By Mark Karlin in Truth Out – According to a July 28 article in the Guardian, the financial vultures of the US are circling over Puerto Rico’s skyrocketing debt, which totals more than $70 billion dollars. It is an austerity-driven death watch that by now is common practice among predatory “debt distress” consolidators: Billionaire hedge fund managers have called on Puerto Rico to lay off teachers and close schools so that the island can pay them back the billions it owes. The hedge funds called for Puerto Rico to avoid financial default – and repay its debts – by collecting more taxes, selling $4bn worth of public buildings and drastically cutting public spending, particularly on education. The group of 34 hedge funds hired former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economists to come up with a solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis after the island’s governor declared its $72bn debt “unpayable” – paving the way for bankruptcy.
By Javier Gárate in Waging Nonviolence – The next few months are of critical importance to Chile’s long-running education movement. President Michelle Bachelet has said she plans to implement comprehensive education reform this year, which will guarantee quality education for everyone. To ensure this happens, the movement has increased pressure on the government with huge protests by teachers and students last month, including an indefinite strike by the National Teachers Union that began June 1. Over the years, the movement has learned to temper its expectations. In 2011 — when protests were last at a peak — many thought change was imminent, only to suffer frustration and loss of momentum in the years that followed.
By Sarah Lazare in Common Dreams – A group of anti-debt camaigners pulled off a creative hoax on Monday by falsely announcing it had won a coveted prize offered by the nation’s student “aid” industry with this innovative proposal: “end student debt for good by making higher education tuition free for all.” Debt Collective, which is a new debtors’ union that formed as an offshoot of Strike Debt, created a fake Twitter handle, blog post, and image announcing the group’s receipt of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ Big Idea award. The announcements were released right in the middle of a New Orleans conference of the NASFAA, which says it represents “20,000 student financial assistance professionals at approximately 3,000 colleges, universities.” While Debt Collective’s award announcement was fake, their proposal was completely real.
By Christine Smith in Rabble – The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir might be a small book, but it carries a punch to it that all Canadians need to read and understand: a firsthand account of the impact residential schools had on Indigenous children forced to attend, told by a young boy, Joseph (Augie) Merasty, and how this experience shaped his life. Indian Residential Schools have played a long, sad and harmful history in Canada since they first opened in the 1840s until the last one closed in 1996. Merasty, one of 150,000 children taken from their families during this era, was taught to be ashamed of his family and his culture, and experienced emotional, physical and sexual abuse that no child should ever have to experience.
By Wendy Joan Biddlecombe in Metro – Marni Halasa usually turns heads in full length wedding dresses, scanty police costumes, or while gliding by on rollerblades in elaborate winged costumes. But last Friday, she was a blank canvas at the Urban Assembly Institute for Math and Science for Young Women, an all girls public school in downtown Brooklyn. Students from the school are learning how to stage an effective protest through Occupy Summer School, a three-week long course started by Occupy Alternative Banking. The class introduces the high school students to activism, activists and social movements. Cathy O’Neil, an Occupy member, former Barnard math professor and hedge fund anaylst, said the course will culminate with a protest of the students’ choice on July 22.
By David Swanson – Yes, I also want to say Free Mumia. In fact, I want to say Free all the prisoners. Turn the prison holding Mumia Abu-Jamal into a school and make him dean. And if you won’t free all the prisoners, free one who has been punished to a level that ought to satisfy any retributive scheme for any crime he might have committed. And if you won’t do that, free him because he was put into prison by a fraudulent and corrupt trial that hid as much evidence as it revealed, and fabricated the latter. More importantly, Read Mumia. His new book is calledWriting on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and it includes commentaries by Mumia from 1982 through 2014. Mumia went ahead and made his prison a school — a school in history, in politics, and in morality. And his own moral teaching is primarily by example.
By Claudia Rowe for the Seattle Times. As striking as the racial split is the age at which it begins: kindergarten. Statewide, more than 8,716 students younger than sixth grade were suspended or expelled in 2012-13, and patterns in Seattle suggest that a disproportionate number were children of color. (The state has not released breakdowns by race in students that young.) The reason given for these sanctions speaks to the enormous role that individual judgment plays in disciplining kids. While there were only 119 suspensions for clear-cut violations like alcohol, tobacco or drugs, schools logged a whopping 7,479 incidents for “other behavior.” The meaning of this data confounds African-American parents, who wonder whether white teachers are targeting their children and has made educators increasingly uncomfortable.
By Andy Piascik and Doug Allen in Zcomm – Anyone who has done organizing on a college campus knows the difficulty of sustaining such work. Faculty come and go, students enroll and graduate, and even the most vibrant campaigns come to an abrupt end. In the best of circumstances, organizations, particularly activist ones, seldom last more than a few years. When Doug Allen arrived at the University of Maine in 1974, he helped found the Maine Peace Action Committee (MPAC) even though he had just recently been fired for his activist work by Southern Illinois University. Remarkably, 41 years later, MPAC is still going strong, continuing, among other things, to publish its newsletter, sponsor events, tackle campus issues, and participate in broader campaigns.
By Bjorn Carey in Stanford News – One potential way to combat ongoing climate change, eliminate air pollution mortality, create jobs and stabilize energy prices involves converting the world’s entire energy infrastructure to run on clean, renewable energy. This is a daunting challenge. But now, in a new study,Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, and colleagues, including U.C. Berkeley researcher Mark Delucchi, are the first to outline how each of the 50 states can achieve such a transition by 2050. The 50 individual state plans call for aggressive changes to both infrastructure and the ways we currently consume energy, but indicate that the conversion is technically and economically possible through the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies.
By BBC News – Thousands of protesters from one of the largest teachers’ unions in the Americas met in the centre of Sao Paulo to cast their vote. It began after the state government failed to offer a salary increase. A union leader said the strike had lost force when strike payments had had to be reduced. The strikers of the Union of Official Teachers for the State of Sao Paulo (Apeoesp), had been calling for a 75% pay rise. The union represents about 180,000 teachers. Last year, in the lead up to the World Cup in Brazil, thousands of protesters took to the streets in cities across Brazil to demonstrate against the spiralling costs linked to the building of the football stadiums, and corruption. Many protesters complained money was being cut from basic public services.
By Waubgeshig Rice in CBC News – Students at an Ottawa public school have unveiled four large murals to honour residential school survivors and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The four murals, called Mamawi:Together, adorn an outside wall at the entrance of Pleasant Park Public School in Ottawa’s south end. Each represents a season, according to teachings from Algonquin elder Albert Dumont. “These students are now elementary students and they’re going to go on to high school and university and colleges, but they’re never going to forget this experience,” says Dumont. “And their views and how they see First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples from now on is forever changed because of the experience they’ve had here with this art project.”
By Jennifer Baker in Revolution News – About 350 thousand people marched throughout the cities of Chile on Wednesday against proposed changes to the education system. Some 200 thousand people marched in the capital of Santiago. Wednesday’s march and Thursday’s events (below) were planned to coincide with Chile’s national men’s soccer(football) team participates in the opening game of the Copa Americas. High School students joined teachers and professors who are now on their second week of an indefinite strike. Wednesday’s events were organized by the Confederation of Chilean students (CONFECH), The college of teachers, the National Coordinator of Secondary Students (Cones) And The House Coordinator of Secondary Students (ACES). CONFECH estimated their group alone at 200 Thousand participants.
By Glen Ford in Black Agenda Report – Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, claims his department is prepared toforgive the debts of thousands of students who attended the Corinthian Colleges, the for-profit rip-off conglomerate that filed for bankruptcy last month. Duncan chose his words carefully, claiming that the federal government is putting together a process that would forgive the loans of any student who can show that she had been defrauded by any college – Coriinthian or some other school. Duncan is, of course, lying. His own department estimates it would cost as much as $3.5 billion to provide debt relief to the 350,000 students that have had the misfortune to attend Corinthian schools over the past five years.
By Debt Collective – Just as Corinthian Colleges portrayed its programs as a path to a better life when they were in fact debt traps, the Department of Education is portraying a process that re-victimizes students as a solution to a problem they created. If Education Secretary Arne Duncan was truly “committed to making sure students receive every penny of relief they are entitled to under law” he would sign the “Order for Discharge of Federal Student Loan Debts” the Debt Collective sent him last week, immediately and automatically discharging Corinthian students’ debts. Students are entitled to receive full relief under law.
By Emma Brown in The Washington Post – New York City’s charter schools are leaving thousands of seats unfilled each year despite ballooning demand and long waiting lists, according to an analysis of public data to be released Friday. The decision not to fill seats that are left vacant by departing students deprives other deserving students of places in the schools, the report argues. It also means that charter schools can appear to be improving, according to proficiency rates on standardized tests, even as the absolute number of children scoring proficient declines each year, it says. The report, entitled “No Seat Left Behind” and issued by the Harlem-based parent advocacy group Democracy Builders, calls on charter schools to begin voluntarily “backfilling” their empty seats — or admitting new students to replace those who leave.