Posted in Florida, Religion, School Prayer, SchoolShootings

The Lord Hates a Lying Tongue

A response to those who claim school shootings are because we’ve “removed God from school.”

A few hours after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida I saw the following in my Facebook feed…

WE INTERRUPT THIS POST TO ADD…

This…

I was finished writing this and was just about to post it when I was distracted by an article from the Washington Post about the Florida House of Representatives.

The day after they rejected an assault weapons ban and passed a resolution against pornography, the Florida House of Representatives voted to require all public schools to display the state motto: In God We Trust.

Rep. Kim Daniels (R), who runs a ministry, said it would help provide needed “light” in the state’s schools, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It quoted her as saying: “He is not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not black or white. He is the light, and our schools need light in them like never before.”

While telling other House members why she thought it was important to pass the legislation, she said: “We cannot put God in a closet when the issues we face are bigger than us.”

Presumably, the members of the Florida House believe having “God” displayed in the school would have stopped Nikolas Cruz from killing 17 people. The vote on the bill was 97-10. House members applauded after it was passed.

Question: How many of those 97 House members received campaign contributions from the NRA?

HAS GOD BEEN BANNED FROM SCHOOLS?

The meme above claims that God is not allowed in school. It implies that since the Supreme Court banned school (government) sponsored prayer in public schools, God has somehow been removed.

First of all, I think most conservative Christians – for example, someone who might have posted such a meme – believe their God is everywhere. If that’s the case, then no act by mere humans can remove God. Do they believe that the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to eliminate their God from a particular location? I doubt it.

Do they believe that God ignores children and ceases to watch over them the moment they enter a public school? The children, after all, aren’t the ones who made the decision stopping government sponsored prayer. Why should they be punished?

What about school shootings at parochial schools? The Supreme Court decision didn’t force private religious schools to stop praying with their students. Was God not allowed in the Christian university near Oakland in 2012 where seven people were killed? What about the shooting at the Apostolic Revival Center and Christian School in Fort Myers, Florida, or the Agape Christian Academy in Pine Hills, Florida? Were those schools stripped of their God by the SCOTUS? Was there no prayer allowed in any of those schools? Were the children and young adults who attended those schools somehow unworthy of their God’s protection?

Churches, too. The nine people who died at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston S.C. and the twenty-six people who died at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas were surely under God’s protection. How did that happen?

Apparently “allowing” God and prayer in a building won’t stop bullets.

PRAYER IS ALLOWED!

That meme is false. Prayer IS allowed in public schools as long as it doesn’t disrupt the educational process.

Students can pray before or after school, before they eat, before they take a test, at recess, or during a time when they are working on their own as long as they don’t interrupt the learning process or harass other students with aggressive proselytization.

Students can express their religious beliefs in their school work, as long as their work fulfills the requirements of the assignment. In other words, if I assign a science experiment dealing with the nature of sound, I would not expect to see information about my students’ religious beliefs. On the other hand, if I ask the students to write about something important to them, their religious beliefs might be an appropriate topic.

Schools are governmental institutions. Teachers and administrators, as agents of a governmental institution, may not lead students in prayer.

Simply put, individual, non-disruptive prayer is allowed in public schools. Government sponsored prayer is not.

Read that again.

Individual, non-disruptive prayer is allowed in public schools. Government sponsored prayer is not.

As I wrote last month in Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana

…every child, in every public school in America, already has the right to pray whenever they want to as long as they don’t disrupt the learning process and as long as they don’t harass their fellow students.

According to the Joint Statement of Current Law and Religion in the Public Schools, a document signed by 35 religious and civic groups,

Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive…

[Note: The Joint Statement clearly explains what sorts of things are and are not allowed. Teachers who are interested in exploring the subject further should also read A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools.]

And according to A Parent’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools from the First Amendment Center,

Didn’t the Supreme Court rule against student prayer in public schools?

