Education

Issues ››› Education
  • Chicago Tribune Compares Teachers Union’s Strike Vote To Rigged Elections Of Infamous Dictators

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board -- which has a long history of launching absurd, misinformed attacks on the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and its leadership -- targeted its latest editorial against the union’s vote to reauthorize a potential strike should current contract negotiations break down. The board accused union leaders of “intimidat[ing]” members into voting in favor of a strike, comparing the vote by petition to rigged elections of dictators Saddam Hussein and Kim Jung Un.

    The September 21 editorial, headlined “The Chicago Teachers Union’s vote charade,” attacked CTU leadership for conducting a strike reauthorization vote among its members by petition, claiming that the voting approach “falls into the See?-Everyone-Voted-For-Me school of electioneering.”

    The petition vote is actually a reauthorization measure that was designed, the union president explained, to “reinforce the democratic sentiment [the] union made last December when members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.” The December vote, which was conducted by secret ballot under stalled contract negotiation circumstances that have since changed little, showed that 88 percent of union members approved of striking. The current petition vote is mostly meant to re-energize members and fend off potential legal action from city or state officials by reinforcing the results of the initial vote, the union explained. The petition approach, which is significantly less costly than a secret ballot measure, was originally proposed by a rules committee of rank-and-file members and is in line with past union voting methods.

    These facts did not factor into the editorial board’s extreme criticism, which included citing “some famous examples” of what it called CTU’s “Big-Brother approach” to voting: 

    • In 1995, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein swept to victory with 99.96 percent of votes cast. (We shudder to think of what happened to the recalcitrant .04 percent.)
    • In 2014, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un reportedly notched an even more convincing victory — 100 percent — to confirm his leadership in the Supreme People's Assembly. No other name appeared on the ballot. Voters who (bravely or foolishly) sought to reject Kim would have had to do so in an open booth so everyone could see.
    • Even more convincing was the 1927 Liberian presidential triumph of Charles D.B. King with about 240,000 votes. The impressive part: Liberia only had about 15,000 registered voters.

    Suggesting that authorizing a teachers strike in Chicago would be akin to electing dictators and war criminals in rigged elections is irresponsible, illogical, and offensive. It is also just the latest in a years-long editorial smear campaign by the Tribune against CTU.

    The Tribune has repeatedly attacked the union’s members for organizing actions to push for a fair contract in what is now a nearly 18-month-long negotiation process centered around fair pay and adequate funding and resources for Chicago public schools. Since CTU’s long-expired contract was originally negotiated in 2012, the Chicago Tribune has frequently mocked union officials and bizarrely accused educators of undervaluing classroom time and throwing selfishtantrums” that hurt children.

    Image at top via Flickr user Spencer Tweedy using a Creative Commons License.

  • Trump's New Education Transition Team Has Corporate Dark-Money Ties

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Major education news outlet Education Week reported that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has appointed two new staffers to his “presidential transition team for education”: the Hoover Institution’s Williamson Evers and the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Gerard Robinson. Both Evers and Robinson are well-connected in the pro-privatization education policy sphere and affiliated with several groups devoted to weakening public schools.

    In a September 19 article, Education Week reported that multiple sources confirmed the addition of Evers and Robinson to Trump’s education transition team. Both Evers and Robinson have previously served in Republican administrations and are connected to prominent corporate- and dark-money-fueled groups in the education policy landscape. As Education Week explained:

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has picked Williamson M. Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, to be on his presidential transition team for education, according to multiple sources.

    Evers served as an assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Education from 2007 to 2009, and also was an adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in 2007 under President George W. Bush. Robinson served as Florida's education commissioner from 2011 to 2012, and has also served as Virginia's education secretary and as the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

    The policies backed by Trump, Evers, and Robinson -- often cloaked in the language of so-called “school choice” -- have earned the support of corporate and private billionaire funders eager to profit off students, an interest Trump himself has pursued through his now-defunct and allegedly fraudulent Trump University business. Among education groups funded largely by right-wing dark money to drum up support for education privatization are three directly connected to Evers and Robinson.

    Evers is a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, which publishes the education policy journal Education Next and has received thousands in funding from the anti-union, right-wing Bradley Foundation to support a K-12 education “taskforce.” Evers’ work at the Hoover Institution has largely focused on his opposition to the Common Core State Standards and his conservative interpretation of the federal government’s limited role in shaping education policies. Trump has both egregiously misrepresented the standards and confused the parameters of federal education policy on the campaign trail, namely by repeatedly and incorrectly asserting that he would abolish the Common Core as president.

    Robinson is a resident fellow at the conservative right-wing think tank AEI, which has received millions in funding from conservative donors such as dark-money conduit DonorsTrust, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, to support general operations and education-related research. AEI, “one of the country’s main bastions of neoconservatism,” frequently publishes education research defending voucher programs that drain money from public schools (similar to Trump’s recent education policy proposals) and online education programs that allow private companies to profit off students with little oversight. Robinson’s tenure at AEI has included Bradley Foundation-funded work on the “future of American society and the role education plays in it” and efforts to push a conservative view on racial justice in education across mainstream and right-wing media outlets.

