No Pay If You Don’t Go

Ever wonder who those people are at the Trump rallies? Ever wonder why they attend? A recent post from Diane Ravitch tells us about one such crowd.

Guess what: They were paid to attend.

DECENCY

 

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A friend gave me this button to wear on my shirt. It is a plain white button with black letters. It has just one word on it: DECENCY.

I wear the button as my statement for the 2020 Presidential campaign. DECENCY is what it’s all about. Of course, the candidates have to talk about health care, immigration reform, and gun control. Those issues cry out for resolution. But Democrats in the debates and in their stump speeches must pivot back to our country’s underlying need: DECENCY.

David Brooks, writing in The New York Times, makes that point.

Brooks says, “This election is about who we are as a people, our national character. This election is about the moral atmosphere in which we raise our children. The Democrats have not risen to the largeness of this moment. They don’t know how to speak on this level. They don’t even have the language to articulate what Trump represents and what needs to be done. Democrats believe they can win votes by offering members of different groups economic benefits and are perpetually shocked when they lose those voters.”

Brooks agrees with Marianne Williamson when she said in the last debate that “racism, bigotry, and the collectivized hatred that the current President is bringing up in this country” is the real issue in the 2020 campaign for President and the one that Democrats should focus on. Everything else follows that.

Brooks goes on to say that the Democrats are “unready” for the task of fighting for decency, but it falls to them to ” rebuild the moral infrastructure of our country and remind people of the values we share and the damage done when people are not held accountable for trampling them.”

Brooks identifies the values that comprise decency as: 

Unity: Seeing ourselves as one people.

Honesty: Respecting the truth.

Pluralism: Treasuring members of all races and faiths.

Sympathy: Being people with good hearts, who feel for those who are suffering, who are faithful friends, whose daily lives are marked by kindness.

Opportunity: Offering all children an open field and a fair chance in life.

Brooks emphatically states that Trump has put himself on the wrong side of all of these values. Brooks begs Democrats to lead an “uprising of decency”.

He concludes his piece with a hope, which sounds, actually, more like a desperate plea. He writes, “There must be one Democrat who, in word and deed, can do that.” One Democrat who can lead an uprising of decency.

But is there?

That is the question.

The survival of our republic depends on the answer.

 

 

Elizabeth Warren and K-12 Education: More Information Needed

Elizabeth Warren needs to let us know her views about K-12 education and what policies she advocates for improving education. Right now, as Steven Singer explains, it’s difficult to figure out where she stands.

At a recent rally in Oakland, CA, Warren allowed herself to be introduced by a divisive, union-opposing supporter of charter schools when, as Singer points out, “charter schools,  enrolling 6% of all U.S. students, cannibalize the funding for the 90% that attend authentic public schools.”

Singer questions why Warren would want to associate herself with those who fund charter schools, the privatizers of public education who often are the hedge fund billionaires that she battles over other issues.

Singer also discusses the ambiguous message that Warren gives when she strongly opposed opening new charter schools in Massachusetts when lifting the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts was put to a vote. Yet, she also is on record as saying, ” Many charter schools in Massachusetts are producing extraordinary results for our students, and we should celebrate the hard work of those teachers and read what’s working to other schools.” I agree that we should always celebrate the hard work of teachers, but as a public official and a member of the U.S. Senate on the education committee, Elizabeth Warren must be consistent: either advocate for more charter schools or, like the NAACP, call for a moratorium on new charter schools.

Similarly, Elizabeth Warren, along with all of the other Presidential candidates, must articulate her position on standardized testing. Thus far, Warren has received an F from the Network for Public Education for her past support of standardized testing as the measure of student achievement and readiness for their future. Singer states that high stakes standardized tests, whose results always and forever have been correlated to the income of the students’ parents, “have unfairly assessed students for decades, and tests have been used as an excuse to deny poor and minority students the resources they need to succeed.”

Singer also comments that Warren’s education policy advisor is Josh Delaney whose credentials are that he took the 5-week crash course to become a Teach for America teacher, taught for two years, and then had a career as an “expert” in education. Singer seems to be alluding to the fact that there is a wealth of research about issues in K-12 education – charter schools, standardized testing, segregation, equitable funding, and class size, to name a view and many knowledgeable and experienced people who could be part of her team.

