Currently viewing the tag: “education”

This is a cross-post from the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

Stan Johnson, Sid Hatch and Mike Langyel were surprised when they were asked by Gov. Scott Walker’s staff representatives and the Milwaukee police department’s professional performance division to leave a press conference this afternoon on education reform.

I wanted to hear first hand what the governor had in plan for education reform since these changes will directly affect the Milwaukee teachers,” said Stan Johnson, executive director of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association.

We heard there was going to be an announcement about education; we wanted to be able to understand the details of that plan so we went to the conference, only to be asked to leave by one of Walker’s staff and the Milwaukee police.

Dozens of community members protested outside of Hope Christian School in Milwaukee today. All had gathered to participate in the press conference to learn more about education reform but were denied that right.

“The governor is giving a press conference on education yet he won’t let any educators in,” said Mike Langyel, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association.

It just doesn’t make sense. One of the values of Wisconsin is openness from our elected officials and letting constituents take part in democracy. Today, that right was denied.

It appears that Gov. Walker is trying to take away the right of the people to participate in their democracy in order to push through his corporate agenda without any witnesses.


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Our guest blogger is Theodora Chang, Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says that H.R. 471, which reauthorizes the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, is a way for us to get serious about education reform:

So if we’re serious about bipartisan education reform, we should start by saving this successful, bipartisan program that has helped so many underprivileged children get a quality education. I urge the House to support and save this important program.

Republicans estimate that the program — which they voted yesterday to revive — has made funding available for 3,000 D.C students. But they have little to say about ways to reach the other students stuck in the 10,000+ low-performing schools across the country. As Ranking Member of the Education and Workforce Committee George Miller (D-CA) stated:

If you really care about school reform…you have to do it in a sustainable and systemic way. All children in this country deserve to be held to high standards, to be in classrooms that are safe and to have access to the special needs services to which they are entitled under federal law.

“Getting serious about education” requires addressing the deeper funding issues that affect all students, starting with fiscal equity. Equal opportunities for students are hindered by inequitable funding formulas at the state and district level as well as under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Studies show that students attending high-poverty schools actually need more funding to achieve at the level of their wealthier counterparts, but reality shows us shortchanging our students.

A number of districts and states have taken laudable steps to begin tackling fiscal equity. The Oakland Unified School District, for example, now uses a Results-Based Budgeting system where a minimum total expenditure level is developed for all schools and real school budgets (including the actual costs of teacher salaries) are adjusted up or down to meet that expenditure level. Schools with lower staff expenditures receive additional funds to spend on resources intended to increase academic achievement.

Moving to fair funding systems will also require action at the federal level. Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act currently allows districts to conceal considerable gaps in actual spending between high and low poverty schools, and reauthorization should address this lack of transparency. Boehner is on record as saying that he wants to give some children in need “a way out of our most underachieving public schools.” The question now is when and how our nation’s policymakers will devote the political will to ensure a fair education system for all.

Wonk Room

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By Neal McCluskey

Over the last few days Jay Greene, the Fordham Institute’s Kathleen Porter-Magee, and several other edu-thinkers have been arguing about whether national curriculum standards would destroy a competitive market in education, and a market that already provides the uniform standards Fordham wants Washington to impose. But let’s be very clear: We haven’t had a real market — a free market — in education for a long time.

Sadly, I’m afraid Jay started this whole mess, though he certainly knows what a free market in education would look like and I don’t think he intended to confuse the issue.  Indeed, he doesn’t use the term “free market,” but mainly writes about the “competitive market between communities.” His argument is that Americans over time picked standardized curricula and schools by moving to districts that provided such things. He is no doubt at least partially right, though the case is hardly open and shut. Indeed, there is strong historical evidence that district consolidation and uniformity was often pushed on small districts from outside, especially in urban areas. It is also quite possible that many people moved to districts with uniform offerings not in search of such offerings, but in search of something else that happened to coincide with them. Most notably, industrialization brought many people to cities in search of employment, and school uniformity often came with that. Finally, the economist whose work inspired Jay’s post notes that while he believes small rural districts died largely due to residents abandoning them, he concedes that there is a “lack of direct evidence connecting rural property values with local decisions about consolidation.”

