Monday, March 28, 2016

Open Letter to Newsday: We Can't Get the Well Being of Children Out of Our Heads.
By:  Jeanette Deutermann, founder of Long Island Opt Out

NY LI OPT OUT founder Jeanette Deutermann

In this post Jeanette responds to a local newspaper, Newsday, that has consistently been anti-teacher, anti-public education, and anti- opt out movement.  

Newsday Editorial Staff had aligned themselves with reformers from the very start when we first began fighting back. As we have gained in influence and support, their attacks have increased. I generally ignore, but today I decided to have a little fun and respond to their latest attacks.
Dear Newsday Editorial staff:
I get it. It's frustrating that with all the effort, time, and publicity, your message of telling parents to "opt in" and "common core is amazing" is still falling on deaf ears. It's difficult when threats, misinformation, and insults don't win over public opinion. Don't fret. It's not your fault. You gave it the old college and career try. You put your all into stopping this runaway opt out train. I'll let you in on a little secret. (In a whisper) "Parents aren't as stupid as you thought". I know, many of us were just as surprised as you are. Parents actually began looking at their children's classwork and homework. They began asking questions about the who, what, and why of these new assessments. And do you know what? They didn't like the answers. They actually began to think "even though I'm just the parent, maybe I can actually have a say in how my child is educated". It's a novel idea, but it caught on like wildfire. As for the teachers, well, believe it or not many of them are actually public school parents!! I know, right? Who knew?? And crazy as it sounds, they actually are more concerned about their own children's well being than their jobs! As they are forced to teach sub par test prep material, their first thought is "oh my god, my own children are sitting through this right now". When they proctor a test, they think, "these poor kids" and imagine their own children, three towns over, suffering the same experience.
So don't beat yourself up that your biased, angry, personal attacks are not hitting the mark (and gee wiz, it almost seems like it's giving them more fuel!!). It's not you. It's us. We just can't seem to get the well being of our children out of our heads.

    School leaders need to get behind opt-out movement

    • By NY Parent and Teacher  JESSICA MCNAIR

      Posted Mar. 27, 2016 at 3:00 AM in Utica Observer Dispatch

      There is great irony surrounding the many revisions made to recent education reforms since the historic opt-out movement of 2015, irony that will most definitely lead to the continued boycott of grade 3-8 math and ELA exams next month.
      The parent-led movement to refuse to participate in the “state tests” was so successful last year it brought about listening tours by Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, a lengthy set of recommendations for changes by the governor’s Common Core Task Force and most recently, a new leader of the Board of Regents, a leader who immediately put her support behind the parent-led opt-out movement.
      These developments are certainly steps in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to restore the trust of parents, especially at the local level.
      Despite developments in Albany, our local schools, principals, boards of education and superintendents instead continue to discredit the valid, real and informed opinions of parents who have chosen to opt out of exams.
      Not only is this an ironic slap in the face to those who have brought about positive change for our children, it will fan the flames of the opt-out movement. Most significantly, it’s a foolish and disrespectful stance that is dangerous to our children and the future of our public schools.
      When school “leaders” choose to punish children for an action that their parents have a right to take, they model disrespectful behavior. Refusing to honestly and sincerely acknowledge the varying viewpoints within our communities, school officials send the message that kids and parents don’t matter. By valuing compliance above all, school officials forgo opportunities to nurture tolerance, acceptance, and understanding within our communities. Such coercion and close-mindedness should be called to question, regardless of one’s position on opting out.
      Until local school leaders stand with opt-out supporters, advocate for children and public schools, and most importantly, treat parents with respect, the boycott will continue.
      Based on developments since the historic opt-out movement of 2015, school leaders would be wise to follow the lead of parents who brought about change to protect kids and schools.
      They might even consider saying, “Thank you.”
      Jessica McNair is a New Hartford parent and co-founder of Opt Out CNY.

    Sunday, March 27, 2016

    I Had a Front Row Seat:  Chris Cerrone Responds to The Buffalo News!
    By Chris Cerrone, Co-Founder NYSAPE

    You can follow Chris on his blog here  or on twitter at @StopTesting15 

    On March 26th The Buffalo News printed a story trying to give the NYS union NYSUT credit for the opt out movement and for the recent makeup of the State Board of Regents (NYS State Board of Education). We do not provide links to shoddy reporting that do not report the facts. The Buffalo News has come under fire recently for its lackluster reporting.  You can read the report here 

    In this post Chris Cerrone, a founding member of a NY grassroots parent organization NYSAPE, responds to Tiffany Lankes, the author of the article trying to credit NYSUT for the NY Opt Out Movement! 

