My opponent took majorities in nearly every community, nearly every ward or precinct. However, it was close in many of them. I even whipped him in a few places – mostly in White Oak and West Mifflin – my home town and his respectively.
But 41% to 58% just wasn’t enough to carry the day.
And if you’re wondering why that doesn’t equal 100%, there were about 1% write in voters, many of whom scribbled my opponent’s name so he could launch a Republican write-in challenge in the general election should he lose the primary.
That’s politics, I guess.
It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t worked so hard.
Or if I had seen him getting out there, too, and actively fighting for votes.
However, other than a single mailer, some signs and a few ads, he didn’t seem to do much more than he does on council – which is to say nothing.
I definitely outworked him.
I knocked on more than a thousand doors. During Covid. With a pre-existing health condition. I’d be surprised if he knocked on one.
I sent out several mailers, posted signs all over, made more than 1,600 texts, hundreds of phone calls. And I went to more events, rallies and Meet the Candidate Forums.
At the closest thing we had to a debate, the Take Action Mon-Valley Candidate’s Forum – one of only two events he even attended – I mopped the floor with him. I’m not bragging about it. Watch the video. It is an objective fact.
He couldn’t get his camera to work in the Zoom meeting, when he finally got his audio to work, he couldn’t finish his sentences and when he did, he invariably stuck his foot in his mouth.
He literally told an audience of black voters that all lives matter.
That on top of his whining about not having the power to do anything in office so please vote for him.
I actually felt embarrassed for him.
That anyone could watch that forum and choose him is stupefying.
But only a few hundred voters saw it just days before the election.
I offered hope and change. He offered what? A familiar name and incompetence?
When it was all over, he called me.
Actually he returned my call when I offered my concession.
He was still complaining about someone he heard was passing out my cards on election day who he thought should have been committed to him. As if I knew what all of my supporters were doing and ruled them with an iron fist.
They were just a loose confederation of people who wanted more from county government. I wasn’t telling them what to do. Actually it was just the opposite.
But I’ll give him this – he’s a friendly cuss, the kind of guy with whom you’d probably enjoy having a beer.
Just not a person who should be representing people’s interests on council.
And he’s not representing voters’ interests. Not really.
County Council is supposed to be the legislative arm of county government. It’s supposed to be a check and balance on the County Executive.
Seems to me there’s a conflict of interest when year-after-year County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is your biggest donor.
But that’s just how we roll here.
Bias and impropriety grease the wheels of government.
Speaking of which, wasn’t this supposed to be a Democratic Primary?
My opponent and I were both seeking the party’s nomination.
We have closed primaries, which means only party members get to vote on each ticket.
So why are there Donald Trump supporters on the county Democratic Committee?
Really! According to an expose by the Washington Post, Allegheny County’s Democratic Committee is full of countless members in good standing whose social media accounts are full of right wing Trump memes and slanders on prominent Democrats. This includes the chair of the committee, herself.
There are 2,400 elected members – more than my opponent’s 1,800 margin of victory.
Sure, our district was the only part of the county that went to Trump in the last two Presidential elections – though just slightly.
However, nearly every elected official is a Democrat. Has been for as long as I can recall.
That doesn’t make sense.
Democrats don’t fill every legislative seat in districts that lean Republican…
Unless they’re not really Democrats.
Do right wing Democrats thrive here and Progressives like me face an uphill battle because the Democratic Committee has been compromised?
I don’t know.
I really don’t.
But I guess most people don’t seem to mind it much.
If they did, they missed their chance to do something about it.
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It was a repudiation of Trump more than a celebration of Biden.
However, now that the dust has cleared and all the states but Georgia, Alaska and North Carolina have been called, I’m starting to have some thoughts about what a Biden administration might actually look like.
And it might not be too bad.
So here are what I see as the five main hurdles coming up for the Biden administration and why we might be cautiously optimistic about their outcomes:
1) Trump Will Fail to Successfully Challenge the Election Results
You don’t know Four Seasons Total Landscaping? It’s a landscape gardeners located between a crematorium and a dildo shop.
That is not the work of people capable of running an effective challenge to a national election.