Those caveats aside, Jay’s point is a still good one that I have made before, most notably when discussing schooling and social cohesion: People will tend to have their children learn many ”common” things because that is the key to personal success. People will learn what they need to in order to work effectively and successfully in society.  Moreover, people will simply tend to gravitate toward things that work.

So the main problem in the Greene-Fordham debate is not that Jay’s points are necessarily wrong, it’s that “competitive market between communities” is too easily misconstrued as “free market,” and it fails to acknowledge the gigantic inefficiencies that come from government monopolies, whether controlled at the district, state, or federal level. Those include the massive, expensive waste that fills the pockets of special interests employed by the system; constant conflict over what the schools will teach; and at-best very ponderous competition — if you want a better school you have to buy a new house — that quashes crucial innovation and specialization. Worse yet, it leads to the following kind of crucial, damaging misunderstanding by Porter-Magee:

For more than a decade we have been conducting a natural experiment where we let market forces drive standards setting at the state level. The result? A swift and sure race to the bottom. A majority of states had failed to set rigorous standards for their students—and had failed to create effective assessments that could be used to track student mastery of that content. In fact, the whole impetus behind the Common Core State Standards Initiative was to address what was essentially a market failure in education.

This is wrong, as they say, on so many levels!

First, we do not have real market forces anywhere at work in the current, NCLB-dominated regime. Using the quick list of market basics that John Merrifield lays out in his Policy Analysis on school choice research, a truly free market needs profit, price change, market entry, and product differentiation.” None of these are meaningfully at work in public schooling, with profit-making providers at huge tax-status disadvantages; public schools artificially “free” to customers; high legal barriers to starting new institutions that can meaningfully compete with traditional public schools; and requirements that all public schools teach the same things, at least at the state level. 

Moreover, if you want to talk about competition between states — which is more in line with what Jay was discussing – under NCLB all states have faced the same, overwhelming incentives to establish low standards, weak accountability, or both: If they don’t get their students to something called “proficiency” – which they define — the federal government punishes them! In light of that, of course they have almost all set very low “proficiency” bars. But that is about as far from “a natural experiment where we let market forces drive standards setting” as you can get! Indeed, it is a brilliant example not of market failure, but government failure!

Ultimately, Jay’s point is right: People on their own will tend to select educational options that are unifying, as well as gravitate to what appears to work best, so there is no need for the federal government to impose it. Moreover, as Jay points out, there are huge reasons to avoid federal standardization, including that special interests like teachers unions will likely capture such standards. But that problem has been at work with state and local monopolies, and it, along with myriad other government failures, will not be overcome until we have a real market in education — a free market in education.

Let’s Not Lose Sight of a Real Education Market is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog

Cato @ Liberty

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Written by Janine Mendes-Franco

“All children now go to secondary school. But it remains an unfortunate truth that the majority of those innocents who sat SEA Tuesday will not have the secondary schooling they deserve”: Lisa Allen-Agostini blogs about the state of education.

Global Voices in English

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Eighty six years after the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial opened Tennessee classrooms to the teaching of evolution, the state House is trying to slam the door shut again. Tennessee’s House Education Committee approved a bill Tuesday in the name of “academic freedom,” but in reality, it is a thinly veiled attempt to curtail the teaching of…
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Washington (CNN) – You can tell baseball season is just around the corner: Just listen to the House of Representatives debate education reform. During Wednesday’s debate over restarting a school voucher program for District of Columbia residents, lawmakers quoted from the noted educators Leo Durocher, Yogi Berra, Satchel Paige (Twice!) and Casey Stengel.

