Monday, January 26, 2015

SS Disability - The Money Pit

Here is an interesting Op Ed by a Liberal.  I say Liberal since he supports fixing SS by making the wealthy pay more, while giving them no additional benefits.  What I equate to making SS and Medicare more like Welfare and Medicaid than they already are.

CNN Why is GOP going after Social Security?

It was interesting that he noted that apparently the SS Retirement Trust Fund has been robbed several times to put more money in the SS Disability Trust Fund.  And he thinks it will happen again when the SS Disability Trust Fund hits $0 in 2016.

He also acknowledges that SS Retirement benfits in 2033 will likely be 77% of what they are today if we don't do something to fix the structural problem.  It is interesting that both the citizens and politicians choose to ignore this pending problem.  Maybe they think if they close their eyes and think positve thoughts, the problem will magically get resolved.  Thoughts?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 State of the Union Address

Sorry for being a poor blogger of late, work and a home improvement project have me overwhelmed.  I am making my garage into a better year round man cave...  However I did make time to listen to The State of the Union Address last week.

It seems that Obama plans to become the new reason for the American government being "non-functional". (ie "The Veto Guy")  It will be interesting to see what he chooses to do when the Congress puts some bitter medicine in with spending bills.  Will he threaten to shutdown the government, or will he sign the bill into law?

And he is busy trying to promise a whole lot of free stuff to some citizens, that other citizens would have to pay for.  At least he is being straight forward regarding his desire to use the government aggressively to rob Peter to give to Paul.

MinnPost: State of the Union
MinnPost: Compromise


NCLB: A Civil Rights Issue

MinnPost: MN Parents to Congress: Maintain NCLB Testing

I liked this paragraph.

"For the group, black women with children in Minneapolis or St. Paul schools, educators in training or alumni themselves, testing is tantamount to a civil rights issue: the results of the tests give parents and administrators the chance to compare student progress against school districts around America, and provide a goldmine of information about the achievement gap that has consumed inner-city schools and minority students."


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Education Improvements 2015

Speaking of improving our existing status quo Public Schools instead of deserting them.  My favorite education focused politician, Terri Bonoff, is recommending some very common sense changes regarding using performance in staffing changes.  I am most certain that Education MN is not happy...

Minnpost Hot Education Issues


Parents United Legislative Updates
G2A Teacher Compensation
G2A MN Tenure
G2A Teacher Evaluation Forms
G2A MN Tenure

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ratios, Volunteers and Good Role Models Matter

Jerry provided the following link in a previous post as proof that the Minneapolis schools are a disaster and the request for more money is just an excuse.  I mean if a higher percentage of poor kids can succeed in Minnetonka, Minneapolis must be failing the poor kids and wasting our money.  Better Ed The Blame Game  Or so this terribly misleading comparison states.

At first glance the chart looks pretty clear, I mean only 24% of FRP kids are proficient in Mpls as compared to 55% in Mtka.  And worse yet, on an average per student basis we are paying much more for this much worse result.  What are those people in Mpls doing?


However when one takes a less biased and broader view, the story changes considerably. In Minneapolis there is only .5 non-FRP students/families for every FRP student/family, where as in Mtka there are 13.5 non-FRP/families for every FRP student.  Why does this matter, let us count the ways:
  • In a class of 30 students, the Mpls Teacher will be working with ~19 FRP students where as the Mtka Teacher will be working with ~2 FRP students.
  • In a class of 30 students, the Mpls Teacher will be working with ~11 non-FRP students where as the Mtka Teacher will be working with ~28 non-FRP students.
  • Also, the students in the Mpls classroom often change due to high mobility rates amongst the poor, where as the Mtka class roster is much more stable.
  • In summary, the FRP student in the Mtka school is in a stable environment, surrounded by peers who are likely more academically/ emotionally capable with a Teacher who has more time to address their extra needs.

  • In a school of 500 students, the Mpls personnel will need to work with ~324 FRP students/families who have difficulty affording food, housing, transportation, school supplies, clothing, tutors, etc, where as Mtka only has ~34.
  • In a school of 500 students, the Mpls personnel will have only ~176 non-FRP students/families who have extra time and money to volunteer, mentor, provide good role modeling, etc where as Mtka has ~466.
  • In summary the Mtka school has a lot of academically capable helpers and donations to assist those children who are facing extra challenges.

  • In Mtka the crime and poverty rates are very low, so the schools need minimal security and/or social services in the schools, where as security is a significant expense in Mpls.

Now I haven't even touched on the English Learner and Special Education differences that are huge !!!  You can see them for yourselves.  In that school of 500 in Mpls, 123 are English challenged and 90 have special needs...  As compared to 8 and 52...

As a point of comparison, when Geoffrey Canada set up the Harlem Children's Zone, he believed that at least ~60% of the parents and children in the community needed to be enrolled in the program if it was to succeed.  He felt without this critical mass, the societal influence would overwhelm the good works that the HCZ was doing.

Now I agree that the Minneapolis School District, and the Teacher's Union in particular, are partially responsible for the poor results and high costs experienced in their district. (maybe 20%)  However it is silly to blame them entirely when the demographics are so stacked against them.  The sad part of this story is that as bad as the "avg Mpls Demographics" are, if we broke it down by individual schools the numbers would be much worse since they have certain neighborhood and magnet schools with very different demographics.

So I agree whole heartedly that most FRP, special needs and English learner students can learn, the reality is that it takes a ton of extra support to ensure they do.  And this can come from their Parents, their community and/or their school.  And if the first 2 are lacking, the school leg of the stool will be very expensive.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cream Skimming Charter Schools?

