Tag Archives: USA

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your day.

If you are not making dinner, go to a church or homeless shelter to volunteer to serve others. It will remind you of your blessings and good fortune. Former President Obama helped prepare food bags for those in need in Chicago

The spirit of giving is contagious.

When we think of those to whom we are thankful, we Think first of family and loved ones.

We think of you, who take time from your day to read what we write.

We think of the teachers in Maryland, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina, and Arizona who taught the nation a lesson.

We think of all those who work tirelessly for others to make our communities better places to live.

Despite our woes in Maryland and in Prince George’s county in particular, we have much to be thankful for.

Reform Sasscer Movement’s secretariat.

Email campaign urges teachers across Maryland to consider leaving unions in wake of Supreme Court decision

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A Michigan-based “free market” think tank is emailing teachers across Maryland urging them to drop their union memberships in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that said public employees cannot be forced to pay union fees.

Teachers and union officials say they have been alarmed by the email campaign and question how its organizers gained access to school system email addresses.

The email from the “My Pay, My Say” campaign says government workers “now have a real choice when it comes to their unions. … Whether it’s disagreements about politics, concerns about a lack of local representation, problems with union spending or something else — you now have the right to stop paying for activities you don’t support.”

Rogie Legaspi, a seventh-grade life sciences teacher at Hamilton Elementary/Middle School, was puzzled when the email came to his school system address, which he keeps separate from a personal email account. It arrived shortly after the Supreme Court ruling in late June.

“This came through my work email, and how they did it was a puzzle to me,” said Legaspi, a Baltimore Teachers Union member for a decade. “It’s encouraging union members to give up their memberships, and they’re basically saying you can save a couple of dollars.”

The “My Pay, My Say” campaign was organized by The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which describes itself as a nonpartisan research and educational institute that has long championed national issues of worker freedom. Its campaign was spurred by the federal justices’ 5-4 vote to overturn a 41-year-old precedent and rule that the 1st Amendment protects teachers, police officers and other public employees from being required to support a private group whose views may differ from theirs.

The court’s decision in Janus vs. AFSCME, seen as a setback for public sector unions, struck down laws in Maryland and other mostly Democratic-leaning states that allowed unions to negotiate contracts requiring all employees to pay a so-called fair share fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining, even those who opted out of membership.

Baltimore Teachers Union president Marietta English said the email blast is emblematic of a “drop the union” message right-wing groups are pushing in the wake of the court’s decision. But she said the effort is largely futile here, given that her union is now seeing its highest membership numbers ever: 95 percent.

“These billionaires are trying to cut out the voice of the working class,” she said. “It’s not working.”

Lagaspi echoed English.

“For me, the unions support the working class people and the very profession we love is protected,” Legaspi said. “It fights for a lot of things teachers want, such as full funding of schools.”

The Mackinac campaign has targeted public employees across the country, including teachers, police and fire workers and city and county employees, through email, social media and meetings, said Lindsay Killen, the institute’s vice president for strategic outreach and communications. Killen said the group has been building email contact lists for years, often obtaining the publicly available information through freedom of information requests.

“To the extent that union leaders are unhappy with the fact that we’re reaching out to workers in their school systems or places of work, we would assert that those individuals deserve to know what their rights are, and they have a choice,” said Killen, adding that the group stops short of encouraging workers to opt out of unions. “If unions are truly providing a valuable service to members, their members are more likely to stay, and they have nothing to fear from those members being armed with information about their rights.”

Mackinac is one of numerous groups that reportedly have launched public campaigns in the wake of the Janus decision, including Washington-based Freedom Foundation, the Commonwealth Foundation, the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and Americans for Prosperity. According to website Conservative Transparency, donors to Mackinac in 2014 and in prior years, have included the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, launched in 1989 by President Donald Trump’s education secretary and her husband.

In the days after the Janus decision, teachers throughout the state received “My Pay, My Say” emails, said Adam Mendelson, a spokesman for the Maryland State Education Association, which represents 74,000 members, teachers, support staff and administrators in all state jurisdictions except Baltimore.

