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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 4 of 6

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What Thompson also doesn’t mention in his AP piece is that some states managed their pension funds better than others did.

A March 2011 report on the Best and Worst State Funded Pensions by Adam Corey Ross of The Fiscal Times offers a more balanced picture. Ross wrote, “State pension programs across the country have undergone a major transformation, as more and more of them are cutting back the amount of money they set aside for retired workers, gambling that they can meet their obligations through investments instead of savings …”

In fact, Ross lists the best fully-funded state pensions that existed then, which were: New York, Wisconsin, Delaware, North Carolina, Washington, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming, Florida and Georgia. He also lists the worst state pensions where the gamble did not pay off. However, with Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Cuomo of New York, the public pension plans for those two states are probably doomed along with the public unions in those states if the voters don’t get rid of them in the next election.

California fell between the two lists, but thanks to recent legislations plans to fill the funding gap in a more sensible way. In addition, nowhere does Ross or Thompson mention that California has two state pension plans—CalPERS and CalSTRS.


As Public Pensions Shift to Risky Wall Street, Local Politicians Rake in Political Cash

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System [CalSTRS], with a portfolio valued at $189.1 billion as of June 30, 2014, is the largest teacher pension fund and second largest public pension fund in the United States. In addition, CalSTRS makes it clear that “it’s important to understand that the risk of facing depleted assets exists approximately 30 years from now versus actually facing insolvency today.”

Due to losses from investments during the 2008 global financial crises, the CalSTRS retirement “fund took an enormous hit to its stock portfolio when the market plunged during the heart of the recession, losing nearly $43 billion—roughly 25 percent of its value—from June 2008 to June 2009.”

However, in June 2014, California’s Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1469 to stabilize CalSTRS funding in an effort to bridge the nearly $74 billion funding gap that would keep the fund solvent beyond 30 years. Teachers’ Retirement Board Chair Harry Keiley said, “Educators in California do not receive Social Security for their CalSTRS-covered employment and the benefit they earn from years in the classroom serves as the cornerstone of their retirement income. Today’s actions further strengthen the Governor and Legislature’s commitment to uphold the state’s promise of a secure retirement to teachers.”

The vote in the State Senate was 37 – 0, and in the Assembly was 76 – 1. – legislature.ca.gov

Continued in Part 5 on June 10, 2015 or return to Part 3

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 3 of 6

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Back to the public sector retirement plans that did not follow the risky 401 (k) path to retirement. The Public Sector stayed with employer-based defined benefit pension plans such as the one I have through CalSTRS.

It helps that the union membership rate for public sector workers is 36.2 percent and that is substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers at 6.9 percent.


Discover how California is fixing its public pensions

To understand the numbers better and why the media focuses its Yellow/Hate Journalism circus act to attract the biggest hating mob, in November 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 20.4 million public sector employees [2 million work for the federal government—the rest work for the states or local county or city governments] and about 128 million private sector employees.

Those numbers help explain why the Associated Press ran the misleading Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny by Don Thompson.

If you published a newspaper, a magazine, ran a TV news network, hosted a conservative talk show, or wrote a popular conservative Blog, which audience would you focus on to boost advertising rates? As I said, it’s all in the numbers

A, 20.4 million
B. 128 million

Another example of how misleading Don Thompson’s AP piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny, was: “With Americans increasingly likely to live well into their 80s, critics question whether paying lifetime pensions to retirees from age 55 or 60 is financially sustainable. An Associated Press survey earlier this year found the 50 states have a combined $690 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $418 billion in retiree health care obligations.”

Continued in Part 4 on June 9, 2015 or return to Part 2

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 2 of 6

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The reason AP distorted the facts about teacher retirement plans as much as they did is because of audience share, which determines how much a media source [TV, newspapers, hate talk shows, magazines, Blogs, etc] may charge to advertisers, and balancing the news and telling the truth often does not achieve this goal, because profits are the foundation of the private sector media.

It’s a simple formula: if you don’t make a profit you go out of business and everyone working for you loses his or her job so almost everyone plays the same Yellow/Hate Journalism game, and then there is the politics of money.

To understand why Thompson wrote such a misleading news piece, it helps to understand the trend away from private-sector pensions that were once similar to current public sector-pensions and the answers are in the numbers.

