Here Comes the Tax March!

A season of major marches begins this weekend!

First in the line-up is the Tax March, happening this Saturday, April 15th, in 41 states, 5 countries, and of course, the District of Columbia!

According to Delvone Michael, senior strategist for the Working Families Party, “Without his tax returns, Americans are in the dark about Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest. We don’t know his foreign entanglements, and whether he even pays any taxes at all. Almost everyday we’re hearing more reports about the White House aides’ ties to Russia. We need to know the truth — is the Trump administration acting in the best interest of the American people or a foreign government?”

Inspired by this urgent question, thousands of marchers around the world will demand: “Donald Trump, release your tax returns!” Organizers of the Tax March are also calling for transparent government, legislation that requires presidential candidates to release tax returns, and an end to unfair tax policy that enables corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. You can read more about the goals of the Tax March here.

Dozens of organizations are co-sponsoring the march, including the Working Families Party, Americans for Tax Fairness, the American Federation of Teachers, the Center for Popular Democracy, Indivisible Project, MoveOn.org, Our Revolution, and nearly 50 more! You can see the full list of march partners here.

Residents of New Jersey are lucky to have several nearby march locations to choose from! In addition to the DC March, there are marches or rallies happening in the following places:

You can find more Tax Marches in other states here.

Even if you are unable to attend a march this Saturday, there are still many ways you can raise awareness of the Tax March and amplify its message. For starters, you can share information and articles about the Tax March on social media before, during and after the event. You can write a letter to your members of Congress letting them know that you support the Tax March and want legislation requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns, such as the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Katherine Clark.  You can write a letter to the editor of your local paper with the same message. Here in New Jersey, where our state lawmakers recently passed legislation requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns before their names can appear on ballots in our state, you can write a letter to Gov. Christie urging him to sign this bill (S3048/A4520) into law!

In addition, the Working Families Party (WFP) has launched a social media campaign around the march. Record a short video explaining why you support the Tax March, or why you will attend it, then post to social media with #WhatAreYouHiding and #TAXMARCH. WFP will then re-share your post.

Saturday is only a few days away — choose a march now to attend and start making your sign! Or, if you can’t march, take another action like those described above to increase the impact of the Tax March.

And then get ready….more marches are on the way! :

 

 

NJ State Education: Lessons from a Legislator Visit

by Education blogger Olga Starr

Let me first get my confession of extreme naivete out of the way: I had no idea how much the state legislature did with education issues in NJ! WOW. Now, let me backtrack:

Shortly after the highly contentious confirmation of school voucher champion Betsy DeVos, I scheduled a meeting with Patrick Diegnan, my state Senator in District 18 who also happens to be on the Education Committee, to express STAND CNJ members’ strong support for public education and get his thoughts on what we in NJ can expect in light of the likely federal agenda. A couple of weeks before the scheduled meeting, I happened to meet Nicole Whitfield, Executive Director of Special Parent Advocacy Group,  which “prides itself in helping parents to become educated on their rights in special education (and) sets out to repair the disconnected services offered to children with special needs”. Nicole told me of the horrifying conditions to which special education students in Trenton are exposed – including an incident in April where an 8-year-old special needs student was sexually assaulted by an older student on a school bus that transports 52 students to 35-40 stops with no aide. To help keep these vulnerable children safe in the future, Senator Shirley Turner introduced a bill in the State Senate that would require a ratio of one aide to no more than 15 special needs students on a school bus. That bill had come out of the Education Committee and was waiting in the Appropriations Committee (on which Senator Diegnan also sits). As the senator’s constituent and strong supporter of education, I invited Nicole to join me at the meeting to share her story with the Senator and ask for his support for the transportation bill.

In my pre-meeting research, I found that Senator Diegnan had long been a proponent of public education, including better needs assessment, regulation, and community participation in the approval and running of charter schools, a point that is highly relevant to the voucher and privatization agenda. Senator Diegnan assured me that if/when a Democratic governor takes office next year, he will re-introduce these types of bills that have been stymied by Chris Christie and his legislature supporters. He also assured me that if federal funding is put on the line as contingent upon adoption of a voucher system in NJ, our Democratic legislature and (hopefully) governor will refuse to abide and would take that to the courts. I found this to be very reassuring; it also once again underscored the importance of electing a governor in November who is a strong supporter of public education.

Nicole also spoke to the Senator about the dire need for aides for special needs students in Trenton.  He was understandably appalled, and expressed strong support for this bill. We asked that he do whatever he can to help expedite the bill through the Appropriations committee.