Singer’s point in his article is not to deny Elizabeth Warren the Democratic nomination or the Presidency but to urge her to research the issues confronting K-12 education and to state her positions clearly.

Hopefully, that is how a Democrat will win the White House and how the Democratic candidate will be on the forward-moving side of history as President.

 

K-12 Education: Democrats Must Choose Between Plans Of Biden and Sanders

Two plans about how to improve K-12 are before us. Which one are the Democrats to choose: Bernie Sanders’ plan or Joe Biden’s plan?

Both candidates presented their plans as centerpieces of their campaigns, Sanders announcing his on the 65thanniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the landmark case making school segregation unlawful, and Biden making his plan the first policy rollout of his 2020 campaign. The differences in the plans tell us about both candidates and give the Democratic Party a choice about where to make its stand about K-12 education.

Difference #1: Biden and Sanders give two different views about teachers.                

Joe Biden sees teachers as suffering financially, stating incorrectly that “public school teachers’ average weekly wage hasn’t increased since 1996” and calling for using Title I funds (federal money targeted for at-risk schools) to increase their pay. Biden’s pledge is to “support our educators by giving them the pay and dignity they deserve”.  It is not just pay he wants to give teachers but also dignity.

Sanders seeks a different way to fund the same need for increased teacher pay. He advocates working with states to set a starting salary for teachers at no less than $60,000, tied to cost of living, years of service, and other qualifications; he also advocates protecting collective bargaining.  Sanders’ plan addresses more than salary increases; he addresses the professional excellence of teachers as he pledges to “give teachers a much deserved raise and empower them to teach”.

Biden, throughout his plan, has a condescending tone and portrays teachers as being without “dignity”, as victims. Sanders’ plan has a different tone in which the dignity of teachers is not in question. Sanders’ plan refers to the high professionalism of teachers. Biden, referring to teachers’ lack of dignity, treats teachers as “less than”. He fails to recognize that dignity is not something that can be given to another – although respect is.

Difference #2: Biden and Sanders both articulate the need for underserved children of color to have teachers of color but differ about how to recruit those teachers.

Biden advocates a fast track: providing training in non-university programs that have no professors, no classes, and no research-base to the practices they advocate and offer little chance of “graduates” passing state certification exams, such as a program that calls itself the Relay Graduate School of Education. Without certification, those trained in non-university programs are ineligible to teach in public schools but can find jobs in charter schools because those schools hire uncertified teachers.

Sanders, on the other hand, advocates the establishment of a dedicated fund to create and expand teacher education programs at historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities so that those already qualified and accepted at institutions of higher learning will be attracted to the teaching profession and prepared to enter it.

Sanders’ plan ensures the quality of teachers far better than Biden’s plan. Sanders calls for teachers who are “the best and the brightest educational professionals”. Biden calls for teachers who are under-qualified and get into classrooms by the fastest route.  With Biden’s plan, needy students who would benefit the most from their teachers being “the best and the brightest” will get teachers who are not qualified but quick.

Difference #3: Biden and Sanders have two different views about racial inequities as a leading cause of poor student achievement.

 Biden refers in his plan only obliquely to the fact that no one should be denied opportunities and resources for learning due to being a student of color. Sanders, on the other hand, identifies segregation and racial inequities as being a leading cause of poor student achievement. He specifically calls for providing federal funds to increase community-driven strategies for de-segregating schools especially at-risk schools, to enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to address disciplinary practices in schools that disproportionately affect students of color, to fund school transportation that increases integration, and to increase funding for magnet schools as a means of increasing integration.

Sanders’ plan recognizes poverty and racism as central factors in poor student achievement. He does not follow past administrations which held teachers and schools accountable for raising standardized test scores without addressing the underlying causes of racial inequities and poverty.

Difference #4: Biden and Sanders differ about what they mean by safe schools.  

Biden plans to defeat the NRA and champion legislation to ban assault weapons.