Due to the politics of money, beginning early in the 1980s, during the Reagan era, there was a rapid shift away from private sector employer-based defined benefit pension plans to employee-controlled personal retirement accounts.


teacher pensions explained

Under President Reagan [1981 – 1989] this trend in the private sector was helped along by the Republican Party that controlled the Senate from 1981 to 1987 giving President Reagan the leverage he needed to shift private sector pension money to the stock market and other risky investments—another part of the Reagan plan besides adding two trillion dollars to the national debt by cutting taxes on the wealthy; raising them on the working class by cutting deductions and spending more.

And since 1982 and Ronald Reagan’s infamous trickle down economic reform, profit expectations of American corporations have skyrocketed, and right behind have been the costs of health care, the cost of housing, the cost of military programs, the cost of banking, and the cost of many other products and services.” – The Agonist

In 1980, approximately 92 percent of private retirement saving contributions went to employer-based plans; 64 percent of these contributions were to defined benefit pension plans [similar to the public pension plans of today].

Then by 1999, [thanks to President Reagan and the Republican majority in the Senate while he was president] about 88 percent of private sector contributions were switched to defined contribution plans, the vast majority of personal retirement accounts being set up as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), and that ended in disaster.

I suggest your either Google the failure of 401 (K) or read what PBS.org said, “Most people don’t know that the 401(k) products are toxic and their behavior toward a 401(k) product is toxic because no one has been responsible for providing a safe product.

“The Congress has not put itself [out] as a responsible actor. Employers were told, “It’s up to your employees to choose,” and the banking industry and the mutual fund industry said, “Trust us.”

If you are a regular fan of hate media and trust no other source, you will probably dismiss anything from PBS. But what about CNBC.com, Forbes.com, NBC News.com, USA Today, or even the Los Angeles Times. Will you trust one of those sources over your favorite hate radio show? If not, then I suggest you read this from Mother Jones.com to discover who is behind the lies designed to fool and why.

Continued in Part 3 on June 8, 2015 or start with Part 1

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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The Alleged Public School Monopoly and the Fraudulent Civil Rights Movement of our Time

It is highly arguable with evidence and data that the corporate education reform movement mostly funded by a handful of billionaire oligarchs is driven by endless oxymorons. For instance, the oxymoron of a movement that claims it’s the Civil Right Movement of our time while Corporate Charters practice segregation on a grand scale (click the link to learn more), and the other major oxymoron alleges the public schools are a monopoly that must be destroyed.

For instance, in New York State, Governor Cuomo (The Crook) characterized public education as a ‘monopoly’ that he vowed to break. For the rest of this post, I will focus on Governor Cuomo’s claim that the public schools are a ‘monopoly’ that must be broken.

First, the public schools are supported by taxes paid by the public, and they are non-profit, transparent and held accountable through that transparency. In addition, they are governed by democratic values—except where reformers like Cuomo the Crook have used their executive power to hijack entire school districts and remove the democratically elected school boards. Because of the transparency and democratic nature of these schools, every public dollar spent is tracked to make sure it was spent to support the education of children.

A monopoly by definition, would be John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, and his Standard Oil (with an emphasis on his) incorporated oil producing, transporting, refining, and marketing into one single behemoth which grew both vertically and horizontally (he bought the producers and distributors). In 1882, all of Standard Oil’s properties were merged into the Standard Oil Trust, and by the end of the decade (1890), it controlled 88% of the refined oil flows in the United States.

To be clear: John D. Rockefeller was ONE man who controlled 88% of the refined oil that flowed in the United States, and he answered to no one until President Teddy Roosevelt went after his monopoly to break it up.

How does that compare to the corporate education reform movement’s claim that public education is a monopoly that must be broken?

Even though the Obama Administration—with help from, for instance, mostly Bill Gates in addition to the Walton family, Eli Broad and a squad of other powerful private sector corporate oligarchs—did all they could to make Arne Duncan the John D. Rockefeller of the alleged public education monopoly, when we sweep away all the lies and allegations, what’s left is almost 14,000 individual public school districts. Most of these school districts are managed by their own democratically elected school boards and each district has its own CEO who often comes with the title of superintendent, who is hired and can be fired by those elected school boards. Those superintendents answer to the elected school boards and nothing can be hidden because of the transparency, and through that transparency every state and territory in the United States watches over those almost 14,000 public school districts to make sure they are not breaking any laws or legislation that applies to public education.