    Dear Ms. Lankes,

    I have several concerns about your article published in today's Buffalo News.  As someone involved in education policy at several levels I can tell you that two of the four main points contain misleading statements in your piece.  

    "Driving the replacement of reform-friendly members of the Board of Regents – including former Chancellor Merryl Tisch and former local representative Robert M. Bennett – and shifting the makeup of the group to one that predominantly favors NYSUT’s agenda."

    In third week of January 2016, NYS Allies for Public Education(NYSAPE) crafted a press release calling for parents to contact members of the Board of Regents and to support Betty Rosa for Chancellor.  NYSAPE also encouraged parents to their legislators to advocate for several new Regents candidates as well.   It would not be until around February 23rd that NYSUT put out a Member Action Center alert for teachers to contact their legislators.  Parents were far out in front in their advocacy for the  Board of Regents selections resulting in only Rosa submitting her name as a candidate for Chancellor, most likely due to public pressure led by parents. In the replacement of Regent Bennett a year ago, a similar parent-led pressure was far out in front of NYSUT.  

    "Fueling a parent-generated opt-out movement that led to 20 percent of New York students sitting out of standardized tests last year, the highest number in the country."

    NYSUT President Karent Magee called for parents to opt out at the very end of March 2015, virtually at the midnight hour as the testing started in only two weeks.  The vast majority of families had already made their decision to boycott the assessments by this date.  NYSUT was late to the party and had little influence on the massive boycott.   The term "fueling" is very misleading.  In fact, NYSAPE leaders had been trying for months in 2015, and in 2014 as well, to get NYSUT leadership to support opt out.  It was the families of NYS that "fueled" the opt out movement. To give NYSUT credit for playing a significant role in increasing the number of opt outs is inaccurate.  

    "Along with its 600,000 members, NYSUT had access to another key resource – parents. The teachers union and parents led a movement to opt students out of standardized tests.
    The union encouraged parents to direct their anger to local state representatives, flooding them with emails, phone calls and letters to show their discontent at the polls."
    Again, NYSAPE and parents using social media were far ahead of NYSUT, yet you portray the state-wide union as being the driving force behind the force for change in the Board of Regents that was clearly led by parents.  

    How am I aware of this information? I had a front row seat as a co-founder of NYSAPE and a union Executive Board Member of the Hamburg Teachers Association.   Several times over the last year or so, I would share with my fellow Hamburg teachers action alerts from NYSAPE and then follow up weeks later with a similar action that was released by NYSUT.  Many times NYSUT was absent from advocacy related to testing and Common Core while parents in Facebook groups around NYS were organizing their efforts.  Many teacher union members complained on social media about the lack of advocacy on the part of NYSUT leadership to fight testing, Common Core and teacher evaluations.

    Your article gives NYSUT far too much credit for the resistance to the Regents Reform Agenda put forth by former Commissioner John King and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch. You are correct that NYSUT did use its money to influence elections, similar to other employee unions, business associations and big-moneyed advocacy groups but the opt out movement and changes to the Board of Regents were driven by parents.  There are Opt Out Facebook groups both state-wide and regionally that total over 50,000 members.  These social media groups have been the driving force behind education advocacy that has been resisting to harmful education reform movement.

    Sadly, in my opinion, this is another article that is part of the continued bashing of teachers and their unions by the Buffalo News.  I also believe there is a concerted effort by state education officials, state and national "AstroTurf" groups, and some individuals locally here in WNY to paint the opt out movement as union controlled or influenced.  A balanced article would have sought out one of the many opt out parents here in WNY to see who influenced their decision to boycott the state assessments and advocate for changes in Albany.  As a parent, educator, and union member, I can tell you that opt out  is a truly grassroots movement free of union influence.  

    Chris Cerrone

    Charter School Lobby Donates $50,000 to Teachers-Union-Backed PA Attorney General Candidate

    By:  Steven Singer, Director BATs Research/Blogging Committee
    Originally published on his blog
    Giving a bribe into a pocket

    What’s the best way to avoid a charter school scandal?

    In Pennsylvania, apparently you bribe the Attorney General.

    That may be why Students First PAC donated $50,000 to Josh Shapiro, a Democrat running for the position.

    This political action committee is not to be confused with the infamous national group founded by Michelle Rhee. Students First PAC is a state organization that typically contributes to charter school friendly candidates.

