Saturday, November 26, 2005

Republican rip-off

Rep. Pete Starks (D-CA) makes some forceful arguments against the Republican budget cuts/tax cuts in an In These Times editorial:

Since 2002, Republican budgets have cut nearly 7,000 slots for children in low-income families to receive Head Start services. These cuts were made despite studies demonstrating that Head Start children are more likely to graduate from high school and are less likely to repeat a grade. Head Start students are also less likely to commit a crime than low-income children who do not attend Head Start. But such empirical findings mean little to a party that prefers its policies based on faith.

After slashing Head Start budgets, it seems only logical for Republicans to next target poor mothers with children under 6 years old. A recent Republican budget proposal would require these mothers to double their weekly work hours from 20 to 40 in order to remain eligible for job training and vocational education. Yet that plan fails to provide $10.5 billion for childcare funding that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated would be needed for mothers to afford to work the longer hours and maintain their benefits. The blatant hypocrisy would be comical if it weren’t true.

As our children—unprepared for the challenges they’ll face—reach public schools, they will get less help than ever before. After taking credit for “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB), President Bush and his Republican allies wasted no time in underfunding the Act, thereby ensuring schools could not meet new, stricter achievement standards. As of June 2005, the House Republicans have shortchanged public schools by $40 billion since the passage of the much-lauded NCLB law. At the same time, yearly progress tests created by NCLB to determine if individual students are improving in math and reading show almost a quarter of schools failing to show improvement on state student tests.

If those weren’t enough obstacles to place in front of our children, the Republicans want to force the average student borrower to pay an additional $5,800 for college. The single most effective springboard to a well-paying job is a college degree. So, this year the Republicans are proposing $14.3 billion in cuts to federal student aid programs.

It is clear that children and young people are the biggest losers in the Republican raid of the Treasury. If you're a parent, or a kid, or someone who cares about kids, you should be pissed.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Pay for it yourself

It's Thanksgiving so I'm not going to write much about it, but the NYT this morning reported on the case brought by some Michigners against the Bush Education Department over NCLB spending. The judge ruled, in essence, that unfunded mandates are OK. This could be seen as a precedent in the separate case brought by Connecticut.

For more, here's the article.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Supreme Irony

The Texas Supremes ruled in the landmark school finance court case yesterday. Their 7-1 decision was a mixed bag.

They ruled that the system of local property taxes in which just about every district in the state imposes the same tax (the maximum allowed $1.50 per $100 of valuation) is unconstitutional. The Texas Constitution specifically outlaws a statewide property tax. They got that part right.

Then they ruled that the public school system is adequate. This point is arguable, but I can understand that decision. But they also ruled that facilities funding is equitable. This is beyond ridiculous. It is indefensible and, in the long run, this Court will lose a lot of credibility with the public on this one. There is no reasonable definition of equitable that could allow for the rich suburban palaces of learning (see Highland Park) and the dilapidated hovels that pass for "facilities" in some of Texas's rural and urban communities to be considered as substantially equal. It's a mind-bending stretch-- a stretch that makes this state's High Court seem, well, high. Or just stupid.

Still, because the Supremes ruled that the basic mechanism for funding schools (property taxes) is unconstitutional, the whole system will have to be overhauled. What comes out the other end of this judicial-legislative death dance is anyone's guess. My hunch is that I won't like it. Whatever that solution might be, though, the Court gave the Lege until June 1 to figure it out.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A different approach

In Britain, parents of bullies could be fined one thousand pounds for their children's bad behavior.

Of course, nobody has a problem with this -- on the surface. But dig deeper and, as usual, the devil is in the details. I remember when Texas was tryihg to ban bullying and some lawmakers defined it as "anything causing emotional distress." And I thought it'd be pretty easy to convict most math teachers daily. And don't get me started on some of the Republican politicians in this state. Emotional distress doesn't begin to describe what they do to me.

The BBC article doesn't mention how the Schools Minister pushing the punishments goes about defining bullying.
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