If you’re interested, you might want to read:

When that alleged public school monopoly is broken as Cuomo has pledged, what is already taking its place?

The answer: opaque, often fraudulent, often worse or the same as the public schools they are replacing, segregated, private sector, for-profit corporate charter schools that are not democratic and not answerable to the laws of each state that are meant for the public schools (even when a corporate charter claims to be non-profit, when we follow the money, it almost always flows like fast moving sewage to a private sector, for-profit corporation.)

For a sampling of this fraud, I suggest you read the following:

Release: “A new report released today reveals that fraudulent charter operators in 15 states are responsible for losing, misusing or wasting over $100 million in taxpayer money.”

One last thought—while no one can buy the public schools and create a private sector monopoly like Standard Oil once was under John D. Rockefeller, one oligarch—for instance, Bill Gates, Eli Broad or the Walmart Walton family—will be in a position to do just that once the public schools are gone and have been replaced by corporate charters that can go bankrupt and close or be merged and/ or sold on a daily basis.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Claims that Sky is Falling Used to Justify Economic based Reforms in U.S. Public Education

Anthony Cody left a comment on the Education Bloggers Network Central about an ETS report on education to serve the economy. “The ETS is basically Pearson Education these days,” said Paul Horton in another comment.

This means ETS is a mouthpiece for Pearson PLC, a British multinational publishing and education company headquartered in London. Pearson is the largest—for profit—education company and the largest book publisher in the world, and Pearson has been funding media propaganda and lobbying elected officials to use the unproven and flawed Common Core State Standards and Pearson’s copyrighted tests in the U.S. for those standards.

More information about Pearson may be found at PR Watch.org, Peyton Wolcott.com and 8 Things You Should Know About Corporations Like Pearson that Make Huge Profits from Standardized Tests.

Guess who gets paid every time a student takes one of those Pearson copyrighted Common Core tests that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to use as a way to rank and fire teachers while closing public schools and then turning our children over to corporate Charters that several Stanford studies report are worse or the same as the public schools they are replacing.

If you guessed Pearson, you were right. Pearson—with help from Bill Gates’s billions—is behind testing our children toward failure. Watch the video to discover what that means for our children.


“I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.” > Albert Einstein

ETS made misleading claims in their press release that announced the (economic corporate education reform) meeting to be held in Washington D.C. on February 17, 2015, that left out many important facts about public education in the United States.

For instance:

  1. The Economic Policy Institute reports, U.S. poverty rates higher, safety net weaker than in peer countries—the U.S. is ranked dead last for percentile as a share of median worker earnings in 21 selected OECD countries.
  2. The functional literacy rate when comparing the United States to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK—five English speaking countries that all belong to the OECD. > Literacy Comparison
  3. The college graduation ranking for the United States compared to every country on the planet as reported by World Atlas.com. The United States is ranked #4 on the top 10 most educated nations list—and there are 196 countries in the world today. The United States is in the top two percent for college graduates.
  4. More than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level– $23,550 a year for a family of four. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 45%—or more than 33 million—of children live in low-income families. > nccp.org

How does that number of children living in poverty compare to 34 OECD countries? Answer: OECD.org reports that 13% of all children were poor in 2010. The only OECD countries with childhood poverty rates higher than the United States were: Chile, Mexico, Romania, Turkey and Israel.

  1. In addition, Stanford.edu reported in a study that: “Based on their analysis, the co-authors found that average U.S. scores in reading and math on the PISA are low partly because a disproportionately greater share of U.S. students comes from disadvantaged social class groups, whose performance is relatively low in every country.

“As part of the study, Carnoy and Rothstein calculated how international rankings on the most recent PISA might change if the United States had a social class composition similar to that of top-ranking nations: U.S. rankings would rise to sixth from 14th in reading and to 13th from 25th in math. The gap between U.S. students and those from the highest-achieving countries would be cut in half in reading and by at least a third in math.”

The report also found: There is an achievement gap between more and less disadvantaged students in every country; surprisingly, that gap is smaller in the United States than in similar post-industrial countries, and not much larger than in the very highest scoring countries.