No. The Supreme Court has struck down state sponsored or state-organized prayer in public schools. The Court has interpreted the First Amendment to mean that government must be neutral among religions and between religion and nonreligion. This means that school officials may not organize, mandate, or participate in student religious activities, including prayer…

It seems, then, that God has not been banned from public schools. Students’ private, non-disruptive prayers have not been banned from public schools. The meme at the top of this post is misleading at best, and, at worst, a lie. The repeated deaths of school children is not about prayer (or lack thereof), but about the fact that, in the U.S. we simply don’t care about our nation’s children.

A LIE

I’ve read that not telling the truth, or “bearing false witness” is something to be avoided. People who perpetuate the lie that God and prayer are somehow “not allowed” in public schools should research that topic, I think.

They might start with Proverbs 6:16-19.

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UPDATE: See also James Kirylo: God Never Left Our Public Schools

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Posted in Arizona, Article Medleys, California, Charters, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Privatization, Purdue, Texas, Utah, vouchers

2018 Medley #4: Privatization and Push-Back

Pastors in Texas; Privatization at Purdue; Charters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York, California, and Utah; Push-Back in Iowa

PRIVATIZATION: PUSH-BACK IN TEXAS

Voucher opposition article of faith for pastor

A small group of Texas pastors has come to the aid of public school students focusing on fighting vouchers, and the separation of church and state. The Pastors for Texas Children (PTC) have grown to become a force in the Lone Star State and lead a coalition of public education advocates to push back against the forces of privatization.

Other states have copied the PTC model, In Oklahoma, the Pastors for Oklahoma Kids has started advocating for public education.

Numbers of pastors and educators have started similar groups in other states, including Indiana.

We can’t afford multiple, parallel, state funded, systems of education in Indiana. The state should fund the public schools. Period.

“I am a Baptist Christian. I have certain convictions that have shaped my experience of God, faith, church and – frankly – I don’t want my tax dollars supporting religious programs that I don’t agree with, any more than my friends of other faith traditions don’t want their tax dollars supporting religious programs that might adhere to my own beliefs,” he said.

…The powerful case offered by Johnson and Pastors for Texas Children, however, could have many rethinking the blurring line between government and Indiana’s church-based schools.

PRIVATIZATION: PURDUE

Keep Purdue Public: Tell the HLC to Vote NO on Purdue-Kaplan Deal

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has organized a petition campaign in opposition to Purdue’s acquisition of Kaplan University, a for-profit company. This new aspect of Purdue’s university system will be named Purdue University Global.

The problem according to the AAUP is that, under a move by Governor Holcomb, all this would be exempt from public open records laws. This, says AAUP, does what most privatization schemes does…it favors shareholders over students.

Senators Sherrod Brown and Dick Durbin are concerned about the predatory history of for-profit colleges and urge transparency.

According to AAUP,

The Purdue-Kaplan deal puts Kaplan shareholders over Purdue students.

  • Pays 12.5% of revenue to Kaplan after operating costs are met
  • Pays Kaplan an “efficiency payment” of 20% of any cuts in operating cost

The Purdue-Kaplan deal takes resources from a public university and gives them to a private corporation.

  • Gives tax revenues and Indiana’s scholarship money, like the 21st Century Scholars Program, to a private corporation
  • Establishes a “public-benefit corporation” operated by and for the profit of Kaplan

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

#Anotherdayanothercharterscandal

…IN PENNSYLVANIA

How a loophole let charter schools ‘buy’ buildings and still collect rent from state

A charter school buys its building, then rents it to itself. The rent, of course, is reimbursed by the state. The school’s CEO calls it “a great perk.”

Like many charter schools, Executive Education Academy spends a good chunk of its budget on rent, some of which is later reimbursed by the state. That’s allowed, as long as the school doesn’t own its building, which Executive Academy doesn’t — technically.

The school at 555 Union Blvd., Allentown, is owned by the Executive Education Academy Charter School Foundation, a nonprofit set up solely to support the school. The school used to pay about $2.2 million a year in rent to a private landlord and get $100,000 back from the state.

