In Wisconsin, School Choice Has Unexpected Benefits

Joshua Nelson /

Elisha Doerr would not have had an opportunity to attend Wisconsin Lutheran High School, a Milwaukee-based private boarding school, if it weren’t for a school choice program.

The school’s excellent curricula and the religious community were valuable to Doerr, 18, who now attends Harvard University and is deciding between majoring in government or computer science.

Raised in rural Waupun, Wisconsin, with six younger siblings, Doerr’s choice for a superior education in his hometown appeared limited.

His parents, who had homeschooled Elisha, looked at Wisconsin Lutheran High School for its religious affiliation, but they needed financial assistance to send their son there.

“With there being seven kids in my family and just having gotten a mortgage on our house that we just moved into,” Doerr said in an interview with The Daily Signal, “it didn’t seem particularly feasible to try to go to a private school that we were hoping to go to without getting some sort of financial support.”

Wisconsin Lutheran is one of 129 schools that are part of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, launched in 1990 to provide alternatives to troubled public schools.

The program had 28,917 participating students in kindergarten through 12th grade during the 2018-19 school year. Under the program, a school receives a state aid payment on behalf of the eligible student and parent or guardian.

Before Doerr could get into the school voucher program, his parents first had to save money in an education savings account to cover his freshman year.

Doerr’s parents saw the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program as giving them control of their son’s education. The student’s father, a Lutheran pastor, had ties to Wisconsin Lutheran and wanted his son to grow not only academically but spiritually.

Commonly referred to as the nation’s first modern school choice initiative, the Milwaukee program provides vouchers to students from lower-income families for use in attending private schools.

Doerr’s parents gained the flexibility to decide what was best for him.

Before the Doerrs’ experience, though, Milwaukee lawmakers had some disagreements in the mid-2000s about the future of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which had not been analyzed since 1995.

Two researchers evaluated the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program after pitching the idea in 2007 to then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat in office from 2003 until 2011, and legislative leaders who wanted to reduce funding for the program.

The researchers were Patrick Wolf, a professor in the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, and Corey DeAngelis, a former student of Wolf’s who now is an education policy analyst with Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C.  

“There was a group of legislators who wanted to put additional restrictions on the program, and there [was] a group of legislators who wanted to raise the cap on enrollment and expand the program,” Wolf told The Daily Signal in a phone interview about the paper that resulted.

The Wisconsin lawmakers, he said, “came to a compromise” that included calling for an evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

Initially, the research by Wolf and DeAngelis focused on analyzing test scores from 2007 to 2012, but “test scores are not everything that we want from a child,” Wolf said in the interview. They found the program had positive effects on reading scores and a neutral effect on math scores.

Wolf and DeAngelis decided to look beyond test scores and also evaluate school vouchers for their impact on character. The result was what Wolf and DeAngelis say is the first research report on the effect of school choice on reducing crime.

The report, released Feb. 26 and titled “Private School Choice and Character: More Evidence from Milwaukee,” found an intersection between greater school choice and less crime committed by young adults.

“We took a representative sample of participants in the [Milwaukee Parental Choice Program] and carefully matched them to similar Milwaukee public school students, and then tracked their outcomes over time,” Wolf said.

The two researchers found that students who took advantage of the school choice program committed fewer crimes than their counterparts in public schools. Specifically, students committed 53% fewer drug crimes and 86% fewer property crimes.

The study also found that 38% fewer paternity suits were filed once students reached their mid-20s. When difficulty in identifying a biological father occurs, lawsuits can be used to force child support payments.

Asked what could have contributed to the results beyond curricula, Wolf said the religious component in many private schools may have had a deep influence. Most teachers in public schools are stifled by regulations, he suggested:

It could be because of the religious environment that many of these schools foster. The majority of the schools participating in the program have a religious affiliation. And so maybe just going to school with a religion, you make it a lot easier to instill these values in the students. Public schools are limited in the values they can communicate to students.

What does Doerr think was the advantage provided by Wisconsin Lutheran High that a traditional public school could not provide?

“The interactions with the teachers, like having chapel every day and knowing that they’re of the same faith as you,” Doerr said.

Doerr said his parents valued this specific experience through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program the most.

Although academic success helped him become a Harvard freshman, he said, he and his parents gained the power to customize his education.

Democrats Vote Against Trump’s Judicial Nominees Far More Than Republicans Did Against Obama’s - The Daily Signal

Democrats Vote Against Trump’s Judicial Nominees Far More Than Republicans Did Against Obama’s

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping /

The Senate has confirmed Neomi Rao to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She’s exactly the kind of impartial judge that we need across the judiciary. That makes 91 judges overall, and 36 to the federal appeals court, since President Donald Trump took office.

Whatever those numbers mean on their own, the fact is that Trump’s judicial nominees are being treated very differently than those of previous presidents.

Those 91 judges, for example, have received a total of 1,824 votes against their confirmation in 782 days. When Barack Obama was president, it took 2,123 days to rack up this many negative votes, and he had to appoint 282 judges to do it.

Trump’s 91 judges have received more negative confirmation votes than the 2,653 judges confirmed to the same courts during the entire 20th century combined.

Let’s look at this another way. Obama appointed 16 judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals during his first two years, when his own party controlled the Senate. Each of those nominees had a confirmation vote, and only two also had a separate vote to invoke cloture, or end debate.

With 41 Republicans in the Senate, that’s a total of 738 opportunities on the Senate floor for a Republican to vote for an Obama nominee. Republicans took 556 of those opportunities, or 75 percent.

Trump had appointed 16 judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals by May 2018, when his own party controlled the Senate. Each of those nominees had a confirmation, and all 16 also had a separate cloture vote.

With 48 Democrats in the Senate in 2017 and 49 in 2018, that’s a total of 1,544 opportunities for a Democrat to vote for a Trump nominee. Democrats took 259 of those opportunities, or 17 percent. Not even close.

You might think that, well, Obama’s nominees must have been more qualified than Trump’s. Not according to the American Bar Association. Nine of each president’s nominees received a unanimous well qualified rating, but five other Trump nominees received at least a majority well qualified rating, compared to just one Obama nominee.

Since several studies (hereherehere, and here) have found that the ABA is systematically biased against Republican nominees, that really puts Trump’s nominees ahead.

Shifting from the votes that nominees receive to the votes that senators cast, the average Democrat has voted against 36 of the 91 judges Trump has appointed so far. This compares to the average Republican voting against six of the first 91 judges Obama appointed.

No matter how you slice or dice it, no matter what measure or standard you use, the judicial confirmation process today is radically different than it was just a few years ago.

Originally published by National Review.

Don’t Erase Women at the United Nations - The Daily Signal

Don’t Erase Women at the United Nations

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton /

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is being pressured to embrace “gender identity” ideology at its annual meeting this week. If successful, the move could erase women from international law and economic development.

Gender identity refers to an individual’s perception of themselves as male, female, both, neither, or something in between. Historically, U.N. efforts to foster gender equality have focused on biological women. If this focus shifts to equality for all possible gender identities, women lose.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists and some Western nations are spearheading the U.N. bureaucracy’s reinterpretation of “sex” in treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. And although U.N. member states have never voted to adopt these new definitions, U.N. entities that police compliance with human rights treaties have added “sexual orientation” to the definition of “sex.”

They have also read “gender identity” into nondiscrimination provisions. These actions are neither binding on member states nor authoritative, but they do influence member states’ domestic policies and affect their eligibility for development assistance.

At the Commission on the Status of Women, nongovermment organizations such as Outright International are calling for recognition of gender identity, arguing that they suffer from a “foreclosed definition of ‘women.’” For the first time, the U.N. LGBTI Core Group, of which the U.S. had been a member since the Obama administration, also made a similar statement.

Advancing the notion that gender is fluid is not a priority for women in non-Western countries. Unsurprisingly then, the LGBTI Core Group’s statement received a tepid reception from the global gathering.

Accusations of cultural imperialism have often been unfairly cast upon the universal human rights movement. But advancing a progressive ideology that conflicts with a scientific understanding of sex gives critics ammunition to attack the commission’s noble goals.

If the U.N. begins to treat biological men as if they are women because they perceive themselves to be women, then the discussion of women’s economic empowerment will turn into one about everyone’s economic empowerment.

That defeats the purpose of having separate discussions about women’s roles in the informal economy and as caregivers for children and the elderly, to say nothing of improving women’s access to credit, pensions, and unemployment benefits, a priority theme of the commission.

Legally recognizing gender identity also endangers women and girls.

In nations that recognize the concept of gender identity, male sexual predators have exploited the laws to gain access to private spaces. In England, this led to sexual assaults against women in prison, and in the U.S. against a 5-year-old girl in her school bathroom.

