Saturday, October 3, 2009


Question: Why would any parent oppose school choice and educational freedom?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Main Stream Media Finally Catching On - Teachers' Unions are Bad for Education

The following piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal. The media is waking up will more Americans wake up too? The government has given the unions essentially monopoly control over public education. Until the money follows the child and not the institution we will see flat or declining results in public education. It is time for legislators to stop pandering to the unions and special interests groups and put our children first.

Quote of the Day - "As we all learned from the sorry experience of state-sanctioned bureaucracies in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, decentralization is crucial to both freedom and excellence." -- Mayor Jerry Brown, on why he opposes unionizing Oakland, California's charter schools.

Happy Birthday Mom

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

How Teachers Unions Lost the Media

Quick: Which newspaper in recent editorials called teachers unions "indefensible" and a barrier to reform? You'd be excused for guessing one of the conservative outlets, but it was that bastion of liberalism, the New York Times. A month ago, The New Yorker—yes, The New Yorker—published a scathing piece on the problems with New York City's "rubber room," a union-negotiated arrangement that lets incompetent teachers while away the day at full salary while doing nothing. The piece quoted a principal saying that union leader Randi Weingarten "would protect a dead body in the classroom."

Things only got worse for the unions this past week. A Washington Post editorial about charter schools carried this sarcastic headline: "Poor children learn. Teachers unions are not pleased." And the Times weighed in again Monday, calling a national teachers union "aggressively hidebound."

In recent months, the press has not merely been harsh on unions—it has championed some controversial school reformers. Washington's schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, who won't win any popularity contests among teachers, enjoys unwavering support from the Post editorial page for her plans to institute merit pay and abolish tenure.

Editorial pages of major papers nationwide have begun to demand accountability for schools, despite objections from vested interests. Since the Obama administration took an unexpectedly tough line on school reform, the elite media response has been overwhelmingly positive.

"All the reforms unions oppose—charter schools, testing, accountability, No Child Left Behind, performance pay—have been around for a while now and the disasters the unions predicted have not come to pass," said Richard Colvin, who runs the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media in New York. "The unions are out of touch and are courting irrelevance."

Teachers and administrators who once relied on a steady stream of critical stories about charter schools (which they see as competitors) now witness a flow of laudatory articles. Fly-by-night charter operators still get their comeuppance in the press, but these days reporters are just as likely to profile the high-performing charters saving thousands of inner-city children from near-certain academic death . . . and then to ask why regular public schools can't do the same.

"Through the growing list of high-profile success stories, like KIPP [charter schools], the public is starting to understand that reform is actually possible," says Joe Williams, a former journalist who is now executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. "That's a big deal," argues Mr. Williams, "because the hopelessness that marred previous reform eras took a lot of people's eyes off the prize."

This new attitude in the press has little to do with the media and everything to do with changed public opinion. Parents are familiar with headlines about the educated work force in the U.S. falling behind international competitors. The public, for the most part, no longer sees school accountability measures as a plot to harm public schools. Indeed, according to a recent poll by the journal Education Next, almost three in four Americans support a national test for students.

Plus, as school reform moves from the abstract to the concrete, reporters have more to write about. Take charter schools as an example. For years, they were a messy story for reporters. Of the 4,600 charter schools around the country, most do no better than comparable traditional public schools. Some, in fact, do worse.

But that's not why charter schools are changing the education conversation. Among those schools, roughly 300 high-performing charters have emerged to accomplish something once thought impossible. They take low-income urban students previously viewed as a lost cause and turn them out college-ready. The success of these charters shows that being born black or Hispanic in poverty to poorly educated parents won't necessarily lead to bad educational outcomes. Good teaching might be able to overcome all of these factors. And if charter schools can close the education gap, why not traditional public schools?

How the teachers unions are answering that question explains much of the negative backlash against them. Recently, when the Baltimore education establishment witnessed a highly effective charter school blossom in that city, the union—saying it was responding to complaints from teachers at the school—forced the union-represented school to pare back its longer teaching hours, a key ingredient of its success. The resulting press coverage was brutal: In an editorial called "Don't fix what works," the Baltimore Sun noted that the teachers union "[lost] sight of what's important—the kids."

One of the aforementioned New York Times editorials was prompted by the teachers union's strong-arming of the New York Legislature to outlaw any use of student test scores in evaluating teachers for tenure. (Several states have similar bans, and right now just a few states use data on outcomes to evaluate teachers.) Unions are asking the public to believe that teachers should never be judged on their effectiveness. Even if the media were in the tank for the unions that would be a tough sell.