Yes, there are enough far right justices on the Supreme Court to pull off this Coup d’état. But I don’t think even they would have the guts to do it in light of the world’s acceptance of Biden, the acceptance of many in the GOP and the blatant incompetence of the Trump administration.
I admit that I could be wrong. And I certainly don’t think we should underestimate these neofacists.
Trump is a cornered rat, and that is when rats are at their most dangerous.
Had Medicare For All or the Green New Deal been on the ballot, things might have gone differently – or more emphatically – our way.
But, instead, it was all about getting rid of Trump.
Thankfully, that was enough. But had the party actually offered voters something more – things that are overwhelmingly popular with everyday people but unpopular with party elites and their wealthy backers – the results could have been a landslide in Biden’s favor.
She said that every candidate that co-sponsored Medicare for All in a swing district was reelected. Even Mike Levin, who many thought had committed political suicide by co-sponsoring the Green New Deal, kept his seat.
Supporting progressive policies did not sink anyone’s campaigns. In fact, that’s how insurgent Democrats have been unseating centrists across the nation.
“I’ve been unseating Democrats for two years,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I have been defeating D.C.C.C.-run campaigns for two years. That’s how I got to Congress. That’s how we elected Ayanna Pressley. That’s how Jamaal Bowman won. That’s how Cori Bush won. And so we know about extreme vulnerabilities in how Democrats run campaigns.”
This is a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic party.
We cannot continue to move to the right and expect the base – which are much further left – to continue to vote for increasingly conservative candidates.
There is already a party for that – it’s the Republicans.
“I need my colleagues to understand that we are not the enemy,” she said. “And that their base is not the enemy. That the Movement for Black Lives is not the enemy, that Medicare For All is not the enemy. This isn’t even just about winning an argument. It’s that if they keep going after the wrong thing, I mean, they’re just setting up their own obsolescence.”
We will see if the Biden administration learns these lessons or not.
I think there is good reason to be cautiously optimistic here. It is in the party’s own self interest.
But only the future will tell.
4) Biden will Take Steps to Control the Coronavirus
Unlike his predecessor, Biden has been a consistent voice of sanity on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality, or relish life’s most precious moments — hugging a grandchild, birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us — until we get this virus under control.”
And true to his word, this appears to be the first thing on his agenda.
Specifically, Biden’s plan calls for empowering scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help set national guidance based on evidence to stop outbreaks, work on a vaccine, testing, contact tracing and other services.
His administration would use the CDC to provide specific guidance — based on the degree of viral spread in a community — for how to open schools and businesses, when to impose restrictions on gathering sizes or when stay-at-home orders may be necessary.
He would create a national “pandemic dashboard” to share this information with the public.
He would make sure that everyone has access to regular, reliable, free testing.
He would hire 100,000 additional public health workers to coordinate with local organizations around the country to perform contact tracing and other health services. These people would help with everything from food insecurity and affordable housing to training school officials about when and how to make it safe to reopen buildings.
He proposes the federal government cover 100% of the cost of Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage for the duration of the crisis for people who get sick from the virus. If someone loses employer-based health insurance, they would still have health insurance through this plan.
He also will push to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, expanding coverage by making more people eligible.
He’d use the Defense Production Act to increase production of masks, face shields and other personal protective equipment so that supply exceeds demand.
I don’t know about you, but to me this seems a breath of fresh air. It is what the federal government should do and what it hasn’t been doing under Trump.
And I see no reason why the Biden administration can’t get it done.
5) Biden Can’t Afford to Re-up Betsy DeVos’ Education Policies
They all supported charter schools, high stakes testing, increased segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline, evaluating teachers on student test scores, targeted disinvestment to schools in poor neighborhoods serving mostly students of color, and more.
Duncan and King were competent at destroying public education while hiding behind neoliberal rhetoric. DeVos was incompetent in every conceivable way and could barely hide her glee at the prospect of destroying public education.
Since Biden’s wife, Jill, was an actual teacher, he has more to lose than previous chief executives if he gets this wrong. He can’t take schools for granted and he can’t appear to be doubling down on the same policies of Trump and DeVos – which to be honest were mostly the same as those of Obama and Bush but on steroids.
Biden promised a public school teacher would be his next education secretary and Politico is already making predictions. The media outlet suggests ex-National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten or Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond.