This is not to accuse those who identify as transgender of desiring to harm women. But giving men access to female-only spaces removes critical barriers designed to protect women.

The rights of those who identify as transgender must be protected like everyone else’s simply because they are human. But their legitimate claims to human rights are not based on their membership in any particular group, nor should they justify reducing the rights of women and girls.

Furthermore, transgender ideology perpetuates gender stereotypes that feminists have long fought against, such as what constitutes “women’s work” or what sports are appropriate for girls.

Sex is a biological fact, not a feeling. Women and girls around the world face discrimination and harm as a result of historical and cultural factors related to biological sex. Therefore, international law and economic development policy should continue to be based on this reality.

At the commission, the U.S. delegation should focus on advancing opportunities for biological women and girls, as it has rightly pledged to do. Women around the world still need to secure their legal and economic rights, to gain access to quality medical care and education, and to combat violence.

To respond to their most pressing needs, the U.S. must protect women from being erased in international law through a radical redefinition of sex.

Originally published by The Washington Times.

House Republicans Press Democrats to Allow Vote on Protecting Abortion Survivors - The Daily Signal

House Republicans Press Democrats to Allow Vote on Protecting Abortion Survivors

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson /

House Republican leaders are waiting to see whether their appeal to voters will convince Democrat colleagues to allow a vote on a bill requiring medical care for babies who survive an abortion procedure.

Pro-life lawmakers, led by the House’s top two Republicans, hope to force a vote on the legislation by using a procedure called a discharge petition.

Minority Whip Steve Scalise last week urged Americans to call their representative in the House to request that he or she sign the petition, which requires at least 218 signatures to proceed. Democrats hold 235 seats in the House, Republicans 197.

“I’m calling on every member of Congress to sign the discharge petition so that we can bring this bill to the floor, have this debate, so all the country can see this barbaric process of murdering babies when they’re alive is legal in many states,” Scalise, R-La., said Wednesday at a news conference also attended by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

McCarthy, Scalise, and other Republicans demanded that Democrats bypass House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s authority to help set up a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Besides requiring proper medical care for abortion survivors, the legislation would make it a felony to harm a baby who survives an abortion procedure.

Pelosi, D-Calif., “doesn’t want to give those babies who were born alive the same legal protection that everybody else enjoys,” Scalise told reporters, but “we can still force a vote by getting 218 signatures.”

A Senate vote on similar legislation failed by a 44-53 vote Feb. 25, when all but three Democrats voted against the bill.  

President Donald Trump commented on the bill’s defeat via Twitter at the time, saying: “Senate Democrats just voted against legislation to prevent the killing of newborn infant children. The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies after birth.”

Other House Republicans at the news conference were Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, chairman of the GOP conference; James Inhofe of Oklahoma; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; and Ben Cline of Virginia.

Also attending were pro-life activists Jill Stanek, Olivia Gans Turner, and Melissa Cifuentes.

Scalise and Inhofe co-authored a recent op-ed on the issue for Fox News, writing:

It should be common sense in a just and moral society. This bill requires medical practitioners—those who have sworn to ‘do no harm’—to exercise equal care to a baby who survives an abortion as any other child, and provides criminal penalties for anyone who intentionally kills or denies lifesaving care to a child who is born alive after an abortion.

While members of the Senate are on the record with a vote on this legislation, the Democrat leadership that controls the House of Representatives has blocked its consideration. They don’t want to have to vote on infanticide because they know the rest of the country doesn’t agree—77 percent of Americans support protections for abortion survivors and 62 percent oppose late-term abortion.

Too Few Immigrants Value Limited Government - The Daily Signal

Too Few Immigrants Value Limited Government

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager /

Given the constantly reiterated left-wing charge that opposition to massive immigration is racist and xenophobic, it is important to restate the truth: The reason for opposition to mass immigration into the United States—from almost anywhere in the world, whether legal or illegal—has nothing to do with race or ethnicity.

The issue is entirely one of values. Every immigrant, to anywhere, brings a set of social, moral, political, and religious values. No one on earth is devoid of values, be they noble, ignoble, or merely confused.

Wishful-thinking conservatives and Republicans have long argued that Latinos are potential Republicans because at heart they are social conservatives. They are said, for example, to oppose abortion and to have a strong commitment to the traditional nuclear family.

Yet, even assuming Latinos’ overall opposition to abortion and strong belief in the mother and father-led family, this has paled in significance compared to Latinos’ belief in big government.

That the state should take care of people is now the most widely held belief in the world.

More people believe in big government than believe in the God of the Bible. That is one reason, as I frequently note, that the most dynamic religion of the last hundred years has not been Christianity or Islam, but leftism.

America is the only country in the world founded on a belief in limited government. It is a uniquely American value. And that is precisely the problem: It is uniquely American. Very few immigrants to America bring with them a belief in limited government.

That is one reason Democrats want more and more immigrants—more or less from anywhere (except Western Europe). Almost every immigrant is another vote for the Democratic Party. The only exceptions are some Europeans who crave individual liberty, and people fleeing socialist and communist dictatorships, such as those of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Venezuela.

First-generation Cubans became a bedrock of the Republican Party in Florida. So, too, first-generation immigrants from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe formed a strong conservative block. And today, one suspects most Venezuelans allowed to immigrate to the United States would find American millennials’ love affair with socialism ludicrous.

However, in every case, the words “first generation” are operative. Once the children of first-generation immigrants from left-wing tyrannies attend American colleges (or, increasingly, American high schools), they are likely to become left-wing Democrats. Their parents’ horrific experience with big government—nearly always meaning left-wing government—becomes irrelevant to them.

Take, for example, Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google. Brin, about the 10th-richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of $50 billion, was born in the Soviet Union, which he and his family fled, immigrating to the United States when he was 6 years old.

Yet he is a man of the left who now censors PragerU videos and other conservative content and plays a major role in making Silicon Valley the closed left-wing world it is. Though his family fled the Soviet state, Soviet values have apparently influenced Brin more than American values have.

So, whether immigrants bring big-government values with them or embrace them within a generation, few immigrants of the last generation either brought American values or embraced them for long after coming here.

Nor is it only a belief in big government that nearly all immigrants bring with them. For example, many Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa bring with them a value that permeates the societies from which they came—anti-Semitism. Witness the two newest Muslim members of Congress: Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who came from Somalia, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., whose parents are Palestinian.

The problem with mass immigration into America has nothing to do with ethnicity or race. It is entirely about values.

The proof is this: The problem is the same with “internal” immigration. New Yorkers immigrating to Florida and Californians immigrating to Texas and Arizona do to those states what Latin Americans do to America: They bring different values—specifically, left-wing values, starting with belief in big government.

Next time someone labels your opposition to mass immigration “racist” or “xenophobic,” tell them you are equally opposed to New Yorkers immigrating to Florida and Californians immigrating to Arizona.

And for the same reason: They bring with them the very values that caused them to flee. The only difference is Latin Americans are largely unaware of what they are doing; New Yorkers, Californians, and other leftists who move to conservative states know exactly what they’re doing: voting for the government policies from which they fled.


How Covington’s Nick Sandmann Could Win His Defamation Claim Against Washington Post - The Daily Signal

How Covington’s Nick Sandmann Could Win His Defamation Claim Against Washington Post

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky /

Nicholas Sandmann is one of the Covington Catholic High School students caught in a media firestorm while attending the March for Life last month in Washington, D.C. Now, he is pushing back.

Last week, his lawyers filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post for $250 million—the amount that Jeff Bezos spent to buy the newspaper.

Does Sandmann have any chance of winning? The short answer is “yes.” But it’s not a sure thing. He’s taking on a defendant with very deep pockets and absolutely no incentive to settle.

Sandmann has sent letters threatening legal action to more than 50 media organizations, celebrities, and politicians about their public statements condemning and attacking Sandmann. The Washington Post is the first media organization to be sued.

What’s Sandmann’s beef? He was accused of racist behavior toward Native American activist Nathan Phillips, based almost entirely on what his lawyers call a “deceptively edited” 59-second video clip. More complete videos of the incident show that the allegations were false.

Sandmann’s lawyers claim The Washington Post stories were “falsely accusing him of instigating the January 18 incident” and “conveyed that Nicholas engaged in acts of racism by ‘swarming’ Phillips, ‘blocking’ his exit away from the students, and otherwise engaging in racist misconduct.” The lawsuit says the newspaper “ignored basic journalistic standards” and engaged in “negligent, reckless, and malicious attacks” on Sandmann, leading a “mainstream and social media mob of bullies which attacked, vilified and threatened” him.