    And $50K is quite a chunk of change in a State Attorney General race – the office in charge of prosecuting charter schools for breaking the law.

    Charter school scandals have been an almost weekly occurrence throughout the Commonwealth. Chester Community Charter School, the state’s largest brick-and-mortar organization, is under investigation for pocketing $1.2 million “in improper lease-reimbursement payments.” As Philadelphia public schools are being closed due to a miserly state budget, “nonprofit,” charter operator Aspira Inc. was caught using public money to boost its real estate holdings instead of using those funds to educate children. Nicholas Trombetta, the founder of Pennsylvania’s largest cyber charter, an institution that operates exclusively over the internet, “was charged with fraud, forfunneling $8 million of the school’s funds into his personal companies and holdings.”

    It’s easy to see how having the state Attorney General on your side would benefit an industry rife with fraud and malfeasance.

    Shapiro, chair of the Montgomery Country Board of Commissioners, is the odds on favorite to succeed Kathleen Kane as the state’s highest ranking law enforcement officer.

    He is running for the Democratic nomination against Northhampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, and Allegheny Country Attorney General Stephen Zappala.

    Despite strong corporate education reform ties, Shapiro has been endorsed by thePennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), the largest teachers union in the Commonwealth.

    At a public debate earlier in March, challenger Morganelli called out Shapiro on the Students First PAC donation.

    “Josh, you are really good at giving speeches but your resume doesn’t match your performance,” Morganelli said. “You have received $25,000 from Students First PAC, which is a charter school [organization], and you received it on March 4th 2015. That is a charter school advocate that is hurting our public schools. Josh gives a great speech here then takes $25,000 from Students First PAC, I think that’s wrong.”

    Morganelli added in a prepared statement in Harrisburg, “It was later determined that Josh accepted an additional $25,000 from Students First PAC in 2012. Who knows how much more he may have received from them that has not yet surfaced.”

    Shapiro has never publicly denied these allegations.

    His response at the debate was that voters should judge him based on his record.
    However, Shapiro’s campaign manager Joe Radosevich responded further.

    “Josh’s record in support of public education is unmatched and he’s proud to stand with Pennsylvania teachers in this election,” he said. “Josh is the only candidate for Attorney General who will protect Pennsylvania teachers and stand up for the rights of each and every student to a ‘thorough and efficient’ education as guaranteed in our state constitution.”

    Morganelli also took issue with PSEA for endorsing Shapiro over himself. He criticized the organization for a history of siding with candidates with whom high ranking leaders have a relationship regardless of their positions on eduction. He cited PSEA’s endorsement of Tom Corbett for Attorney General in 2008. Corbett won that election and went on 2 years later to become one of the worst Governor’s in state history whose “greatest” achievement was slashing almost $1 billion from our public schools.

    PSEA’s endorsement of Shapiro is in the same line, Morganelli said.

    “How can PSEA endorse a candidate who is in bed with the Charter school folks? This would be like someone being funded by both the NRA and CeaseFire [PA] – inconceivable!”

    PSEA spokesman David Broderic compared Morganelli’s criticism to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

    “PSEA’s members decided to recommend Josh Shapiro, based on his support for our issues,” Broderic said. “That’s what happens in politics. Today’s Trump-like antics don’t do anything but devalue politics. It’s a shame he felt the need to do that.”

    Shapiro is receiving tremendous flack for the donations. In private, he explained the matter further, according to a confidential source.

    He said the money was actually donated by his friend Joel Greenberg, a hedge fund manager who has worked with Shapiro on county, Jewish and Israeli issues. Greenberg funneled the money through Students First PAC. He gave his own personal money to Students First PAC which, in turn, gave it to Shapiro.

    Greenberg is infamous in his own right as one of the three Philadelphia investment bankers who founded Students First PAC. He is also on the board of the American Federation for Children, a national school choice group with mega wealthy far right backers including the Koch Brothers.

    The explanation makes little sense. It is shameful that the PSEA hasn’t pushed Shapiro to either publicly explain his actions or give back the money. At very least, the union could retract its endorsement.

    Morganelli is to be praised for bringing the matter to public attention. Unfortunately, he is plagued by his own political shortcomings.

    In 2007, Morganelli joined State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe for a witch hunt against illegal immigrants.

    Metcalfe, a Republican from Cranberry Township, is so far right, he makes Rick Santorum look like Bernie Sanders! He is infamous in state politics for flamboyant actions against homosexuals and immigrants.