Frankly, we could do much worse than any of these people. Hammond, in particular, was Obama’s education policy advisor UNTIL he was elected and changed courses to the neoliberal set.
Of all the hurdles coming his way, I have the least hope Biden will overcome this one.
You didn’t listen to us in 2016 when we said Hilary Clinton was unelectable. You didn’t listen to us when we said Donald Trump had a real chance at winning. But you blamed the entire catastrophe on the handful of us who didn’t vote for your candidate.
And now the second Bernie Sanders suspends his 2020 campaign, you’re all over us to commit to your boy, Joe Biden.
We’ve been here before. We have a pretty good idea how this story ends. Maybe you’d do well to listen to us for once.
We’ve spent years of intense effort changing the narrative of politics in America. We’ve held live streams, phone banked, knocked on doors, overfilled arenas. We’ve pushed Medicare for all, raising the minimum wage, universal college, a Green New Deal.
And the only thing you can say is “I told you so”?
All you have to say is “blue no matter who”?
It’s just “Get in line or you’ll be responsible – again.”
Let me ask you a question: what are YOU responsible for?
Some of my earliest memories are trying to explain to school friends that no, I didn’t kill Jesus – and, yes, I do eat matzo but it isn’t made with baby’s blood – and would they like to come over to my house and play Legos?
In fact, the same Vox analysis found that Sanders is more popular among people of color than among white people.
Heck! Sanders’ polling numbers with black voters were double that of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) who was also seeking the nomination before dropping out in December, according to a March Morning Consult poll – and Harris actually is a person of color.
Meanwhile, he also has strong support in the LGBTQ community.
Sanders is the first-choice for 34 percent of Democratic primary voters who identify as LGBTQ, according to the latest Morning Consult poll. That’s more than Elizabeth Warren at 19%, Joe Biden at 18%, Michael Bloomberg at 7%, even Pete Buttigieg at 12% – and Buttigieg is openly gay.
If that’s not enough, the Sanders campaign has women and people of color in prominent leadership positions.
Two women of color, Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner and San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, are co-chairs of the campaign, along with Indian-American Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen. Sanders’ campaign manager is longtime progressive activist Faiz Shakir.
Are all these women and minorities really Bernie Bros?
“It was absolutely meaningful for Bernie Sanders or for anyone else to say, ‘No, I’m going to step away from that white-skin privilege, I’m going to interrogate what is going on here around race. And then I’m going to do what most people never do: I’m going to actually put my body on the line and take a stand and work with those whose oppression we are committed to ending,’ That’s what Bernie Sanders did.”
In fact, her supporters tried a similar bit of propaganda back in 2008 when she was running against Barack Obama where Clinton supporter Rebecca Traister ran an article in Salon entitled, “Hey, Obama boys: Back off already!”
Before we gripe and pick at loose ends in both platforms, we should pause and acknowledge this.
Both Sanders AND Warren are excellent choices for President. And Biden might even do in a pinch.
So in honor of my precocious political princess backing Elizabeth Warren – I THINK she knows she doesn’t actually get to vote, herself, yet! – I give you eight things I love and one I don’t in Warren’s education plan.
Things I like:
1) IT INVESTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
WARREN’S PROPOSAL: Quadrupling Title I funding — an additional $450 billion over the next 10 years for the neediest children and their schools. Finally have the federal government pay 40% of all special education costs – a promise lawmakers made years ago but never kept. Invest an additional $100 billion over ten years in “Excellence Grants” to any public school. That’s roughly $1 million for every public school in the country to buy state-of-the art labs, restore afterschool arts programs, implement school-based student mentoring programs, etc. By 2030, she’ll help 25,000 public schools become community schools. Invest at least an additional $50 billion in school infrastructure — targeted at the schools most in need.
WARREN’S PROPOSAL: Spend billions of dollars annually that states can use to promote residential and public school integration. This includes infrastructure like magnet schools but also integrating communities. Support strengthening and robust enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in any program receiving federal funding.
