On the $26B EduBailoutJobs Bill

How much sense does this make: a group of folks in Washington, DC, lobbying to the passage of a bill which will put about $50 million in the pocket of said group.

It’s cyclical!

If you said “no sense,” you would be wrong. Apparently to Washington and the teachers’ unions, it makes total sense because that’s exactly what’s happening right now with the bailout midterm buyout union payoff EduJobs bill. Speaker Pelosi is calling the House back to session next week for just this.

Geez, the logic or lack thereof:

Pelosi and other Democrats say the funding will prevent layoffs, stem higher unemployment and contribute to a growing economy.

Hold up – you mean, like the stimulus saved jobs? Have we seriously not learned this lesson? This woman does realize that private sector jobs actually provide the revenue to pay the salaries of the public sector jobs, right? Is that above the admin’s pay grade to ask?

Congress provided states with more than $200 billion in aid as part of last year’s economic stimulus package.

Because they’ve done such a stellar job.

(More clips from “The Cartel.”)

St. Louis city schools lost their accreditation:

The district met only four of the 14 performance standards set by the state, failing in such areas as middle and high school math scores, graduation rates and college placement. To remain provisionally accredited, it would need to meet six of the 14 standards. Full accreditation requires meeting nine of the standards.

If trends hold, 13,000 of the students now enrolled in the district will not graduate, Slay said. Of those who do, only half will take the college entrance ACT test. Of them, less than 12 percent will score at or above the national average.

We don’t have a funding problem. We have a spending problem. More spending does not equal better education. Ever hear of the Kansas City experiment? (via)

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.

Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.

The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

I get the appeal of running a school like a private business and offering nicer perks to attract better teachers – except that the trend shows a greater emphasis on those perks without the benefit of a proven, consecutive record of solid impact in the classroom.

I also get the idea of wanting to reward those teachers out there who don’t view the front of a class as a bully pulpit or abuse their position by pushing partisanship, and yes, it does turn the stomach that professional athletes make more than educators but that’s due to market demand and if you’ve ever paid for a ticket to a baseball, football, et al. game then you’re one of the guilty who perpetuates it. People deserve what society is willing to pay and for the scales to flip and educators to get Nike deals the hearts of the populace has to change – and government bossiness can’t force it. Also, teachers know the playing field before they choose this profession, so don’t whine about it after the fact.

A big long tangent to basically remark at the coincidence of the timing with this bill, right before midterms and all, a nice big reward for the unions which helped push the ruling class into power – right on the heels of the unions announcing how they’re mobilizing to help the Democrats maintain their majority:

“We are set to launch a robust field plan across the country during the month of August, including advertising and grassroots [sic] events,” said Gerry McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), in a statement.

Editor’s note after “grassroots” because, yeah. Astrotuf ain’t grassroots, friend.

Sen. Chuck Grassley wonders what on earth happened to the unspent stimulus funds from that $862 perfillion passed just last year:

“To offset this new spending, Democratic leaders could have started with unspent stimulus funds.  About $35 billion of the $100 billion in education aid to states from the stimulus was not spent as of a July 9 report from the Department of Education.

Because THIS new spending has to go to the teachers unions, Grassley! GEEZ KRIZE.

On Medicaid – has anyone possibly thought that the number of Medicaid enrollees increased with THE RISE IN UNEMPLOYMENT?

Facepalm.

Student Clashes with Teacher on Political Ideology

I’ve been following this story since it cropped up last week and I interviewed 18-year-old Celeste Finkenbine on my show (audio here, date is 5/18). Myself and my producer have made various attempts to include the district’s side of the story on the show, which they have refused, saying that neither administrators or the teacher, Ms. Debra Blessman, would be granting interviews.

An excerpt from their press statement:

The Francis Howell School District is aware that Michael Moore’s documentary about healthcare, Sicko, was shown to a high school communication arts class as part of an assignment analyzing the different forms of persuasion. The assignment required students to not only use higher level thinking skills, but to apply their acquired knowledge in a real world situation. The District has procedures for approving the use of supplemental materials as part of the curriculum. Although the movie was not preapproved, an alternative assignment was offered. This issue has been addressed, and our procedures have been reinforced with all faculty and staff.