Achievement of U.S. disadvantaged students has been rising rapidly over time, while achievement of disadvantaged students in countries to which the United States is frequently unfavorably compared – Canada, Finland and Korea, for example – has been falling rapidly.

Note: countries that score high on the PISA have low rates of childhood poverty. Childhood poverty in Canada is about 14%, in Finland it’s less than 5%, and in South Korea it’s less than 10%.

  1. The Global Innovation Index rankings, comparing 143 countries, lists the United States as #6 with a score of 60.09—92.7% of first place Switzerland’s index rank of 64.79. That means the U.S. was ranked higher than almost 96% of the world’s countries.
  2. Alternet.org reports that “New Data reveals our public—not private—school system is among the best in the world. In fact, except for the debilitating effects of poverty, our public school system may be the best in the world.” Paul Buchheit writes, “Perhaps most significant in the NCES reading results is that schools with less than 25% free-lunch eligibility scored higher than the average in ALL OTHER COUNTRIES. “

Maybe I should have titled this post: “The Misleading lies that Pearson and Bill Gates keep telling us” or “For Profit and Wealth, Blame it on the Teacher as Usual”.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Runner Up in Biography/Autobiogrpahy
2015 Florida Book Festival

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

Honorable Mention in Biography/Autobiography
2014 Southern California Book Festival
2014 New England Book Festival
2014 London Book Festival

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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The broken tooth, the coming crown, the 2014 Florida Book Festival and Writers Digest

I broke a tooth over the weekend and visited the dentist this afternoon spending a few hours in THE chair. I hate those shots that numb your jaw making it feel swollen like a puffy blimp. In a few days I will return for the fitting of the crown.

But when I returned home with that numb jaw, there was a surprise—a double dose of what I think was good news.

“”2014 Florida Book Festial and Comment by Writers Digest Judge“Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose” didn’t earn any awards from Writer’s Digest, but the judge’s comments were appreciated. :o)

_______________________
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300
His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Two Politically Correct Scams Supported by Corporate Owned Media that Threaten Democracy in America

The actual U.S. place in the international ranking of all OECD countries from the International PISA test was 6th in reading and 13th in math—not 14th in reading and 25th in math as reported. The 2012, PISA tested about 85,000 students in 44 countries placing the U.S. in the top 13.6% for reading and 29% for math. Thirty-eight countries ranked lower in reading and 31 in math.

This post is about the two scams that have led to the era of corporate supported, public education reform in the United States. The first scam was a report called “A Nation at Risk” in 1983, during the Reagan era. Because of this report, teachers, teachers’ unions and the democratic public schools have been painted as failures, and the corporate owned media turned “A Nation at Risk” into front page news with endless, never-ending chatter that focuses on the so-called failing public schools and lazy, incompetent teachers. This has gone on for more than thirty years.

The truth first appeared in 1990, when the Scandia Report was released revealing that “A Nation at Risk” was a misleading fraud. The corporate owned media ignored the results of the Scandia Report, and continued to attack public school teachers and teachers’ unions.

Eric.ed.gov offers its Straight Talk about America’s Public Schools: Dispelling the Myths. Hot Topics Series. Chapter 1 contains the entire text of the 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk”; a summary of the results of the 1990 “Scandia Report”, which contradicted many of the previous report’s allegations; and an article by Daniel Tanner, which describes how the Scandia Report was commissioned and why it was later suppressed by the federal government.

The second scam has to do with the OECD’s international PISA tests. The corporate owned media, using only the overall average comparisons of countries, has reported repeatedly and widely how poorly the U.S. public schools compare to the other OECD countries, but the average ranking used to condemn America’s public education system, teachers and teachers’ unions is criminally misleading.

The Economic Policy Institute, similar to the Scandia Report, studied the PISA scores and published an in-depth revealing report. What follows the video are a few key points from The EPI.org report that reveals that the PISA results have been manipulated by the corporate-owned media misleading many Americans to think that the democratic public schools in the United States are failing and must be reformed and turned over to corporations to teach our children, that will, of course, eventually profit off the almost annual $1 trillion in taxes that supports the public schools.


This video is filled with false claims and lies but also the truth. I suggest that you read the rest of this post carefully before watching the video.