    Metcalfe wrote a report called “Invasion PA” claiming Commonwealth lives were at stake because of a perceived influx of illegal immigrants. It was laughed out of Harrisburg, but Morganelli supported it – at least at first.

    “It’s not an illegal immigration issue, it’s a crime and national security issue,” said Morganelli, who claimed about 5,000 illegal aliens in Northampton County had been responsible for a disproportionate share of the crime.

    Five of 10 rapes in Northampton County last year were committed by illegal immigrants, Morganelli said.

    Pennsylvania taxpayers are picking up the tab for illegal aliens housed in county and state prisons, he said.

    However, when the report was met with ridicule, Morganelli tried to distance himself from it.

    He called it ”deficient.”

    ”The report was, in my view, poorly constructed,” the Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviewquoted Morganelli as saying. ”It was a compilation of opinions and inferences drawn from arrests that really did not support the conclusion that an ‘invasion’ is occurring in Pennsylvania.”

    In addition to this catastrophic lapse in judgement, Morganelli is also a staunch advocate for the death penalty. Not exactly someone suited to state office.

    Of the three Democrats running for the position, Zappala is clearly the best candidate. He has been a just Attorney General in Allegheny Country since 1998. For instance, he is in favor of treatment and prevention for drug abusers rather than incarceration.

    The Republican candidates are John Rafferty, a state senator from Montgomery County, and Joe Peters, a Wyoming County resident who was a former police officer, federal prosecutor and spokesman for current Attorney General Kane.

    Kane is not seeking re-election. The primary election is April 26.

    The office has been plagued by scandal under Kane. She stormed into the position with immense political good will, the first Democrat and woman to be elected to the position since it became an elected office in 1980. She was a rising star likely to challenge Republican Pat Toomey for U.S. Senate. However, her star fell in August 2015. She was arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including two counts of felony perjury, and obstruction of justice. A month later the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania suspended Kane’s license to practice law, the first such occurrence for a Pennsylvania Attorney General. Since she was not removed from her position, she has continued to exercise her duties as with a suspended license by delegating legal responsibilities to her top advisers.

    Pennsylvania needs an Attorney General free from controversy, and both Shaprio and Morganelli don’t fit the bill. We can’t let someone who accepts huge charter school donations take over regulating the industry.

    And shame on PSEA for letting down the Commonwealth’s teachers, parents and children. Endorsements should be made based on what’s best for our schools not personal relationships.

