Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's For The Good Of The Kids

The salary and benefit cuts, I mean:

BRIDGEWATER -- The 1,360-member Bridgewater Raritan Education Association voted to approve $1.4 million in concessions today, a move that will save 16-full time teaching positions and help soften the blow created by millions of dollars in state-aid cuts to the Bridgewater-Raritan School District.

The BREA did not specify how the give-backs will affect teachers' salaries for the coming school year, but said the teachers and maintenance union agreed to waive $403,000 for tuition reimbursement. Teachers will also pay 1.5 percent of their salaries toward the cost of health benefits next year.

BREA President Steve Beatty said the move was necessary to preserve the quality of education in the district, but blasted Gov. Chris Christie for criticizing the union last week when it appeared contract talks had stalled.

“Our members care about our students and our community,” said Beatty. “It’s unfortunate that the governor’s cuts are requiring the people who work in public schools to make even more concessions than they already have in order to preserve as best we can our excellent public schools.”

“We reject the governor’s attempts to deflect blame for his devastating cuts onto our members,” said Beatty. “He could restore districts' funding just by reinstating the tax on millionaires and dedicating those funds to our public schools.”

Governor Christie can't restore the millionaire's tax - that would hurt the kids, specifically the kids of millionaires as well their wealthy parents.

But teachers have to take salary and benefit cuts or be scapegoated as "hurting the kids..."

This story is from Jersey, but it's coming to a school near you in New York State too once the fall-out from Paterson's budget cuts and failure to pay the districts their state aid hits home.

You can be sure UFT members will be asked to pay for health benefits, take salary cuts or 0% "raises," okay the firing of the ATR's and make other concessions to the city and the state or be scapegoated as selfish, mean-spirited grinches who are "hurting the kids."

You'll note that all of this is happening to schools and school staffs even as Bloomberg hands out $700 million dollar no-bid contracts to crooks and bonuses to city managers while the City Council staff get 4% raises.

Not to mention the billion dollar bonuses Wall Street is handing out with either TARP money or money made from the 0% interest loans Uncle Ben Bernanke and President Accountability have made available through the Federal Reserve ATM machine for Too Big To Fail Institutions like Goldman and Chase.

But we have to give out all these bonuses and no-bid contracts and salary increases to politicians and their staffs while cutting school budgets, cutting school staff, and forcing the ones still around take salary and benefit cuts.

Otherwise the terrorists win. Or something like that.

And most importantly, it's for the good of the kids.

Drill, Baby, Drill

It really feels like Bush never left.

When President Obama signed the health care "reform" law that forces millions of people to buy garbage insurance they won't be able to afford to use and levies an excise tax of 40% on middle and working class people with employer-provided health care plans to do it, he said "This is what change looks like."

I thought "Really - looks more like business as usual at the Bush administration where President Bush forced through the Medicare drug bill giveaway to Big Pharma and called it "reform" too.

Then there's Obama's NCLB re-authorization, NCLB Jr., in which President Accountability is taking the battery of tests Bush first imposed and adding them to every subject in every year. Adequate Yearly Progress measures for schools are gone - now they've been added to teacher evaluations. Teachers must increase the test scores of their students from September to May or risk being fired like President Accountability had all those teachers in Rhode Island fired. NCLB Jr. is a wet dream Bush never could have gotten through a Democratically-controlled Congress but when a Democratic president pushes through Republican policies, Democrats seem to vote for them anyway.

And today the NY Times reports that Obama has decided to drill baby drill:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.

Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border.

The environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska would be protected and no drilling would be allowed under the plan, officials said. But large tracts in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska — nearly 130 million acres — would be eligible for exploration and drilling after extensive studies.


While Mr. Obama has staked out middle ground on other environmental matters — supporting nuclear power, for example — the sheer breadth of the offshore drilling decision will take some of his supporters aback. And it is no sure thing that it will win support for a climate bill from undecided senators close to the oil industry, like Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, or Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana.

The Senate is expected to take up a climate bill in the next few weeks — the last chance to enact such legislation before midterm election concerns take over. Mr. Obama and his allies in the Senate have already made significant concessions on coal and nuclear power to try to win votes from Republicans and moderate Democrats. The new plan now grants one of the biggest items on the oil industry’s wish list — access to vast areas of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling.

But even as Mr. Obama curries favors with pro-drilling interests, he risks a backlash from some coastal governors, senators and environmental advocates, who say that the relatively small amounts of oil to be gained in the offshore areas are not worth the environmental risks.

The Obama administration’s plan adopts some drilling proposals floated by President George W. Bush near the end of his tenure, including opening much of the Atlantic and Arctic Coasts. Those proposals were challenged in court on environmental grounds and set aside by President Obama shortly after he took office.

It's like Bush never left.

Obama seems to relish sticking it to people who voted for him - teachers, environmentalists, health reform advocates.

Apparently the Change We Can Believe in Obama spoke about bringing America was Bush administration policy.

POSTSCRIPT: I should also note that Obama has doubled down on the war in Afghanistan, has kept troop levels in Iraq the same as Bush, swallowed the Bush/Paulson TARP/TALF bailout-plan whole and continued to hand out billions to Too Big To Fail Institutions, and renominated Bush's Fed Head Bernanke to the Federal Reserve.

All very Bush/GOP-friendly policies.

And remind me, did I miss the DADT repeal signing ceremony in the Rose Garden or did that not happen?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Heckuva Job, Barack!

It sure didn't take long for the insurance companies to find the loopholes in Great Leader's new health insurance company giveaway/"reform" measure:

WASHINGTON — Just days after President Obama signed the new health care law, insurance companies are already arguing that, at least for now, they do not have to provide one of the benefits that the president calls a centerpiece of the law: coverage for certain children with pre-existing conditions.

Mr. Obama, speaking at a health care rally in northern Virginia on March 19, said, “Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.”

The authors of the law say they meant to ban all forms of discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, birth defects, orthopedic problems, leukemia, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease. The goal, they say, was to provide those youngsters with access to insurance and to a full range of benefits once they are in a health plan.

To insurance companies, the language of the law is not so clear.

Insurers agree that if they provide insurance for a child, they must cover pre-existing conditions. But, they say, the law does not require them to write insurance for the child and it does not guarantee the “availability of coverage” for all until 2014.

William G. Schiffbauer, a lawyer whose clients include employers and insurance companies, said: “The fine print differs from the larger political message. If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost.”

Congressional Democrats were furious when they learned that some insurers disagreed with their interpretation of the law.

“The concept that insurance companies would even seek to deny children coverage exemplifies why we fought for this reform,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the Senate commerce committee, said: “The ink has not yet dried on the health care reform bill, and already some deplorable health insurance companies are trying to duck away from covering children with pre-existing conditions. This is outrageous.”

It's not outrageous - it's expected. They're insurance companies and they make money by screwing other people out of coverage.

That's how the system works, Senator.

It's called capitalism.

What is outrageous is that you and President Accountability and the rest of the Democrats who voted for the "reform" bill didn't see that the insurance companies would look for, find and exploit these loopholes right from the beginning - literally less than a week after the bill was signed into law.

That's what's outrageous.

What I want to know is, did you and President Accountability see this possibility and pass "reform" for political reasons anyway or are you just fucking stupid?

I'm guessing it's the former, but sometimes when you open your mouths, I think it might be the latter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Accountability Check

Via Cunning Realist, here is a snapshot TODAY IN ECONOMIC HISTORY:

"The impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained."

-Ben Bernanke in congressional testimony, 3/28/07

Gee, how'd that work out?

From what I recall, not well.

Was Mr. Bernanke held accountable for his horrific inability to see the catastrophe he and the boys and girls on the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee helped create by enabling the worst excesses of Wall Street?

Nope - President Accountability renominated him to the Fed.

Heckuva job, Barack!!!!

Subway Crime? What Subway Crime? (Redux)

Mayor Moneybags defended cutting cops and subway employees last week on his radio show, saying that "there is no crime on the subway from a practical sense."

He estimated that there are about 5 crimes a day on the subway, which is great "given that we have five million people that take the subway a day, that is essentially zero."

So according to the mayor, cutting cops and subway employees is not a big deal since the city is the safest it's been since Peter Stuyvesant's day.

Of course that was last week, before the newspapers reported that for 2010 murders are up 23% and shootings up 16%.

I wonder if any of those crimes are happening on the subway and therefore the mayor would be full of shit?

Hey - whattya know - they are and he is:

Two men were killed and another injured after an early morning confrontation on a subway train.