  1. Because in every country, students at the bottom of the social class distribution perform worse than students higher in that distribution, U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.
  2. A sampling error in the U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample. This error further depressed the reported average U.S. test score.
  3. If U.S. adolescents had a social class distribution that was similar to the distribution in countries to which the United States is frequently compared, average reading scores in the United States would be higher than average reading scores in the similar post-industrial countries we examined (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and average math scores in the United States would be about the same as average math scores in similar post-industrial countries.
  4. A re-estimated U.S. average PISA score that adjusted for a student population in the United States that is more disadvantaged than populations in otherwise similar post-industrial countries, and for the over-sampling of students from the most-disadvantaged schools in a recent U.S. international assessment sample, finds that the U.S. average score in both reading and mathematics would be higher than official reports indicate (in the case of mathematics, substantially higher).
  5. This re-estimate would also improve the U.S. place in the international ranking of all OECD countries, bringing the U.S. average score to sixth in reading and 13th in math. Conventional ranking reports based on PISA, which make no adjustments for social class composition or for sampling errors, and which rank countries irrespective of whether score differences are large enough to be meaningful, report that the U.S. average score is 14th in reading and 25th in math.
  6. Disadvantaged and lower-middle-class U.S. students perform better (and in most cases, substantially better) than comparable students in similar post-industrial countries in reading. In math, disadvantaged and lower-middle-class U.S. students perform about the same as comparable students in similar post-industrial countries.
  7. U.S. students from disadvantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the three similar post-industrial countries than advantaged U.S. students perform relative to their social class peers. But U.S. students from advantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the top-scoring countries of Finland and Canada than disadvantaged U.S. students perform relative to their social class peers.
  8. On average, and for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.

In conclusion, what these two scams tell me is that everything that came after “A Nation at Risk” is based on misinformation at best and possibly fraud, meaning that No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Common Core States Standards with Bill Gates rank and yank agenda to fire teachers and close public schools is all based on lies and misinformation.

The only risk that the United States faces today is from the corporate owned media and the corporate funded fake education reform movement. Yes, we can improve our public schools, but we don’t need to reform and destroy them to achieve that.

Please Tweet this post and/or share it on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and as many other social network sites as possible.  In fact, also copy and paste it into an e-mail and send it to everyone you know.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Hot Coffee reveals the Capitalist threat to all aspects of Democracy

My wife and I watched an award winning documentary Thursday night (September 4, 2014). It was called “Hot Coffee: Is Justice Being Served?” The DVD for the documentary was released November 1, 2011, and Amazon sells the DVD for more than $24.00, but you may be able to watch it free on YouTube or from HBO for a lot less.

This is what I learned: if you don’t want Bill Gates, the Walton family or the Koch brothers—for instance—ruling America instead of the elected representative of the people, I urge you not to make the mistake that capitalism is the same as democracy. It isn’t.

Marriam-Webster.com defines capitalism as “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market”

By contrast, democracy is defined as “a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting and an organization or situation in which everyone is treated equally and has equal rights”

Under capitalism, everyone isn’t treated equally, and I’ve never heard of a corporate CEO elected by the people who work for the corporation the CEO rules over.

A member of the U.S. Congress is an elected—by the people—representative. The president is elected by the 538 electors of the Electoral College. Most states have a “winner-take-all” system—based on the popular vote of the people—that awards all electors to the winning presidential candidate. However, Maine and Nebraska each have a variation of “proportional representation.”

In fact, there have been four Presidential elections where the winner lost the popular vote of the people but won through the Electoral College: John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000—yes, Al Gore had 540,000 more votes from the people than Bush, but G. W. won the electoral vote, 271 to 266. FactCheck.org

I’m going to copy the product description on Amazon here: “Everyone knows the case of the woman who sued McDonald s over spilled coffee. Or do they? More than 15 years after making international news, the case continues to be cited as an example of citizens who use frivolous lawsuits to take unfair advantage of the American legal system. But is that an accurate portrayal of the facts?