The baseball greats were on the minds of members from both sides of the aisle.

Republican Representative Rob Bishop of Utah led off: “Durocher always said for his team, that, ‘I make a great effort to argue for the issues but there are two things against me: The Umpires and the Rules.’” Bishop explained his analogy by saying opponents of vouchers have two things against them: The unique Constitutional relationship between the Congress and the District of Columbia and the “underprivileged kids” who will benefit from the bill.

Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings noted a previous Democratic Congress had allowed a DC voucher program to expire and dismissed the effort to revive it as a “shallow attempt” to “appease the right wing of the Republican party.” “My colleague used Leo Durocher. He played with and against Yogi Berra,” Hastings continued. “Yogi Berra reminds me, if I were to use an analogy, this is ‘Déjà vu all over again.’”

In his next at-bat in the debate, Bishop said, “Since, Mister Hastings also used a baseball reference to tie me, I have to one up him one more time. In the words of the great Satchel Paige, who was consulting a struggling pitcher who was failing to get it over on the corners, he just said, ‘Throw the pitch. Just throw strikes. Home plate don’t move.’” Bishop explained the voucher program is “one of those strikes.”

Hastings tossed it right back at Bishop: “Satchel Paige also said, ‘Don’t look back.’”

Later in the debate, Bishop tossed-out another baseball analogy. “Casey Stengel, at one time, -talking about, I think, one of the best second basemen ever, Bobby Richardson- said ‘I just can’t understand it. He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t stay out at night and he still can’t hit .250.” Admitting it was a non-sequitur, Bishop then complained he couldn’t understand why anyone would oppose the voucher bill because it, “only expands choices for DC’s least-financially-blessed school kids.”

DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton took the floor to complain about the use of “public money for private schools” and, her voice raised, condemned the Republican proposal: “Self government means nothing if the District of Columbia can still be a dumping ground for every pet project and pet idea of the majority. We have our own pet ideas and will insist on the respect for our own pet ideas and not yours!”

She struck out.

The voucher bill passed 225- 195.

CNN Political Ticker

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DC Pundette offered a link to this letter (PDF) from the Dane County GOP whose text I will reproduce in its entirety, mostly because it’s hilarious and reads like a sixth grader doing his book report:

The Republican Party of Dane County sent out a press release on March 29th criticizing Judge Maryann Sumi for holding up the publication of Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reform bill. Upon further reflection we’d like to apologize for not understanding her point of view.

Sure, Governor Walker’s bill is unquestionably constitutional, increases worker’s rights and helps local government balance budgets without having to fire public workers. The Wisconsin state legislature consulted with their non-partisan parliamentarian to make sure that the passage of the bill followed the rules of the Senate and Assembly. But this isn’t about the law, is it?

The Republican Party of Dane County recognizes that Judge Sumi is a leftist living in Dane County. Her friends are leftists living in Dane County. Her son is a left wing activist in Dane County. She goes to cocktail parties held by leftists in Dane County. She shops at organic gourmet food shops run by leftists living in Dane County. If she were to enforce the law of Wisconsin and do what was in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin, she’d be exiled from her lifestyle. She’d lose her friends!

The leadership of the Republican Party of Dane County have all made the choice to stand against the Dane County elite. We accept that Left feels righteous vandalizing our homes and keying our cars. It’s only fair. We disagree based upon logic and principle. That is intolerable! We prioritize the Constitution and the well being of the people of Wisconsin over foie gras at cocktail parties. That’s the choice we made. We respect Judge Sumi’s decision to live her life with the rich diversity that liberals cherish.

Bad writing aside, there’s something very strange about how conservatives like entrepreneurs and small businessmen unless their entrepreneurial business is in the gourmet food sector. The CEO of Whole Foods, by contrast, is actually a rapid right-winger. And why shouldn’t he be? He’s a rich successful businessman who doesn’t want to pay taxes! But identity politics conquers all, and “foie gras” is a French phrase, so obviously conservatives are against it.