    Robinson also previously led the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a group that receives substantial funding from conservative donors to make the case for privatized educational policies as a means for racial equity. Both AEI and BAEO work closely with a number of other pro-privatization nonprofits and think tanks such as the anti-union American Federation for Children and the Koch-affiliated State Policy Network of right-wing think tanks.

    Evers’ and Robinson’s research and affiliations reveal a commitment to pro-education privatization policies that should come as no surprise -- they perfectly align with Trump’s support for expanding opportunities to open up the public school system to market competition and private, for-profit actors with little regulation. These recent appointments reveal the Trump campaign’s active desire to operate solidly within the “education reform” echo chamber built, funded, and fueled by dark-money conservative activists.

  • Fox News’ Coded Language About School Safety 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    It’s been one year since news figures seized on the story of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Muslim American child in Texas who was taken from his school in handcuffs for bringing a “suspicious” homemade alarm clock to class. Last September, Fox News’ coverage of Mohamed’s arrest revealed a long-held tendency to selectively invoke the language of “school safety” to conveniently push conservative stances on immigration, national security, LGBT rights, and guns, while ignoring threats to the safety of the most vulnerable populations in our schools.

    When Fox News talks about “school safety,”  the ensuing conversation is exactly what you’d expect from a network with a median viewer age of 68 and a prime-time viewership that’s only 1.1 percent black. For Fox and its viewers, a predictable line exists between those individuals worthy of protection and those who represent perceived threats. Here’s what we’ve seen on Fox since Ahmed’s arrest made headlines last fall.

    Fox Pushes Islamophobic Rhetoric While Muslim Students Get Bullied

    Fox News Pushed Islamophobic Talking Points In Ahmed Mohamed Coverage

    In September 2015, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested at his Irving, TX, middle school and brought to a local police station in handcuffs after he was reported for bringing a “suspicious” homemade alarm clock to his classroom. In the weeks of national media coverage of the incident that followed, Fox News figures dismissed Mohamed’s traumatic experience and used the incident to justify profiling.

    The network aired segments vilifying the child, claiming that progressives were hypocritical or willfully exploitative for suggesting Mohamed’s arrest was influenced by Islamophobia, and hyping so-called connections between Mohamed’s family members and terrorists. The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld summarized this convoluted position: “Try bringing a clock that looks like a bomb to the White House. Actually, no, don’t try it; you’ve seen what they do to people who jump fences. So why is this school’s safety a joke, but President Obama’s isn’t? Because for [Obama], and the media, the story fits the assumption of an America that hates Muslims. Yup, it’s our fault for reacting when a kid brings a wired-up box to a place filled with kids in a state where terror has occurred.”

    Muslim Students Are Experiencing More Bullying And Fear Because Of Their Faith

    According to a survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, classroom teachers are reporting more incidents of identity-based bullying and fear particularly among students from immigrant and Muslim families, a trend that appears to be connected to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric -- which Fox News has actively legitimized for years. A California study released just months after Mohamed’s arrest found that the majority of American Muslim students in the state reported experiencing physical and verbal bullying because of their faith in 2014. An in-depth report from The Guardian explained the trend:

    Words are the most common weapon of school bullies, but in the past month, anti-Muslim sentiment in schools is increasingly manifesting in physical attacks, particularly against girls who wear the hijab. On 19 November, three boys allegedly beat up a sixth-grade girl wearing a hijab, calling her “Isis”. A 2014 study by Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) study found 29% of students who wore hijab experienced offensive touching or pulling of their scarves.

    [...]

    Fifty-five percent of Muslim students surveyed by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) last year reported that they were bullied at school in some form because of their Islamic faith. That’s twice the national percentage of bullying reported by all students, regardless of their religion. According to the CAIR survey, verbal harassment is the most common, with non-Muslims calling Muslim students terrorists or referencing bombs. But physical assaults also occur.

    These incidents are taking a psychological toll on Muslim youth. “At a crucial time in their identity development, they’re suffering from chronic trauma,” says Dr Halim Naeem, a psychotherapist and president of The Institute of Muslim Mental Health. Dr Naeem says that in the past few months alone, he has seen increased cases of depression, anxiety, image issues, paranoia, and substance abuse among Muslim American youth. In the short term, the constant stress wreaks havoc on students’ immune systems and destroys their focus, disrupting learning ability.