So what are the legal standards governing this type of defamation lawsuit? As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas explained in a recent opinion, the legal right to sue someone for damaging your reputation depends on whether you are a “public” or a “private” individual. 

The Supreme Court’s 1964 decision in New York Times v. Sullivan established two different standards for proving a defamation case. A “public” figure, such as a government official or celebrity, must prove that the false statement was made with “actual malice,” i.e., with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. A private individual has to prove only that the statement was false.

In a 1967 case, Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, the court expanded the definition of a “public” figure to include private individuals who “thrust themselves to the forefront of particular public controversies in order to influence the resolution of the issues involved.”

Sandmann’s lawyers maintain, quite reasonably, that the 16-year-old is a private figure who has “lived his entire life outside of the public eye.” Further, he did not “engage the public’s attention to resolve any public issue that could impact the community at large” and “has not inserted himself into the forefront of any public issue.”

His lawyers say that his issuance of a statement and his appearance on NBC’s “Today” show were only to provide a “detailed and accurate factual description of his encounter with Phillips.” They were intended to refute the accusations made against him and were “reasonable, proportionate, and in direct response to the false accusation.” That did not turn him into a “public figure” under the legal standard governing defamation lawsuits according to his lawyers.

On this issue, Sandmann will probably be successful. It is doubtful that a court would consider attending the March for Life as meeting the standard for an individual voluntarily injecting himself into a public issue. As First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh says, the Covington High School students “weren’t famous or influential” before this incident, and he doubts that “just showing up at a rally” would qualify them as public figures.

But the law does not allow you to recover damages for an opinion that you consider defamatory. Thus, Sandmann would have a hard time recovering from The Washington Post or anyone else for expressing an opinion that he is racially insensitive or a racist. While that opinion may be unfair or unjust, it is not actionable. Sandmann is going to have to show that factually false statements were made about his behavior.

That is no doubt why the lawsuit claims that The Washington Post falsely stated that Sandman swarmed, confronted, and mocked Phillips, as well as “engaged in racist conduct.” Sandmann’s lawyers also claim that the stories “communicated the false and defamatory gist that Nicholas assaulted and/or physically intimidated Phillips” and “engaged in racist taunts.”

Once you get past the public figure/private person standard established by the Supreme Court, state law is going to apply. In Kentucky, where this lawsuit was filed, you can get damages without proving actual harm if the defamatory statement made against you is “defamatory per se.” That includes: statements falsely accusing you of committing a serious crime; conduct affecting your fitness for office, trade, occupation, or business; or having a “loathsome” disease.

Sandmann’s lawyers argue that The Washington Post’s statements were defamatory per se because they were “libelous on their face” and subjected him to “public hatred, contempt, scorn, obloquy, and shame.” Sandmann has “suffered permanent harm to his reputation” and “severe emotional distress.” His lawyers are also asking for punitive damages because the newspaper published the false accusations “with actual malice” by failing to verify them and by failing to review the complete video that showed what actually happened.

Can he win? Maybe. Rolling Stone agreed to pay $1.65 million to settle the defamation lawsuit filed by the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia after it published an article that implicated the fraternity in a false gang rape story. The Washington Post is probably willing to put a lot of resources into fighting this case in order to avoid encouraging other lawsuits. But just like Rolling Stone, it may eventually agree to a settlement to buy peace.

This article was originally published on Fox News.

House Eyes Votes on 2 Gun Control Measures - The Daily Signal

House Eyes Votes on 2 Gun Control Measures

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson /

The Democrat-controlled House is expected to vote this week on two gun control bills, one of which would subject gun sales by licensed dealers to federal review while the other would impose a universal background check on gun owners.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee passed both measures on a 23-15 vote along party lines.

In a public statement, the National Rifle Association said the measures would not cut off criminals’ access to firearms and instead would inconvenience law-abiding citizens.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Pete King, R-N.Y., are spearheading what some call the most high-profile action on gun control in two decades. Neither is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Titled the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, one of the bills targets firearms purchased online or at gun shows, requiring these purchases to be subject to the federal background check system.

The legislation would amend current law that mandates only licensed firearms dealers must perform background checks before approving a gun sale. The amendment would require all gun transfers go through licensed firearm dealers to run background checks.

Gifts between family members and temporary transfers for use at a shooting range and hunting would be exempt from a background check.

The bill isn’t as bipartisan as its title suggests, with only four Republicans co-sponsoring the measure besides King: Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Brian Mast of Florida, Fred Upton of Michigan, and Chris Smith of New Jersey.

The other bill, sponsored by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., would extend the review period for a gun sale for up to 20 days. It is co-sponsored by King and Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C.

Under the proposed Enhanced Background Checks Act, gun owners no longer would be able to bypass a background check if it isn’t completed within three days.

The review period would be extended to 10 days and the bill would allow the buyer to request a review if the check hasn’t been completed by then. If another 10 days goes by without notification from the background check system, the gun sale could advance.

House Democrats said the three-day safety valve allowed a gunman to fatally shoot nine persons at a Bible study inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015.

Proponents of the bill cite that time period as the central justification to enhance communications between local law enforcement and the federal background check system. The gunman was able to buy a gun despite pending felony drug charges against him.

The National Rifle Association countered the notion that the three-day waiting period led to the Charleston shooting, noting that the shooter’s attempt to purchase the firearm on April 11, 2015, was delayed because of his arrest for drug possession.

However, the NRA also said the firearm “was transferred to him five days later, absent a direct proceed order from the National Instant Background Check System,” adding:

The attack did not occur until June 17. In the intervening time, the FBI had the opportunity to continue to investigate whether the perpetrator was prohibited from possessing firearms and could have referred the case to ATF [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] for a firearm retrieval had they determined he was indeed prohibited.

The NRA concludes that due to the FBI’s failure to continue an investigation on the gun transfer, lawmakers’ attempt to connect the Charleston shooting to the three-day waiting period is false.

Teachers Strike Over Performance Pay Ends in Denver - The Daily Signal

Teachers Strike Over Performance Pay Ends in Denver

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson /

Revising the once mutually lauded performance-based teacher payment model known as ProComp was at the heart of the three-day teachers strike in Denver that ended in time for classes Thursday morning.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools announced a tentative agreement early Thursday.

An amended version of ProComp has a retroactive effective date of Jan. 19 and runs through Aug. 31, 2022, updating a teacher salary schedule that starts at $45,800 a year. It also gives average raises of 11.7 percent next year and opens renegotiation of financial terms that could add $23.1 million to teacher compensation along with other benefits.

“This is a victory for Denver kids and their parents and our teachers,”
the union’s lead negotiator, Rob Gould, said after the last bargaining session. “Educators in Denver Public Schools now have a fair, predictable, transparent salary schedule. We’re happy to get back to work.”

Last weekend, the two sides tried unsuccessfully to negotiate an agreement. The strike that ensued Monday was Denver’s first in 25 years.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova had noted “real progress” by Tuesday night.

The ProComp contract, which expired Jan. 18, paid Denver’s teachers based on performance and incentives, rather than seniority and education level, in addition to their base pay.

The school system offered bonuses to teachers based on factors such as working in schools with a high poverty rate in positions difficult to fill, or working in high-performing schools that are growing rapidly, among others. The goal was to increase teacher pay and attract top talent to challenging schools and subjects.

But as Denver’s school district has grown and the budget has stretched, the teachers union contended that bonuses siphoned off too much of their base pay. They wanted either to reduce or completely ax some bonuses, arguing that higher base pay would prevent teacher turnover, to the benefit of students.

Although the school district and the teachers union agreed to a starting base pay of $45,800 a year, school officials said they wouldn’t compromise on incentives for teachers who work in high-poverty areas or one of the district’s “high priority schools.”

“There was a recognition that we share many areas of agreement, and we worked hard to listen and find common ground on the few areas where we had different perspectives,” Cordova said Thursday morning.

Taxpayer funding of ProComp was expected to reach $33 million this year.

“If the district is proposing to reallocate resources to cover teacher salaries, that’s certainly better than asking local taxpayers to cover it,” said Jonathan Butcher, senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation. “Still, across-the-board increases do not reward the hardest-working educators. Districts should be looking for ways to cut administration and focus on classroom instruction.”

Thorny issues included “professional development units” for teachers, or PDUs, which are district-based teacher education courses offered at no cost.

While talks continued, Denver’s 71,000 students were taught by school administrators and substitute teachers.

I Was Cursed Out of a Coffee Shop for My Views. We Can All Do Better. - The Daily Signal

I Was Cursed Out of a Coffee Shop for My Views. We Can All Do Better.