Of course, in the past it was difficult to measure teacher performance. But now, as a result of data collected under No Child Left Behind provisions, it is easier to figure out which teachers are succeeding. "Data and results are challenging an industry that was traditionally driven by hope, hype and good intentions," says Jane Hannaway, the director of education policy at the Urban Institute. Ms. Hannaway argues that in the long run these emerging databases may be the most important dividend of today's school accountability policies.

The press loves to write about numbers because data make stories easier to quantify. But as more and more journalists—and Americans in general—learn that barely half of minority students complete high school in four years or that only about 15% of low-income students earn a college degree within nine years of starting high school, they're realizing the gravity of the nation's educational problems.

"It's always been hard to get rid of bad teachers," says Linda Perlstein, public editor for the National Education Writers Association. "But now people are realizing it doesn't have to be—especially at a time they're hanging onto their own jobs with their fingertips."

—Mr. Whitmire is immediate past president of the National Education Writers Association. Mr. Rotherham writes the blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Charles Arlinghaus Nails it Again

The following piece appears in the Union Leader. I really do not think the average joe is aware of how fairly government employees are compensated or aware of their outstanding pensions which is constitutionally protected and paid for by taxpayers. Dare I say overcompensated.

Quote of the Day - "Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned." - Milton Friedman


Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

Charles M. Arlinghaus: State employees are not shortchanged

The biggest issue in state government right now is the struggle between state employees and the governor. The details about state employee compensation and its impact on the state budget are not often discussed, and this leads people to make assumptions that may or may not be accurate.

We must do something about the cost of state employees because they are the lion's share of the cost of having state government, we're told. The exact cost is hard to track down, but in 2008 the state employed about 12,000 people who make an average of $42,000, for about $504 million in salary cost. Add to that some additional people not included in the list of 12,000, a raise in 2009, increased pay step levels, and salaries still total less than $600 million.

The largest other employee cost is medical insurance. In New Hampshire, medical insurance had been growing rapidly. From 1999 to 2004, premiums paid for state employee medical benefits increased by about 20 percent a year -- from $49 million to $117 million. During the Benson administration, the state switched to self-insurance to try to better control costs, as many large companies do. As a result, premium growth slowed dramatically to about 7 percent each year. Medical coverage cost $156 million in 2008. At the old rate of growth, it would have been $80 million higher.

If we add together salary costs, health insurance and a few other items such as retirement contributions and retiree health costs, the total is around $800 million in an annual budget of around $5.7 billion -- about 14 percent of the total. Mind you, it may be a smaller percentage than people often think, but $800 million is nothing to sneeze at.

While its growth is not nearly as fast as state government itself, the state employee work force is still growing. Between 1998 and 2008, the number of filled permanent positions increased by 16.7 percent -- about 1,600 additional employees. The state budget in the same time period increased by 85 percent -- about $2.3 billion.

It is true that at one time the average state employee made less than the average citizen. That's no longer the case. From 2003 to 2008, state employee average pay increased from $33,600 to $42,500 -- about 4.8 percent per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that average pay in 2008 in all occupations in the state was $42,600. In 2009, a pay raise sent state employee pay past the state average.

So salaries are almost exactly average, but benefits are much higher. Private sector insurance is much less generous and involves higher co-pays than the typical state government plan. Even among state government plans, New Hampshire's is among the most generous. According the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual survey, only one state has a higher total cost, and it has significantly higher cost-sharing.

Family coverage costs about $20,800 for a state employee here compared to the national average of $12,700. The NCSL also estimates that average cost-sharing is 18 percent of that total, but only 2 percent in New Hampshire. So it costs taxpayers about $10,000 more per state employee than average.

In New Hampshire, this is a conscious decision. State employees have chosen to forgo higher pay in exchange for a more generous health insurance policy. Even so, an employee with family coverage has salary and medical benefits that are a good 20 percent higher than the average worker in the state.

There is much consternation over the possible layoff of 750 state workers. Yet history suggests that most of those workers could be rehired relatively quickly. Despite attractive pay and benefits, state government is not an unchanging monolith. Each year an average of 1,100 employees leave state service. Combined with the regular growth in the total number of employees and the creation of temporary positions, it means about 210 new employees are hired each month.

