Genevera Allen: At AAAS – Machine learning ‘causing science crisis’!


Genevera Allen

Dear Commons Community,

Dr.  Genevera Allen, associate professor at Rice University, at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS),  warned researchers in the field of machine learning that they have spent so much time developing predictive models that they have not devoted enough attention to checking the accuracy of their models, and that the field must develop systems which can assess the accuracy of their own findings. 

“The question is, ‘Can we really trust the discoveries that are currently being made using machine-learning techniques applied to large data sets?’” Allen said in a statement. “The answer in many situations is probably, ‘Not without checking,’ but work is underway on next-generation machine-learning systems that will assess the uncertainty and reproducibility of their predictions.”  As reported by the BBC and other media:

“Machine-learning techniques used by thousands of scientists to analyse data are producing results that are misleading and often completely wrong.

Dr. Genevera Allen from Rice University in Houston said that the increased use of such systems was contributing to a “crisis in science”.

She warned scientists that if they didn’t improve their techniques they would be wasting both time and money. Her research was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

A growing amount of scientific research involves using machine learning software to analyse data that has already been collected. This happens across many subject areas ranging from biomedical research to astronomy. The data sets are very large and expensive.

‘Reproducibility crisis’

But, according to Dr. Allen, the answers they come up with are likely to be inaccurate or wrong because the software is identifying patterns that exist only in that data set and not the real world.

“Often these studies are not found out to be inaccurate until there’s another real big dataset that someone applies these techniques to and says ‘oh my goodness, the results of these two studies don’t overlap‘,” she said.

“There is general recognition of a reproducibility crisis in science right now. I would venture to argue that a huge part of that does come from the use of machine learning techniques in science.”

The “reproducibility crisis” in science refers to the alarming number of research results that are not repeated when another group of scientists tries the same experiment. It means that the initial results were wrong. One analysis suggested that up to 85% of all biomedical research carried out in the world is wasted effort.

It is a crisis that has been growing for two decades and has come about because experiments are not designed well enough to ensure that the scientists don’t fool themselves and see what they want to see in the results.

Flawed patterns

Machine learning systems and the use of big data sets has accelerated the crisis, according to Dr. Allen. That is because machine learning algorithms have been developed specifically to find interesting things in datasets and so when they search through huge amounts of data they will inevitably find a pattern.

“The challenge is can we really trust those findings?” she told BBC News.

“Are those really true discoveries that really represent science? Are they reproducible? If we had an additional dataset would we see the same scientific discovery or principle on the same dataset? And unfortunately the answer is often probably not.”

Dr. Allen is working with a group of biomedical researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to improve the reliability of their results. She is developing the next generation of machine learning and statistical techniques that can not only sift through large amounts of data to make discoveries, but also report how uncertain their results are and their likely reproducibility.

“Collecting these huge data sets is incredibly expensive. And I tell the scientists that I work with that it might take you longer to get published, but in the end your results are going to stand the test of time.

“It will save scientists money and it’s also important to advance science by not going down all of these wrong possible directions.”

Dr. Allen offers important commentary on the state of machine learning and big data statistical analysis.


West Virginia Teachers Go On Strike And Win Again!

Image result for west virginia teachers strike

Dear Commons Community,

West Virginia teachers agreed to return to their schools yesterday after two days on strike. Their announcement came when a bill pushing charter schools and education savings accounts died in the state legislature.  As reported by the Associated Press and The Review:

“The teachers successfully beat back a legislative effort that they viewed as a push to privatize public education. The strike came almost exactly a year after a nine-day walkout that helped create a wave of teacher protests around the country.

Leaders of three unions representing teachers and school service personnel said at a news conference that classrooms would reopen statewide today.

The bill “is now dead. It’s gone,” said Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter. “So our voices were heard.”

Schools in 54 of the state’s 55 counties were closed for a second day Wednesday. The lone holdout again was Putnam County.

Unions for teachers and school service workers went on strike Tuesday over the legislation that they said lacked their input and was retaliation for a nine-day walkout last year. That strike launched the national “Red4Ed” movement, which included strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington state, and more recently, Los Angeles and Denver.

The unions and teachers opposed provisions in the legislation that, among other things, would have created the state’s first charter schools and allow education savings accounts for parents to pay for private school. Proponents said the moves would have given parents more school choices.

“This was once again a united effort,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. “The winners in this, once again, are the children of West Virginia (who) are assured of a great public education for all of them, not just a select few.”

The union leaders said they reserve the right to call teachers back out on strike before the end of the legislative session in early March to take action as they see fit. Portions of the complex bill could still be offered through amendments to other legislation in the final two weeks of the session.

The unions have trust issues with lawmakers, especially becoming wary of leaders in the Senate after actions during the 2018 strike and again this month when the chamber rushed to act on the bill.

“I feel cautiously optimistic,” said Sarah Duncan, a visual arts teacher at Walton Elementary-Middle School in Roane County. “I hope that (lawmakers) continue to do the right thing. I hope that they don’t try and bring back those parts of the bill that got the bill killed in the first place, like education savings accounts and charter schools.”

Duncan said “a lot of people think that teachers get two days off, that it’s a lot of fun. But being on strike is a lot more stressful. It’s not fun.”

Like the House, the Senate, reversing course from its original bill, removed a clause that would invalidate the entire legislation if any part is struck down, and took out language requiring teachers sign off annually on union dues and requiring teacher pay to be withheld during a strike.

Earlier Wednesday a House committee endorsed a pay increase for teachers, school service workers and state police. The teacher pay raise was part of the original legislation that the House tabled. The House plans a public hearing on the raises Friday. It would give annual salary increases of $2,120 to teachers, $2,370 to state police and $115 per month for school service workers.

Last year state teachers received an average 5 percent raise to end the nine-day strike.”

Congratulations to the West Virginia teachers and their union leadership!


House Committee to Call Betsy Devos to Report on US Department of Education!

