I Want You to Buy Broccoli

Obama Expands Role of Executive Branch

From WSJ:

After being buffeted by Republican victories in the 2010 midterm elections, White House aides saw education as ripe for bipartisan cooperation. Both parties wanted to address complaints about the No Child Left Behind law. Congress seemed prepared to act.

But while the White House talked up cooperation in public, in private it was preparing Plan B. In December that year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned top Democrats that if Congress didn’t act, the administration would use executive authority to essentially rewrite the law on its own.

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Napolitano has no answer for airport screening failures, recent airline crew incident

From Daily Caller:

On her Friday program, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviewed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, grilling the security boss about the ineffectiveness of intrusive airport screening measures and asking her to account for a frightening mid-air incident.

According to Napolitano, a JetBlue pilot’s bizarre mid-air flip-out on Tuesday was unusual. “You know, in this instance, I think we can take some small comfort in the fact that this is a highly unusual occurrence and I think that’s one of the reasons,” she said.

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Photo courtesy work the angles, flickr

 

A Little Game of Chicken on the Deficit

From WSJ:

The Candidates: House Republican lawmakers

The Play: Setting the stage for a budget showdown

The Strategy: Republicans are betting they can reinvigorate their conservative base by showing voters their push to tame the deficit is more than talk. The House voted on Thursday to cap discretionary spending at $1.028 trillion for the year that begins Oct. 1. That’s $19 billion less than what the White House and Republicans agreed to last year.

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Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Obama, taking on Congress, could find new foe in Supreme Court

From The Hill:

President Obama might be campaigning this summer not just against the GOP nominee and congressional Republicans but also the Supreme Court.

Obama faces a bigger and more direct threat from the court than any candidate in recent history. The justices are expected to rule in June on whether his signature healthcare law is constitutional, and oral arguments this week indicated there’s a good chance they will strike down at least part of the law: the mandate to have insurance.

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Photo courtesy Envios, flickr

Gingrich 2012

Obama draws sharp contrast with GOP on economics

From SF Chronicle:

Framing the November election as a defining moment for the middle class, President Obama said voters would have a choice between his policies and Republicans’ “you’re-on-your-own economics” as he sought to energize his most devoted supporters Friday after a deflating week.

In a pair of campaign speeches, Obama cast the Republican Party as controlled by its most conservative wing and described his own policies as driven by American values.

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Photo courtesy Joe Crimmings Photography, flickr

Fletcher garners attention, must make his case

From U-T San Diego:

Smart. Bold. Principled. Pragmatic. Desperate. Dumb.

Those descriptions followed state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s decision this week to leave the Republican Party and run for San Diego mayor as an independent. Which is the most accurate assessment won’t be known until the results of the June 5 mayoral primary roll in.

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Photo courtesy nathanfletcher, flickr

California GOP lawmakers push budget plan to cut state workers’ pay, nix tax increases

From Sac Bee:

Legislative Republicans rolled out a budget plan Thursday that relies on cutting state worker pay, eliminating affordable housing funds and using pots of money dedicated for mental health and childhood development.

Republicans believe their plan eliminates the state’s $9.2 billion deficit without new taxes and preserves the same amount of funding for education that existed last year. They say it undercuts Gov. Jerry Brown’s argument that voters must pass higher taxes in November to spare schools from deep reductions.

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Photo courtesy of jglazer75, flickr

American Federation of Teachers’ half truths and hypocrisy can’t hide an obvious agenda

In a slam against those of us who believe that part of a teacher’s evaluation should be based on how well their students perform on standardized tests, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wrote an article for the Huffington Post last week which begins, “Since some people think that everything in education can be reduced to a number, let’s follow their lead.” She then fires off seven bullet points – all bolds in the original – which are supposed to convince the reader that some awful things are happening in the world of public education.

Consider me very unconvinced by her numbers.

She starts off with 76: The percentage of teachers who report that their school’s budget decreased in the last year (after the recession officially ended).

Whatever teachers may or may not know about their school’s budget, her point is clearly refuted by her rival union, the National Education Association. According to teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci who examined the NEA’s Rankings & Estimates,

If we compare this year’s numbers to three years ago, we see an enrollment increase of 0.5 percent, a teacher reduction of 0.4 percent, and an increase in per-pupil spending of 6 percent (1.5% in constant dollars).