    Pennsylvania Breathes Sigh of Relief As Crappy GOP Budget Becomes Law

    By:  Steven Singer, Director of BATs Research/Blogging Committee
    Originally published on his blog
    Pennsylvania Budget
    The majority won in Pennsylvania this week.
    After 9 months of bipartisan bickering, the state finally has a 2015-16 budget.
    And it’s almost exactly the same spending plan favored by the majority.
    The majority of lawmakers, that is.
    They wanted it to heal almost $1 billion in cuts to public schools. They wanted it to be balanced and not to spend more than it takes in. They wanted everyone to pay their fair share.
    But lawmakers disagreed and took the entire Commonwealth on an extended game of chicken while schools had to scrimp and borrow just to stay open.
    Like any public spectacle, the conflict centered around two teams: Republicans and Democrats.
    The Republicans refused to raise taxes, even after they had previously reduced state revenue to a place where it could no longer provide the services taxpayers expect. The Democrats wanted to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations who were getting away without paying their fair share, thereby increasing services to a point citizens have come to expect.
    The result? Nine months of finger pointing.
    The GOP-controlled legislature passed the same budget over-and-over again, while Gov. Tom Wolf (a Democrat) kept vetoing it.
    There was a brief moment when they almost agreed on a compromise budget, but GOP lawmakers just couldn’t stomach a tax increase if it didn’t include an almost definitely Unconstitutional measure to shortchange state workers pensions.
    This week Wolf agreed to let pretty much the same Republican budget become law without his signature. Otherwise, some of the state’s more than 500 school districtswould have had to close. He said he hopes to focus on next year’s budget which is due at the end of June.
    Wolf came into office on a tidal wave of support from across the state to unseat the previous Republican governor. The people couldn’t have been more clear – fairly fund education and get the fiscal ship in order. But since state legislative districts were redrawn under the previous administration to gerrymander lawmakers, voters were silenced.
    Which brings us to the inescapable question: why are voters putting up with this?
    “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
    The above quote, attributed to Thomas Jefferson, sums up the proper relationship between governors and governed.
    Our lawmakers aren’t afraid of us. Are we afraid of them?
    The budget passed this week does increase education by $200 million. but that’s still far below what Republicans cut five years ago. Apparently, they aren’t afraid voters will make them pay a price for this. They don’t think we have the guts to unseat them in their safe gerrymandered districts.
    They figure that since most of the voters in their districts are registered Republicans, they won’t have to answer for shortchanging school children – especially those at poor districts which receive more state support.
    They figure other Republicans like themselves don’t care about poor black kids. Are they right? You tell me, Pennsylvania!
    Likewise, they think GOP constituents don’t care if the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. They think we’ll buy the lie that business works kind of likegetting pandas to mate at the zoo. We have to do everything we can to make them comfortable or else no little panda cubs.
    So the rich and corporations get sweetheart deals while the rest of us – even Republicans – have to tighten our belts. What say you, Pennsylvania? You buying that?
    While no one thinks the budget should be unbalanced, they are betting you will let them push the blame onto the other party. There is a $2 million deficit because Republicans didn’t want to raise taxes. Never mind that they opposed measures to fairly make up the difference. Never mind that they have no problem cutting services so that you don’t get your taxes worth from state government.
    Well, Pennsylvania? Are you swallowing that whooper!?
    We’ve become used to blaming our politicians. Both Democrats and Republicans love to rag on our elected officials.
    But it’s not really their fault.
    It’s ours.
    We’ve let it get this way.
    Sure, the odds are stacked against us. Corporate money floods legislators campaignsso they can buy endless ads convincing us to vote against our own interests. Legislative districts are drawn so that a minority of Pennsylvanians get a majority say.
    But we still have the last vestiges of a functioning Democracy here. We still hold elections, and they still have consequences.
    If lawmakers felt like they would be held accountable, it would change their actions. Why do you think they didn’t enact that terrible pension plan last year when the GOP controlled both the legislature and the governor’s mansion?
    They were afraid of taking the blame. They were afraid voters of both parties wouldn’t put up with it. Republicans only had the guts to push it through if they could force Democrats to vote for it, too. That way, people would have no choice but to blame both parties and not just the GOP.
    We need to make them feel that same fear for under-resourcing our schools. When Republican voters in gerrymandered districts show up to their legislators offices en mass and demand equitable school funding, that’s when things will change.
    When Republican voters care as much about poor black kids as they do about rich white kids, that’s when things will change. When Tea Party citizens demand the rich pay as fair a share of the tax burden as they do, then things will change.
    But so long as we pretend politics is a sporting event and you have to stand by your team, things will remain as they are.
    Democrat. Republican. Tea Party. Progressive. These are nothing but labels that divide us. Throw them away.
    Turn off the TV. Stop listening to talk radio. Crumble up the op-ed.
    Go to the voting booth with the only thing that matters.
    Vote with your heart.

    Saturday, March 26, 2016

    BATs Legislative Team Weekly Update 


    Federal News

    Check out our BAT Election Scorecard here for a rundown on where the primary candidates stand on education

    Finally don't forget to share widely the BATS Candidate Position Paper - email, tweet, social media post to the primary candidates and demand an answer!

    BATs Press Release - Please share with your local media outlets
    BATs Thank the National Opt Out Movement

    We have BATs running for office!!  Please support

    Educator Larry Proffitt  running for Tennessee House from district 66!  If we want to BE the change we have to run for office.  Please support Larry with whatever you can donate.

    Retired educator Janet Garrett is running for office in Ohio 4th Congressional District.  Please support Janet and learn about her here

    Oregon BATs support staunch education and child advocate Lew Frederick.  Lew is running for District 22- North and Northeast Portland

    Oregon BAT Tom Kane is running for House District 18

    If you know of a BAT running for state or federal office please email our Executive Directors Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson at


    On March 20th Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky sponsored four bills that seek to offer relief to the children of New York.  At a crowded press conference Assemblyman Kaminsky unveiled four legislative bills that seek to bring common sense back to education in New York State.

    Assemblyman Kaminsky’s bills are an important start that will fix the damage done to education in New York State. NYSAPE and its coalition members back Assemblyman Kaminsky’s plan to decouple teacher evaluations from test results, end over-testing, empower parents, create needed alternative pathways to graduation for students, and make education about our children.
      - See more at:


    Bill could expand school vouchers to half of all AZ students


    Senate Approves K-12 Funding 


    Thursday, March 24, 2016

    Why is It So Hard to Vote in America? Voter Suppression is Desperation Politics

    By Steven Singer, Director BATs Research/Blogging Committee
    Originally published on his blog -


    No one should have to stand in line an entire work day to vote.