They received “spam-type emails in their inboxes from billionaire-funded extremist political groups … to try to convince them to give away their voice and their contracts,” Mendelson said. “They don’t have educators and Maryland students’ best interests in mind.”

Mendelson said he heard from members in Anne Arundel, Frederick, Prince George’s, Carroll and Howard counties and from the Eastern Shore but did not know how many received the emails.

Annie Cumberland, a media specialist at Northwest Middle School in Carroll County, who received an email, said she wasn’t surprised that people were “already trying to bust up our unions” soon after the Janus decision. But she was upset to learn that the DeVos foundation made past contributions to the campaign’s organizer.

“This is someone who has a major, influential position in our country, who in one way or another is not supporting public education when that is her number one job,” Cumberland said.

English criticized The Mackinac Center for accessing teachers’ work email addresses and using them to try and sway opinions.

Edie M. House-Foster, the city schools’ spokeswoman, said the system did not provide teacher email addresses or sanction the letter.

“We don’t know how they got them,” she said.“They could have harvested them a variety of ways.”

In an email to teachers and staff following the “My Pay, My Say” email blast, the district said it is not affiliated with the sender and does not interfere in issues related to union membership.

English said no other anti-union materials have been reported to the BTU since the Janus decision. At the same time, the union has sent out emails and made house calls to teachers on the fence about becoming full members, urging them to remember that “we are stronger together.”

The union counts roughly 7,000 teachers and paraprofessionals as full members of the union. Prior to the Janus decision, about 450 people paid agency fees but were not full members, union officials said. Since the decision, 20 of those teachers have signed membership cards, and roughly 100 more have signaled their interest in joining the union.

English estimated the union will lose out on about $300,000 now that teachers aren’t compelled to pay those fees. The union has been bracing for this for years, as the Janus case wound its way through the court system.

The union doesn’t anticipate any vital programming will be cut. Rather, the group has been implementing proactive cost-saving measures, like letting vacancies go unfilled.

It’s not surprising that such a campaign would focus on teachers, who are among the most identifiable of public sector unionized employees, said Michael Hayes, a labor law professor at the University of Baltimore.

The friction between unions and anti-union opponents stretches back decades, but has become more partisan in recent years, Hayes said.

“Now it’s a given that public sector unions support Democrats and opponents will support Republicans,” Hayes said. “It’s quite a tug of war we’ve got going.”

Jimmy Gittings, president of the city school system administrators’ union, said no anti-union messaging has been reported since the Janus decision. Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the city school police union and vice president of the state Fraternal Order of Police, said he hasn’t heard of any anti-union messaging in either capacity.

“We haven’t faced that issue at all,” Boatwright said.

The Janus case grew out of a Supreme Court decision in 1977 that said public employees may not be forced to pay union dues if some of the money went for political contributions. At the time, the justices upheld the lesser “fair share” fees on the theory that all employees benefited from a union contract and its grievance procedures.

The current, more conservative court disagreed last month and said employees have a right not to give any support to a union. These payments were described as a form of “compelled speech,” which violates the 1st Amendment.

The anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, which funded the challenge, predicted the ruling would free more than 5 million public employees from supporting their unions.

Richard Vatz, a Towson University professor of rhetoric and communication, said a weaker union would have an effect on teacher pay.

“It reduces the bargaining power,” he said.

Despite that, he said he supports the Janus decision.

“I think it is wrong particularly of that profession that they sacrifice academic freedom to increase the efficacy of their bargaining power,” he said.

Mackinac’s Killen said it’s too soon to know the campaign’s impact. But so far, she said, thousands of people in all 50 states have visited the website for information or to fill out a form, customized for each state, to opt out of a union.

Hayes said the effectiveness of the “My Pay, My Say” campaign will vary from area to area.

“They might make more headway in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore than the city of Baltimore,” he said.

Via Baltimore Sun

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Prince George’s offers plan to tighten grading controls after claims of fraud

MAXWELL-1672x1254Prince George’s County officials will tighten practices for changing student grades, monitoring absenteeism and certifying graduation requirements under a plan that follows an investigation of alleged fraud in graduation rates.