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek /

I never expected my weekly morning ritual of coffee and crepes at a popular local coffee shop would be interrupted by a vulgar, verbal attack that would make national headlines.

On Sept. 11, a cafe employee in Lincoln, Nebraska, named Natalie Weiss recognized me from across the room as an employee of the Nebraska Family Alliance. We’re a local nonprofit that winsomely seeks to protect the unborn, combat human trafficking, support families, and champion everyone’s First Amendment freedoms.

As I soon learned, Natalie, who is transgender, disagrees with many of our views.

After seeing me, Natalie approached me without provocation and began to curse at me for who I am, what I stand for, and the work I do. As other patrons in the crowded shop watched, Natalie called me “f—-ing bigoted trash,” demanded I leave, and shouted that if I tried to return, I’d be refused service.

I was stunned by those hateful words. I’ve always treated the employees of this cafe with respect and courtesy and never broadcast my political beliefs in the shop.

During my lunch break, I shared my experience with my Facebook friends. Within hours, my story had attracted hundreds of comments and made the local news. I soon learned Natalie had been fired for that outburst.

I received considerable support and an apology from the coffee shop owners, but I also received hateful messages, including graphic death threats from complete strangers.

This isn’t the Nebraska I know, love, and proudly call my home. This isn’t the best our diverse and tolerant country can offer. We can do better. We have to.

People who know me can tell you I believe in God, hold a conservative worldview, value the dignity of every human being, and treat people with care. These personal values are why I chose to study political science and spent my undergrad years working in political, government, and policy-related internships, leading to my current job.

Nebraska Family Alliance has received unfair slander in recent days. If even a fraction of the negative stories about our group were true, I wouldn’t work there.

I joined this team because it advocates—carefully and kindly—for policies that serve all Nebraskans. I don’t expect everyone to share my beliefs, but I do welcome rational debate and reasonable discussion.

Some people have suggested that a barista berating me and threatening to deny me future service is no different from a cake artist or a florist declining certain requests that contain messages they would prefer not to celebrate, design, or promote. But it’s incredibly different.

The artists in recent major court cases simply didn’t want to speak messages that violated their convictions. The café employee in my case, however, had no such burden.

Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman are business owners who treat all clients with respect and kindness. They serve everyone who walks through their doors. And, like any other business owner, they run their small businesses consistent with their mission and values.

Jack will sell you anything he has made, but he won’t custom-design cakes celebrating Halloween, bachelor parties, or same-sex weddings.

Barronelle happily served a gay customer for nearly 10 years before she told him she couldn’t create custom floral arrangements to help celebrate his wedding. To this day, she says she’d gladly welcome him back.

Both of these business owners, and others like them, have been dragged through long legal battles and repeatedly threatened simply because they don’t want to be forced to create messages or celebrate events they don’t agree with.

If I asked a printer to design a poster for a Nebraska Family Alliance event, and they objected to the message, I would understand their decision and go to another business. Tolerance goes both ways, and civil disagreement and discourse on important issues facing our country is a necessary component of a pluralistic society like ours.

I know what it’s like to serve people who don’t agree with me. During high school and college, I worked for a restaurant for seven years and served LGBT patrons. I enjoyed serving delicious barbeque to all my guests.

If I had the chance to serve Natalie, I would do so—and happily—regardless of our differing worldviews.

As Americans, we will inevitably disagree on political and policy issues. The First Amendment guarantees the freedom to peacefully express our ideas and promote what we believe. It also protects our freedom not to participate in speech and events that promote things we don’t believe.

This freedom and the ability to have civil discourse is what makes our country the best nation on earth. Every person should be treated with dignity and respect and not suffer unjust discrimination.

But disagreement isn’t discrimination. We have to be able to discuss our disagreements without cursing, threatening, or banning each other from communal spaces.

I know this kind of shared, diverse society is possible because I’ve participated in it. I have friends who believe I’m wrong in my convictions. We not only coexist and tolerate each other’s differences, we grow and learn from each other.

These are the friendships that make democracy thrive, ones that I hope we all value and pursue.

I enjoy sipping coffee and savoring crepes surrounded by my neighbors who may believe differently than I do. That’s a wonderful thing, and I hope we never lose it.

Trump’s Focus on Religious Freedom at the UN Should Lead the Way - The Daily Signal

Trump’s Focus on Religious Freedom at the UN Should Lead the Way

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek / Emilie Kao / Joel Griffith /

The United Nations will host its annual gathering in New York this week. But amid all the hubbub, President Donald Trump is setting aside time to speak on a pressing issue: religious freedom and persecution around the world.

The president will keynote an event Monday called the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom. This is exactly the right issue to focus on at the U.N.

Today, more than 80% of the world’s population lives under serious restrictions of religious freedom, according to the Pew Research Center. In places like Iran, Burma, and the Chinese province of Xinjiang, religious minorities like Christians, Rohingya Muslims, and Uighur Muslims face threats to their very existence.

Attacks on religious believers fuel social instability, violent conflict, and the deterioration of other human rights.

By calling upon all nations to protect religious freedom, the president will be giving a voice to those who too often lack one. He will also be celebrating a principle that is foundational to peace and security.

His call for religious freedom is particularly needed in light of this year’s attacks on synagogues, mosques, and churches, which have claimed the lives of innocent Jews, Muslims, and Christians. From Pittsburgh and San Diego to Sri Lanka and New Zealand, religious freedom is under threat.

In 1948, the nations of the world pledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to protect every human being’s freedom to adopt or change religious belief, and to live out those beliefs in the public square in addition to private life.

The U.N. has sadly strayed from this heritage and, with a new initiative, has become a threat to religious freedom.

Earlier this year, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Gutteres launched a Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech as part of an effort to counter attacks on religious minorities. While well-intended, this effort is the wrong approach and would likely backfire.

The problem with hate speech laws is that the powerful use them to redefine disagreement itself as a form of discrimination. If you hold a certain opinion that powerful elites disagree with, your speech may soon be called “hateful” and “discriminatory.”

By nature, free people disagree with one another in an infinite number of ways. If we are to remain free, we must be able to disagree without fear of punishment. Hate speech laws would quash dissent in violation of liberal norms.

The U.N. should take particular issue with hate speech laws, given its task of supporting the liberal order. Hate speech laws empower governments to censor their citizens when they express their values and beliefs, including religious beliefs. The U.N. ought to openly reject hate speech laws.

In the realm of religion, the stakes are especially high. Abrahamic religions and other faiths offer truth seekers different and mutually exclusive belief-systems regarding the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the nature of good and evil.

Freedom allows the seeker to compare these claims, choose among them, and then order his or her life around them. And such beliefs are found everywhere, in every culture. Protecting their freedom to choose and practice a religion is central to their flourishing. 

Unfortunately, the concept of hate speech is all too often wielded to silence comparisons between ideas that are essential to truth seekers.

For example, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has actively advanced blasphemy laws at the U.N. under the misleading moniker “defamation of religions.” In Pakistan, the government has used blasphemy laws to punish the weak, religious minorities, and women.

One Catholic mother of five, Asia Bibi, spent years on death row simply because a coworker with a personal grievance accused her of insulting the prophet Muhammed. Her acquittal sparked nationwide rioting.

Rather than pacifying the hostility, blasphemy laws fomented social intolerance and violence by legitimizing the idea that offensive words cause injury and should be punished—the same notion that defines hate speech.

Although the specifics of the U.N. secretary general’s plan have yet to be fully articulated, the U.N.’s own track record presents a cause for concern.

One impetus for the campaign is the rise of anti-Semitism—a valid concern on its face. Yet resolutions at the U.N. routinely delegitimize, demonize, and apply double standards to the Jewish state of Israel. Political leaders—including some in the U.S.—have recently unleashed old anti-Semitic tropes.

Combating anti-Semitism does not require giving political leaders the power to shut down speech. Government leaders should address the anti-Semitism within their own ranks, and the United Nations should take a hard look at its own anti-Semitic resolutions.

In another disturbing trend at the U.N., a designated official called the independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity called for religious and political leaders to be held accountable for speech that the U.N. deems “homophobic or transphobic.”

European governments have already punished pastors and imams for stating that marriage is between a man and a woman. The U.N. should not exacerbate this illiberal trend by treating reasonable disagreements about sexuality and marriage as discrimination.

In 1992, the U.S. Senate ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a U.N. treaty that binds signatory nations to protect a list of political rights. When ratifying it, the Senate made a reservation to Article 20, which prohibits advocacy of “national, racial, or religious hatred.”

The senators who made that reservation certainly did not condone hatred. But they were discerning. They saw that such a rule could be misused and wielded to restrict freedom. After all, as a nation founded by religious dissenters, Americans know how easily terms like hate can be used by the powerful to limit the speech of the powerless.