Image: Betsy DeVos


Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times (see article below) and the Associated Press are reporting this morning that the House of Representatives Education Committee is getting ready to call Betsy Devos to report and/or testify regarding several education policy and positions that the US DOE has taken.  At the top of the Committee’s agenda are examining the carrying out of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act; recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety led by Ms. DeVos in response to the mass school shooting last year in Parkland, Fla.; and the department’s role in the rebuilding of schools in Puerto Rico, in the Virgin Islands and in other areas affected by disasters. In the higher-education sector, the committee also plans to scrutinize the department’s administration of financial aid programs particularly with regard to for-profit colleges.

I hope Secretary DeVos’ appearances before the House Committee are more than just theater.



New York Times

House Democrats Prepare to Scrutinize DeVos’s Education Department!

By Erica L. Green

Feb. 19, 2019


WASHINGTON — The last face-to-face meeting between Representative Robert C. Scott and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ended in an awkward cliffhanger.

At a hearing last May of the House Education Committee, Mr. Scott, Democrat of Virginia, challenged the secretary’s assertion that she was holding states accountable for achievement gaps between white and minority students as required by a new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. Mr. Scott, unconvinced, asked more pointedly: How can you assure us that you are following the law if you do not even make states calculate the performance of the different student groups we want to measure?

Ms. DeVos dodged the question.

Mr. Scott is now the chairman of the committee, and he is not taking silence or evasion for an answer. With control of the House and Senate divided, and President Trump in charge of the executive branch, the prospects for the House Democrats’ legislative agenda for education may be limited, but their appetite for oversight of the Education Department appears limitless.

“One of the problems we had in the minority is we asked a lot of questions that have not been answered,” Mr. Scott said in an interview. “Now that we’re in the majority, we can ask the same questions with the expectation that we’ll get an answer.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Scott added to a pile of inquiries stacking up at the department, this time questioning a recent move to replace the Education Department’s acting inspector general, who is investigating Ms. DeVos’s decision to reinstate a troubled accreditor of for-profit colleges and universities. Among other answers he is still waiting for is Ms. DeVos’s justifications for rescinding policies meant to protect black students from being disproportionately suspended and placed in special education and student borrowers from predatory lenders and higher-education diploma mills.

Mr. Scott said he is not itching to haul Ms. DeVos and her staff to Capitol Hill hearings to get the answers. “Theater doesn’t advance anybody’s agenda,” Mr. Scott said. “I’m interested in what research and evidence they used to come to these conclusions.”

Under the leadership of Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, the committee passed laws strengthening career and technical education as well as juvenile justice programs. She also proposed an aggressive higher-education bill that gutted regulatory requirements and championed work force training programs. She called on Ms. DeVos to testify only once.

Ms. Foxx said she hoped the committee would maintain its bipartisan spirit. “It’s my hope that we exercise our oversight responsibilities by asking the right questions for the right reasons to ensure faithful execution of the laws we’ve written,” she said.

Mr. Scott, the first African-American man elected to Congress from Virginia since the 1890s and the third to lead the Education Committee, has outlined a wide-ranging oversight agenda for the committee.

Among the issues it plans to examine: the carrying out of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act; recommendations from the Federal Commission on School Safety led by Ms. DeVos in response to the mass school shooting last year in Parkland, Fla.; and the department’s role in the rebuilding of schools in Puerto Rico, in the Virgin Islands and in other areas affected by disasters. In the higher-education sector, the committee also plans to scrutinize the department’s administration of financial aid programs.

Mr. Scott plans to champion bills that would pump $100 billion into public school infrastructure, limit the use of restraint and seclusion practices of special-education students and increase low-income and minority students’ access to a four-year college or university.

But when it comes to oversight, “just asking the questions usually gets people to act,” he said.

That approach has gotten results. A recent move by the White House to replace the Education Department’s acting inspector general, Sandra Bruce, was reversed shortly after Mr. Scott, joined by other Democratic leaders, sent a letter to Ms. DeVos questioning the decision.

The move, first reported by Politico, revealed the partnership developing between Mr. Scott and Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Mr. Cummings said in a statement that he plans to scrutinize “countless decisions that have negatively impacted students across the country, including dismantling protections against predatory for-profit lenders.”

In the letter on Tuesday, Mr. Scott and Mr. Cummings posed a second round of questions to the Education Department about perceived attempts to intervene in the inspector general’s investigation into the secretary’s reinstatement of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

The accreditor’s recognition was revoked by the Obama administration in 2016 after the collapse of two for-profit chains, ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, and a history of failing to comply with federal rules. Ms. DeVos reinstated the agency last year after a judge found that the Obama administration’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

According to the Democrats’ letter, Ms. DeVos’s deputy secretary, Mick Zais, wrote to Ms. Bruce in the weeks before her replacement and asked that any investigation of the accreditor include a review of the Obama administration’s actions.

“We are concerned that these actions by the Deputy Secretary represent a clear attempt to violate the statutory independence of the OIG,” the Democrats wrote, referring to the Office of Inspector General.

Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said the department “would never seek to undermine the independence of the inspector general.”

“For anyone to state otherwise is doing so with no basis in fact and purely for political gain,” she said.

Ms. Hill said the Education Department “has been and will continue to be responsive to information requests from Congress,” and that Ms. DeVos has an open invitation to meet one on one with members of both parties.

“The secretary will continue to work with lawmakers who share the goal of rethinking education in order to improve opportunities for all students, expand K-12 education options and ensure students have a multitude of pathways to success post-high school,” she said.

Ms. DeVos has some ground to make up with Democrats. According to an analysis of Ms. DeVos’s calendar by Education Week, she had more than 130 meetings or phone calls with Republican lawmakers or their top aides in the first year and a half of her tenure compared with about a dozen with Democrats.

Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, who will lead the appropriations subcommittee that funds education, said Ms. DeVos is one of the few cabinet secretaries she has not met with.

“They’re hell bent to do what they want to do, and think we don’t count for anything,” she said.

Ms. DeLauro, who has clashed publicly with Ms. DeVos, said she plans to “hold the secretary accountable for the hollowing out of the Education Department” through staffing and program cuts. She said she will fight recurring proposals to create a $1 billion program to finance vouchers for private and parochial school tuition, cutting after-school programs for low-income students and zeroing out funding for teacher training. Instead, Ms. DeLauro said she wants to champion new investments like community schools and early childhood education.

