Friday, July 01, 2011

Go Ohio – Gov. Kasich’s Budget – No Taxes, School Vouchers Increased, Ends Estate Tax, Adds 2% to Public Employees Pension Contributions.

Kasich Leads Ohio Forward with New Budget: image

FromThe Columbus Dispatch: Governor John Kasich signed Ohio’s new budget yesterday, after it passed the state’s legislature strictly along party lines – with zero Democrats voting with their Republican counterparts. The budget which includes increases in vouchers for school choice, and includes a requirement for school districts to evaluate teachers based on performance. In addition, school districts that receive Federal “Race to the Top” dollars are to use that money for merit pay for teachers – a novel idea that suggests teachers who teach and excel be compensated!
The Race to the Top Program includes 4 billion dollars in grants, was applied to ten states (New York Times):

The 10 winners of the competition’s second round were the District of Columbia (which was treated as a state for its application), Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.
Mr. Duncan has distributed all but about $75 million of the $3.4 billion that remained to Tuesday’s winners, and was still deciding what to do with the remaining money, he said.
Mr. Duncan apportioned the latest awards according to the number of students in each state. New York and Florida each won $700 million; Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio won $400 million; Massachusetts and Maryland won $250 million; and Rhode Island and the District of Columbia won $75 million.

Massachusetts, who recently released their MCAS (standardized test) scores, is the poster child for why one should not throw money at a problem, rather find real solutions to fix the problem. Ohio found solutions – although one could argue that only time will tell if these tweaks to the Ohio Education System might work, the fact that creating a competitive business model environment, offering incentives to employees who excel, generally increases productivity all the way around – competition is a good thing – (See District of Columbia.)

The Ohio Budget available here at The Govenor, using line-item veto, rejected 7 provisions according to the Dispatch:

Kasich also executed line-item vetoes of seven items, including a provision that would have canceled a voluntary body-mass-index screening program in schools.
Among the other six items vetoed was a provision related to the sale of five state prisons. Kasich struck from the budget a provision that if the buyer of a prison wanted to later put it up for sale, the state would have had the right of first refusal to buy back that prison at the original sale price. Kasich said the provision would have dramatically decreased the prisons' sale value for the state.

According to the American Federation for Children 40 of the 50 states and D.C., have some sort of school choice/voucher program in the state assemblies, with 20 states currently offering either school voucher or tax credit programs . The website offers a handy state by state reference as to achievement and programs offered: How does Massachusetts (who leads the nation in education) fare? a few statistics from the site: Massachusetts spends approximately $13,000 per student, with the end result that 57% of eighth graders are not proficient in reading!! This is an average for all municipalities in Massachusetts, however, speaking from personal experience: To educate a child in a elementary private parochial school in Western Massachusetts, the cost is approximately $3,000, those students enter either college prep schools (parochial with tuition costs of approximately $9,000), or public school systems after the 8th grade level. Those going into the public school system generally are placed in honors programs, while those going into the parochial system, at those costs, are basically guaranteed graduation, with acceptance (the majority) to 4 year colleges, and the minority to 2 year colleges – at a 100% graduation rate – the local public high school’s costs are approximately $12,000, with a graduation rate of 60%. Unfortunately, Massachusetts does not have a voucher program, rather they offer charter schools – normally those schools have a waiting list for enrollment.

It is no wonder then that those States that offer better education incentives to parents, lower taxes in general are a magnet for those who would prefer to live tax free while ensuring a better chance for their offspring, which, in effect, will have an impact on the next census: considering that states such as Massachusetts lost a seat, along with other Blue States, in the 2010 census due to individuals fleeing to more reasonable environments north and south of the border (of Massachusetts.) One has to ask, how many residents will be left in those states that do not offer taxpayers relief and how many more “Red States” will pick up additional congressional clout in a mere 9 years?

The Midwest is leading the pack with budgets that are both “controversial” (if one is a mainstream journalist or teachers or public employees union spokes mouth), and offer tax cuts as well as school choice, and increases in union members contributions to health and pension plans (modest at that). Inviting refugees from states that do not!