The 40-page plan, slated for discussion by the county school board Tuesday evening, is expected to go to state officials by month’s end, in answer to wide-ranging problems detailed in a state report last month.

That report found nearly 5,500 grade changes in the days before commencement in 2016 and 2017 in the Maryland school system. A sampling of records showed that about 30 percent of students with late grade changes lacked documentation that justified graduation or were clearly ineligible, according to the report.

“We’re making a lot of significant changes,” said Kevin Maxwell, chief executive of the school system, the state’s second-largest. “It’s a serious issue and this is going to help us make sure we are doing everything possible to make sure that our students are ready to graduate on time and that the processes and procedures are followed.”

 The plan calls for stricter controls on access to student records, added training for employees and elimination of controversial “packets” of make-up work given to students hoping to recover from failing grades.

The district will move toward electronic grade-change forms, starting in a handful of schools in spring, to strengthen monitoring. Next school year, graduation certification also will be done electronically, rather than manually through “tally cards” — a change that officials said will improve and automate the process.

The district also will revise procedures for tracking attendance and clarify how unexcused absences will affect student grades. Students in jeopardy of failing a course may still enroll in credit recovery through an online program.

An outside firm will be hired to review how the district of more than 132,000 students has implemented recommended changes. Later, an outside firm will also audit a random selection of student grades and graduation requirements.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered the investigation in Prince George’s after a minority bloc on the school board urged that he look into evidence from whistleblowers that grades and credit counts were manipulated.

A D.C. firm — Alvarez & Marsal Public Sector Services — conducted the seven-week inquiry, looking into complaints, examining records and doing interviews at the county’s 28 high schools.

[Firm hired to probe graduation rates in Prince George’s County schools]

Four-year graduation rates in Prince George’s climbed from 74.1 percent in 2013 to 81.4 percent in 2016. While the rate is still lower than last year’s state average of 87.6 percent, the gain over that period was the largest of any school system in Maryland.

Maxwell had cited improvement in graduation rates as a signature accomplishment.

In an interview, he said he did not think the changes being made would reduce graduation rates in coming years.

“I certainly hope not,” he said, adding that educators are working hard to make sure students get the support they need.

The state-ordered report that was released in November did not find any improper action was ordered by school system leaders.

Asked what went wrong, Maxwell spoke about longtime procedural issues and high turnover among administrators in schools and the central office. He noted that some schools used out-of-date forms to make grade changes.

Others have said in recent weeks that more investigation is needed.

Edward Burroughs III, a member of the Board of Education’s minority bloc, said this month that the audit did not go far enough. He hinted that there were other complaints that were not explored.

Maxwell said he saw no reason to examine the issue further, calling the investigation a “very, very thorough” review that provided useful information about a serious matter.

Raaheela Ahmed, also a member of the board’s minority bloc, said she thinks accountability for improper action is important but wants to ensure the school system focuses on those who called the shots, not those who may have been pressured.

“I want to make sure the right people are being held accountable for the situation we’re in, and not the foot soldiers,” she said. “It’s a very complex situation, and you don’t want someone to be held responsible for something they were told to do by someone else.”

Curtis Valentine, a member of the board majority on this issue, said he appreciated the urgency Maxwell and other leaders gave to the problems identified in report, adding that they were proactive in addressing issues on credit recovery before the report came out. “This is one step, and I think another step is that parents and educators feel comfortable enough to come forward with any concerns about the implementation of the changes,” he said.

Via Washington post

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Democratic party machine in Maryland set for major losses in 2018 after coverups.

IMG_0351Here is a poster which will cost the Democratic Party in Maryland dearly in 2018. Unless Democratic Party machine in Maryland does something to change the perseption, Mr. Baker appears determined to go down with the entire Democratic Party system in Maryland after engaging in a series of misleading posts such as the one shown above.