“I believe that, overall, the mission of the Department of Education these days is to privatize public education, and I want to block them,” she said. “On the other hand, I view this as my opportunity to look at how we can provide new opportunities for new people.”

Representative Mark Takano of California, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said he will scrutinize how Ms. DeVos’s proposals to deregulate for-profit colleges could allow for abuses of the G.I. Bill, which provides veterans with tuition assistance for higher education. He recently told a group of college accreditors, “I promise to continue to do my part to crack down on predatory institutions.”

When the Democrats took the House, Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, urged Ms. DeVos to step down rather than subject herself to “show trials.”

Now that Ms. DeVos has shown no signs of resigning, Mr. Petrilli anticipates that Democrats will discover they have limited power and the department will carry on, immune to bad press.

“This is a department that doesn’t have much to lose,” he said.

Cory Booker’s Betsy DeVos and Charter School Problem!

Dear Commons Community,

As the Democratic field of candidates for president grows, they are beginning to be scrutinized by the party faithful such as the unions for their views on education.  In the past, Cory Booker has been an associate of Betsy DeVos and has taken controversial stands in supporting charter schools.  Below is an article that appeared in Mother Jones and written by reporter Kara Voght.  She makes a number of excellent points such as:

“Charter schools have become much more politicized than they were 5 or 10 years ago. … Having Trump and DeVos attached to the ideas of charters and choice have changed the minds of a lot of Democrats.”

Democrats like Booker and Barak Obama and Arne Duncan were able to walk a fine line in their support of charter schools in the past.  With such hatred of anything Trump including DeVos permeating the Democratic Party, it will not be possible for Booker or any other candidate to do the same in 2020.

It is a good piece of reporting and analysis by Ms. Voght.



Mother Jones

Cory Booker Has a Betsy DeVos Problem!

“I became a pariah in Democratic circles for taking on the party orthodoxy on education.”

Kara Voght

February 7, 2019 6:00 AM

In the spring of 2012, Cory Booker delivered the keynote address at the third annual School Choice Policy Summit at a Westin hotel in Jersey City, New Jersey. For a half hour, the then-Newark mayor told hundreds of attendees dining in the hotel ballroom that the traditional public school system “still chokes out the potential of millions of children…Your destiny is determined by the zip code you’re born into, [and] some children by law are locked into schools that fail their genius.” The most promising solution, he said, was one aligned with the sweeping educational reform he was currently undertaking in Newark that was replacing failing neighborhood schools with publicly funded, privately managed charters that students could opt into based on their desires and needs.

Booker’s address that evening was notable for a number of reasons. He was one of the only Democrats speaking in a lineup that included Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal and Fox News commentator Juan Williams. The school choice plan he championed had become a plank of the Republican platform, while many of his fellow Democrats, who generally preferred direct investment in public education and enjoyed political backing from teachers’ unions, opposed it.

And then there was the group that organized the event. His appearance that evening was at the invitation of the American Federation for Children, a group chaired by Betsy DeVos. Booker told attendees he’d been involved with AFC “in its most nascent stages,” and his relationship with the DeVos family dated back to his days on Newark’s city council. DeVos, a Republican megadonor, had become known as one of the fiercest proponents of school choice—especially of for-profit charter schools and voucher programs that would allow students to use public funds to attend private schools. She also addressed the group that evening, and in a press release announcing the event’s speakers, DeVos, who had served with Booker on the board of AFC’s predecessor organization, said she was “proud and honored” to include Booker in the “committed group of education leaders who have courageously stood up to put the interests of children first by supporting expanded educational options for families.”

Nearly seven years later, Cory Booker has announced he would like to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2020, and Betsy DeVos is in her second year as President Donald Trump’s controversial secretary of education, still championing school choice as one of the priorities of her administration. Booker’s vision once enjoyed traction in Democratic circles, particularly under President Barack Obama, whose Education Department implemented policies to expand charter growth. But today, Democrats are backing off their support, especially given the wave of teachersprotests that has renewed attention on long-term divestment in public education. For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who’s likely to seek the 2020 Democratic nomination, tweeted his support of the Los Angeles teachers’ strike that had been organized, at least in part, in opposition to the city’s reliance on charters, and included a link to a Jacobin essay about the dangers of school privatization.

“Charter schools have become much more politicized than they were 5 or 10 years ago,” says Jon Valant, an education fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied the politics of school choice. “Trump didn’t say much about education policy, with the exception of the fact that he was generally supportive of school choice. And then he nominated a secretary of education whose only real experience with education has been with school choice. Having Trump and DeVos attached to the ideas of charters and choice have changed the minds of a lot of Democrats.”

“I don’t necessarily want to depend on the government to educate my children—they haven’t done a good job in doing that,” Booker said.

But as the party moves on, Booker has not. He remains a staunch defender of school choice, a policy he believes levels the playing field for low-income students whose local schools fail to realize their academic potential. His stance has put him on the opposite side both of teachers’ unions and other dependable Democratic allies, like civil rights groups, which worry that charters may actually exacerbate the inequality they were established to address. And while his ties to some of the right’s most ardent school choice advocates have long been known—attracting particular scrutiny during DeVos’ fraught 2017 confirmation—the shifting politics makes the 2020 contender an outlier among his fellow contenders, whose records align more closely with the current moment in this perennial education debate.

School choice hasn’t always been controversial. In 1988, when Booker was an undergraduate at Stanford University, the American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker proposed charter schools as laboratories where teachers could test out new teaching methods before sharing them in traditional school settings. Civil rights reformers in Milwaukee, meanwhile, worked with Democratic allies to establish the nation’s first school voucher program in 1990 so that low-income minority students, otherwise stuck in the failing public school assigned to their neighborhood, could use public funds to attend private schools.