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When I went to a meeting last fall about the new virtual school in our county, I publicly praised the local school superintendent for embracing digital education.

I should have held my tongue.

Or so at least says a new report written by Michael Horn and Heather Clayton Staker of the Innosight Institute.  The report, “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning,” catalogs the exponential growth in the number of U.S. students taking at least one course online – from roughly 45,000 in 2000 to three million K-12 students by 2009.

In addition, the report describes the incredible potential that digital education promises for America’s future.  “Online learning has the potential to transform America’s education system by serving as the backbone of a system that offers more personalized learning approaches for all students,” write Horn and Staker.

So, why should I have held my tongue?

Because the report also warns that much of the promise of digital education could be thwarted if public school systems seek to squeeze new technologies into old frameworks.

“There is a significant risk that the existing education system will co-opt online learning as it blends it into its current flawed model—and just as is the case now, too few students will receive an excellent education,” Horn and Staker write.

And how exactly might this “co-opting” occur?  By school districts adopting policies like the one our new county virtual school has adopted – that all virtual classes must fit within the existing school calendar.

Now, at first blush, this may not seem like a big deal.  If the rest of a student’s courses are following the traditional school calendar, why shouldn’t the virtual school courses do the same – especially since most online students are “hybrid learners” who spend part of their school day in the traditional classroom?

Horn says doing this turns one of the great advantages of digital learning on its head.  As he explained in a recent interview with eSchool News, our traditional school system “measures seat time and moves students along when they hit certain dates on a calendar.”  In this system, “time is fixed, and the learning is variable.”

By contrast, digital education allows us to “measure learning and move individual students along to new concepts as they master previous ones,” Horn says.  With online education, learning becomes fixed, but the time it takes different students to achieve mastery of the content is variable.

The big danger with digital education, says Horn, is that schools will take a “disruptive innovation” that can help us build a new system adaptable to the individual needs of each student and will force it instead to work within the traditional one-size-fits-all paradigm.

Or, to put it in terms applicable to our county, the big danger is that school systems will take courses that could be started and completed at any point in the 12-month calendar and force them to start and finish at the same points that the traditional nine-month school calendar classes start and finish.  (Incidentally, the widely-acclaimed Florida Virtual School offers its classes throughout the 12-month calendar, which is especially helpful to students who need credit recovery, and to those who want to take a heavier load during certain times of the year in order to facilitate participation in sports and other extracurricular activities at other times in the year.)

To protect digital education from being “co-opted,” the report calls for policy makers to encourage innovation by “creating zones with increased autonomy.”  It urges policy makers to “hold providers accountable for results so that the adoption of online learning leads to radically better outcomes for students.”  And it admits that blended learning options can be good or bad, just as hybrid cars can run well or poorly.

“Some programs save money; others are more expensive,” Horn and Staker write.  “Some produce stellar results; others do not.”

Still, Horn and Staker say that digital education has great promise.  It allows for a fundamental redesign of the educational model, creating a more personalized pedagogy that permits each student to work at his or her own pace to achieve academic success.

William Mattox is a resident fellow at The James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Florida.

Big Government

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The Obama administration, principally the president and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, are now routinely making public statements which are leading to one conclusion: instead of fixing American education, we should dumb down the standards.

According to the Associated Press, President Obama “is pushing a rewrite of the nation’s education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools” and wants “a test that ‘everybody agrees makes sense’ and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually.”

The article goes on to say that Obama wants to move away proficiency goals in from math, science and reading, in favor of the ambiguous and amorphous goals of student readiness for college and career.

Obama’s new focus comes on the heels of a New York Times report that 80% of American public schools could be labeled as failing under the standards of No Child Left Behind.

Put another way: the standards under NCLB have revealed that the American public education system is full of cancer. Instead of treating the cancer, Obama wants to change the test, as if ignoring the MRI somehow makes the cancer go away.