Everybody knows Mr. Baker did not fight corruption. If anything, he promoted and covered up serious issues to the detriment of Prince George’s county. There continues to be major political violations including promotion of candidates with ties to corruption and corrupt networks such Mr. Calvin Hawkins. (See post below) Money disappeared under Mr. Hawkins and then covered up, yet he wants to be elected for at large seat in 2018. How is that going to happen without accountability? In this paper, we study candidate self-selection with respect to two dimensions of character: public spirit, which is defined as altruism toward other citizens, and honesty, which is defined as susceptibility to corruption. Those two characteristics impact the quality of governance, defined as the net benefit the representative citizen derives from the public sector. In our model, citizens who run for office may hope to benefit from both legitimate compensation (salary and ego-rents) and illicit compensation (contributions or bribes from interest groups). Moreover, dishonest citizens extract greater rents from holding office because of special interest politics. As a result, the citizens with the greatest incentive to run for office are those who are maximally dishonest, and either maximally or minimally public-spirited.

On another note, Others online feel that, Mr. Baker should retire and spend more time caring for his wife who has been sick. (See posts below). Either way, if Mr. Baker is going to be in the ballot for any position in the next several months, watch this space, the Maryland Democratic machine in Maryland will suffer loses never seen before. They will pay the price for cover up of corruption in multiple areas starting with the school systems.

The problem for Democrats is not money, Trump, or, even as some suggest, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The problem for Democrats is they suffer from a cultural detachment as shown in this case here or in the recent elections in the South and areas of the Midwest and now promotion of candidates such as Mr. Baker in Maryland. Until they are willing to accept candidates that don’t adhere to left-wing orthodoxy promulgated by the party at the national level, they’ll keep losing, just like they did in Georgia and South Carolina.

Contrary to the false narrative many helped build about people who live in the south, many of them are not the all-encompassing right-wing fanatics people make them out to be. They are sympathetic to Democratic positions on issues such as healthcare, entitlements and the economy.

Trump won big in the South because he stressed economic issues above all else, but he aligned himself with voters on cultural issues such as abortion and the Second Amendment. People in the South have concerns with trade practices, NAFTA and the lack of manufacturing jobs. But they also have guns to protect their homes and go to the range from time to time to shoot. They also sympathize with the unborn, and when Democrats condescendingly dismiss their concerns with a finger wag or adhere to Pelosi-held viewpoints, they look to Republicans.

Democratic Party in Maryland has been making positive statements on the surface and then doing the complete opposite is what will bring the party down hard. For example,.. …”Democrats know that achieving the American dream requires strong public schools that level the playing field for young people regardless of income, gender or race. And it requires an open heart and warm welcome to immigrants who seek opportunity to work and become Americans in our land of opportunity. Those are the values we will celebrate this holiday weekend at picnics, parades, and family parties all across our beautiful state of Maryland.” …. Those who are in touch with reality knows the opposite of this statement to be true.

Democrats have to change how they recruit candidates to run for offices in Maryland, the south and midwest. If they keep using the same playbook, there will be plenty of moral victories, but it will be Republicans taking oaths of office as the democratic party shrinks in numbers never seen before.

more to come.

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Rushern Baker says he stands by PGCPS Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell

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 Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker

MITCHELLVILLE, Md. – One day after the Prince George’s County NAACP sent a letter to County Executive Rushern Baker demanding that Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell’s new contract be put on hold as an investigation on allegations of grade fixing and fraud within the school system will be conducted, Baker said that he is standing by Maxwell.

Baker spoke to FOX 5 after holding his first campaign event for his run for Maryland governor.

“I made the decision that he was doing a good job for the county and when I reappointed him and sent him to the school board, I have all the confidence in the world that he is moving the school system in the direction it should be,” Baker said. “I have not changed that. My mind has not changed on that. I stand by him and I stand by the work that he has done.”

We asked if Baker would recommend the termination of Dr. Maxwell’s contract if the upcoming investigation finds the allegations are true. He said, “If it turns out that happened, there are a lot of things we will have to deal with. Not just Dr. Maxwell’s contract. There will be a lot of things, including the school board’s role in all of this.”

The investigation of Prince George’s County Public Schools comes on the heels of a FOX 5 investigation where teachers and parents were interviewed making the alarming assertions.

Baker does not believe the grades were changed.

“In order for what they are alleging to happen, that means thousands of teachers would have had to participate in this,” said Baker.

