Now playing: award-winning film critical of charter schools (18)

(18th in a series on Education and Charter Schools)

Over a series of posts we’ve been thinking about charter schools and their place and role in public education in Bethlehem. Thus, this film is timely. And it is also — obviously — critical of charter schools. Probably very one-sided. Gadfly plans to see the film. And hopes some of you can too. It seems a wonderful opportunity to learn. But, as always in Gadville, we try to keep an open mind till we have all the possible information we can.

BackpackYou Are Invited to A Free Screening

presented by BASD Proud Parents and the Bethlehem Area School District
Discussion to Follow
“BACKPACK FULL OF CASH” DOCUMENTARY – Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, Matt Damon, BACKPACK explores the real cost of privatizing America’s public schools. Before the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the appointment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, filmmakers Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow couldn’t have known that the new administration would dramatically shift the national debate about education to the very issues at the heart of their film: charter schools, vouchers and privatization. Now, this timely new documentary takes viewers into the world of market-based education “reform”.
BACKPACK FULL OF CASH follows the tumultuous 2013-14 school year in Philadelphia and other cities where public education – starved of resources and undermined by privatization – is at risk. The documentary also showcases a model for improving schools – a well-resourced public school system in Union City, New Jersey, where poor kids are getting a high-quality education without charters or vouchers. BACKPACK FULL OF CASH makes the case for public education as a basic civil right. The film features genuine heroes like the principals, teachers, activists, parents and most hearteningly, students who are fighting for their education. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, writer David Kirp and policy expert Linda Darling Hammond are among the national thought leaders who provide analysis in the film.

Watch City Council Live (if you don’t have the hard-to-get tickets to be there in person) tonight at 7pm!

City Council meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 7pm in the Town Hall rotunda. That means tonight. These meetings are now live-streamed on the Council webpage and on YouTube.

On the surface, the agenda doesn’t look too “exciting.” But a good many Gadfly followers will be interested that approval of resolutions to seek feasibility studies for the Rose Garden and a pedestrian bridge are on the agenda.

But you never know what might happen. In any event, Gadfly followers know that he is enamored of our resident voices during public comment. And he likes to record and distribute them. Democracy in action.

As example, he captured these comments at the recent Planning Commission meeting: citizens Murdock Saunders, Anne Evans (min. 3:08), and a woman whose name he couldn’t catch (8:18) cautioning the PC about a proposal for student housing in their neighborhood.

Listen to the clear, courteous, firm, fair, reasoned voices. Speaking up. Exercising their right. Your fellow citizens in action. Makes you proud. Makes you tingle.

But, though the agenda looks docile, anything could happen tonight. Impossible to anticipate.

But what if we could anticipate some things of interest?

Gadfly followers know that he has been making “modest proposals” about the various City authorities and boards making periodic presentations about what’s going on in their worlds that affect us — presentations that we could advertise so that you could tune in.

So that, for instance, you would know, say, that you could hear from the Parking Authority tonight about what’s going on in their hands and heads?

If you like that “modest proposal,” write your Congressperson . . . er, Councilperson. Email addresses on the Gadfly sidebar.

So, if you aren’t coming in person tonight, at 7pm go to the City web site >>> Quick links (bottom left) >>> City Council Meeting Agendas and Documents >>> “View Live Stream City Council Meeting” at the top of the page.

On that same page you can find the agenda for the meeting, any pertinent documents for the meeting – and, for later reference, the print version of the minutes plus audio and video recordings of the meeting.

You can also go to YouTube at <City of Bethlehem Council> for live-stream and archiving.

But being there is always best! Gadfly will save a seat for ya.

The best I can do

Jon Harris, “People of all faiths unite for peace in Allentown vigil honoring those killed in New Zealand mosque massacre.” Morning Call, March 17, 2019.

As I write this, there’s a vigil/ceremony for the New Zealand victims in Allentown.

And maybe it’s as much for “us” as for them.