Booker’s interest fits squarely in that latter push. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1997, Booker moved into low-income housing in Newark’s rough-and-tumble Central Ward and worked as an attorney for the Urban Justice League before winning a seat on the City Council in 1998. It was there that Booker first proposed vouchers as a means of revamping the city’s failing public schools, citing the Milwaukee example as rationale for his support. “It’s one of the last remaining major barriers to equality of opportunity in America, the fact that we have inequality of education,” Booker told the New York Times in 2000. “I don’t necessarily want to depend on the government to educate my children—they haven’t done a good job in doing that. Only if we return power to the parents can we find a way to fix the system.”

But the decade between Shanker’s proposal and Booker’s advocacy politicized school choice and turned an educational experiment into Republican dogma. Conservatives appreciated the notion of imposing market discipline and choice on public education, which had the added benefit of taking away another government program and replacing it with the private sector. Their enthusiasm for private school vouchers and for-profit, privately managed charters took place at the same time that teachers’ unions began to see the experiment as a drain on public resources and their nonunionized workplaces as bad for their profession and their students.

In 1999, when he was still a city councilman, Booker worked with a conservative financier and a New Jersey Republican mayor to co-found Excellent Education for Everyone, a group dedicated to establishing a school voucher program in the Garden State. The following year, Dick DeVos—the Republican megadonor, school choice evangelist, and husband to the nation’s 11th education secretary—invited the 31-year-old Newark councilman up to his home base of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to speak in defense of a ballot measure that would lift the state’s ban on school voucher programs. “We wanted someone who wasn’t from the suburbs,” DeVos explained of Booker’s interstate invitation—not knowing, perhaps, that his guest grew up in the affluent suburbs of Newark. Bob Braun, a columnist writing for Newark’s Star-Ledger, observed that Booker fit in this group “about as comfortably as Madonna in a home for retired nuns.” Reflecting on the experience to The New Yorker, Booker said, “I became a pariah in Democratic circles for taking on the party orthodoxy on education.”

Booker’s association with the DeVos couple continued as he progressed from City Council to Newark’s mayoral seat in 2006 to the US Senate in 2013. In the mid-2000s, Booker and DeVos served together on the board of directors of Alliance for School Choice (AFC), the precursor to the American Federation for Children, which DeVos eventually chaired. Booker twice spoke at the AFC’s annual School Choice Policy Summit: once in 2012 as a mayor and again in 2016 as a senator. DeVos congratulated Booker and other school-choice-minded politicians in an AFC press release that followed Booker’s 2014 Senate win. Booker, in turn, was complimentary of the initiatives the American Federation for Children pursued under DeVos’ leadership.

But a belief in school choice did not necessarily mean a commitment to school vouchers, and here is where Booker and DeVos parted company. When Booker ran for mayor in 2006, he distanced himself from them: “My plan right now doesn’t include having anything to do with vouchers,” he said. Instead, he favored a system of publicly funded charters that replaced failing traditional neighborhood schools—one accountable to student outcomes, not teachers’ unions’ demands. During his second term as mayor, with $100 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and millions more from donors on both sides of the political aisle, Booker replaced many of the city’s neighborhood schools with charters, recruited teachers and principals through national school reform organizations like Teach for America, and weakened existing tenure protections for teachers by tying job performance to student outcomes. The early reviews were poor: Student performance worsened in the short term, parents panicked over student reshuffling, and, as school choice detractors had warned, the district schools that remained served a disproportionate number of students who needed the most help.

“I became a pariah in Democratic circles for taking on the party orthodoxy on education.”

By this time, Booker’s vision was in keeping with mainstream Democratic policy. Arne Duncan, Obama’s Education Department secretary, promoted a similar model for schools nationwide. Several Democrats, including Booker, supported this—even as teachers’ unions, longtime Democratic allies, did not. DeVos, meanwhile, had successfully lobbied state legislatures across the country to adopt school choice models that relied heavily on vouchers and minimally on regulation and accountability. In her home state of Michigan, roughly 4 out of 5 charter schools were run by for-profit companies. “There’s a distinction between Obama-style charter schools, which are public and have accountability measures, and Trump-DeVos style, which are for-profits and don’t,” explains Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform, a group that, like Obama and Booker, advocate public charters as a means for education improvement.

But those distinctions grew fuzzy during the 2016 presidential election as Democrats took a hard line on the school choice debate. Hillary Clinton surprised pro-school-choice allies by voicing opposition to for-profit charters early in her campaign. Meanwhile, civil rights groups, which once backed charters as a means of leveling the playing field, pulled back: The NAACP and Black Lives Matter organizers both called for a moratorium on more charter schools, citing concerns about investment in public education and practices that promote racial inequality. Teachers’ unions continued to beat the drum that the school choice experiment had led to a divestment in traditional schools that left the nation’s neediest children high and dry.

Trump’s victory and his nomination of DeVos only heightened concerns—and renewed media scrutiny of Booker’s ties to DeVos. The New Jersey senator was initially mum when Trump picked her, but ended up joining his Democratic colleagues in rejecting her nomination. He cited concerns about her answers to questions about the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights on “issues of equity that were unacceptable to me,” Booker said. Even so, he still affirmed his support for school choice in the process. “I didn’t want to support her to be the secretary of education, but when it comes to my record for supporting what I believe, that any child born in any zip code in America should have a high quality school…I haven’t changed one iota,” Booker said in an interview with CNN after the confirmation hearings.

Then, in 2018, teachers across the country walked out of their classrooms to demand greater investment in public education, pointing to low wages, small school budgets, and large class sizes as symptoms of systemic divestment. Protests that began in West Virginia inspired similar movements in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma, and the efforts have been viewed, by and large, as successful. There isn’t a straight line connecting the walkouts to DeVos and charter schools, Brookings’ Valant explains—charter school policy varies widely across states and cities. “But where I think this is all connected is the teachers’ unions feel more emboldened to oppose charters than they have in the past because the public sees charters as tied to DeVos,” he says. “It makes it easier for unions to mobilize public opposition to charter schools.”