Now the school will pay $2.3 million a year in rent to its foundation, which bought the building last summer, and still be able to apply for reimbursements from the state.

“That’s not the reason why we would do this, but that’s a great perk for a charter school,” said Robert Lysek, the school’s CEO. “I hate to say ‘it is what it is,’ but it kind of is.”

…IN ARIZONA

Sudden closure of charter school renews calls for stricter oversight

Read this story about how charter schools enrich their executives and end up closing in the middle of the school year, leaving parents and students scrambling for a new school (Note: Naturally, they often end up back at the stable, traditional, and open to all, public schools).

The lack of public oversight often leaves parents and children with few options. Whose choice?

The issue of charter schools funneling payments through entities owned by executives is not unique to Discovery Creemos.

A study by GCI last year found 77 percent of charter schools engage in business transactions involving their owners, board members or their families, a practice known as “self-dealing” or “related-party transactions.”

…IN NEW YORK

New York education officials move to block rules allowing some charter schools to certify their own teachers

The bottom line for corporate owned, privatized schools, is profit, not children. In-house training would allow those schools to hire cheaper, and therefore, more profitable, teachers…oh, and they wouldn’t have to worry about that pesky teachers union, either.

The regulations allow SUNY-authorized charter schools to certify teachers who complete the equivalent of a month of classroom instruction and practice teaching for 40 hours — compared to at least 100 hours under the state’s certification route, according to the lawsuit. And unlike teachers on a traditional certification route, they are not required to earn a master’s degree or take all of the state’s certification exams.

…IN CALIFORNIA

Teachers Say They had No Idea Sacramento Charter School was Shutting Down

When my local school district decided to close four elementary schools (three of which I had worked in!) due to funding shortfalls and declining enrollment, local members of the school board held town meetings all across the district to hear from citizens and explain why they wanted to do what they were going to do. The process took an entire year…and many voters were against the plan. If they chose to, those voters were able to exercise their displeasure with the plan during the following school board election.

Unfortunately, parents who patronize charter schools, and teachers who work in such schools, have no such electoral protection. Parents, students, and teachers, have no “choice” when a charter school closes. The money is gone. The students’ educational year is disrupted. Teachers are out of a job.

Parents began looking for transcripts and were trying to get their kids transferred to new schools. Teachers were waiting for stipends and belongings from their classrooms.

While reading a prepared statement, Contreras-Douglas got emotional. She insisted staff was aware of the school’s low enrollment and financial troubles before shutting down Wednesday.

“Several meetings with teaching staff were conducted to specifically address this issue throughout the school year,” Contreras-Douglas said.

But teachers say they didn’t have any idea the school was closing until it happened.

…IN UTAH

Tribune Editorial: Charter schools need state board’s oversight

Public schools have locally elected and locally based school boards. The schools are subject to the financial oversight of both the local school board and the state department of education.

Charter schools ought to have the same public oversight.

This legislation speaks to the bigger issue of what we want charters to be. When they first came into being, the intent of charters was to be laboratories where alternative approaches could be tested without the interference of public-school bureaucracies. Many have succeeded doing exactly that.

But some ideologues are trying to use charters as the leading edge of an educational disruption movement with the intent of dismantling the public school system and the teachers union, replacing it with a marketplace where every parent goes shopping for schools. In that view, the state school board represents market suppression.

PRIVATIZATION: PUSH-BACK AGAINST “CHOICE” IN IOWA

Iowa public school advocates fight for funding amid cries for ‘choice’

Thousands of Iowans are pushing back against “school-choice” in Iowa.

A grassroots group made up of Iowa public school parents and activists is fighting what organizers say is an onslaught from lawmakers intent on eroding the state’s public education system.

Iowans for Public Education was formed online in November 2016 after Republicans won majorities in both the Iowa House and Senate. It has since grown to more than 12,500 followers.

The group organized a Teachers Rally last February that brought thousands to the Iowa Capitol grounds to oppose changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining law. It has launched petitions and letter-writing campaigns.

