Saturday, June 7, 2008

Milestones this week.

This week our three year old read Go Dogs Go by Dr. Suess all by herself and our 11 month old was successfully weaned from his bottle in one day.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Finding the secret to educational success

Hat tip to our friend Pete the Finance Guy for finding this great article. The following piece appeared in the Economist.

Our friends in the north - Finding the secret to educational success

THE best schools in the world, it is generally agreed, are in Finland. In the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) studies, which compare 15-year-olds' reading, mathematics and science abilities in more than 50 countries, it routinely comes top. So politicians, academics, think-tankers and teachers from all over the world visit Finnish schools in the hope of discovering the magic ingredient. Journalists come too, and now it’s my turn.

And since I'm coming this far north, I want to take in Sweden too. That social-democratic paradise has carried out school reforms that make free-market ideologues the world over weak at the knees. In the 1990s it opened its state-education system to private competition, allowing new schools to receive the same amount for each pupil as the state would have spent on that child.

Sweden is my first stop. My week starts with post-breakfast coffee with Widar Andersson, an ex-chairman of Sweden’s Independent Schools Association. When the independent schools reforms were first mooted in 1991, he was a member of parliament for the Social Democrats, in one of their rare spells in opposition. “I think I was the only Social Democrat in favour of the reforms,” he tells me.

In 1994, when they came into force, he and two state-school teachers opened one of the very first independent schools. It was not the first time he took on the state: years earlier he and a few other social workers had set up a private company trying innovative ways to treat drug addicts. “I learned there must be other ways to do things than those the state has decided are right, especially in a country like Sweden where the state is so large,” he says.

Then I head to the education ministry. The minister is in budget negotiations, but his officials brief me on the new government's plans (a centre-right coalition is once more in power). Copying Finland seems to be the name of the game: more teacher training, and lots of special-needs teaching. It must be galling to live next door to the world’s best schools, especially when to the rest of the world, the two countries look essentially identical.

Back in London, a Russian acquaintance who lived in Sweden for many years had offered me his explanation for the gap in school achievement between Finland and Sweden: Finland never did the 70s, he says, while the Swedes did it wholesale and are still stuck there. Swedish teachers can’t even take a child’s mobile phone away if he is using it during class, he fumes. Bertil Östberg, State Secretary to Jan Björklund, the education minister, laughs and agrees; apparently the great mobile-phone-in-class scandal was an issue in a previous election campaign. “We will give teachers the right to confiscate mobile phones,” he assures me.

I hear that the 1970s orthodoxy—that competition and grades destroyed a child's motivation—means that Swedish children who are failing to learn can proceed right through compulsory school without anyone intervening or even noticing. If parents ask for a report, they can be given one—but it mustn’t include anything that looks like a grade. I offer the sort of fatuity I imagine such documents include: “Helen has contributed nicely to classroom discussion”. It is acknowledged as a classic of the genre. The new government, I am told, will make grades and reports not only legal, but compulsory.

Next, a visit to Sodra Latin (South Latin), a popular and prestigious gymnasium (upper high school, for 16-19-year-olds). Education at this age is not compulsory, and although Sodra Latin is a state school, entry is highly competitive. It is particularly strong in music, with chamber and symphony orchestras, a jazz band and an excellent choir. The youngsters are clever and motivated. But, says the head teacher, it is the first time most have experienced competition, and many study late—the school is open till 10pm—and come in at weekends too.

I dine with Carl-Gustaf Stawström, the managing director of the Association of Independent Schools. He gives me a nice example of the way the market is providing choice and variety, as well as pressure for higher standards. His own daughter attends an independent gymnasium which crams most schooling into half-days. “If you want only to find problems, you see people who are trying to do things cheaply,” he says, “but she is a keen athlete and trains in the afternoons, so it suits her very well.”

The above is just day one of a five day series. Please go to the Economist to read the whole series.

Quote of the Day - "If I was the parent of a child who went to an inner city school that was failing ... I might be for vouchers, too."

-- Vice President Al Gore, New York Post, August 10, 2000

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ohio Students Get Proof of Their Education by Receiving Diplomas With It Misspelled

The following AP article appeared on a number of sites including Fox News and CNN.

Ohio Students Get Proof of Their Education by Receiving Diplomas With It Misspelled

WESTLAKE, Ohio — A Cleveland-area principal says he is embarrassed his students got proof of their "educaiton" on their high school diploma.