I can not get there.

But my mind is there.

I happen to be rehearsing my reading of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” for a recording project with the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

And I can’t help reading Whitman — a man, a gay man, unparalleled in identification with American democratic values — through New Zealand.

At meeting today, a member asked for spiritual help “managing my rage.”

I understand.

New Zealand unmoors you.  kelson

The central message of Whitman’s poem defining the American Self is that “a kelson of the creation is love.”

It’s a great image if you know what a kelson is: the spine that runs along the bottom of a boat that holds it all together.

In the wake of such hate, it’s hard reading that line now with the old conviction.

But it’s the message I need to hear.

Whitman’s Self in the poem loves everyone. That’s what it means to be an American. Whitman’s hard message is that true equality is not based in law but in love.

There is no discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sex, whatever because the law won’t allow it but because we see the inherent worth in everybody.

Whitman makes “appointments with all,” he resists anything better than “his own diversity,” he’s a “caresser of life wherever moving.”

After parading before our eyes presidents, and prostitutes, and peddlers among a cavalcade of people from all geographies, all castes, all moral strata, Whitman concludes:

these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,
And such it is to be of these more or less I am,
And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.

I’m not sure I have managed my rage. But Whitman is working his way on me.

In the face of New Zealand, must hold on to and, more importantly, must act on the Whitman ideal.

How have you been thinking about these particularly horrendous events of the last few days?


Signs that Wind Creek is coming (1)

(1st in a series of posts on Wind Creek Casino)

At the Planning Commission yesterday, perhaps the first visible “signs” that Wind Creek is taking over the Sands casino occurred as the PC approved the changed signage.

All went smoothly.

Wind Creek

Simultaneously, the Morning Call published a brief summary of Wind Creek’s petition to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, where final approval of the transfer will take place.

Financial matters.

Jon Harris, “Details of the deal: What was included in Sands Bethlehem-Wind Creek petition to the state?”

  • Wind Creek will acquire 100 percent of the interests in the gaming and retail entities, allowing it to own the structures and improvements on the site such as the casino, hotel, parking garage, event center and outlets
  • Bethworks Now will become the ground landlord, leasing the land to Wind Creek
  • Wind Creek has accepted a binding commitment letter from Credit Suisse for up to $1.4 billion in financing
  • Wind Creek is requesting that a change-of-control fee of $3.75 million be imposed

This is not the kind of info most of us care about, of course.

What we’re especially looking for is the amount of the Casino Transfer Tax (CTT) that the City of Bethlehem will benefit from as one-time revenue.

See the City 2019 budget p. 278.

See the column for “Casino Transfer Tax.”

The City estimated revenue from the CTT at $5,995,000.

But that was just an estimate for budgeting purposes. It may have little relation to reality. The actual amount is not known at this time. And could be significantly less.

What would you do with the extra money, however much it is?

In that column, you will find a list of specific proposed expenditures agreed upon by the City and Council based on the budgeted figure.

If the actual CTT income is less that $5,995,000, the City and Council will negotiate again, using that list as a basis, on how to allocate the actual amount.

Everybody will have different favorites on that list, but Gadfly knows that many followers will be pulling for the $50,000 that would be earmarked for the Rose Garden and the $40,000 for the pedestrian bridge study. Of course, these projects would be competing against such items as a fire truck!

Fingers crossed.

Watch City Council “live” tonight!

City Council meets the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 7pm in the Town Hall rotunda.

That’s tonight!

Going is best.

But the meetings are now streamed “live” and are stored for later viewing on the City web site.

Go to the City web site >>> Quick links (bottom left) >>> City Council Meeting Agendas and Documents >>> “View Live Stream City Council Meeting” at the top of the page.

On that same page you can find the agenda for the meeting, any pertinent documents for the meeting – and, for later reference, the print version of the minutes plus audio and video recordings of the meeting.

This is a new opportunity.

Let’s make sure to use it!