Sanders, similarly, plans to enact comprehensive gun violence prevention laws. In addition, Sanders plans to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act into law to protect the rights of LGBTQ students, enforce Title IX which assures gender equity, and ensure that immigrant children are free from harassment and surveillance at school, regardless of their immigration status. Certainly guns have no place in schools; neither does bullying or harassment. Sanders view of a safe school is far more expansive than what Biden offers. Sanders addresses the day to day safety of every student in every school.

Difference #5:  Biden and Sanders define a successful high school differently.

Biden’s plan states that the primary function of middle schools and high schools is to prepare students for jobs.  He plans to replace high school courses with courses that will give students industry credentials, actual licenses in the trades, gained by graduation from high school so they will exit high school directly to jobs.  Biden also advocates that high school students take courses at community colleges that can count for credit in both high school and college; thereby, requiring students to take fewer courses and learning less but moving through their education faster.

Sanders, in the other hand, states that, in the 21st century, a rigorous and comprehensive high school education is just the beginning of what students need and, by itself, is not enough. He says that education beyond high school is necessary for all young people and advocates tuition-free public colleges and universities.

With Biden’s plan, a successful high school is one that gives students the quickest path to jobs, even earning industry credentials in high school. Sanders looks at the workforce needs of the 21st century as more complex and requiring a solid high school education, followed by further education in a trade or in colleges or universities.

Difference #6: Sanders takes a firm position in opposition to charter schools. Biden is silent about charter schools.

 Charter schools use taxpayer money for privately-managed schools that have no accountability for how that taxpayer money is spent. Charter schools have greater segregation than public schools. The NAACP has called for a moratorium on funding any new charter schools and accountability for existing charter schools because of their racial inequity and lack of financial transparency.  The charter school industry sets up an alternate school system, takes money from the public school system, and offers no greater student achievement.

Sanders supports the NAACP moratorium on public funds being used for charter school expansion until a national audit is completed and halting the use of public funds to underwrite new charter schools. Sanders states that the country does not need two parallel, taxpayer- funded school systems and insists that we invest in our public schools.

Sanders’ plan states that charter schools, since they use public, taxpayer funds, must:

  • Comply with the same oversight requirements as public schools.
  • Disclose student attrition rates, non-public funding sources, and financial interests.
  • Match employment practices with the local school district, including standards set by collective bargaining and restrictions on exorbitant CEO pay.
  • Allow teachers to unionize.

The words “charter schools” do not once appear in Biden’s plan for K-12 education. That is not acceptable. Those running for public office, most importantly for the Presidency, must take a stand on all charter schools, both the 95% that present themselves as non-profit and the 5% that present themselves as for-profit.  To object just to the 5% and not the other 95%, as some speculate Joe Biden may eventually do, is to give full approval and a green light to the other 95% of charter schools and accomplishes nothing.

Two candidates. Two different perspectives. Two different policy statements.

As an experienced educator of many years, having taught middle and high school English, been a central office administrator for curriculum and instruction, taught teacher preparation courses at universities, and been a consultant to schools at risk, I can tell you that the Bernie Sanders plan shows an understanding of what it means to learn and what it means to teach. Joe Biden’s plan does not.

With the goal of unseating Betsy DeVos and her boss in the White House, I hope that the Democratic Party heeds what Bernie Sanders is saying and makes his positions its own.

Joe Biden’s Plan for Education: Democrats Must Do Better

What  a disappointment Joe Biden’s education plan is.

Democrats must do better.

” Joe’s Plan for Educators, Students, and our Future” does not mention at all the important issues before us in American education. No mention of the funding of privately managed, taxpayer funded, and publicly unaccountable charter schools. No mention of the NAACP call for a moratorium on adding new charter schools because of their racial inequities and their lack of accountability. No mention of standardized testing and the damage that testing does to student learning and the inaccuracy of standardized testing as the dominant way to assess student achievement and potential. No mention of the Common Core and how those standards have done nothing to improve student achievement and how they have removed meaningful and necessary learning from the curriculum of the nation’s schools. Unfortunately, Joe Biden’s plan is poorly written, full of platitudes, and lacks substance.

Democrats must do better.

Joe Biden’s plan calls for actions that would be incredibly damaging to children in K-12 schools in this country.