Westlake High School officials misspelled "education" on the diplomas distributed this weekend. It's been the subject of mockery on local radio.

Principal Timothy Freeman says he sent the diplomas back once to correct another error. When the corrected diplomas came back, no one bothered to check the things they thought were right the first time.

Publisher Jostens has reprinted the new diplomas — a third attempt — and sent them to the 330 graduates.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The High Cost of Education in Croydon

During our town meeting in March, I encouraged town residents to reject the school budget based in part due to the fact that fuel prices were expected to rise. My husband encouraged the rejection of the budget based on excessive spending. I wonder for those who supported the tax warrants, increased taxes and increased spending if they have any regrets about their decisions. We would like to hear from you.

We have said time and time again schools have a spending problem and they waste money. Sadly it appears that they waste money here in Croydon too. Our district is paying for kids who live out of district, costing taxpayers hundreds of dollars. Dollars I am sure that could be used towards rising fuel prices, food, college funds and/or retirement.

Public schools are government schools.

Quote of the Day "The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem." - Milton Friedman


Paying Teachers Who Don't Teach

One of our favorite resources for education issues and teacher union issues is the Education Intelligence Agency - Public Education Research, Analysis and Investigations. Please go to the EIA website to read the interesting links associated with this story.

The Latest Media Wave: Paying Teachers Who Don't Teach

I've always been fascinated by the way a particular education issue will pop up at the same time in unconnected places. It's a different phenomenon from pack journalism, where news outlets are aware of other news outlets reporting on something, and then they report on it, too. These are independent stories on an underreported topic that suddenly appear all at the same time.

We've seen it happen with performance pay, school lunches and childhood obesity, and the shortage of minority teachers. The most recent media wave concerns paying teachers who don't teach.

The first and most prominent story on the problem, of course, is connected to The New Teacher Project report that revealed New York City was spending $81 million to pay teachers who weren't actually holding jobs. This caused a firestorm of debate in the city, rebuttals by the union, and Internet screaming by everyone. The controversy also revived discussion of New York City's "rubber rooms," which contain an entirely different set of teachers who don't teach.

A similar issue arose in Birmingham, Alabama, where the school board discovered it was paying almost $96,000 a year in supplements to 63 employees without knowing why.

The Detroit Public Schools has its own twist. The district has a $45 million deficit, partly because a number of teachers whose jobs were declared "excess" or "surplus" due to falling enrollment were never let go. That was good news for them, but bad news for the district because it wasn't receiving funds to pay them anymore. Other areas of the budget were raided to pay these teachers, until the house of cards started to collapse.

"The teaching staff should have gone down as we closed schools and lost students," said school board president Carla Scott, explaining that layoffs didn't keep pace with declining revenues. "For the first time in two years, we actually know what's going on. We should have been in crisis mode for the last 10 years."

There's enough ammo for all sides. In Miami, United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz wants to solve district budget problems by putting teachers back in the classroom.

''It's a dirty little secret that happens inside the schools,'' she said. "Sometimes, teachers will be assigned as team teachers and won't be in the classroom at all. Some teachers have additional planning granted to them, and then they become quasi-administrators.''

Aronowitz added, ''We have found, especially in elementary schools, that you may have three or four assistant principals. "That just doesn't make sense.''

I think the fact that this problem is widespread is a sad commentary on a badly bureaucratized public school system. But I'm not going to get all polemical about it. If you want a polemic, here's a polemic.

Picture of the Day

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin for the picture of the day.

Response to Why Can’t We All Get a Lunch

We sent the following to Seacoast Online for publication in response to the article that follows our rebuttal. Since our rebuttal was not published we are posting our rebuttal here.

Ms. Robertson’s May 27th opinion piece was so critically lacking in accurate information that I wondered whether to respond. Facts could easily have been checked if she just Googled our names, Jim and Cathy Peschke. Our phone number is also listed on our BLOG A few minutes of basic research might have prevented publishing her deluge of falsehoods.

Jim and I are from Croydon, New Hampshire not Boston. We never stated that Subway was being unfair, nor did we ever wish to enter our child in their contest. We said that Subway said no to homeschoolers. They specifically singled out homeschoolers. This was not an act of absent-minded omission; they did not merely include public, private and parochial schools. Subway explicitly singled out homeschoolers for non-participation.

