Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

Squelching Economic Royalists

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Common Dreams featured a blog post by Robert Borasage titled “Can Democracy Tame Plutocracy?” In the post Borosage describes how long it took for our country to move away from the oligarchy in place at the turn of the 20th Century, noting that it required years to accomplish. He then included a paragraph describing how FDR educated the public about the economic realities of his times and played to the big-heartedness of the country:

In “The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great,” Harvey Kaye provides a broad overview of this period. He details how FDR educated and mobilized Americans to take on the “economic royalists.” As we headed into World War II, FDR evoked the Four Freedoms – freedom of speech and of worship, and freedom from want and from fear – as the goals for which Americans would fight. As victory approached, he made the agenda clearer in his 1944 State of the Union address calling for an Economic Bill of Rights. Coming out of the war, millions of Americans took up the banner for their fallen leader.

But the battle for control of the economy never really ended… and as many progressive bloggers have noted by the early 1970s businessmen were quietly organizing think tanks that developed messages about how government is the problem and regulations squelch entrepreneurs and how free trade is necessary to compete in the global marketplace… and test messages, repeated frequently and persistently have permeated the American psyche to the extent that “government run schools” are now perceived as ineffective and inefficient.

Early in his essay, Borosage asserts that “we are living in a populist moment” and he closes with these paragraphs:

Kaye argues that fulfilling FDRs pledge may be hard, but it is not impossible. “Democracy is never given. It must be taken.” Or as FDR put it, “Democracy is not a static thing. It is an everlasting march,” and echoing Jefferson, “it is time for the country to become fairly radical for a generation.”

Now the battle of ideas has just been joined. The new populism needs to be nurtured, developed and spread. Hopefully, we won’t need to experience another calamity or world war to rouse Americans to take their democracy back.

As I noted in my comment, one way to fuel the flame of populism is to get the parents and school board members in this country to see that corporations want to control public education and will stop at nothing to do so. Another way would be to get a progressive liberal to run for president even if it is a quixotic campaign. NO ONE in the Democrat party seems willing to call the oligarchs “economic Royalists”… instead the neo-liberals want to praise businessmen and turn over the operation of public enterprise to them because “government is inefficient”… It would be refreshing to have someone remind the public that government regulation is necessary to keep oligarchs in check and opportunities more equitable. 

Here’s hoping both of these ideas take root in the coming months.

High Stakes Testing Dying in OK

April 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Oklahoma, like Texas, has overreached in its testing and the legislature is responding with rollbacks after getting an earful from parents, teachers and other voters. What kinds of legislation is being appealed?

  • “…the mandatory retention of third-graders who fail the state’s reading assessment administered under the Reading Sufficiency Act” which was repealed by overwhelming majorities in both the house and senate
  • The common core
  • A battery of tests in social studies and geography in the 8th grade, which, when coupled with previously passed legislation eliminates all testing of history in the K-12 continuum
  • A-F ratings for schools based on assessments

The reasons for abandoning “reform” are mostly political.

“I think their constituents are getting engaged and involved. They are paying attention to the issues, and they will look at their options when it’s time to vote,” said Meredith Exline, president of Oklahoma Central Parent Legislative Action Committee.

Oh… and one other issue came to light after the legislature passed all of these “reforms”: changes require money!

Amber England, government affairs director for Stand for Children Oklahoma, which advocates for school reforms, said repealing mandatory retention could be seen as a sign the government has failed to properly fund reading programs that were supposed to make the Reading Sufficiency Act successful. She pointed to Oklahoma’s ranking as 49th in the nation in per-pupil funding.

“Schools are being asked to do a whole lot of new things, but they are not getting any money to do them,” England said. “These measures are in jeopardy because the Legislature hasn’t provided the money to do them properly.

So this development in OK, hardly the most progressive state in the nation, is heartening on some counts. They demonstrate that voters who are opposed to the top-down imposition of unproven practices can raise their collective voices and effect change— a sign that democracy may still be alive. They provide evidence that legislatures will need to either raise additional funds for “reforms” or pay the price at the polls. And, they indicate that parents are mad as hell about the testing straightjackets and will either unite to repeal legislation or withdraw from the testing regimen.

The development is disheartening, though, because given the choice between providing more funding to make OK’s public school spending competitive with other states or backing down on changes… it decided to avoid increased spending. It is also disheartening because other articles on the Common Core indicate the withdrawal of support for it was based as much on the content of the new standards (i.e. the inclusion of evolution as settled science) was as much a provocation as the common core’s link to testing. Finally, it is disheartening because the children who lived through the poorly conceived testing regimen, the poorly conceived efforts to address their learning deficiencies through the elimination of “social promotion”, and the narrow interaction that resulted from these “reforms” can never recover the time they lost preparing for tests that turned out to be immaterial.


Paying the Price for Bad Legislation in NC

April 19, 2014 Leave a comment

The headline to the press release says it all: “.North Carolina Public Schools Are Facing Teacher Shortage”… and the report is brief enough to paste below:

It is getting harder to recruit new teachers to North Carolina Public Schools, according to Wake County Public School System Chair Christine Kushner. She says another obstacle was thrown in the path of incoming teachers when a state additive for teachers with a Masters degree was eliminated.

Kushner said, “And now, with the elimination of the state supplement for master’s degrees, we’ve seen that we’re no longer competitive for those same teachers.”

Legislators recently proposed raising starter teacher salary, but Kushner says a complete reform of teacher pay is necessary in the legislative short session this year. Leader’s of the state’s largest school system held a press conference on Thursday announcing that over 600 teachers has left their position since July 2013.

And three days later, this:

School leaders announced Thursday that nearly 7% of teachers in the Wake County Public School System resigned their positions since July, 2013, the start of the school year. Dr. Michael Maher, Asst. Dean for Professional Education at NC State, says not only are teachers leaving the profession, but fewer students are entering university’s to study teaching.

Maher said, “The UNC system as a whole, our 17 campuses, we’re the top producers of teachers in the state of North Carolina. We prepare nearly half of all new teachers in the state. We are seeing declines across the entire set of campuses.”

Maher says the pipeline is drying up, and that will ultimately impact student achievement.

Over the past year I’ve read of a litany of bad ALEC legislation passed by NC, including some crazy ones like eliminating additional pay for advanced desires, offering performance bonuses of $400 for higher test results (as if a 1% increase in pay for one year was an “incentive”), eliminating “tenure”, etc. All of this was supposed to improve student results while limiting the costs to taxpayers. As the results are showing, they only got half the equation right.


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