“The push toward high-stakes standardized testing has hurt both students and teachers. Schools have eliminated critical courses that are not subject to federally mandated testing, like social studies and the arts. They can exclude students who don’t perform well on tests. Teachers feel pressured to teach to the test, rather than ensuring that students have a rich learning experience. I oppose high-stakes testing, and I co-sponsored successful legislation in Congress to eliminate unnecessary and low-quality standardized tests. As president, I’ll push to prohibit the use of standardized testing as a primary or significant factor in closing a school, firing a teacher, or making any other high-stakes decisions, and encourage schools to use authentic assessments that allow students to demonstrate learning in multiple ways.”
WARREN PROPOSES: Providing funding for schools to increase pay and support for all public school educators, strengthen the ability of teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff to organize and bargain. In particular:
“I pledged to enact the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which ensures that public employees like teachers can organize and bargain collectively in each state, and authorizes voluntary deduction of fees to support a union.”
7) IT FIGHTS THE CORRUPT SCHOOL PRIVATIZATION INDUSTRY.
WARREN PROPOSES: Ensuring charter schools are subject to at least the same level of transparency and accountability as traditional public schools. In particular:
“…I support the NAACP’s recommendations to only allow school districts to serve as charter authorizers, and to empower school districts to reject applications that do not meet transparency and accountability standards, consider the fiscal impact and strain on district resources, and establish policies for aggressive oversight of charter schools.”
Ending federal funding for the expansion of charter schools. Banning for-profit charter schools including non-profit charter schools that outsource their operations to for-profit companies. Directing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate “so-called nonprofit schools that are violating the statutory requirements for nonprofits.”
8) IT PROTECTS STUDENT DATA FROM ED TECH COMPANIES AND BEYOND.
WARREN PROPOSES: Banning the sharing, storing, and sale of student data. In particular:
“My plan would extend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to ban the sharing, storing, and sale of student data that includes names or other information that can identify individual students. Violations should be punishable by civil and criminal penalties.”
And this just scratches the surface. These are just the points that jumped out at me on a first read.
I’m sure there is more policy gold in here we’ll find as the election season progresses.
However, there was one thing that jumped out at me in a less positive light.
One thing I did not like:
1) WARREN’S EMPHASIS ON “CAREER AND COLLEGE READINESS” SOUNDS TOO MUCH LIKE THE WORST OF BARACK OBAMA’S EDUCATION POLICY.
On the one hand, Warren says unequivocally that she’s against high stakes testing. Then on the other she writes:
“We must also ensure that students are able to take advantage of those opportunities and that high schools are funded and designed to prepare students for careers, college, and life…
…I’ll work with states to align high school graduation requirements with their public college admission requirements. And I’ll also direct the Department of Education to issue guidance on how schools can leverage existing federal programs to facilitate education-to-workforce preparedness.”
For most of my life, the United States has been neglecting its public school children – especially the black and brown ones.
Since the mid 1970s, instead of integrating our schools, we’ve been slowly resegregating them on the basis of race and social class.
Since the 1980s, instead of measuring academic success by the satisfaction of an individuals curiosity and authentic learning, we’ve been slowly redefining it to mean nothing but achievement on standardized tests.
And since the 1990s, instead of making sure our schools meet the needs of all students, we’ve been slowly allowing charter schools to infect our system of authentic public education so that business interests are education’s organizing principle.
But now, for the first time in at least 60 years, a mainstream political candidate running for President has had the courage to go another way.
It doesn’t take a deep dive into the mass media to find this out. You don’t have to parse disparate comments he made at this rally or in that interview. If you want to know what Bernie thinks about education policy, you can just go on his campaign Website and read all about it.
I’m not saying it’s perfect. He doesn’t go as far as he might in some areas – especially against high stakes testing. But his plan is so far advanced of anything anyone else has even considered, it deserves recognition and strong consideration.
Bernie proposes we increase funding to integrate schools, enforce desegregation orders and appoint federal judges who will support these measures. He wants to triple Title I funding for schools serving poor and minority children and increase funding for English as a Second Language programs. He even suggests racial sensitivity training for teachers and better review of civil rights complaints and discipline policies.
Moreover, charters increase segregation – 17 percent of charter schools are 99 percent minority, compared to 4 percent of traditional public schools.
To reverse this trend, Bernie would ban for-profit charter schools and impose a moratorium on federal dollars for charter expansion until a national audit was conducted. That means no more federal funds for new charter schools.