This exclusion arose from concerns about the grand prize, concerns based on a fundamentally flawed stereotype of homeschoolers. Many homeschoolers participate in public and parochial school sports. We meet bi-monthly with a group of homeschoolers for recreational activities who could use this equipment. Subway could have simply mandated this as part of their contest terms, preventing Ms. Robertson from suggesting in her angry polemic that some of us would hoard the grand prize.

Yes the constant is legal. But we also believe in capitalism, free speech and the will of the market force. Homeschoolers are under frequent attack and don't need anything to further reduce our status in society, even from a fast food chain. Neither my husband nor I believe this was a malevolent act, but it has the same effect.

She and many others fail to realize is that the boycott has accomplished three major goals: 1) Change Scholastic's and Subway's policy for "next time". 2) Made blue suits all over corporate America think twice about failing to give homeschoolers their due. 3) Brought the issue of homeschooling into the national spotlight.

When one thinks of these effects, it is pretty tough to conclude that the controversy wasn't a worthy act.

Ms. Robertson final gaffe claims that our 3 year old cannot read or write. She has been reading and writing for a number of months now. Apparently homeschooling works better than she ever imagined.

Cathy Peschke
Citizens for Reasonable And Fair Taxes

The following piece appeared on Seacost Online.

Why Can’t We All Get a Lunch

By Lily Robertson
May 27, 2008 8:01 AM

Mr. and Mrs. Peschke of Boston are up in arms because their toddler and their three year old are not eligible to try for $5,000.00 worth of athletic equipment. You see, their children are home-schooled, and Subway has excluded home schooled children from their contest.

During their interview on Fox and Friends this morning, and in between the shrieks from their youngest, they called for a boycott of Subway sandwiches because they believe the chain is being unfair. Well, life is unfair, and perhaps this could be somehow worked into their home school lesson plan. (Every Sandwich Tells a Story Contest)

What on earth would these two do with that much money’s worth of athletic equipment to begin with? Their children are too young for any school sport. The competitive ones are right out. What? Are you going to tell me that they’re going to need all that equipment for a pick up game of baseball with the neighbor’s dog? Maybe they think it would be a good idea for their children to swim laps in a new backyard pool. A healthy pastime? You betcha! It’s never too soon to start training for the Olympics. If they’re careful with the cash, they could even hire a private swimming coach. (Oh, pool boy! Bring young Miss Peschke another set of water wings and I’d like a fresh margarita.)

As far as non-competitive sports, I really don’t think they’re going to set up their three year old with a compound bow to teach her archery. At least, I’d certainly hope not. Kids are dangerous enough with their unreasoning penchants for doing things like putting peanut butter sandwiches into the DVD player.

To be fair, Mr. Peschke said there was no reason why they couldn’t donate the equipment to a local school or recreation center. I also noted, however, that he didn’t say he would. I could donate hours of my time to eradicating the occurrences of two-headed Elvis babies in southern tabloids, but it’s not likely. Besides, it would put both the tabloids and Jerry Springer out of business. Would that be very nice of me? I think not.

One of the Peschke’s greatest obstacles is that the contest is actually, perfectly legal. As long as Subway doesn’t exclude children from the contest on the basis of race, religion, or gender issues, it’s their bloody contest and they can legally exclude anyone with more than three freckles if that’s where their whim takes them.

Mr. Peschke also pointed out the amount of spelling errors on the Subway contest form. Maybe the Subway people shouldn’t have held the competition in the first place. Perhaps they should have pumped the funds into getting English tutors for their ad department.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but a competition is generally something held between more than one group. Home schooled kids are hardly in a competitive arena to begin with, theoretically. Well, there may be home schooled kids who have to compete with the family pet for supper, but I suspect that would be a mighty low percentage. These kids can’t even be graded on a curve. So, the answer in the mind of the Peschkes is to have their children, who aren’t even old enough to read and write, enter a competition against other children they can’t see? So they can win athletic equipment they can’t use?

At the end of it all, I suppose they’ll just take their baseball and go home. Oh wait…they’re already there!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

School District Given Award by Company it Hired.

One of the very few things I miss about Illinois is the excellent investigative reporting by some newspapers into education issues. One of my favorites was the Daily Herald. Hat tip goes to a fiscally responsible school board member friend of ours Julie back in Illinois.

Read the story and judge for yourself. I believe schools are buying awards.


