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Showing posts from May, 2013

Another question of ethics and integrity for the News Journal: Rodel lobbyists

Among the more interesting paragraphs in the Harvard Research Group study about the Rodel Foundation and education reform in Delaware is this bit that includes Paul Herdman talking (obviously before the 2012 school board elections) about the new areas Rodel would be moving into: The foundation’s communications efforts and coalition building will deepen and expand as real changes begin to take effect. Rodel will concentrate on broadening support for those leading the change. While continuing to educate and inform the public about the need for change and what kind of change is possible, Rodel will direct communication efforts regarding specific larger scale changes that are going to be implemented by the state and districts —higher standards, greater accountability for performance, and development of strong new teachers and leaders. For these changes to be effective, many constituencies need to be willing to put aside old ways of doing business. One investment Rodel is making to supp

Just let them wear burqas

British author Nick Ross argues that dressing "provocatively" is the equivalent to leaving your laptop on the seat of an unlocked car: The main argument of my book is this: we can aggravate crime by tempting fate, and we curb it by playing safe. We have come to acknowledge it is foolish to leave laptops on the back seat of the car. We would laugh at a bank that stored sacks of cash by the front door. We would be aghast if an airport badly skimped on its security….  Our forebears might be astonished at how safe women are today given what throughout history would have been regarded as incitement …  Then there's this: He says things like, “Rape is one of the most defiling crimes and there is never excuse or justification for it.” Then he says, “In any other crime we take account of provocation and contributory factors. Even in murder. Why not with sex?” And he wonders why readers are a little confused.   More "legitimate rape" goodness to start your day.

Vision 2012-2015-2020: Delaware's educational Fisker

It is very difficult these days to find references to Vision 2012, the original title of the Rodel-led initiative to transform Delaware schools. Paul Herdman et al have, for example, written it out of the history of Vision 2015 published by the Harvard Graduate School , just as Herdman had Delaware's first State Secretary of Education, Iris Metts, edited out of the same article . The term "Vision 2012" has also been pretty carefully scrubbed from its website.  Google searches may turn up references to the older name, but when you try to follow them, this is what you get: You can still find scattered references to Vision 2012 if you look real hard, like this one in Delaware Today from (ironically) 2012: Vision 2015 ( originally titled Vision 2012 ) focuses on six major system reforms, four of which were also building blocks of the state’s Race to the Top plan. So far, 25 schools are part of the Vision Network that is putting Rodel-backed reforms into practice.

More budget goodness: computers for state testing, but screw employees and kids

Today Governor Markell made it official:  once again he is not seeking a raise for state employees (to go along with not seeking to do anything meaningful about child poverty, either). “I very much appreciate our state employees since it is their extra effort that has continued state government services the last few years while we have cut costs and reduced by attrition the number of state employees,” he said. “Unfortunately, given demands in education, health care, courthouse security and infrastructure improvements as well as the fact that we are facing a large gap in the FY15 budget between projected revenues and expenses, an employee raise isn’t responsible at this time.” He appreciates you, all right.  So much so that he rates computers for state testing above the necessity for a pay raise or even money to keep paraprofessionals at work in Delaware classrooms. Meanwhile, instead of funding better access to health care for 535 poor Delaware children, the Governor and Joint

First, the Mayor, now the Fire Chief--but not you: more Wilmington hypocrisy

I particularly love the reason why the Wilmington Fire Chief needs to carry a firearm: Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony Goode has been carrying a department-issued firearm for about a month, saying with increased code enforcement duties he and the mayor’s staff thought it would be a wise move.   “Firefighters are always in dangerous situations. You never know what you’re going to be walking into,” said Goode, who was appointed fire chief by Mayor Dennis P. Williams in January. The fact that much the same could be said for many city residents in high crime, high violence areas is an irony apparently lost on city officials and Delaware legislators.

53 Delaware children didn't get health insurance so the State Police could pretend to buy back guns

That's right:  the General Assembly appropriated $200K last year for a gun "buyback" that never happened. Instead, the Delaware State Police used the money for "unexpected" lease costs for one of its buildings. This year, by a 7-5 majority, the Joint Finance Committee appropriated another $200 K for a gun "buyback" in FY 2014. Don't hold your breath. As the Controller General's office observed, actual gun "buybacks" tend to include a significant percentage of broken and unusable guns. So, odds are, what will happen again this year is that the DSP will pick up another $200 K for a slush fund. At $3,739 annual premium cost, that's 53 poor children in Delaware who could have had health insurance both this year and last. It's time to quit pretending that that the Delaware budgetary process has any real priorities, and admit that what's happening in Dover is purely carving up the pork.

