Month: March 2007

NCLB Backlash

The critics of No Child Left Behind now include many leaders of the Republican party. There are 57 Republicans including House Minority whip, Roy Blunt, and Senator Mel Martinez, the Chair of the Republican National Committee, who have signed on to the bill would allow any state that objected to the law’s standards and testing to excuse itself from those requirements and still receive federal school aid.

But, the real resistance is happening on the state level. Marc Fisher has a great article in today’s Washington Post profiling a Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Jack Dale.

…the superintendent of Fairfax County schools, who presides over one of the highest-achieving systems in the land, has taken a stand at the schoolhouse door: “The last thing I’m going to do is subject some third-grader to tears because someone’s standing over them saying, ‘You must complete [this standardized test], you must complete.’ That’s not happening. Let them fire me for it.”

In the next couple of weeks, either Dale or the U.S. government will blink. Until then, threats and counterthreats are flying across the Potomac. Dale, backed up by his school board and several other Northern Virginia superintendents, insists he will not require newly arrived immigrant children to take the same reading test that other kids take. And the feds reply: Oh, yes, you will — and if you don’t, you’ll lose $17 million in federal dollars.

Fisher pulls no punches in describing the flaws of NCLB.

No Child Left Behind is built on a mirage. At some point that’s always just over the horizon, the law assumes, all children in the nation will miraculously read and compute at grade level, simply because they have been tested and tested and tested again. The theory is that somehow, when told the exact number of children who are lagging in achievement, teachers will agree to render the magic that they have thus far withheld and — poof! — those kids will become smart, cooperative and productive.

As we get closer to that utopia, it’s becoming ever more clear that Some Children Remain Behind and that, gadzooks, Not Every Child Is the Same. Oh, and this: Staking everything on a test doesn’t produce a flowering of inspired teaching, but rather what Dale, a former math teacher, calls an “obsessive focus on tests.”

What this is really all about, the superintendent thinks, is an unresolved debate over whether there should be national education standards. Remember, the same people who now mandate Testing Uber Alles were pushing two decades ago to abolish any federal role in education. Under the No Child law, designed by a purportedly conservative administration, the amount of time that a superintendent such as Dale must spend satisfying the federal bureaucracy has skyrocketed from hardly any to hours and hours each week.

No Child Left Behind is built on a lie. Not every kid will go to college, no matter what you do. So you can either lower the standards enough to pretend that everyone is succeeding, or give up on the lie.

Don’t hold your breath that an educational leader in Idaho will demonstrate the same bravery and strength of character shown by Jack Dale.

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Training To Be Good Idaho Republicans

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As Tom Paine at 43rdstateblues points out, Idaho legislators are the oldest in the nation

The study, conducted by the Scripps Howard News Service, found that 60 percent of those who call the shots in Idaho – the legislators, congressmen and the governor – were born before 1945. The next closest states, North Carolina and New Hampshire, are nearly 10 percent behind.

Of course, age isn’t the problem with Idaho’s legislators- virulent “nativism” and intolerance is. The current example is the insulting bill recently passed by the House declaring English to be the “official” state language. The arguments in favor of the bill were laughable. The central claim of the proponents was that states that have adopted English as an official language have increased English learning by immigrants. This is simply not true. Research shows there is no difference.

There is no point in waiting for the old timers to retire. As far as Idaho Republicans go, intolerance can be found at any age. The “all in good fun” flyer (see above) promoting a speech by Robert Vasquez circulated by the BSU College Republicans prove that point. According to the Idaho Statesman,

A Boise State University student group has angered area Hispanic leaders and others by promoting a speech about immigration with a “food stamp drawing” that requires climbing through a hole in a fence and offering fake identification for a shot at winning dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.

Owners of Chapala, the restaurant named in a promotional flier for the event, also aren’t amused – and say they are considering a lawsuit against BSU’s College Republicans.Faviola Marin, co-owner of the local restaurant chain, said Chapala had nothing to do with the promotion or the student group.”We’re really upset about it,” Marin said Sunday night. “We’ve had a lot of upset customers and phone calls.”

Marin said one of their Boise restaurants has been broken into twice in the past week, and she believes the vandalism is connected to the flier.”We want an apology,” Marin said, noting that Chapala has supported BSU’s Cinco de Mayo activities and scholarships for Hispanic students. “Nobody has said anything to us.”

Fearing a law suit, the College Republicans removed the restaurant’s name, but refused to quit circulating the flyer. BSU officials were not happy.

“This type of statement is unacceptable and inappropriate in any context,” Frank Zang, BSU spokesman, in an e-mail to local media Monday. He said the group could face student judicial review if a complaint is filed by a campus organization.