Grayslake school district given awards by company it hired
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff Contact writer
6/2/2008 12:01 AM

For six months, Grayslake Elementary District 46 has boasted having three award-winning schools.

Prairieview School in Hainesville and Meadowview School in Grayslake have received what's referred to as the "prestigious" Blue Ribbon Lighthouse award. Woodview School in Grayslake snagged the Points of Light award, which is below the top Blue Ribbon Lighthouse status.

What's not mentioned is South Carolina-based Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Inc. named the award winners after being paid $22,192 to assess seven District 46 schools. Documents obtained by the Daily Herald through the Freedom of Information Act show the district spent an extra $15,732 for 20 administrators and teachers to attend a five-day Blue Ribbon Schools conference and awards banquet in North Charleston, S.C., in December.

At issue, some critics say, is whether public schools should find other uses for money than so-called recognition programs run by companies marketing to educators. Proponents say the awards are a side benefit to a more important professional assessment that leads to essential improvements and shows whether schools are meeting standards established by private education consultants.

Grayslake District 46 Superintendent Ellen Correll said she didn't know the awards were available from Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence before hiring the company. It's believed District 46 was the company's first Illinois client.

She said the business was hired in September 2007 to provide an outside assessment of her schools in nine major categories, such as technology integration and leadership and education vitality. Blue Ribbon Schools also collected data and provided feedback that's being used for comprehensive improvement plans.

"You know what? I really don't care about the awards," Correll said. "That's not the purpose behind it. The purpose for me was to have an outside group come in and look at our district to see where the strengths and weaknesses are. And I really wanted to find the weaknesses.

"If we're going to move forward in this district, we've got to be able to identify where our gaps are, where our weaknesses are. And it's very difficult to look at yourself and say, 'I need to grow here.' "

District 46 announced the awards Nov. 16, 2007, in news releases just days after Blue Ribbon Schools President/CEO Bart Teal made a public presentation to elected board members. The releases led to a story in a weekly newspaper about the three Grayslake buildings receiving the honors -- without mention of the financial relationship with Blue Ribbon Schools.

Web pages for the three winning individual schools have touted the awards with the company's logo, which includes an eagle and stars.

Specifics on how Grayslake Elementary academics would benefit from Blue Ribbon Schools were not cited in the initial award announcement, but Correll in February sent a letter to all district residents outlining numerous recommendations.

Total expenses related to Blue Ribbon Schools were $40,468, according to district documents. Correll said the costs were covered by properly tapping into a combination of nearly $89,500 available in federal grants and $200,000 from the superintendent's professional development account.

No real standing

Edward M. Mazze, distinguished professor of business administration at the University of Rhode Island, questions the use of public money to hire companies such as Blue Ribbon Schools. He said cash is tight at public schools across the country.

Mazze, who's examined award programs in business and academia, was among the critics when University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth issued a news release announcing the school's receipt of a Pat Summerall Productions Champions of Industry Award in 2004 without noting a financial arrangement was attached.

In the case of Grayslake District 46, Mazze said the public should understand the district struck a business deal with Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, and the company's awards are of no significance. District 46 board members authorized the hiring of Blue Ribbon Schools under an agenda action item labeled "annual application for recognition."

"There are enough schools looking for recognition to allow this company to have many profitable years, as one school recommends to another school to apply for this 'honor' as long as they have the fee to pay for it," said Mazze, who reviewed Blue Ribbon Schools promotional materials for the Daily Herald.

Mazze said while District 46 is unnecessarily "patting itself on the back" with the awards, it's not unethical to do so.

Parents should realize it's "buyer beware" when it comes to education kudos publicized from private organizations, said Susan Shafer, spokeswoman for Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services.

Shafer said no financial relationship existed when her company late last year named 1,600 high schools across the country as tops in the United States in categories tagged gold, silver and bronze. The schools were judged on various criteria, such as whether performance levels go beyond statistical expectations.

"Go do a little homework. See what's behind it," Shafer said.

Teal said his company -- billed as a "national recognition program" -- doesn't always give a Blue Ribbon Lighthouse or Points of Light designation after it's hired. He said the awards provide schools with an incentive to improve or maintain high standards.

"The most important thing is integrity," Teal said. "You can't just say you won an award. It doesn't work like that."

However, Better Government Association executive director Jay Stewart said he found it "sort of odd" for Grayslake District 46 to accept and promote awards from a company that was paid for its services.

