DEFEND THE POST OFFICE: The austerity agenda does not begin or end with Paul Ryan’s threats to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It extends in every direction: from assaults on food stamps to education cuts to the squeezing of transportation funds. And the current front line of the austerity agenda is the attack on the post office, a vital public service that is older than the country itself.
On February 6, the US Postal Service announced that Saturday first-class mail delivery will be eliminated this August— the latest and deepest in a series of cuts that threaten to undermine the service to the point where it will be ripe for bartering off to private delivery corporations.
“USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart,” says American Postal Workers Union president Cliff Guffey. “These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation’s mail system and put it on a path to privatization.” Senator Bernie Sanders called Saturday delivery one of the post office’s “major competitive advantages,” warning that cutting it “will lead to a death spiral that will harm rural America while doing very little to improve the financial condition of the Postal Service.”
Guffey and Sanders are right. Congress should block the order and then remove the crushing mandate it imposed in 2006, which forces the USPS to divert $5 billion annually to prepay the health benefits of retirees who have not even been hired yet. Reforms allowing the service to be more, rather than less, competitive will ease the burden further. Don’t just save the Postal Service. Make it stronger. JOHN NICHOLS
TEACHERS REVOLT! One of Seattle’s top secondary institutions, Garfield High School—home to one of the country’s premier youth jazz bands, and the alma mater of Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones and activist rapper Macklemore—has a mutiny on its hands. Students are refusing to sit for exams, or else completing their tests in just nine seconds. But if you’re picturing unruly classrooms filled with delinquents, think again.
In fact, it’s the teachers who, in a unanimous vote in January, have rebelled against Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), the mandated standardized tests that, they argue, cut into classroom hours, negatively affect minority and low-income students with less access to technology at home, and ultimately provide poor measures of student performance. Despite threats of suspension without pay, the teachers have not backed down.
Following their lead, the students have played a part in the effort, distributing flyers that announce the ability of parents and guardians to opt their kids out of MAP. On February 5, the first day of a three-week period designated for testing, less than a quarter of the 400 scheduled to take the exam did so. Of those who sat for the test, many sabotaged the process. The next day, the Seattle NAACP sponsored a rally in support of eliminating MAP.
Superintendent José Banda blames the boycott for making people forget that “this really is about students.” But the students’ support for their teachers, in words and action, suggests otherwise. ELANA LEOPOLD