Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Watch Alex Wagner Tonight Highlights: Jan. 25 on DeSantis' banning of AP African American Studies

Beginning at 1:38 on the meter of this youtube video, MSNBC host Alex Wagner addresses Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' book banning, policing curriculum, morphed into his banning of AP African American Studies. 

Listen to civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and Frederick Ingram, Secretary Treasure of the American Federation of Teachers, speak powerfully against this. Note that DeSantis' decision fell flagrantly on the the eve of Black History Month that begins tomorrow on February 1st and on the heels of the commemoration of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. 

So incredibly offensive and enraging. According to Ingram, these actions have led to many Florida teachers leaving the classroom as a consequence. How can teachers not be discouraged when they fear teaching the truths of history like slavery, reconstruction, civil rights history, and the like—all that "dangerous knowledge" about which we know well.

We have our own fish to fry here in Texas. Everyone should reach out to whoever represents them and express support for Rep. Christina Morales' House Bill 45 that will create a pathway to high school graduation that includes African American Studies, Mexican American Studies, and Ethnic Studies, generally.

Go to this link to find out who represents you here in Texas if you don't already know. This is winnable, but we need everybody involved.

-Angela Valenzuela

Important, must-see CNN documentary titled, "Deep in the Pockets of Texas"

Students, Friends, and Colleagues:

Re-posting this important CNN documentary titled, "Deep in the Pockets of Texas," that might be something to do on this blistery cold day in Texas. 

It's illuminating, to say the least, about the rightward shift of Texas Republican party politics—out of step, incidentally, with most Texans and the nation.

It's about "policy for sale" via the bankrolling of campaigns of extremist candidates—many of them, nobodies—who get funding pending their passage of a litmus test regarding just how much they oppose gays, transgender kids, women's reproductive freedom, and other signature issues of the  republican right in Texas. To wit, according to a June 2, 2022 Navigator poll, Hispanics, who are stereotyped as conservative on such matters as abortion are largely pro-choice (61%) as opposed to pro-life (29%)—8 percent undecided.

Really wealthy evangelical white people on a mission are behind this. Wealthy people. We totally need to reform all this very influential dark money in politics. This begins with voting, as well as the passage of laws that open up the vote to all Texans.

This is the long game. A first step for me today is supporting Blue Texas that represents a collaboration between Power the Vote the proved influential in Georgia, and Every State Blue that has inspired grassroots efforts, providing resources to state legislative nominees together with resources to secure the vote in every district everywhere. Particularly with a great ground strategy, there is always hope. Plus, we really have no choice but to organize.

-Angela Valenzuela



Texas: Two Billionaires Want to Destroy 

Public Education and Replace It With 

Christian Schools

Inside The Online Community Where Home-Schoolers Learn How To Turn Their Kids Into ‘Wonderful Nazis’, by Christopher Mathias

Disgusting, heartbreaking, profoundly racist, and anti-semitic. Using their own words, who the heck are the "Gay Afro Zionist scum" running the schools? A figment of their own imaginations, to be sure.

Geez, "Nazi homeschooling." This is what happens when homeschooling is completely unregulated with zero enforcement mechanisms of any regulations they do have. 

Poor children. They don't know anything different from hating people who are different from them. What a disservice. How irresponsible these adults who live in fear, holding contempt toward those whom they see as "other," less than. What a dystopian world to live in and to create. And for this to be the core of their curriculum is shameless and vulgar. Othering, othering, othering. Dehumanizing the other. So bankrupt. So evil. So sad.

In addition to neo-Nazi homeschooling our free-market-ideology legislatures simultaneously packed with authoritarian, religious-right populists are regelating our youth and society to the Dark Ages with educations that they themselves would never subject their own children to. Such hypocrisy. 

These communities need to wake up and see how they're getting played—and very much to their own, and their children's, detriment. Nothing good will come of this. Exposés like these are nevertheless helpful.

Angela Valenzuela

Inside The Online Community Where Home-Schoolers Learn How To Turn Their Kids Into ‘Wonderful Nazis’  

A Telegram group called Dissident Homeschool has been a resource for neo-Nazis who want to teach their kids hate at home. Now its administrators have been unmasked.

The Dissident Homeschool channel on Telegram shares "Nazi-approved material" for home schooling.

 On Nov. 5, 2021, a married couple calling themselves “Mr. and Mrs. Saxon” appeared on the neo-Nazi podcast “Achtung Amerikaner” to plug a new project: a social media channel dedicated to helping American parents home-school their children.