The police responded to a call shortly after 5 a.m. Sunday and found the three men when the train was stopped at the station at Varick and Houston streets.

Two of the men had been stabbed multiple times in the chest and were pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. The third man had been stabbed in the arm and neck and was in stable condition.

Police said the stabbings occurred during a confrontation between two groups. The authorities were searching for those involved.

Now here is a question for Hizzfullofshitness: Would he consider the stabbing deaths of two men and the injury of the third one crime or three?

I bet he considers it just one.

That way, he can have four more crimes take place on the subway during a 24 hour period and technically not be considered full of shit.

Even though he is.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


That's how the Daily News described Judge Lobis's ruling that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein broke the law by closing 19 NYC public schools without following proper procedures as required by the 2009 re-write of the mayoral control law.

Here's how the Times described the judge's ruling:

Justice Lobis, who voided the panel’s decision, said the new law “created a public process with meaningful community involvement regarding the chancellor’s proposals.” The entire mayoral control law, she wrote, “must be enforced, not merely the portion extending mayoral control of the schools.”

Following the law - what a concept! Certainly not a concept Mayor Moneybags is used to, of course, as I will get to in a minute, but it surely is nice to see a court enforce it on a billionaire politician/bully and his corporate minion every once in a while.

The Times says the city argued that yes, they knew they might have not followed the letter of the law, but these schools are "failing" and therefore for the good of the kids and the city they must be closed, law be damned.

The judge did not agree, though the city says they will appeal and we'll have to see where this goes from here.

But even as Bloomberg and Klein were being beaten in the UFT and the NAACP lawsuit against school closures, Klein was going ahead to circumvent the ruling, as noted in this comment thread at Gotham Schools by Leonie Haimson:

Klein appears about to defy the court order by sending out the acceptance letters with none of the closing schools on them, as though the decision never happened; not only should this be barred, but the court ought to throw him in jail for contempt of court.

So even if the city loses an appeal of this decision (or fails to appeal) and these 19 schools remain open, they will die next year because the Klein and the DOE will have made sure no new students apply.

This is of course the m.o. of Bloomberg and Klein - to break the law - both letter and spirit - and not give a shit about the consequences. I think Leonie is right - Klein ought to be tossed in jail for contempt for violating the court order by sending out acceptance letters without the 19 schools that had been slated for enclosure being included.

As for Bloomberg, he's got lawsuit troubles all around. Even as he and Klein were losing the school closures lawsuit, three more women joined a discrimination lawsuit against Bloomberg LP, bringing the total number of women in the lawsuit to 79.

Moneybags himself has been named as a defendant in the case and will have to testify about the "culture of discrimination" he and other top management at Bloomberg LP created against women.

That culture of discrimination includes firing female employees seeking maternity leave with management making comments like "I'm not having any pregnant bitches working for me" or Bloomberg himself telling a top saleswoman who alerted him to her pregnancy that she should "Kill it!" if she wanted to continue working at Bloomberg LP.

This culture of discrimination and misogyny at Bloomberg LP is not new, of course. Nor is Bloomberg's own contempt for the law.

Bloomberg and his company had been hit with numerous discrimination complaints even before Moneybags bought his first mayoral term.

Here is how Wayne Barrett wrote that story up in October 2001:

In a 1998, 272-page deposition never before made public, Michael Bloomberg said he would believe a rape charge only if it was supported by "an unimpeachable third-party" witness, and accused an ex-employee who said she'd been raped by a Bloomberg executive of "extortion." Asked if he believed "false claims of rape are common," the GOP mayoral contender and CEO of a vast financial-information empire replied: "I don't have an opinion." [Read excerpts.]

Bloomberg's comments are drawn from one of three sexual harassment lawsuits that have dogged him since 1996, all of which contended that "a hostile environment of persistent sexual harassment and the general degradation of women" existed at the 8000-employee company of the same name that Bloomberg founded and ran. In addition to his uninformed testimony about rape, Bloomberg also displayed a chilly indifference to sexual harassment laws and guidelines during the deposition. Bloomberg declined to discuss these issues with the Voice,though a company spokeswoman insisted it has "zero tolerance" for harassment or rape. While the rape case of sales representative Mary Ann Olszewski has been mentioned in occasional news accounts, it has not attracted as much attention as a companion case filed by Sekiko Garrison, another member of the predominantly female, and usually young, attractive, and short-skirted sales force.


The company settled the Garrison case, without admitting wrongdoing, for what the Voicehas learned was "a very high six-figure" amount, making it appear more credible than Olszewski's, which was dismissed by a federal judge in 1999. But a closer examination of the Olszewski record reveals that the dismissal had nothing to do with the merits of the case—her lawyer had ignored repeated deadlines to submit a response to a motion to end the case. Indeed, a new lawyer revived the case in 2000, allowing it to mysteriously disappear from the court docket just as Bloomberg's mayoral candidacy emerged earlier this year.

While Olszewski, then 28, claimed she was forced out of her job shortly after making the rape charge in a May 25, 1995, meeting, the accused rapist, Bryan Lewis, who was Olszewski's immediate supervisor, remained in a top position throughout the litigation. Court records also indicate that the company conducted a wide-ranging investigation of Olszewski, attempting to get coworkers to portray her as "flirtatious" or a "sex hound." On the other hand, attorneys for Lewis and the company successfully thwarted repeated attempts by Olszewski to determine if the company was paying Lewis's personal legal bills, and the company declined the question now.


Though Bloomberg testified that he "became aware" of the allegation "instantly" after she told Louis Eccleston, the head of the company's 500-member sales force, he said all he did about it was "ascertain that we had commenced the appropriate investigative process and were treating all parties appropriately." The investigation eventually resulted in a 60-page report on Olszewski that company attorneys refused to turn over in the litigation. But one sales staffer questioned during the probe, Michael Medd, said in a phone conversation secretly taped by an Olszewski ally that he'd been asked three times to provide "reputation" information about her.

"I don't think she was very provocative, and I keep telling them I'm not going to change my words," said Medd, who complained at the time that the company was pressing him for the name of a client who could provide a "bad character portrayal" of Olszewski. Said Medd: "I don't think she was a sleep-around person." Bloomberg said in his deposition that he recalls "some discussion as to her relationships with clients, but I don't remember the specific situation," adding that his knowledge of this was "nothing other than to ensure that we were making the appropriate investigations."

Bloomberg took the position that Olszewski's refusal to cooperate with the internal probe—combined with the fact that she didn't raise the issue until two years after the alleged incident—made him "skeptical" of her allegation. He never spoke to either Olszewski or Lewis about the charge—though he testified he "knew" Lewis and "could vaguely picture" the tall, statuesque Olszewski—and admitted he neither read anything about rape nor consulted rape experts when the charge surfaced. The company first published a handbook with a section about sexual harassment procedures in 1996, after both the Olszewski and Garrison charges surfaced.

In his deposition, Bloomberg conceded that the most the company offered to do was to transfer Olszewski out of Lewis's unit, meaning she would still be working on the same wide-open sales floor, without any offices or partitions, as Lewis, who was regarded as a powerful figure within the department. Asked why the company didn't offer to move Lewis, Bloomberg said: "He seemed content with where he was." Lewis was not Olszewski's supervisor at the time of the alleged rape in 1993, but became her boss shortly afterwards, a sequence that assumed great importance in Bloomberg's deposition. Though Lewis was a senior executive within Olszewski's department, Bloomberg said it was only a violation of company policy if supervisors had sex with subordinates who "reported" to them.

Barrett revisited the sexual harassment/discrimination story in 2005, reported on six separate sexual/racial discrimination cases against Bloomberg and noted that he threw lots of money around to buy silence. Barrett writes that we will never know the full stories in these cases because they have all been settled out of court and the ex-employees all have signed "confidentiality agreements," but that voters should know that there is a dark side to Bloomberg:

The six sagas here are both unsettling and incomplete. The confidentiality blanket that covers them gives each episode a powerfully suggestive aura short of definitive fact, but the cumulative picture that emerges is one of a corporate Bloomberg awash in unusual personnel problems either connected to his own unhinged repartee or his company's insensitive policies.

Why do I bring up the current E.E.O.C. discrimination case against Bloomberg LP and the past cases against both Bloomberg himself and his company in a post about the school closures lawsuit?

Because they show a pattern here of a very nasty and very powerful bully with a contempt for the law, a contempt for women, and a contempt for common decency. They also show his willingness to throw his money around to circumvent the law and destroy enemies. Notice how he had management try and portray the woman bringing the rape charge against one of his top managers as a "sex hound" and "flirtatious." Notice how they told employees to lie about her and change their stories so she could be sufficiently depicted as promiscuous. Also notice how Bloomberg bankrolled the legal fees of his accused manager and how the suit "mysteriously disappeared" right before Bloomberg began his mayoral run in 2001.