The exception to the Midwest rule of course, is New Jersey’s Tax and Slash, Budget Wise Governor, Chris Christie.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Obama 2012 PollsLags: Rasmussen Any Republican Bests by 4 Points, Public Policy Polling: Obama Trails 3 GOP Candidates - Huge Loss with Redistricting

Romney and Bachmann currently most likely to best Obama in 2012 - image NY Daily News

As the summer of 2011 hits mid-stride, and only seven months to go before the first primaries are held, President Barack Obama’s polling indicates one-term is more probable as the weeks go by. Rasmussen’s latest poll on the President’s electability against a “generic” Republican candidate now stands at 46% (Any GOP Candidate) to 42% for the President. The survey uses a larger than average sample of 3500, giving a smaller margin of error – plus or minus 2 percent. Considering that Obama bested McCain in 2008 by 7.2% (no incumbent), Bush bested Kerry by 2.46 in 2004 (July of 2003 Bush job approval at 60% (Gallup), with the highest “mandate” given to Nixon garnering 23.15% over McGovern in 1972 (no incumbent), and Reagan besting incumbent Jimmy Carter (job approval 29%), by less than 10 points in 1980, (Source for general election statistics: Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections), notes that those incumbents who are historically below the 50% approval trending incumbents against job approval ratings from the previous July, lost the election with a varied margin, those above the 50% approval were re-elected (again with a varying percentages). Therefore, the likelihood of a recovery for Obama from this point forward is dimming.

With redistricting taking place, and Texas being one of the prize states, Public Policy Polling’s latest on the Lone Star State indicates Obama would lose both the popular and increased Electoral College votes: now rating at 42% approval. GOP candidates that lead Obama are: Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul (Paul’s home state), he is tied with Herman Cain and leads the non-announced Sarah Palin by 1 point. Given the fact that the pollster trendsDemocrat, and in all press releases accompanying polls makes no secret of the fact they are pulling for Obama, makes these numbers doubly troubling for the President.

In the last Gallup 2010 state by state poll on Obama’s job approval, the President broke 50% in only 10 states, including California, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois and Vermont. should Gallup’s 2011 survey (due most likely 3rd week of July) show no improvement, coupled with the continuing decline against “Generic” GOP candidates nationwide, the election eve map will look eerily familiar to either Nixon’s or Reagan’s, even if he manages to continue to hold onto those 10 states.

One suggestion to anyone who wants a voice in who the next leader of the free world may be (of any political leaning:) start looking at which one of those GOP announced candidates one might prefer over the other as the probability that (as of this survey) Romney or Bachmann (the two leading most state polls in early primary/caucus states), would be the next President. Either one or actually any one of the announced candidates previously mentioned that would have the best chance of winning the GOP nomination – would, based on statistics, go on to best Obama in the general.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Massachusetts Teachers to Face Limited Grading on Student Test Scores – 2011 MCAS Results Speak to Deficiency in Public Schools Statewide

From: The Boston Globe: “In a dramatic departure from past practice, students’ MCAS scores and other achievement data will become key barometers in evaluating the performance of their teachers and administrators, under new criteria the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved yesterday.”

In reading the article, The MCAS Scores and “other achievement data” will be used in determining a teachers overall ability; and warnings will be issued with lack of improvement, with a four warning levels, as well as the use of an “evaluator” who will factor in the teachers “pedagogical or management skills.” (Boston Globe). Those evaluators will have the ability to negate a teacher’s inability to teach, keeping them in the classroom based on management skills? No wonder the teachers unions weren’t marching in the streets, banging bongo drums!

In addition, the program will ‘phase’ in, beginning with ten districts evaluating teachers in underperforming schools, the balance of the Bay State systems have two years to institute this system.

One wonders why the Teachers Unions agreed to allow those teachers to be so judged on performance, with the caveat that management skills would override a “failing teachers” fate of “firing”. – The Globe explains completely in the last paragraph of the article:

“Our first step is to identify teachers who need additional support and ratchet up efforts to identify outstanding teachers,’’ Johnson said. “What we don’t want are students to suffer multiple years from ineffective teachers. We want them to have effective teachers every year.’’
(Boston Globe)

What this tells the casual reader or concerned parent is that a failing teacher may not be totally incompetent; rather, they may just need “additional support”. – In other words, nothing will change.

With the results of the latest MCAS assessment available at the Massachusetts Department of Education, it is evident that the board might have put more “teeth” into the teacher assessment program – in effect, firing those that did not achieve a class with at least a 70% total score, instead of allowing them to be judged on their “art of teaching” and “management skills”, getting a passing grade, while their students sink into oblivion.

The scores are based on three categories: English, Math and Science and Technology: One may download the excel sheet with scores for individual Bay State High Schools here at the Dept. of Education Website.