So instead of implementing sweeping policies to correct the illness, Obama is suggesting that we just stop testing to pretend it doesn’t exist.

If Obama were serious about curing the disease, one of the best things he could do is to ensure that there is a quality teacher in every classroom in America. Of course, that would mean getting rid teacher tenure and scrapping seniority rules that favor burned-out teachers over ambitious and innovative young teachers.

That means standing up to the teacher unions.  For a while, it looked like Obama would get tough with the unions, but not anymore. With a shaky economy and three wars, it looks like Obama’s re-election is in serious jeopardy.  He needs all hands on deck – thus the new union-friendly education message.

Obama’s new direction will certainly make the unionized adults happy. They’ve hated NCLB from the get-go.

And the unions will love Obama’s talk about using criteria other than standardized testing in evaluating schools.

He doesn’t get specific, of course, but I bet I can fill in the gaps.  If testing is too harsh, perhaps we can judge students and schools based on how hard they try or who can come up with the most heart-wrenching excuse for failure or how big the dog was that at their homework.

This makes sense in America’s continual slouch toward mediocrity.  But hand-holding and effort awards didn’t produce the light bulb or the automobile or the MRI.

Hard work, accountability and the real possibility of failure – those are the things that made America great. Some kids and parents need to receive the cold hard reality that they’re not up to snuff.  The Obama administration should not dumb things down so fewer people feel bad.

Because then those same people will complain when the cancer is incurable.

Big Government

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Perhaps the biggest implication of our country’s growing Hispanic population, as recently confirmed by the US Census Bureau, is its impact on our public school system.  With Hispanic children comprising more of our enrolled public school student-body, but comprising a growing number of our high school drop outs, it’s clear that we are facing the prospect of a largely uneducated workforce in the near future.

In this light, it’s clear why the President would want to address education policy, specifically as it relates to the Hispanic population, in front of the largest Spanish television network.  As part of Univision’s marketing campaign titled, “Es el Momento,” roughly translated to “It’s Time,” in the hopes of spurring a broader discussion on education policy among the Hispanic community, President Obama addressed about two hundred students at the Bell Multicultural High School in NW Washington; D.C to tout his Administration’s policies to improve education achievement among Hispanic students.

Unfortunately after listening to the President speak at length on education, it’s evident that his limitless faith on the federal government to improve our school system remains strong.

In fact, today’s speech stands out not for what the President said – but rather, of what wasn’t said.  Conspicuously absent from any of the President’s answers on education policy was the merits of school choice and school vouchers.  To be sure, the President had a number of opportunities to mention the importance of empowering parents to choose the best school for their children as a way of increasing accountability and competition into our education system.

The absence of school choice in the hour long discussion was particularly peculiar considering both the venue and the timing of the President’s remarks given that Congress is slated to vote on a popular and effective school voucher program called the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) this week.  As we have been writing, this program has been providing low income schoolchildren in Washington, D.C., which ranks 51st in the nation in standardized test scores, with scholarships to attend a private school of their choice.  Unfortunately, the President’s silence on this issue speaks volumes.

In essence, the President’s silence confirms that he does not wish to anger the powerful teacher unions who vigorously oppose the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.

This posture is particularly disingenuous considering the stubbornness of failing to see how we have gotten nowhere in closing the racial achievement gap by simply increasing federal funding while empowering the federal government.  In fact, based on the president’s answers in today’s town hall, he remains convinced that all we need to do is simply re-tweak federal policy while pumping more and more of our hard earned tax money into education spending to improve Hispanic academic achievement.

If the President was serious about truly helping to close the racial achievement gap between Hispanic and non Hispanic students, he would look to the state of Florida as a blueprint.  Through bold reforms, such as increasing public and private school choice options and rewarding teachers who achieve student gains, Florida’s Hispanic students now outscore or tie the statewide average for all students in reading in 31 states.

