Monday, August 31, 2009

School bureaucrats cry: "We shouldn't have to compete!"

What an incredible front page article in the Oregonian today.

The Corbett School District is a little district wedged between a couple east county districts and the Columbia River. Over the years, it has developed some very strong academic programs that gained the notice of a lot of parents in the area.

Parents who don't live in the Corbett district could still have their kids attend the Corbett schools as long as their resident district gave permission - which for several years most of them willingly gave. The superintendent signs an "inter-district transfer" form, and the district passes on the roughly $6,000 the state allocates to that student over to Corbett.

But as money became increasingly tight this last year, most of the east county districts said "no more inter-district transfers." They started refusing to sign the forms. Parents who loved the Corbett schools but didn't live in the district were out of luck. Their own district wanted to trap their kids into schools the parents didn't want, because each of those children had $6,000 taped to their foreheads.

But Corbett found a workaround. Charter schools in Oregon can enroll kids without regard to school district boundaries. And if a district wants to turn create a charter school inside one of its own buildings, it is a pretty easy exercise.

So Corbett created a charter school inside its K-12 school building, and now it is free to enroll as many kids as it can accommodate. And THAT is what has the other districts' noses out of joint.

The Gresham superintendent, John Miner was quoted: "We can't cannibalize one another under the guise of curriculum," Miner said. "There is a fundamental flaw in the charter school law that the Legislature must address."

In other words: The charter law allows parents to choose their kids' school, without going on bended knee to their resident bureaucrats. The legislature must fix this.

What Miner calls a "fundamental flaw" is really a fundamental PRINCIPLE of charter schools - parental choice and competition. District bureaucrats don't want to have to compete. It is much easier to have their students assigned to them.

Reynolds School District's superintendent doesn't like it one bit: "This new charter school definitely impacts our district finances negatively," he said. "And it blatantly circumvents the interdistrict transfer process."

If his district is losing students to Corbett, perhaps he should offer what Corbett offers. That's kind of the point of the whole thing: competition drives improvement, because you have skin in the game.

Also, it is absolutely true that charter schools "blatantly circumvent the interdistrict transfer process." In fact it is so blatant that the legislature designed the charter school law specifically to circumvent it!

What we are seeing here is the competitive dynamic at play. It was the whole idea of the charter school law in the first place. For ten years since we passed the law, districts have been able to keep the competitive pressure to a minimum through all sorts of quasi-legal shenanigans that I have spent the last decade fighting.

But finally, the pressure is being felt. It took a deep recession and an innovative, courageous leader from inside the education establishment to bring it to a head.

Corbett's Superintendent, Bob Denton, explained why he used the charter option when local districts started refusing transfers: "I wasn't going to let them take kids who want to be here, whose parents want them to be here. Kids are not a means to an end, to financially support you as a district. That is unethical."

Imagine a school system in which ALL of the school leaders held this view. THAT is the promise of charter schools.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


A few things that have accumulated over the last few days:

The Clackamas Teachers Union insisted on receiving their contractual pay raise, so the district had to lay off 60 teachers. This is a great illustration of what is wrong with how the public sector operates.

The existing collective bargaining contract called for a 3% pay hike this school year. The district asked them to accept no raise, some furlough days, but keep their step raises. No way, said the union. The district used the only cost cutting tool at its disposal in the world of collective bargaining. They had to lay off teachers. Sixty of them.

I'm sure those 60 teachers felt they got good value for the $600 or so a year in union dues they pay. And I am sure the people of Clackamas School District feel that the union is really looking out for the quality of the education they provide.

While people employed in the private sector are taking hefty real pay cuts (in some cases 100%) it is unconscionable for a teachers union to refuse to accept the reality of the deep recession, and basically screw the taxpaying public and the parents of school kids.

Why does ANYONE still believe that teachers unions are a good thing for our society? It is morally corrupt to its core.