    Fox Pushes Guns In Schools, But Experts Say That Doesn’t Help

    Fox News Believes Having More Guns In Schools Helps Create Safe Environments

    In the wake of recent mass shootings, Fox News figures voices have repeatedly pushed arming educators or allowing more guns in schools as a way to improve student and teacher safety, and irresponsibly spread dangerous misinformation about school safety best practices. Immediately following the 2012 mass shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, Fox News began calling for teachers to be armed -- even as school security experts, educators, and others argue that bringing guns into schools would make classrooms more dangerous and worsen learning environments for students. When a Texas school district moved to arm some of its teachers in 2014, the network devoted at least two segments to celebrating the decision and pushing the long-debunked myth (peddled by the NRA) that “a good guy with a gun” would prevent mass shootings. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade praised the initiative: “If you want to drop your kid off and know that they are going to be protected, you know at least in that school they are going to be protected.” Last year, Fox & Friends co-hosts again demonstrated a misguided understanding of school safety when they encouraged young children to physically confront gunmen, rather than first try to escape, and then hide -- and only confront the guman as a last resort -- as experts advise in the event of an active shooter situation.

    Evidence Shows Guns In Schools Only Increase The Likelihood Of Violence, Especially For Students Of Color

    As the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, wrote back in 2014, educators have long expressed an overwhelming desire to keep firearms out of classrooms and to strengthen gun violence prevention measures. Research has shown that greater access to guns in general creates greater risk for accidents and misfires. Gun access corresponds with increased risk of homicide, and gun-related deaths in the home are now the second most likely cause of death for children and teens. There’s also little evidence the presence of armed security staff in schools makes them any safer. Advocates are pushing for better training and reformed responsibilities for these positions to emphasize restorative justice and de-escalation techniques, as well as student and community needs, in order to combat current racial disparities in schools’ use of armed security officers.

    Fox Pushes Debunked “Bathroom Laws” That Actually Threaten LGBT Safety In Schools

    Fox News Believes Bogus “Bathroom Laws” Keep Children Safe From So-Called “Predators”

    Fox News figures have been instrumental in pushing the right-wing myth that gender-inclusive bathrooms in schools allow adult men to prey on children. The network has routinely either fearmongered about schools’ efforts to make their bathrooms safe for all students to use or mocked inclusive bathroom policies altogether. More than two years after Media Matters first debunked the “bathroom predator” myth, Fox News continues to push dangerous rhetoric about nondiscrimination policies. In April, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt hyped the disingenuous claim that nondiscrimination laws could lead to “a grown adult man” with “bad intentions” sneaking into “the little girls’ bathroom.” In May, Sean Hannity mocked inclusive bathroom policies on his radio show, proposing “liberal bathroom areas” where “you can have all the transgendered back-and-forth that you want.” In June, Tucker Carlson called the Democratic National Convention’s gender-neutral bathrooms “disgusting.”

    But There Is No Evidence Of Predatory Incidents In School Bathrooms, And “Bathroom Bills” Threaten The Safety Of LGBT Students

    After speaking to officials at 23 school districts and four universities that allow transgender students to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity, Media Matters failed to find any evidence of incidents of inappropriate bathroom behavior. Law enforcement experts and people who work with survivors of sexual assault have referred to this persistent myth as “beyond specious” and “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

    In fact, school officials and educators’ groups continue to support efforts to boost nondiscriminatory bathroom policies and have pointed out the need for LGBT students to have these types of basic protections. Research shows LGBT students overwhelmingly report experiences of bullying in schools today, and efforts to distract from the needs of LGBT students with fearmongering and mockery certainly don’t help. In its guidelines for supporting transgender and gender diverse students, the American Psychological Association recommends that schools provide accessible facilities that match a student’s gender identity as one way to address the high rates of victimization and hostility transgender students report. In fact, opposition to nondiscrimination policies can further stigmatize and single out transgender students, leading to more reports of bullying and an increased risk of suicide. Advocates for survivors of sexual assault have also pointed out that perpetuating the “bathroom predator” myth can have dangerous consequences: Relying on stereotypical predator imagery to talk about sexual assault diverts attention and resources from finding solutions to keep women and girls safe.   

  • Journalists, Experts Unimpressed By Trump’s Education Plan

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump recently delivered an education-focused speech in Cleveland, OH, coupled with the release of what his campaign calls “new school choice policies.” As they have with Trump’s limited previous statements on education, education reporters and experts are pointing out that his proposals lack specifics, don’t reflect political realities, and show a lack of understanding about the federal government’s role in creating education policy. 

  • Fox News Celebrated Back-To-School Season This Year By Laughing At Students And Attacking Teachers

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Fox News marked the start of the school year with a predictable mix of attacks on public education, racial justice activism, and progressive policies, often launched by extreme-right commentators and campaign surrogates for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    Fox Villainized “Stalinist” Teachers Unions On Air And Online

    Fox News hosts engaged in education discussions using the network’s typical approach: bashing teachers unions and attempting to drive a nonexistent wedge between educators’ priorities and the best interests of students.

    On Your World With Neil Cavuto, guest host Stuart Varney dismissed guest Tamara Holder’s attempts to substantively discuss a recent story about a state teachers union. The union decided to boycott a back-to-school promotion to draw attention to public school funding disparities. Before Holder, a Fox contributor, could speak about the boycott, Varney combatively accused Holder of wanting to “squash school choice.” Varney repeatedly interrupted Holder during the three-minute segment -- even after she implored, “Why are you so mad at [teachers unions] when they’re not doing anything other than fighting for more resources?” He concluded the segment by saying, “I’m really shocked that you won’t support school choice, that you support the Stalinist bureaucracy of the teachers union.”