Although the student is free to speak about this issue, there are personnel and student privacy issues that legally prohibit the District and the teacher from providing any further information.

I’ve said repeatedly on air that I hope the school looks into the matter not just for the allegation that Ms. Blessman called Finkenbine a “teabagger” in front of the class but for showing a movie, “Sicko,” that the district admits was not on a “pre-approved” list. I’ve had numerous parents emailing me about this with similar incidents of their own and it reinforces the idea that schools should be safe places to express honest, free, academic curiosity.  Finkenbine has apparently experienced bullying as a result of speaking out, with people throwing tea bags on her lawn. Finkenbine has apparently also decided to not walk in her upcoming graduation. Sad.

Blessman’s class, a literature and composition course, was to view the movie and write a paper after which accounted for 50% of their final grade. It was a lesson on the elements of persuasion, an incredibly easy lesson in which a student could have simply written “the persuasive technique in this film was flawed, mediocre, and essentially a cobbling-together of lazy ideas and outright lies in order to convince the viewer of a socialist premise.”

When MTV’s Kurt Loder says as much, you know there exists a problem:

Unfortunately, Moore is also a con man of a very brazen sort, and never more so than in this film. His cherry-picked facts, manipulative interviews (with lingering close-ups of distraught people breaking down in tears) and blithe assertions (how does he know 18,000* people will die this year because they have no health insurance?) are so stacked that you can feel his whole argument sliding sideways as the picture unspools. The American health-care system is in urgent need of reform, no question. Some 47 million people are uninsured (although many are only temporarily so, being either in-between jobs or young enough not to feel a pressing need to buy health insurance). There are a number of proposals as to what might be done to correct this situation. Moore has no use for any of them, save one.

A few more for posterity:

Human Events:

What “Sicko” purposely didn’t tell you about Cuba is that, other than being a Gulag police state, there are very few — if any — functioning health centers.

From NY Daily News:

Unfortunately, Moore is more concerned with promoting an anti-free-market agenda than getting his facts straight.

[…]

Moore ignores the fact that 85% of hospital beds in the U.S. are in nonprofit hospitals, and almost half of us with private plans get our insurance from nonprofit providers. Moreover, Kaiser Permanente, which Moore demonizes, is also a nonprofit.

What’s really amazing is that even the intended beneficiaries of Moore’s propagandizing don’t support his claims. The Supreme Court of Canada declared in June 2005 that the government health care monopoly in Quebec is a violation of basic human rights.

The alternate assignment for this should have been the viewing of “Michael Moore Hates America.”

Was this film presented as fact in the classroom? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility given the track record of certain educators to present liberal ideology as fact and has even before ended in a court case in the UK. This, coupled with the allegation that Blessman called Finkenbine a “teabagger,” troubles the situation further; taking the bullying and the tea bags in the lawn of a teenager complicates it even more.

I realize that some will (and have) rushed to condemn Finkenbine, just as always done in any case where a woman speaks out about what she feels as an injustice. Instead of grabbing pitchforks and pulling a quasi “Carrie” on someone, we should encourage the school board at Francis Howell to get to the bottom of the matter (did Debra Blessman call Celeste Finkenbine a “teabagger?” Why was she showing a movie unapproved by parents?) instead of remaining silent with the hope that the issue will go away.

Democrats Play Games with War Funding

Democrats are attempting to torpedo support for war funding by latching another massive spending bill onto the war bill – and blaming lack of support for the war bill on the GOP without telling the public about the wasteful spending bill attached to it.

Despite spending $100 billion on education last year with the stimulus – the largest bump of spending in our nation’s history, Obama and congressional Democrats want to spend more money. NYT:

The stimulus program was the largest one-time infusion of federal education dollars to states and districts in the nation’s history. As the program took shape last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other officials repeatedly warned states and districts to avoid spending the money in ways that could lead to dislocations when the gush of federal money came to an end.

But from the start, those warnings seemed at odds with the stimulus law’s goal of jump-starting the economy, and the administration trumpeted last fall that school districts had used stimulus money to save, or create, some 250,000 education jobs.