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Posted in Charters, Children'sLiterature, Choice, Finland, Privatization, Quotes, Segregation, Shock Doctrine, TeacherShortage, vouchers

Listen to This #1: Don’t be a Malfoy!

Random quotes…

DON’T BE A MALFOY

From a sign at the Women’s March, January 20, 2018, in Oklahoma City. Published in The Oklahoma Observer, February 2018.

In a world full of Malfoys, be a Hermoine.

PRIVATIZATION: PUERTO RICO

Crippled Puerto Rico Offered School Privatization as Quick Fix for Woes

America’s inadequate response to the hurricane damage done to Puerto Rico has opened the door to the vulture capitalists who have decided that the solution should include school privatization – because it worked so well in Chile and New Orleans.

It’s time to reread The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

Whose interest is being served by privatizing the schools of Puerto Rico? I guarantee, it’s not the students.

From Steven Singer

Corporate school reform is not about making better schools. If it was, you would see plans like this being proposed in Beverly Hills and rich white neighborhoods across the country.

But somehow that never happens.

These schemes only show up in poor communities populated predominantly by people of color.

How the Shock Doctrine works.

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICES

Oklahoma pastor: Standing in the gap for our school children

“reformers” don’t mention that the “choice” of attending a school on a voucher belongs to the school, not the student; the “choice” in the management of a charter school belongs to the corporate board of directors, not the voters through an elected school board.

From Rev. Clark Frailey

…children in public schools deserve the choice not to be marketed and sold as investments in profiteering schemes.

PRIVATIZATION: SEGREGATION

Charter Schools Are Driving Segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

The nation has reneged on the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education, and has stopped trying to integrate public schools. Corporate school “reform” has brought on more segregation. I’d say it was an unintended consequence, but…

From Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, UNC Charlotte’s Chancellor’s Professor and professor of Sociology, Public Policy and Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC Charlotte, quoted by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA

…Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools were once the nation’s bellwether for successful desegregation. Today, the district exemplifies how charter schools can impede districts’ efforts to resist re-segregation…This research has important implications not only for schools and communities in the Charlotte Mecklenburg region, but for the national debate over the growth and role of charter schools in our nation’s education system.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

ALEC and Indiana’s Voucher Program

Millions of Indiana’s tax dollars are going to subsidize parents who wish to send their children to a religious school. Vouchers are no longer directed towards the poor. Voucher recipients no longer have to “try” the public schools or have come from a “failing” public school. And voucher schools can choose their students. These tax dollars are spent with no public oversight.

From Sheila Kennedy

Indiana’s voucher program has “become increasingly affluent and white,” which shouldn’t surprise us, since these schools “set their own admission standards and can reject students for any reason.”

FOCUS ON LEARNING, NOT TESTING

No school until age seven: Finland’s education lessons for the future

We can’t duplicate Finland’s educational system in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, but we can learn from them…

From Kristiina Volmari from the Finnish National Agency for Education

We want our teachers to focus on learning, not testing. We do not, at all, believe in ranking students and ranking schools…

DEMORALIZATION, NOT BURNOUT

Teacher Burnout or Demoralization? What’s the Difference and Why it Matters

The teacher shortage; this is why.

From Doris Santoro in NEA Today

This teacher was not burned out. This woman was saying ‘I can’t teach the way I know I’m supposed to be teaching.’ The profession had changed. This isn’t burnout. This is demoralization.

NO QUICK FIX

New Jersey Orders Closure of Trenton Charter School

This!

Instead of trying to “fix” education by privatizing public schools and throwing money to private and privately run schools that don’t do any better than neighborhood public schools, we should be doing a better job of supporting local public schools.

Privatization of public education is an example of policy makers refusing to accept their share of  responsibility for supporting the children of our nation. Improving the lives of our young people is not the sole responsibility of public schools…nor should it be.