Democratic voters may join them. A 2017 Gallup poll found that 48 percent of Democratic voters supported charter schools, down from 61 percent five years earlier. A ballot measure to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts was handily defeated that year—a measure other 2020 hopefuls, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sanders, both opposed. The outcomes of the 2018 midterms offer a vision of how the new political environment has played out. Teachers’ unions, buoyed by the voting public, secured victories in states once thought to be inhospitable to their cause. Democrat Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s former state superintendent of education, ousted Republican union-buster Scott Walker in a race dominated by concerns over the underfunding and understaffing of the state’s public school system. Kendra Horn shocked politicos when she flipped an unlikely House seat in Oklahoma, aided by a last-minute $400,000 advertisement blitz from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that tied GOP incumbent Rep. Steve Russell to public school decline.

The members of the nascent 2020 field have records that indicate they’ve read the room. “Sen. Warren has worked relentlessly on the issue of student debt and higher education and how an economy has to work for all,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, explains. “Sen. Harris has worked on education. Sen. Brown is working hand in hand with us on the dignity of work. We’ve worked with Sen. Gillibrand on issues of campus sexual assault. Even right now, there’s a lot of people in this race who actually have a very pro-public-education lens with which they look at these issues.” Nearly every Democratic contender, including Booker, tweeted solidarity with the Los Angeles teachers (though none of them directly tied the strikes back to charter schools). “I think most of these candidates want to be understood and identified as progressive, and to do that right now is not to actively support charter schools,” Valant says.

Will Booker be among them?

“Maybe Sen. Booker will, maybe he won’t,” Weingarten explains. “He’ll have to answer a lot of questions.” Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, wouldn’t comment on individual candidates beyond acknowledging that the NEA is in the process of meeting with announced and prospective 2020 contenders. But she and her fellow NEA members are well-acquainted with each candidate’s record, and for them, the top priority will be the vision they suggest going forward. “They’ll want very much to make a case for their agenda as president, which may be very different than their agenda as mayor of Newark,” García says. “And we want to hear, ‘So, where are you going on this agenda of privatized education?’”

Consider Diane Ravitch, who served as an assistant secretary of education under President George H. W. Bush. Ravitch had been a staunch proponent of No Child Left Behind but later changed course, renouncing charter schools and test-based accountability as a means to educational improvement. “When she saw the effects of the reform agenda, she turned around and said just as quickly and strongly, ‘I made a mistake,’” García explains. “It would be interesting to see which politicians, Democrat or Republican, are willing to be that honest.” This week, another school reform-minded mayor, Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, also withdrew his support for the practice, explaining his reasons in an essay he wrote for The Atlantic.

So far, Booker has taken neither Ravitch’s nor Emmanuel’s path. Though he’s been relatively quiet on the subject of school choice as of late, he’s been pushing back against the characterization of his school choice project as a failure. As he’s prepared for a 2020 run, Booker has twice sat down with education website The 74 to defend his work in Newark, citing new research that attributes the educational gains of the city’s students to the closing of low-performing schools and the introduction of charters. “I’ve never seen such a disconnect between a popular understanding and the data,” he said in an interview this week. “I can find no other urban district with high poverty—with high numbers of kids who qualify for free school lunches—that has shown this kind of dramatic shift in a 10-year period.”


North Carolina GOP Election Fraud in Mark Harris and Dan McCready Race!

Dear Commons Community,

Here is the Associated Press account of voter fraud in the North Carolina Congressional race between Republican  Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready.  The results have not been certified and a new election may be required.



Associated Press

Carolina elections head says ballots handled illegally

Emery P. Dalesio   

Feb 18th 2019 5:22PM

RALEIGH, N.C. — A Republican operative, who last year rounded up votes for a GOP candidate running for Congress, conducted an illegal and well-funded ballot-harvesting operation, North Carolina’s elections director said Monday.

The director’s testimony came on the first day of a hearing into whether mail-in ballots were tampered with a in race for the state’s 9th congressional district seat that saw Republican Mark Harris narrowly defeat Democrat Dan McCready.

The race wasn’t certified, leaving the country’s only congressional election without a declared winner. The elections board is expected to either declare a winner or order a new election after the hearing.

“The evidence that we will provide today will show that a coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme operated in the 2018 general election” in rural Bladen and Robeson counties, which are part of North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, state elections director Kim Strach said at the start of a state elections board hearing.

Harris held a slim lead over Democrat Dan McCready in unofficial results following November’s election, but the state elections board refused to certify the contest after allegations of potential ballot manipulation surfaced.

An investigation targeted a political operative working for Harris’ campaign named Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr . He paid local people he recruited $125 for every 50 mail-in ballots they collected in Bladen and Robeson counties and turned in to him, Strach said. That means they could have been altered before being counted.

The operation’s scope allowed Dowless to collect nearly $84,000 in consulting fees over five months leading into last year’s general election, said Strach, adding that in addition to reviewing financial and phone records investigators questioned 142 voters in the south-central North Carolina counties.

Dowless was hired to produce votes for Harris and Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVickers, but his methods last year included paying people to visit potential voters who had received absentee ballots and getting them to hand over those ballots, whether completed or not, Dowless worker Lisa Britt testified.

It’s illegal in North Carolina for anyone other than a guardian or close family member to handle a voter’s ballot.

Britt testified she sometimes completed unfinished ballots and handed them to Dowless, who kept them at his home and office for days or longer before they were turned in, said Britt, whose mother was formerly married to Dowless. While the congressional and sheriff’s races were almost always marked by voters who turned in unsealed ballots, Britt said she would fill in down-ballot local races — favoring Republicans — to prevent local elections board workers from suspecting Dowless’ activities.While Dowless and Harris’ main campaign consultant were in constant contact, she didn’t have any indication Harris knew about the operation, Britt said.

“I think Mr. Harris was completely clueless as to what was going on,” Britt said.

Harris received 679 mail-in ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties, compared to 652 for McCready, Strach said. But McCready’s lawyers contend nearly 1,200 other mail-in ballots were sent to voters and never returned — enough to erase Harris’ 905-vote lead after Election Day.

Strach was expected to touch on the unreturned ballots later in the hearing lasting at least until Tuesday.

“It’s not just about those that have been returned. It’s potentially about those that haven’t been returned,” she said.