This is classic Bloomberg behavior and it is behavior he has brought from the private sector to the public.

Bloomberg's treatment of women at his company, the culture of discrimination and contempt he helped create and indeed even fostered is the very same contempt and discrimination he has for those of us in public education, both male and female. Perhaps it's because he sees education as a "feminine sphere," perhaps it's because he's just used to getting his way in all things, but the connection between telling an employee to "kill" her baby and telling Klein to "kill" a bunch of schools every year, no matter the circumstance, are connected.

You see, in Bloomberg's mind, whatever he wants is always "right" and anybody who doesn't see it that way must be destroyed. He's been getting his way with this for a very long time now, but that just may be coming to an end. As I wrote above, we'll have to see how the school closures lawsuit shakes out and we'll have to see how the E.E.O.C. lawsuit plays out, but lately Bloomberg is not getting his way 100% of the time in these matters. I do hope the schools remain open, that Klein and Bloomberg are not allowed to manipulate the finding of the case, keep students from applying to those schools and closing them next year anyway. I also hope the 79 women in the E.E.O.C. lawsuit against Bloomberg and his company get their day in court and beat him for millions. Bloomberg is wily enough to not have a Captain Queeg moment on the stand, but it still would be nice to get him up there and force him to address the "kill it!" remark and the other acts of misogyny he either took part in ("I'd do her!") or condoned at Bloomberg LP.

It would be nice if people outside of the public school system got to know Michael Bloomberg the way the women at Bloomberg LP and the teachers and administrators in the DOE know him.

That would be the most stunning thing of all.

Friday, March 26, 2010

So That's Where The Money Is!

Chancellor Klein says he needs to layoff 8,500 teachers because his budget shortfall is so large.

But Juan Gonzalez in today's News informs us the city is wasting millions in fees and salaries for a failed payroll system that the mayor says has been a "disaster":

The city is paying some 230 "consultants" an average salary of $400,000 a year for a computer project that is seven years behind schedule and vastly over budget.

The payments continue despite Mayor Bloomberg's admission the computerized timekeeping and payroll system - called CityTime - is "a disaster."

Eleven CityTime consultants rake in more than $600,000 annually, with three of them making as much as $676,000, city records obtained under a Freedom of Information request show.

The 40 highest-paid people on the project bill taxpayers at least $500,000 a year. These enormous salaries are coming out of a $139 million extension to the CityTime contract that began July 1 and runs to Sept. 30.

Gonzalez says some of these "consultants" have been working for as long as ten years at these kinds of salaries.

Nice work if you can get it.

At any rate, there we have $139 million the city could take from paying these crooks at CityTime and use for schools.

See how easy this is getting more money for schools and less money for Bloomberg's no-bid contract cronies?

In addition, the City Council has raised its budget for this year by $52 million - that includes 4% raises for staff.

4% raises when every other agency is being asked to cut between 2.7% and 7% of their budget?

Seems to me we could look at whatever Quinn and Company are doing with the money they're doling out at the City Council, make some cuts, and start spending it on education.

Let's say we reduce the raises to 2% and return $26 million to education.

Now we have restored a total of $165 million to education.

See how easy this really is?

When you really don't want to lay people off and you want to find productive solutions to problems - including budget shortfalls - you can.

But Bloomberg and Klein do not want to do that.

Rather, like Obama is using the financial crisis to remake/privatize public education through rttT and NCLB Jr, Bloomberg and Klein want to use the fiscal crisis here in NYC to redo the contract, gut seniority protections and start laying off all those "bad" (i.e., expensive, veteran teachers.)

I'm sure John Podesta, Evan Thomas and the wankers at Morning Joe would approve.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

Hey, look who just got lawyered up:

Embattled Senate President Malcolm Smith has hired prominent criminal defense lawyer Gerald Shargel to help him deal with mounting investigations.

Shargel, whose Web bio says he focuses only on "the defense of serious criminal cases," was hired two weeks ago amid a U.S. attorney probe into New Direction, a nonprofit founded by Smith and Rep. Gregory Meeks.

Shargel is also aiding Smith with a state inspector general probe into the ill-fated Aqueduct race track racino project.

Maybe Smith's defense attorney can help defend him over allegations he steered a charter school he founded to some land owned by a political donor/real estate developer too.

It will be a pleasure to see Smith frog-marched out of Albany in handcuffs and tossed in jail.

Maybe he can share a cell with Bernie Kerik.

Given the number of investigations currently being conducted on Smith, it seems like it will only be a matter of time before the frog-march is a done-deal.

Say What?

Miss Eyre points out that while Chancellor Klein is talking all doomsday about having to lay off 8,500 teachers and how the state better allow him to choose which ones go or lots of really good, new teachers are going to lose their jobs and lots of old, burnt out ones will be teaching all the kids he's actually hiring new teachers.

Uh, huh.

And while the Center for American Progress rewrites a Gates Foundation pamphlet
about how teacher effectiveness must be the cornerstone of education reform and how layoffs need to be based on evaluation of effectiveness and not seniority, they fail to note that in most districts the bottom line will prevail and the oldest and highest paid teachers will be laid off first regardless of effectiveness.

After all, Klein's already doing this here in NYC by hiring new teachers even as he's getting ready to lay off thousands.

In a corporatocracy, the bottom line will ALWAYS prevail.

That's what unions are supposed to protect against.

The problem is not when a corporate whore like Klein wants to derail these protections - you kinda expect that from a parasite like him.

The problem is when supposedly "progressive" think tanks like the Center for American Progress carry water for him and Bloomberg and write stories like "Improve Education, Fire Bad Teachers."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Crime? What Crime?

This is a few days old, but it's still emblematic of the War is Peace/Ignorance is Knowledge era we live in:

Subway crime doesn't exist!

That's the claim Mayor Bloomberg made on WOR radio Friday, saying "there is no crime on the subway from a practical sense."

Bloomberg, a frequent 6-train commuter, was responding to a question about whether crime would increase if the MTA cuts 450 token booth clerks as planned.

He estimated there are five crimes a day on subways - "given that we have five million people that take the subway a day, that is essentially zero."

He credited the NYPD and transit workers for keeping subways safe - even though the Daily News reported this week that cops are handing out fewer fare-evasion tickets even as officials say more riders are beating fares.

The cash-strapped MTA is threatening to cut the clerks to save money, a move Bloomberg defended.

"You can say, 'Well let's not cut that.' Excuse me, what do you want to cut?" he said.

Like they say in the Wizard of Oz, you just have to believe!

And keep repeating so you keep believing!

There's no crime on the subway, there's no crime on the subway!

See? Wasn't that easy?

Now repeat after me - graduation rates and test scores are, graduation rates and test scores are up!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Duncan Part Of Corruption Probe In Chicago

Not a surprise:

When U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan ran Chicago Public Schools, his office quietly kept a log of elected officials and others seeking to help kids win admission to the most coveted schools in the system, a former top Duncan aide said Monday.

That list has now come under the scrutiny of both federal officials and the schools inspector general as part of a probe of whether clout played a role in admissions to Chicago's elite schools, sources said.

Calls listed on the annual "logs'' included anyone who contacted the schools CEO's office seeking help in placing a student, such as a parent concerned about their child's safety, said David Pickens, who was a top assistant to Duncan and is now chief of staff to the president of the Board of Education.

But the logs also held the names of elected officials, "a lot of aldermen,'' businessmen, local school council members and Board of Education employees who wanted to get kids into selective enrollment or magnet schools, Pickens said.

One year's log, for example, lists a state senator, a former U.S. senator and a top official in Mayor Daley's administration, sources told the Sun-Times.

I doubt this particular revelation will do Duncan in, but if they keep digging...

Meanwhile, here in NY, I don't see why Malcolm Smith isn't in jail yet:
The phalanx of drab trailers ringed by a chain-link fence in a desolate corner of Queens looks more like a prison than a charter school.

The cramped Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School has no science lab, no gymnasium, no playground and no on-site kitchen. Hot meals are trucked in from 3 miles away, and the school's 300 students dodge cars just to reach the front door.

Only two years ago, the charter school founded by Senate President Malcolm Smith was housed inside a spacious public school 3 miles away in Far Rockaway.

The official reason for the relocation was "increased enrollment" - but the Daily News has learned Peninsula Preparatory Academy was moved to land owned and under development by one of Smith's top campaign donors.