Taking one example: New Bedford: All students combined for the class of 2012 had a mean grade of 27% passing on the three tests combined: Females fared better than their male counterparts, with 30% passing, to 24% of males passing the test. Of course, one has to further break down the test, to be fair, as 40 of the students have limited English proficiency, 145 are described as students with disabilities, and 399 of the 795 enrolled are “white” – in other words, regardless of ethnicity, disabilities and the inability to speak English – only 27% of the 795 enrolled students passed. (Based on the data available)

The grade 10 student English Language Arts Test here in PDF Students read a selection from a book entitled Candy Freak (no Tolstoy), and multiple chose questions assessed their reading skills.
(Taken from the PDF)
The first question:
In paragraph 1, what does the repetition of the word “actual” suggest about the author?
A. He hopes to have access to alot of free candy.
B. He wants to be employed by a candy company.
C. He wants firsthand experience with the candy business.
D. He regrets the disappearance of so many candy companies.

The paragraph is available for readers here at

One might suggest there has been a serious decline in the expectations assigned to the English Language and our students’ ability to read and comprehend.

If one cannot, for some reason, speak English, the tests are also available in Spanish. The balance of the MCAS questions for all grades are also available at the Mass. DOE website. If one finds these tests difficult it is a good bet one was educated after 1970.

If teachers (to be fair, not all teachers), were less concerned with pleasing one of two unions, their pensions and salaries, and more concerned about the success of their students, then these grades might be a tad better.

The facts are that standardized tests have been administered for eons, in the 1950’s and 1960’s there were both IQ and Achievement Tests, which ranked students, those who passed with flying colors (and you can best the house it was more than 27% of a class) continued to learn and improve, those that did not were put into “special classes”, which allowed them to learn at their own pace.

At that time America ranked among the most educated nations in the world. In the 1970’s the first teacher union was introduced in Philadelphia, and the test scores plummeted from that point forward – over a period of 30 years, also known as the “dummying down of America”.

Fix the problem: realistic goals for both students and teachers, with an emphasis on aiding the teachers by giving them the respect due, with consequences for those students and their parents who would prefer to disrupt the process and sue the municipality in question, allowing their children to run rampant. It is, to be fear, difficult to teach if one is surrounded by students who have neither respect for the teacher, and the teacher has no recourse as far as discipline is concerned. Perhaps, just perhaps, parents who support inappropriate and disruptive behavior should be sued by the school, student suspended, and a list of nice private schools given to them on their way out the door.

In other words, roll back the process to the 1950’s. When teachers were respected, disruptive students were sent home, or Juvenile dentition (another sadly missed aspect of that time), and the balance of the students excelled. Parents who’s student was sent home, soundly dealt with them, rather than suing the Town or Municipality. This may sound nostalgic, however, it is common sense, with some slight modifications, (updated texts and tests for example), would better serve our children and generations to come, rather than the system that states employ today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2012 Update: Romney In NH on Bachmann, Palin Right on History, In Iowa for Film – Appears to Avoid GOP, Poll: 73% - Woman as President within 10 Years

Romney, Palin & Bachmann - photo - notice: Romney appears nervous, next to photos of both Palin and Bachmann - not necessarily the best - most often by design

Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts Governor, was in New Hampshire on the stump this week: in an interview, Romney, according to the Boston Herald ”refused to criticize new opponent U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann as she entered the GOP presidential field today instead calling the Minnesota Republican “a very strong contender.”. Romney touted his ability to work across the aisle, moving quickly to the middle in the State with a hefty population of refugees from Massachusetts. Massachusetts Republican’s, it should be noted, are more likely to work closely with their Democrat Counterparts, or in Romney’s case, the Legislature, simply due to numbers and their inability to get anything done in the Bay State otherwise dubbed, “the People’s Republic of Massachusetts”. They manage to do so, surprisingly, while continuing to hold onto basic conservative values, in some, not all cases – this moderate stance, although not necessarily helpful in a primary, plays well in a general election. That said Romney’s refusal to criticize Bachmann might be a strategy designed to avoid alienating both the conservative and women’s vote. Then again, Bachmann’s straight forward style might be a tad intimidating - should Romney chance a Huckabee type attack, he’d be sure to face some serious flak. In a recent poll conducted by the Des Moines Register, Bachmann tied Romney in Iowa.

Speaking of Bachmann (and any woman running for the top job), the LA times offers:”Michelle Bachmann Confronts Familiar Hurdles for Female Candidates: The article begins by noting a gaffe Bachmann made in New Hampshire (the State right next to Massachusetts) regarding the “shot heard round the world”, delved into Fox New’s Chris Wallace asking Bachmann if she were a “flake” and then speaks to the problems both Palin and Clinton faced in their respective bids in 2008. The article ends by stating the Rasmussen Poll noting a majority of voters believe a woman will be President within 10 years, more on that follows. Simply repeating that Bachmann, or any woman, is going to face problems based on gender bias, is stating the obvious, however, it should be noted that the gender biased faced by both Palin and Clinton in 2008 came mostly from – the media. More on the Rasmussen poll follows.