Dowless and Harris attended Monday’s hearing. McCready did not.

Four of the five members on the elections board — composed of three Democrats and two Republicans — would need to agree a new election is necessary.

If that doesn’t happen, McCready’s lawyers said state officials should send their findings to the Democrat-dominated U.S. House and let it decide whether Harris should be seated — arguing that the U.S. Constitution gives the House authority over the elections and qualifications of its members.


Protect Our Veterans from Betsy DeVos and For-Profit Predators!

Image result for veterans colleges

Dear Commons Community,

James Schmeling, executive vice president of Student Veterans of America, and  Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success and a former senior counsel to a Senate committee that investigated for-profit colleges, have a scathing op-ed indictment in todays’ New York Times of US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her proposed polices regarding veterans and their G.I. Benefits.  They describe her as “brazen” and “unpatriotic” because of her deregulation campaign of  for-profit colleges.  The entire op-ed is below, here is the introduction.

“As the political makeup of the 116th Congress begins to congeal, the question of what, if anything, this divided government can do together looms. Although there is faint hope of cooperation on most issues, if there is something that could unite President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, it should be their promises to protect America’s veterans.

The post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which rewarded returning service members with college funding, first passed under George W. Bush and was unanimously expanded by Congress in 2017 with Mr. Trump’s signature. But the value of veterans’ hard-earned G.I. Bill benefits is being undermined from within the Trump administration. The culprit, unfortunately, is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Despite robust objections from roughly three dozen national veterans and military service organizations, Secretary DeVos elected to eviscerate student protections and quality controls for colleges — particularly those governing the often low-quality, predatory for-profit colleges that target veterans in their marketing schemes.”

It has been well-known that Betsy DeVos is deeply committed to anything in the for-profit education sector whether it be at the college or K-12 levels.  Despite her smiles, this is another example of her “brazen” policies supporting predatory practices.



New York Times

Betsy DeVos vs. Student Veterans

The Department of Education secretary has been uniquely brazen, and unpatriotic, in her deregulation campaign. It’s time that she answered for her actions.

By Carrie Wofford and James Schmeling

Feb. 18, 2019

As the political makeup of the 116th Congress begins to congeal, the question of what, if anything, this divided government can do together looms. Although there is faint hope of cooperation on most issues, if there is something that could unite President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, it should be their promises to protect America’s veterans.

The post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which rewarded returning service members with college funding, first passed under George W. Bush and was unanimously expanded by Congress in 2017 with Mr. Trump’s signature. But the value of veterans’ hard-earned G.I. Bill benefits is being undermined from within the Trump administration. The culprit, unfortunately, is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Despite robust objections from roughly three dozen national veterans and military service organizations, Secretary DeVos elected to eviscerate student protections and quality controls for colleges — particularly those governing the often low-quality, predatory for-profit colleges that target veterans in their marketing schemes.

You’ve probably seen their sort of ads: a young soldier parachuting from a plane in one moment, smiling as he raises his hand in the warm, glossy confines of a for-profit school in the next, then the final shot of the veteran hoisting his degree, hugging his family.

Why are veterans the targets? Because for-profit colleges milk a federal loophole that allows them to count G.I. Bill benefits as private funds, offsetting the 90 percent cap they otherwise face on their access to taxpayer-supported federal student aid. Nearly two dozen state attorneys general have said this accounting gimmick — known as the “90/10 loophole” — “violates the intent of the law.”

Hundreds of for-profit schools are almost entirely dependent on federal revenue, and if the 90/10 loophole were closed, they would be in violation of this federal regulation. Taxpayers, in other words, are largely propping up otherwise failing schools.

In December, a damning Department of Veterans Affairs internal audit estimated the risk of G.I. Bill waste was exceptionally high at for-profit schools, which received over 75 percent of improper G.I. Bill payments. The report highlighted the schools’ deceptive advertising campaigns used to recruit veterans and warned that the government will waste $2.3 billion in improper payments over the next five years if changes are not made to reel in the abuse.

As Holly Petraeus — a former head of service member affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — has written, for-profit colleges have “an incentive to see service members as nothing more than dollar signs in uniform, and to use aggressive marketing to draw them in.”

Overall, by 2017, for-profit colleges had vacuumed up nearly 40 percent of all G.I. Bill tuition and fee payments since the post-9/11 G.I. Bill was introduced. Eight of the 10 schools receiving the most G.I. Bill subsidies since 2009 are for-profit colleges. Six of those 10 have faced government legal action for defrauding students.

The Education Department has the jurisdiction to undercut such fraud — and ample evidence to take action — but it has not. Instead, through several scandalous appointments, Ms. DeVos has largely delegated policymaking and enforcement to members of the for-profit-college industry, who are now her aides.

One senior aide recently worked at the very for-profit chain that just settled with 49 state attorneys general to cough up half a billion dollars for defrauding students. A top deputy worked at the same chain and at a second chain facing multiple government investigations. A third, whom Ms. DeVos hired to run the department’s enforcement unit, disappeared a crop of investigations into his former employer and several other large for-profit colleges. When news reporting brought scrutiny to this corruption, Ms. DeVos simply shifted him to the federal student aid office. The fox is running the henhouse.

Ms. DeVos fought and is now stalling defrauded students’ right to recourse under the Borrower Defense rule, and she eliminated a rule requiring career colleges to prove their graduates can get a job, even after being officially warned by the department’s Office of Inspector General that the rule was necessary to protect taxpayer funds.

This week, Ms. DeVos’s aides will meet in Washington with a panel (many representing for-profit colleges) to push forward proposals that would weaken over half a dozen regulations that govern college quality. Some changes, for instance, could leave students largely learning on their own from self-help YouTube-style videos and allow the companies responsible unfettered access to a spigot of taxpayer funds.

The Education Department’s Office of Inspector General, following the V.A.’s lead, conducted an investigation of Ms. DeVos after she reinstated the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or Acics, which had been discredited. Career civil servants on her own staff had determined that Acics had failed to meet 57 of 93 basic federal quality standards — including its inadequate oversight of the now-defunct, veteran-hungry schools ITT Technical Institutes and Corinthian Colleges. Both were for-profits whose bankruptcies left countless veteran students with deep debt and rubbish degrees.