Queens developer Benjamin Companies is in a partnership building homes near the school - and started using Peninsula as a selling point to hawk the seaside residences.

While the move may benefit the developer, it certainly didn't help students wedged inside the too-small trailers - with no end in sight.

Smith says the school moving to the current prison-like location had nothing to do with the land it's on being owned by a political donor/real estate developer.

Sure it doesn't.

And Duncan's office says Duncan wasn't using the log of elected officials and other important contacts as a way of keeping track of/handing out political favors.

Sure he wasn't.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Who Knew?

What I have learned from the media today is that mandating people without health insurance to buy crappy, expensive private insurance or risk having the IRS audit them and paying for the program with a 40% excise tax on people with employer-provided health care are the greatest things to happen in Washington since the Civil Rights Act.

I guess Great Leader really does walk on water.

McCain: We Will Not Work With Obama or Dems On Anything

Not sure how this is any different from what has been happening in Washington, but I'll post it anyway because I think it gives some insight into what can happen on education deform for the rest of the year:

Democrats shouldn't expect much cooperation from Republicans the rest of this year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned Monday.

McCain and another Republican senator decried the effect health reform legislation has had on the Senate, a day after the House passed the upper chamber's bill.

GOP senators emerged Monday to warn that the health debate had taken a toll on the institution, and warning of little work between parties the rest of this year.

"There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year," McCain said during an interview Monday on an Arizona radio affiliate. "They have poisoned the well in what they've done and how they've done it."

The Senate is set to take up a bill under budget reconciliation rules that would make a series of changes to its larger health bill, which the House passed Sunday night and President Barack Obama expects to sign into law on Tuesday.

During the months of debate, Republicans have claimed they have been shut out of the process. Democrats, for their part, had invited some GOP participation in the debate, but said that many of the Republican ideas on the bill were meant to be dilatory, if not outright "obstructionist."

Cooperation between parties usually isn't paramount in election years like 2010, with senators jockeying for campaign positioning. But some GOP members said the character of the Senate had changed by virtue of the process used on the health bill.

So maybe we have the answer to the question I asked in this post, which was: Now that HCR has passed, will Repubs feel pressure to help pass something else Obama wants so as not to be tarred as the "Do Nothing Party" in '10, and if so, does this mean they'll work with Obama and pro-deform eduwankers on NCLB Jr.

Sounds like they're pissed and not ready to do anything with Dems and Obama.

If Repubs vote en masse against every Obama/Dem measure leading up to the November midterms, Democrats would have to win over nearly member of the caucus on ed deform.

In my estimation, that makes Obama's NCLB Jr. blueprint more difficult to pass before the November midterms.

There is enough in there to scare just enough Dems away - the anti-teacher/anti-union stuff which will scare off some Dems who need union support, the additional federalizing of policy and mandates which will scare off some Dems in purple districts, the huge price tag ($4 billion - but only if you do "reform" your state policies to the liking of Obama and Duncan) - that I think "reform" will be put off until after the November 2010 election.

And then what? Hard to know, but if the economy tanks again, as is expected after the Federal reserve raises interest rates and the stimulus money fades away, there isn't going to be a whole lot of support to put $4 billion into public education. And I have a hard time seeing Dems in Congress pass unfunded mandates (though you never know.)

Plus we may be talking about Speaker Boehner running the joint by next January. That surely would change the reform equation, though to what it is hard to know. Obviously Repubs are pro-charter, pro-privatization and anti-union, but if they're pushing the measures, will Dems go along (right now, Dems go along because Obama is pushing them)?

We'll see.

The Great Health Insurance Company Giveaway of 2010

The papers this morning are all abuzz with the president's victory getting health care reform passed through both the House and the Senate and readied for him to sign into law (actually the Senate work still has to be done but it is considered a fait accompli.)

Over the top rhetoric about how Obama is now one of the greatest presidents in American history abound (see here) and make no mistake, that was what this fight was about.

Obama's ego, that is.

But this wasn't really about reforming health care or expanding it to everybody in the country.

Because this isn't a great law, it's certainly not monumental reform and it isn't any earth shattering new way of going about health care in the U.S.

In fact, it doesn't even provide universal coverage.

What it does do is cause more harm than good.

It perpetuates the power of the insurance industry, it mandates people buy bad coverage or get nailed on their taxes for an extra 2%, it funds the bill with an excise tax on people with employer-provided health care plans who will soon lose those plans when employers don't want to pay the 40% tax and it leaves millions of people uninsured anyway.

Here is, in full, Jane Hamsher's fine myth-busting piece about HCR from Huffingtonpost.

It is a must read:

Myth 1: This is a universal health care bill.

Fact: The bill is neither universal health care nor universal health insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office:

  • Total uninsured in 2019 with no bill: 54 million

  • Total uninsured in 2019 with Senate bill: 24 million

Myth 2: Insurance companies hate this bill.

Fact: This bill is almost identical to the plan written by AHIP, the insurance company trade association, in 2009.
The original Senate Finance Committee bill was authored by a former Wellpoint vice president. Since Congress released the first of its health care bills on October 30, 2009, health care stocks have risen 28.35%.

Myth 3: The bill will significantly bring down insurance premiums for most Americans.

Fact: The bill will not bring down premiums significantly, and certainly not the $2,500/year that President Obama promised during his campaign.

Annual premiums in 2016: status quo / with bill:
Small group market, single: $7,800 / $7,800
Small group market, family: $19,3oo / $19,200
Large Group market, single: $7,400 / $7,300
Large group market, family: $21,100 / $21,300
Individual market, single: $5,500 / $5,800
Individual market, family: $13,100 / $15,200

(The cost of premiums in the individual market goes up somewhat due to subsidies and mandates of better coverage. The CBO assumes that cost of individual policies goes down 7-10%, and that people will buy more generous policies.)

Myth 4: The bill will make health care affordable for middle class Americans.

Fact: The bill will impose a financial hardship on middle class Americans who will be forced to buy a product that they can't afford to use.

A family of four making $66,370 will be forced to pay $5,243 per year for insurance. After basic necessities, this leaves them with $8,307 in discretionary income -- out of which they would have to cover clothing, credit card and other debt, child care and education costs, in addition to $5,882 in annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for which families will be responsible.

Myth 5: This plan is similar to the Massachusetts plan, which makes health care affordable.

Fact: Many Massachusetts residents forgo health care because they can't afford it. A 2009 study by the state of Massachusetts found that:

  • 21% of residents forgo medical treatment because they can't afford it, including 12% of children

  • 18% have health insurance but can't afford to use it

Myth 6: This bill provides health care to 31 million people who are currently uninsured.

Fact: This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. Some will be assisted with government subsidies.

Myth 7: You can keep the insurance you have if you like it.

Fact: The excise tax will result in employers switching to plans with higher co-pays and fewer covered services.
Older, less healthy employees with employer-based health care will be forced to pay much more in out-of-pocket expenses than they do now.

Myth 8: The "excise tax" will encourage employers to reduce the scope of health care benefits, and they will pass the savings on to employees in the form of higher wages.

Fact: There is insufficient evidence that employers pass savings from reduced benefits on to employees.

Myth 9: This bill employs nearly every cost control idea available to bring down costs.

Fact: This bill does not bring down costs and leaves out nearly every key cost control measure, including:

  • Public Option ($25-$110 billion)

  • Medicare buy-in

  • Drug re-importation ($19 billion)

  • Medicare drug price negotiation ($300 billion)

  • Shorter pathway to generic biologics ($71 billion)

Myth 10: The bill will require big companies like Wal-Mart to provide insurance for their employees.

Fact: The bill was written so that most Wal-Mart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage.

Myth 11: The bill "bends the cost curve" on health care.

Fact: "Bends the cost curve" is a misleading and trivial claim, as the U.S. would still spend far more for care than other advanced countries.

  • In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP.

  • Annual cost of health care in 2019, status quo: $4,670.6 billion (20.8% of GDP)

  • Annual cost of health care in 2019, Senate bill: $4,693.5 billion (20.9% of GDP)

Myth 12: The bill will provide immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition.

Fact: Access to the "high risk pool" is limited and the pool is underfunded. Only those who have been uninsured for more than six months will qualify for the high-risk pool. Only 0.7% of those without insurance now will get coverage, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report estimates it will run out of funding by 2011 or 2012.

Myth 13: The bill prohibits dropping people in individual plans from coverage when they get sick.

