Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Militia Madness?

When it comes to rightwing militia movements, some folks make it a family affair.

Why We Have Learned To Hate Citibank!

The other day, we received a letter from Citibank. Their latest missive read, in part, as follows:
Dear Ms. Wonk,

We are making changes to your account terms.

These changes include an increase in the variable APR for purchases to 23.99% and will take effect December 20, 2009.
This lastest rate increase comes on top of one that was foisted upon us about six months ago. For years, the interest rate had been 16% and then, suddenly, it went to 19.99%.

For no reason at all.

In the ten years that we've had this account, we've never been late with a single payment. We've never exceeded our credit limit. On point of fact, we've paid no credit card interest at all for over four years.

Each month, we pay the balance in full. So... barring some unforeseen disaster, this latest rate increase shouldn't cost us a single nickle.

But it's the principle of the thing


Thursday, November 05, 2009

This Is A Tragedy

Half of all kids in the United States will be on food stamps at one time or another in their young lives:
Half of American kids will live in households receiving food stamps before age 20, according to a study reported Monday in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Although one in five children rely on food stamps for years, many more live in families who turn to food stamps during a short-term crisis, says author Mark Rank of Washington University in St. Louis. He analyzed 30 years of data from the University of Michigan's Panel Study of Income Dynamics survey.

"This is what children can expect over a period of time, not just during a recession," Rank says. "It shows that the period of childhood, rather than a period of safety and security, is really a time, for a lot of kids, of economic turmoil and risk."

Rank says his study, the first of its kind, may underestimate how many families struggle with grocery bills. Only about 67% of people who are eligible for food stamps actually receive them, the Department of Agriculture says.

Good nutrition in childhood is crucial, doctors say.

Nutritional programs such as food stamps — officially known as the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — improve children's health and help them do better in school, says James Weill of the advocacy group Food Research and Action Center, who wasn't involved in the new study.

More than 35.8 million Americans used food stamps in July — nearly 6.8 million more than a year earlier, Weill's group says. About half of food stamp recipients are children, Rank says.

"There is a large pool of people who are poor or who are living close to poverty at any given time," Weill says. "People don't like talking about it. They don't tell their neighbors, 'I was on food stamps 10 years ago.' "

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, says the study design and survey data are solid. But he says the findings are neither surprising nor troubling.

"That's effectively like saying that at some point in a 20-year period, a parent would be unemployed for a month or so," Rector says.

"There's no evidence that even consistent poverty in the U.S. produces a nutritional risk," he says, noting that rich and poor children tend to have about the same intake of protein, vitamins and minerals.
I guess that this is just one more sign that our society continues to evolve.... and for many, not neccessarily for the better.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Obama Takes An EduTrip

And now President Obama is going to Wisconsin, of all places, to talk-up public education. ABC News has the story:
Tomorrow, on the anniversary of his election, President Barack Obama heads to Madison, Wisconsin to speak at a local middle school. He’ll address education policy, with a focus on the ‘Race to the Top’ initiative. That $4.35 billion dollar program, funded through the Recovery Act, is a national competition among the states, to inspire education reform.

“He’s going to talk about his education reform plan and he’s going to highlight the importance of innovation and excellence in our public education system,” said Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, on a conference call with reporters, “This competition is not based on politics or ideology or interest group preferences. It’s based on whether or not a state is ready to do what actually works.”

To qualify for the money, states must meet four “assurances”:
-designing and adopting internationally benchmarks and standards
-recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals
-build data systems that measure students’ success
-providing support for turning around low performing schools, in part by expanding the number of charter schools

When the parameters on the funding were first announced, several states were immediately identified as already out of the running because of existing state laws. Among them, California, that state’s legislature quickly acted to change its laws to qualify by allowing teacher pay to be linked to student performance. Barnes said a number of other states, including Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, Connecticut, Rhode Island have raised their charter caps or defeated proposed cuts to charter school funding, so that they too can compete. Wisconsin’s state legislature will vote on Thursday on legislation similar to that adopted by California, which would allow students performance to impact teacher pay. If the measure does not pass, Wisconsin will not be eligible for Race to the Top dollars.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told ABC News in July that as in any competition not everyone will win, and thus some states will not receive this funding. He said hopes the competitive spirit will drive reform.

"I think there'll be tremendous pressure on states, state legislatures where things aren't happening, by parents saying exactly that: 'Our children deserve a slice of the pie, and we want that pressure,'" Duncan said, “This isn't about winners and losers…This is about challenging the status quo as a country, getting dramatically better and giving every child in this country a chance they desperately need to have a great, great quality education."