“We are so deeply invested into making sure that that child becomes a wonderful Nazi,” Mrs. Saxon told the podcast’s host. “And by home-schooling, we’re going to get that done.”

The Saxons said they launched the “Dissident Homeschool” channel on Telegram after years of searching for and developing “Nazi-approved material” for their own home-schooled children — material they were eager to share.

The Dissident Homeschool channel — which now has nearly 2,500 subscribers — is replete with this material, including ready-made lesson plans authored by the Saxons on various subjects, like Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (a “grand role model for young, white men”) and Martin Luther King Jr. (“the antithesis of our civilization and our people”).

There are copywork assignments available for parents to print out, so that their children can learn cursive by writing out quotes from Adolf Hitler. There are recommended reading lists with bits of advice like “do not give them Jewish media content,” and there are tips for ensuring that home-schooling parents are in “full compliance with the law” so that “the state” doesn’t interfere.

The Saxons also frequently update their followers on their progress home-schooling their own children. In one since-deleted post to Telegram, they posted an audio message of their kids shouting “Sieg Heil” — the German phrase for “hail victory” that was used by the Nazis.

Over the past year, the Dissident Homeschool channel has become a community for like-minded fascists who see home schooling as integral to whites wresting control of America. The Saxons created this community while hiding behind a fake last name, but HuffPost has reviewed evidence indicating they are Logan and Katja Lawrence of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Logan, until earlier this week, worked for his family’s insurance company while Katja taught the kids at home.

The Anonymous Comrades Collective, a group of anti-fascist researchers, first uncovered evidence suggesting the Lawrences are behind Dissident Homeschool. HuffPost has verified the collective’s research.

The Lawrences did not respond to repeated requests for comment made via phone calls, text messages and emails. A HuffPost reporter also left a message in the Dissident Homeschool channel asking Mr. and Mrs. Saxon for comment about the Anonymous Comrades Collective’s research. That message was immediately deleted by the channel’s administrators, who then disabled the channel’s comment and chat functions.

A short time later, Katja Lawrence deleted her Facebook page.

Although the Lawrences will now surely face some public scorn and accountability, it’s likely their neo-Nazi curriculum is legal. A concerted, decades-long campaign by right-wing Christian groups to deregulate home schooling has afforded parents wide latitude in how they teach their kids — even if that means indoctrinating them with explicit fascism.

Meanwhile major right-wing figures are increasingly promoting home schooling as a way to save children from alleged “wokeness” — or liberal ideas about race and gender — in public and private schools. As extreme as the Dissident Homeschool channel is, the propaganda it shares targeting the American education system is just a more explicit and crass articulation of talking points made by Fox News hosts or by major figures in the Republican Party.

“Without homeschooling our children,” Mrs. Saxon once wrote, “our children are left defenseless to the schools and the Gay Afro Zionist scum that run them.”

Monday, January 30, 2023

“Almost everyone is calling for ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mama’ with the last breath," by Jason Stanford

Yesterday evening, I viewed a video of Tyre Nichols' screams for his mother. It was crushing, bringing me to tears. He screamed in anguish for his mother as police officers brutally and senselessly beat him, taking his life away.

Later, I came across this poignant reflection by Jason Stanford on Tyre Nichols' last words on his blog, The ExperimentStanford mentions this 2018 essay in Der Spiegel where a hospice nurse observes a pattern of ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mama’ being men's last words. 

I can't get past the Der Spiegel paywall to learn more about this, but it sounds plausible. However, why this may be more particular to men than women is curious. After all, as the late Adrienne Rich once wrote, as humans, all of humanity shares in the experience of being Of Woman Born, also the title of her pioneering feminist book on motherhood.

Mom, Mommy, Mama, Mami.  

Lots of feelings yesterday and today, cascading into deep wells of memory filled with acceptance, friendship, affection, and most of all unconditional love—as I remember my own late mother whose birthday is tomorrow, January 31st. 

Happy birthday, Mom. It's so hard to believe that you left us 17 years ago in 2005. A day doesn't go by that I don't think about you.

I wish I could say that the world is in a better place when you left us, but I'm
actually not so sure about that. I think of Nichols' mother, and how her son meant the world to her and vice-versa. What is tried and true is the enduring love, presence and power of our mommies—especially ones like you. 💕

-Angela Valenzuela


“Almost everyone is calling for ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mama’ with the last breath.”

Tyre Williams called out for his mother as the police beat him to death. 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Lax Texas charter school laws allow showy land buys, profits—Briefing from the San Antonio Express-News

This report on what we might term, the charter school industrial complex in the San Antonio Express-News should irk any taxpayer with a heart beat. 

For those wanting to address this more fully, here is a helpful piece from the Texas House Research Organization in 2021 titled, "Charter school not entitled to tax exemption under recent ruling by Texas Supreme Court." The HRO presents a legal caseOdyssey 2020 Academy v. Galveston Central Appraisal District, where this particular charter school was not permitted a tax exemption its operators had requested. This case has broader implications germane to this Express-News report. Read on.

-Angela Valenzuela

Good morning, readers.

We're starting the week off with a pair of investigations into Texas' property tax rules and who is reaping benefits at taxpayers' expense.

First, consider a 2020 land purchase by Universal Academy. A nonprofit formed to support the Texas charter school bought a luxury horse ranch and equestrian center. Sales prices aren't public in Texas, but the property had been listed for $12 million when former ExxonMobil Chairman Rex Tillerson bought it in 2009. Because of the foundation's nonprofit status and its plans to offer equine therapy, the parcel was removed from the tax rolls.

An analysis by Hearst Newspapers found cases in which charter schools collected valuable real estate at great cost to taxpayers but with a tenuous connection to student learning. In others, administrators own the school facilities and have collected millions from charging rent to the same schools they run.

Meanwhile, Texas' Chapter 313 program expired Dec. 31, but a rush of applications as the law expired has put taxpayers on the hook for a projected $31 billion in tax breaks for nearly three decades to come.

-Cameron Songer, newsletter editor

Lax Texas charter school laws allow splashy land buys, profits for leaders

In some cases, administrators own school facilities and collect millions from charging the schools rent.

Jan. 22, 2023

Just over two years ago, Universal Academy, a Texas charter school with two campuses in the Dallas area, made a surprising move.

In November 2020, a nonprofit foundation formed to support the school bought a luxury horse ranch and equestrian center from former ExxonMobil Chairman Rex Tillerson. The 12-building complex features a show barn “designed with Normandy-style cathedral ceilings,” a 120,000 square foot climate-controlled riding arena and a viewing pavilion with kitchen and bathrooms.

RELATED: IDEA Public Schools signed $15M lease for luxury jet despite being under state investigation

Last summer the Texas Education Agency granted Universal Academy permission to create a new elementary campus on the horse property’s manicured grounds. It will offer students riding lessons, according to a brochure, for $9,500.

Sales prices aren't public in Texas, but the 100-acre property had been listed for $12 million when Tillerson, who also served as secretary of state under former President Donald Trump, bought it in 2009. Because of the foundation’s nonprofit status and its plans to offer equine therapy, the parcel has been removed from the tax rolls.

School board President Janice Blackmon said Universal hopes to use the facility to start a 4H chapter and Western-style horsemanship training, among other programs that take advantage of its rural location. “We’re trying to broaden the students and connect them to their Texas roots,” she said.

Splashy purchases like the horse arena are receiving increasing public scrutiny as charter schools continue to expand aggressively across Texas. Under state law, charter schools are public schools — just owned and managed privately, unlike traditional school districts. 

An analysis by Hearst Newspapers found cases in which charter schools collected valuable real estate at great cost to taxpayers but with a tenuous connection to student learning. In others, administrators own the school facilities and have collected millions from charging rent to the same schools they run.

In Houston, the superintendent and founder of Diversity, Roots and Wings Academy,  or DRAW, owns or controls four facilities used by the school, allowing him to bill millions to schools he oversees. DRAW’s most recent financial report shows signed lease agreements to pay Fernando Donatti, the superintendent, and his companies more than $6.5 million through 2031.

In an email, superintendent Donetti at DRAW said the property transactions were ethical, in the best interest of DRAW’s students and properly reported to state regulators. He said his school was “lucky” he was able to purchase the property because of challenges charters can face finding proper facilities. 

DRAW Academy, center, photographed Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Houston.Jon Shapley/Staff photographer

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Backlash grows against DeSantis decision to block AP African American studies class #StopTheBlackAttack

DeSantis' decision to disallow the teaching of AP African American Studies in Florida schools takes me back to when John Huppenthal did this to Mexican American Studies (formerly called "Raza Studies") in the Tucson Unified School District. 

Referencing this court case in which I served as expert witness on curriculum, Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump is correct in noting the unconstitutionality of robbing youth of their right to this curriculum. The teacher and student plaintiffs in TUSD won this case in 2017, following a 7-year court battle. I blogged about it for at least a couple of years (note: keyword search "MAS," "TUSD," "TUSD Ethnic Studies," and "Tucson" to locate posts).

Folks in Florida are justifiably outraged, calling out DeSantis' gravitation toward these divisive, "red-meat" issues as objectionable when according to State Sen. Shevrin Jones (D) he should be "addressing issues that matter to Floridians like 'crumbling schools, dilapidated buildings in our communities” and high property insurance costs.'"
“These are the issues that‘s being ignored because we have to deal with the promotion of Jim Crow 3.0 by people who don’t know and don’t care about what’s happening in Black communities, but they desire to referee how you teach our history,” Jones said. 
This IS Jim Crow 3.0, or as we say in Texas among Mexicans for whom this is
also true, "it's Juan Crow." Check out the signage on stopping the "Black Attack" rally that took place yesterday at the state capitol in Tallahassee.

In the meantime, we continue with our own similar struggles in our own state of Texas with a Governor like DeSantis who has similar political aspirations and ideological perspectives.

If any good comes out of this, it's that we come to appreciate in deep and meaningful ways the importance and viability of Black Brown unity.

Sí se puede! Yes we can!

-Angela Valenzuela 

#EthnicStudiesNow #SaveAfricanAmericanStudies #StopTheBlackAttack

Backlash grows against DeSantis decision to block AP African American studies class

Updated January 26, 2023 at 10:13 a.m. EST|Published January 25, 2023 at 7:37 p.m. EST
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump stands with Elijah Edwards, 14, a student at Sail High School during a “Stop The Black Attack” rally in Tallahassee on Wednesday. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing mounting backlash regarding his administration’s decision to prohibit an Advanced Placement high school course on African American studies, with Black leaders rallying in the capital, a prominent civil rights lawyer threatening to sue and state lawmakers urging him to reverse the decision.

Attorney Ben Crump accused DeSantis of violating the federal and state constitutions Wednesday by refusing to permit the course. His legal team noted that a federal judge found a 2010 law in Arizona that banned a Mexican American studies program from Tucson schools unconstitutional and officials “motivated by racial animus.”

Continue reading here. 

Temecula students walk out to protest critical race theory ban: Hundreds marched off campus Friday, Jan. 13, 2023

So glad to see our youth standing up to this by walking out of school and protesting. This reminds me of a student who shared in class recently who said that Texas' ban on specific books has made these books hugely popular in her Central Texas secondary school, backfiring on those in support of this. If anything, censorship is politicizing many of our students even more. 

It actually all so predictable. All of a sudden, this "forbidden fruit" becomes attractive and lots of students are now reading books that they likely would never have read under ordinary circumstances.

-Angela Valenzuela

Temecula students walk out to protest 

critical race theory ban

Hundreds marched off campus Friday, Jan. 13, at Chaparral, Great Oak and Temecula Valley high schools


Temecula students are sending a message to adults in their school district: They will not be silenced.

Hundreds of students across the city’s three high schools — Temecula Valley, Great Oak and Chaparral — walked out of classes Friday morning, Jan. 13, to protest a school board resolution that bans the teaching of “critical race theory” in the Temecula Valley Unified School District.

The two school board members who opposed the ban, Steven Schwartz and Allison Barclay, plan to propose rescinding it at the Tuesday, Jan. 31, meeting.

At Temecula Valley High School, more than 200 students began leaving campus about 10:30 a.m. and headed to nearby Ronald Reagan Sports Park.

Some of the teens carried handmade signs with slogans such as “Stop censorship,” “End racism,” and “If history makes you uncomfortable, imagine how they felt.” Some shouted as they demonstrated. Many said they fear the ban could censor their education and that of younger students, while affecting the representation and safety of students of color and LGBTQ students. About 20 to 30 adults — apparently parents and residents there to ensure students were safe — also attended.

“Teach all history!” students shouted while gathered around the sports park’s parking lot. “We are here.”

Genesis Kekoa, president of Temecula Valley High’s Black Student Union, said she has been emailing Temecula Valley school board members about reversing the ban, which she believes silences students’ voices.

“I hope they realize we’re not going to be silent,” Kekoa, a 16-year-old junior at Temecula Valley High said. “We’re not being told by parents or teachers to do this; we’re doing it ourselves. We have a voice. I’m scared students are not going to be taught our history. Everyone deserves to be seen. Everyone’s culture and history deserves to be taught.”

A new conservative board majority last month approved the resolution, introduced by new board president Joseph Komrosky. Critical race theory — which is typically taught at the graduate school level and examines how racism has been historically embedded in society and policy — has been a contentious subject in the Temecula Valley community. Some have blasted the methodology, though a school district spokesperson and some current and past school board members have said it is not taught in the district.