Fact: The bill does not empower a regulatory body to keep people from being dropped when they're sick. There are already many states that have laws on the books prohibiting people from being dropped when they're sick, but without an enforcement mechanism, there is little to hold the insurance companies in check.

Myth 14: The bill ensures consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to challenge new insurance plan decisions.

Fact: The "internal appeals process" is in the hands of the insurance companies themselves, and the "external" one is up to each state.

Ensuring that consumers have access to "internal appeals" simply means the insurance companies have to review their own decisions. And it is the responsibility of each state to provide an "external appeals process," as there is neither funding nor a regulatory mechanism for enforcement at the federal level.

Myth 15: This bill will stop insurance companies from hiking rates 30%-40% per year.

Fact: This bill does not limit insurance company rate hikes. Private insurers continue to be exempt from anti-trust laws, and are free to raise rates without fear of competition in many areas of the country.

Myth 16: When the bill passes, people will begin receiving benefits under this bill immediately

Fact: Most provisions in this bill, such as an end to the ban on pre-existing conditions for adults, do not take effect until 2014.

Six months from the date of passage, children could not be excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions, though insurance companies could charge more to cover them. Children would also be allowed to stay on their parents' plans until age 26. There will be an elimination of lifetime coverage limits, a high risk pool for those who have been uninsured for more than 6 months, and community health centers will start receiving money.

Myth 17: The bill creates a pathway for single payer.

Fact: Bernie Sanders' provision in the Senate bill does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, so no, it doesn't create a pathway for single payer.

Obama told Dennis Kucinich that the Ohio Representative's amendment is similar to Bernie Sanders' provision in the Senate bill, and creates a pathway to single payer. Since the waiver does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, it is nearly impossible to see how it gets around the ERISA laws that stand in the way of any practical state single payer system.

Myth 18: The bill will end medical bankruptcy and provide all Americans with peace of mind.

Fact: Most people with medical bankruptcies already have insurance, and out-of-pocket expenses will continue to be a burden on the middle class.

  • In 2009, 1.5 million Americans declared bankruptcy

  • Of those, 62% were medically related

  • Three-quarters of those had health insurance

  • The Obama bill leaves 24 million without insurance

  • The maximum yearly out-of-pocket limit for a family will be $11,900 (PDF) on top of premiums

  • A family with serious medical problems that last for a few years could easily be financially crushed by medical costs

Real health care reform is needed. But this bill falls short of that on many levels.

The news stories today are almost all "process" stories - Obama did it, he brought monumental change, blah, blah, blah. They are wrong on so many levels, it's not even funny, because as we can see from Hamsher's piece, the only real change in the bill is how people will now be MANDATED to buy insurance they cannot afford to use.

We will have to put up with a few weeks of Obama and Rahm and the rest strutting like cocks in the barnyard. But after that, it will be interesting to see if people actually LIKE what is in the bill. There are a few good things - like the pre-existing conditions clause and extending coverage to kids past 21, but even those have loopholes the insurance companies can drive bull dozers through.

So at the end of the day, when people realize that if they already have insurance, they're going to end up paying more for coverage or lose it completely (that's Obama's "cost containment initiatives" - have people with expensive health care coverage provided through employers lose their coverage or have employers choose cheaper plans for them) while those without it are going to be mandated to buy a pretty shitty policy they cannot afford to use or get nailed with an extra 2% on their taxes, we'll see if Obama and Rahm still feel like cocks at the walk.

POSTSCRIPT: Dunno what this means for NCLB Jr. It is possible Obama builds momentum with this victory, Repubs decide they want to do something bipartisan so they cannot be tarred as the Do-Nothing Party and make a deal with Obama and pro-deform Dems to pass the president's blueprint into law.

It is also possible they decide they cannot give Obama anything and decide en masse to vote against NCLB Jr. (there are plausible policy reasons they could give - it costs too much, it cedes too much federal control from the states, etc.)

It is also possible that all the bruised feelings from the arm twisting Rahm and Obama and company had to do to pass HCR will leave many Dems, particularly ones in purple districts, less open to future arm twisting on either immigration reform or NCLB Jr.

We'll see. Public opinion on what is in the HCR bill matters. Nobody knows because the process has been so screwed up and complex. But if Repubs can win a message war on the mandates (and Jane Hamsher thinks that is where the next battle will be fought with this), it is very possible that Obama and Dems will be more weakened by the passage of the Great Health Insurance Giveaway of 2010.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why Aren't You In Saturday School, You LAZY BASTARDS???!!!!"

It's 11:06 on a Saturday morning, I am sitting in front of my computer typing up this blog post, drinking coffee, listening to Siouxsie Sioux's solo album Mantaray, doing some laundry and getting ready to go outside and enjoy the nice weather.

But Chester Finn and the Wall Street Journal say "Not so fast, you lazy American! It's Saturday and you should be working at your school, teaching children how to prepare for standardized tests instead of enjoying time off!!!"

And of course they say the same thing about time off in the summer too.

It's unpatriotic, it's harmful to the individual and the country as a whole, and of course it hurts the kids:

In the face of budget shortfalls, school districts in many parts of the United States today are moving toward four-day weeks. This is despite evidence that longer school weeks and years can improve academic performance. Schoolchildren in China attend school 41 days a year more than most young Americans—and receive 30% more hours of instruction. Schools in Singapore operate 40 weeks a year. Saturday classes are the norm in Korea and other Asian countries—and Japanese authorities are having second thoughts about their 1998 decision to cease Saturday-morning instruction. This additional time spent learning is one big reason that youngsters from many Asian nations routinely out-score their American counterparts on international tests of science and math.

Some U.S. schools have figured this out. Those that boast extraordinary success with poor and minority youngsters typically surround them, like Mesopotamians, with learning from dawn to dusk. The celebrated Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a network of over 80 charter schools around the country, subjects its middle-schoolers to 60% more instructional time than the typical public school—including eight- to 10-hour days, Saturday morning classes and abbreviated summer breaks.


Our deeper problem is the enormous amount of time that typical American schools spend on gym, recess, lunch, assembly, changing classes, homeroom, lining up to go to the art room, looking at movies, writing down homework assignments, quieting the classroom, celebrating this or that holiday, and other pursuits. It's not all wasted time but neither are these minutes spent in ways that boost test scores, enhance college-readiness or deepen pupils' understanding of literature, geography or algebra.

Visit a KIPP school or another high-performance institution and you find that a big reason for the longer day is that it accommodates these nonacademic pursuits without sacrificing the instructional core. They tolerate remarkably little wasted time, particularly in the classroom setting. Their teachers squander minimal class time on discipline challenges or distributing and collecting materials. They systematically deliver lessons that are carefully planned and structured—and youngsters who need additional help to understand something get it later, sometimes in the evening via the teacher's cellphone, so that the entire class doesn't need to pause for an explanation.

Longer school days and years also aid working parents; for many of them, 2:30 dismissal times and three-month summer breaks are more burden than benefit. And the more time kids spend in safe schools, the less time they have to go astray at home or in the neighborhood.


Which brings us back to high-performance schools, institutions that commandeer far more than 9% of their students' lives and use the extra time to accomplish three things: more hours to imbibe important skills and knowledge; fewer hours outside school to waste or get into trouble; and a de facto culture transplant, wrought by dynamic teachers who instill in their young charges the college aspirations, appreciation of learning, good behavior and orderly habits that are too often missing from homes and neighborhoods.

Disadvantaged youngsters really need—for their own good—the benefits of longer days, summer classes and Saturday mornings in school. But nearly every young American needs to learn more than most are learning today, both for the sake of their own prospects and on behalf of the nation's competitiveness in a shrinking, dog-eat-dog world. Yes, it will disrupt everything from school-bus schedules to family vacations. Yes, it will carry some costs, at least until we eke offsetting savings from the technology-in-education revolution. But even Aristotle might conclude that this is a price worth paying.

Wow - so much to unpack here.

First, let us note the explicit assumption and Hobbesian world view that the only experiences children should have are ones that lead to increasing their own and the "nation's competitiveness in a shrinking, dog-eat-dog world."

Next, let us note Mr Finn' s assumption that time outside school is "wasted" or an opportunity to "get into trouble." Indeed, even recess, changing classes or eating lunch is a waste of valuable test preparation time.

Let us also note that Mr. Finn sees that parents are already working 10 hour days and are exhausted from all that work on weekends so why not help them out by keeping the kids in school 60 hours a week, allowing Americans to work longer and harder without the "burden" of having to interact with their kids or have a family life outside of work/school.