Traveling for award

Grayslake District 46 spent $15,732 on airfare, hotel rooms, rental cars, conference registration fees and meals for the 20 administrators and teachers to attend the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence conference and awards ceremony in North Charleston.

Another $2,350 was spent on substitute teachers from Dec. 4-7 while the regular instructors were in South Carolina, bringing total travel-related expenses to $18,082, according to District 46 documents.

Correll said the number of employees who traveled was justified. Six Grayslake teachers led workshops at the convention, while others were able to participate in talks with educators and experts from across the United States on topics ranging from classroom management to iPods as a learning tool.

"This whole thing is to help improve the performance of our students," Correll said. "That is the sole purpose behind it."

District 46 board President Michael Linder said the traveling party was more than usual for an education convention, but it was a one-shot deal. He said the district will benefit from its association with Blue Ribbon Schools.

It's about children

Teal, a South Carolina resident, said Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence is a nonprofit organization and his passion is to improve children's education. He at one time was involved with the federal government's blue ribbon school program and has more than 40 years experience as a principal, teacher, assistant superintendent and education consultant.

His private business is not to be confused with the U.S. Department of Education's No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools award initiative, considered one of the most prestigious in the country. Winning schools don't pay anything to be considered for awards from the federal government program.

In the federal program, schools must be nominated by a state board of education and are honored for helping students achieve at very high levels and for making significant progress in closing the achievement gap. Some schools have students with state test scores in the top 10 percent.

Teal said his Blue Ribbon Schools charged a discounted $22,192 fee to Grayslake District 46 so his team could perform an assessment that included on-site building visits and online surveys with 189 questions completed by parents, staff and students. He said he provides free services to financially struggling schools.

Prairieview School in Hainesville and Meadowview School in Grayslake are two of 79 Blue Ribbon Lighthouse champions named since 2004, with 22 coming from South Carolina. Blue Ribbon Schools did not respond to a request for information on the number of districts it evaluates annually.

Winners of the top award can purchase caps, T-shirts and static-cling window decals -- complete with school name -- through another South Carolina company.

"I guess it's hard to convince people, but I'm not out to make money," Teal said.

Teal's company gets high marks from Peter Guerrera, superintendent of Cuyahoga Heights School District in suburban Cleveland. He said outside evaluators provide "good indicators about your school and, in some cases, validations for a variety of reasons."

Guerrera said the education recommendations for his district's three buildings are why Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence was hired. He said the current promotion of the three awards his buildings received from the company are extraneous to him.

M. Lynn Barkley, assistant superintendent of teaching, learning and assessment at Grayslake District 46, said she'd give a positive recommendation for Blue Ribbon Schools. She said the examination of her district's buildings by Teal's business will be invaluable.

"Nothing is for free anymore, unfortunately. But to be able to take our teachers and our administrators to those next levels and give them the opportunities to move us all forward together, it's a great thing," Barkley said.

Awards to brag about?
• University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Texas A&M University-Commerce and University of Southern Mississippi were among the schools lauded by Pat Summerall Productions as "Champions of Industry: Spotlight on Education." The schools issued news releases on the awards in 2003 and 2004, but didn't note fees charged by the now-defunct company. Naperville police and Lombard village government also announced Summerall awards without disclosing the financial relationship in 2004.

• Plano, Texas, was declared on a CNN program as one of the "Best Places to Live" in the United States in 2004. A financial relationship with the company that provided the honor, Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based Platinum Television Group, wasn't mentioned. The same year, the village of Libertyville rejected a similar award from Platinum Television because it carried a $19,700 price tag for the company's services.

• Cuyahoga Heights School District in suburban Cleveland has a newsletter story this month on how it achieved "a first of its kind in the nation" by having all three of its buildings named Blue Ribbon Lighthouse award winners. The article didn't mention specifics of the district's deal with South Carolina-based Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Inc., which studied the buildings and named the winners. The article has the byline of Blue Ribbon Schools President/CEO Bart Teal.

Source: Daily Herald research

Quote of the Day "The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy." ~Woodrow Wilson

Monday, June 2, 2008

Conservatives more honest than liberals?

The following story appeared in the Examiner.


Peter Schweizer: Conservatives more honest than liberals?


The headline may seem like a trick question — even a dangerous one — to ask during an election year. And notice, please, that I didn’t ask whether certain politicians are more honest than others. (Politicians are a different species altogether.) Yet there is a striking gap between the manner in which liberals and conservatives address the issue of honesty.