It’s nothing more than a bailout and as this graph explains, a bailout to cover the mistake of schools mismanaging money given to them, even as they were warned by the Department of Education not to spend as they did.

Democrats are playing games with funding our men and women overseas. Instead of allowing the war bill to pass as is they force their opposition to either oppose it or sign on to yet another big spending bill, both alternatives, Democrats know full well, could be used against Republicans.

Obama is making a huge push to support the bailout:

Despite President Obama’s pledge for honest budgeting and billions of dollars in stimulus money spent to save teachers’ jobs, the Education Department is asking for off-the-books emergency funding to keep local districts from laying off school teachers next school year.

An “off the books” infusion.

The request comes just a year after an unprecedented $100 billion in federal stimulus money was allocated to school districts as part of the $863 billion recovery act. Of that amount, $48 billion was designated for saving teachers’ jobs and investing in educational programs. Another $31 billion in stimulus funds were sent to states for Pell grants, competitive funds and programs helping disadvantaged students.

An additional $21 billion in stimulus money is still available but not yet obligated for district expenses, according to the U.S. Education Department.

And it’s likely that this round of funding would be frittered away, just like the last round, and the round before that. Money isn’t solving the problem of mismanagement and tacking it onto a war bill as a way to pass it is a dirty trick. What provision do Democrats value most: supporting our men and women whom they ordered overseas or sending another wave of bailouts to a corrupt educational system which didn’t manage the its last bailout well?

Republicans are calling for a simple war funding bill, one not laden with bailouts:

Giving states another $23 billion in federal education money simply throws more money into taxpayer-funded bailouts when we should be discussing why we aren’t seeing the results we need from the billions in federal dollars that are already being spent,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a statement.

Boehner and other Republicans have called for a “clean” war-spending bill.

“Our troops and the American people need this bill right now, not weeks from now, and certainly not after it’s been loaded up with billions in bailouts,” said Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

Republicans should refuse to play this game and we should refuse to allow our troops – or our children’s education – to be used as pawns.

*UPDATED: Missouri Makes Another Grab for Educational Rights

(*Update below, also information on NEA donations.)

If quantity over quality ensured success, then our school districts would have no problem. As it stands, money is egregiously wasted while bad teachers fail to make a impact in the classroom as the hands of good teachers are tied by the system.

Missouri faces yet another education rights grab from certain lawmakers who view elementary school as little more than daycare. From FHE:

Monday afternoon the “Keaveny Amendment” was added to HB1543 on the Senate
floor. There is a strong possibility that the bill will pass the Senate by
the time they adjourn tonight, Monday, May 10th. It will then go to the
House for final approval. As it advances it will go the Conference Committee
(a committee to work out the differences between the House version and the
Senate. )

Please call your Senator and Representative. They need to know that we
oppose the provision to lower the compulsory attendance age in the “Keaveny
Amendment” to HB 1543. The amendment would lower compulsory attendance in
St. Louis and Kansas City.

If this provision is not taken out in the Conference Committee, then we will
have a Rally.

Instructing children better, not forcing them into school earlier and longer, is what will make an academic difference.

Developing this story further …

(h/t Cathy, Nicky)

*UPDATE:

From HSLDA:

Missouri–Act Immediately to Prevent
Expansion of Compulsory School Attendance

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:
Yesterday the Missouri Senate amended HB 1543 to lower from 7 to 6 the
age at which compulsory school attendance starts in St. Louis and
Kansas City. This bill is moving very quickly, and we must act
promptly to block this expansion of government control over the lives
of young children and their parents.
This amendment is known as “the Keaveny Amendment.”

ACTION REQUESTED
Call both your state senator AND representative. Your message can be
as simple as, “Please remove the Keaveny Amendment from HB 1543.
Parents–not the government–should decide whether 6-year-olds are
ready to start schooling.”