Finally, while Mr. Finn sells his 60 hour school weeks/all-year round school years on the idea that this will help the American economy, what he fails too see is that 75% of the American economy runs on consumption of things, including stuff that gets consumed on evenings, weekends, and family vacations, so the short case scenario (and perhaps even the long-term one) for a country that no longer produces or manufactures anything but entertainment opportunities that tries to turn the school year into a Spartan dawn to dusk, year-round Race to the Top extravaganza would be economic disaster. After all, somebody's got to buy all those video games, watch all that mindless television, eat all that junk food, and play all that miniature golf.

And what would turning the American education system to a Spartan dawn to dusk, year-round Race to the Top extravaganza do the emotional lives of Americans, which have already been severely diminished in our alienated post-modern society which only privileges the pursuit of material wealth and consumption of bigger, better, newer goods.

Yikes - how anyone who is actually human could listen to this jive Finn and the WSJ is selling without laughing at them in disdain and mocking them accordingly is beyond me.

Simply put, they are looking to turn the clock back to a time when people had to work from dawn until dusk to survive their short, painful, miserable existences.

They want to bring back the days of feudalism when the vast majority of humans were owned by their lords and lived and worked solely to enrich the powerful.

This time around, the top 1% are the lords of the manor and the chains they are using to enslave us is debt and the threat of globalism.

Better work longer and harder or the Chinese will own us!!!

I'm so old, I can remember when they used to say that about the Japanese.

Better work longer and harder or you want be able to afford to purchase the latest, greatest toys and technology.

Never mind that despite all the toys and technology we have these days, Americans are the unhappiest they have been in a long, long time because the quality of their relationships and the amount of time they have to do things for themselves and their families has diminished as work hours has increased. Interestingly enough as work time has increased, so has alienation, loneliness, addictions and an overall dissatisfaction with life.

But I digress from the point, which is that Mr. Finn is a dehumanized soulless blowhard who wants to ensure that the rest of us are as empty and soulless as he.

And he wants to do this by having us work so long and so hard for the whole year through so that we have no idea whether we are coming or going and no idea whether this is the kind of society we actually want to live in.

Because we always could change what we value and privilege - we don't HAVE to value and privilege consumption and material wealth over everything else.

There are such things as family, friendship, community, spiritual growth, emotional awareness, and intellectual pursuits that are NOT part of a breathless Race to the Top competition where only the strong survive in a dog-eat-dog world.

But to get to that kind of world, we have to treat Finn, the WSJ, Bloomberg, Obama, Duncan, Klein, Gates, Broad, Jobs and the rest of the corporate whoredom with disdain and mockery as the soulless empty vessels they are.

And we have to vote with our money and our time.

We have to take back both these things from the vast corporatocracy that currently runs everything.

There are already some movements to do just this - the Take Back Your Time movement and various Simple Living movements.

Interestingly enough, these movements appeal to people on both right and left who are sick of our post-modern corporate culture and economy - sick of them for different reasons, to be sure, but nonetheless sick of them.

So we can fight the Finns and Bloombergs and Obamas of the world.

But we have to start now.

BTW, the Siouxsie album is done and I'm on to a Joe Strummer and the Mescalero's boot from 2002.

They're covering Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall."

I'm holding out hope that Mr. Cliff and Mr. Strummer are right.

And now I'm off to enjoy the nice weather, Thomas Hobbes, Chester Finn and the Kipsters be damned.

Friday, March 19, 2010

You Get What You Vote For

100% cuts for some New Jersey school districts:

Fifty-nine of New Jersey’s wealthiest school districts would receive no direct state aid for their operations next year — in effect, a 100 percent cut — under the governor’s proposed budget, according to state figures released on Wednesday.

The state would seek to reduce direct aid to nearly 600 districts by an amount equivalent to as much as 5 percent of their individual operating budgets, for an overall reduction of $820 million from the year before. The education cuts were revealed in detail for the first time since being proposed on Tuesday by Gov. Christopher J. Christie as part of his $29.3 billion budget plan.

For wealthier districts like Ridgewood, Millburn and Glen Ridge, that would mean losing the direct state aid that they receive for their classrooms — a relatively small percentage of their operating budget — forcing them to rely almost exclusively on local property taxes.


Large urban districts like Newark and Camden stand to lose the most actual dollars, though they would continue to receive a hefty share of state money to support their schools, many of whom serve poor and minority students.

The proposed cuts sent superintendents and school boards scrambling to rework their district budgets, which are to be submitted to the state for review next Monday. School budget votes are scheduled for April 20.

Many districts were already reeling from a $475 million reduction in direct state aid last month as part of Mr. Christie’s campaign to close a $2.2 billion budget deficit in the current fiscal year. “It’s a double whammy,” said Richard G. Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

Jim O’Neill, superintendent of the Chathams, a district whose state aid would drop 86 percent, to $408,000, said it would probably have to reduce spending on building maintenance and improvements, charge student fees for extracurricular activities and, as last resorts, lay off teachers and school staff members, increase class sizes and pare high school electives.

“It’s disappointing because it means that people who have been supporting the local school district budget through their property taxes to the tune of 94 percent are now going to have that increase to 99 percent,” he said.

Christie, who is a crook (see here, here, and here) and a hypocrite (he's a "law and order" guy for other people, not so much for himself), seems to delight in cutting budgets, slashing pensions, laying off state workers, and just being an all-around dick.

On the other hand, he is cutting a tax on people who make over $400,000 a year because wealthy people pay too much in taxes.

Got that - school budgets cut by 100%, pension fund underfunded once again, state workers laid off, but wealthy people get a tax cut.

You get what you vote for and New Jersey voted for this bully.

Now they will pay for it.

Except for those making over $400,000 a year of course.

They get a tax cut.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Coat Of Varnish Off The Obama Education Proposal?

Obama and Duncan want to turn Title 1 funding and many other education grants into a yearly Race to the Top competition. Edweek says some in Congress sound skeptical of the wisdom of that:

The administration’s budget proposal would essentially flat-fund Title I grants, transform several other formula streams into competitive programs, and cut the Title II teacher-quality state grants by $500 million. It would also consolidate 38 smaller programs into a number of new competitive programs.


For their part, lawmakers on the panel generally gave few clues about whether they were inclined to follow the administration’s proposal. They chose instead to focus most of their queries not on the upcoming budget cycle, but on the impact of the 2009 economic-stimulus legislation.

But subcommittee Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., in his sole reference to the 2011 budget cycle, expressed skepticism about moving ahead with reform proposals amid a battered economy.

“While the sailboat is sinking, I wouldn’t be concerned with putting another coat of varnish on it,” he said. “At a time when districts are in big trouble because of the economic situation in the country, to be focused as much as we are on the reform aspects of the administration’s budget is a mistake.”

The unions are hitting back heavy against both the funding proposals and the new testing and data collection requirements the administration wants to impose upon schools and teachers:

The blueprint also spells out several new conditions for states accepting Title I and Title II formula aid. States would have to commit to adopting “college- and career-ready standards,” linking individual teachers to performance data on their students, and incorporating student-achievement data into overhauled teacher-evaluation systems.

The president of the 3.2 million-member NEA, Dennis Van Roekel, characterized the requirements as an overreaching of federal authority.

Administration officials “say they don’t want to micromanage, and then they tell 15,000 school districts how to evaluate and pay teachers,” Mr. Van Roekel said in an interview. “That’s micromanaging.”


In addition to raising concerns about the administration’s education funding plans, the leaders of both teachers’ unions detailed their objections to its blueprint for the reauthorization of the ESEA.

Mr. Van Roekel argued that the blueprint would continue to rely too heavily on standardized tests to gauge student progress.

The plan unveiled this month by the U.S. Department of Education proposes expanding the subjects in which states could test students in making accountability determinations. But it does not say that they may use non-test-based measures in doing so. The NEA, in contrast, has long argued that such “multiple measures” should be used, including student-attendance rates, student work samples, and parent surveys.

“There ought to be multiple measures, and that doesn’t mean three or four tests instead of one—it means multiple ways of measuring,” Mr. Van Roekel said.

Ms. Weingarten of the AFT focused on the school improvement requirements in the ESEA plan, which are identical to those the administration put forward for the $3.5 billion in federally appropriated School Improvement Grant money.

To receive those federal funds, states would have to agree to reform the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, including high schools with low graduation rates, through one of four options: closing a school and enrolling its students elsewhere; adopting a “turnaround” model that entails firing the principal and rehiring no more than half the staff; reopening the school as a charter school or under new management; or making wholesale changes by revamping curricula, adding alternative pay systems, and introducing extended learning time.