In a stunning ethical breach, a senior aide to Ms. DeVos fabricated letters of support for Acics from other accreditors, which quickly exposed the lie.

Standing up for veterans, and student veterans, should always be a bipartisan issue. So too should protecting taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud and abuse. Indeed, Republican presidents like Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush once led fights against the parasitic tendencies of for-profit colleges.

The 49 state attorneys general who banded together last month in a lawsuit to recover $500 million from one for-profit college company were obviously working under both Republican and Democratic governors. In the face of unquestionable evidence, sometimes bipartisanship isn’t so hard. Now it’s Congress’s turn.

Politicians of both stripes speak out for veterans on the campaign trail. It’s time to back up that talk with bipartisan oversight of colleges that seek G.I. Bill funding, bipartisan legislation to close the 90/10 loophole and a bipartisan hearing that puts serious questions to the Education Department’s leadership. The public supports standing up for our military. Congress can start by standing up to Secretary DeVos.

James Schmeling is executive vice president of Student Veterans of America. Carrie Wofford is president of Veterans Education Success and a former senior counsel to a Senate committee that investigated for-profit colleges.

Video: Senator Lindsey Graham Says Kentucky Kids Need ‘Secure Border’ More Than A School!


Dear Commons Community,

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) yesterday defended the possibility of taking money away from building a middle school in Kentucky in order to erect President Donald Trump’s border wall, saying children need a “secure border” before a school. (His comment comes at about 11:15 of the clip above.)

Graham was grilled on CBS’ “Face the Nation” about money Trump will likely divert to build the wall in the wake of the president’s declaration of a national emergency after he failed to get the funds from Congress.

Host Margaret Brennan noted that some $3.6 billion of diverted funds could come from “military construction efforts, including construction of a middle school in Kentucky, housing for military families, improvements for bases.” She asked Graham: “Aren’t you concerned some of these projects … are now going to possibly be cut out?”

Graham responded that “it’s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border.” He promised the kids would eventually get their school, but added, “Right now we’ve got a national emergency.”

Senator Graham is among the Republicans who will defend the President no matter what.  It is a shame to see how cowardly the GOP leadership has become in their fear of Trump.



Video: Ex-FBI official Andrew McCabe: ‘Crime may have been committed’ by Trump!

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe  on CBS 60 Minutes

Dear Commons Community,

The long awaited CBS 60 Minutes interview with former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe aired last night during which President Trump is accused as trying to undermine an investigation into his campaign ties to  Russia.   CBS has been releasing clips of the interview (see above) for the past several days.  Key moments are captured in the AP article below especially when McCabe says  that the FBI had good reason to open a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was in league with Russia, and therefore a possible national security threat, following the May 2017 firing of then-FBI Director James Comey.

“And the idea is, if the president committed obstruction of justice, fired the director of the of the FBI to negatively impact or to shut down our investigation of Russia’s malign activity and possibly in support of his campaign, as a counterintelligence investigator you have to ask yourself, “Why would a president of the United States do that?” McCabe said.

He added: “So all those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia?”

Asked whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was onboard with the obstruction and counterintelligence investigations, McCabe replied, “Absolutely.”

It would be interesting to see if Rod Rosenstein corroborates McCabe’s comments.



Ex-FBI official Andrew McCabe: ‘Crime may have been committed’ by Trump

Eric Tucker

Feb 17th 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said in an interview that aired Sunday that a “crime may have been committed” when President Donald Trump fired the head of the FBI and tried to publicly undermine an investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

McCabe also said in the interview with “60 Minutes” that the FBI had good reason to open a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was in league with Russia, and therefore a possible national security threat, following the May 2017 firing of then-FBI Director James Comey.

“And the idea is, if the president committed obstruction of justice, fired the director of the of the FBI to negatively impact or to shut down our investigation of Russia’s malign activity and possibly in support of his campaign, as a counterintelligence investigator you have to ask yourself, “Why would a president of the United States do that?” McCabe said.

He added: “So all those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia?”

Asked whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was onboard with the obstruction and counterintelligence investigations, McCabe replied, “Absolutely.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Sunday night.

McCabe also revealed that when Trump told Rosenstein to put in writing his concerns with Comey — a document the White House initially held up as justification for his firing — the president explicitly asked the Justice Department official to reference Russia in the memo. Rosenstein did not want to, McCabe said, and the memo that was made public upon Comey’s dismissal did not mention Russia and focused instead on Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation.

“He explained to the president that he did not need Russia in his memo,” McCabe said. “And the president responded, “I understand that, I am asking you to put Russia in the memo anyway.”

Trump said in a TV interview days after Comey’s firing that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey.

Those actions, including a separate request by Trump that the FBI end an investigation into his first national adviser, Michael Flynn, made the FBI concerned that the president was illegally trying to obstruct the Russia probe.

“Put together, these circumstances were articulable facts that indicated that a crime may have been committed,” McCabe said. “The president may have been engaged in obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey.”

McCabe was fired from the Justice Department last year after being accused of misleading investigators during an internal probe into a news media disclosure. The allegation was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington for possible prosecution, but no charges have been brought. McCabe has denied having intentionally lied and said Sunday that he believes his firing was politically motivated.

“I believe I was fired because I opened a case against the president of the United States,” he said.

In the interview Sunday, McCabe also said Rosenstein in the days after Comey’s firing had proposed wearing a wire to secretly record the president. McCabe said he took the remark seriously, though the Justice Department last Septemeber — responding last September to a New York Times report that first revealed the conversation — issued a statement from an unnamed official who was in the room and interpreted the remark as sarcastic.

McCabe said the remark was made during a conversation about why Trump had fired Comey.

“And in the context of that conversation, the deputy attorney general offered to wear a wire into the White House. He said, “‘I never get searched when I go into the White House. I could easily wear a recording device. They wouldn’t know it was there,'” McCabe said.