    Meanwhile, FoxNews.com ran an opinion piece titled “If your child’s school is failing, thank a union” authored by Richard Berman -- a corporate lobbyist and the executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a dark-money-fueled organization that routinely smears labor unions. Berman rehashed the same tired, inaccurate attacks on both organized labor writ large and teachers unions specifically that have long clogged the airwaves at Fox. The piece equated the political spending of the two major national teachers unions -- the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which together represent almost 5 million individuals -- with the spending of dark-money PACs funded by a small number of wealthy private donors. Berman’s organization does not publicly disclose its funders, though tax disclosures show the group has received substantial funding from anti-union “dark-money ATM” groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, as well as the right-wing Bradley Foundation.

    A second opinion piece on FoxNews.com, written by Fox News “Medical A-Team” member Keith Ablow -- a longtime anti-LGBT “pop psychologist” who has recently attacked transgender teens -- was titled “Are your kids back in school? Time to apologize to them.” Ablow’s op-ed argued -- with zero evidence -- that “antiquated systems of tenure” and resistance to voucher programs have led to subpar schools. Ablow encouraged readers to “follow my lead and apologize to their kids for what passes as primary and secondary education in America.” Meanwhile, the majority of Americans believe their local public schools are performing well.

    Fox Figures Repurposed Racial Justice Arguments To Attack Progressives On Education

    On Hannity, frequent Fox guest and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke -- a right-wing extremist who has previously called members of the Black Lives Matter movement “garbage” and Hillary Clinton a “cop hater” -- argued that progressive policies such as opposition to increasingly unpopular school voucher programs “have herded black people… onto that plantation called the American ghetto.”

    On The Five, co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle, Juan Williams, and Dana Perino, and guest co-host Jesse Watters, concluded that viable solutions to “social pathologies” in Milwaukee’s communities of color include African-Americans “step[ping] up to the plate” rather than playing “victims of Democratic policies,” and pushing efforts to “hold teachers accountable.” Perino mentioned that the NAACP opposed privately managed charter schools, prompting Williams to declare the position “unbelievable,” and Guilfoyle to conclude, “I don’t get that.”

    Days later, the co-hosts pivoted a discussion about Trump’s tweet about the Chicago shooting death of basketball star Dwyane Wade’s cousin to push right-wing myths. They used it to claim that even "school choice" cannot address challenges facing the black community, including the right-wing canard of “black-on-black crime.” They also dismissed the NAACP’s recent resolution calling for a halt in the expansion of privately managed charter schools.

    On The Record With Greta Van Susteren interviewed Trump surrogate and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani about Trump’s attempted outreach to the African-American community, allowing Giuliani to spend nearly five minutes attacking the education stances of teachers unions and progressives and touting his own record on pushing privatization measures in New York City schools as mayor.

    Fox Hosts And Guests Laughed At Students’ Activism On Offensive Terminology: Should An Injured Horse “Get A Lawyer, Because The Horse Is Offended” By Being Called “Lame”?

    Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle guest-hosted On The Record and interviewed a student leader at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about students’ efforts to highlight offensive terms. After student Mike Fortello explained why using terms like “lame” or “gay” as negative descriptors can be hurtful to others, Guilfoyle bizarrely questioned whether Fortello’s logic would somehow mean a hypothetical horse with broken legs “should get a lawyer, because the horse is offended” by being called “lame.” Guilfoyle and her other guest, Ben Shapiro, ended the segment by talking over the student repeatedly, laughing, and insulting the university. In another On The Record guest host stint the following day, Guilfoyle gleefully reported on the University of Chicago’s rejection of trigger warning and safe space use, beginning a segment on the story by jokingly asking a network correspondent if he was “in a safe space to report this.”

    Later that week, campus sexual assault denier George Will joined Bret Baier in a panel discussion on Special Report to celebrate the University of Chicago’s decision not to “appease” students “we now call snowflakes, these fragile little creatures who melt at the first sign of the heat of controversy.” Panel members laughed at Will’s example of “committing cultural appropriation by wearing a sombrero or something of the sort.” Will was disinvited from a college campus speaking engagement and protested at several other campuses in 2014 following his comments that those who experience sexual assault enjoy “a coveted status” in society. He identified himself in the segment as “someone who’s been disinvited from a college campus, I’m delighted to say.”

    None of these segments acknowledged the serious reasons students -- particularly increasing numbers of students of color, women students, and first-generation college students -- may be seeking out safe spaces or conversations within campus learning environments.