“An eye-opening documentary with jaw-dropping revelations, HOT COFFEE exposes how corporations spend millions on propaganda campaigns to distort Americans’ view of lawsuits forever changing the civil justice system. By examining the impact of tort reform on the lives of ordinary citizens, the film shows how Americans give up their Constitutional rights in all sorts of ways without knowing it for example, by voting for caps on damages or signing away your rights in contracts. Through interviews with politicians, judges, lawyers and ordinary citizens, first-time filmmaker and former public-interest lawyer Susan Saladoff delves into the facts of four cases to tear apart the conventional wisdom about jackpot justice.”

Watching this film, I discovered that the propaganda campaigns that were used to manipulate the justice system in the United States are also being used to distort Americans’ view of democratic public education.

Americans are literally being fooled—out of ignorance and laziness—to surrender their Constitutional Rights, vote out democracy, and replace democracy with a profit-driven, corporate oligarchy that doesn’t answer to the Constitution or the U.S. justice system. Watch the next video at your own peril.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

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Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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The power of academic competitions for students who want to learn

During a Facebook conversation, an internet friend mentioned how nice it would be if there were academic competitions as popular as sports.

I replied that there are popular academic competitions for those students who are interested and who usually have supportive parents that value an academic education.

The public schools may not hold academic competitions with cheerleaders and bleachers full of shouting, screaming fans but there are competitions and they’re recognized and the winners are honored by the school districts and schools the students attend.

In fact, the media often reports the results.

Most if not all students in many public schools probably hear about the chance to compete in these competitions in home room where teachers read announcements or from science and math teachers. Most kids will soon forget what they heard but those kids who are called “school boys” or “school girls” often stop at the teacher’s desk to pick up the information. These kids are dedicated and hungry to cooperate and learn what the teacher teaches.

Here’s what I know. There’s the Science Olympiad; Academic Decathlon and The journalism Education Association (JEA) that conducts journalism competitions that includes competing in news, sports, feature, opinion, editorial cartoons, photography and page layout. The JEA calls them write-offs because they are timed competitions just like most sports and the judges are editors and reporters who work in the traditional media.

In fact, these academic competitions—although quieter and not as celebrated as a league title in one of the three major sports or even golf or tennis—are recognized and honored. The winners of these academic competitions are recognized at school board meetings where the children who win are called on stage to shake hands with the school board president and the superintendent of the school district. For families that value an education, entire families usually turn out and some dress as if they are attending the Academy Awards. Those school board meetings are usually packed with standing room only.

The United States Academic Decathlon was founded in 1968 in Orange County, California.

The Science Olympiad is an American elementary, middle, and high school team competition in which students compete in ‘events’ pertaining to various scientific disciplines, including earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. Over 6,700 teams from 50 U.S. states compete each year.

The Journalism Education Association was founded in 1924. When I was advisor/journalism teacher for a high school newspaper, I took a team every year to this competition.

When our daughter was in high school, we encourage her to make friends with students who competed in one or more of these academic competitions. We also encouraged her to go out for a sport. She joined Academic Decathlon where she picked up a gold medal in debate and Pole Vault where at 16 she was ranked in the top five in California for her sex and age.  She graduates from Stanford this year and already has a lucrative job offer.

What’s distrubing is that in every class our daughter took in high school, there were kids who did little or nothing and some who caused problems. No matter what her teachers did, they couldn’t get those kids to work or gain support from the parents of those children.

And when standardized tests are given, the same teachers could be judged as failures and face losing their jobs because the scores of the students who didn’t cooperate dragged the average down—the same teachers who taught our daughter who earned that gold medal in Academic Decathlon could lose their jobs and the public high school our daughter attended before she was accepted to Stanford could be closed and replaced by a private sector Charter school owned by a corporation that would profit off tax payers.

And if you think only kids from the best schools in wealthy communities compete in these academic competitions, you’d be wrong. The high school where I taught had more than 70% of its students on free and/or reduced lunch/breakfast. That means they lived in poverty, but there were still kids who competed in these academic competitions and won medals making the school proud. There were kids at that school who had supportive parents.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Democracy versus the Corporate Oligarchs

In a republic and/or democracy where eligible adults vote, the majority of voters decides who wins seats in Congress, and when elected—representing the people—Congress votes on bills/laws; the majority wins.

This is how it works in Congress. This is even how it works in the Electoral College during presidential elections—the presidential candidate who wins the majority of votes in the Electoral College becomes president. It doesn’t matter who wins the popular vote.