Going back further, he reports:

Let’s look at the last 10 years for convenience, and the last three to examine the effects of national recession. In 2001-02, there were 2,991,724 K-12 classroom teachers and 47,360,963 K-12 students. K-12 per-pupil spending was $7,676.

Ten years later, there were almost 7 percent more teachers and 4 percent more students. Per-pupil spending was $10,976 – a 43% increase (12.6% in constant dollars). (Bold added.)

Weingarten: 63: The percentage of teachers who say that their class sizes increased in the last year.

So what? First, she mentions nothing about how much of an increase. And it has been documented over and over again, most recently this past January, that class size has nothing to do with student achievement.

Weingarten: 16.4 million: The number of children in America living in poverty.

Red herring. Union drum-beating to the contrary, poor kids can learn also. Also important – what definition of poverty is being used? Poverty is one of those words that is defined by the person speaking or writing to make a point. Writer Leon Felkins points out,

The fact that “poverty” is a vague term and cannot be defined precisely, does not, of course, stop the government from using the word as if it were precise and the press going along with the scam, as is their way. In fact the government is not beyond declaring that poverty has increased or that it has decreased when the primary factor in the increase or decrease may be that the government has simply changed its definition of poverty.

Robert Rector has made a detailed and very well documented study of this very question in his online paper, “How ‘Poor’ are America’s Poor?” and the update, “THE MYTH OF WIDESPREAD AMERICAN POVERTY“. Some interesting comparison’s surface (as of 1990, the date of the original article):

  • In the 1920s, over half of the families would have been officially “poor” by today’s standard (adjusted for inflation).
  • The average “poor” American lives in a bigger house or apartment, eats far more meat, owns more appliances, has more amenities such as indoor toilets, than the average European (note that “average” includes all, not just the poor).
  • Today’s poor are more likely to own common appliances such as televisions and refrigerators than the average family in the 1950s.
  • Government reports show that the poor actually spend 2 to 3 times as much as their official income. Amazing! (Bold added.)
  • As a group, the “poor” are far from being chronically hungry and malnourished. In fact, poor persons are more likely to be overweight than are middle-class persons. Nearly half of poor adult women are overweight. Most poor children today are in fact super-nourished, growing up to be, on average, one inch taller and ten pounds heavier that the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

Weingarten: 50: The approximate percent of teachers who leave the profession within the first five years.

This is a stretch, wrapped in innuendo and topped off with a political flourish. The assumption here is that teachers are leaving the profession in droves because they are overworked, underappreciated, overwhelmed and underpaid. But a closer look at reality tells a different story. The number leaving the classroom is actually much closer to 40 percent and they leave for a wide variety of reasons including taking an administrative position, personal reasons, family reasons, pregnancy, health, change of residence, etc. A survey from North Carolina, for instance, reveals that only 2.24 percent said they were leaving the profession due to dissatisfaction with teaching.

And of course, Weingarten makes no mention of the fact that for the teachers do who leave their jobs for better paying ones in the first five years, the union is responsible for their relatively low salaries. New teachers, no matter how talented they may be, are typically stuck in the lowest rungs of step-and-column pay hell for years; they only advance by taking meaningless salary point classes and accumulating years on the job. Very rarely is incentive pay available for being an above average teacher. Also, archaic seniority rules punish good new teachers — no matter how effective they are in the classroom, they will be the first to go when money gets tight. Any attempt to deviate from this civil service model of payment and staffing is met with great resistance from the teachers unions.

The take-away here is that when a union leader speaks, you must assume that there is a very obvious agenda being laid out. Weingarten spins the numbers to suit that agenda, which is first and foremost about getting the taxpayers to fork over more and more bucks for education. I guess a 150 percent increase in spending nationally since 1970 (and getting nothing for it) isn’t enough for Weingarten.

It’s especially laughable because like so many other union phonies, Weingarten talks one way and lives another. Despite her ongoing “tax the rich” class warfare campaign, she is a card-carrying member of the dreaded “one percent” class. In 2010, her last year as United Federation of Teachers president, she received a $194,000 payout for unused sick days, which pushed her total compensation for the year to over $600,000. And she will tell you that it’s just a coincidence that she abandoned New York City that year for East Hampton, a very wealthy community on Long Island’s south shore, thus avoiding paying $30,000 in taxes.

Coincidence? Try hypocrisy.

(Larry Sand, a retired teacher, is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. Originally posted Union Watch.)