Voucher School Takes Money, Dumps Student

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Voucher schools have long been known to “dump” children with special educational needs and at-risk behaviors, even after accepting taxpayer money to educate those students. The public rarely sees this happen, or is faced with the hardship this creates for children and their families. However, the letter below provides a glimpse into how voucher schools inflate their reputations by ridding themselves of unwanted students.

In contrast, public schools must educate ALL children, including those experiencing academic, behavior, or parental issues. Increasingly, they are also forced to pick up the students expelled by outfits like Mount Olive, without any compensation from the state because the school already cashed the voucher.

This is unfair. It hurts the expelled students and their families, humiliating them and forcing them to change schools. It hurts public schools, both financially and by concentrating the share of at-risk children. Finally, it hurts the public, as taxpayer money is siphoned off for private gain.

A common argument of voucher school proponents is that these schools create competition for public schools, thereby increasing achievement across the board. However, when your “competitior” can skim the cream off the class crop, that’s far from a level playing field. It’s hard to imagine how this type of “competition” would be healthy for anyone.

With their unfair advantages, you’d think that voucher schools would at least appear to be doing better at educating students than public schools. However, often that’s not even the case. The same MPS school that enrolled the student identified in this letter received another student from a different voucher school that same week, which had been closed down because its operators left for Florida to start another voucher school. The closure forced MPS to absorb its 66 students, only one of whom tested “proficient” on the most recent Wisconsin State Concepts and Knowledge Exam (WKCE).

The result for MPS is an overall special needs population of well over 30% and decreasing financial resources. Public school educators do their best to provide quality education for their students, but this becomes more challenging with every passing year. Though voucher school proponents love to talk about “choice” and “achievement,” the real story is that these schools do a serious disservice to students, families, educators, public school districts and state taxpayers.

Despite these glaring problems with the Wisconsin voucher program, legislators in the state capitol continue to look for ways to expand it. It’s time Wisconsin taxpayers stand up and tell them no! How many more students will we let schools like Mount Olive dump before we fix the problem?

Iron Mine Resistors March On Site in Penokee Hills

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Penokee Hills, Northern WI - On Sunday, two separate marches crossed the pristine, snow-laden landscape of northern Wisconsin, and converged at the proposed site of the Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) iron mine. Participants walked miles down wintry roads before uniting in opposition to the proposed mine, to the ecological damage it threatens, and to the company’s unsavory collusion with state lawmakers to rewrite Wisconsin’s mining laws in their favor.

The site of the proposed mine stands at the headwaters of the Bad River, where toxic runoff would threaten both the people of the Bad River Tribe and the waters of Lake Superior. The company has recently begun core sampling (video), increasing the urgency of the fight against the project.

The company has claimed an off-limits perimeter around the mine site, and has succeeded in formalizing it via state legislation. However, the gates demarcating this “forbidden zone” were not enough to stop the marchers on Sunday.

The marchers announced their arrival at the gates through music, as young and old alike raised their voices in defense of the Penokee Hills. A group of musicians and Solidarity Sing Along participants led those assembled in several songs, pairing popular melodies with lyrics about the mine. As the songs unfolded, the banners that had led each march were tied to the gates.

Several marchers asserted their right to the land by continuing past the company’s “no trespassing” signs and down the path to the mine’s site. They made clear that they will continue their resistance and will not go away quietly.

Marching to Stop the Penokee Hills from Occupy Riverwest on Vimeo.

The evening before the marchers gathered at the GTAC site, members of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe held their annual Mid-Winter Social and Pow-wow in nearby Hayward. A major focus of the gathering was how to organize against the mine and its life altering, treaty breaking presence in the Penokees. Near the end of the event tribal youth took the stage, holding four different illuminated messages in their native Ojibwe language while the words below were spoken aloud.

Poster courtesy of the Overpass Light Brigade.

Poster courtesy of the Overpass Light Brigade.

Gego moonakeg!
Don’t go digging!

Gego googiibike!

Don’t dive into the metal!

Zongide’e”

“don’t” when others “do”

“Minobimaadizi”

How is your path?

Light Brigade and Projection Activist Networks Organize Against the NSA

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On Tuesday, Internet activists from around the world joined “The Day We Fight Back” placing nearly 80,000 calls and sending nearly 160,000 e-mails to their representatives in Congress to protest the NSA’s tactics and use of mass surveillance. Part of that push came from the Light Brigade Network and the Projection Action Network, who used their creativity in lights, projections, and videos to help bring greater visibility to the NSA’s spying program.

In New York City, the NYC Light Brigade made a trip to the Verizon Building with The Illuminator, where a projection of a moving eyeball was beamed over a “DON’T SPY ON ME” rooftop message.

 

The group in New York also held this message, alluding to George Orwell’s famous novel on authoritarian social practices entitled “1984″.