As the U.N. meets again, the U.S. should lead the world on a different path. Instead of promoting the misguided idea of hate speech, countries should focus on empowering the oppressed by protecting religious liberty and free speech for all, and by calling upon politicians and U.N. bureaucrats to examine their own biases.

A plaque at the Statue of Liberty is inscribed: “Liberty is the air America breathes…”

Liberty is essential for people around the world to seek knowledge about the truth, and to speak up against those who oppress them based on their beliefs.

Even the most well-intended plans to combat anti-religious attacks through restrictions on speech will be counterproductive. Extinguishing liberty won’t simply suppress vile ideas—it will also snuff out those who speak from their conscience

ICE-Hating Groups Used Facebook to Incite Violence - The Daily Signal

ICE-Hating Groups Used Facebook to Incite Violence

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek / Emilie Kao / Joel Griffith / Michelle Malkin /

Abolish ICE thugs in Colorado want to see the homes and families of immigration enforcement officials set aflame.

Denver communists want alien detention facility employees dead, swinging from nooses with broken necks.

Both groups are brazenly using Facebook to spread their inflammatory and violent messages.

So, where is Silicon Valley—whose top companies partner with the Southern Poverty Law Center smear machine to de-platform conservatives, pro-lifers, and Donald Trump supporters—to stop the open borders left’s escalating hate?

On Thursday, Sept. 19, Abolish ICE Denver and the Denver Communists are organizing a protest outside the house of Johnny Choate, the warden of the immigrant detention facility in Aurora, Colorado.

Choate works for GEO Group, which operates the center.

Instead of laying blame at the feet of global profiteers who induce illegal immigrants to risk their families’ lives to trespass our borders, anti-ICE agitators are targeting homeland security employees and contractors who simply enforce federal immigration and detention laws passed by Congress.

The Denver Communists group shared a poster on Facebook with Choate’s face superimposed over a generic neighborhood map with private residential homes.

“CONFRONT LA MIGRA WHERE THEY LIVE,” the radicals urged members. The graphic describes Choate as “warden of Aurora’s notorious ICE concentration camp.”

That’s the same inflammatory and defamatory language popularized by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and used by Antifa militant Willem Van Spronsen, who attempted to firebomb the Tacoma ICE facility, also run by GEO Group, in July.

The protest announcement also includes the phrase, “C—– La Migra!” It’s the slogan of Mijente, a Latino activist group leading the Abolish ICE movement. Translation: “F— the Border Patrol.”

A commenter edited a distorted image of Choate’s face surrounded by flames, suggesting arson. His post was liked by three other fans/followers/members of the Denver Communists’ Facebook Group.

Another commenter leveled his own explicit thread on the Facebook page targeting Choate and his family in his home: “Reenact human rights abuses, get hanged by the neck until dead. Simple.”

As I report in my book “Open Borders Inc.: Who’s Funding America’s Destruction?” this virulent hatred for ICE and the Border Patrol traces its ideological lineage back to the cop-bashing domestic terrorism of the 1970s that festered in academia and resulted in bloodshed across the country at the hands of the Black Liberation Army and the Weather Underground.

Today’s Abolish ICE extremists harbor the same seething “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon” contempt for immigration enforcement as the “progressive” cop-haters of the 1970s and their George Soros-subsidized heirs in the Bush-era A.N.S.W.E.R. and amnesty coalitions, Code Pink, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter movement.

The underlying mission back then was the same as now: Destabilization, disruption, and destruction of civil order.

David Booth, who lives in Choate’s neighborhood, refuses to sit by while these bullies invade his community.

“I was shocked and surprised when I found out there was going to be an ‘ICE protest’ in my neighborhood,” he told me Tuesday.

Booth discovered that Abolish ICE Denver used Facebook to spread information on how they will be “going door to door in the neighborhood to let people know that a ‘monster’ lives among us.”

Booth condemned the witch hunt headed his community’s way: “This policy of intimidation that we see the left continue to use is not OK. … I would like to see the neighborhood rise up and support this man and his family.”

I reached out to Facebook for a response to these public safety concerns, but received no answer by my deadline.

For Coloradans, violent threats to law enforcement officials’ neighborhoods are especially disturbing given the chilling 2013 assassination of the head of the Colorado Department of Corrections outside his home in Monument.

Booth will stand publicly in defense of his community Thursday and says he has his neighbors’ support.

“I think most of us, if not all, believe this protest is inappropriate regardless of where we stand on the issue of immigration,” said Booth. “Our neighbor is just doing his job, and has done nothing wrong, or illegal, in carrying out his duties.”

Following Stand With ICE rallies in Aurora, Colorado, and Montgomery County, Maryland, that have drawn nearly 1,000 citizens over the past two weeks, Booth decided he could not sit on the sidelines.

He is not alone, and we have only just begun.

I will join Coloradans again on Saturday, Sept. 21, when another Abolish ICE group marches to the Aurora ICE facility where the American flag was torn down in July.

If not us, who? If not now, when?


Trump Calls New Sanctions on Iran the Harshest Ever Placed on a Country - The Daily Signal

Trump Calls New Sanctions on Iran the Harshest Ever Placed on a Country

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek / Emilie Kao / Joel Griffith / Michelle Malkin / Fred Lucas /

President Donald Trump said Friday that new sanctions on Iran’s national bank are the strongest ever placed on a country, but reiterated that he hopes to avoid military action against the Islamist regime. 

“I think sanctions work. The military would work. That’s a very severe form of winning,” Trump said during a joint White House press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. 

“Nobody can beat us militarily,” the president said. “Nobody could even come close. What we’ve done for our military in the last three years is incredible.”

Iran is widely suspected to be behind the bombing of Saudi Arabian oil fields last week. Iran has denied involvement.

Trump responded to a question about whether the administration’s new action exhausts sanctions, and what other options short of military action the United States might take. 

Before the press conference, Trump announced in the Oval Office that the United States has sanctioned the Iranian national bank.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin described the move as the strictest form of sanctions on Iran, one that will block any financial interaction between the Islamic republic’s central bank and a U.S.-related entity.

“We are continuing the maximum pressure campaign,” Mnuchin told reporters before the press conference, saying that Iran’s central bank—as well as its national development fund or wealth fund—“will be cut off from our banking system.” 

“This will mean no more funds going to the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] to fund terror,” the treasury secretary said. “This is on top of our oil sanctions and our financial institutions sanctions.”

Australia’s Morrison said he and the president did not discuss Iran, but during the press conference he characterized the United States as having a “calibrated, I think, very measured response.”

Trump stressed that Iran has great potential if it would stop funding or otherwise supporting terrorism in other countries. 

“These are the strongest sanctions ever put on a country. We are at a level of sanctions that is far greater than ever before with respect to Iran. We’ll see,” Trump said during the East Room press conference. 

“They are having a lot of problems,” he said of Iran’s leaders. “Not only with us. They are having a lot of problems in their own country. They have a lot of self-made problems.”

Trump said jumping into another military conflict would have been the easy route, given the U.S. military advantage.

“Going into Iran would be a very easy decision. Most people thought I would go in within two seconds, but, plenty of time,” Trump said.

“Iran could be a great country. It could be a rich country,” Trump said. “They are choosing to go a different way [and] they will be very sorry for that choice. I think I am showing great restraint. Some people respect it, some people don’t. I’m looking at what’s good for the United States. What’s good for our allies. It’s working out very well.”

The sanctions are a signal that the maximum pressure campaign will not change, said Jim Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation. 

“The new sanctions are significant but are unlikely to be decisive,” Phillips told The Daily Signal. “The important point that I think the administration is making  is that the pressure on Iran continues to mount and will not be relieved by the regime’s escalating challenges—only made worse.”

Some Cleveland Leaders Want to Bring Back Legislative Prayer. They Can, and Should. - The Daily Signal

Some Cleveland Leaders Want to Bring Back Legislative Prayer. They Can, and Should.

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek / Emilie Kao / Joel Griffith / Michelle Malkin / Fred Lucas / Jeremy Dys /

Prayer at legislative gatherings is as old as the United States—perhaps older, if we reach back in time to the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock. 

Legislative prayer is such a traditional part of who we are as a country, in fact, that it should be one of the least questionable topics of our day. 

That’s why some on Ohio’s Cleveland City Council would like to bring the practice back to its meetings. And the law supports them if they do.

In fact, they should feel more confident than their opponents. Not only has the Supreme Court twice upheld the constitutionality of prayers before public meetings, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit—in which Cleveland sits—has also upheld the practice. 