Consider these results:

Is it OK to cheat on your taxes? A total of 57 percent of those who described themselves as “very liberal” said yes in response to the World Values Survey, compared with only 20 percent of those who are “very conservative.” When Pew Research asked whether it was “morally wrong” to cheat Uncle Sam, 86 percent of conservatives agreed, compared with only 68 percent of liberals.

Ponder this scenario, offered by the National Cultural Values Survey: “You lose your job. Your friend’s company is looking for someone to do temporary work. They are willing to pay the person in cash to avoid taxes and allow the person to still collect unemployment. What would you do?”

Almost half, or 49 percent, of self-described progressives would go along with the scheme, but only 21 percent of conservatives said they would.

When the World Values Survey asked a similar question, the results were largely the same: Those who were very liberal were much more likely to say it was all right to get welfare benefits you didn’t deserve.

The World Values Survey found that those on the left were also much more likely to say it is OK to buy goods that you know are stolen. Studies have also found that those on the left were more likely to say it was OK to drink a can of soda in a store without paying for it and to avoid the truth while negotiating the price of a car.

Another survey by Barna Research found that political liberals were two and a half times more likely to say that they illegally download or trade music for free on the Internet.

A study by professors published in the American Taxation Association’s Journal of Legal Tax Research found conservative students took the issue of accounting scandals and tax evasion more seriously than their fellow liberal students. Those with a “liberal outlook” who “reject the idea of absolute truth” were more accepting of cheating at school, according to another study, involving 291 students and published in the Journal of Education for Business.

A study in the Journal of Business Ethics involving 392 college students found that stronger beliefs toward “conservatism” translated into “higher levels of ethical values.” And academics concluded in the Journal of Psychology that there was a link between “political liberalism” and “lying in your own self-interest,” based on a study involving 156 adults.

Liberals were more willing to “let others take the blame” for their own ethical lapses, “copy a published article” and pass it off as their own, and were more accepting of “cheating on an exam,” according to still another study in the Journal of Business Ethics.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all conservatives are honest and all liberals are untrustworthy. But clearly a gap exists in the data. Why? The quick answer might be that liberals are simply being more honest about their dishonesty.

However attractive this explanation might be for some, there is simply no basis for accepting this explanation. Validation studies, which attempt to figure out who misreports on academic surveys and why, has found no evidence that conservatives are less honest. Indeed, validation research indicates that Democrats tend to be less forthcoming than other groups.

The honesty gap is also not a result of “bad people” becoming liberals and “good people” becoming conservatives. In my mind, a more likely explanation is bad ideas. Modern liberalism is infused with idea that truth is relative. Surveys consistently show this. And if truth is relative, it also must follow that honesty is subjective.

Sixties organizer Saul Alinsky, who both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton say inspired and influenced them, once said the effective political advocate “doesn’t have a fixed truth; truth to him is relative and changing, everything to him is relative and changing. He is a political relativist.”

During this political season, honesty is often in short supply. But at least we can improve things by accepting the idea that truth and honesty exist. As the late scholar Sidney Hook put it, “the easiest rationalization for the refusal to seek the truth is the denial that truth exists.”

Peter Schweizer is the author of “Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less ... And Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals” (Doubleday).


Should Home-Schooling Be Illegal?

I was giving a heads up to the following article from a homeschool resource group. I agree with the conclusion of the article that homeschoolers face a tough road ahead. If we appease or bury our heads in the sand we may find that we are no longer allowed to homeschool. Please follow the link to the Parade article and read some of the many excellent comments at the end of the article.

Should Home-Schooling Be Illegal?

In February, a California state appeals court ruled that unless parents have recognized teaching credentials, they must send their children to school. The judge, citing a state education law, said that “parents do not have a constitutional right to home-school their children.” Parents and politicians were outraged, and the court will rehear the case this month.

At stake is the education of the 166,000 California children who currently are home-schooled. But the court decision also could influence laws across the country. Nationwide, up to 2 million children are taught at home. Experts estimate that the number is increasing 7% to 12% a year.

“If upheld, the California ruling will send shock waves nationwide,” says Richard Kahlenberg, the author of a number of books on education. He says the case “pits those who believe parental rights are paramount against those who place a premium on well-educated citizens.”

