Air on Spanish-Language Radio Stations in Northern Virginia

Washington Post: Democrats Use Anti-Trump Sentiment to Win Latino Votes in Local Elections

El Tiempo Latino: Dolores Huerta: “el voto latino traerá el cambio”

La Opinion: “Callarle la bocota a Trump”: comercial electoral enfocado en movilizar enojo de latinos

Huerta also appeared on Telemundo DC on the weekend leading up to the election to discuss the importance of the Latino vote and encourage voters to cast a ballot in the upcoming elections.

North Carolina

Dolores Huerta traveled with PFAW to North Carolina to get out the vote leading up to local elections in North Carolina, and to protest Gov. McCrory’s decision to sign a severely anti-immigrant bill, HB-318, into law.

In addition to numerous Spanish-language radio interviews, top coverage included:

La Noticia: Dolores Huerta: A votar para sacar a los antiinmigrantes del gobierno

El Progreso Hispano: Dolores Huerta rechaza en Charlotte la HB318

Mundo Latino: ¡A Votar!…es el mensaje para los nuevos ciudadanos USCIS juramentó a 50 nuevos ciudadanos en Charlotte

Scott Walker ALEC Conference

Just after announcing his candidacy for the president, Scott Walker headlined the annual meeting of the far-right, corporate-led American Legislative Exchange Council in California. Dolores Huerta joined PFAW to protest the event on the ground, and PFAW launched Spanish- and English- language ads in Wisconsin, California, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, and North Carolina targeting Walker for his ALEC appearance and anti-immigrant stances.

Watch the ads here.

Selected coverage:

Los Angeles Times: In San Diego, Union Members Protest Conservative Group’s Gathering

Latin Post: Scott Walker on Immigration: Progressive Groups, Civil Rights Icon Dolores Huerta Takes Aim at 'Terrible' Walker

Fox News Latino: Activistas reciben con protestas reunión de ALEC en California

Jeb Bush Presidential Announcement

PFAW ran digital ads on Univision.com and in Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia the week that Jeb Bush announced his campaign for president. The ad highlighted Bush’s opposition to the minimum wage and to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Watch the ad here.

Selected coverage:

La Opinion: Dolores Huerta: “Jeb Bush Dice lo Que le Conviene”

Sunshine State News: On His Announcement Day, Democrats Go After Jeb Bush

The Pueblo Chieftain: Huerta: Jeb Bush Against Latinos

Viva Colorado also ran a piece by Dolores Huerta that targeted Bush for his harmful rhetoric and policies following his presidential announcement, “Un vistazo al precandidato republicano Jeb Bush.”

Marco Rubio Presidential Announcement

On the morning that Marco Rubio officially launched his presidential campaign, PFAW released Spanish-language radio ads that ran in Florida and Colorado criticizing Rubio for his dangerous agenda that ignores the interests of working families, including Latinos.

Listen to the ad, and read the English translation, here.

Selected coverage:

Tampa Bay Times: Spanish-Language Radio Ad Goes After Marco Rubio

El Nuevo Herald: El republican Marco Rubio se lanza a la presidencia

The Hill: Progressives: Rubio Bad for Middle Class

Dolores Huerta also published an op-ed in Florida’s El Nuevo Herald following Rubio’s announcement, “Marco Rubio, el candidato equivocado.”

Additional Highlights

In January, PFAW teamed up with American Bridge to release a Spanish language ad targeting Majority Whip Steve Scalise for speaking to a white supremacist group and calling out the Republican Party for its embrace of extremism.

Early this year, PFAW released a new report on the Libre Initiative, a right-wing organization attempting to win over Latino votes for the Republican Party, as part of our efforts to counter the Koch-funded organization.

Throughout 2015, PFAW has continually spoken out as GOP presidential candidates and the Republican Party followed Trump’s lead in anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric and policy positions. Additional press highlights, including op-eds by PFAW staff and PFAW board member Dolores Huerta included:

Univision: Al Punto con Jorge Ramos

USA Today: Dolores Huerta: El poder de la comunidad hispana el día de las elecciones

Univision.com: Marco Rubio eliminará la protección a jóvenes indocumentados aún sin reforma migratoria

Latin Post: People for the American Way's Carlos Sanchez Says GOP Needs Accountability in Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Fox News Latino: Opinion: GOP Targets Latinos’ Ability to Vote

El Tiempo Latino: Por qué los candidatos republicanos son malos para nuestra comunidad

Latina Magazine: Marco Rubio Says He’d End DACA if President

2016 Elections

PFAW’s Latinos Vote! program in 2016 will continue to expose and counter anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric and policies of the Republican Party and GOP presidential candidates. For more information about our program, please contact Laura Epstein (lepstein@pfaw.org).

 

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PFAW

Merry Christmas, Kentucky: Gov. Bevin Strips Voting Rights of 140,000 and Lowers Minimum Wage

Just in time for the holidays!

Kentucky’s brand new Tea Party governor just broke a campaign promise and REVERSED a positive move by his Democratic predecessor that had restored voting rights to some 140,000 Kentuckians.

Once again, Kentucky will be one of the very few states where people with felony convictions remain disenfranchised after completing their sentences. As ThinkProgress points out, this means that one in five African Americans in the state will be disenfranchised. Studies show that ex-felon disenfranchisement leads to higher rates of recidivism.  

Oh, and Bevin also lowered the minimum wage.