The state has been in the middle of a nominal hiring freeze for more than a year, but that doesn't stop positions from being filled. The freeze only applies to general funds, which cover fewer than half the employees. Even then, exceptions are granted. For example, during the four months of 2008 covered by the freeze, 71 exceptions were granted. In addition, another 100 or so other positions were filled. Combined with temporary and seasonal positions, about 1,000 people were hired in those four months.

Government has to be mindful of state employees both to ensure it attracts a dedicated work force and to make sure it isn't overcharging taxpayers. A look under the hood of state government suggests that we certainly aren't shortchanging the workers. But it also shows that 86 percent of the cost of government lies elsewhere and needs the same tough scrutiny that contracts are undergoing.

Charles M. Arlinghaus is president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank in Concord.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I thought everyone know about this video - video proves opponents correct

By now you may have seen the video of children singing praise to Obama in NJ schools. I actually saw this video earlier in the month and thought others had too. Now I almost wish I bought attention to the video back than, but I digress.

If the video had been about Bush the Left would have been in an uproar. With regards to Obama's policies substitute Bush and say would it be okay if Bush had try to do the same thing. Look at the policy and situation and not the person to decide if it is right or wrong. Heck if the children sung "We wish you a Merry Christmas" in this video the ACLU would be knocking on some doors.

The following piece appears in the American Thinker.

Quote of the Day - “The goal of modern propaganda is no longer to transform opinion but to arouse an active and mythical belief” - Jacques Ellul

Spelling and grammar errors as well as typos are left as an exercise for my readers.

September 26, 2009
NJ video proves Obama's school-speech opponents right
William Tate
The video of New Jersey teachers drilling schoolchildren to chant paeans to "Barack Hussein Obama"--adult Obamatons training impressionable children to become little Obamatons--proves that conservatives were right to oppose Barack Obama's nationwide speech to school children.

No, Obama didn't try to convert them on particular policy decisions when he spoke to students earlier this month, but no thoughtful person believed he would. Despite attempts by the Democrat Party's Big Media wing to portray opponents as paranoid, we didn't send kids to school wearing aluminum-foil hats to prevent Obama's broadcast from filtering into their brains--although I have suspicions that the sportscaster at MSNBC may have worn such a contraption during the Bush years.

But what was apparent then, and the New Jersey video proves now, is that Obama's unfettered direct access to students was part of an effort to inculcate a cult of personality about Obama. After all, Obama was elected primarily because the media worshipped at the cult they created around him. Well, that and about a billion of George Soros's dollars. 'Hope' and 'change' being no substitute for an actual platform.

The real motive behind Obama's school address was demonstrated by the infamous 'lesson plan' developed by the Department of Education, which asked students to write about how they could help Obama. That instruction was eventually deleted after word of it leaked out and large segments of the public protested, but other, blatant cult-of-personality instructions remained in the lesson plan:

*Teachers may post in large print around the classroom notable quotes excerpted from President Obama’s speeches on education.

*Based on these excerpts, what can we infer that the president believes is important in order to be educationally successful?

*Teachers may ask students to think of the following: Why does President Obama want to speak with us today? How will he inspire us?

*Teachers might conduct a 'listening with purpose' exercise based on the following ideas: personal responsibility, goals, and persistence. Teachers might ask pairs of students to create a word bank... to increase retention and deepen their understanding of an important aspect of the speech.

*Teachers... could focus students on quotations that either propose a specific challenge to them or that inspire them in some meaningful way. Students could do this activity individually, in pairs, or in groups.

*Is President Obama inspiring you to do anything? Is he challenging you to do anything? (Emphasis added.)

Much of the lesson plan specifies class discussion in front of the students' teachers. How much of that classroom discussion was directed by the same sort of teachers who were organizing the students in that New Jersey video? Do you have any doubts about how those discussions went?

This even as the Obama administration's profligate spending bankrupts the students' futures.

The New Jersey video, showing teachers teaching kids to sing paeans to "Barack Hussein Obama," has been described as bone-chilling. Some have said that it evokes nightmarish memories of Hitler youth, others have observed that it reeks of the adoration drummed into Chinese youth for Chairman Mao.

To this journalist, it called up other memories, not so much from the pictures, but of the rote chant. "Mmm, mmm, mmmm, Barack Hussein Obama." Voices drone on and on. I couldn't help but think of a single voice some years ago, monotonously urging his followers to drink the Kool-Aid.

William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author