GUEST WORDS--Several small, cash-strapped California school districts are using a loophole in state law to boost their revenue by overseeing a raft of far-flung charter schools, according to a recent report published by the state auditor.

The result, the report says: dismal academic results for thousands of students and a lot of extra money for the districts, one of which increased its revenue more than 10-fold.

Charter schools usually can’t open in California until they find districts willing to track their performance. The agreements are supposed to be limited by geography, but a handful of districts have authorized charters located many miles outside their geographic boundaries—some as far as 50 miles away.

Those school districts say these arrangements are legal and necessary. The applying charter operators need buildings, and they have none to offer, so the charter schools must open elsewhere.

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GUEST WORDS--The election of Donald Trump was a severe blow to rational thinking. We—and I include many traditional conservatives as well as liberals of all stripes—were so certain that the American people would not possibly elect so undignified, ill-informed, and prejudiced a person. When they did, we assumed Trump would be moderated, constrained, even reassembled by some of the same factors that affected previous strong-willed presidents: the professional bureaucracy, a politically attuned White House staff, pressures from Congress, the traditions of the office, the aspiration for reelection, the demands of the job. None of that has happened. 

So now, in the roughly one year since Trump’s election, we wrongly persist in our optimism that any or all of the following developments signal the end of this nightmare:

  • The polls, which consistently show Trump below 40 percent in popularity and below 50 percent in approval ratings.
  • Trump’s “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior” (Jeff Flake), which will lead to widespread defections from the Republican Party.
  • Trump’s failure to deliver on his legislative agenda.
  • The ongoing investigations of Trump and the Russians. (Yes, Paul Manafort and two others have been indicted, but Trump’s collusion and obstruction are a long way from being proven.)
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GUEST WORDS--Jane Doe, the 17-year-old pregnant immigrant girl held hostage and harassed for six weeks by rabid anti-choice Trump officials in Texas acting out an obscene dystopian drama in which they would force her to give birth, has received an abortion - or in the words of Jane's Due Process, "Jane has gotten justice."

Before being awarded her Constitutional rights, she was held by the feds in a detention center for unaccompanied minors, forced to make four court appearances, had her privacy rights violated when officials told her abusive parents who had beaten her pregnant sister so badly she miscarried, subjected to unwanted religious counseling and viewings of her sonagram images, blocked from seeing her lawyers and court-appointed guardian, and made to face the doubled risk, pain and duration of a 2nd-trimester abortion procedure - all while "pro-life" cretins hoped to drag out the case long enough to make that procedure illegal, after which they could have her and her newborn baby deported. Because all life is sacred, right?

Thankfully, multiple courts - state, federal, panel of appeal judges and full appeals court - all stepped up to say Jane Doe was entitled to have an abortion and it's none of the government's business and  leave this poor girl alone. 

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GUEST WORDS--“I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you? You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us?”—Eve Ensler

Forget Harvey Weinstein. And Bill Cosby, and Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes. But do remember the women. Remember all the women, famous and unknown, who have survived everything from catcalls to rape for as far back as well, forever.

The playwright and activist Eve Ensler is right to be past feeling impatient, to be so “over the passivity of good men.” She’s honed in on the question men have to answer: “Where the hell are you?” As of now, we’ve mostly been absent.

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GUEST COLUMN--As Techdirt reported, Tesla chief Elon Musk has already put up a solar power generating facility at the Hospital del Niño in San Juan, with a Powerwall storage capacity so that the electricity will still be there at night. Musk believes that this model could replace Puerto Rico’s old, destroyed power plants. (Photo above: A peek at Tesla's solar power project in Puerto Rico.)

Musk is certainly correct that Puerto Rico is crazy not to go solar. First, a Caribbean island gets lots of sunshine. Second, islands are unwise to feed the global heating beast of climate change, since they will suffer most. I made this argument before hurricane season with regard to Sint Maarten at the Nation.

Third, islands have to import expensive fossil fuels for power plants. The US Energy Information Administration informs us that before the monster hurricane that has left most of the island without power,

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GUEST COLUMNIST--What happened this weekend: Sgt. La David Johnson, killed in Niger under still-murky circumstances and dismissively dubbed "your guy" in last week's calamitous "condolence" call to his widow, was buried, as his family and fellow soldiers wept. 

In still-devastated Puerto Rico, 85% of island residents remain without power, over 30% have no power, experts are worried about water-borne diseases descending, and former governor Alejandro García Padilla posted a photo of a gloomy operating room where surgeons worked by cellphone flashlights. (Photo above.)  

To help stricken residents, all five former presidents hosted an unprecedented "Deep from the Heart: One America Appeal" benefit concert of country music in Texas; stressing the need for unity, they raised $31 million. Trump was M.I.A, except for a weird recorded message he beamed to the crowd from a teleprompter that bore no resemblance to reality. "The American people have done what we do best," he shouted. "We came together, we helped one another, and through it all, we remained resilient."

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GUEST WORDS--I spent the last few days traveling across the country to North Dakota to join others in supporting a gentle man who tried to help everyone. For that he was convicted of several crimes and will be heading to a North Dakota prison.

Michael Foster was born and raised in Texas, in an oil family. His crime in North Dakota was turning off the Keystone pipeline in a symbolic but real call to all of us to do what we can to stop global climate chaos. 

That North Dakota valve turn was one of five similar actions last October–two women, three men, five valves on lines in Washington state, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota, all done in resonance with the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign.

We see the buck-naked consequences of paying no attention to our oil consumption; Harvey drowns Houston, fires rip through the West, every hurricane is more intense than it otherwise would be, droughts last longer, lakes are drying up, the seas are rising and surging, and with fracking even earthquakes are no longer a pure act of God. Most previously natural disasters are now unnatural disasters, made worse by our hand more than the hand of God or Mother Nature.

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