I think we would find very few that could meet this standard – but those that did could – with financial help – be integrated into the community school system as a productive part of it and not – as too many are now – as parasites.
Could Bernie as President actually do all of this? Probably not considering that much of charter school law is controlled by the states. But holding the bully pulpit and (with the help of an ascendant Democratic legislature?) the federal purse strings, he could have a transformative impact on the industry. It would at least change the narrative and the direction these policies have been going. It would provide activists the impetus to make real change in their state legislatures supporting local politicians who likewise back the President’s agenda.
Once again, this isn’t something the President can do alone. He needs the support of Congress and state legislatures. But he could have tremendous influence from the Oval Office and even putting this issue on the map would be powerful. We can’t solve problems we don’t talk about – and no one else is really talking much about this. Imagine if the President was talking about it every day on the news.
4) He’d Provide More Funding for Special Education Students
Bernie wants to not only fulfill the age old promise of special education funding but to go beyond it. He proposes the federal government meet half the cost for each special needs student. That, alone, would go a long way to providing financial help to districts and ensuring these children get the extra help they need.
Bernie suggests working with states to ensure a minimum starting salary of $60,000 tied to cost of living, years of service, etc. He also wants to protect and expand collective bargaining and tenure, allow teachers to write off at least $500 of expenses for supplies they buy for their classrooms, and end gender and racial discrepancies in teacher salaries.
It’s an ambitious project. I criticized Kamala Harris for proposing a more modest teacher pay raise because it wasn’t connected to a broad progressive education platform like Sanders. In short, we’ve heard neoliberal candidates make good suggestions in the past that quickly morphed into faustian bargains like merit pay programs – an initiative that would be entirely out of place among Sanders initiatives.
In Harris’ case, the devil is in the details. In Sanders, it’s a matter of the totality of the proposal.
6) He Wants to Expand Summer School and After School Programs
It’s no secret that while on summer break students forget some of what they’ve learned during the year and that summer programs can help reduce this learning loss. Moreover, after school programs provide a similar function throughout the year and help kids not just academically but socially. Children with a safe place to go before parents get home from work avoid risky behaviors and the temptations of the streets. Plus they tend to have better school attendance, better relationships with peers, better social and emotional skills, etc.
Under the guidance of Betsy Devos, the Trump administration has proposed cutting such programs by $2 billion. Bernie is suggesting to increase them by $5 billion. It’s as simple as that. Sanders wants to more than double our current investment in summer and after school programs. It’s emblematic of humane and rational treatment of children.
7) He Wants to Provide Free Meals for All Students Year-Round
One in six children go hungry in America today. Instead of shaming them with lunch debts and wondering why they have difficulty learning on an empty stomach, Bernie wants to feed them free breakfast, lunch and even snacks. In addition, he doesn’t want to shame them by having the needy be the only ones eligible for these free meals. This program would be open to every child, regardless of parental wealth.
It’s an initiative that already exists at many Title I schools like the one where I teach and the one where my daughter goes to school. I can say from experience that it is incredibly successful. This goes in the opposite direction of boot strapped conservatives like Paul Ryan who suggested a free meal gives kids an empty soul. Instead, it creates a community of children who know that their society cares about them and will ensure they don’t go hungry.
That may seem like a small thing to some, but to a hungry child it can make all the difference.
8) He Wants to Transform all Schools into Community Schools
This is a beautiful model of exactly what public education should be.
Schools shouldn’t be businesses run to make a profit for investors. They should be the beating heart of the communities they serve. Bernie thinks all schools should be made in this image and provide medical care, dental services, mental health resources, and substance abuse prevention. They should furnish programs for adults as well as students including job training, continuing education, art spaces, English language classes and places to get your GED.
Many schools already do this. Instead of eliminating funding for these types of schools as the Trump administration has suggested, Bernie proposes providing an additional $5 billion in annual funding for them.
There are a lot of issues that fall under this umbrella, but they are each essential to a 21st Century school. Solutions here are not easy, but it is telling that the Sanders campaign includes them as part of his platform.
So there you have it – a truly progressive series of policy proposals for our schools.
Not since Lyndon Johnson envisioned the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has there been a more far reaching and progressive set of education initiatives.
