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Advancing Long Held Republican Right And Libertarian Dreams. Defunding and Privatizing Entitlements and Public Education. Can The Obama Administration and the Democratic Leadership Council Pull It Off?

In a speech to The Economics Club in Grand Rapids Michigan on June 2nd, 2010, former president George W. Bush first bragged on his use of torture, a war crime, and then speaking of his greatest regret as reported by Ted Roelofs of the Grand Rapids Press,

Bush said his greatest disappointment as president was failing to push through Social Security reform, a major campaign issue of his in 2004. Bush said Republican leadership balked at the proposal, saying it would cost them votes: “And the leadership of our party looked at me and said no.”

Indeed, many Republicans have wanted to do away with the last vestiges of FDR’s New Deal, namely social security and medicare by privatizing them along with public education and put them to rest once and for all. Indeed, whenever the more hard right Republican presidents, representatives or senators have wanted to put an end to these, the Democratic party has fended them off. But Bush’s lament may be premature. Since it took Democrats and a Democratic party to create these social contracts with its aging population to keep them out of poverty, one supposes it will take Democrats and a Democratic president to put an end to them and that time appears to be on the horizon. Especially a Democratic party that is run by the Democratic Leadership Council or DLC as it has become to be known by informed people. What millions of Americans seem not to realize is that the Democratic party today is no longer the party of the New Deal economic philosophies and the common citizen that once made it the most popular party for a generation. At the Institute for Policy Studies website “Right Web, Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy“, the profile on this group that seized control of America’s oldest party, is described

The DLC was established in the wake of President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide victory, in which he won 49 states, over Democrat Walter Mondale. During the Democratic convention in San Francisco, Mondale had successfully beat back a challenge from Gary Hart, who predicted that unless the Democratic Party adopted a new image it would be decisively defeated. Mondale proved unable to respond effectively to charges from the Republican right and neoconservative Democrats that the Democratic Party was the party of progressives-which Jeane Kirkpatrick variously labeled as the “San Francisco Democrats” and the “blame America first” Democrats-who were out of touch with mainstream America. As Dan Balz and Ronald Brownstein concluded in their book Storming the Gates, “Mondale’s landslide defeat exposed as a dead end the vision of regaining the White House by mobilizing an army of the disaffected with a message of unreconstructed liberalism.”

Pondering the Mondale defeat, a gathering coalition of Southern Democrats and northern neoliberals expressed concerns that the Democratic Party faced extinction, particularly in the South and West, if the party continued to rely on its New Deal message of government intervention and kept catering to traditional constituencies of labor, minorities, and anti-war progressives. In 1985, Al From, an aide to Rep. Gillis Long (D-LA), took the lead in formulating a new messaging strategy for the party’s centrists, neoliberals, and conservatives. Will Marshall, at that time Long’s policy analyst and speechwriter, worked closely with From to establish the DLC and then became its first policy director.

Also in describing the advance of the DLC and the “Third Way” (substituting traditional government functions with private for profit corporate interests), it says

In a 1986 conference on the legacy of “Great Society” of the Johnson administration, DLC chairman Gov. Charles Robb of Virginia took up the neoconservative critique of liberalism first articulated in the early 1970s by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Norman Podhoretz, and other neoconservatives. According to Robb, “While racial discrimination has by no means vanished from our society, it’s time to shift the primary focus from racism-the traditional enemy without-to self-defeating patterns of behavior-the enemy within.” This speech signaled the end of the “New Politics” of the 1960s and 1970s in the Democratic Party and the rise of a new social conservatism in the party. Robb’s speech opened room for Democratic Party stalwarts to back away from political agendas that proposed government initiatives to address poverty, discrimination, and crime, and to join the traditional conservatives and neoconservatives in opposing affirmative action, social safety-net programs, and job-creation initiatives. Thus, the New Democrats of the DLC added their voices to the chorus of those calling for stiffer sentences, an end to affirmative action, reduced welfare benefits, and less progressive tax policies.

