Friday, October 21, 2005

Edwards in Austin

For any Austinites reading this, Sen. John Edwards will be speaking at UT Monday afternoon. For details, click here. (If you live in Berkeley, Madison, or Ann Arbor, he'll be in your neck of the woods next week, too.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Couldn't pass this up...

Could Fitzgerald possibly be looking at indicting the Vice President?

US News reports that there are rumors flying about Cheney's resignation?!?! Wow.

More on rising college costs

From US News and World Report:

Tuition at the average four-year public school is 7.1 percent higher than it was last fall, rising much faster than wages and most other costs. Average earnings have risen only 2.3 percent in the past year, while the overall consumer price index is up 4.7 percent in the last 12 months, largely on spiking energy costs.

Making matters worse for students, public colleges raised their room and board bills by 6.2 percent. The full cost of a year of study, including books, transportation and extras, averages $15,566 for an in-state student now, $926 more than last year.

The price rise for private colleges is slightly less, with tuition up 5.9 percent and other charges rising 5 percent. But the total sticker price is still a hefty $32,070 for a year of study, up $1,621 from last year.

They also report that there has been an increase in aid given out, but it's not enough;

Unfortunately, however, much of the increase in aid is simply keeping pace with the increased number of students enrolling in college. Congress hasn't increased the amount of the Pell grant in years, for example. As a result, the real cost of a degree continues to skyrocket along with the sticker price.

The poor and middle class squeeze continues. But hey, at least the rich got a tax break!

Aren't vouchers great!?!?

Milwaukee voucher schools are in trouble again. I, for one, am stunned. You mean that the previously unregulated private schools receiving public money aren't functioning well?

What a shocker. Wow. If the right-wingers get their way, this is merely a preview of coming attractions.

NAEP scores are out

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores are out today.

Of course, no matter what the results said, President Bush and Secretary Spellings would say that if they're great, it's because of NCLB. If not, it's because people resist NCLB.

Well, the results are mixed. Improvement in math, stagnation -- and in the case of 8th grade math, actual regression -- in reading.

It's hard to put a lot of stock in these tests, but if there's one that is more valid than the others, it's the NAEP because it's not high stakes. So if you want to read more, click here.

Music Lives

These days, with ever tightening budgets, music education is increasingly marginalized. Like funds for libraries, nurses, PE, and art, music education is always one of the first areas to get cut.

The Boston Globe ran a story on a partnership of Paul McCartney and Fidelity Investments to provide instruments for schools. The program is called Music Lives.

''Music education is a critical program of study that gets scant attention and fewer and fewer dollars every year," [Fidelity vice chairman and COO] Reynolds said in a statement. ''The Music Lives Foundation wants to combat this trend."

I know jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis has been very involved in promoting music education, also. It's great that people are stepping to do this, but it's sad that they have to.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Color me skeptical

Spellings' higher ed committee had its first meeting yesterday. But they won't get far with a mission like this:

She has set a goal of assuring that any students who work hard can go to college regardless of how much money their parents earn. And although she says it is time for significant federal action -- perhaps in the category of the G.I. Bill after World War II -- she has also assured observers that she is not advocating a bigger role for the government.

OK, so any student who works hard -- notice, she didn't say performs on tests or anything like that, it's "work hard" according to the AP -- will get to go to college. Even if their parents are poor. But she's not advocating a bigger role for government?

Wow. This should be fun to watch. If she thinks that the private sector will step in and pitch in enough money for millions of poor kids she's got another thing coming. Government needs a bigger role in this. A more aggressive, active role to ensure poor kids can go to college. Doesn't look like this Administration knows anything about doing ensuring government can help the poor, though.

Maybe the committee can help them, but let's just say I'm skeptical.

Monday, October 17, 2005

"Never have 40,000 people turned silent faster."

From the USA Today article. My Cardinals pull out a gut-wrenching victory.

2 strikes. 2 outs. Down by 2. Bottom of the 9th. Three-run moonshot. We win.

Albert Pujols, we love you.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Newsweek has an interesting interview with neuroscientiest and author Daniel Amen. Getting exercise, eating right, and decreasing stress contribute to increased and better brain activity. One wonders how allowing more time for PE, improving school lunches, and -- dare I say -- lowering the stakes on starndardized tests might improve brain functioning for young kids.

Dr. Amen also emphasizes that seven hours of sleep is essential for healthy brain functioning. On that note, good night.

Those low prices aren't free

Criminal charges in the Armstrong Williams case?

I missed this one Friday. It appears that criminal charges might be handed down in the Armstrong Williams case. The Inspector General of the Education Department thought the case was serious enough to hand it over to the US Attorney's office.

Williams, of course, was paid to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind Act without disclosing that he was paid to do so. That's illegal.

But it looks now like Armstrong didn't even do the work he was paid for. In a time when education budgets are increasingly tight, any waste is unforgivable. And this is the worst kind of waste.

So will there be criminal charges filed?

Now the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia is investigating whether Williams accepted public money without performing his required duties, said Dan Katz, chief counsel for Lautenberg. The attorney's office has a range of potential remedies, from suing to recover the money to possible criminal charges, Katz said.

"The inspector general wouldn't refer this to the U.S. attorney unless there was evidence of misconduct that requires further investigating," Katz said.

Hard to tell from the article, but let's keep our fingers crossed. A clear example needs to be set that any waste of taxpayer dollars especially for propaganda, is unacceptable and punishable by law.

Does being a public university mean anything anymore?

Apparently not.

Don't miss this article from this morning's NYT. State tax revenues are going to public universities far less than they once did, prompting some university officials to worry that their institutions are barely public anymore.

The key statistics:

The share of all public universities' revenues deriving from state and local taxes declined to 64 percent in 2004 from 74 percent in 1991. At many flagship universities, the percentages are far smaller. About 25 percent of the University of Illinois's budget comes from the state. Michigan finances about 18 percent of Ann Arbor's revenues. The taxpayer share of revenues at the University of Virginia is about 8 percent.


The average in-state tuition nationwide for students attending four-year public colleges increased 36 percent from 2000-01 through 2004-05, according to the College Board, while consumer prices over all rose about 11 percent.

Another measure, the average percentage of state tax revenues devoted to public higher education, has declined for several decades. About 6.7 percent of state revenues went to higher education appropriations in 1977, but by 2000, universities' share had fallen to 4.5 percent, according to a study by the Urban Institute.

Stanley O. Ikenberry, a president emeritus of the University of Illinois, says he believes that most state legislatures remain committed to supporting public higher education but that as budgets shrink, it is more difficult to cut programs like Medicaid, public schools and prisons.

"The higher education budget serves as the default place to make the cut," Dr. Ikenberry said. Nonetheless, he avoids the word "privatization," saying, "It's not a productive way to talk about what's happening now, but more a way of describing where we may be heading."

Dr. Ikenberry is wrong. It's not a description of where we may be heading, it's a description of where we are heading. We're not there yet but we're well on the way and we're picking up speed.

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