What About High Stakes Testing?
Unfortunately, that also highlights Sanders biggest weakness.
The glaring omission from Sanders plan is anything substantive to do with high stakes testing.
The Thurgood Marshall plan hardly mentions it at all. In fact, the only place you’ll find testing is in the introduction to illustrate how far American education has fallen behind other countries and in this somewhat vague condemnation:
“We must put an end to high-stakes testing and “teaching to the test” so that our students have a more fulfilling educational life and our teachers are afforded professional respect.”
However, it’s troubling that for once Bernie doesn’t tie a political position with a specific policy. If he wants to “end high-stakes testing,” what exactly is his plan to do so? Where does it fit within his education platform? And why wasn’t it a specific part of the overall plan?
Thankfully, it is addressed in more detail on FeelTheBern.org – a Website not officially affiliated with Sanders but created by volunteers to spread his policy positions.
After giving a fairly good explanation of the problems with high stakes testing, it references this quote from Sanders:
“I voted against No Child Left Behind in 2001, and continue to oppose the bill’s reliance on high-stakes standardized testing to direct draconian interventions. In my view, No Child Left Behind ignores several important factors in a student’s academic performance, specifically the impact of poverty, access to adequate health care, mental health, nutrition, and a wide variety of supports that children in poverty should have access to. By placing so much emphasis on standardized testing, No Child Left Behind ignores many of the skills and qualities that are vitally important in our 21st century economy, like problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork, in favor of test preparation that provides no benefit to students after they leave school.”
The site suggests that Bernie supports more flexibility in how we determine academic success. It references Sanders 2015 vote for the Every Child Achieves Act which allows for states to create their own accountability systems to assess student performance.
In addition, the site notes the problems with Common Core and while citing Sanders reticence with certain aspects of the project admits that he voted in early 2015 against an anti-Common Core amendment thereby indicating opposition to its repeal.
I’ll admit this is disappointing. And perplexing in light of the rest of his education platform.
It’s like watching a vegan buy all of his veggies at Whole Foods and then start crunching on a slice of bacon, or like a gay rights activist who takes a lunch break at Chick-fil-a.
My guess is that Sanders hasn’t quite got up to speed on the issue of standardized testing yet. However, I can’t imagine him supporting it because, frankly, it doesn’t fit in with his platform at all.
One wonders what the purpose of high stakes testing could possibly be in a world where all of his other education goals were fulfilled.
For me, the omission of high stakes testing from Sanders platform is acceptable only because of the degree of detail he has already provided in nearly every other aspect. There are few areas of uncertainty here. Unlike any other candidate, we know pretty well where Sanders is going.
It is way more likely that advocates could get Sanders to take a more progressive and substantial policy stand on this issue than that he would suddenly become a standardized testing champion while opposing everything else in the school privatization handbook.
So there it is.
Bernie Sanders has put forth the most progressive education plan in more than half a century.
It’s not perfect, but it’s orders of magnitude better than the plans of even his closest rival.
This isn’t to say that other candidates might not improve their education projects before the primary election. I hope that happens. Sanders has a knack for moving the conversation further left.
However, he is so far ahead, I seriously doubt that anyone else will be able to catch him here.
Who knows what the future will bring, but education advocates have a clear first choice in this race – Bernie Sanders.
He is the only one offering us a real future we can believe in.
In the first draft of this article, I called Sonya Mehta a “Charter School Lobbyist” in the title. On further examination of the facts, I realize this is unfair. She was a charter school TEACHER. I apologize to Ms. Mehta and truly regret any harm I have done her. I have changed the title to better reflect the facts. However, be advised that the text of the article, itself, has remained almost completely unchanged. Everything in the article is true to the best of my knowledge and backed up with sources that the reader can see by following the links in the text. My concern remains centered on Warren and what exactly her intentions are via education policy.
The biggest news from Elizabeth Warren’s rally in Oakland, California, on Friday wasn’t what she said.
It was who introduced her and what that says about Warren and her 2020 Presidential campaign.
In her introduction, Mehta didn’t explicitly advocate for school privatization. She promoted Warren’s early education and free college policies (Her speech can be seen here beginning at 57:30). But why would Warren, one of the smartest and most knowledgeable candidates in the race for the White House, let herself be associated with such a divisive and toxic legacy?
