Reinventing High School

WhiteHouse

— General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Founding Chair,  and Alma J. Powell, Chair, America’s Promise Alliance

We want to talk to you about our nation’s high schools for a moment.

In 2008, the Department of Education required all states, for the first time, to use the same calculation for their high school graduation rate — a key accountability measure that this administration has embraced. In 2010, President Obama and Secretary Duncan joined the America’s Promise Alliance at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to launch the GradNation campaign, setting a national goal of a 90 percent high school completion rate by 2020.

We’re seeing tangible results.

High school graduation rates have risen and are continuing to rise across America. Preliminary data from the Department of Education for the 2013-2014 school year show the narrowing gap between students from low-income families, students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners and their peers.

This increase in graduation rates is the result of hard work by millions of young people, families, educators, community leaders, business leaders and policy makers who have come together to create brighter futures for young people.

But while we celebrate this progress, we need to be smarter and more persistent if we want to continue to raise graduation rates for all students.
Today, a diverse group of people is coming together at the White House to talk about how we can do that in a smart way. You should follow along, and join the conversation here.

Young people have to be a respected voice at the center of change. The only way this works is if they’re a part of the process.

The latest report out of our research institute asked young people who left school without graduating what would have helped them stay in school. Here’s what we found:

The most powerful “innovation” contributing to students’ success is support from caring adults in schools. Young people told us they need an anchor, someone whom they can trust to be a stable presence in their lives. Even better is a web of supportive adults and peers to help them navigate their way through life’s challenges and toward graduation and a successful adulthood.

Students who do not graduate on time have been stigmatized as ‘dropouts.’ But we’ve been listening to these young people and learning about the complex and extraordinary challenges they face — unstable housing, food insecurity, trauma, violence, physical and emotional abuse, and bullying. Leaving school may be a last resort — but it may also feel like their only option. We’re humbled by these students’ determination not only to survive, but to craft a safe and meaningful life and to fulfill their dreams.

Today, we want to applaud those participating in the White House Next Generation High School Summit working together to accelerate innovation that creates the conditions under which all children have a real chance to succeed.

We want to encourage everyone who participates in today’s conversation to be guided by the best evidence of what works. We hope we can ‘redesign’ in such a way that teachers and other adults in schools have the time and expectation to forge real and positive relationships at every turn.

And finally, let’s be persistent: The policies, practices and stigmas that contribute to opportunity gaps in this country were long in the making — and they will take time and attention to dismantle.

(As an aside, I was astounded to hear one of the commentators claim with better education systems, her son could have become a doctor, and that her daughter is a teacher and that’s just fine.  From the tone and the demeanor of the comment, it struck me as the roots of systemic gender discrimination.)

Playing Doctor with Americans’ Lives

3Doctors400Republicans, in both the House and the Senate, are currently colluding to gut Healthcare Reform and deny actual healthcare to millions of women across our nation using a process called Reconciliation.  Reconciliation is an expedited budgetary process that offers some procedural advantages: it needs only the support of a simple majority in the Senate, and cannot be filibustered. The bill they intend pass via reconciliation is HR3762, inappropriately named, “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act” … it should be named “Butchering All Hope of Being Able to Afford Effective Healthcare Act.”

This reconciliation bill includes language to repeal key parts of Obamacare: the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the medical device tax and the ‘Cadillac tax.’ There are press posts saying that it will also end the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), but I can’t find such a provision in the bill.In addition, it would defund Planned Parenthood for one year

Defunding Planned Parenthood for a Year—

Here’s the section which specifically codifies the vilification of Planned Parenthood as a “Prohibited Entity” that just happens to provide “essential” healthcare for millions of women across our nation:

SEC. 202. FEDERAL PAYMENT TO STATES.
(a) In General.—Notwithstanding section 504(a), 1902(a)(23), 2002, 2005(a)(4), 2102(a)(7), or 2105(a)(1) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 704(a), 1396b(a)(23), 1397a, 1397d(a)(4), 1397bb(a)(2), 1397ee(a)(1)), or the terms of any Medicaid waiver in effect on the date of enactment of this Act that is approved under section 1115 or 1915 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1315, 1396n), for the 1-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act no Federal funds may be made available to a State for payments to a prohibited entity, whether made directly to the prohibited entity or through a managed care organization under contract with the State.

(b) Definition Of Prohibited Entity.—In this section, the term “prohibited entity” means an entity, including its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, and clinics—

(1) that, as of the date of enactment of this Act—

(A) is an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and exempt from tax under section 501(a) of such Code;

(B) is an essential community provider described in section 156.235 of title 45, Code of Federal Regulations, that is primarily engaged in family planning services, reproductive health, and related medical care; and

(C) provides for abortions, other than an abortion—

(i) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or

(ii) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself; and

(2) for which the total amount of Federal and State expenditures under the Medicaid program under title XIX of the Social Security Act in fiscal year 2014 made directly to the entity and to any affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics of the entity, or made to the entity and to any affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics of the entity as part of a nationwide health care provider network, exceeded $350,000,000.

[Emphasis mine]

Please note that the provisions to completely eliminate any funds for Planned Parenthood were proposed and recommended by the Ways and Means Committee currently led by Rep. Paul Ryan, that same Paul Ryan who will is expected to be elected as Speaker of the House next Wednesday — that is, unless the right wing extremists of the Republican Freedom Caucus renege and cast their votes for their beloved Rep. Daniel Webster instead.