Clinton/Gore was the first DLC presidency and the DLC has been firmly in control of the Democratic party ever since. And ever since 1980, Milton Freidman economic theories, a flattening tax rate with the wealthiest paying historically less in federal income taxes, a rise in corporations paying little or no income taxes to the federal government while taking jobs overseas with “free trade” agreements (major reasons for deficits), deregulation (which led to the financial meltdown we have experienced) and massive miltary industrial complex spending (the most in history) has been the norm no matter which party has had control. There has been no Keynesian economic theory being practiced (what is considered New Deal or modern era Liberal) since Richard Nixon was president. And in the Bush administration, we got all right wing economic ideology bullet points enacted (with the help of DLC and Blue Dog Democrats). What we ended up with was a collapsed financial system, a rapidly contracting economy instead of a growth economy, job loss and falling wages instead of more jobs and lifting all boats, and we even had war thrown in (which the right uses in trying to discredit New Deal policies by saying World War II helped the economy instead). Many Americans started looking around for another FDR type and thought they may have found such leadership in Obama’s speeches about hope and change. But as Harold Ford said in an interview concerning his position in the party and new head of the DLC in an article by Chris Cilliza in the Washington Post titled, “Harold Ford Jr.’s Seat at the Party

“This is the incubator,” Ford said of the DLC, which was founded in 1985 in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s landslide reelection. “If you look at the last ten great domestic policy ideas in the last 10-15 years … 75 percent have come out of this organization.”

While the DLC has drawn considerable criticism from the liberal blogosphere for advocating so-called Republican lite policies, Ford insisted that the organization is miscast by its Democratic detractors. “I don’t view it as a conservative or liberal or moderate or not moderate,” he said. “If you have a great idea, a strong idea you have the best minds in our party to work with.” (From, however, sounded a more feisty note: “Democrats have to win as a coalition party,” he said. “We can’t win any other way.”)

Ford predicted the DLC will play a major role in the issues debate that unfolds in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary process. The group will not side with any one candidate, he said, even though the organization has close ties to a number of potential nominees, from Vilsack to Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Joe Biden (Del.) to Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M.). Even Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has expressed interest in “find[ing] ways he could work with the DLC,” according to Ford. (Ford describes Obama as a “personal friend” and says they talk regularly.)

Enter The National Commission on “Fiscal Responsibilty” and Reform

Some of the myths created to attack social security by the right involve the idea that the United States spends too much on its very meagar social safety net, it is a ponzi scheme, is responsible for the national debt, and it is approaching insolvency. In this age of corporate media monopolies and right wing media propaganda, you can even go to small towns in “middle America” where you can hear people not educated in macroeconomics in any sense parroting these things as if they were speaking something noteworthy instead of jabber wockey. In writing about anti-entitlement billionaire Peter Peterson and his Peter G. Peterson Foundation created off of a $1 billion grant, Dean Baker for Truthout.org wrote in a piece titled, “Big Lies and Social Security: Peter Peterson’s Retirement is Secure

Like most of the granny bashers, Peterson routinely played fast and loose with the facts. For example, while warning about the poverty facing future generations, he suggested cutting the annual Social Security cost of living adjustment because the official consumer price index (CPI), to which retirees benefits are indexed, overstates the true rate of inflation. However, if the CPI really overstates inflation, then incomes are rising much more rapidly than the official data show; and future generations will be far richer than we could possibly imagine. (If income rises by 4 percent and the inflation rate is 3 percent, then real income has risen by 1 percent. But if our measure of inflation is wrong, and the rate of inflation is just 2 percent, then real income has risen by 2 percent.)…..

I recall hearing Mr. Peterson pontificate for an hour, completely unchallenged, on a major public radio talk show. At one point, he assured his audience, with reference to the solvency of Social Security, “trust me, there is no trust fund.” Mr. Peterson repeated this lie verbatim, just in case the meaning escaped his audience.Of course, there is a Social Security trust fund that holds more than $2 trillion in government bonds. Under the law, these bonds are to be repaid from general revenue, which comes almost entirely from the personal and corporate income tax. In other words, the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund, which are supposed to pay the Social Security benefits of retired workers, are effectively tax obligations for wealthy people like Mr. Peterson. If the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund are never repaid, Mr. Peterson and/or his heirs could save tens of millions of dollars from their future taxes. It shouldn’t be surprising he is trying to convince the public that the trust fund doesn’t really exist.

In addressing common lies like those by commission co-chair (of the new The National Commission on “Fiscal Responsibilty” and Reform) Alan Simpson, Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman wrote in his New York Times column titled, “Zombies Have Already Killed The Deficit Commission

Social Security is a government program funded by a dedicated tax. There are two ways to look at this. First, you can simply view the program as part of the general federal budget, with the the dedicated tax bit just a formality. And there’s a lot to be said for that point of view; if you take it, benefits are a federal cost, payroll taxes a source of revenue, and they don’t really have anything to do with each other.