Regarding Palin, a letter written in the Beaumont Texas Enterprise, exonerates Palin who was incorrectly hammered by the media for a ‘non-gaffe’ in noting that Paul Revere warned the British – which was correct – the writer states: “Having been captured by British horsemen, he told them the Americans were alerted and waiting for them. Palin's point was that well-armed Americans were then a strength of our country and are now.” Apparently, they still teach history in Texas – and journalist or communications majors rarely take more than the required “overview” history course while pursuing a degree. The basics, Revere, on his way to warn the militia’s, was with compatriots, and upon understanding they were to be captured, his compatriot escaped to ride on, while Revere was held in British custody. The rest, as they say, is history. (History is a subject, which is often open to wild interpretation similar to the U.S. Constitution, when it fits a story line, or is designed to further an agenda or denigrate a political opponent.)

Palin, who will be in Iowa for a showing of Steven Bannon’s, “The Undefeated”, is reportedly not reaching out to key GOP activists in the state – Bannon, made the comment that, on his part, the lack of contact with the State GOP was by design, going for a more “populist” tone. It goes without saying that should Palin, announce (and there is more than ample time to do so), she may fare well in Iowa, or not – Although heavily touted as a bellwether (along with New Hampshire and South Carolina) in both major political party Presidential nomination processes, it is more likely, than not, that a candidate can have a strong showing in either state and still come up short in the long run (see 2008). Then again, in party politics, minute by minute news and the time differential between now and the primaries, anything can happen.

Speaking of which: The Rasmussen Reports, released a survey yesterday, that indicated 73% of the populace believe that a woman would be elected to the highest office “within the next 10 years”. One might ask, why the next ten years, why not the next two years? The answer: The pollsters first question asked: “1* How likely is it that a woman will be elected president of the United States in the next 10 years?”
In the analysis, 3 out of 4 voters believe it is “somewhat likely” this even may occur. Other points of interest in the poll of 1000 likely voters: Democrats are more likely to vote for a woman than Republican’s, yet, a majority believe the first woman elected would be a moderate (41%), followed by 27% who believe it will be a Conservative, and 16% who feel that woman will be a liberal. Read the entire article here: at

The article does note that Bachman had “surged” to second place in a poll conducted by Rasmussen on June 16th. (Poll data here: at Rasmussen

Note to Rasmussen: would you consider a poll with the same questions based on 2012?

The polls may explain Romney’s lack of criticism when it comes to Bachmann or Palin: perhaps, with both women in the race (or one), as the short-list for running mate begins early in the process, Romney would benefit, if not at the Top of the Ticket, decidedly at the bottom.

The most interesting facet to this race may be when and if, Palin enters the race, giving two women the national spotlight for the first time in history in any major party. Both Palin and Bachmann (normally touted in media articles as “Tea Party”, evangelical – surprisingly they are not being compared to George W. Bush as well!) would bring their fearless, conservative feminist style to the debate forum – making it much more entertaining than the last GOP CNN debate, where Bachmann evidently outshone her male counterparts. (Opinion). What would best serve the nation, in a utopian world, would be if labels were not applied to candidates, be they gender, race, religion or ethnicity – and each candidate would be allowed to advance or lag, dependent upon the will of the people (as opposed to a helping hand from the media). Early primary Predictions based on polling and who has announced (and little else); Bachmann/Romney would be the ticket. (As all are away crystal balls are prone to cracks!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Youth Gangs Terrorize from Peoria to Philadelphia – the Impact of the Economy crosses Socio-Economic Lines - Opinion

Workfare under FDR, from the blog "They were teaching us to work"

So called “gangs” of teens and pre-teens have been forming in larger urban areas for the express purpose of harassing neighbors and robbing large chain stores – all in recent weeks. An article from Peoria.comspeaks to a group of 50 African-American youths who walked through a Peoria neighborhood, threatening residents- the report, read in a “Dramatic Reading” You-Tube video suggests that the police informed neighbors to stay inside, with only one officer responding. The Peoria Journal Star however, suggests that the allegations of these youths threatening to “kill whites” was exaggerated, because several individuals in this “racially” diverse neighborhood did not “hear” any such language. However, the excerpt that follows suggests, at the least, a threat:

Kenny Rogers, who has lived on Sheridan for 10 years, called police Friday after he saw the group "hollering" and stopping traffic on the street. He did not hear anyone yell that they wanted to kill white people.
Rogers says the crowd was running wildly around yards and porches. It was the largest Rogers, 38, had ever seen in the neighborhood.
"They were doing a show of force," he said, "to show everybody, 'Hey, this is their hood.'"