Repealing the Individual and Employer Mandates —

Repealing individual mandate provisions are likely to increase, rather than decrease, the number of U.S. residents without health coverage, thus eliminating the progress that has been made in holding people responsible for their healthcare.  If the CBO forecasts are correct, the H.R. 3762 mandate repeal provisions could increase the number of uninsured U.S. residents by 55 percent to 65 percent. But, that’s okay with Republicans because for each person who doesn’t buy health insurance, the government doesn’t have to shell out $760-$815.  But they took it one step further.  To help their corporate benefactors, they also plan on repealing the mandates on employers to provide medical coverage.  Thus, ordinary Americans seeking to access affordable healthcare coverage for themselves and their families are going to rapidly find themselves up the proverbial creak, with no paddle, a leaky boat and no pail with which to bail out their boat.

The house voted on passage of HR3762 on Friday.  The vote was 240-189 with 5 Democrats not voting.  One Democrat (Peterson) voted for passage and ALL THREE of Nevada’s Congressional Republicans voted ‘AYE’ for passage! The bill is now off to the Senate, where it can be considered without a 60-vote cloture requirement (assuming the package passes muster with the Senate “Byrd Rule.”).

The Byrd Rule is a Senate rule that amends the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to allow Senators, during the Reconciliation Process, to block a piece of legislation if it purports significantly to increase the federal deficit beyond a ten-year term or is otherwise an “extraneous matter” as set forth in the Budget Act.  It is named after West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assessed the effects of HR3762 on long-term deficits and direct spending as follows:

  • Including macroeconomic feedback, CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would increase net direct spending as well as on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion in one or more of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2026.
  • Excluding macroeconomic feedback, CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would not increase net direct spending by more than $5 billion in either of the first two consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2026; however, the agencies are not able to determine whether enacting the legislation would increase net direct spending by more than $5 billion in the third or fourth 10-year period.
  • Excluding macroeconomic feedback, CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would increase on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion in one or more of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2026.

And because enacting the legislation would affect direct spending and revenues, ‘pay-as-you-go procedures‘ apply.

The President is then expected to veto, setting up the need for a veto-override vote in Congress.  In a statement promising Obama’s veto, the White House said the GOP measure “would take away critical benefits and health care coverage from hard-working middle-class families.”

However, a conservative revolt could derail the bill’s progress, as some conservative groups are opposing because the bill leaves some parts of ObamaCare intact


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Over One Million Voices Signed On to Protect Our Public Lands

— by David Turnbull, Oil Change International

Our public lands are our lands, held and maintained by the Government in trust for the public at large, not the goliath corporations. And in support of that premise, over the last few weeks, we’ve seen some AMAZING response to our petitions to protect our public lands to prevent corporations from fracking our public natural resources. Over a million people from around the country came together to push for protecting our public lands from fracking. Oil Change International, along with our partners in the American’s Against Fracking Coalition, delivered comments from citizens all across our country directly to the White House and Bureau of Land Management in Washington D.C.

Here’s one of my favorite pictures from the event, showing the power of this coalition coming together:

This campaign was a landmark moment in the fight to protect our communities from the dangers of fracking and is already having an impact. The coalition started with a goal of gathering 200,000 comments and ended up with over a million, including over 600,000 calling for an outright ban of fracking on public lands. This is the largest number of comments calling for a fracking ban ever submitted to the Obama Administration.

It’s actions like this – and people like you – that will help us reclaim our democracy from the grip of the fossil fuel industry. So, we simply wanted to say: Thank you. Thank you for standing up, for raising your voices with us, and for demanding better from our leaders.

Together we’re pushing back against corporate influence and making sure our elected leaders know who they’re accountable to: the people they represent, not rich polluters. We’ll be watching the Bureau of Land management closely to make sure our public lands (and all lands) are protected from fracking and other fossil fuels.

Rest assured there will be more fights against dirty fossil fuels, but thanks to your recent efforts, we’ve now got an even stronger foundation.

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Oil Change International campaigns to expose the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitate the coming transition towards clean energy. We are dedicated to identifying and overcoming barriers to that transition.

We are a 501c3 organization and all donations are fully tax deductible.

Check out our blog at PriceOfOil.org and find out how much oil and coal money your Representatives take at DirtyEnergyMoney.com.

Don’t Tax My Credit Union

Apparently, #MoveYourMoney is hurting the bottomline of the big banks and they’re starting to pull the strings on the Congressmen they bought in this last election.  This 30-second spot focuses on the credit union mission, how credit unions are rooted in their communities and why credit unions are tax-exempt — and must stay that way. Don’t Tax My Credit Union!

Will ‘Compromise’ Mean Sacrificing Our Social Safety Net?

— by Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under President Bill Clinton

Disturbing reports that the White House is already caving on Social Security and Medicare — telling Republicans it’s willing to cut yearly inflation adjustments to Social Security (thereby stranding seniors who must already pay 20-40% of their incomes for drugs and healthcare, whose prices are surging faster than inflation); and means-test Medicare (thereby greasing the way for it to become akin to Medicaid, a program for the poor). Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are on board.

But these so-called entitlement programs aren’t entitlements; people have paid into them their whole working lives. They’re the nation’s key programs of social insurance — and they’re wildly popular. Democrats are and should be the protectors of these programs, not the first proponents of reducing them. Republicans, meanwhile, won’t give an inch on closing giant tax loopholes for the rich (such as Mitt Romney’s “carried interest” boondoggle) or raising capital gains on the rich or capping the mortgage interest deduction for the wealthy or adopting a wealth tax or a tax on financial transactions. Why do Democrats always negotiate with themselves? Please send a message to the White House:  Stop giving away the store!

Read more from Robert Reich here.