Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Immigrants and their children can save our democracy and revive our country; they always have

Beautiful piece in The Hill by my colleague, Dr. Rebecca Callahan.  It dovetails perfectly with my earlier post on how to combat hate like what we witnessed recently in Pittsburgh.  Key quote:

 [C]hildren of immigrant parents have demonstratehigher than average participation in America’s democracy.

Research also suggests that bilinguals and children of immigrant parents show significantly higher levels of empathy than monolinguals. As colleagues and I have argued elsewhere, this empathy is a critical step toward civic investment. By definition, children of immigrants, who comprise one in four children in our public schools today, have grown up navigating two perspectives: that of their parents, and that of larger society, including their school and teachers. This ability to recognize others’ perspectives is essential to becoming an active, engaged citizen. A true democracy thrives when it embraces diverse perspectives and experiences.
Let's also remember that vast numbers of recent immigrants emanate from Latin American countries with strong democratic traditions. 
We should therefore not only not scapegoat the immigrant community, but we should actually have an asset-based approach.  In the classroom, this should translate into inclusive, equity-based, and culturally sustaining pedagogy and curriculum.

Great job, Dr. Callahan! Keep up the great work!

Angela Valenzuela

Immigrants and their children can save our democracy and revive our country; they always have


Getty Images


The Slaughter in Pittsburgh Is Horrifying. What Can Schools Do to Prevent Another?

Important piece by Stephen Sawchuck in Edweek.

Since curriculum entails the reproduction of consciousness, I would implicate our school system as a whole—with some exceptions throughout the country—in the reproduction of systemic ignorance about the Holocaust and the enslavement, brutality, and genocide of peoples native to this continent.  We should customarily teach such things in our educational system and the timing could never be more perfect, nor the stakes higher.  

This quote from this piece should concern us all:

In a recent, nationally representative survey, many Americans didn't know even basic facts about the Holocaust. Thirty-one percent of adults, and 41 percent of millennials, thought 2 million people died in the genocide; the actual number is 6 million people. Forty-five percent of adults, and half of millennials, could not name a concentration camp or a Jewish ghetto.
Jews represent a very small percentage of the U.S. population.  According to the
Pew Research Center, "There are about 4.2 million American adults who say they are Jewish by religion, representing 1.8% of the U.S. adult population."  How is it that they are a threat for folks like Robert Bowers?  Did he ever meet a Jewish person or spend time in a cultural festivity himself or visit a synagogue?

Of course he didn't, but the point here is that if we are to promote greater tolerance to scale in society, the best way is through public school curriculum developed by experts.  And we need leadership in that regard and our communities need to mobilize their local school boards and state boards of education for this to come to fruition.

Aside from cultural and community uplift, combating ignorance, implicit bias, and hatred is what motivates so many of us to advocate strongly for Ethnic Studies, a movement that has made significant progress in recent years, including in Texas where our State Board recently approved the teaching of high school Ethnic Studies (keyword "Ethnic Studies" in this blog for ample sources).

I know that when I was an undergraduate student in college, I was enormously enlightened when I got the opportunity to study African American and Jewish American literature as an English major. I learned about this even before learning about Mexican American literature.  Yet I was able to connect at a deep level with this curriculum, regardless, and helps explain much of who I am today.

However, my friends, all of this exposure needs to happen much earlier, ideally beginning at the pre-K and elementary school levels. 

My hope is that someday this will simply be called a "good education" and that an informed, better-educated public won't experience this vacuum of knowledge into which falsehoods, hate speech, ethnic violence—symbolic and real—find a home.

Expressed positively, Ethnic Studies promises to promote greater cross-cultural understanding and benefit society, as a whole.

Angela Valenzuela

The Slaughter in Pittsburgh Is Horrifying. What Can Schools Do to Prevent Another?

The unimaginable slaughter in Pittsburgh, Pa., of 11 members of a Jewish congregation while they were attending services underscores a profoundly disturbing phenomenon: Anti-semitism is once again growing in the United States.
According to the New York Times, which referenced data from the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-semitic incidents in the United States increased by 57 percent in 2017 over the previous year. Or just look at the violence in Charlottesville, where white supremacists gathered last fall in a rally that turned violent, some shouting neo-Nazi slogans and carrying signs; or the vicious rancor on Twitter and on far-right chat boards.
A growing lack of knowledge about the Holocaust among young people appears to be paralleling this rise. In a recent, nationally representative survey, many Americans didn't know even basic facts about the Holocaust. Thirty-one percent of adults, and 41 percent of millennials, thought 2 million people died in the genocide; the actual number is 6 million people. Forty-five percent of adults, and half of millennials, could not name a concentration camp or a Jewish ghetto. 
All of this brings up the important question: What is the responsibility of schools to teach about the history of anti-semitism and the Holocaust?