Delaware politicians, as usual, fail to lead

I find it less than amusing to see the juxtaposition of an article on rising child poverty in Delaware with another on a $20.2 million uptick in projected revenues in today's News Journal. There are several quite unintentional (I hope) ironies here. First, the child poverty numbers: About 20 percent of Delaware children lived in poverty between 2010 and 2012, the study shows.   That’s better than the 21.5 percent nationally, but still a sharp increase from 2009, when the figure was 13 percent. Combine this with the number of unemployed or under-employed adults: About 26 percent of parents aren’t fully employed. That’s better than the 28.9 percent nationally, but it is still worse than in previous years. In 2006-2008, the number was closer to 20 percent.   Then lay in the dramatic increase in single-parent families: The study also found a large and increasing number of Delaware children, almost 38 percent, are growing up in single-parent homes. That’s significantly

Here's the test case for jury nullificiation

If you can read this story about an 18 year old Florida girl facing years of jail time and a future as registered sex offender and NOT think that jury nullification is a good idea, then you probably shouldn't click this link, either: Fully Informed Jury Association.

Today's DSU graduation

Number 122 ... No rain (although it kept trying), and one of the better organized events I've seen in the past 22 years here ... 671 graduates (the largest number in history), of whom about 73% were African-American ... It is often difficult to maintain the traditions of an HBCU (Historically Black College/University) in a rapidly changing world, but to do so is pretty damn important. Over the past twenty years, the faculty demographics at many HBCUs began changing, primarily because the larger academic job market finally opened up, on a more or less level playing field, for African-American scholars, who abruptly found themselves able to make considerably more money at majority white institutions. (When I came to DSU in 1990 there were many social studies teachers at high schools in the surrounding community making more money than I did as an assistant professor of history.  Even today, DSU and other HBCUs pay well below national norms at all ranks in salary.  A DSU fu

This was predictable: Vision 2015 poised to become Vision 2020

Originally it was Vision 2012. Then, when it became evident that the corporate donors weren't coming across with the promised money, it became Vision 2015. I have been predicting for about two years now that with 2015 just around the corner it would be time to move the goal posts again. I thought Vision 2020 would be a lame enough visual pun and give Rodel et al a long enough timeline to keep avoiding accountability. Sure enough, here's a quote from their invite to a big event next week: "Rodel is hosting an event to officially announce the foundation’s new mission to help Delaware become a global leader in public education by 2020 , and to acknowledge all the work we’ve collectively accomplished in getting to this point." The problem is that Rodel, and Governor Markell, all really do think that the public (and the General Assembly) is so stupid that they won't notice what's happening. Based on prior experience here, they're right.

Delaware's (corporate) welfare queens take money from your schools and roads thanks to the General Assembly

Everybody (including me) likes to keep beating the Markell administration (and the legislature that let it happen) over the head about Fisker. But by the time that the News Journal gets involved, you have to know that the story is finally old hat. Instead of pointing the finger at Alan Levine and Jack Markell (neither of whom is running for re-election in 2014), how about we do the responsible thing and stop this team of capitalist geniuses before they help us again. Oops.  Too late.   AstraZeneca . OK, maybe we can still expect our legislature to stop them before they do it again. But probably not. Here's what Governor "Trust me I'm a knowledgeable Wall Street capitalist" Markell and Alan "I made mine, so now it's time to play with your tax dollars" Levine plan for our 2014 State budget. Remember that revenues are down, hard choices must be made, and we can't afford Minner Reading teachers, School Resource Officers, or to conduct a sta

Vermont: wherein effective nullification becomes both a Green and Libertarian thing

The Vermont House has just passed a GMO labeling bill by a heavy majority:  99-42. This basically represents a state choosing to nullify the Monsanto Protection Act [assuming the Vermont Senate also passes it and the Governor signs it] by requiring labels that the Feds have said are unnecessary and may even be illegal. State legislatures and referenda pushing back at the Federal government used to be derided as the province of "Tenthers" and conservative extremists. But Colorado and Washington pushed back on marijuana legalization. Twelve states have pushed back on marriage equality. Vermont is now pushing back on food labeling exemptions. For Libertarians this is pretty simple, doctrinaire stuff, trying to limit Federal power. For our Green friends, who have consistently advocated for environmental and economic policies driven from the top down this may be new territory.  "Think globally, act locally" may take on an entirely different connotation.