In Jackson County, Michigan, lawmakers had a decades-old tradition of opening their meetings with a prayer, led by one of the elected members of the County Commission. Commissioners would rotate as prayer-giver every meeting, each praying, or not, according to their particular religious tradition. 

But then in 2013, a local activist claimed the prayers violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. His lawsuit claimed that because elected lawmakers were leading prayers, the state had unlawfully established a religion in violation of the “wall separating church and state”—a phrase which, notably, never appears in the Constitution

A federal appellate court disagreed. In 2017, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the county’s tradition in Bormuth v. County of Jackson. Judge Richard Allen Griffin, writing for the majority, explained that the Supreme Court had twice upheld the practice of legislative prayer. 

Indeed, in the 1983 Supreme Court decision in Marsh v. Chambers, the justices had come down solidly on the side of legislative prayer.

Chief Justice Warren Burger explained that prayer before public meetings “presents no more potential for establishment [of religion] than the provision of school transportation, beneficial grants for higher education, or tax exemptions for religious organizations”—practices which the court has long upheld as constitutional.

The 6th Circuit agreed, but the Jackson case presented a twist: What if the prayers were issued by a lawmaker rather than a chaplain or private citizen, as was the case in Marsh and, more recently, Town of Greece v. Galloway? 

Griffin explained that the constitutional analysis remains unchanged.

He reasoned that it would be nonsensical to approve a prayer issued by a chaplain, but disapprove the same prayer issued by an elected official. Thankfully, the Constitution makes no distinction: lawmakers, as well as chaplains and citizens, are permitted to provide legislative prayers.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton concurred. In his opinion, he said judges should stay out of the business of scrutinizing legislative prayers, acting like a “helicopter parent, scolding/revising/okaying the content of this legislative prayer or that one.” 

Rather, he noted that “for all of American history” we have welcomed prayers before public meetings, including by those elected officials for whom the prayers were meant.

So, he posed the rhetorical question: “If the explanation for an invocation prayer is the humble act of seeking divine guidance before a session of government, is it not strange for judges to interfere with the content (e.g. God, Allah, or Jesus) or symbols (e.g. making the sign of the cross or not) of that official’s prayer?”

The constitutionality of legislative prayer is further underscored by the Supreme Court’s most recent declaration in American Legion v. American Humanist Association

In that case, Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, noted that “religiously expressive” practices, such as legislative prayer that have long been a part of our nation’s history and heritage, bear “a strong presumption of constitutionality.” 

And, just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in Fields v. Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, extended that presumption to prayers before the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Without question, as we recently explained in a letter sent to the council members, the Cleveland City Council is on solid legal ground to restart its practice of legislative prayers. So, too, are state legislatures, city councils, county commissions, and school boards throughout the 6th Circuit and beyond. 

Those prayers may even be led by those elected to govern. And, when they stand to solemnize the proceedings by their prayers, they are welcome to pray according to their particular religious tradition.

Extending that level of freedom to all Americans, whether they are private citizens or elected officials, reflects the very best of the American brand of freedom. 

It acknowledges the rich contribution religion provides to our nation. It recognizes that citizens retain their God-given freedoms even upon their election to office. 

And, it connects us to the long line of Americans before us who employed the same freedom in their day.

With Millions in Dues at Stake Across US, One Man Fights His Union for a Refund - The Daily Signal

With Millions in Dues at Stake Across US, One Man Fights His Union for a Refund

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek / Emilie Kao / Joel Griffith / Michelle Malkin / Fred Lucas / Jeremy Dys / Kevin Mooney /

Francisco Molina got a refund check from his former union compensating him for dues collected after he resigned his membership.

This means that the money Molina earned on the job since that time can’t be used to finance union political activity he doesn’t support.

But what about the dues he paid as a social services aide for Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, prior to resigning from the union? This question remains unresolved.

That’s because a Pennsylvania law makes it possible for labor unions to collect dues from government workers who decide they no longer want to be union members. 

Molina, who was a shop steward for Service Employees International Union Local 668, ran into difficulty a little more than a year ago when he resigned from the union. 

He told SEIU officials to stop collecting dues from his paycheck. 

What happens next in his case, and others raising similar legal questions, could have ramifications across the country. Millions of dollars, perhaps tens of millions, in union dues and fees are at stake, according to legal filings. 

Related: He Tried to Quit His Union. The Law Didn’t Let Him, and He Lost His Government Job Instead.

Molina has said he resigned from SEIU membership because his “personal values never matched the union’s.” 

Going After Refunds

Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit, public interest law firm based in Chicago, has joined with National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit legal advocacy group in Springfield, Virginia, to seek refunds of union fees that government employees claim were collected from them illegally. 

These cases are active in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and Illinois. In the Maryland case, Liberty Justice Center estimates that almost 10,000 state employees “could recoup up to $7 million that the union took from them.” 

In a related case out of Pennsylvania, Liberty Justice Center estimates that about 2,000 employees “could recoup as much as $1 million in illegal union fees they paid between 2017 and 2018.”

Although Molina’s case is “unique among others’ cases seeking retrospective relief,” his lawyer said in an interview, Molina’s free speech arguments could reverberate across state lines if a federal court in Pennsylvania decides the union should refund dues he paid before resigning his membership.  

Molina argues that he and other government employees were denied due process because the union didn’t apprise them of their First Amendment rights. 

As The Daily Signal previously reported, the SEIU rejected Molina’s resignation letter dated July 16, 2018, saying he had to remain a union member under Pennsylvania’s “maintenance of membership” law, which applied to his contract. 

Molina continued to protest, but Lehigh County dismissed him from his government job as a social services aide in the Office of Children and Youth Services on Aug. 14, 2018, a few weeks after he resigned from the union.

Union Strategy

Molina filed a lawsuit in January against SEIU Local 668, challenging the union’s refusal to allow him to resign his membership and claiming it violated his constitutional rights under the First and 14th amendments. 

The Fairness Center, a nonprofit, public interest law firm based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, represents Molina in the case filed with the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

In July, Judge Yvette Kane dismissed portions of Molina’s complaint in an opinion that said the former shop steward’s pursuit of “retrospective monetary relief” is “moot” because the SEIU did agree to refund the dues he paid since his resignation from the union. 

Molina also appeared to lack standing, Kane said, because he no longer was a union member when he filed the case. The judge was appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton.

Molina’s lawyer declined to reveal the amount of dues or fees involved in his case. 

“SEIU officials are implementing a strategy to avoid court rulings on constitutional issues because they know they would lose,” David Osborne, a lawyer with The Fairness Center, told The Daily Signal in an interview. 

“The judge in this case found in favor of the union and said the fact that [Molina] had gotten his money back means either he doesn’t have standing or the case is moot. These important claims have been dismissed, but the case is still active.”

Because the union “cried uncle” before the court addressed the substantive question of the constitutionality of the “maintenance of membership” provision of  Pennsylvania’s Public Employe Relations Act, Osborne said, the law will remain on the books for the time being.

What the Supreme Court Said

Under the disputed provision, public employees may resign union membership only during a 15-day window before their contracts expire. Public sector unions such as the SEIU stipulate that members must submit a resignation letter by certified mail within that 15-day window.

But for Molina, and other public employees across the nation, the Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2018 in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees turned out to be a game-changer because it struck down mandatory dues and fees imposed by unions for government employees. 

Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation represented Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee who objected to AFSCME’s political activities, in his case before the Supreme Court.

Molina told The Daily Signal in an interview that the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Janus provided him with the impetus to resign from the SEIU. 

Although the federal court dismissed Molina’s complaint seeking dues collected since he resigned from the union, his case remains active because the judge said she is willing to entertain his complaint seeking refund of “preresignation dues,” and to consider the possibility that he didn’t get due process.

“It’s not the end of the case for a couple of reasons,” The Fairness Center’s Osborne said. “Molina raised due process arguments because he believes he was not properly informed of his rights, and he has also made a claim seeking dues going back for two years based on the fact that he believes the membership card he signed was invalid. So, his case is not dead.”

In the meantime, SEIU Local 668 appears to have dropped the “maintenance of membership” requirement in its new collective bargaining agreement for state employees over concerns that the state’s legal provision is unconstitutional.

The Daily Signal sought comment from SEIU 668 on the latest developments. The union had not responded by publication time.

National Impact

“Francisco [Molina] believes he’s entitled to a return of pre-Janus dues in part because the SEIU itself recognized that the membership card he signed prior to Janus was invalid,” Osborne said. “So Francisco could make a national impact with his case, but I’d describe the impact as establishing a foothold—not necessarily a right—for any other public employees who want to recover pre-Janus dues payments.”