Joe Biden’s Call to Action #1:

Joe Biden’s plan called for: “more innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color, including supporting high school students in accessing dual enrollment classes that give them an edge in teacher preparation programs and helping paraprofessionals work toward their teaching certificate”. Of course, we must work to increase the numbers of teachers of color in our schools, but we must do it in ways that honor their intelligence and capabilities and produce excellent teachers. Biden’s proposal neither honors the intelligence and capabilities of people of color nor will produce excellent teachers.

It’s silly to suggest that high school students be taking courses to give them “an edge in teacher preparation programs”.  High school students will best develop their minds and become knowledgeable teachers in the future by engaging in a rigorous high school curriculum not by participating in teacher preparation courses at ages 14-18.

Also, prospective teachers of color deserve the same quality of teacher preparation as other prospective teachers. The “innovative approach to recruiting teachers” mentioned in the plan refers to the bankrupt approach of the Relay Graduate School of Education, which is not a school and does not provide a graduate education. It is a mill to quickly produce “teachers” for the charter school industry. It has been dubbed “the McDonald’s approach” because the program, like the food, is fast and of poor quality. Daniel Katz, Director of Secondary Education and Secondary Special Education Teacher Preparation at Seton Hall University, sums it up like this:

It is a “Graduate School of Education” that has not a single professor or doctoral level instructor or researcher affiliated with it. In essence, it is a partnership of charter school chains Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First… Relay’s “curriculum” mostly consists of taking the non-certified faculty of the charter schools, giving them computer-delivered modules on classroom management (and distributing copies of Teach Like a Champion), and placing them under the auspices of the “no excuses” brand of charter school operation and teachers who already have experience with it.

What Joe Biden is suggesting is an approach to teacher education that produces inadequate teachers to be the faculty for our neediest students. That approach does not in any way fulfill the standards put in place for programs that prepare future teachers in  accredited colleges and universities. Activating Joe Biden’s proposal would produce a markedly inferior teaching force. In fact, in Connecticut, only 38% of the first cohort of The Relay Graduate School of Education even passed the necessary licensure tests.

Call to Action #2:

Joe Biden calls for a high school education that provides a vocational curriculum which “will allow students to earn an industry credential upon high school graduation”. One can only imagine what courses that teach students how to write effectively, how to read thoughtfully, how to do math proficiently, how to think scientifically, how to express themselves artistically, or how to understand history expansively students would have to skip in order to graduate from high school as a credentialed electrician.

Biden says in his plan that he “will provide every middle and high school student a path towards a successful career”. Middle school and high school are much more than paths to careers. They are the prime means for adolescents to develop as increasingly independent learners as well as critical and creative thinkers. We must not deny adolescents that development so necessary for them as individuals and so necessary for the nation as a whole.

Democrats must do better.

Democrats must not simply unseat Betsy DeVos. Democrats must not simply return to the discredited agendas of the past: charter schools, standardized testing, and the Common Core. Democrats must provide vision. Democrats must understand what it is to learn and what it is to teach. Democrats must lead us forward as a nation through equity and excellence in K-12 public education.

Please, Joe, revise your plan and write it better. Please, other Democratic candidates, get it right.

 

K-12 Public Education: Front and Center in the 2020 Election

At last!  At last!  At last!  A candidate for President of the United States has recognized that the bedrock institution of our democracy is in peril, and the same forces of greed and racism that are working to destroy other elements of our society also threaten the very foundation of our society: K-12 public education.

That presidential candidate is Bernie Sanders.

Honoring the 65th anniversary of Brown vs. The Board of Education, the Supreme Court case which outlawed segregation in public schools, Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled his education plan, a comprehensive 10-point agenda, called The Thurgood Marshall Plan for A Quality Education for All.

The bold assertion that Senator Sanders’ plan makes is that every child has the right to a quality education.