Alternatively, you can look at Social Security on its own. And as a practical matter, this has considerable significance too; as long as Social Security still has funds in its trust fund, it doesn’t need new legislation to keep paying promised benefits.

OK, so two views, both of some use. But here’s what you can’t do: you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that for the last 25 years, when Social Security ran surpluses, well, that didn’t mean anything, because it’s just part of the federal government — but when payroll taxes fall short of benefits, even though there’s lots of money in the trust fund, Social Security is broke.

So in keeping with backing the DLC and the conservative Blue Dogs and in a show of “bipartisanship” (a word DLC Democrats use when implementing Republican ideas and rejecting all amendments and legislation from real progressives and liberals), Obama created this “deficit” commission (called The Cat Food Commission by liberals and true progressives). The two co-chairman that have been appointed are well known enemy of social security and medicare, former rep. Alan Simpson (R) and DLC public budget cutter under Clinton, former chief of staff Erskine Bowles. The commission has been “partnered” with right wing groups such as the Heritage Foundation, The Committee for a Responsible Budget, The New America Foundation, and the DLC’s Progressive Policy Institute (not really progressive, but corporatist and neoconservative like the AEI). Simpson has recently caused a stir by calling social security recipients “lesser people” which spurred MoveOn.org to send a letter requesting his removal as co-chair. Saying it is responsible for current deficits and the debt is irresponsible since it is the only spending connected to a dedicated tax and a currently solvent trust fund and is purely an ideological argument. Any needed adjustments can be made through tweaking or raising the cap. And the rise in the costs associated with medicare is directly related to the rise in the for profit healthcare sector. If this administration were really concerned with the rising cost in this regard, they would have expanded medicare or some similar single payer system across a wider healthier population instead of making tax payers pay for the added private sector health insurance profits to prop up their stock prices. And let’s put to bed this notion that federal income taxes are too high on individuals and corporations impeding job growth and that further cuts in domestic non-military spending and federal income tax rates are needed. They are the lowest in 60 years which if this ideology were true, we would already be near full employment. What we need is something like the WPA again for infrastructure for a temporary kick (a stimulus directed at economic activity). The reason unemployment is up and tax receipts are down is a lack of domestic economic activity. Until people are buying products in the marketplace, there will be no big increase in hiring or business reinvestment. There is no demand. Without hiring or if the continued decreases in wages occur there will be less economic activity. The federal income tax rate is not currently in play. Privatization of entitlements is nothing more than a stock market scheme to prop up stock prices (which could actually create a false evaluation bubble). Haven’t we had enough of that? And if the United States defaults on its bond obligations in the social security trust fund, U.S. treasury bonds and notes will lose their AAA rating. If that happens, the foreign countries holding US bonds which are propping up the tax cuts for billionaires and multi-national corporations as well as the massive military industrial complex and its two elective wars, will dump them probably inducing near total collapse. It could still happen with the bone headed decision to freeze domestic spending while still spending huge amounts on the military and war.

Suffer The Children Part Two

On April 11th, 2010, this author wrote, “Suffer The Children. The War On Public Education. One School District’s Story.” The piece is about how the Tea Party, backed by right wing organizations and big money, took over the school board election of Wake County, NC, the state’s largest school system and intended to end the highly regarded and successful diversity program it had and replace it with “neighborhood schools” zoning, with charter schools and privatization. In it, I wrote

With the rise of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, anti-federal government rhetoric, and the rise of political based economics largely discredited previously by economists as “voo doo” economics, ideological and financial pressures have mounted. Income tax cuts at the top became prevalent and the Department of Education funding cut. This has produced strains on state and local governments to fund education more resulting in the rise of property taxes on America’s middle class. In economic downturns such as the one we have been in since 2007, the results are state and local governments become deluged in red ink with no cushion. For many who have memories before “Reaganomics”, there wasn’t these large property and local tax increases, lotteries, and such. With the Reagan revolution and the rise of Milton Freidman’s Chicago School of economics, there has come the idea that privatization is the model of the future. Privatization can best be described as getting rid of what is public and instead funding private interests as a replacement (through tax payer dollars or public debt usually accompanied with tax cuts, tax “credits” for private schools and/or inflating the money supply). However, private interests, more than not, conflict with the public interest and do not share the same goals.