Use our legislative toolbox to find the name and contact information
for your senator and representative.
http://www.hslda.org/toolbox

It’s bad enough that the Keaveny Amendment would put 6-year-olds under
educational compulsion in St. Louis and Kansas City. But if this
passes, it would surely eventually be forced on the entire state.
This is exactly what happened when “only” St. Louis was authorized to
raise the compulsory age a while back. In short order, the age was
raised for the entire state. Wherever you live in Missouri, your
freedom is threatened.
[my emphasis]

Under the Keaveny Amendment, any child parents “intend” to homeschool
would not be subject to the lower compulsory age. But allowing the
application of law to hinge on something as vague and subjective as a
parent’s mere “intention” invites a court challenge. And it invites
the public to look on all homeschoolers with a jaundiced eye. Either
the exception will be struck down by a court, or it will encourage the
public to think less of homeschool families.

Many education experts have concluded that beginning a child’s formal
education too early may actually result in burnout and poor scholastic
performance later.

Lowering the compulsory attendance age erodes the authority of parents
who are in the best position to determine when their child’s formal
education should begin. The bill would restrict parents’ freedom to
decide if their children are ready for school.

Expanding the compulsory attendance age would bring an inevitable tax
increase to pay for more classroom space and teachers to accommodate
the additional students compelled to attend public school.

The problem isn’t hours spent in school or money spent on the problem (we spend a greater percentage of our GDP on education, almost more than anything else), it’s that the bureaucratic nightmare that is the NEA prevents impact from having effect in the classroom. That hands of good teachers are tied by a teacher’s union that seemingly spends more time electioneering and promoting the DNC than our students’ best interests:

In 2010 the NEA donated 87% funds to the DNC as opposed to only 14% to the RNC. That was the biggest percentage that the NEA had supported the RNC ever. The NEA office in my former neighborhood proudly displayed Kerry for president and Obama for president signs in the streetfront window during the last two elections. I understand the reasoning behind the teacher’s union which is to support candidates they view as being friendliest to education – but is it about education or the NEA’s bottom line? Vouchers were a Godsend to the disadvantaged youth in Washington D.C., until they were stripped from them. It would have forced schools to compete and competition begets improvement. It also means that those who don’t improve lose out, which leads many to question whether or not that was the stance the NEA was protecting.

Compare the spending:

The NEA also gave money to La Raza, among other groups classified as non-educational entities:

– $7,900 to the National Council of La Raza

La Raza made headlines last week when one of their teachers called for a revolt on America:

And our government and this group wants to increase the amount of decisions they make in our children’s lives?

Wash U Frosh to Study Book Whose Narrator Sympathizes with 9/11 Attackers

It’s absolutely mind-boggling why Washington University would choose to force incoming freshman to study a book whose main character is a Pakistani man resentful towards the United States and “smiled” and was pleased by “the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees” when he watched the towers fall on 9/11. The university is one of several across the country choosing to do this.

The Freshman Reading Program steering committee has announced that the Class of 2014 will be reading and studying “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid.

Over the summer, incoming freshmen will receive copies of the book along with a reader’s guide and are expected to have completed the book before arriving on campus. During orientation, freshmen will participate in faculty-led discussions, and programs will be planned throughout the academic year based on the key topic or themes of the book.

Hamid’s second novel, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” is a novel set in the aftermath of September 11 and told from the perspective of Changez, a young Pakistani, who despite his love for America, sympathizes with the attackers.

“The steering group considered many books that had been recommended to us by students and faculty,” said Karen Coburn, senior consultant in residence and a member of the reading program’s steering committee. “Those of us who read ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ found it engaging, accessible and provocative ⎯ a book that we thought would stimulate discussion among faculty and new students.”

Coburn joined Ian MacMullen, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science in Arts & Sciences, and a group of students for a discussion of the book in January.

“In addition to themes about the immigrant experience and what it means to be an American in a post-9/11 world, students talked about themes close to their own experience as freshmen ⎯ about coming to a new environment and deciding how you present yourself to others, what assumptions you make about others, what values you choose for yourself and whom you choose to trust,” Coburn said.

The main character, Changez, is upset at the way Americans react after terrorists murder thousands of their fellow citizens so he decides to provoke indignation towards himself by making himself seem fundamentalist. Does one still reserve the right to be offended if one chooses to do that which would cause others to react a certain way? Setting them up, especially after 9/11, such a sensitive period? And to use this as some flashpoint for a discussion on immigration? Yes, let’s. Several of the 9/11 attackers were here on expired visas.