Nor were local Hispanics,

Graciela Fonseca, president of the Hispanic women’s organization Mujeres Unidas de Idaho, said members are “outraged.””It’s kind of mean-spirited,” she said, adding it will stir up hatred and racism. She said it also made light of people who have died crossing deserts on the U.S. border.

“It’s very anti-immigrant,” said Maria Mabbutt of the Idaho Hispanic Caucus. “It’s very divisive.”

Mabbutt makes the connection between the old and new Republicans.

“What the young Republicans are doing is no different than what the Republican legislators are doing at the Statehouse,”

Biden His Time

Joe Biden has been relatively quiet since his gaffe last month when he describe Obama as a clean, nice looking African American, so it was great to hear his blunt and passionate speech about Iraq on the Senate floor last Wednesday. He may not be the Democratic choice in 08, but this speech should be a lesson to all Democrats on how to call out the Republicans for their failure to provide real leadership.

Larry Craig- Friends of Veterans?

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Larry Craig has always portrayed himself as a strong advocate for veterans. As senior Republican and former Chair of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, he failed to provide the oversight that might have brought to light the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed. It appears that he is getting a little nervous. Here is what he says in his latest newsletter,

As debate swirls around Washington regarding the care provided to injured soldiers and veterans, I find myself right in the middle of the debate as the senior Republican on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

What is Craig’s solution to health care for Veterans? The same phony solution Republicans have for education, choice.

The VA provides some of the best health care in America. And the overwhelming majority of veterans are pleased with their care. That being said, I realize some are not satisfied for various reasons. So, I am proposing that we empower veterans with service-connected disabilities by allowing them to choose their healthcare provider-either the VA or another local doctor. Empowering veterans to vote with their feet

Craig isn’t fooling the Vets, however. Here is what Larry Scott at VA Watchdog.com says,

I can think of only one explanation for this: Craig is off his meds.

Actually, there’s a much simpler reason: This is just the next step in dismantling the VA healthcare system.

Veteran’s advocate, Jim Strickland, pulls no punches in his response to Craig’s “choice” plan.

I choose VHA for a number of reasons.First, I am a career health care professional and an expert consultant in health care. I have been in health care since the 1960s. I know where I get the best health care and I choose the VHA.

Second, I like being in a quasi-military setting. Our icons are important to me. I like the flags on the walls, the pictures of our heroic brothers and sisters, the memorabilia of our sacrifices and the brotherhood of my fellow Veterans.I like the men in their caps with the embroidered history of the war they fought in, the ship they served on or that Marine Division they were wounded in. Many of us dress a little differently when we prepare to go to our VA health care facility because we know it’s one way we communicate with each other. Sort of a semaphore of signals with our pins, buttons, colors and badges. I like the camaraderie of warriors, young and old.

Finally…I by God earned it. I gave a large part of my life, not so much in years spent but in terms of what I gave of my heart and soul, to become a Veteran. I am a special, unique American and I do not want to be parceled off like a Medicaid patient to some drab facility where I’m just another old guy being treated like everyone else.

Senator Larry Craig now proposes to destroy this wonderful system, often lauded as the best of the best, by giving us “choice”. The Senator won’t comprehend any of what I said above.

For all his experience as the National Vice-President of the Future Farmers of America and even though he may have been a wonderful Student Body President at the University of Idaho and although he was a member of the Delta Chi Fraternity…this Senator is not a Veteran. Throughout all his long list of credentials, you won’t find anything at all about “military” or “Veteran” in there.

He has not served a day in boot camp, he never donned the uniform of our military. He wasn’t ever required to stand an inspection. He never had to face the First Sergeant when he came in drunk and pissed off. Senator Craig didn’t have to ever wonder if his weapon would work because it came from the low bidder. He never had to sit holding on to a bleeding brother, a wounded warrior in the field waiting waiting waiting for that damn chopper to arrive. His ass wasn’t going to be shot off, not as a professional politician.

Senator Craig is now and has always been a professional politician. He will never be a member of our elite club…membership is closed to him. Maybe why that’s why he wants to rip apart our system. He can’t be one of us so he’ll just take it all apart.

Tearing down the VHA is the worst idea that I’ve heard of this year. I know, the year is young so there’ll be plenty of opportunity for our “leaders” to make complete fools of themselves with nonsense like this.

You have to wonder why veterans would ever vote for Larry Craig. During the last two sessions of Congress, Craig voted for legislation in support of Veterans only 32% of the time. In fact, the difference between Republican and Democratic support for Veterans is pretty revealing. See here for the details