  • Here Are The Details Media Ought To Report About Trump’s Cleveland School Visit 

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivered remarks on education policy at a Cleveland, OH, charter school September 8. Although Trump’s statements seemed to reflect somewhat vague centrist stances in favor of so-called "school choice" and accountability measures, media should pay attention to the context of Trump’s visit. The nominee appeared at a struggling school privately managed by a for-profit company led by an education privatization proponent with ties to the right-wing American Legislative Education Council (ALEC) and a track record that’s been criticized by even national charter school advocates. 

  • Wash. Post  Latest To Concede There’s No Actual Evidence Of Clinton Wrongdoing When It Comes To Laureate Education

    Post Still Spends 2,600-Plus Words Reporting A False Equivalence With Trump University

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a lengthy September 6 article, The Washington Post examined the connections between Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the Clintons’ private philanthropic foundation, and former President Bill Clinton’s work as honorary chancellor of Laureate International Universities, a network of for-profit colleges located predominantly in Latin America. Although the Post found no evidence of wrongdoing, its report comes as conservative outlets from Fox News to Breitbart News continue to falsely frame the non-scandal as a smoking gun akin to the numerous allegations of fraud facing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s Trump University business.

    The report acknowledged at its start that there is “no evidence” of any pay-to-play relationship between Laureate and the State Department, despite numerous evidence-free suggestions to the contrary from Fox News, media figure Roger Stone (an adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump), and other right-wing outlets.

    The Post’s 2,600-plus-word piece on Laureate echoed its own earlier reporting and an extensive PolitiFact piece that ultimately found the Clintons’ relationship with Laureate Education and its schools to be essentially another trumped-up “optics issue. Unfortunately, by largely rehashing what is already known, even with the exculpatory facts mentioned, such reporting feeds the persistent right-wing media efforts to attack the Clintons, which have trickled into mainstream outlets as a flawed attempt to exhibit balance in journalism.

    In fact, the Post even explained that allegations related to Laureate originated from the discredited anti-Clinton book Clinton Cash, and that they were subsequently repeated and further distorted by the Trump campaign and right-wing media coverage. The paper cited its prior fact check that found Trump’s Laureate talking points “by all accounts … false.” And it noted that conservative efforts to “draw parallels between Laureate and Trump University” are flawed, in part due to a lack of evidence of any wrongdoing at Laureate. The paper explained that grants Laureate received from the State Department while Clinton was secretary of state were reportedly arranged before she took office:

    The Clintons’ Laureate connection emerged as a campaign issue earlier this summer, when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump charged that Hillary Clinton “laundered money” to her husband by funneling tens of millions of dollars in federal grants to Laureate while she was secretary of state.

    By all accounts, Trump’s claim was false, and his campaign did not respond to requests for documentation.

    The company says its campuses have received about $1.4 million total over the years in grants from the State Department and its international aid arm, USAID. Of that amount, only $15,000 came while Clinton was secretary of state — student scholarships funded by USAID, Laureate said.

    Publicly available grant records are not detailed enough to corroborate Laureate’s exact numbers. But the records do show that neither Laureate nor any of its campuses has received any individual grants larger than $25,000 from the State Department or USAID.

    Trump appeared to be drawing on — and misrepresenting — a report in the 2015 book “Clinton Cash” that grants from USAID to a separate charity chaired by Becker, the Laureate founder, increased during the Clinton years.

    Founded in 1989, the International Youth Foundation has partnered with Laureate campuses in some of its charitable education work. The group has received USAID funding since 1999, and its president said the increase in USAID funding under Clinton was largely a result of the receipt of multi-year grants awarded before she entered office. There is no evidence Hillary Clinton played a role in the grants, and the group’s president, William Reese, said no government money went to Laureate or Becker.

    Though some Republicans tried to draw parallels between Laureate and Trump University, the real estate seminar company founded by Trump that faces multiple fraud investigations, Laureate is a different sort of business.

    The Post also referenced Clinton's decision -- which had been reported previously -- to invite a representative from Laureate to a State Department dinner on global higher education policy in 2009. But that seems to be the strongest example cited in the article of any direct contact between Hillary Clinton and Laureate Education. And even the expert cited by the Post admitted that, if in retrospect “it does seem unseemly,” Laureate representatives “were clearly a legitimate participant in this sort of event.”

    Meanwhile, the extent of Trump’s personal involvement in the Trump University business is precisely what has spurred ongoing fraud lawsuits against the company.

  • Four Ways Media Attack Organized Labor

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    As Labor Day approaches, Media Matters looks back at how media have attacked organized labor over the past year. In the midst of several important battles for labor unions in 2016, media have often pushed misleading information about union membership and fees, attempted to delegitimize the votes of union members, uncritically cited and elevated voices from anti-union dark-money groups without proper disclosure, and claimed that teachers unions’ activism shows that educators do not care about what’s best for their students.

  • NRA News Dismisses LGBT Students’ Safety Concerns Over Texas' New Campus Carry Law

    NRA News Host: LGBT Students Shouldn't Be Afraid "Unless They Have Been Living In A Cave Somewhere"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s radio show dismissed personal safety concerns raised by LGBT students at the University of Houston following Texas’ August 1 adoption of a law allowing concealed guns to be carried on many parts of public college campuses.