A national biometric database: obviously just more Libertarian paranoia ...

Except, of course, that the source is Wired: The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.   Buried in the more than  800 pages of the bipartisan legislation  (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.   Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo. Of course, both President Obama and all of his supporters will tell me that (a) it is paranoid to think the government has intentions other than those stated; (b) that "slippery slope" arguments are

Random thoughts about Delaware's 2014 budget

I really should do a coordinated piece on this, but times are full of lots of stuff, and so I offer just a few observations: 1.   Higher Education You can really tell who owns the General Assembly here.  According to the proposed increases for next year: UD will receive an increase of over $9 million--a 4% increase DelTech will receive an increase of over $5 million--a 7.8% increase and DSU will receive an increase of about $0.9 million--a 2.8% increase In other words, in both terms of total money appropriated and percentage increases, despite the most rapidly growing enrollment in the state, DSU will again be the stepchild of higher education in Delaware. Four years ago the state appropriated about $38 million for DSU; this year's "increase" will bring DSU back up to just  $33.7 million. From a comparative standpoint, DelTech's 2009 appropriation was about $73 million, and this year it will rake in over $74 million. Again:  you can tell who really

More government idiocy on containing the spread of information

US citizens prohibited from even handling scientific manuscripts originating in Iran. Sort of a governmental form of Sha'ria law:   Major scientific journal publisher Reed Elsevier and others  are vowing to obey the latest US sanctions against Iran in their day-to-day operations, implementing bizarre policies aimed at following the letter of the law. The sanctions ban Americans from having any contact with anything written in whole or part by Iranian government employees. Though Elsevier is a Dutch company, it has plenty of American employees, particularly as relates to its English language publications. So the company has had to introduce a series of zero tolerance policies that its American-born employees cannot have any interaction with the physical manuscripts of Iranians, and also advises managers to “reject outright” any manuscripts from Iran if they can’t find a non-American employee to handle it. The company is concerned that journal editors could be held persona

Over half of the prisoners at Gitmo are known to be innocent, but we still don't release them

That's right:  86 of the 166 prisoners at Gitmo have been officially cleared for release because the US government now admits they have no connection to terrorism, but they continue to be held because our leaders can't figure out how to release them. Not that we're trying too damn hard:  the Obama administration closed the office responsible for figuring it out, and the Pentagon refuses to make use of relaxed restrictions on prisoner release granted by Congress. Another 50 are being held--presumably until they die--because the "evidence" we have against them is the result of torture  (er, enhanced interrogation) and cannot be used in court.  So even a military tribunal cannot convict them, so we basically intend to force feed them (many are on hunger strike) till they die. This is not new, unfortunately.  The US government has a long, sordid history of holding people without charges until they die, just as the US public has a long, shameful history of ignori

The US Government and King Canute

So the State Department is attempting to suppress the blueprints for 3-D printable firearms ... You can hold any opinion you like about the propriety or morality of spreading the information about how to create your own weapons via 3-D printers around the planet, but at this point (sorry if I offend your sensibilities) your opinion is meaningless. The information is out there.  It has been downloaded and copied to mirror sites (many far out of reach of the US government) millions of times. Suppressing knowledge, even potentially dangerous knowledge, has always been a fool's game, which is to say:  something the government constantly attempts. The height of irony, of course, is for the State Department to take this action under the pretext that publishing the blueprints violates arms trades regulations. The State Department presides over the largest arms trade operation on the planet, and will sell virtually anything to virtually anybody.  There are multiple conflicts now

Reflections on process: Gun Control and Marriage Equality

I'm sometimes as interested in process as I am in the content--can't help it, I'm an academic. Over the past two months we have all watched two major, high-profile fights in the Delaware General Assembly:  the first over gun control and the second over marriage equality. What's interesting for me to reflect upon is that my personal ideological bent opposes the gun control measure, but supports marriage equality.  So--to put it bluntly--I watched one fight from the the losing side, and the other from the winning side.  Aside from some of my fellow Libertarians and Senator Ernie Lopez (who supported gun control and opposed marriage equality, so he's like my evil twin, I guess), this gives me a different perspective on the process . Leave aside the relative merits of gun control of marriage equality for a  moment (I know that's difficult for some of you, but take a real deep breath), and consider what the fights had in common.