In his plan, Senator Sanders endorses the NAACP’s call for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.  The NAACP calls for that moratorium because it has determined that:

  1. Charter schools have failed in fulfilling their original purpose to innovate and infuse new ideas into traditional public schools. There has been no carryover from charter schools to traditional public schools. Charter schools have not, in any way, been learning labs which try out new ideas that benefit the larger population of students in public schools.
  2. The education that charter schools provide is questionable. The large scale study of student data from the Center for Research Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute found that 17% of charter schools produced academic gains better than traditional public schools, 37% of charter schools performed worse than their traditional public schools counterparts serving similar students, 46% of the schools showed no difference.  Reducing class size, not charter schools, the NAACP states, is how to improve student achievement.
  3. Charter schools take public tax money but are privately managed and do not tell the public how they spend the public’s money.
  4. Charter schools do not accept their share of children with learning issues or who do not speak English as their first language.
  5.  Charter schools “counsel out” students who will not be successful on measures such as standardized tests or graduation rates.
  6. Charter schools have mostly inexperienced, short-term, uncertified teachers.
  7. Charter schools suspend and expel students for behavioral issues at a much higher rate than traditional public schools.

The NAACP opposes charter schools because it insists that children of color have the same rights as white suburban children to a quality education. Similarly, Bernie Sanders’ plan for K-12 education insists on the same fundamental right to a quality education for all children. Sanders’ plan points out that the proliferation of charter schools has disproportionately affected communities of color and increased school segregation– 17 percent of charter schools are 99 percent minority, compared to 4 percent of traditional public schools.  Charter schools stand in opposition to the chief tenet of Brown vs.The Board of Education: A separate education is NOT an equal education.

In addition to issues of racial equity, Senator Sanders’ plan addresses the funding of charter schools.

First of all, billionaires like DeVos and the Waltons (Walmart) together with private equity and hedge fund executives, have bankrolled charter schools and poured tens of millionst into school board and other local elections in order to privatize public schools, and, therefore, control how children are educated and make profits for themselves, such as by buying buildings and then renting out those buildings to charter schools.

Secondly, the Sanders plan points out that charter schools are led by private entities that take substantial tax money but owe no accountability as to how that money is spent. One example of unregulated and unaccountable funding in Connecticut is that heads of charter schools gave themselves salaries in excess of superintendents’ salaries in much larger public school districts and districts in wealthy communities. Tax filings for 2014 show that the two chief executive officers of Achievement First Public Charter Schools each made just over $260,000 and the executive director of Domus, which oversees two charter schools in Stamford, was paid $325,000 while tax filings from 2013 show that the school district superintendent in wealthy Greenwich was paid  $235,00, and the superintendent in Hartford, a school district with 20,000 students, five times the enrollment of the Achievement First schools in Connecticut, was paid $194,000. With no oversight or accountability to taxpayers, charter school administrators are free to determine what to pay themselves.

Thirdly, the Sanders plan highlights how charter schools drain funds from public schools. Charter schools are given the per pupil funds that would have been allotted to the public schools and keep that funding even if students leave or are dismissed from the charter schools and return to traditional public schools.  The public schools, of course, are minus the per pupil funding that accompanied the children who enrolled in charter schools.

Charter schools have been able to function in impoverished communities in ways that more affluent and politically savvy communities would not tolerate. Who in more affluent communities would allow their children to go to schools in which there is no accountability for how the taxpayer money is spent, inexperienced teachers who turn over every two years, racial segregation, disregard of the needs of special education learners, and students being dismissed from school or held back a grade in order to boost the school’s test scores or graduation rates?  The answer is no one.

So how will Bernie Sanders stop the damage to communities caused by unregulated charter school growth? His plan states that, as President, Bernie Sanders will fight to:

  • Ban for-profit charter schools and support the NAACP’s moratorium on public funds for charter school expansion until a national audit has been completed to determine the impact of charter growth in each state. That means halting the use of public funds to underwrite new charter schools.
  • Invest in our public schools system. We do not need two schools systems. That said, existing charter schools must be made accountable by:

– Mandating that charter schools comply with the same oversight requirements as public schools.

– Mandating that at least half of all charter school boards are teachers and parents.

– Disclosing student attrition rates, non-public funding sources, and financial interests.

– Matching employment practices at charters with neighboring district schools, including standards set by collective bargaining agreements and restrictions on exorbitant CEO pay.

–   Supporting the efforts of charter school teachers to unionize and negotiate contracts.