Unfortunately, the President’s empty rhetoric on education makes clear that he is more interested in re-arranging the deck chairs than taking on the special interests that will be necessary if we are to ever close the racial achievement gaps plaguing our school system.

Univision is correct when it says, “Ya es Hora” or “It’s Time,” to address our failing education system for the good of our country.  Unfortunately what the President prescribed in his answers in today’s town hall will not help us get there.

Israel Ortega is the Editor of Heritage Libertad – the Heritage Foundation’s Spanish language site.  You can follow him on Twitter: @IzzyOrtega. Click here to read a version of this blog in Spanish at Heritage Libertad.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

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Over at The Atlantic, Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni have posted How the Filibuster Wrecked the Roman Senate-and Could Wreck Ours which recounts the filibustering by Cato the Younger in the final years of the Roman Republic (Douglas Dion also mentions Cato in Turning the Legislative Thumbscrew). I won’t get into their account of Roman history, except to plug my favorite podcast, The History of Rome, for broader context, e.g. vast economic inequality and the rise of professional armies dependent on their generals for their pay and retirement.

Goodman and Soni suggest that Cato’s obstruction is evidence for two broader claims: 1) a chamber paralyzed by obstruction may find itself bypassed as presidents and courts fill the vacuum left by legislative inaction 2) a legislature paralyzed by obstruction may be instrumental in the collapse of a republic. In both cases I can see their point, but it is not clear that eliminating the filibuster would ensure the restoration of the Senate or the republic. The challenge is that we are comparing the actual Congress to an imaginary (i.e. counterfactual) Congress without a Senate filibuster. Would things really be radically different? It’s hard to know since we can’t observe both [filibuster Senate] and [no-filibuster Senate] at the same time…

…or can we? Actually, the real world Senate allows exceptions to the 60-vote cloture threshold for some high priority issues. If Congressional action on those simple-majority issues is more responsible and timely than action on other issues, then we can deduce that Senate obstruction is the sole or primary cause of Congressional abdication. Since I have not written (and have not seen) a comprehensive study making this comparison, I focus on two easy cases.

1) U.S. armed conflict in/over Libya. Members of Congress have complained loudly about the Obama administration’s lack of consultation prior to military action in Libya and expressed concerns about the mission. There are easy remedies to these concerns; the War Powers Act sets up strict time limits to ensure that a resolution to disapprove of U.S. involvement a military action is not bottled up in committee or tied up on the House or Senate floor; a simple majority can work its will with ease. If it wants to.

OR, the Congress can attach a restrictive rider to its annual appropriations bills to prevent the use of federal funds for military action in Libya. Conveniently, Congress has not passed its appropriations bills for fiscal year 2011 even though they are now six months late, so some sort of action is necessary by April 8. While appropriations bills (or continuing resolutions to keep the government running temporarily) can be filibustered, that does not mean that Congress is incapable of agreeing on a rider limiting operations in Libya in defense of Congressional prerogatives; after all, the War Powers Act itself was passed over a Presidential veto.

2) The Budget. If one listens to politicians talk (and I do) there seems to be an overwhelming consensus that the current federal deficit and long term fiscal outlook are Serious Problems. We need Adult Conversations and Major Changes to ensure that people and institutions with lots of money continue to lend it to us, but maybe not as much as in the past. And, luckily, there is a general consensus on what needs to be done: limit entitlement spending on senior citizens (where over 40% of the budget currently goes) and overhaul the tax code. Both these things can be done during divided party control; in fact, perhaps it is better to do then when both parties can take credit and share blame.

And, great news: legislation to reshape the federal budget cannot be filibustered, except for proposals to limit Social Security. Surely, if the primary impediment to responsible policy-making was the Senate filibuster, we would see Congress rushing to take on a Serious Problem with the promise that no filibuster will prevent them from making sound public policy.