While Molina and other government employees in Pennsylvania press their cases in court, some state lawmakers have introduced proposed changes to state law that would strike “maintenance of membership” requirements as unconstitutional in light of the high court’s Janus ruling.

State Rep. Kate Klunk, a York County Republican, introduced a measure (HB 785) that would require government employers to notify workers of their rights. State Rep. Greg Rothman, a Cumberland County Republican, introduced a bill (HB 506) to allow government employees to resign from a union anytime they like, without a window to do so or any other restrictions.

Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Harrisburg, released a new report that includes an online interactive database detailing public sector labor laws in all 50 states.

“The Janus decision was a watershed moment for workers’ rights, but our report shows that a lot of heavy lifting still needs to be done to ensure the ruling is enforced,” Charles Mitchell, president and CEO of Commonwealth Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an interview, adding:

Since Pennsylvania is not a right-to-work state, it stands out as one of the states most impacted by the decision. But our ‘maintenance of membership’ law represents a loophole allowing union leaders to keep public employees locked into paying dues and supporting political positions at odds with their own. 

Thankfully, Pennsylvania lawmakers are proposing to do away with resignation restrictions. Other states, especially those friendly to worker freedom, should seize on the Janus ruling as an opportunity to update their own statutes. Union leaders will continue calling in political favors from their allies in government. We can’t let them undermine the workers’ constitutional rights.

The Smearing of Brett Kavanaugh Is an Attack on the Supreme Court - The Daily Signal

The Smearing of Brett Kavanaugh Is an Attack on the Supreme Court

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek / Emilie Kao / Joel Griffith / Michelle Malkin / Fred Lucas / Jeremy Dys / Kevin Mooney / David Harsanyi /

In the end, the Democrats’ smearing of Brett Kavanaugh is about delegitimizing the Supreme Court—the only institution that will inhibit the progressive agenda no matter who wins elections.

In the mind of Democrats, conservative justices aren’t merely wrong; they’re nefarious, racist, and extremist. So it’s not surprising that virtually any smear against Kavanaugh is rationalized.

In this world, the accused, rather than the accuser, bears the “burden of proof.” In this world, hucksters like Michael Avenatti are turned into experts, and major news outlets will eagerly repeat and spread slander as news.

Which is what happened last week when The New York Times ran an excerpt from a new book, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh,” in which reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly not only rehashed allegations against Kavanaugh, but claimed that he’d been in another drunken incident in his college days.

>>> The Media Reboots Its Crusade Against Kavanaugh

As it turned out, the reporters had somehow failed to mention that the alleged victim had declined to be interviewed because she didn’t recall the incident.

Whether dispositive or not, it seems like a noteworthy detail to skip in an excerpt accusing a Supreme Court justice of inappropriate sexual conduct.

In any event, the Times, caught in a blatantly unprofessional act, was forced to add an editor’s note that debunked the most newsworthy aspect of its own article. It was just another in an interminable series of “mistakes” by supposedly nonpartisan journalists that happen to skew in the same exact partisan direction while creating the same useful perceptions.

Headlines about “new allegations” were blasted across the media landscape—even after the correction. The important thing to them is that journalists can keep framing Kavanaugh as a problematic justice and Democrats can keep using the word “illegitimate” to describe his seat.

Although Kavanaugh was nominated and confirmed in the same constitutionally sound manner that every Supreme Court justice in history had been nominated and confirmed, Democratic presidential hopefuls are calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who not long ago put unsubstantiated gang rape charges against Kavanaugh in the congressional record, claims he underwent “a sham process and his place on the court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice.”

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s “Chief Legal Analyst,” noted that “40% of the Republican appointees to the Supreme Court have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct.”

This is the point of the whole enterprise, right? The implication is, “Why would any American respect the court’s rulings when it’s packed with sexual abusers?”

>>> The True, Behind-the-Scenes Story of the Kavanaugh Confirmation

Now, I hate to break the news to Toobin, but notwithstanding the hagiography created by the cultural and political left, the notion that Anita Hill was a “credible” accuser is, to say the least, highly debatable.

To this day, not a single person—and Clarence Thomas had scores of subordinates working for him during his years in government, before and after his confirmation—came forward to substantiate that the judge had ever acted in the ways Hill described.

On the other hand, 12 former female colleagues of both Thomas and Hill signed an affidavit supporting him. Not one person who worked with both came forward to vouch for Hill.

And, as with Christine Blasey Ford, the FBI investigated Hill’s claims and couldn’t find any evidence to back her accusation.

After the hearings, agents sent additional affidavits to the Senate accusing Hill of misleading the public by skipping important portions of her story and offering public testimony that contradicted what she had told law enforcement officials.

Yet, in the liberal imagination, Thomas is guilty, the same way Kavanaugh will be forever considered guilty, although none of Ford’s contentions have been corroborated or substantiated.

Not a single person at the mysterious party where Kavanaugh supposedly forced himself on her have come forward. Not even her lifelong friend, Leland Keyser, who was pressured by friends and political forces to accuse Kavanaugh, remembers any such incident.

“It just didn’t make any sense,” Keyser told The New York Times reporters about Ford’s allegations. “I don’t have any confidence in the story,” she added.

Deborah Ramirez, another accuser, hadn’t even been able to recall supposedly swatting away Kavanaugh’s penis at college party until New Yorker reporters asked her about it—well, after “carefully assessing her memories” and landing on the correct answer.

Now the Times reports that other third parties—Ramirez’s mother, for instance—remember hearing about the incident, as well.

I assume many more people will have miraculous recall as we move forward. What there won’t be are any consequences for journalistic malpractice.

And Democrats, who have no interest in living with the constraints of the Constitution, probably see little downside in destroying trust in the courts even as they weaponize a serious issue for partisan gain.


College Admissions Scandal Ensnares 52nd Defendant and Counting - The Daily Signal

College Admissions Scandal Ensnares 52nd Defendant and Counting

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek / Emilie Kao / Joel Griffith / Michelle Malkin / Fred Lucas / Jeremy Dys / Kevin Mooney / David Harsanyi / Cully Stimson / GianCarlo Canaparo /

Fifty-two defendants and counting.

That’s how many people have been indicted or otherwise charged in the college admissions and testing-bribery scandal. 

When the story first broke last spring, we wrote that the first round of indictments had to be the tip of the iceberg, because over time, those in the government crosshairs would sing like a bird—and boy, have they ever.

So, what has happened since the story first broke, and where does this sordid saga go from here?

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts took the lead in these cases. As we detailed here and here, the case broke wide open in March, when the government unsealed an indictment and criminal complaint against scores of parents who were desperate to get their kids into colleges they otherwise could not get into on their own merit, passing them off as recruited athletes.

The 52nd defendant is Xiaoning Sui, from British Columbia, Canada. She was arrested in Spain this week and charged by indictment in federal district court in Boston. Extradition proceedings to get her back to the United States will start soon. 

According to the indictment, Sui conspired with the ringleader William “Rick” Singer to get her son into UCLA as a soccer recruit, and paid Singer $400,000 to accomplish the task.

Singer took photographs of Sui’s son—a tennis player—and worked with co-conspirator and government cooperator Laura Janke, who pleaded guilty on March 14 and will be sentenced Jan. 18. Janke fabricated a soccer profile for the boy, passing him off as an ace player for two private soccer clubs in Canada. 

Singer, in turn, worked with the head men’s soccer coach at UCLA, Jorge Salcedo, to pass the boy off to the UCLA admissions office as a top recruit for Salcedo. 

It worked. The boy was admitted as a soccer recruit, and was awarded a 25% scholarship as part of his recruitment.

Singer reportedly mailed a check to Salcedo for $100,000. Salcedo was indicted and arraigned in federal court in March, pleaded not guilty, and has a status hearing with the judge in Boston on Oct. 1.

Like all defendants, Salcedo is presumed under the law to be innocent, unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Recall that Singer was the “fixer” who the parents worked with to get their children into college by the “side door”—the phrase that he used when working with parents, accepting their money, fixing test scores, and bribing college officials. 

Apparently, the “front door,” the standard way of trying to get into college—get good grades, take the SAT/ACT on your own, apply to college, and see if you are admitted—wasn’t good enough for these defendants. 

Nor was the “back door,” which apparently is to give huge sums of money to a college for a dormitory, sports field, or endowment, because there was no guarantee that your progeny would be accepted by the admissions office. 

The Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office has created a handy webpage that lists each defendant, the charges, the case status, the sentence the government has recommended, and the sentence the district court judge imposed. 

As you can see from the chart, there are two categories of defendants: those charged by an indictment (which is returned by a grand jury) and those charged by an information (a charging document filed by the U.S. attorney, in which the defendant waives his or her right to have the charges presented to a grand jury, which often happens when a plea agreement has been reached). 