And on the Wake County system (which wasn’t broken), I wrote

Its diversity program was based on socio-economic factors and its success was accomplished with a magnet school program which helped draw diverse people into schools in different neighborhoods. It created diversity on every level, socio-economic, racial or ethnic, disability or ability, regardless of neighborhood demographic or location. One of its goals was to achieve no more than 40% of a schools population being dependent on subsidized lunches and allowed for even distribution of resources through all schools independent of neighborhood make up….

The article also went on to mention that Tom Oxholm was a Republican accountant that was elected in the GOP landslide of ’94 and was part of a group to show that the school system was wasteful with taxpayer money, but came to the conclusion this was not so and co-authored the aforementioned book (“A School District’s Journey to Excellence: Lessons from Business and Education”). He determined the Wake School System was efficiently managed and was actually a bargain. He also cited the Wake County Board of Commissioners with chronically underfunding it.

On the background of vouchers and charters, I borrowed and quoted the history of this movement from the UCLA study titled, “Equity Overlooked: Charter Schools and Civil Rights Policy“,

School choice is a longstanding concept with important early historical roots in the days of resistance to southern desegregation. Although eventually blocked by the Supreme Court, one early reaction to Brown v. Board of Education was to shut down public school districts and provide state-financed vouchers allowing white students to attend private schools (referred to as segregation academies). “Freedom of choice” plans, another popular southern resistance strategy, were versions of token integration. In what was often an atmosphere of violence, intimidation and virulent opposition, black students were given the opportunity to “choose” to transfer to majority white schools. These plans were used for years to effectively preserve segregation. In 1968, more than a decade after Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled in a case from New Kent County, Virginia, that “rather than further the dismantling of the dual system, the plan has operated to simply burden children and their parents with a responsibility be] placed squarely on the School Board.” Freedom to choose in New Kent meant that, three years after the strategy was adopted, no white student in the county had elected to attend the segregated black school, and 85% of the county’s black students were still attending all-black schools. Similar patterns were documented across the South.

In both vouchers and freedom of choice plans, educational choice was used in the aftermath of Brown as a way to circumvent desegregation.

During this same time period, economist Milton Friedman proposed a model for education reform, based on his economic philosophy, calling for the privatization of public schools.

So with the (false) media framing that Obama is an extreme liberal and progressive pushing for an expansion of “big guvmint”, Obama’s Secretary of Education would be for the previous Wake County “government schools” approach of a free and appropriate education for every child regardless of socio-economic status, race, or disability instead of the new “Tea Party” school board philosophy, right? Wrong. Not only is Arne Duncan pushing for similar schemes (at least in the form of charters), he is closing schools in poor neighborhoods, firing teachers, and attacking the Teachers’ Union. He is also taking away the professionalism of teaching credentials by taking billions of public money that should be going to school districts in hard times and giving it to organizations like Teach For America to provide for less experienced, lower wage people to teach our children for these private backed or charter school interests. When are you going to wake up America and quit listening to people giving you alternative realities (WMD’s anyone?) and a failed financial sector with “too big to fail” bank bailouts because they took away the regulatory Glass-Steagall Act and replaced it with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act? When you have to pay a privateer to go to the bathroom with your declining wages?

Suffer The Children. The War On Public Education. One School District’s Story.

American Commentary Blog Has Obtained Training Materials And Documents Of The Civitas Institute’s Training Of The Wake County School’s Board Of Education Through A Records Request Pursuant To North Carolina’s State Open Records Act. Material Includes A Civitas Institute Hit Piece On N.C. Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight (D-Dare County).

Education has long been a boogeyman of right wing politics. But the modern attacks on the financial well being and the idea of a free appropriate education for our nation’s children by the nation’s monied interests has its roots in the Powell memo recently revealed to much of the nation in the Citizens United v. FEC case. With the rise of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, anti-federal government rhetoric, and the rise of political based economics largely discredited previously by economists as “voo doo” economics, ideological and financial pressures have mounted. Income tax cuts at the top became prevalent and the Department of Education funding cut. This has produced strains on state and local governments to fund education more resulting in the rise of property taxes on America’s middle class. In economic downturns such as the one we have been in since 2007, the results are state and local governments become deluged in red ink with no cushion. For many who have memories before “Reaganomics”, there wasn’t these large property and local tax increases, lotteries, and such. With the Reagan revolution and the rise of Milton Freidman’s Chicago School of economics, there has come the idea that privatization is the model of the future. Privatization can best be described as getting rid of what is public and instead funding private interests as a replacement (through tax payer dollars or public debt usually accompanied with tax cuts, tax “credits” for private schools and/or inflating the money supply). However, private interests, more than not, conflict with the public interest and do not share the same goals. And with the ascendancy of the Bill Clinton presidency and the “Third Way” Democrats called the Democratic Leadership Council and its related “think tanks” who have controlled the national Democratic Party since, public education, teachers and teachers unions, and the concepts of a free and appropriate public education has fewer and fewer friends in government on the federal level. For readers interested in the travails of public education under the Obama administration, I suggest they read the online journal of madfloridian at the site, the Democratic Underground.

One school system had been defying the trends from the political parties, conservative court decisions, and the Reagan revolution through the years. That school system which has become the largest in the state, is the Wake County Public School System of North Carolina. Its diversity program was based on socio-economic factors and its success was accomplished with a magnet school program which helped draw diverse people into schools in different neighborhoods. It created diversity on every level, socio-economic, racial or ethnic, disability or ability, regardless of neighborhood demographic or location. One of its goals was to achieve no more than 40% of a schools population being dependent on subsidized lunches and allowed for even distribution of resources through all schools independent of neighborhood make up. Though the recent urban sprawl of Wake County since 2000 has caused around 30% of the schools to miss its 40% targets on subsidized lunches lately, the infrastructure remains. It survived the Gringrich revolution in Congress and challenges from the right by having a concensus among even the most staunch conservatives and most staunch liberals on the school board working together and being proud of the system’s diversity and educational accomplishments. In an article by Bob Geary titled, “Wake County goes to hell” in the Independent Weekly, this concensus was noted,

Indeed, the consensus was intact a year ago, according to Bill McNeal and Tom Oxholm.

Their book, A School District’s Journey to Excellence: Lessons from Business and Education, is a text for school officials and board members. Published early in 2009, it recounts how Wake’s schools, though not perfect, “gained national recognition for the quality of their educational program.”

McNeal, the African-American insider, was superintendent of Wake schools before Burns. Based on Wake’s achievements, McNeal was named “National Superintendent of the Year” by the American Association of School Administrators in 2004.

The article also went on to mention that Tom Oxholm was a Republican accountant that was elected in the GOP landslide of ’94 and was part of a group to show that the school system was wasteful with taxpayer money, but came to the conclusion this was not so and co-authored the aforementioned book. He determined the Wake School System was efficiently managed and was actually a bargain. He also cited the Wake County Board of Commissioners with chronically underfunding it.

So what has happened with the Wake County Public School System? What has happened is that the board elections in 2009 was sparsely voted on by only 4.5% of Wake’s voting population and that well funded right wing organizations took advantage of the low turnout numbers and the burgeoning extreme Tea Party to put a new majority in charge that is hostile to what has been the system’s goals for educating Wake County’s children throughout these years.

The new school board members swept into office in November of 2009 owe their success largely due to Raleigh businessman and former state Rep. Art Pope, a funder and organizer of right wing causes and “think tanks” along with the John William Pope Foundation named after his late father. According to a Sourcewatch profile, it provides the following information,

Art Pope is the president and vice-chairman of the board of directors for Variety Wholesalers Inc., and a director of the right-wing group Americans for Prosperity, which organized the Tax Day Tea Parties across the country, and which organized “town hall” opposition to health care reform in 2009. He is a member of the board of directors of the John Locke Foundation, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association.[1]

Sourcewatch also points to just how partisan and ideological Pope is due to his work to purge moderates from the Republican Party.

Such a highly partisan and ideological movement taking over non partisan positions such as the school board should bother Wake County residents who depend on concensus in providing its children the best opportunity at equal access to the best education regardless of background. As we look deeper into their proposals, the more parents and students should have concerns and apply scrutiny. As pointed out by Bob Geary in “Wake County goes to hell“, Art Pope joined forces with businessman Bob Luddy, and former state Rep. Russell Caps, president of the right wing Wake County Taxpayers Association to push the Wake Schools Community Alliance, a new group from which the newly elected board members came from. Geary noted that Pope believes public schools are inefficient monopolies, Caps is a fundamentalist Christian that doesn’t like evolution taught as widely accepted scientific theory, and Luddy started a charter school and two private schools, one of which Wake school board member Ron Margiotta is on the board of. He along with the new board members from the Wake Schools Community Alliance plan to take the Wake School system in a different direction. Wake County residents soon found out what that direction is.

On the website of the Wake Schools Community Alliance website, they claim that they are a non-partisan group. That begs the question, on what planet are they considered so? They are backed by the most partisan hard right Republican organizations and funders in the state of North Carolina and endorsed by the Wake County Republican Party chaired by Claude Pope. Since they have taken their positions and stated what they have in mind for the Wake County Public School System, chaos has ensued and has gathered national notice. They plan to scrap the diversity program (and its busing methods) for “community” based schools by creating community zones like other districts in the U.S. have taken in resegregating their schools. It should be noted also that the aforementioned political operatives and organizations that have backed the new members of the Wake Schools Community Alliance support more charter schools and even vouchers in the name of “choice“. At this point, one should ask who’s choice? When pondering if this is the right approach, one should know the history and background of the ideology. In the UCLA study titled, “Equity Overlooked:Charter Schools and Civil Rights Policy” as part of its civil rights project, the following historical points were made;

School choice is a longstanding concept with important early historical roots in the days of resistance to southern desegregation. Although eventually blocked by the Supreme Court, one early reaction to Brown v. Board of Education was to shut down public school districts and provide state-financed vouchers allowing white students to attend private schools (referred to as segregation academies). “Freedom of choice” plans, another popular southern resistance strategy, were versions of token integration. In what was often an atmosphere of violence, intimidation and virulent opposition, black students were given the opportunity to “choose” to transfer to majority white schools. These plans were used for years to effectively preserve segregation. In 1968, more than a decade after Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled in a case from New Kent County, Virginia, that “rather than further the dismantling of the dual system, the plan has operated to simply burden children and their parents with a responsibility be] placed squarely on the School Board.” Freedom to choose in New Kent meant that, three years after the strategy was adopted, no white student in the county had elected to attend the segregated black school, and 85% of the county’s black students were still attending all-black schools. Similar patterns were documented across the South.

In both vouchers and freedom of choice plans, educational choice was used in the aftermath of Brown as a way to circumvent desegregation.

During this same time period, economist Milton Friedman proposed a model for education reform, based on his economic philosophy, calling for the privatization of public schools. ”

The purpose of Wake’s magnet schools and diversity program was to create programs of academic interest that would draw in diverse Wake children into schools, primarily in the inner city, that might be normally left only to the disadvantaged and the poor without special programs and opportunity. Would neighborhood zones “zone out” children from this opportunity? And in the case of charter schools, they do not receive the same board oversight and requirements of other “public” schools and tend to be selective. There are also studies that show the privateers of these schools skimming off the taxpayers’ dime are not all that cost efficient either. And while the school board has said it plans to keep the magnet schools and spread them out (one presumes to their suburban supporters) it all defeats the orginal intent of them. But this is the direction the new board makeup has pursued and chaos has followed. Superintendent Dr. Del Burns tendered his resignation effective on June 30th. The board after meeting in closed sessions decided to put him on leave (with pay). The incident as reported by Kim Genardo, NBC17 at MyNC.com summed up the events,

It took three separate closed-door meeting and a total of more than four hours of debate to suspend Burns. The debate began after Burns expressed his view of the current state of the Wake County School Board to several local media outlets.

“I’m an educator, not a politician,” Burns said in a Feb. 18 interview. “And what I’ve observed is something I’ve not seen before: partisan politics at the board table.”

Margiotta explained Tuesday that Burns’ “choice to conduct these interviews was a poor decision and totally inappropriate in the opinion of this body.”

There was also the contentious meetings when the board voted on doing away with Wake’s diversity program such as the following from NBC17 titled, “NAACP Files Formal Complaint Against Wake School Board“,

At the March 2 meeting, Margiotta commented, “Here come the animals, out of the cages,” after witnessing the crowd’s reaction to congressional candidate Bill Randall’s remarks to the Board.

“The image of animals out of their cages is covered in the history of racism and ugliness and hatred in this country,” said the Rev. William Barber, state NAACP president. “We know what it means.”

An NAACP attorney, Al McSurely, questioned Margiotta’s educational background and referred to the members halting the diversity policy as “clowns.” Barber likened the board’s handling of the issues to a gang, a dictatorship, communism — and the Mafia. Margiotta is of Italian descent.

And there is this from a report by Mike Baker of the Associated Press,

The talk was angry, as terms like “segregation” peppered many arguments. A crowd of students sitting outside the doors of the meeting chanted so loudly that they briefly disrupted the hearing. Extra police officers were on hand to provide security.

Raleigh police said three men were charged with trespassing or resisting officers. One was released and two others remained jailed Tuesday night.

“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Resegregation has got to go,” an arrested man chanted as officers placed him in the back of a squad car.

And there also was the partisan vote the board took to have the rightwing think tank, the Civitas Institute, to “train” the school board on how to run a public school system. The Civitas Institute is funded by guess who? It is funded by the John William Pope Foundation. The following post by Chris Fitzsimon at NC Policy Watch called. “Connect the rightwing dots” had this to say on the issue,

The staff members of Civitas are unabashed supporters of vouchers and tax credits. They fight efforts to reduce class size, oppose funding for early childhood programs for at-risk kids, and routinely call for less support for teachers and school administrators.

The chair of the Civitas Board is conservative businessman Bob Luddy, who just happens to have been the largest single indivdual contributor to the campaigns of the four members of the Gang of Five elected this fall. …

The Director of the Pope Civitas Institute is Frances De Luca, who used to run the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the group that staged a rally in support of the new board majority before a December meeting.

Pope is not only a big contributor to AFP, he serves on the national board.

The AFP rally was led by staff member Chris Farr, the ex-wife of Republican lawyer Thomas Farr, recently hired by the Gang of Five to audit the school board’s legal expenses and provide other legal advice.

American Commentary Blog has acquired some of the Civitas materials used through North Carolina’s Open Records Act. The substance of this acquisition will be discussed.

The first training session occured on March 5th, 2010 and the material American Commentary has acquired is from this session. The following is a break down of the day’s presentations and I have added a profile of each presenter of the subject topics. The first topic that day was, “The Roles and Responsibilities of School Board Members” presented by Lindalyn Kakadelis. Lindalyn Kakadelis is the director of the N.C. Education Alliance, a project of the right wing John Locke Foundation. The next topic presented was “Employment Law and School Districts” presented by Doug Punger, Attorney Faw, Fogler and Johnson, Former Counsel with Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools. Mr. Punger gained some notoriety for defending a generally anti-gay school board but otherwise served fairly amiably until he retired from his position from general counsel. What this means in terms of the board and the new anti-bullying law, time will tell. The next topic discussed was “School Finance: What a School Board Member Needs to Know” presented by Phil Price, Chief Financial Officer, North Carolina Department of Instruction. The final subject was “Parliamentary Procedure: Learning The Ropes” and was presented by Phil Strach, Attorney Ogletree Deakins, practices in the area of employment law and advises on questions of parliamentary procedure. It cannot go without mention that Phil Strach is legal counsel for the North Carolina GOP. He also represents management vs labor. That should bother teachers and aspiring teachers alike, especially since schools with higher standardized test scores receive more money and there seems to be a move afoot to fire teachers where school performance is lower. Since poor, disadvantaged and disabled kids typically score lower on standardized testing, teachers in resegregated schools with higher concentrations of these children would be paid less for tougher jobs and have their employment security at risk (which would discourage people from entering the field). This approach does not serve all of Wake County’s children nor the system as a whole. To scrap a nationally recognized system that serves the whole county and ranks above the national average academically so a few surburbanites can have smaller segregated neighborhood schools on the taxpayer’s dime that lack civil rights oversight while at the same time, inner city schools become crowded and less cost effective, seems to be a bad and risky idea. The documentation from this “training” session is only concerned it seems with employment law, parliamentary procedure to control and/or shut off debate, and on implementation accompanied by budget overview. Included was something unrelated to the job of school board membership, a story from the Civitas Institute’s “magazine” concerning state funds on a contract for Jennette’s Pier having been given to Clancy & Theys of which Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight’s (D-Dare) construction company has ended up a subcontractor for. I suppose in handing out this partisan piece, the sense of irony escapes them concerning their positions on charter schools and vouchers given the benefits to their cronies (such as Luddy). In fact, privatization and corporatism are what’s financially and morally wrong in today’s America. Below are samples from the Civitas training materials American Commentary received (not all are given due to volume).

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