Have we observed this rush to act? Well, for three months the House, Senate, and President have haggled over the appropriations bills that should have been passed last September. Even if every proposed cut is enacted (including defunding NPR!), it will have little effect on the overall deficit or long term outlook. And the Adult Conversation over the budget? Well, so far it has led to 64 senators (note: 64>60>50) calling for the President to exercise leadership on the issue, but no budget resolution or concrete proposals.

Now, I think there is a good case to be made for making it more difficult to obstruct in the U.S. Senate. But, it is hard to blame Senate obstruction for all of Congress’s inability to perform its basic tasks (e.g. nominations and appropriations) or solve major problems. Even when the Congress has the ability to act without the threat of obstruction, its members appear unwilling to do so.

The Monkey Cage

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AZ Gov. Jan Brewer (R) is far from a champion for Main Street Americans. Under her tenure, Arizona passed a radical anti-immigrant law that made the state infamous throughout the nation, and several residents of her state died after she cut funds to the state’s Medicaid organ transplant program. Additionally, she wants to kick almost 100,000 people off the state’s Medicaid rolls, leaving them with nowhere to go.

Yet as she has been fostering radical right-wing policies in her state, she shouldn’t be surprised when the leadership of her state legislature has now outflanked even her in its extremism. Earlier this year, Brewer unveiled a budget plan that would cut a whopping $ 170 million from the state’s college education funds. Yet for the Republicans who control the state legislature, that simply wasn’t good enough.

The Senate Republicans endorsed a plan that actually cuts 50 percent more overall than Brewer’s budget and adds an additional $ 65 million worth of cuts to the state’s higher education system. Yesterday, during a speech in Prescott Valley, Brewer slammed the budget plan of Senate Republicans, calling it full of gimmicks and saying that it would simply pass on costs to localities. She concluded, “We don’t need quick cuts just because it sounds good“:

But Brewer, speaking in Prescott Valley on Tuesday, said, “We don’t need quick cuts just because it sounds good.” She later accused the Senate of also using gimmicks to balance the budget by passing costs on to counties.

“They keep saying they don’t want any gimmicks, they don’t want any magic,” she said. “But in a lot of areas, they are shipping (the costs) to the counties, to the cities, they are shipping it to the taxpayers. Those are all gimmicks.”

Arizona students — who have already seen “$ 200 million in cuts” in funding to their universities over the past two years — are not taking the cuts lying down. The Arizona Republic reports that 1,400 students at just three universities protested against the GOP proposals yesterday. Watch their video report:

It’s worth pointing out that Brewer unfortunately has contributed to the budget problems that are being used by the Republicans in her legislature to justify bigger education cuts. Earlier this year, Brewer push for and signed into law corporate tax “cuts that will cost Arizona $ 538 million by 2018.”


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The legislature’s education committee voted unanimously Wednesday for a bill that strengthens the state’s bullying laws and adds cyberbullying as an offense.

Modeled after a law in Massachusetts, the bill mandates that schools must intervene more quickly – within one school day – if a student is threatened either at the school or through a computer. For the first time, cyberbullying – which has become more common with the growth of Facebook and other sites on the Internet – would be covered for the first time. 

“We believe this is a great bill to address this issue of cyber-bullying,” state Sen. Andrea Stillman, a Democrat who co-chairs the committee, told fellow lawmakers Wednesday afternoon.

She added, “We feel very strongly that we covered all the bases here. If it is off school grounds and there is no link to the school at all, then it becomes a criminal case.”

Stillman noted that the bill is “reflective of Massachusetts law, which has been in effect for years and has not been challenged.”

The bill also demands yearly training for all public school employees – from principals to janitors – to help them identify the signs of bullying.

State Sen. Len Suzio of Meriden questioned why the training would be needed annually, saying that would cover 1,000 employees in his hometown.

“Things have changed from year to year,” Stillman responded.