    Cam Edwards, the host of NRA News’ Cam & Company, cited a Buzzfeed article where a University of Houston student, who self-identifies as transgender and intersex, expressed fear of being shot if someone was angered by their use of gender-neutral pronouns.  

    On the August 30 edition of Cam & Company, Edwards dismissed the student’s worries, as well as those of other LGBT students mentioned in the article, saying he feels “horrible” for those students because “they don't have to feel that way and yet they’re being told by anti-gun professors, they are being told by anti-gun media, they are being told by anti-gun activists that oh yes, absolutely, they should feel this way, they should be scared of concealed carry holders.”

    “Unless they have been living in a cave somewhere in Texas and they only emerged to go to college, they've been hanging around concealed carry holders virtually their entire life if they grew up in Texas,”  Edwards continued. (While discussing the article, Edwards mistakenly cited it as appearing in The Houston Chronicle rather than Buzzfeed.)

    Edwards never read from sections of the Buzzfeed article, where multiple LGBT students talked about how they “regularly experienced intimidation on campus before the law was implemented,” especially from extremists who hold hateful protests on campus, and expressed concern that guns can be carried at the school’s LGBT center:

    Some of the students thought about protesting, but they didn’t think it would be safe. “We would also out ourselves in the process, which isn’t safe for many of the LGBT students on campus,” [student Robyn] Foley added. “Especially now.”

    [...]

    Many of the LGBTQ students told BuzzFeed News they regularly experienced intimidation on campus before the law was implemented — both from fellow students and from non-student religious protest groups on campus, which the students refer to as “Hell Yellers.”

    Many non-student religious groups, including one called Bulldog Ministries, show up on UH’s campus during midterms and finals and yell at students, the students at the LGBT center told BuzzFeed News.

    On Bulldog’s website, men can be seen in various locations in Houston holding signs reading, “WARNING: drunks, homosexuals, abortionists, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, witches, idolaters, HELL AWAITS YOU.”

    [...]

    Foley said they have had slurs yelled at them and been “intimidated” on campus before. Other LGBT students said they have had similar experiences.

    According to news reports analyzed by the Violence Policy Center, since May 2007, 885 people have been killed by concealed carry permittees, including 48 people in Texas. The gunman who committed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history on June 12 by targeting an Orlando LGBT nightclub was licensed to carry a gun in public.

     
  • The Do's And Don’ts On Reporting On Anti-Bullying And Nondiscrimination Protections For LGBT Students

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Thanks to several recent legal rulings about protections for transgender students, nondiscrimination and anti-bullying measures for LGBT students are more visible than ever. As kids head back to school, journalists have the opportunity to break from the sensationalist, fearmongering coverage that often accompanies these stories and instead follow journalistic best practices in reporting on LGBT student equality.

    In the past few weeks, there have been two high-profile legal rulings directly affecting transgender students. On August 22, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s recent guidance directing all public schools to provide transgender students with access to sex-segregated facilities that are consistent with a student’s gender identity. On August 3, the Supreme Court granted an emergency appeal from a Virginia school board to prevent a transgender boy from using the boys bathroom at his high school. The two August decisions come on the heels of this spring’s high-profile national debate over transgender equality, which centered largely around access to restrooms and other public accommodations.

    As both of these cases continue to make their way through the legal system, the discussion about LGBT student equality isn’t going away. In the past, journalists have often stumbled when reporting on measures geared toward making schools more accepting for LGBT students, particularly transgender students. Right-wing media have a long history of sensationalizing and fearmongering over basic anti-bullying measures and nondiscrimination protections for LGBT students. As students head back to school, here are a few reminders for media outlets that want to avoid making some of the most common mistakes when covering stories about LGBT students:

    DO Accurately Identify Anti-LGBT Commentators

    Mainstream media outlets often fail to give their audiences relevant information about guests they ask to comment on LGBT equality, particularly when the topic is transgender equality. If a guest represents an organization that has been designated as an anti-LGBT hate group for its history of spreading known falsehoods about LGBT people, then properly identifying the person as such is essential to providing audiences the context they need to assess that guest's point of view. Journalists should be especially wary of hate groups, like the American College of Pediatricians, that use legitimate-sounding names to peddle harmful, debunked lies.

    Outlets should also be careful of using hate groups as reliable sources for stories about LGBT students. Fox has twice been caught uncritically repeating made-up stories meant to oppose LGBT student equality, peddled to the network by one of California’s most notorious anti-LGBT hate groups.

    DON’T Fearmonger Over Access To Bathrooms And Locker Rooms

    Conservative media have a long history of fearmongering over nondiscrimination protections for transgender kids. In 2014, when California passed a new law allowing transgender public school students to use the restroom facilities that correspond to their gender identity, right-wing media figures issued apoplectic predictions of bathroom harassment and inappropriate behavior, warning that students would pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into opposite-sex bathrooms.

