Friday, February 23, 2018

Troops To Teachers Is What They're Gearing Up For As Proposal To Arm Teachers Floods The Airwaves

Display at a national education conference in Washington DC March, 2016

The distraction machine I call the demagogue with bad hair ventured into new territory this week by claiming that teachers could ward off assault weapons if they themselves were adept at using firearms.

Teachers unions and prominent educators immediately denounced the idea of arming teachers.

Experienced teachers pointed out that teenage students could be expected to access teachers' guns, dedicated teachers said they would resign rather than be trained for concealed carry, and jokesters responded with a dose of reality about school budgets:

But here's the thing. The so-called "troops to teachers" movement has been around for a while, and I think this latest use of school mass killings is intended to hasten its progress.

Troops to teachers tabling at the Teaching and Learning Conference 2016 in Washington DC

Public school teachers come in all kinds. Some throw desks when students don't get the answer right. Some teach real history and connect it to current events, and they leave the textbook full of lies gathering dust on the shelves. Many have anger management and substance abuse issues. Some are not really school employees but function as such without being subject to the same certification requirements as actual teachers (for example, Jobs for Maine's Graduates instructors).

Then there's Junior ROTC like they have at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Ad created by David Swanson, World Beyond War

A leading organizer against the militarization of public school, Pat Elder, wrote this excellent analysis of how JROTC functions to replace curriculum and teaching staff for students as young as middle school. Elder reported that, "There are 1,600 American high schools that enroll students in military-run marksmanship programs, teaching children as young as 13 to shoot lethal weapons." He found that the state of Florida 
"allows students enrolled in JROTC to satisfy the curricular requirements of physical education, biology, physical science, art, and life management. JROTC is regarded as an Advanced Placement course...Many of these courses are taught by retired enlisted soldiers with no teaching credentials and little or no college education. "
Elder subsequently reported on his research about school militarization in an interview with Democracy Now! which you can listen to here.

As a teacher I feel sad about this creeping takeover of the promise once offered by free public education. I don't think it will affect my career much since I'm at the end anyway and the day a pistol packing colleague arrives is the day I head out the door. (Yup, I've had to put up with armed law enforcement in schools from the day I started teaching and no, it really isn't that much different.)

But I worry about how my grandchildren and the other young ones will be affected by public schools that become an arm of the Pentagon, a branch of government that is already gobbling up most available federal funding.

The kids whose parents can afford to send them to progressive private schools will be insulated from the risks of armed teachers if not from armed lunatics who strike regularly at every sort of location.

The kids whose parents are Native people accustomed to a very different model of educating youngsters may be unschooled in greater numbers.

The kids whose parents don't care much for material things may be homeschooled in greater numbers. I may yet get my dream of bartering literacy education for health care in a cooperative arrangement with doctors and dentists who opt out of the public schools. Because I've seen some great homeschooling results -- but I've also seen a homeschooled eight year old that still couldn't read.

My husband, not an educator, has another concern. He points out that veterans have an extremely high rate of attempted and completed suicide, often with a gun. Who will protect our children from that?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

17 People Have Joined A Hunger Strike Opposing Tax Giveaway For General Dynamics

Augusta, Maine -- As a controversial bill to extend a $60 million tax giveaway to General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard is set for its second work session, 17 people have joined an extended hunger strike opposing LD 1781.

The work session for the bill co-sponsored by Rep. Jennifer DeChant and Sen. Eloise Vitelli will consider amendments written by General Dynamics’ legal consultants at Preti Flaherty. The amendments are intended to make the bill more palatable to Maine taxpayers, perhaps by breaking the $60 million over 20 years into two $30 million tax giveaways of ten years’ duration each.  Currently the bill is tabled in the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation.

Hunger striker Bruce Gagnon of Bath is expected to attend the work session February 22 at 1:00 pm in State House Room 127, but no members of the public will be allowed to speak. Gagnon will begin his 11th day of fasting as he bears witness to BIW executives and Maine legislators contemplating a tax break for a highly profitable corporation, one that paid its CEO $21 million last year.