An affiliate of the AFT in Central Falls, R.I., has been engaged in a nationally watched dispute with its district’s superintendent over teacher firings under the “turnaround” model.

The NCLB law currently allows districts with schools that have repeatedly missed testing targets to replace principals and staff members, but few have actually opted to do so. Instead, most districts have favored an option of implementing “any other major restructuring” of the school, such as by hiring an outside consultant or using a new curriculum.

In essence, Ms. Weingarten urged the federal lawmakers to preserve that option, allowing schools to draw on “research-based approaches” to customize interventions for students in struggling schools.

“We can’t fire our way to an improved education system, and we can’t wish our way to it,” she said.

I'm still not optimstic that Obama won't forge a coalition of Republicans and pro-deform Democrats to have a bipartisan Kumbaya moment and get his NCLB Jr. proposals passed into law.

But at least the unions seem to know the stakes here and at least one powerful member (Obey) seems skeptical of turning federal education funding into a yearly Race to the Top competition.

As for the federal micromanaging of schools and teachers from Washington, we'll just have to see if the Republican hypocrites - who say they hate the overreaching of federal power but seem to like it in so many areas like the WoT, abortion rights, gay marriage, etc. - line up on Obama's side or on Rick Perry's "Screw Washington" side.

Hard to know just yet how all this plays out

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No Compromise

The Times reports today that the Obama administration is trying to convince the NEA, the AFT, and teachers in general that NCLB Jr. is a swell education proposal and should become the law of the land:

Facing intense resistance from teachers’ unions, the Obama administration has begun trying to persuade union leaders, teachers and the public that its proposals for overhauling federal education policies are good for teachers and for public schools.

In remarks prepared for delivery to Congress on Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argued that the proposed policies would elevate the teaching profession by encouraging better tests, by ending the demoralizing practice of mislabeling thousands of schools as failures and by offering teachers opportunities for career growth.

“We think there is a lot in our proposal that teachers will like,” Mr. Duncan said in the prepared testimony, a copy of which The New York Times obtained on Tuesday.

Sure - like tests in every subject in every year so that the administration can track "value-added" data and fire "bad teachers."

Or like closing 5% of the "worst" schools in the nation and firing all the teachers.

Or like making the next "worst" 5% work longer hours, longer days, longer school years and take PD classes on Saturdays.

Or like changing how Title 1 money is handed out so that only districts that are "reform-minded" (i.e., cronies of Duncan, Obama, Gates, and Broad) get the money.

Yeah, what's not to like about those proposals?

Jesus, how dumb does Duncan think teachers are?

Anyway, the Times says so far the unions aren't buying what Obama and Duncan are selling:

But the union leaders were not easily convinced. In interviews, they said the administration’s proposal for rewriting the main law outlining federal policies on public schooling, No Child Left Behind, would continue what they called an overemphasis on standardized tests, impose federal mandates on issues traditionally handled in collective bargaining, and probably lead to mass firings of teachers in low-performing schools.

“Teachers alone cannot turn around struggling schools, and the administration’s plans put 100 percent of the responsibility on teachers,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.3 million members.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, which represents 3.2 million members, also criticized the plan. “They say they are offering flexibility and an end to micromanaging our schools,” he said, “but the administration’s blueprint mandates to 15,000 school districts how they should evaluate and compensate teachers.”

Over the weekend, the administration released a 41-page blueprint for rewriting the No Child law, and the president sent it to Congress on Monday.

Both Ms. Weingarten and Mr. Van Roekel immediately criticized the administration’s proposals. In Mr. Duncan’s remarks, prepared for his scheduled appearance in back-to-back hearings before the Senate and House education committees on Wednesday, he outlined the administration’s views on teachers, the teaching profession, and how the blueprint would affect both.


Both union presidents said, however, that the administration’s plans would compel school districts to choose from among four school intervention models, which they described as unfair to teachers, to receive federal money to finance the turnarounds. Three of the four models would involve dismissing teachers and principals.

Still reverberating through the debate was the decision last month by a Rhode Island school board, following the administration’s recommendations, to fire all 93 teachers at the local high school, a move both Mr. Duncan and President Obama endorsed.

Ms. Weingarten said the administration’s proposals would require districts to begin overhauling thousands of low-performing schools in coming months, even though new teacher evaluation systems might not be ready for years. “Under these proposals, school districts can carry out mass firings of teachers, without any evidence that a valid evaluation system is in place or being used,” she said. The two unions campaigned vigorously for Mr. Obama in 2008.

The administration needs to know that the unions will NOT be campaigning AT ALL for Obama in 2010 or 2012 if this odious law passes.

Same goes for Congressional Dems.

Vote for this law, no vote from teachers.

That's the deal.

And we must make sure the NEA and the AFT do not sell us out on this.

So we have to call and write them as well so that they know this is a non-compromise situation.

I'm going to write the AFT again today. Then I will call my congressman and senators. Finally I will write the White House and let them know how deeply disappointed 95% of the teachers at my school are with them over the RI firings and the NCLB Jr. proposals and how NONE of them will be voting for Dems or Obama this time around or in 2012.

That message will resonate.

It's clear the admin is worried that the unions and teachers are so angry at this and have grown furious at Obama personally over the RI firings and the anti-teacher proposals.

They can read the tea leaves for the elections of 2010 and 2012.

Let us press this bastards on this.

No compromise.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Financial Reform vs. Education Reform

Barry at The Big Picture asks the following:

Why is the White House allowing soon to be retired Senator Dodd to drive the entire financial reform discussion?

The Consumer Protection legislation and the derivative reforms are the sort of things that the President should be leading on — not following someone like Dodd. Why is the White House AWOL on these important issues?

Can someone please explain to me — in calm, non-biased, rational terms — just what is going on here?

I would add that Obama is clearly leading on education reform - sending a 41 page blueprint to the Hill today for Senators and Representatives to use to write No Child Left Behind Jr. for him.

So why is Obama letting Dodd drive financial reform while he himself is driving education reform?

The answer is simple: he doesn't give a shit about financial reform. He doesn't care whether a bill passes or not, he has no interest in holding the companies that brought the economy to near collapse accountable for the mess and he doesn't care that these same companies are taking on just as much risk now post-collapse with taxpayer funded TARP money or newly printed money the Federal Reserve is handing them at 0% interest.

Obama just doesn't give a shit about that stuff.

He doesn't care.

But education reform, closing schools, firing teachers, busting the teachers unions, opening public education funds to for-profit charters and turning the public education system over to the Gates and Broad Foundations - that he cares very much about.

Very much.

I Don't Get It

So much of the coverage of Obama's NCLB Jr. proposal reports that the Obama administration is undoing the prescriptive and punitive elements of Bush's NCLB.

But that is not true.

The law requires states to close 5% of the lowest supporting schools and fire all the teachers there. It requires states to "turnaround" the next 5% lowest supporting schools and fire half the teachers. It requires all teachers to be tracked by test data and suggests adding tests to subjects other than reading and math in order to do so. It changes Title 1 grants to a competition so that only districts that do EXACTLY the kinds of "reforms" Obama and Duncan want get the funds. And it will push national standards so that every teacher in every state must teach the same things every other teacher in every other state teaches

Those proposals sound VERY prescriptive and punitive, yet the WSJ describes them like this:

The Obama plan contains many departures from the No Child law. One of the most striking is its concession that states and local school districts should be the main enforcers of success, not Washington.

How did they get that idea?

I'll repeat - Obama wants to ranks all schools in the nation, close or turnaround the lowest 10%, fire all the teachers, track teacher data and rank teachers according to test scores, institute national standards prescribe the curriculum teachers use, and change the funding formula so that only states that do EXACTLY what they want get money.

That is VERY prescriptive and punitive and makes way too many mandates states must follow from Washington.

One Republican in Congress saw it that way:

Minnesota Rep. John Kline, the ranking Republican on the House education committee, said he feared the administration was "tilting the scale too far in the direction of federal control, taking too many decisions away from local school boards and states."

But Dems do not see it this way and are ready to ram the proposals through the Congress and get them to Obama's desk so he can actually have a major piece of legislation to sign.

You can be sure if President McCain or President Palin was pushing this kind of bill, those same Dems would be hammering it.

But because this is Obama, they're cheering it.

The administration thinks they will have a bill signed into law by the end of the summer.

In other words, these proposals could be law by next September.