    But that’s what happened to people in yesterday’s Arizona primary election.

    Lines stretched literally for miles. People actually ordered pizza to be delivered to them IN LINE!

    Citizens were already getting in line when polls opened at 6 am, and hundreds were still in line when polls closed at 7 pm. The last ballot wasn’t cast until midnight – a new record for the Grand Canyon State!

    What the fuck!

    The most populous county in the state, Maricopa County, reduced polling locationsfrom 200 during the last election to just 60 this year. That amounts to over 20,000 voters for every location.

    The reason? They were trying to save money.

    Let that sink in. When you run government like a business, services suffer. It meansfewer resources for your schools. More lead in your water. And long as fuck lines to vote.

    Oh. And if your skin happens to be black or brown, you get it even worse.

    Hispanics and Latinos make up more than 40% of the population of Phoenix (30% state wide). Yet in these densely populated neighborhoods, there were few to no polling places open. I can’t imagine why!

    And to top it all off, this “oversight” was used for political gain.

    At roughly 8:30 pm, a little over an hour after polls closed, with less than one percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the Arizona primary.

    In Democratic primaries delegates are awarded proportionally. It’s not winner take all. Delegates are awarded by the percent of the vote each candidate receives. If the race is really close delegates are split.

    Prematurely declaring Hillary the winner while hundreds are still waiting to vote discourages Bernie Sanders supporters from staying in line and, thus, can reduce the number of delegates he receives.

    These are not the actions of a robust Democracy. These are the actions of a de factooligarchy trying desperately to crush any last remnants of majority rule.

    In an age when you can buy anything you want on-line, why do we have to wait on line to vote? If the Internet is safe enough for global commerce and government, why is it too risky for casting a ballot?

    It isn’t. The only reason this hasn’t happening is because it would dramaticallyincrease voter turnout. It makes things too easy. While pundits decry “slacktivists” on Facebook and massive political participation on Twitter, they actively discourage bringing Democracy to those same forums.

    It’s the same reason why election day isn’t a holiday. If people didn’t have to sneak voting in before or after work or during their lunch break, too many of us would be heard.

    During every election cycle, there is an outcry against shady practices like what happened in Arizona, but we never do anything about them after the election cycle. We look at our antiquated primary and caucus system (especially on the Democratic side) and wonder how a modern country can actually function this way. We shake our heads at the Electoral College and maybe make some noise about changing it until the next President is sworn in. Then we all go silent.

    Meanwhile, voter suppression efforts gain ground every year – even when the White House isn’t changing hands.

    Despite low turnout and nearly non-existent cases of voter fraud, state legislatures are making it increasingly more difficult to vote.

    A total of 36 states now have draconian Voter ID laws on the books – 33 of them are being enforced this cycle. During the 2015 legislative session, at least 113 bills that would restrict access to registration and voting were introduced or carried over in 33 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

    I know. I was part of the successful effort that defeated one of the most severe Voter ID laws in the country in my home state of Pennsylvania. State Rep. Mike Turzai proudly bragged in 2012 that our law would give the state to a Republican president. After protests and petitions from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and everywhere in between, the state Supreme Court struck it down.

    Meanwhile, other states are trying to enact the same kinds of laws that were ruled unconstitutional in the Keystone State. Wisconsin’s Voter ID law is almost identical to the defunct Pennsylvania legislation. Instead of being defeated, Republican lawmakers are trying to restrict the kinds of permissible identification and prohibit country and town governments from issuing any IDs to residents for free.

    And last year, a year after enacting a voter ID law, Alabama shuttered 31 driver’s license offices — most of them in rural, impoverished, majority-black counties. Civil rights groups have filed suit, arguing that the change disproportionately affects racial minorities.

    All across the country, early voting hours are being cut. Same day registration is being discontinued. Mountains of paperwork are being required to ensure proof of citizenship. And mysteriously people who have had no problems voting for decades are finding themselves given provisional ballots because of bookkeeping errors.

    This has to stop.

    Either we live in a country governed by majority rule or not.

    Corporations and billionaires set national policy. If we want any chance in taking back our country, we must continue to have the right to vote.

    Voting should be protected. It should be free and easy. It should be every citizens right.

    Fight for it, America. Fight like your life depends on it.

    Your freedoms certainly do.