Gagnon stated, “I’m 11 days into this hunger strike and spending a lot of time at BIW talking with workers.  There are many workers who understand GD’s fiscal posture and oppose this fat welfare subsidy.”

Opponents of the bill have published more than 68 letters and op-eds in 20 Maine media outlets.

All objected to Maine taxpayer subsidies for the General Dynamics Corporation, the 5th largest weapons contractor in the world and owner of BIW. Although jobs are often cited as the rationale for tax giveaways, letters have pointed out that General Dynamics has used past Maine subsidies -- $200 million since 1997 – to ‘mechanize and modernize’  the operation which has led to job loss.  And also that General Dynamics has used the money to buy back their own stocks driving market value higher.

Among those who have had letters to the editor published is Mark Roman of Solon, who also testified at the public hearing for LD 1781 in opposition to the bill. “I cannot stand by and watch Maine lawmakers waste money that could be spent on education, health care and housing for the 43,000 children in Maine living in poverty today,” Roman said.

People across Maine and from away -- including California and Vermont -- have signed up to fast in solidarity with Gagnon.

Many will fast for a day or once a week, but Gagnon has indicated he plans to fast continuously until after the vote is taken by the legislature. 

Solidarity hunger strikers:
2/22  Meredith Bruskin, Peggy Akers, Cindy Piester, Ken Jones
2/23  Connie Jenkins, Mary Beth Sullivan, Bob Klotz, Ken Jones
2/24  Cynthia Howard, Peter Morgan, Larry Dansinger, Ken Jones
2/25  Cynthia Howard, Ken Jones
2/26  Don Kimball, Connie Jenkins, Cynthia Howard, Richard Cate, Ken Jones

2/27  Barbara, Cynthia Howard, Ken Jones
2/28  Cynthia Howard, Ken Jones

A video made outside the shipyard gates: Day Six Hunger Strike at Bath Ironworks

Partial list of letters and columns published in opposition to LD1781:
No tax giveaways for General Dynamics by Don Kimball (Bangor Daily News 2/21/18)
Maine can’t afford to give General Dynamics more money by Don Kimball (Portland Press Herald 2/21/18)
No corporate welfare for General Dynamics by Doug Allen (Bangor Daily News 2/20/18)
No tax giveaways for General Dynamics by Connie Jenkins (Bangor Daily News 2/19/18)
No more corporate welfare by Ilze Petersons (Bangor Daily News 2/17/18)
Collusion’s close to home at BIW by Dan Marks (Portland Press Herald 2/15/18)
No tax handouts for General Dynamic by Rob Shetterly (Bangor Daily News 2/15/18)
Fear card by Mary Donnelly (Times Record 2/14/18)
Op-ed: An opportunity for choosing people over profit by Rosalie Paul (Times Record 2/14/18)
Corporate welfare for GD by Karen Wainberg (Times Record 2/13/18)
Safety on our highways trumps BIW tax break by Cushman Anthony (Portland Press Herald 2/13/18)
Corporate Welfare for General Dynamics by Russell Wray (Sun Journal 2/11/18)
No tax break for General Dynamics by Doug Rawlings (Daily Bulldog 2/9/18)
The Right Thing by Eric Herter (Times Record  2/9/18)
Tax break for BIW by Jim Anderberg (Lewiston Sun Journal 2/2/18)
No tax giveaways for General Dynamics by Leslie Manning (Bangor Daily News 1/30/18)
No need for Maine taxpayers to subsidize BIW by Mary Beth Sullivan (Portland Press Herald 1/28/18)
General Dynamics doesn't need tax handouts by Robert Hayes (Bangor Daily News 1/25/18)
No Tax Giveaway for General Dynamics by Mark Roman (Morning Sentinel 1/18/18)
General Dynamics has asked for enough money by Peter Morgan (Portland Press Herald 1/3/18)
No more handouts for General Dynamics by Dud Hendricks (Bangor Daily News 12/25/17)

No More Tax Breaks for General Dynamics and BIW by Lisa Savage (Kennebec Journal 12/3/17)