Another monument to sustainability is being built with your wasted tax dollars in Portland. The Edith-Green Wendell-Wyatt federal building is getting a $133 million renovation courtesy of stimulus funds. And of course they are going to make it oh-so-sustainable, so efficient that it could qualify for LEED certification. The Oregonian headline hinted at how smart this is: "Makeover motivation: It's eco-logical."

Yes, very logical indeed. Spending $133 million to renovate a 350,000 square foot office building. That only comes to about $386 per square foot!

In Oregon, "sustainability" is defined as "spend a whole lot of money to achieve a very small decrease in energy."

Logical indeed.

Another Clackamas School District controversy has a school board member, Sam Gillespie, complaining publicaly about his own incompetence. Seems the district lent over half a million dollars to one of its quasi charter school organizations. I say quasi, because the schools are really not independent charters. Thier employees are disrict employees and union members.

The schools, the Clackamas Web Academy and the New Urban High School, got a loan from the district, and now are asking for ten years to pay it back.

Sam Gillespie, long time board member who is no pal of charter schools of any stripe, complained about the dsitrict being forced to accept this payback deal, and criticized the charter school movement, saying "That's the problem with charters - there's no accountability."

Huh? His own board authorized the loan, and his own board oversees these two charter schools. If they haven't been overseeing it properly, there is only one person to blame: Himself!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The incredible shriking credibility of Obama

President Obama is taking heat from the left, people such as columnist Paul Krugman, for not being tough enough on the opponents of his health care plan and for backing off on the centerpiece, the "public option."

Krugman says

"there’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line. It seems as if there is nothing Republicans can do that will draw an administration rebuke: Senator Charles E. Grassley feeds the death panel smear, warning that reform will “pull the plug on grandma,” and two days later the White House declares that it’s still committed to working with him.

As usual, Krugman gets it wrong. Obama has tried to rebuke his opponents and people aren't buying it. He is coming off as a tin man, and people aren't buying his sales pitch.

Obama doesn't fill the suit of President. Why would this be a shock to anyone? A person with his limited life experience simply cannot possibly have the field vision to do anything but fail.

Who is advising him? A bunch of hack Chicago machine pols who are driving things as if they were back in the swamp they feel comfortable in.

Obama has overreached big time, and the country is rejecting his agenda. Backing off the public option is not a sellout like Krugman's "progressives" are saying, it is a political failure brought on by the same inexperience and hubris that brought the HillaryCare disaster for Clinton.

Clinton, after that failure and the 1994 rebuke in the mid-term election, dramatically changed course, started triangulating, governed more from the center, and had a successful presidency (if marred by his tawdry scandals.)

What will Obama do? Does he have the skills to change course? If not, he is a one termer pure and simple. The country has never liked his agenda nearly as much as they liked him personally. Now voters are starting to inextricably connect the two. Obama IS his agenda in the voters mind, so they are starting to reject him.

As long as he pushes for Cap & Trade, Pubic Option, and the like, his presidency will continue to sink.

Krugman is and has always been blinded by his ideology. He thinks all Obama has to do is get tough, call out the opponents for their demagoguery, and the nation will be convinced.

No, that won't work. The demagoguery on things like the Death Panels works because there is a thread of truth to it. Everyone knows that government takeover of insurance will lead to rationing decisions by government.

As uncomfortable as people are with health care rationing by insurance companies (which undeniably is the reality,) they are FAR more uncomfortable with having those decisions made by the federal government.

And Obama has been totally unconvincing on this point. He tries to pretend that rationing will not be necessary, and people simply do not buy it.

So his credibility shrinks as people realize he is not telling it straight. He starts compromising, and says that which he once insisted upon was never the centerpiece of his plan. Which of course is a lie, and everybody knows it. Credibility shrinks more.

It is early in his presidency, so he does have time to recover. For Clinton it took an historic election in 1994 that gave Republicans control of both houses for the first time in 40 years before he changed course.

The 2010 election could shape up along similar lines if Obama ignores folks like Krugman and starts realizing that this is a center-right nation that won't tolerate his far left agenda.

The next six months will be interesting indeed.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

BlueOregon's Chisolm reveals himself as propagandist

Over at BlueOregon, blog founder Kari Chisolm has the funniest post ever.