The Department of Education will begin accepting applications in the next few weeks, and awarding the money in January. There will be two rounds of funding, so states that do not qualify or win grants in this first round will be able to apply again later in 2010.

“Ultimately, this idea is really simple,” Barnes said, “We want to support strategies that are working and replicate them all over the country. We will subject every application that we get to a rigorous review. And we will only award grants to those that demonstrate real commitment and real results. That’s the President’s ultimate goal.”
The National Education Association, (NEA) must be furious with Mr. Obama as he has said nothing about rolling back the No Child Left Behind Act.

Interestingly, the President also doesn't seem to have anything to say about the need for classroom teachers (and others who work around children) to be priority recipients for the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccination.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Attention Pseudo Conservatives

This just in from our Upstate New York Bureau: when, thanks to the interference of outsiders such as Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, Tim Pawlenty, and Glenn Beck, Republicans fight among themselves, Democrats will take advantage of the opportunity.

And who can really blame them?

Ed's Note to Cut-and-Run former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin: Since you saw fit to pull the rug out from under a duly nominated female Republican Congressional candidate by endorsing a third-party challenger who doesn't even live in the district, thus fatally splitting Republican ranks, please don't whine about "sexism" next time you are criticized by the mainstream media for not knowing (with the exception of Roe v. Wade) the name of a single U.S. Supreme Court Decision with which you disagree.


Monday, November 02, 2009

The Quote Of The Day

"Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success." -Henry Ford



Note To U.S. Dept. Of Ed: Improve Thyself


Secretary Arne Duncan of The United States Department of Education
says "Colleges of Education must improve for reforms to succeed."
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today called for America’s colleges of education to dramatically change how they prepare the next generation of teachers so that they are ready to prepare their future students for success in college and careers.

Noting that America’s schools will need to hire up to 200,000 first-time teachers annually for the next five years, Duncan said that those new teachers need the knowledge and skill to prepare students for success in the global economy.

“By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom,” Duncan said in a major speech at Teachers College, Columbia University. “America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change--not evolutionary tinkering.”

More than half of the nation’s teachers graduate from a school of education. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 220,000 students graduate from a teacher college every year. In recent years, several alternative certification programs such as High Tech High, The New Teacher Project, Teach for America, and teacher residency programs have emerged. But those programs produce fewer than 10,000 new teachers annually.

“To keep America competitive, and to make the American dream of equal educational opportunity a reality, we need to recruit, reward, train, learn from, and honor a new generation of talented teachers,” Duncan said. “But the bar must be raised for successful teacher preparation programs because we ask much more of teachers today than even a decade ago.”

Colleges of education need to make dramatic changes to prepare today’s children to compete in the global economy. Teacher-preparation programs should ensure that new teachers will master the content of the subjects they’ll teach and they will have well-supported field-based experiences embedded throughout their preparation programs. Their ultimate goal should be to create a generation of teachers who are focused on improving student achievement and ready to deliver on that goal.

Duncan highlighted emerging efforts to improve teacher education that are being led by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, as well as individual colleges of education.

The Teachers College speech was Duncan’s second major address on the subject of teaching. On Oct. 9, he spoke to students at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, telling them that America needs to recruit an army of new teachers to ensure its long-term economic prosperity.

Earlier this week, Secretary Duncan discussed the importance of teaching with close to 100 teachers and fielded questions from additional teachers across the country in a televised town hall meeting.
Sadly, Duncan doesn't say a single word about the need to improve teacher compensation.

In our capitalist system, if one really wants to attract the highest quality people, one needs to pay them.

Isn't that what we're being told when it comes to compensating Wall Street Bankers?

As for myself, I'd be happy if my pay at least kept up with inflation. (Our district doesn't believe in giving its teachers cost-of-living adjustments. And after 7 years of the same take-home pay, inflation has pretty much destroyed my salary's buying power.)

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Let Me Guess

A 15-year-old female student leaves a dance at her Richmond, California high school. She apparently drinks some alcohol. Then gets beaten and gang-raped by a bunch of hoods while other students stand-by and do nothing for two hours.

Wanna take a guess who ends up being sued for a huge amount of money?

Yep. Dollars to donuts that it's going to be the school district that ends-up coughing up the cash for this crime.

When are we finally going to hold criminals financially responsible for their criminality?

We'll never know, but I'd be willing to bet that each one of the four "teenagers" who have been arrested already has a disciplinary record at the high school.

And in California, it's extremely difficult to expel students young thugs for repeated violent or disruptive behaviors.

Unless they pull something like this. But for one victim, it's already too late.