A Patchwork of Standards

It's a difficult question to answer, in part because it's so hard to get a handle on what it is schools actually teach about the topic now. As most of you know, every state sets its own content standards for history and social studies, and there is no one repository that spells out what each of them requires. Multiply that confusion by the number of teachers and classrooms and it's hard to get a sense of who is learning what. 
Many states do have world history standards that include the origins and belief systems of the major religions, though the precise number of courses they take varies. And probably most teachers at least touch on the Holocaust as part of their units on World War II. But that's a different thing from tracing the historical roots of anti-semitism all the way from the Middle Ages up through, for example, 19th century forgeries like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to current conspiracy theories surrounding figures like billionaire George Soros.  
And not all states specifically mandate that schools address the Holocaust, or genocide more generally, in their classes, though there appears to be some efforts in this direction. Both Kentucky  and  Connecticut just this year passed legislation requiring districts to include the Holocaust in their social studies curriculum. 
The gaps, though, are significant, for this reason: Jewish people in America aren't equally distributed. A larger proportion live in the Northeast and the West, and far fewer in the Midwest. It is probably not surprising to see that education on Judaism and the Holocaust tend to show up in states where there's a larger Jewish community. But arguably it's those states with fewer Jewish people that need more explicit education to combat stereotypes and hate—and where young people may not realize that words they're hearing in everyday politics these days, like "globalist," are caught up in antisemitic discourse.
Below, you can find information for yourself on each state's Jewish population and any laws it has on teaching the Holocaust. (The map doesn't include states where the topic is encouraged or part of state standards, but not written into law.) You can toggle between the maps using the tabs.

Which States Mandate Holocaust Lessons?

Nine states require, by law, the Holocaust to be taught in schools. States with a smaller Jewish population often do not have these laws.
Go to article link to hover over each state to reveal data on the Jewish population in each state

Hate Speech on the Rise

It's clear, too, that hate speech of all kinds appears to be on the rise, including within schools. A few months back, Francisco Vara-Orta took a deep dive into hate incidents in schools. In his review of 472 verified accounts over a two-year period, most incidents targeted black and Latino students, as well as those who are Jewish or Muslim.
The online news site Chalkbeat has a nice rundown of some curriculum projects offering teacher resources on addressing bias and hate in the classroom, such as Teaching Tolerance and Rethinking Schools. Here are some others to check out that specifically deal with the Holocaust.
Photo: A woman pays her respects at a makeshift memorial in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 29. —Matt Rourke/AP

Related stories:

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Update from Raices: Trump Administration Suddenly Mass Releasing THOUSANDS from Detention
The administration announced Thursday evening that they are mass releasing families from detention centers along the border. For months they’ve kept families for longer than the twenty days they are legally allowed to, but now, they are suddenly mass releasing THOUSANDS of people with NO plans to ensure their safety.

This timing isn’t a coincidence. The midterms are around the corner but there is no time for distraction. We must do EVERYTHING we can to be there for these people.

The U.S. government has done this before. In 2016 ICE released 500 people to the streets of San Antonio without any proper preparation or even any warning. RAICES was there, and within days, we got hundreds of people on buses, planes and into safe shelters. We’re prepared to do the same again today.

We need your help. Our team of 100+ lawyers and case workers are mobilizing to support these families.

This is a moment where we as Americans can prove we’re not going to let an unfair, rigged immigration system define what we do as human beings. This is a moment where we decide what it means to be American.
Please take a moment to watch the video below and join us in the fight for the Soul of America!
RAICES: The Soul of America Video Preview Image

Friday, October 26, 2018

Texas' Tax System Ranked Second in Level of Unfairness Nationwide

Important national report titled, "Who Pays? A Redistributional Analysis of the Tax System in All 50 States," that shows Texas' tax system ranked second in level of unfairness relative to 48 other states nationwide.

This is why we all have to go out and vote and be involved in economic, especially school finance policy and politics.  Let's begin with everybody who is registered to vote, committing to do so right now during the midterms.

It is not until we have folks that genuinely represent us that we will have the equity that we so desperately need.

Thanks to Dick Lavine from CPPP for sharing.