    While mainstream media might not offer the same doomsday type predictions, outlets often uncritically repeat the right-wing myth that nondiscrimination protections will cause students to pretend to be transgender to sneak into bathrooms and locker rooms.

    DO Rely On Empirical Data

    When discussing the potential impact of providing nondiscrimination protections for LGBT students, journalists should cite empirical data from schools that have protected LGBT students for years.

    Nationwide, school administrators from 23 school districts and four universities across the country, serving an estimated 1.5 million students, have reported that they allowed transgender students to use school facilities that correspond with their gender identity without incident.

    Additionally, reporters should be sure to provide meaningful context about anti-bullying initiatives for LGBT students by highlighting the high rates of violence and discrimination against LGBT kids. Recently, the first nationally representative study asking high school students about their sexuality confirmed what smaller studies have suggested for years -- that LGB teens are at far greater risk for depression, bullying and many types of violence than their straight peers, with nearly 40 percent having seriously considered suicide. Similar studies of transgender students have found that nearly 80 percent of transgender or gender-nonconforming kids have experienced harassment in schools, with over 30 percent experiencing harassment by teachers or staff. 

    Journalists should also point out that efforts by school staff to create welcoming and accommodating environments for transgender youth can dramatically improve the conditions experienced by these students. Given the empirical evidence available, it’s no surprise that national organizations like the National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Association, and the American Federation of Teachers all support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT students.

    DON’T Sensationalize Training Materials Out Of Context

    Conservative outlets like Fox News have a long history of seizing on small details of LGBT-inclusion trainings -- like a suggestion to use the classroom nickname “purple penguins” instead of gendered terms -- to gin up controversy and trivialize the importance of diversity trainings. Recently, both conservative and local media reported on a cartoon “gender unicorn” illustration being used in a diversity training in North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which a local parent called “friendly looking and deceitful” because the unicorn “represents the religion of sex.” 

    This type of sensationalist reporting can have a chilling effect on schools considering adopting similar inclusion measures. Joel Baum, director of education at Gender Spectrum, has criticized the sensational media coverage surrounding the organization’s gender-inclusive trainings for creating “a tremendous amount of work for school leaders who are overburdened and do not have time, quite honestly, to be responding to misinformation about what's happening in their schools."

    DO Be Familiar With And Follow Journalistic Best Practices When Reporting On Transgender People

    With much of the media attention surrounding LGBT student equality focused on transgender youth, reporters should be sure to educate themselves on journalistic best practices in reporting on transgender people. GLAAD’s media reference guide has clear guidelines for reporters covering the transgender community, key points of which are:

    • Use accurate terminology, including the correct pronouns, and avoid offensive terms (see GLAAD’s list).
    • Avoid focusing on medical issues, and remember that it is inappropriate to ask transgender people (including children) about their genitals or surgeries they have had.
    • Transgender people “are the experts to talk about transgender people.” Reporters should prioritize transgender voices in stories about the transgender community.

    Similar guidelines have been adopted by The New York Times and The Associated Press, and they should be common practice for news outlets.

     

  • WSJ Pushes Flawed Talking Point That Teachers Unions Hurt Students Of Color

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board’s response to a California court decision that declined to review a challenge to state teacher tenure laws framed support for educators’ labor rights as a move to “deny upward mobility to poor black and Hispanic children.” The editorial ignores ample evidence that strong unions benefit low-income students of color and their neighborhood schools by boosting teacher quality and contributing to more equitable school funding, and that teachers unions routinely support efforts to combat racial and class inequality beyond the classroom. 

  • ProPublica Reporter Calls For Journalists To Be "More Skeptical" Of Researchers Backed By Corporate Interests

    ProPublica's Faturechi: Media Should "Ask Harder Questions" Before Quoting Or Publishing Corporate-Backed Research

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ProPublica reporter Robert Faturechi is calling for journalists to “be more skeptical” and “ask harder questions” about the corporate funding and influence behind pundits and research organizations passing themselves off as independent.

    In an August 10 post published on The New York Times’ Room for Debate blog, Faturechi proclaimed: “It’s our job as journalists to make sure that lawmakers and the public aren’t making major policy decisions based on compromised studies." He added that journalists should "ask harder questions" about think tank researchers' corporate backing "[b]efore we quote them or their studies, or publish their op-eds." His post comes days after the Times published an investigative series about how think tank scholars offering themselves as independent arbiters “have become part of the corporate influence machine” affecting policy in Washington. One article examined 75 think tanks and found that many researchers “had simultaneously worked as registered lobbyists, members of corporate boards or outside consultants in litigation and regulatory disputes, with only intermittent disclosure of their dual roles.” Another explained that think tanks scholars are “pushing agendas important to corporate donors," which “blur[s] the line between researchers and lobbyists," and they're often doing it without disclosing their connections.

    Several Media Matters analyses have found that fossil fuel-funded pundits passing themselves off as independent experts often publish op-eds or are quoted in the news without disclosing their industry ties, and a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that oil-funded organizations are “more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue." Media Matters has also outlined how for-profit education companies and other corporations have backed a broad network of think tanks to influence education policy in their favor.

    From Faturechi’s Room for Debate post:

    It’s our job as journalists to make sure that lawmakers and the public aren’t making major policy decisions based on compromised studies. Big name universities and prestigious think tanks provide researchers with an imprimatur of independence. But as The New York Times and other outlets have shown, their work is often funded, and sometimes shaped, by special interests with a rooting interest in particular findings. Reporters and editors need to be more skeptical of experts, and the false sense of security that their name brand affiliations provide. Before we quote them or their studies, or publish their op-eds, we have to ask harder questions about their funding and their outside employment.

    Oftentimes simply asking won’t be enough. When the research is being done at a public university, we have an easier time digging up undisclosed conflicts. Emails between professors and their funders are typically subject to public records requests. Those communications can be revelatory, but they’re harder to come by when the researchers are working for private think tanks. In those cases, we have to rely on less straightforward entry points, like think tank researchers happening to communicate with government officials who are subject to FOIA. Or we have to hope for leaks. Neither method is particularly reliable.

    Research that is funded by a corporation, or any other special interest for that matter, isn’t necessarily flawed. And researchers who are moonlighting for outside groups aren’t necessarily untrustworthy. But lawmakers and the public deserve more visibility into the research that is shaping policy in Washington and in statehouses across the country. Investigative reporting is one remedy. Another would be stricter transparency rules.

  • Mike Pence Set To Strengthen Ties To ALEC And Corporate-Driven Education Reform

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Republican vice presidential nominee and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is reportedly scheduled to speak Friday at the annual meeting for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which takes place in Indianapolis, IN, this year. The meeting, which typically determines the legislative priorities of the corporate-funded bill mill for the coming year, runs from July 27 through July 29. Pence was originally scheduled to speak at a July 27 ALEC event co-sponsored by the conservative-leaning Center for Education Reform but later pulled out, citing conflicts with the Trump-Pence campaign schedule. The Indianapolis Star reported that Pence rescheduled his ALEC appearance, however, and will speak at the annual meeting on July 29.

    ALEC is a corporate-fundedmembership organization that connects right-wing state legislators across the country with model legislation that represents “the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism” and corresponds with corporate interests on a given policy issue. ALEC’s corporate-minded -- and conservative -- model policies tackle issues from K-12 education to “academic freedom” in higher education, as well as tax reform, social programs, environmental and infrastructure policies, and health care. Its corporate-sponsored model legislation on education issues is heavily focused on scholarship tax credits, vouchers, and other “school choice” programs that would lessen support for traditional public school systems. In line with the right-wing agenda, ALEC is also behind so-called “right to work” legislation that severely weakens unions -- including teachers unions -- and has so far been adopted in 26 states, although the law was struck down as unconstitutional by a Wisconsin state court in April.

    ALEC is funded by several philanthropic organizations founded or supported by the oil billionaires David and Charles Koch -- including the Charles Koch Foundation, “dark money ATM" DonorsTrust, and Donors Capital Fund -- as well as several other staunchly right-wing private foundations. It boasts having “nearly 300 corporate and private foundation members,” who pay for memberships in order to influence the proposed model policies, and lists partnerships with several right-wing education privatization groups.

    Image by Sarah Wasko.

    Pence’s education policies as Indiana governor have closely mirrored ALEC priorities. In fact, Pence wrote the introduction to ALEC’s annual “Report Card on American Education” in 2014, which graded Indiana highest in the nation for education policy that year. In his introduction, Pence touted Indiana’s school voucher system, which boosts federal funding for students to attend private schools, a long-standing ALEC priority. A recent study, however, pegged Indiana’s voucher program -- now one of the largest in the country -- as an example where “negative effects of vouchers” were apparent in student performance.

    Pence also pointed to increased attendance at charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently operated, sometimes by private management companies with little oversight. ALEC supports policies, reflected in Pence’s education agenda, that boost charter funding and enrollment caps but can financially threaten traditional public schools. The group is reportedly focusing on legislative efforts to make charter school closures more difficult in the coming year.

    Pence has spoken at ALEC and other right-wing corporate reform events in the past, including delivering a keynote address at ALEC’s 2013 policy summit. In 2015, Pence spoke at an Indiana education rally held by the state political action committee Hoosiers for Quality Education. The rally was sponsored by controversial online charter company K12 Inc. (also a “proud” ALEC member) and several national education privatization groups -- some affiliated with the Kochs. These connections to right-wing education reform efforts represent only a facet of Pence’s reportedly close relationship with the Kochs and of his commitment to corporate-backed policies.

    ALEC’s annual meeting has sparked protests from Indiana teachers and lawmakers. State Rep. Robin Shackleford, a Democrat, explained, “For too many years, this organization has destroyed the character of public education in the name of choice at the detriment of our community.”