He wants the left's narrative of "violent conservative protests against ObamaCare" to stick, but other than some shouting at various town hall meetings (which I think is not the greatest idea, BTW) they don't have any evidence of any real conservative violence or threats.

So Chisolm trumps some up, and gets his plus-sized knickers in a twist at his own propaganda.

First, he posts the audio from a phone call to SEIU from a woman named Diana. In the call, she tells the SEIU to "stop the violence" and to stop suppressing people's first amendment rights, lest they "come up against the second amendment."

Kari Chisolm, with another of his chronic episodes of the vapors, thinks this is a "violent threat."

So if I warn you to stop committing acts of violence, or I will meet your violence with some force of my own, that is a threat? Sounds more to me like Diana is saying folks will defend themselves, and use their constitutionally protected gun rights to do so.

Is that the best they can do to pretend that conservatives have turned into health reform Brownshirts?

But the best part of Chisolm's post is where he claims he has video proof conservative "mobs" assualting SEIU "purple shirts." He posts an SEIU video that juxtaposes peaceful SEIU rallies and protests with clips from recent town halls where politicians are being shouted at by angry participants. At the very end, there's a few short seconds of a clip that supposedly shows an SEIU purple shirt being attacked.

One slight problem with that clip. Look at the whole video - not just the few seconds that the SEIU showed - and guess what? It's the SEIU purple shirt thug who gets arrested! You can clearly see the guy run into the scuffle, grab the black guy who had just got up from the pavement, and throw him to the ground!

Now, to be perfectly accurate (which Kari Chisolm doesn't appear to feel is required) when the video starts you cannot tell what has just occurred. There is a purple shirt on the pavement, and the black guy is also on the pavement. You can't see how they got on the ground.

The black guy gets up, stands on the sidewalk, and that's when the other purple shirt thug literally runs up, grabs him, and throws him to the ground.

And for several minutes, this thug, cigarette dangling from his lips, shouts at bystanders, in a very threatening way, who accuse him of assaulting the black guy. The police come, and the black guy waves them over. The police arrest the purple shirt who assaulted the black guy.

THAT is Kari's proof that "conservative mobs" are resorting to violence! Nice job Kari! Your credibility is, shall we say, on the wane.

What a joke.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Public option leads to single payer

You've probably already heard or seen this video, where Pres. Obama basically admits that a public option will lead to the end of private insurance. I just wanted to post it on my blog so I would have it handy when I needed it.

There's also some other good quotes from Obama in this NRO Corner post.

Oh... BTW.... be sure to check out the comments in the thread two posts down. Amazing! Our friend David Appell thinks he is no better than a squirrel!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Clunker program hurts the poor and unemployed

I can't believe that some people think it is a good idea for the government to pay people to destroy things of value. Are you in the habit of taking valuable durable goods that could be easily sold on Craigs List and ruining them?

That is what the federal government is doing with the nation's fleet of used cars.

Imagine if the government bought Maytag, and then announced a program in which you could buy a new Maytag at a reduced price if you destroyed your current one? That's basically the "Cash for Clunkers" program. It is idiotic.

You know what one of the biggest obstacles for the chronically unemployed? John Charles at the Cascade Policy Institute has done a lot of research into this question. The answer is: reliable transportation.

It makes sense. You have to be able to get to a job to have a job. Lots of jobs aren't near enough public transportation to make that feasible. Lots of poor people can't afford to buy a car. So their job prospects are extremely limited.

Charles' research showed that if you provide these folks with a reliable automobile, they can get a job and keep it.

So with unemployment approaching 10% in this great economy, what do we do? Take perfectly funcionable cars permanently off the road, and give the middle class a big subsidy to upgrade to a newer more expensive car.

Great idea. It increases the average cost of the nation's fleet of cars, putting further out of reach that which the poor need to be gainfully employed. It removes from the market millions of low cost cars, which they could otherwise someday perhaps purchase.

All in the name of marginal increases in fuel economy. Screw the poor. Great idea.