Who knows if Warren was intending to take sides on this issue, but she certainly seems to be signaling that if she did, it might not be with parents, teachers and students. It could be with the hedge fund billionaires backing school privatization.
How can she be so strong against these same people when it comes to Wall Street and economic inequality but appear completely ignorant (at best) or disingenuous (at worst) when it comes to school policy?
A look at Warren’s stated education policies over her history in public life doesn’t exactly calm the waters, either.
In a 2017 letter to DeVos, prior to her confirmation as Secretary of education, Senator Warren said the evidence on private school vouchers is “mixed at best” and called them “expensive and dangerous failures that cost taxpayers billions of dollars while destroying public education systems.”
But Warren has to make a decision whose side she is on.
At very least, she needs to come out and make a public statement clarifying her views here. She needs to say that she does not support charter schools or vouchers. Shouldn’t every Democratic candidate who wants the votes of educators do that?
Watch the whole rally here. Mehta’s introduction begins at 57:30.
Both candidates are running for District 4, which serves parts of Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze, Shadyside and North Oakland. Since they’ve cross filed and will appear on both the Republican and Democratic primary ballots, the seat should be decided in the May 21 primary.
Batista and Harbin have raised similar amounts for their campaigns. Harbin has $33,412.95 while Batista has $32,414.
Batista has support from at least two troubling industries – school privatizers and corporate crusaders – which are nowhere to be seen in her opponents financials.
Someone shouldn’t be running for a public school board with backing from the same vultures demanding public schools be dismantled and their assets and funding siphoned away to private industry. Charter schools cost the Pittsburgh Public district more than $85 million per year in tuition payments. While the district has no plans to open new public schools, it is forced to open new charter schools every time one of these publicly financed but privately run institutions appeals to the state Charter Appeal Board, further draining resources away from remaining public schools.
In fact, Batista is using “Students First” as a title on her campaign mailers. This is the name of a well-known school privatization group founded by infamous public school saboteur Michelle Rhee. The education justice movement across the country and here in Pittsburgh has been fighting Students First for years. They are infamous for dumping money into Pennsylvania politics to back legislators friendly to school privatization. No one who is serious about education justice would use this title: either Batista does not know about Students First, she knows and doesn’t care, or she is being intentional in signaling to privatizers that she is on their side.
-Nathaniel Yap, spouse of Brian Smith, Catalyst Charter Founder and CEO ($1,000)
And then we come to the big business partisans.
Many of these advocate for tax deferment programs to entice businesses into the Pittsburgh area on the condition that they are allowed to escape paying taxes or pay at a reduced rate for a certain number of years. Programs such as Tax Incremental Financing (TIFs) put a heavier burden on the schools than other public resources. They cost the school district 50% as opposed to the county and city, which only lose 25% of their owed taxes each.
-Todd Reidbord, Walnut Capital (Developers of Bakery Square and other projects that have received a number of TIFs)
-Helen Casey, CEO of Howard Hanna
-John Katz, Brandywine Agency ($1,000 plus in-kind) (His office in the Squirrel Hill business district is worth thousands)
-Paul Katz, Brandywine Agency ($250)
-Patricia Katz, Brandywine Agency ($1,000)
-Rod Werstil, McKinney Properties ($500)
-Kevin McKeegan, Meyer, Unkovic & Scott LLP (Pittsburgh Real Estate Law)
-Luke Meyers, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates (New York Real Estate Law)
-Nancy Finkelstein, Schulte Roth & Zabel (Finkelstein’s Linkedin Profile includes this quote: “I have concentrated my practice on representing private equity funds, investment banks, hedge funds, financial institutions, finance companies and high-net-worth individuals in a wide variety of transactions, including financings, debt restructurings, leveraged acquisitions, and collateralized loan facilities.”)
Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers gave Harbin $5,000 instead of Batista.
Likewise, Unite! Pittsburgh gave Harbin $1,500 over Batista. This is State Rep. Summer Lee’s PAC. The organization supports candidates running on a criminal justice slate who are committed to ending the school-to-prison, poverty-to-prison, and addiction-to-prison pipelines.
Other notable donations to Harbin’s campaign include: