Hedge Funds Want Education Slashed In Puerto Rico As Austerity

Puerto Rico is being put into an austerity vice by US hedge funds. (Photo of Flag of Puerto Rico: Damian Entwistle)

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.

Can The Movement For Free, Quality Public Education Win In Chile?

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. But this time may be different. According to Bill Moyer — a social change activist and founding member of the Movement for a New Society, a network of activist collectives that played a key role in nonviolent social movements in the 1970s and 1980s — movements often go through eight stages. Based on the model he designed for understanding the cycle of a social movement — called the Movement Action Plan, or MAP — the education movement in Chile is nearing the final stages. Before learning about those, however, it is important to understand how it got to this point.  Students have historically been at the forefront of social protests in Chile. High school students were some of the first to defy Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, while university students used their campuses as safe places for resistance. After the end of Pinochet’s regime the student movement took time to re-focus their demands and set up new forms of organization and protest.  Following this process of re-adjustment, high school students sparked Chile’s movement for education in 2006 — known as the “penguin revolution” because of the shape and color of the school uniforms — with a very specific demand for free and universal student transport passes. They soon moved on to more structural demands against the neoliberal economic policies affecting education, specifically the Organic Constitutional Act of Teaching, which reduced state involvement in education and came into force on the last day of Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship on March 10, 1990.  The movement was briefly successful in putting education on the political agenda. Mobilizations came to an end after President Bachelet — during her first term in office from 2006 to 2010 — repealed the controversial act. However, the demand for free, quality public education, was still far from being met.  At this point, the movement entered stage three, or “ripening conditions,” where people form new groups and small civil disobedience actions start to dramatize the problem. After the 2006 protests there was a period of lower activity within the movement, but slowly new collectives began to emerge, along with a clearer demand for radical transformation of education in Chile.  The movement was then ready for the fourth stage, or “take off.” This usually happens after a trigger event — caused by the movement itself or by the power-holders — and, after significant organizing, which leads to massive demonstrations, large acts of civil disobedience and extensive media coverage.  In Chile, the trigger was the 2010 election of Sebastián Piñera, the country’s first right-wing president since Augusto Pinochet was forced out of office. Piñera’s government came to power as a reaction to years of frustration with the Coalition of Parties for Democracy — the center-left coalition that had been in power since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship. This development, combined with a growing perception that real social justice would not come from the top down, created stronger unity on the left to organize against the government.  Student organizers, who represented the many thousands of young people eager to engage politically by creative means other than the ballot box, understood that the time was ripe for massive mobilizations.  The movement then launched a campaign that involved a great diversity of actions, including mass marches, school occupations, flash mobs, an alternative referendum on whether education should be free and much more. Most of the student protests were heavily repressed by the police. The government tried to blame the violence on the students, but the images of students, teachers and parents marching peacefully being tear gassed and hit by water cannons belied this narrative. This repression backfired, as polls showed that the movement had more than 70 percent approval among the public, which put education at the top of the political agenda in 2011.  At the time there was a feeling within the movement that it was possible to change things immediately, but as Moyer argues, change takes time and movements usually have to go through various stages before achieving their goals. One weakness of the student movement is that it is very dependent on the school year. Students struggle to keep the momentum going during the summer break and every year there is new student leadership.  Between 2012 and 2014, the movement went through the fifth stage, which Moyer calls the “perception of failure.” In this stage, there is a lower level of participation in actions and the movement appears to be having less of an impact. Many participants felt that large protests weren’t bringing about real change in education and that it was time to look for new strategies. There were also divisions among those in the movement, most notoriously manifested in the different positions taken by activists on voting — first in the 2012 local elections and later during the 2013 presidential and parliamentary elections. While many of the university student leaders strongly supported voting for different candidates to local government — and some even ran and got elected to parliament themselves — the high school student leadership could not have been more different. They called for a boycott of the elections, arguing that no real change would come through electoral politics.  During the fifth stage, politicians often argue that they have “received the message of the people” and that now it is their turn to design and implement the changes that the people have demanded. For the Chilean student movement, this meant that the debate moved from the streets to Congress and the political parties. At the same time, the mainstream political conversation was dominated by the presidential elections of 2013. Many people had hoped Michelle Bachelet’s re-election would come with a mandate to radically reform the education system. Bachelet had finished her first presidential term in 2010 with historically high approval rates, thanks to economic measures that — in a limited, but direct way — supported working-class people. The main message of her 2013 presidential campaign was a commitment to end inequality in Chile.  Since her re-election, however, Bachelet has failed to put forward education proposals that actually meet the movement’s demands. The government argues that this is not due to a lack of political will, but rather the limited resources of a stagnant economy. To implement and be able to afford their education reform, the government passed tax reform last year, with the goal of raising more taxes from big companies. To many, however, this reform fell short of the promise to end inequality in the country. Chile doesn’t lack resources, what it lacks is a just distribution of wealth.  At present, the movement is in the sixth stage, which Moyer called “winning over the majority.” After more than a year of Bachelet’s government, the movement is clear that the radical change they demand for free, quality public education, will not come through the reform that this government is proposing. The government reforms face strong opposition in Congress, so the government has had to water down their proposals to make sure they get approved. The movement understands that it is now vital to work on proposals that counteract those put forward by the government and use its power to secure as good a deal as possible, knowing that it will not be the end of the struggle.  While there have been proposals for reform from students and teachers over the years, they have become more important than ever now that the government is sending education bills to Congress. On June 6, the Chile Student Confederation, which represents students from the so-called “traditional” universities — public schools that were privatized by Pinochet — agreed on an education proposal called “Chile decides.” It put forward a petition with nine points, including: the development of curriculum by teachers, stability for workers, internal democracy for schools, free and universal education, and an end to profit in education in all its forms.   View image | gettyimages.com The proposals have been accompanied by growing social pressure. In June, there was an increase in the regularity and the number of people at marches. For instance, the protest organized by students on June 10 mobilized almost 350,000 people throughout Chile. These actions are happening at the same time as the indefinite teachers’ strike is taking place.  According to Moyer, there are two stages after the sixth: “success” and the “consolidation of success and moving over to other struggles.” Even though these stages are not necessarily linear, and not all movements go through all of them, it is a model that attempts to make sense of the processes experienced by a movement and to ultimately show that change takes time.  The education movement in Chile is at a historic point, having already gone through several stages of a long struggle. It wouldn’t be in the position it is now — with Bachelet’s government set to reform the Chilean education system this year — if not for continuous organizing and creative actions. The movement is aware that this is a crucial moment and it has raised its level of mobilization accordingly, knowing it is possible that the government might make compromises on many of their demands in response to pressure from more moderate sectors. However, if the movement manages to gain majority support — as it did in 2011 — it may be able to secure free, quality public education for everybody in Chile at last.

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.

Creative Hoax Asks Why Free College Tuition Not Up for Discussion

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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.

The Miseducation Of Augie Merasty

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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.

Occupy Summer School Teaches Teens How To Stage A Protest

Marni Halasa teaches a class on creatively protesting at Occupy Summer School. Photo: Bess Adler, Metro

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.

Read Mumia

Mumia Abu-Jamal is serving life for the murder of a police officer. | Photo: Reuters  This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address:  http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Mumia-Abu-Jamal-Hospitalized-as-Court-Hears-Mental-Anguish-Law-20150330-0024.html. If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english

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.

Race Dramatically Skews Discipline, Even In Elementary School

A kindergarten class listens to Spokane psychologist Natalie Turner speak at West Seattle Elementary School recently. Amid statewide worries about discipline, the school is training teachers on understanding the... (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

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.

Long Distance Running: Interview W/ Veteran Peace Activist Doug Allen

John Clarke Russ | BDN Eastern Maine Labor Council president Jack McKay (from left), Food and Medicine organizer Martin Chartrand and Dr. Mark Allen Doty of Hammond Street Congregational Church joined several dozen others for the " We Are One Rally for Human Dignity" at the University of Maine's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Memorial Plaza Monday afternoon, April 4, 2011. Among the speakers was University of Maine philosophy professor Douglas Allen (foreground, left). The event also marked the anniversary of Dr. King's assassination in 1968 in Memphis,TN where he was supporting sanitation workers. The participants at Monday's rally focused on worker rights and human dignity.

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.

Stanford Engineers’ Plan To Convert U.S. To 100% Clean Energy

Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and other researchers have calculated how to meet each state's new power demands using only the renewable energies of wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and tiny amounts of tidal and wave available to each state. (Vaclav Volrab / Shutterstock)

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.

Brazil Teacher Strike In Sao Paulo State Ends

Thousands of teachers in the Brazilian state of São Paulo voted on May 15 to continue their now two-month strike. Photo: CUT, São Paulo. - See more at: http://www.labornotes.org/blogs/2015/05/sao-paulo-teachers-vote-continue-two-month-strike#sthash.FueTMmug.dpuf

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.

Ottawa Children Honour Residential School Survivors With Art

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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.”

Massive Marches In Chile For Education Reform Face Violent Police

During the strike, the students pushed back on some of the police vehicles. Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters

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.

Arne Duncan’s False Promise To Forgive Debts At For-Profit Schools

Nine state attorneys general urged Education Secretary Arne Duncan to forgive federal loans to students who attended schools currently or formerly owned by Corinthian Colleges. | Andrew Burton via Getty Images

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.

Debt Resistors Protests Dept Of Education Debt Relief Program

Nine state attorneys general urged Education Secretary Arne Duncan to forgive federal loans to students who attended schools currently or formerly owned by Corinthian Colleges. | Andrew Burton via Getty Images

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.

Study: NYC Charters Leave 1000s Of Seats Unfilled Despite Demand

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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.