From Russ Walsh

…Learning happens best in consistent, predictable environments. The disruption that often accompanies the charter sector is antithetical to learning. Adults in charge need to stop looking for quick fixes like charter schools and vouchers and get down to the serious work of addressing income inequity, segregation, and the wise investment of funds and educational expertise in the public schools.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, Privatization, reform, Religion, SchoolShootings, TeacherShortage, vouchers

2018 Medley #3

School Shootings, Religion in School, Teacher Shortage, Reform, Charters, Vouchers

GUN VIOLENCE

Wake Up, America! You Have a School Shooting Problem!

Since this blog post of Steven Singer’s was posted less than a week ago, we’ve had yet another school shooting…this one in Los Angeles. And we have heard talk of a Trump/Russia/NRA connection

What has been done to curb gun violence in the US since Newtown (2012)? Columbine (1999)?

“Thoughts and prayers…” Absolutely nothing.

According to an FBI study that looked at incidents from 2000-2013, nearly one quarter of all U.S. shootings took place at schools. And they’re on the rise.

Yet this latest incident barely raised an eyebrow in the collective consciousness.

Hardly anyone even attempted to offer a solution.

The reason?

Since Sandy Hook, we’ve effectively given up.

In December of 2012 a gunman walked in to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults, and we did nothing.

We stood by after the murder of elementary kids and couldn’t get up the collective energy to do one damn thing to stop things like this from happening again.

No new regulations.

No assault weapons ban.

No gun buyback programs.

NOTHING.

CHURCH AND STATE

Local School to Train Teachers After Church/State Violations

Last Monday (1/29/2018), I posted Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana which dealt with a lawsuit against a school for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

This case from Michigan, deals with the same sort of thing. Here, however, school authorities have made a commitment to teach their teachers about the law.

Here are three more publications, each endorsed by a variety of religious and civic groups, which will give you a good background on how to handle religion in public schools.

Once teachers, administrators, and other school employees know what the law requires, there should be no excuse for mixing education and proselytization in public schools. This information ought to be mandatory at the beginning of every school year.

A suit may still be filed over the Bible study before school starts, but this is a good development overall. And it needs to be replicated nationwide. These problems are so pervasive all over the country that the Department of Education should force all public schools to have a mandatory in-service day to train teachers and administrators on what the law says they can and cannot do within the parameters of the First Amendment.

REFORM/TEACHER SHORTAGE

Cycle of frustration

The constant drumbeat of so-called “education reform” has been that public schools are “failing.” “School failure” really means societal failure. It’s odd, isn’t it, that America’s “failing” public schools are located in high poverty areas…and all the “bad teachers” are teaching at those schools while America’s schools for the middle class and wealthy are excelling. It’s odd because out of school factors contribute to school achievement much more than teachers do…yet policy makers don’t accept responsibility for societal failure which leads to “school failure.”

The national attack on public education which began in earnest in 2001 with the passage of No Child Left Behind (though school privatization has long been a right-wing/libertarian dream) has done nothing but disrupt and damage public schools around the country. Part of the attack, especially here in Indiana, has been against public school teachers and their unions.

The current attempt to improve educational achievement by lowering standards for becoming a teacher, is a direct result of the attacks on teachers.

[Note: the amendment discussed in this editorial has not yet been passed into law (as of Feb 2, 2018).]

The pattern in Indiana education policy has become all too familiar:

1. Pass a law to disrupt public education in the pursuit of “reform.”

2. Express dismay over the repercussions of the new law without acknowledging what caused them.

3. Pass another law to “fix” the problems created, doing additional harm to public schools.

The most recent example surfaced Wednesday when a last-minute amendment was added to a bill to allow public schools to fill up to 10 percent of staff with unlicensed teachers. Why is this necessary? Because some school districts are struggling to hire faculty in the face of teacher shortages. Why are there shortages? Because laws regarding teacher evaluations, tenure and collective bargaining have made the field less attractive.

REFORM

The Sad Impact of Corporate School Reform on Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities

Thanks to Nancy Bailey for her continuing attention to the damage that so-called education “reform” causes students with disabilities.

School choice is not going to do anything to fix these problems.