Who Pays: A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States (the sixth edition of the report) is the only distributional analysis of tax systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This comprehensive report assesses tax fairness by measuring effective state and local tax rates paid by all income groups.[1] No two state tax systems are the same; this report provides detailed analyses of the features of every state tax code. It includes state-by-state profiles that provide baseline data to help lawmakers and the public understand how current tax policies affect taxpayers at all income levels.
The report includes these main findings:
  • THE VAST MAJORITY OF STATE AND LOCAL TAX SYSTEMS ARE INEQUITABLE AND UPSIDE-DOWN, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families. The absence of a graduated personal income tax in many states and an overreliance on consumption taxes contribute to this longstanding problem.
  • THE LOWER ONE’S INCOME, THE HIGHER ONE’S OVERALL EFFECTIVE STATE AND LOCAL TAX RATE. On average, the lowest-income 20 percent of taxpayers face a state and local tax rate more than 50 percent higher than the top 1 percent of households. The nationwide average effective state and local tax rate is 11.4 percent for the lowest-income 20 percent of individuals and families, 9.9 percent for the middle 20 percent, and 7.4 percent for the top 1 percent.
  • TAX STRUCTURES IN 45 STATES EXACERBATE INCOME INEQUALITY. Most state and local tax systems worsen income inequality by making incomes more unequal after collecting state and local taxes. Five states and the District of Columbia somewhat narrow the gap between lower- and middle- income taxpayers and upper-income taxpayers, making income slightly more equitable after collecting state and local taxes.
  • IN THE 10 STATES WITH THE MOST REGRESSIVE TAX STRUCTURES (THE TERRIBLE 10), THE LOWEST-INCOME 20 PERCENT PAY UP TO SIX TIMES AS MUCH OF THEIR INCOME IN TAXES AS THEIR WEALTHY COUNTERPARTS. Washington State is the most regressive, followed by Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.
  • HEAVY RELIANCE ON SALES AND EXCISE TAXES ARE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MOST REGRESSIVE STATE TAX SYSTEMS. Six of the 10 most regressive states derive roughly half to two-thirds of their tax revenue from sales and excise taxes, compared to a national average of about one-third. Seven of these states do not levy a broad-based personal income tax while the remaining three have a personal income tax rate structure that is flat or virtually flat. A calculation of effective sales and excise tax rates finds that, on average, the lowest-income 20 percent pays 7.1 percent, the middle 20 percent pays 4.8 percent and the top 1 percent pays a comparatively meager 0.9 percent rate.
  • A PROGRESSIVE GRADUATED INCOME TAX IS A CHARACTERISTIC OF THE LEAST REGRESSIVE STATE TAX SYSTEMS. States with the most equitable state and local tax systems derive, on average, more than one-third of their tax revenue from income taxes, which is above the national average of 27 percent. These states promote progressivity through the structure of their income taxes, including their rates (higher marginal rates for higher-income taxpayers), deductions, exemptions, and use of targeted refundable credits.
  • STATES COMMENDED AS “LOW-TAX” ARE OFTEN HIGH-TAX FOR LOW- AND MIDDLE-INCOME FAMILIES. The 10 states with the highest taxes on the poor are Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Six of these are also among the “terrible ten” because they are not only high-tax for the poorest, they are also low-tax for their richest residents.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Disturbing and Appalling! Please Vote, everybody. Nothing Could Be More Urgent.

Check out the evening news. Disturbing and appalling!

We are witnessing U.S.-born terrorism.  Bombs were delivered to the homes of Trump’s political foes, including President Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Maxine Waters, John Brennan, Eric Holder, and CNN itself.  The CNN newsroom had to be evacuated.  There’s concern of another package intended for Joe Biden.  Thankfully, no one got hurt.  The packages all had Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic Party icon, as their return address.

The Secret Service did a great job in confiscating these.  The FBI is all over this right now.  Hopefully, they can find the perpetrators of this horrific crime.

That said, this is extreme.

This hateful, violent spirit emanates from the very top—with the president. Unbelievably, the crowd that Trump rallied today chanted, "Lock her up" AFTER a bomb had been mailed to Hillary Clinton.

And, the bombs were to people that are open enemies of the president—even in recent days.

And this is occurring in the context of unjust policies that disenfranchise our communities so that Trump and his base can hold onto their power.

The end justifies the means.  Whatever it takes....  Even terrorism.

Aside from his own contemptuousness, Trump has loosened an even more hateful and violent spirit in his base over which he cannot possibly control.

Yet he won't retract this mean-spirited statements or approach (he didn't at today's rally where his deplorable base chanted, "lock her up"), let alone apologize to the broader polity and work to make amends for his atrociously cynical, divisive, and corrosive leadership.

And the Republicans have abdicated their responsibilities to the people.  They fail to take this administration on.  And for what?!

“[White] nationalism,” we can easily deduce.  This is a reckless weaponizing of white identity.

We need a government that serves and represents the people rather than an oligarchy and patriarchy that looks more like Talibanism than American democracy.

All Trump could see seem to say today in response was, “We have to unify.”  

In response, here is the message delivered today by Sen. Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi: 

“President Trump’s words ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence. Time and time again, the President has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and actions: expressing support for the congressman who body-slammed a reporter, the neo-Nazis who killed a young woman in Charlottesville, his supporters at rallies who get violent with protestors, dictators around the world who murder their own citizens, and referring to the free press as the enemy of the people.”

Please vote, everybody. Nothing could be more urgent.  And take a family member or two with you.  

This doesn't have to last another term.  It does not and indeed, should not ever be this way. But we all must vote. And do take someone with you to the polls.

-Angela Valenzuela