I wonder if after this goes into effect and thousands of schools get shut down and tens of thousands of teachers get fired and the administration starts action against states that do not follow the national curricula and punishes states for not opening enough charter schools by withholding Title 1 money, if the same reporters who wrote how gentle and kind this NCLB re-do by Obama is will write the truth about the law instead.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Obama Doubles Down On NCLB

President Accountability announced his NCLB re-authorization today.

He wants to have all teachers evaluated according to test scores, all schools rated according to test scores, and the "lowest" 10% closed down - including really good schools in affluent districts if those schools are not seeing big gains in test scores for students from lower income backgrounds in the schools.

Here's the worst of the "far-reaching" changes Obama proposes:

Under the current law, testing focuses on measuring the number of students who are proficient at each grade level. The administration instead wants to measure each student’s academic growth, regardless of the performance level at which they start.

Under the proposals, schools would also be judged on whether they are closing achievement gaps between poor and affluent students. No sanctions exist now for schools that fail in this area. Under the new proposals, states would be required to intervene even in seemingly high-performing schools in affluent districts where test scores and other indicators identify groups of students who are languishing, administration officials said.

The proposals would require states to use annual tests and other indicators to divide the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools into several groups: some 10,000 to 15,000 high-performing schools that could receive rewards or recognition; some 10,000 failing or struggling schools requiring varying degrees of vigorous state intervention; about 5,000 schools that would be required to narrow unacceptably wide achievement gaps; and perhaps 70,000 or so schools in the middle that would be encouraged to figure out on their own how to improve.

The administration’s proposals would also rework the law’s teacher-quality provisions by requiring states to develop evaluation procedures to distinguish effective instructors, partly based on whether their students are learning. These would replace the law’s current emphasis on certifying that all teachers have valid credentials, which has produced little except red tape, officials said.

The current law requires states to adopt “challenging academic standards” to receive federal money for poor students under a section known as Title I. But states are allowed to define “challenging,” and many set standards at mediocre levels. Last month, President Obama proposed requiring states to adopt “college- and career-ready standards” to qualify for the $14 billion Title I program. The administration proposes that new federal education dollars be provided to states as competitive grants, rather than through per-pupil formulas.

The Times article has both Harkin and Miller - the heads of the Senate and House committees - saying they like the proposals and everything should go through.


More testing, more school closures, more fear-based policy-making, and more fear-based teaching.

That's doubling down on NCLB, not changing the law for the better.

For some reason Arne Duncan says the punitive measures of NCLB are gone in this Obama re-do.

How is that?

Teachers and administrators will be fired if they do not raise the test scores of their students, schools will closed if the test scores of their students do not go up, and states will only get Title 1 money by showing the Obama administration how "innovative" they are - in other words, the Race to the Top competitive grants are going to be enshrined in the new education law every year and districts are going to have to do what the administration wants, like tie tenure and evaluations to test scores and open lots of charter schools in order to qualify for Title 1 money.

And for some reason known only to the Great Obama, schools that are already doing well on their measurements will receive more money while schools that are not doing well will be closed or re-structured a la Duncan's policy in Chicago and Bloomberg's here in NYC.

This is really really bad.

Any teacher who voted for Obama who still supports this man needs to have his or her head examined.

Within a few years, the entire public school system - both urban and suburban - will have been destroyed by Obama and Duncan.

We can only hope some people in Congress come to their senses and put a stop to this.

But I am not optimistic about that.

We can also hope that the teachers unions - the AFT and the NEA - come to their senses and say publicly that Obama is now the enemy.

No more of this "at least we're at the table" bullshit.

Here is how the Times characterized their reactions:

And while leading Congressional Democrats praised the plan, the nation’s two major teachers unions did not. “We are disappointed,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said of the proposal, “From everything that we’ve seen, this blueprint places 100 percent of the responsibility on teachers and gives them zero percent of the authority.”

Can't believe I'm writing this, but Randi is exactly right.

Now she and Van Roekel need to do something about this.

Ranking teachers by "value-added" measures that gauge teachers on whether their students go up on their scores or not is a horrible way to evaluate teachers.

Just ask Accountable Talk.

UPDATE: BTW, let's call the Obama re-authorization NCLB II. Obama and Duncan want the name changed because they think people will be fooled into believing the punitive measures of NCLB are gone if the name to the law is changed.

So let's make sure we call this what it is - No Child Left Behind II

Or No Child Left Behind Jr.

Or Obama's No Child Left Behind.

The point is, all the worst provisions from NCLB - the testing, the punitive measures - remain or have been made worse by President Obama.

Bill Maher Changes His Tune On Teachers

OK, I didn't see this one coming.

Bill Maher attacked teachers last year on his HBO show.
He said teachers unions were "corrupt," tenure was bad and unions perpetuated a terrible education system by protecting "bad teachers" and moving them from school to school the way the Catholic Church moved pedophile priests.

Not exactly an endorsement of teachers.

But then, almost one year to the day that he attacked teachers and teachers unions, he said this last night on his show:

New Rule: Let's not fire the teachers when students don't learn - let's fire the parents. Last week President Obama defended the firing of every single teacher in a struggling high school in a poor Rhode Island neighborhood. And the kids were outraged. They said, "Why blame our teachers?" and "Who's President Obama?" I think it was Whitney Houston who said, "I believe that children are our future - teach them well and let them lead the way." And that's the last sound piece of educational advice this country has gotten - from a crack head in the '80's.

Yes, America has found its new boogeyman to blame for our crumbling educational system. It's just too easy to blame the teachers, what with their cushy teachers' lounges, their fat-cat salaries, and their absolute authority in deciding who gets a hall pass. We all remember high school - canning the entire faculty is a nationwide revenge fantasy. Take that, Mrs. Crabtree! And guess what? We're chewing gum and no, we didn't bring enough for everybody.

But isn't it convenient that once again it turns out that the problem isn't us, and the fix is something that doesn't require us to change our behavior or spend any money. It's so simple: Fire the bad teachers, hire good ones from some undisclosed location, and hey, while we're at it let's cut taxes more. It's the kind of comprehensive educational solution that could only come from a completely ignorant people.

Firing all the teachers may feel good - we're Americans, kicking people when they're down is what we do - but it's not really their fault. Now, undeniably, there are some bad teachers out there. They don't know the material, they don't make things interesting, they have sex with the same kid every day instead of spreading the love around... But every school has crappy teachers. Yale has crappy teachers - they must, they gave us George Bush.

According to all the studies, it doesn't matter what teachers do. Although everyone appreciates foreplay. What matters is what parents do. The number one predictor of a child's academic success is parental involvement. It doesn't even matter if your kid goes to private or public school. So save the twenty grand a year and treat yourself to a nice vacation away from the little bastards.

It's also been proven that just having books in the house makes a huge difference in a child's development. If your home is adorned with nothing but Hummel dolls, DVD's, and bleeding Jesuses, congratulations, you've just given your children the gift of Duh. Sarah Palin said recently she wrote on her hand because her father used to do it. I rest my case.

When there are no books in the house, and there are no parents in the house, you know who raises the kids? That's right, the television. Kids aren't keeping up with their studies; they're keeping up with the Kardashians. We're allowing the television, as babysitter, to turn us into a nation of slutty idiots. By the way, one sign your 9-year-old may be watching too much One Tree Hill: if she has an imaginary friend with benefits.

Last night Bill Maher got it right - teachers are not the problem with the system.

We are the scapegoats.

And by saying so, he echoed what Diane Ravitch wrote on Bridging Differences last week:

I absolutely do not agree that our schools are overrun with terrible teachers; part of the goal of my book is to discredit the current knee-jerk reaction of editorialists and public officials, who blame teachers for everything that goes wrong in the schools. Blaming the teachers lets everyone else off the hook: families, the media, the popular culture, policymakers, and students themselves. The overwhelming majority of our nation's teachers are doing the best they can under difficult circumstances, with not enough support from society, parents, or the media.

I dunno if this message will resonant with too many people in the media.

It seems like every time I turn on the TV and watch the news, I see "experts" on MSNBC or CNN or CNBC talking breathlessly about our "education crisis" and blaming teachers, teachers unions and teacher tenure for the problems in education.

And every time I look at a newspaper or magazine these days, I see "journalists" like Elizabeth Green or Evan Thomas rewriting Gates Foundation pamphlets about how bad teachers are and including liberal quotes from "education reformers" from foundations funded by Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg and founded by Michelle Rhee to support their anti-teacher themes.

So I am not too optimistic that the tide has turned in the message war and people in the media will stop being reductionist about the problems with the public education system.

But it is good to hear somebody who slammed teachers just last year say this year that by scapegoating teachers, America is letting the real culprits off the hook - the culture, the parents, and the students themselves.