  • Charters and most private schools have a record of pushing kids with emotional/behavioral difficulties out.
  • As taxpayers we don’t know what takes place with children who are home schooled.
  • How does one address the mental health needs of students who sit in front of screens for school? Too much tech exacerbates mental health problems!

We need strong public schools, schools with resources that will address the needs of children and teens.

PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS

Nationwide Charter School Expansion Slowing Down

Some reasons for the slow-down of charter school expansion…

1. Charter teachers have begun to unionize. One reason for developing charter schools was to “bust the teachers unions.”

2. “Failing” charter schools are simply converting to voucher accepting private schools to continue to receive public tax dollars.

3. Charter schools have suffered from an excessive number of scandals resulting in bad publicity.

Diverting public tax dollars to charters (and vouchers) has been a waste of money. Instead we should be working to increase resources and achievement at real public schools.

Put simply, charters are not subject to the same instructional, operational, fiscal, accounting or conflict of interest rules as traditional public schools. Therefore, in most states it’s perfectly legal for a charter school operator to give his brother the instructional contract, his sister the maintenance contract and his uncle the textbook contract. He can replace the teachers with computer programs and apps, while his own privately held company rents and leases the school building at a hefty markup – all with public money.

And somehow that’s still called a “public” school.

We have to face this simple fact: Charters took off not because they were a good idea to help kids learn, but because they were an excellent way to make a lot of money off of the government. It was a way to steal money meant to help children.

Largest Charter School Fail Ever Doesn’t Faze ‘School Choice’ Fans

The failure of this “school choice” was mostly ignored during “school choice” week.

In the run up to what was billed as “record breaking celebrations” of charter schools and other forms of “school choice,” there was a serious bump in the road when news outlets in Ohio reported the largest charter school closure ever in that state, and perhaps the nation, had suddenly sent over 12,000 students and their families scrambling to find new schools midyear.

…“My kids went to bed last night crying,” said a Cincinnati mom whose children attended the school.

“To just rip them out of the environment they are most used to,” complained another mom whose children had attended the school for eight years. “They have relationships with their teachers,” she said in a news video posted on the ECOT Facebook page.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

How Mike Pence expanded Indiana’s controversial voucher program when he was governor

More and more money for private schools coming out of public tax dollars…which eats into money for the public schools.

Where does the money go? To whom are the private schools accountable? Where is the public oversight? Answers – No one knows…no one…and there is none.

Pence, who describes his religious beliefs as evangelical, removed the cap on the number of students who could qualify for a voucher to a private school, increased the limits on qualifying family income, and removed Daniel’s stipulation that the student had to try the public school first.

No longer was money being saved as a small number of students transferred from public to private schools. Now middle-income families already using private schools were having their tuition paid for, at least partially, by the state.

A QUICK PEEK

There are always many more articles I’d like to post than I have room for (I try to keep the Medleys to between 4 and 8 articles). Here, then, are some that I recommend…without comments.

Study Finds Recession-Era Education Cuts Significantly Impacted Student Outcomes: How Many Constitutional Rights Were Violated?

…a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families. The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to eliminate between two-thirds and all of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families.

‘Distressed’ schools lost funding

No wonder Gary and Muncie community schools are distressed. Both Indiana school districts have had their budgets cut dramatically over the past decade. It’s not surprising they’ve struggled to pay the bills.

Trump’s Judges: The GOP’s Slow Poison for Democracy, and the Planet

Lawyer Richard Ayres has been fighting for the environment in federal courts for nearly five decades, but he says he’s never seen an onslaught on basic environmental protections like the one coming out of the Trump White House. Still, something scares Ayres even more than the determination of the Trump team to dismantle President Barack Obama’s climate change initiatives, shrink federally protected lands, weaken smog standards, scale back habitat for rare species, and expand drilling into the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

What most unnerves Ayres and other veteran environmental lawyers and legal experts is the unprecedented opportunity President Trump has to fill the federal judiciary with anti-regulatory, pro-business appointees.

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