In San Francisco, the Bay Area Light Brigade was joined by the San Francisco Projection Department in this gathering. They were joined by Mark Klein, a retired AT&T technician, who leaked several internal AT&T documents in 2006 that showed that the NSA was collecting data from the company.

 

The Overpass Light Brigade was out with a message in Milwaukee that included a collaboration with the DIY Drone Brigade. This enabled OLB to be able to film a video of their message from the sky, courtesy of a video camera mounted to the bottom of the remote controlled drone.

Drone Brigade: NSA Don’t Spy On Us! from Overpass Light Brigade on Vimeo.

The Atlanta Light Brigade raced out to beat a winter storm to shine their opposition to the NSA mass surveillance program.

The Atlanta Light Brigade

The Atlanta Light Brigade

The Occupy Hilo Light Brigade made sure to get out and shine for Hawaii.

Activists with the Occupy Gainesville Light Brigade occupied a busy street corner in Florida.
Occupy Gainesville Light Brigade

Occupy Gainesville Light Brigade

It is hard to tell if Tuesday’s actions will be as successful as the 2012 SOPA (The Stop Online Piracy Act) protests, but it doesn’t hurt to have networks like the Light Brigade Network and the Projection Action Network helping get the word out.

A Valentine’s Wish for Obama: “No Keystone XL!”

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Madison, WI - There are too few doilies in the political process. And not nearly enough construction paper and glitter. At least, that seemed to be the opinion of more than 100 people who gathered Friday evening to make valentines for President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry.

The valentines, made on Friday, expressed one overriding wish: Do not approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Their message was conveyed on pink paper with heart-dotted i’s, but their request is deadly serious.

If built, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport vast quantities of tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. This is some of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuel on the planet. The proposed pipeline would put many communities and agricultural lands at risk of toxic spills, and would release vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, spelling “game over for the climate” in the words of top climatologist James Hansen.

Denying the permit for the Keystone XL should be a no-brainer, especially for a President who has spoken of slowing the rise of the oceans during his tenure, and for a Secretary of State who himself ran for President on his strong environmental record. However, the final Environmental Impact Statement released by the Administration on January 31 left the door wide open for approval, under the guise that building the pipeline would not increase carbon emissions.

A 30-day public comment period opened on Wednesday, February 5: please click here to register your own opposition to the Keystone XL. After doing that, if you want to take your resistance to the next level, consider signing the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance to engage in peaceful civil disobedience to stop the pipeline.

And if you’re itching to break out the construction paper and scissors after seeing the photos above, go ahead and make some valentines of your own to send to Obama and Kerry.

Boots Riley and Overpass Light Brigade Collaborate in Chicago Concert

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“…The highest point of living life, is being engaged with the world around you. Not just sitting back and taking note of history, taking note of what happened, but being part of making what happens. – Boots Riley

Chicago, IL - Friday was a difficult day for many Chicago activists. First, news broke that although the “NATO 3” were acquitted of federal terrorism charges, the three protesters were convicted of “mob action” and “possessing an incendiary device,” charges likely to carry heavy prison sentences. Second, exactly one week had passed since three of the MICATS were convicted on multiple felony counts for temporarily halting construction at an Enbridge construction site in nearby Michigan. And third, it was a cold, grey day in the city, the kind of day in late winter that makes Chicagoans, activist and non-activist alike, yearn for spring.

However, Friday night brought a much-needed boost to the spirits of those assembled at Reggie’s Rock Club. The crowd at the local venue was treated to an inspirational show of music and light, as Boots Riley and The Coup teamed up with the Overpass Light Brigade and Overpass Light Brigade – Chicago.

Reggie’s was packed for the show, which featured Environmental Encroachment, Agents of Change, and Phillip Morris in addition to the headliner from Oakland, the Coup. The performances were spectacular, and made particularly moving by the political consciousness displayed by those on stage. Several bands gave shout-outs to the NATO 3, and Boots Riley gave props to the Chicago Teacher’s Union as well.

The visual crescendo of the evening came during the first chords of “Guillotine.” As the song began, LED letters started appearing at the right side of the stage. Members of the audience stepped forward to accept letters, and then climbed to the stage one by one. The line between audience and performer blurred as the collective message was revealed in soft pinpoints of light. Phillip Morris, a Minneapolis rapper who tore it up with “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” posted this about the show: “The Coup crushed it as the headlining act, and they brought the Overpass Light Brigade up onstage with them to display the word “REVOLUTION” across the entire stage, which was probably my favorite part of the show.”

Boots Riley and Silk E worked their magic in front of the illuminated message. Camera phones and iPads flashed as the delighted audience captured the moment to share with friends and loved ones. As his performance drew to a close, Boots thanked the OLB for the work they have done and continue to do. However, what made the evening truly special was not the mere presence of lighted letters, but the collaboration between two groups committed to fighting the takeover of our democracy by a moneyed few, and the blending together of their respective art forms to form something new, uplifting and powerful.

More photos from the evening can be found here.