ThinkProgress has more:

In another executive order this week, Bevin reversed former Gov. Beshear’s move to raise the state’s minimum wage for government workers and contractors to $10.10 an hour, bringing it back down to $7.25 an hour. About 800 state workers who have already gotten raises will be able to keep them, but new hires will now have to start at the lower pay rate. In the order, Bevin hinted that he would prefer the state have no minimum wage at all: “Wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government,” he said.

PFAW

Dolores Huerta Joins PFAW for GOP Debate in Las Vegas

Leading up to the December 15 Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, PFAW board member Dolores Huerta traveled to Las Vegas to speak with Nevada voters about the dangerous platforms of Republican presidential candidates. The trip was part of PFAW’s Latinos Vote! program, and this was the third GOP debate where Huerta joined PFAW on the ground to emphasize the extremism of the current Republican presidential candidates.

Her first stop was a Latino voters and leaders roundtable where she addressed the Republican candidates’ far-right platforms on a number of issues, including the environment, immigration, the minimum wage, and women’s health.

Huerta also headlined a press conference with unions and progressive organizations, and a #NoHateDebate rally outside of the debate. As the leading Nevada newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported, “Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and civil rights champion Dolores Huerta said ‘there's a war going on’ against women, labor unions and the environment, and it's being waged by the candidates who will take the stage in Las Vegas Tuesday night and their respective party.”

Watch her speech at the #NoHateDebate rally:

Mobilizing voters in Nevada will be a key to Democrats winning the White House in 2016. In 2008 and 2012, Obama won Nevada, but in the 2014 elections, Republicans won up and down the ticket. The state is one of the targets for PFAW’s Latinos Vote! program that works to expose and counter anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric and policies, as Nevada Latinos could be the margin of victory for Democrats in Nevada in 2016. While in 1994 Latino voters were just 5% of the electorate, they’re now 15% of the voting population. By speaking directly with Latino voters and to local media, Huerta was able to address how important the Latino vote will be in Nevada and the dangerous threat that the Republican presidential candidates pose to Latino and immigrant communities. 

PFAW

Report Calls For Stronger Accountability Against Charter School 'Profiteering'

A new report published this month by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder examines the ways that “charter school policy functions to promote privatization and profiteering.”

The report’s authors, Bruce Baker of Rutgers University and Gary Miron of Western Michigan University, identify four major policy concerns:

  1. A substantial share of public expenditure intended for the delivery of direct educational services to children is being extracted inadvertently or intentionally for personal or business financial gain, creating substantial inefficiencies;
  2. Public assets are being unnecessarily transferred to private hands, at public expense, risking the future provision of “public” education;
  3. Charter school operators are growing highly endogenous, self-serving private entities built on funds derived from lucrative management fees and rent extraction which further compromise the future provision of “public” education; and
  4. Current disclosure requirements make it unlikely that any related legal violations, ethical concerns, or merely bad policies and practices are not realized until clever investigative reporting, whistleblowers or litigation brings them to light. 

Al Jazeera America quotes National Education Policy Center Director Kevin Welner:

“What we found is that there are a host of real estate and tax laws that were not put in place with charter schools in mind, but that the owners of charter school enterprises are using in order to profit. I think that understanding the nature of the charter school gravy train, as I call it, is extremely important for the public and policymakers.”

Charter school laws across the country vary wildly in terms of accountability, and school privatization proponents have become big spenders on state-level politics and lobbying in order to win laws that maximize their access to cash while minimizing their accountability to the public.  A recent Associated Press investigation in Florida examined taxpayer funding for charter schools that closed down, finding that “charter schools that receive millions of taxpayer dollars often spend the money on non-tangible assets, including lease payments for facilities,” meaning there are few tangible assets for school districts or taxpayers to recover if a school closes.

Baker and Miron, the authors of the new NEPC report, argue that the “financial incentives embedded in state law, combined with the need for most of the companies to make a profit” have led to schools being run by charter chains or “educational management organizations” to operate “in ways that are often at odds with the goals of charter school reforms and, ultimately, the public interest.”

As we have noted before, all charter schools are not the same – some do an excellent job educating students and some do worse than their public school counterparts. But the original purpose of charter schools – to be labs allowing creative teachers some freedom to identify new approaches that could strengthen public schools – has frequently been flipped on its head, wrote Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter in “A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education.” Often teachers are forced to follow rigid rules while administrators and/or corporate operators rake in huge amounts of money diverted from public schools. Charters are often promoted under the broad  “school choice” mantle along with vouchers and other tax schemes as part of a broader privatization movement that seeks to dismantle public education and undermine teachers unions.

The NEPC report offers a set of specific policy recommendations designed to address areas of concern, improve transparency, and strengthen accountability for the public subsidies received by charter schools and management organizations that operate them. 

The need for greater accountability was also the focus of “The Tip of the Iceberg,” a report published earlier this year by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools and the Center for Popular Democracy, which estimated $1.4 billion would be lost to “corruption and mismanagement in charter schools” in 2015.

Change is possible. For years, Ohio’s charter school sector has been the source of embarrassment and scandal, characterized by the Columbus Dispatch as “[f]ailure to close poor-performing schools,mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, and an abundance of conflict of interest issues” -- what ProgressOhio called “a national joke.” Earlier this year, the man chosen by to oversee charter school accountability in the state was forced to resign “after getting caught manipulating school ratings to cover up for chronically failing online charter schools.” But after previously failed attempts to reform the state’s charters, a new law passed this fall with bipartisan support. And in November ProgressOhio cheered the announcement that Richard Ross would step down from his position as State Superintendent of Education, which the group said “gives the state a chance to properly enforce a sweeping new charter school accountability law.”

 

PFAW