Dead Blog Walking

Reluctantly, I have reached the decision to delete the blog Delaware Politics from my blogroll. As one could certainly tell my decision to retain sites like Libertarian Republican, which is pretty far ideologically removed from me and run by someone who disdains my own political positions, this is not an issue of disagreeing with the politics of David Anderson's blog. However, over the past few weeks (maybe months) as the number of commenters has declined, so has the level of comment, until we are now at the point where commenters are being told that nothing in the blog's rules prevents the administrators from choosing to "out" commenters with whom they disagree.  Not trolls, just people who disagree with them. This may be the way to run a police state, but it is certainly not a way to run a blog. So while it will certainly be small loss to them, this Libertarian will no longer be allowing traffic to be directed from here to Delaware Politics.

Congratulations to Chuck and Bruce, and all the other couples who will now be equal

Chuck Mead-e with my daughter Alexis at the Delaware State Fair last summer collecting signatures for marriage equality

Why Democrats stay in power in Delaware (at least partly)

To some extent this post piggy-backs on the one at Delawareliberal about why "moderate" Republican Cathy Cloutier manages to hold her Senate seat in a heavily Democrat district .  Basically, the conclusion is that she pays attention to her constituents--as one commenter said, she has "a ground game." Let's extend that point, and ask why Republicans in Delaware struggle just to stay in the debate. Last week, as noted in posts below, I started contacting DE Representatives in an attempt to influence their votes on SB 51.  The emails I sent were all polite and to the point.  I sent the messages to six Democrats and four Republicans (based on membership in a key committee and people I thought might be interested/responsive). To date, five of the six Democrats have responded, and none of the Republicans-including my own representative. In one sense I don't care if I had gotten the polite brush-off email--at least it would have indicated a minimal amount o

Moody's: Highmark heading toward junk bond status

... thanks to what analysts see as an extremely risky move in Pennsylvania .... But in Delaware Highmark's partly owned offspring, MedExpress, continues to spend bazillions of dollars in advertising to use Wal-Mart tactics [and questionable preferential reimbursement policies] in a brazen attempt to drive all other urgent care centers out of business.

An Open Letter to members of the Delaware House of Representatives

[I will be sending this letter personally to my own Rep and others; I encourage you to cut and paste as necessary and send it to yours.] Within the near future, SB 51, which purports to raise standards for teacher education preparation programs in Delaware will come across to the House. I am asking you to look past the "feel good" rhetoric in the precis of the bill, to look past the unanimous Senate vote in favor of it, and to look past the claims by the Governor's office that these changes will make Delaware eligible for additional Federal grant money. Instead, please consider the following: 1.  This bill was prepared and introduced without the input of the Professional Standards Board, the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wilmington University, or many relevant offices within the Delaware Department of Education.  In other words, legislation that will make dramatic structural changes to teacher preparation and licensing are already coming to th

DSEA President now trying to backpedal furiously to "victory"

Yesterday the Senate proved once again that nobody there--despite party differences--actually thinks about public education critically by passing Dave Sokola's ridiculous SB 51, which is supposed to improve teacher preparation in Delaware. I will have more to say on this later today, but here's the morning takeaway. Earlier this week the DSEA Facebook page praised the bill because It also gives DSEA a seat at the table to help develop the criteria for the exam and the assessment. I pointed out that this is both disingenuous and dangerous.  There are already plenty of teachers involved in the teacher preparation programs at UD, DSU, and WU (which produce 95% of our new teachers), that there are already rigorous national standards being closely monitored (via NCATE), and that no research has ever EVER actually determined the preparation of our entry-level teachers in Delaware to be a problem. Today I discover DSEA President Frederika Jenner, who has publicly endorsed thi

DSEA proves once again that it does not speak for Delaware teachers

This post, from the DSEA Facebook page , is pretty good evidence that at the state level the teachers' union is far removed from the concerns of teachers in the classroom: Today DSEA's Dir. of Legislation and Political Organizing Kristin Dwyer is testifying in support of what is being called the "Teacher Prep" bill, SB 51.   This bill "... strengthens teacher preparation by raising the standards for entry into   the teaching profession. More specifically, the bill requires all Delaware teacher preparation programs to set high admission and completion requirements, to provide high-quality student teaching experiences and ongoing evaluation of program participants, and to prepare prospective elementary school teachers in age-appropriate literacy and mathematics instruction. Further, the bill requires preparation programs to track and report data on the effectiveness of their programs. Finally, the bill requires new educators to pass both an approved content-rea