In excerpts released last week by CBS News, McCabe also described a conversation in which Rosenstein had broached the idea of invoking the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. The Justice Department said in a statement that Rosenstein, based on his dealings with Trump, does not see cause to seek the removal of the president.


Bill de Blasio Op-Ed: The Path Amazon Rejected!

Dear Commons Community,

Below is an op-ed that appears in today’s New York Times that explains New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s views on why Amazon pulled out of its agreement with the City and State to build a second headquarters in Long Island City.



New York Times

It could have answered the concerns of citizens. Instead it bolted.

By Bill de Blasio

Feb. 16, 2019

The first word I had that Amazon was about to scrap an agreement to bring 25,000 new jobs to New York City came an hour before it broke in the news on Thursday.

The call was brief and there was little explanation for the company’s reversal.

Just days before, I had counseled a senior Amazon executive about how they could win over some of their critics. Meet with organized labor. Start hiring public housing residents. Invest in infrastructure and other community needs. Show you care about fairness and creating opportunity for the working people of Long Island City.

There was a clear path forward. Put simply: If you don’t like a small but vocal group of New Yorkers questioning your company’s intentions or integrity, prove them wrong.

Instead, Amazon proved them right. Just two hours after a meeting with residents and community leaders to move the project forward, the company abruptly canceled it all.

I am a lifelong progressive who sees the problem of growing income and wealth inequality. The agreement we struck with Amazon back in November was a solid foundation. It would have created: at least 25,000 new jobs, including for unionized construction and service workers; partnerships with public colleges; and $27 billion in new tax revenue to fuel priorities from transit to affordable housing — a ninefold return on the taxes the city and state were prepared to forgo to win the headquarters.

The retail giant’s expansion in New York encountered opposition in no small part because of growing frustration with corporate America. For decades, wealth and power have concentrated at the very top. There’s no greater example of this than Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos — the richest man in the world.

The lesson here is that corporations can’t ignore rising anger over economic inequality anymore. We see that anger roiling Silicon Valley, in the rocks hurled at buses carrying tech workers from San Francisco and Oakland to office parks in the suburbs. We see it in the protests that erupted at Davos last month over the growing monopoly of corporate power.

Amazon’s capricious decision to take its ball and go home, in the face of protest, won’t diminish that anger.

The city and state were holding up our end. And more important, a sizable majority of New Yorkers were on board. Support for the new headquarters was strongest in communities of color and among working people who too often haven’t gotten the economic opportunity they deserved. A project that could’ve opened a path to the middle class for thousands of families was scuttled by a few very powerful people sitting in a boardroom in Seattle.

In the end, Amazon seemed unwilling to bend or even to talk in earnest with the community about ways to shape their project. They didn’t want to be in a city where they had to engage critics at all. And it’s a pattern. When Seattle’s City Council passed a tax on big employers to fund the battle against homelessness, the company threatened to stop major expansion plans, putting 7,000 jobs at risk. The tax was rescinded.

Economic power — the kind that allows you to dangle 50,000 jobs and billions in revenue over every metropolitan area in the country — is being steadily concentrated into fewer and fewer hands.

For a generation, working people have gotten more and more productive, have worked longer and longer hours, and haven’t gotten their fair share in return. C.E.O.s are reaping the benefits of that work, while the people actually responsible for it are keeping less and less.

This is no accident. The same day Amazon announced its decision to halt its second headquarters here, it was reported that the company would pay no federal income tax on the billions in profits it made last year. That’s galling, especially at a time when millions of working-class and middle-class Americans are finding that they are getting smaller tax returns this year thanks to President Trump’s tax plan, which has hugely benefited the wealthy.

As the mayor of the nation’s largest city, a place that’s both a progressive beacon and the very symbol of capitalism, I share the frustration about corporate America. So do many of my fellow mayors across the country. We know the game is rigged. But we still find ourselves fighting one another in the race to secure opportunity for our residents as corporations force us into all-against-all competitions.

Amazon’s HQ2 bidding war exemplified that injustice. It’s time to end that economic warfare with a national solution that prevents corporations from pitting cities against one another.

Some companies get it. Salesforce founder and chief executive Marc Benioff threw his weight behind a new corporate tax in San Francisco to fund services for the homeless. In January, Microsoft pledged $500 million to combat the affordable housing crisis in Seattle.

Amazon’s path in New York would have been far smoother had it recognized our residents’ fears of economic insecurity and displacement — and spoken to them directly.

We just witnessed another example of what the concentration of power in the hands of huge corporations leaves in its wake. Let’s change the rules before the next corporation tries to divide and conquer.


Video: A Night at the Garden Trailer for Anti-Nazi Documentary that Fox News Refused to Air!


Dear Commons Community,

An ad for an Oscar-nominated, anti-Nazi  documentary, A Night at the Garden, warns that history can repeat itself, but as of this morning,  Fox News had refused to air it.

According to The Washington Post, MSNBC has decided to run a tweaked version of the 30-second ad, which is set to air during “The Rachel Maddow Show.” The revised spot now includes a title card noting the film’s Oscar nomination.

The Post also confirmed that CNN will air the ad during “The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer,” though it is not clear whether it will be the original version without the title card, which was rejected by Fox.

The film, “A Night at the Garden,” walks through a 1939 Nazi rally that took place at Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York City. At the end of the black-and-white ad, a line of text flashes on the screen, cautioning, “It can happen here.”

The Hollywood Reporter (THR) revealed on Thursday that the spot was meant to be seen by viewers of Sean Hannity’s prime-time broadcast on Fox News. The point, THR reported, was for the spot to serve as an indirect commentary on President Donald Trump’s populist rhetoric.

“The film shines a light on a time when thousands of Americans fell under the spell of a demagogue who attacked the press and scapegoated minorities using the symbols of American patriotism,” Night at the Garden director Marshall Curry said in a statement to THR.

He added, “It’s amazing to me that the CEO of Fox News would personally inject herself into a small ad buy just to make sure that Hannity viewers weren’t exposed to this chapter of American history.”

According to the Post, it had almost been rejected by NBC-Universal because of its provocative imagery, but passed muster after the addition of the title card.