For instance, when President G. W. Bush was 1st elected, everyone didn’t vote for him. In the 2000 presidential election Bush had 271 electoral votes to Al Gore’s 266; more than 51 million Americans voted for Gore but their candidate lost and those voters had to live with President Bush for four years—the man they didn’t vote for.

Then in 2004, Bush won the White House a second time with 286 electoral votes to John Kerry’s 251; more than 59 million Americans voted for Kerry; they didn’t get the president they wanted.

That’s the way a democracy works, but that’s not what’s happening in the United States today when it comes to public school reform.

Teachers Union Exposed, an anti-teacher website, thinks it’s wrong that the two teacher unions should pay for lobbyists to represent the majority of their union members in Washington D.C.  Their reason: a minority of teachers don’t agree with political activity of the two unions.

Teachers Union Exposed claims “Unions don’t reflect members’ politics. … Over the last 20 years, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has given more than $28 million in campaign contributions; the National Education Association (NEA) has given almost $31 million.”

Teachers Union Exposed (I wonder who is behind this Website) points out that looking at polling data from the 2003 National Education Study, only 51 percent of teachers who are also union members identify as Democrats. The rest identify as Republicans (25 percent) or Independents (24 percent)” … and the “Harris Interactive poll from 2003 showed that 83 percent of Republican teacher union members felt that the union was more liberal than they were.”

How many Republican teachers are there? The NEA has 3.2 million members and the AFT 1.5 million. Do the math and that means 970 thousand (20.6%) of the 4.7 million teachers felt the union was more liberal than they were.

Big deal! How many Americans felt that President G. W. Bush was more conservative than they were? The same question could be asked about President Obama: how many Americans feel that he isn’t as conservative as they are?

It’s an established fact that in a democracy elected leaders can’t please everyone. But what happens when someone who isn’t elected spends money to influence the government and elections?

I’m talking about corporate oligarchs. Throughout history, oligarchies have been tyrannical (relying on public obedience and/or oppression to exist) or relatively benign, and corporations are run by CEOs who are not democratically elected.

For instance, Diane Ravitch posted Researchers Reveal Funding Network for Washington Charter Law and exposed the undue influence of oligarchs in an election. Ravitch says, “a small number of very wealthy individuals and organizations bought a policy of their choosing. This subverts democracy. It subverts the principle of one man, one vote. These are not reformers. They are plutocrats who use their vast wealth to buy what they want.”

The Ravitch post is long but worth reading. To keep it short, the plutocrats Ravitch writes about spent more than $35 million on one campaign in Washington State to support a YES vote on proposition 1240 in 2012—legislation that would benefit private sector charter schools paid for by taxpayers. Voters in Washington state had defeated similar propositions three times in the past, but the oligarchs refused to give up.

For a comparison, the leaders of the democratically run teacher unions spent $59 million over twenty years representing the majority of their members—who elected them to run the unions—in Washington D.C. That breaks down to $2.95 million annually, but the oligarchs spent more than $35 million for one proposition in one state.

Therefore, why is it okay for these alleged tyrants to spend fortunes to influence and manipulate voters but if the democratically elected labor unions that represents millions of teachers do it with a lot less money, it’s wrong?

In fact, one of the oligarchs, Bill Gates, has spent about $200 million to turn public schools over to corporations—private sector schools the taxpayers support.

That means one day the13,600 public school districts in the United States with more than 90,000 school teaching over 50 million children run by democratically elected school boards might vanish and America’s children would be turned over to billionaire oligarchs who run/own corporations. To discover how much Gates and his billionaire oligarch partners stand to gain from privatization of the public schools, click Big data and schools: Education nirvana or privacy nightmare?

In her post Ravitch listed about 20 oligarchs who donated money directly—or through nonprofit foundations the oligarchs financially support—to insure proposition 1240 passed and it did by a slim margin of 50.69% to 49.31%.

Who do you really think represents the interests of most Americans and their children: 4.7 million teachers—willing to die to protect children—who elect their union leaders, or 20 (alleged tyrants) billionaire oligarchs—protected by private security?

Discover more on this topic @ New Yorkers Denounce Cuomo’s Stacked panel to “Review” Common Core

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

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