Right now, only six states have strict regulations for home-schooling, usually requiring parents to have their curriculum approved, to show test scores and, in some places, to submit to home visits. Fourteen states, including California, mandate only that parents notify the state of their decision to home-school.

Quote of the Day - A tax supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state. - Isabel Patterson, The God of the Machine

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rapid Referendum Response - Part 2

The Rapid Response Referendum booklet has "Examples of what the opposition can be like." Granted they may not be specifically talking about CRAFT but we will make it clear what we do and do not condone.

They include the following in bold with our responses not in bold.

Attempts to overwhelm superintendent/staff with information requests:

* Contracts with attorneys, financial advisors, construction managers, architects
* Contracts with administrators; salary settlements
* Audits and budgets
* Enrollment projections

We at CRAFT never suggest that people overwhelm superintendent or staff with requests. We suggest people get school contracts whether or not a tax increase is on a ballot. All of the above information should be posted on school websites as to show their financial transparency and not to hide anything from both taxpayers and parents.

Its quite telling that school districts consider fulfilling information and transparency requests as a nuisance. We consider answering taxpayers questions a fundamental responsibility of any government agency, not an auxiliary activity.

Implies impropriety by district staff (received bribes, gifts)

CRAFT has never implied impropriety by district staff. However we know groups who have uncovered impropriety by doing thorough investigations of their school district. Ex-principal charged with stealing funds

Becomes watchdog for inappropriate employee campaign activities

History shows that school districts cannot be trusted to self-regulate and campaign fairly. There is nothing wrong with every parent and taxpayer making sure this happens and pointing out infractions when they do occur.

Challenges use of school attorney - misuse of funds

We have never done this.

Opposition group uses a name that sounds supportive, and often plays of district logo

Hmm. Citizens for Reasonable And Fair Taxes....we think not. If this were applied as the criteria to discern a group's motives, one could just as easily find a referendum support group.

Uses email for speed and ease of sharing

Yep and we suggest everyone do this. Its fast, effective, and inexpensive.

Challenges data accuracy and hires own "experts"

We at CRAFT have never hired "experts", although we won't hesitate to challenge the accuracy of data when appropriate.

Disrupts election process:

* Questions judges' relationships to districts
* Non-homestead property owners show up at polls and get angry when they're told they can't vote
* Examines and challenges absentee ballots.

We at CRAFT have never done this, nor have we found it necessary. The point of non-homestead property owners is however valid. Turning away ANY property owner constitutes taxation without representation.

Goes for "sticker shock" on total tax costs entire life of the bond

Schools should be honest and tell taxpayers the total cost as well as the annual cost, taking inflation and assessment increases into account. Anything less is dishonesty on the part of the school district.

We at CRAFT plead guilty. When homeowners discover the total cost of a tax increase proposal, they frequently turn against it.

Attacks district's Achilles Heel (statutory operating debt, open enrollment issues, large, retirement packages, poor test scores, unhappy residents due to consolidations)

Much of this "Achilles Heel" list consists of unacceptable failures on the part of school management. We have no sympathy for "large retirement packages", "poor test scores", or unhappy residents. Such failures are squarely the responsibility of the district. They strengthen the argument against empowering ineffective management with more tax dollars.

Bundles misinformation within accurate information - plants a "seed of doubt"

Districts frequently make this accusation but invariably never provide specific examples. Be wary when a district accuses a taxpayer advocacy group of "spreading misinformation" without providing specific examples.

We actively encourage taxpayers to check facts and if you make an error correct it as soon as possible.

Uses multiple pieces and phone calls to voters in last few days (automated calls, flyers, on cars, last minute lies)

We at CRAFT have never used automated calls. Other groups have used automated calls and referred people to our website. We never tell lies but school districts frequently accuse groups of lying, never willing to point out any actual lies.

Greatly increases "no" vote

Guilty! Informing the citizens of the truth increases no votes.

Can be anti-public schools-religious basis, home school bias

This is completely untrue and is an ad-hominem attack used time and time again by school district employees and officials.

Steals lawn signs

We have never done this and never condone this. "Yes" signs only remind people to get out and vote. Yes signs remind people to vote no. No signs have been so frequently stolen that we encourage people to place the signs as close as possible to their homes. We had one person spot a school employee sticking vote no signs in a truck.

Misuses mail/Newspaper boxes

We have specifically told people not to put information on mailboxes. People have put our materials on mailboxes but we have asked them not to do it because it is illegal. We never condone doing anything illegal.