Bernie Sanders has done his homework. He gets it. He knows how to move education in this country forward by enforcing the perspective of those who founded our democracy. He understands what John Adams wrote:

“The Whole People must take upon themselves the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one Mile Square without a school in it, not founded by a Charitable individual but maintained at the expense of the People themselves.”

Like John Adams, Bernie Sanders advocates a strong public school system as the foundation of our democracy. The charter school industry has taken us off course; we must invest in our public schools so that our democracy thrives.

And Bernie Sanders is showing us the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cory Booker: Not For Public Education

As the political field becomes a crowded one, I intend to look at each candidate from the perspective of how each one will benefit or harm public education because public education is the foundation of our democracy. I have determined that Cory Booker would be a disaster for public education because he doesn’t understand what constitutes a good education and because he puts his efforts into endeavors that may have political advantage for him but do not serve children well and do not help us to strengthen as a nation.

Diane Ravitch posted an analysis of Candidate Cory Booker, and I print it below. If you want to know more about Cory Booker and public education, I suggest  you read The Prize: Who’s In Charge of America’s Schools by Dale Russakoff.  It explains in detail Cory Booker’s involvement as mayor of Newark in the failed initiative of Mark Zuckerberg with his millions to improve public education in that city.

 

Cory Booker: What Educators and Parents Need to Know

by dianeravitch

 

Mitchell Robinson of Michigan State University explains why he could not support for Cory Booker for the Democratic nomination in 2020.

He writes:

I really don’t want to be a single-issue voter, but education will almost always be the most important issue for me–and Booker is catastrophically wrong and bad on education. His corporate leanings and pro-pharma stance are just the gravy for me on Booker.

So, if you like for-profit charters, then Cory Booker is your guy.

If you want to privatize public education, then Cory Booker is your guy.

If you think that state tax dollars should go toward vouchers to pay for private and religious school tuition, then Cory Booker is your guy.

If you think that Betsy DeVos’ education policies are making schools work better for kids, families, and communities, then Cory Booker is your guy.

And if you think that scapegoating the “failing public schools” takes the heat off your candidate’s support of a corrupt Wall St., or the crushing costs of prescription drugs, or our nightmare of a health care system, then Cory Booker is your guy.

But if you think it’s about time for the Democratic Party to return to their historic support of public education, and teachers unions, and abandon their somewhat recent neo-liberal dalliance with charter schools, and school privatization, and the corporate reform of education agenda, then look for a candidate who isn’t a charter member of “Democrats for Education Reform” (spoiler alert: they aren’t Democrats, and they aren’t *for* education), and who doesn’t have more ties to Betsy DeVos than her yachts have non-US flags, and who was willing to work with Chris Christie to sell-out Newark’s schools to Mark Zuckerberg.

None of this this is new.

The article below appeared in Education Week in 2013. Nothing has changed. Cory Booker is still a supporter of charters and vouchers, no different from Betsy DeVos except she’s a billionaire and he raises money from Wall Street billionaires.

Things Educators Need to Know About Cory Booker

Education Week By Alyson Klein October 29, 2013

New Jersey voters this month picked Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, also a Democrat, who died in June. Mr. Booker already has a national profile on education issues.

1. ‘Democrat for Education Reform’: Mr. Booker was a galvanizing force in the past decade bringing together a cadre of high-powered, deep-pocketed Wall Street donors with an interest in education policy, to support his early races for city council and mayor. The group eventually became Democrats for Education Reform, now the signature political action committee for politicians who are fans of less-than-traditional Democratic policies, including charter schools and teacher performance pay. The group’s founders “knew each other before, but they got involved in politics together to support Cory Booker,” said Joe Williams, the executive director of dfer. The pac poured some quarter-million dollars into Mr. Booker’s Senate campaign, Mr. Williams estimated.

2. Voucher Supporter: Mr. Booker is among a handful of prominent Democrats nationally to support private school vouchers, and championed a proposed New Jersey law that would have created a voucher program in that state. He co-founded Excellent Education for Everyone, a nonprofit organization that sought to promote vouchers and charter schools in New Jersey. The push won backing from other well-known New Jersey Democrats but was ultimately unsuccessful.

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/30/10electionsenator.h33.html

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