Unfortunately, to date, the bill is still waiting in committee – possibly because the legislature is currently busy with the budget review process.  The special education children in Trenton really need this resource – and we, as STAND CNJ members, should use our constituent power to help! So, a call to action: please contact your state Senator, especially if they are on the Appropriations Committee (see www.njleg.org for information), and ask that they expedite bill S2757, which would require a ratio of one aide per no more than 15 special needs children on school buses. Tell your Senator that we want NJ’s children to be safe, and we owe our most vulnerable children the support they need to safely get to school! If your Senator is Patrick Diegnan, please thank him for voicing his support for the bill to Olga Starr and Nicole Whitfield, and ask him to act in these children’s behalf!  This is the power of local politics and grassroots action – together, we can make an immediate difference in the lives of children in our state.

In the meantime, we can feel encouraged (while still staying alert and always ready to resist!), knowing that as we work to elect supporters of public education to the state house in November, we can help protect our state’s public schools against the harmful federal agenda of vouchers and privatization.

Keep up the fight, education advocates! We’ve got this!

    Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (D)

(908) 757-1677     sendiegnan@njleg.org

 

STAND CNJ Stands Up for Transgender Youth

On Monday, March 13, several members of STAND CNJ braved the cold weather to attend Garden State Equality’s  (GSE) rally for Trans kids.  As a marriage equality advocate from 2009-2013, I’m no stranger to speaking from the podium on the steps of the State House, yet once again I was struck by the absurdity of having to fight for civil rights in 2017. Why are these beautiful children being harassed?? Studies are consistent in suggesting that trans youth are at a higher risk for suicide than their cis gender counterparts, due to large part to discrimination.  Why are these people in positions of power contributing to these statistics by telling them which bathroom/locker room/pronoun they are allowed to use?

All people should be able to use facilities corresponding with their identified gender or gender expression, not that which was assigned to them at birth. This is not just my opinion:  It’s the law.  New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination  (http://www.nj.gov/lps/dcr/law.html) prohibits discrimination based on multiple categories including gender identify and expression in all public accommodations.  The NJ anti-bullying law similarly prohibits acts of intimidation or harassment based on actual or perceived characteristics of students (http://www.state.nj.us/education/students/safety/behavior/hib/ParentGuide.pdf).

Garden State Equality made it so easy for the NJ Board of Education.  They wrote a guidance statement for the state to adopt which is consistent with the aforementioned laws.  Despite having received this over one year ago, Commissioner on Education, Kimberley Harrington, (a political appointee of Governor Chris Christie) has not adopted this guidance.  Instead she has left it to the discretion of individual districts whether or not to adopt trans inclusive policies.  Thus, some NJ school districts continue to discriminate against transgender youth, placing obstacles in the path of their attending school in a life affirming manner.

So, that’s the reason we rallied in the cold.  Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of GSE, did a tremendous job bringing out a crowd for this rally.  Courageous trans youth, along with their families, told personal stories and warmed our hearts.  Babs Siperstein, renowned trans activist and member of the Executive Committee of the DNC demanded that bullying stop and trans children be given their legal rights now.  Special thanks to the members of the legislature who spoke out for legal protection for our trans youth, including Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senators Raymond Lesniak, Sandra Cunningham, Joe Vitale and Teresa Ruiz, Assmblyman Tim Eustace and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle.  I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that these legislatures are always on the right side of history.  These are the very same people that spoke out in favor of marriage equality in 2009, when most opposed the idea.  They continue to give me hope for the future of our democracy.

       

Members of STAND CNJ collected signatures on petitions demanding all NJ children be allowed to attend school in a manner consistent with their identified gender.  Our own Fatima Mughal hand delivered the petitions to the NJ BOE office.

For all who couldn’t attend the Rally, here’s the take away message:  First Christie tried to tell us what a “REAL marriage” was and that our unions didn’t meet his criteria; that was bad, but at least we were adults and could fight back.  Now he and his administration have stooped even lower:  They telling children what their “REAL gender” is and which public facilities they can use.  Not only is this bullying, but it’s also denies trans children the legal rights afforded to them in New Jersey. Please email, call or tweet CHRISTIE and Commissioner Harrington.   Tell them that it’s time to be a REAL governor/commissioner by standing up for all children in NJ.   Trans children deserve respect, dignity and legal protection in accordance with laws against discrimination and bullying.

Louise Walpin