What is the point of requiring freshman to read this book? To teach students to sympathize with people who resent them based upon their own screwed up logic and desire to provoke outrage by casting their lot emotionally with terrorists?

(h/t DSM of Reboot Congress)

RI Town Fires All Teachers at Failing School

Chalk this up as another reason in favor of home education.

A school superintendent in Rhode Island is trying to fix an abysmally bad school system.

Her plan calls for teachers at a local high school to work 25 minutes longer per day, each lunch with students once in a while, and help with tutoring.  The teachers’ union has refused to accept these apparently onerous demands.

The teachers at the high school make $70,000-$78,000, as compared to a median income in the town of $22,000.

Barely a half-hour to tutor kids, eat a couple lunches with them is an outrageous demand? This fits into my theory that public education stopped being about excellent academics when the system (cough, NEA, cough) began treating children as commodities instead of individuals of unique merit.

A teacher’s job performance shouldn’t only be judged by their ability to show up and drone on in a classroom from a book of published, pre-selected lesson plans; their performance should also be judged by their students’ academic performance – the impact these teachers have in the classroom. Teachers in this district were failing miserably it seems, and refused to put in any more effort to correct the fact or submit themselves to further professional evaluations.

I don’t think an extra 25 minutes would have done a lick of good; the problem isn’t QUANTITY, the problem is QUALITY. What, an extra 25 minutes to continue sub-par teaching? Or will they use the students as scapegoats (as is often done) and have us believe that poor kids (the town is one of the poorest in the state) are just stupid and that where you come from dictates where you go?

Still, the teachers work for the district, not the other way around. They were making hand-over-fist above the town’s average income and by all accounts, were not treated poorly. They cost themselves their jobs by refusing to answer to evaluations that may have uncovered a reason as to why they were having no effect in the classroom – or meet the superintendent’s other reasonable requests.

St. Charles Judge Rick Zerr Ducks Ruling on Homeschooling

I’ve been following the Lisa Payne-Naeger homeschooling case for some time and did not meet or know of Naeger until after her legal battle began. This case is interesting to me not just because it showcases the absolute prejudice I see daily displayed against homeschooling, but because I’m shocked that what I perceive as sexism can still be rooted so deep in this, 2010.

Naeger and her husband were married for 20 years. He is an attorney with a well-paying job. When they met, she had an associate’s degree in graphic art that she obtained 20 years ago. (I don’t have to tell you how much the industry has changed since then.) She put her career aside to stay home, have this man’s children, and allow him to be the power attorney that he is. This decision ended up hurting her in the end.

They decided to homeschool their children from the get-go; the children loved it, thrived in the environment, and during the trial the court found them to be well-educated and well-adjusted. Naeger’s husband had no problem with the set-up until the divorce – because the home-education of the couple’s children, their preferred choice, meant that he might actually have to part with some of his cash in order to assist with its continuance.

The Examiner has a must-read background on Naeger’s case as well as meaning of the verdict,which was delivered on Monday.

As a result, the case became a battle over homeschooling in which Naeger’s children were run through the wringer. Instead of making the case ruling on homeschooling, Zerr decided to grant Naeger final say over the children’s education but absolve her husband of the financial responsibility what would assist with the education of his children. Naeger’s husband makes a lot of money, Naeger does not. It’s my view that she sacrificed herself to make her husband a success, to allow him to put in the hours he needed in order to get where he is, to raise and educate his children, and when he decided that he was finished being a family (as he filed and Naeger, I’m told, did not want the divorce) his obligation to it ended.

This case speaks to me just as much about homeschooling as it does about sexism and the construct of the family. We live in a society where PSA’s preach about the values of family and where women are told to spend more time with their children but our judicial system penalized it in this case.

It’s my opinion that Judge Rick Zerr exploited Naeger’s financial vulnerability as a way to punish her for homeschooling and set her up to fail while protecting her husband from his obligations. I find it sexist and wonder if we can expect continued “friendliness” from St. Charles County towards homeschoolers and women in the future.