The county executive for Prince George’s County also released a statement earlier on Thursday saying:

I applaud Dr. Maxwell and the majority of the Board for asking the State Board of Education to conduct another investigation into the allegations of grade changing. Clearly they understand that these allegations are overshadowing the tremendous improvements our schools have made over the last 4 years. We have expanded all day Pre-K, provided more language arts and specialty programs, enrollment has steadily increased, 2 of our 29 high schools have made U.S. News and World Report’s Top High School list for two years straight, philanthropic support in our schools has increased and just this year, our graduates received $151,000,000 in college scholarships and our student’s college readiness for community college is now 3% less than the state average among first year community college entrants. Thanks to the hard work of our teachers, principals, parents and students we have made significant progress.

At the heart of the NAACP’s letter is their concern about these allegations and resolving whether they are true. Now that the MSDE will be investigating this matter, I am confident Dr. Maxwell and his staff will fully cooperate with the investigators as they look into this matter and resolve this matter once and for all.

via Fox5

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State lawmakers from Prince George’s seek broad probe of graduation rates

IMG_0158Members of the Prince George’s County’s legislative delegation joined the call Thursday for a state investigation into charges that county school officials doctored grades to increase promotion and graduation rates.

In a letter dated Thursday, the delegates called upon state Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon to examine the claims. The letter was signed by Dels. Jerry Walker and Geraldine Valentino-Smith, a Bowie resident and vice chairwoman of the delegation.

The claims were made by four members of the county school board, including David Murray and Raaheela Ahmed of Bowie.

“Given that the Maryland State Department of Education has oversight over public school districts in Maryland and the educational interests of the State, we respectfully request the resources of the Maryland State Department Education for purposes of an in-depth audit and further investigation of such serious allegations,” the delegates wrote.

The allegations of grade tampering came to light this week when county schools CEO Kevin Maxwell revealed that four school board sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, asking him to conduct an investigation into possible irregularities. He dismissed the claims as “politically motivated” and revealed that a similar probe conducted last fall turned up no evidence of grade-tampering. However, Dr. Maxwell has refused to sit down with reporters as such fox for on camera interview despite repeated requests.

At a jam-packed and often heated school board meeting Thursday night, during which the $1.9 billion school budget was passed, Maxwell repeated his defense of the school system.

“The false allegations about our graduation rates strike at everything that Prince George’s schools stand for – past, present and future,” Maxwell said. “These allegations denigrate why teachers teach and why principals lead. They are a personal attack on every teacher, counselor administrator and employee in this system.”

In their letter, the delegates said the state probe of anonymous allegations last fall did not go far enough because the school personnel interviewed in that investigation were selected by Maxwell.

“It has come to our attention that a high level of concern exists for those schools that experienced a significant change in graduation rate or that have a significant disparity between graduation rates and the performance of students on high school standardized tests,” delegates wrote. “We are also aware that the local change in grading policy may be causing both confusion and disagreement among teachers and parents and this issue could certainly be clarified through a careful MSDE review.”

County officials adopt slightly increased budget for FY 2018
The other nine school board members and a group of county high school principals released statements this week denying the charges and supporting Maxwell.

But Ahmed and Murray stood by their claims, saying Thursday they’d heard and seen enough evidence from system employees to indicate that something was amiss with the grading system. Hogan’s office has forwarded the letter to state education officials.

“There was enough information that I had received – testimony, having seen documents – that there convinced me there was reason for some of these things to be true,” Ahmed said. “I had reason to expect issues – widespread issues.”

Tracie Miller, principal of Gwynn Park High School, was joined by several other high school principals at the board meeting in Upper Marlboro as she spoke out in defense of her colleagues at the meeting.

“We, as high school principals, are extremely offended about the allegations and hurtful accusations that we pressure teachers to to give students grades in order to (increase) the graduation rate,” she said. Such claims, she added, “stain all of us.”

Many parents have come forward with information that their children grades appear suspicious after receiving an A in their report card. Other students who skipped school for many days got A’s and B’s as part of their grades in a shocking revelation to make the adminstration look good.

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