Twenty-three defendants have pleaded guilty to an information, including actress Felicity Huffman. Huffman was one of two defendants to date who have been sentenced. Six defendants, including Singer, have agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation. 

Twenty-five defendants have pleaded not guilty, including another actress, Lori Loughlin. Two defendants have not yet pleaded, and two others have filed motions to dismiss their indictments. 

The next date to watch is Oct. 2, when several of the defendants have status conferences with the trial judge. 

Behind the scenes, government prosecutors no doubt have been providing defense lawyers with a preview of their case against each defendant, who in turn will discuss with their attorneys the pros and cons of contesting the charges or pleading guilty. 

The fact that Singer has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government strengthens the government’s hand in many, if not most, of these cases. 

Expect to see more guilty pleas by those indicted, and likely more charges filed against new defendants as this sordid tale continues to unspool.

Venezuela Is Still Carrying Out Chavez’s Strategy to Poison America. But Trump Can Stop It. - The Daily Signal

Venezuela Is Still Carrying Out Chavez’s Strategy to Poison America. But Trump Can Stop It.

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek / Emilie Kao / Joel Griffith / Michelle Malkin / Fred Lucas / Jeremy Dys / Kevin Mooney / David Harsanyi / Cully Stimson / GianCarlo Canaparo / James Carafano /

Venezuela continues to go down the drain.

As the world wonders how thuggish Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro manages to cling to power, we received a fresh reminder that the problems plaguing Venezuelans started long before him.

It was Hugo Chávez, Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, who set Venezuela on the road to ruin almost two decades ago.

We have also learned that, as part of that journey, Chávez initiated a campaign to flood the United States with cocaine. That’s just one more reason why the Trump administration must keep pressing to rid the Western Hemisphere of Chavismo.

U.S. federal prosecutors have claimed that, shortly before his death from cancer, Chávez directed his top lieutenants to work in tandem with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to weaken the U.S. via an epidemic of drugs.

With Chávez’s backing, the guerillas became a major producer of hard drugs, distributing them to Latin American cartels and splitting the profits with el presidente and his cronies.

Chávez’s handpicked successor, Maduro, inherited his criminal enterprise as well as the presidency. Today, it’s not just the support of China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba that keeps Maduro in power—it’s his criminal network and the cash it provides.

There is little doubt that the unholy alliance between the Venezuelan regime and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is still in operation.

Recently, guerrilla commander Luciano Marin—a key figure in the peace talks with Colombia—renounced the peace deal he helped broker and declared he was taking up arms again.

Guess where he has been operating. If you said “Venezuela,” go to the head of the class. Maduro has declared that Marin and another guerrilla commander were “leaders of peace who would be welcomed in Venezuela.”

The documents filed by federal prosecutors were not public before this month. But the Trump administration has long labeled Maduro a de facto drug lord. One of the officials cited by prosecutors, Diosdado Cabello, was already under sanctions for trafficking and money laundering.

And it is not just the U.S. that suffers from the regime’s drug war on us. Colombia, Panama, and several Caribbean states have to deal with the debilitating influence of criminal cartels—their violence, mayhem, and corrupting riches.

Meanwhile, the entire region struggles under the responsibility of caring for the millions of Venezuelans who have fled from Maduro’s despotic and economically ruinous rule.

Maduro has dug in deeper than an Alabama tick, but that shouldn’t deter the U.S. from continuing its campaign to isolate, punish, and hopefully convince the strongman to finally let go and let the people of Venezuela have a future.

When Ambassador John Bolton left as national security adviser, many assumed the administration’s interest in the people of Venezuela would go with him.

That is unlikely to happen. Bolton may have pressed too hard and been too optimistic over how quickly the regime could be brought to heel.

Still, over the last two years, the U.S. has worked with a coalition of nations in the region who see clearly the dangers posed by the Maduro regime. It is important to keep that coalition together.

Only in partnership with these friends and allies can the continent banish the drug cartels, master migration issues, deal with dangerous transnational terrorists groups such as Hezbollah, promote economic freedom and regional growth, empower women, and keep destabilizing actors—including China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba—at bay.

The good guys of the Western Hemisphere can start by banding together at the United Nations General Assembly and making it clear that they won’t stand for this kind of bad behavior anymore.

They could begin by protesting the very idea that the illegitimate Venezuelan regime should stand for election to the Human Rights Council. In fact, it is an embarrassment that Maduro’s people are recognized at all at the U.N.

Now is the time to say “no mas.”

Originally published on Fox News.

Electoral College Encourages Candidates to Get to Know All Kinds of Americans - The Daily Signal

Electoral College Encourages Candidates to Get to Know All Kinds of Americans

Joshua Nelson / Thomas Jipping / Grace Melton / Joshua Nelson / Dennis Prager / Hans von Spakovsky / Joshua Nelson / Joshua Nelson / Marilyn Synek / Emilie Kao / Joel Griffith / Michelle Malkin / Fred Lucas / Jeremy Dys / Kevin Mooney / David Harsanyi / Cully Stimson / GianCarlo Canaparo / James Carafano / John York /

The Electoral College is under fire. Again.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., recently proposed killing it on the grounds that the presidential selection mechanism leads candidates to focus on just a handful of “swing states” that are most likely to determine the election.

If presidents were picked via a nationwide popular vote, she implies, candidates would journey more widely, going anywhere there are potential votes to be won.

While it’s true that presidential candidates concentrate on swing states, there is no electoral system that would push them to tour all of the nation’s 3,007 counties, 64 parishes, and 41 independent cities.

All electoral systems, including the Electoral College, enshrined in the Constitution create incentives to home in on a limited set of places that are most likely to determine the outcome.

The question is not whether it is better for presidents and presidential candidates to care about, and travel to, the entire country or just a portion of it. The question is whether it is better for presidential hopefuls to focus on winning over swing states (as they do under the Electoral College) or big cities (as they would if a nationwide popular election was instituted).

Given these two realistic alternatives, the Electoral College system is far healthier for the country as a whole.

Warren is right that presidential candidates would likely travel to places like Massachusetts and California if the Electoral College were replaced by a nationwide popular vote. These states and the cities therein have enormous shares of the population.

But would candidates travel to Jackson, Mississippi (pop. 166,965), where Warren issued her proposal? Probably not. And would they take a swing through the Rust Belt, the Corn Belt, or the Bible Belt? Not a chance.

Popular elections push politicians to focus on the most densely populated areas. Just look at state gubernatorial politics.

Like all states, New York selects its governor by a statewide popular vote. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has governed the state for eight years and still has not visited three of its rural counties. Ten other counties have seen the governor only once.

By contrast, Cuomo has made 601 trips to New York City and another 223 trips to the three suburban counties surrounding the Big Apple. If the Electoral College were done away with, presidential candidates, like New York governors, would home in on big cities and rarely set foot anywhere else.

The reason swing states are swing states in the first place is because they are fairly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, urban and rural areas, industry and agriculture. They are, in a sense, a microcosm of the nation’s various cleavages writ small.

Because these pivotal states are won by such small margins and because there are relatively few of them, presidents have the incentive and the time to travel throughout town and country, metropolis and mining town.

While presidential candidates may not visit Pascagoula, Mississippi, they don’t bypass Pensacola, Florida. This sort of representation by proxy is not perfect, but it assures that presidential candidates visit (and gear their platforms to) a wider array of places representing a broader cross-section of interests.

When swing states cease to be closely contested, they cease to be swing states. Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, and Colorado are only on the front lines of the war for the White House now because they happen to have a relatively equal mix of right-leaning and left-leaning factions.

But that won’t be the case forever.

Partisan fault lines will move. The demographics of swing states will shift. Eventually, other states will become the battlegrounds of presidential contestation.

So, in time, Mississippi may well get its chance to host the quadrennial maelstrom just as deep-blue California and dark-red Arkansas once did.

Densely populated metropolitan areas—whether they line the Pacific or Atlantic, the Great Lakes or the Gulf of Mexico—share much culturally and have similar economic interests. (Large cities, after all, tend to be where large corporations and big banks are headquartered.)

They also lose or gain population slowly.

While the swing states of two decades ago are different than the swing states of 2016, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have been the three most populous cities for 70 years.

Do away with the Electoral College, and these same cities would be determining the outcomes of presidential elections for decades into the future.

Given the great diversity of interests spread across our country, a system that forces candidates to compete in every region makes sense. Those who seek to become the leader of these United States should not be encouraged to ignore “fly-over country” to concentrate on currying favor among a handful of mega-cities.

Originally published in the Chicago Tribune.