In Delaware, a group of approximately 40 youth ranging in age from 11 upwards, boarded trains from Philadelphia, arriving in Delaware with the express purpose of robbing a local Sears in Upper Darby, DE Dubbed a “flash mob”, by the press, the fact that these teens planned and executed a robbery, makes this more criminal than a mere “flash mob”.
More on Incident here at Delco Times With video below:

Meanwhile, back in Illinois, Chicago youth gang violence continued with a “teen mob” robbing a Walgreens drugstore.
As most of the violence began in Chicago, a reporter for the Sun Times suggests using sports programs as a way to keep these teens off the street and otherwise engaged, preventing large “gangs” congregating, planning and executing robberies.

The fact of the matter is that as the economy continues to struggle, those hit the hardest by the dwindling dollar, are those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. With the “misery index” (a combination of the unemployment rate and inflation), hitting a 26 year high, lower and middle class families are feeling the squeeze: paychecks, or government assistant checks/or cards, simply do not go as far when it comes to items such as food and clothing. Therefore there is little left over for families and those who are used to purchasing top of the line items in clothing and electronics, find that there simply is no money left to pay for “extras”.

Youth Programs also cost money, taxpayers, dollars, which, with the high unemployment rate, states find that their revenue to pay for programs of any sort are steadily decreasing. The “entitlement” mentality of most of today’s youth, regardless of socio-economic class, race or ethnicity, coupled with a general acceptance of violence (be it from music, videos or parental malaise) somehow translates into a “right” of the mob to rob large chain stores, and or claim neighborhoods as their own.

Sports programs are fine, but one needs sneakers to participate, and those new sneakers may be hard to come by after funds are depleted paying for food and basics.
During the Carter Administration, when the term “misery index” was coined, those in the middle and lower income brackets, did not take to the streets to rob and pillage, rather, there was an element of crime that was more reminiscent of “Robin Hood” than violence “in the hood”. With elderly, especially in poor urban areas, literally buying tinned cat food for dinner due to the high costs of meat, younger people would steal meat from grocery stores, and either give or sell it to those in the urban areas. This from a perspective of one who had lived in a 4th floor walk-up in an urban area in Western Massachusetts and had seen the aforementioned take place until the economy righted. The fact that the attitude was more “help my neighbor” (granted through criminal behavior) rather than, “help myself”, speaks volumes about the “entitlement” society in which we live, and the lack of basic values that exists today.

The fact that these incidents are currently taking place in African American communities, does not mean it will not spread to include neighborhoods that are more mixed – the element would be the economy plus “the world owes me a living” mentality of today’s pre-teens and teens.

What’s the fix?

Repercussions noted before the fact: If one thought that participating in grand larceny (that is what these store robberies are technically), would land them in a juvenile detention facility until they were eighteen (one that was complete with education reminiscent of the same facilities in the 1950’s, 1960’s), one could bet the house that more than one would hesitate.

Blaming the music, the lack of family structure, and any specific race or ethnic background is ludicrous, rather, it is the government itself, coupled with the public school system, one promising largesse for simply being, and the other demanding little of the student body in either discipline or educational achievement for that matter, being more interested in ensuring their benefits, and salary at par, and that above all the district and teachers avoid lawsuits from parents who might take offence at one too many detentions or suspensions.

Instituting rules within the school system, and insuring that these rules are followed, that students are kept busy with academic “homework” would go further over time, than taking a back seat and watching chaos from the “cheap seats”. In addition, the Federal Government, might, in lieu of handing out entitlements, from unemployment insurance to welfare, institute FDR style “workfare” until the nation rights itself. With little money for governments to hire a workforce to clean and maintain the nations parks, this might be another solution to both cut down on this behavior, as well as instill a work ethic in a generation that apparently has none.
As the economy continues to remain stagnant, should no fear of repercussions continue, and respect for authority not be brought to bear, should the government (state and federal) not be able to meet “entitlement program obligations” due to the fact that the nation is basically broke, one can expect more of the same from this generation and communities both urban and suburban might anticipate more of these “flash mobs”. Destruction of private property or worse? Unfortunately if something is not done soon, there will be the occasion where a “flash mob” strikes the wrong suburban store, and meets the wrong security guards, with the end result of loss of life. What then? It is up to a combination of parents, the government who has bred the “attitude” which exists, though both entitlement programs as well as the public school system; to right the wrong it has done to generations. This nation allows for any one of any race, creed, or ethnic background to become productive, the goal should be each generation building more, learning more than the last, what has taken place under the auspices of political opportunity (for that is exactly what this is), is criminal and has created these criminals, instead of upstanding citizens of this great nation.

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