Lawmakers said the bill is important because some children have been bullied, leading some to commit suicide under the pressure. Debra Zegas Berman of Brookfield testified at a recent public hearing that her 14-year-old daughter, Alexa, was bullied by a clique of girls who had shut her out and then was cyberbullied by two girls. She committed suicide three days before school started in August 2008.

After discussion by both Republicans and Democrats, the measure was placed on the “consent calendar” that is reserved for bills that will pass unanimously.

Capitol Watch

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A Superior Court judge found yesterday that the $ 820 billion in public education cuts implemented by Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) last year violated the New Jersey state constitution. As George Zornick explained, New Jersey law requires the state “to equalize public education funding for all students, meaning that poor, urban districts must receive the same relative amount of funding as wealthy suburban districts.” Christie, predictably, has derided the judge’s finding as “crazy,” and said that he has no idea how he will balance the New Jersey budget if he is not allowed to gut public education.

But there is one simple solution that Christie is still standing firm against: a millionaire’s tax. Christie cut $ 820 billion from the education budget last year, but restored $ 250 million this year, leaving him $ 570 million shy of fully reversing the cut. Conveniently, a income tax increase for millionaires that was recently introduced in the state legislature would raise more than $ 600 million:

The measures would increase the rate of the New Jersey gross income tax for taxpayers with taxable incomes exceeding $ 1,000,000 in taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2011. The bill provides for adjusted income taxation at the following bracket at the following rate: over $ 1,000,000 is adjusted from 8.97% to 10.75%…According to the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services the tax hike would generate between $ 600 million and $ 637 million in annual revenues.

Last year, the New Jersey legislature passed a millionaire’s tax that Christie vetoed, but state Democrats say they may insert the measure into their budget this year. “Unquestionably it should [be in the budget],” said state Rep. John McKeon (D). “We all believe that those who earn a million dollars or more should be a part of the solution.”

Christie, however, has reiterated his opposition to the tax, with state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff saying that Christie will veto the measure again if it comes to his desk. Overall, the judge’s report found that New Jersey’s budget has been shortchanging poorer school districts by about $ 1.6 billion, meaning that students from poorer parts of the state were not having their funding requirements met even before Christie took out his meat cleaver.

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Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) justified his high-profile push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for his state’s public employees by saying it was necessary to balance his state’s budget (even though Wisconsin’s union workers agreed to all of his pay and benefit demands). That budget also contains $ 900 billion in cuts to state education funding, but Walker claimed that the savings from eliminating collective bargaining and having public employees dedicate more of their pay to their health care and pension benefits would offset those reductions.

If we did this in our life, it would be like saying you’re getting 5 percent less revenue but ignoring the fact that your car payment just went away,” said Walker. Walker even released a budget analysis purporting to show how much school districts would save under his plan. But school administrators looking at Walker’s numbers have found that they don’t add up:

Take the La Crosse school district as an example. Walker’s numbers show it will come out $ 1.77 million ahead after taking his proposed cut to state aid. The district’s own numbers show it comes up at least $ 1.2 million short. […]

The governor calculates La Crosse can save $ 4.99 million by making employees pay more for retirement and health care benefits. Actual savings add up to about $ 3.7 million a year, according to Janet Rosseter, the district’s finance manager.

The La Crosse Tribune noted that Walker’s budget analysis has some fine print stating that the “actual impact of these reductions and savings on individual school districts in FY 2012 and beyond may differ significantly from these estimates.”

The differences arise in large part because Walker assumed that all school employees were paying below 12.6 percent of their paychecks into their health benefits. But many employees were already paying that much, if not significantly more. In the Holmen school district, for example, “almost all employees already contribute 20 percent of their insurance premiums. “There’s no savings for us in health insurance,” said Jay Clark, Holmen’s associate district administrator. “Us moving to 12.6 percent would actually cost us money.”

So Walker’s education cuts are very real. Of course, instead of papering over them and forcing schools into layoffs and increased class sizes, he could rethink some of the corporate tax breaks that he’s approved during the last few months.

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