To continue the comparison of Public Schools: Status Quo vs Charters, Laurie provided this interesting link.  Forbes Unappreciated Success of Charter Schools
"The charter sectors’ ability to do better for poor students and black students is important given that they disproportionately serve them. I remember when I was an undergrad in the early 2000s, the debates on charter schools were far more theoretical than they are now. Back then I frequently heard the concern that charter schools were just going to engage in “cream skimming”, be a way for middle class white families to escape urban school systems, and thus serve as one more form of segregation in this country. This concern has not come true, and currently 53% of charter students are in poverty compared 48% for public schools. Charters also serve more minority students than public schools: charters are 29% black, while public schools are 16%. So not only do they serve more poor students and black students, but for this group they relatively consistently outperform public schools."
With this in mind, are all minority and free & reduced lunch students created equal?

Or are there 2 classifications within these groups?
  1. Poor families who are dedicated to improving their situation and responsibly raising their children to be academically and overall successful.
  2. Poor families who make little effort to improve their situation and think the state should be responsible for teaching & raising their children.
Now you are aware that I believe there are clearly multiple types of poor families, just as there are multiple types of other families. Some are hard working and seeking to be successful, whatever that means. Others are lazy, criminal, dependent, etc.

If I am correct, which children do you think get signed up to attend Magnets, Charters and Private schools? And which children show up at the doors of the Status Quo school?

Image 1 Image 2 Image 3 Image 4 Image 5 Image 6

Now I am not trying to belittle the efforts of the Charters, Magnet or Private schools. I am over joyed that some children are seeing better success in these. Just as I am happy that some kids see more success when their Parents move the family to a "better school district" or open enroll their children into it. This is great for the kids with caring responsible Parents.

I think it is important to remember though that as these kids/families leave the Status Quo community school, that Status Quo's school's challenges just increase in complexity. So be pragmatic and careful when comparing results. Thoughts?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Kids are Kids, Are They Not

This thought deserves it's own discussion.
"A school or district that spends twice the average and gets only half the results (test scores, graduation rate) is a poor value. That's Minneapolis, and in any truly competitive situation this "company" would be out of business in a trice, replaced by something far, far better, at lower cost. " Jerry

"Though it may be common sense to you, it seems to be incredibly illogical to me. It is like saying the manufacturing costs should be the same no matter where the plant is located or what the quality/availabity of the raw materials are...

The reality is that most kids enter the Orono school district with well developed social, physical, and academic skills. They come with ready and excited to learn, with Parents who are dedicated to and capable of supporting them.

In Minneapolis things are a bit different. " G2A

"OK, I am admittedly paraphrasing, but two posts later you say it again: "In Minneapolis things are a bit different." How so? Kids are kids, are they not?" Jerry

"Really... You are kidding, right?" G2A

"NO, I'm not kidding. I start from a position that all kids should have an equal opportunity for a good education, and have a reasonably equal ability to learn. In fact, it's required by the Minnesota Constitution. Do you expect me to believe that our urban schools are NOT egregious examples of failure? Offer any explanations you want, but they are not excuses. " Jerry
Lets make the following assumptions:
  • ALL children enter the K-12 system at ~5 years old and exit at about 18 years old, be it Public, Private, other.
  • The goal is to ensure that ALL children that do not have mental special needs meet or exceed a pre-determined level of academic capability. 
My question is what factors impact the cost of attaining this worth while goal?  We made a good stab at it before, however I am interested in revisiting it.  Thoughts?

Monday, January 5, 2015

True Cost of Teach for America

A belated Christmas gift from Laurie:

The True Cost of Teach For America's Impact on Urban Schools

I spent some of my xmas break reading abut how to improve education and I am always interested in what others think. Laurie


Laurie, And I have not forgotten that MinnPost article you mentioned...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Deal with the Devil

Hiram's comments on the previous post are so disturbing that they deserve further discussion.
"I assume the MOA got tax breaks and roads, but probably no actual cash. And I am assuming that money has been paid back hundreds of times over in additional sales and property taxes..." G2A

And that's a problem since it arguably makes the mall a public facility where first amendment rights apply." Hiram

"So every dentist office, gas station, Church, planned parenthood office, gay/lesbian counseling center, political office space, etc is "public" space and everyone should be able to enter and protest at will?" G2A

"Are you arguing that these tax subsidized spaces open to all are not public spaces? Doesn't taking public dollars entail certain obligations?" Hiram

"Conservatives are not wrong when they they express concerns to the effect that when you take government money, government rules come with it. The Mall of America was willing, eager even, to take money from the government. That has consequences." Hiram
To me it seems that when the government chooses to reduce tax rates or improve the roads near a prospective business to encourage private investment, Hiram believes that the company then becomes answerable to the government.  That in someway they become a public entity...

I think Jerry's comment is much more correct.
"Courts have already ruled that those receiving tax breaks do not incur public obligations, and those receiving direct tax subsidies do so only to the degree the contract spells out such shared ownership or obligation. For example, the $500Billion given to Solyndra did not confer any taxpayer ownership of the potential profits, no special access to the facilities, and no claim even on the assets of the bankrupt corporation." Jerry
If a company is obligated to the "government/collective" because they were allowed to keep more of their personal property as part of the deal, what do people on public assistance, Medicaid, welfare, etc owe the government?  Maybe their first born child?  Or life long indenture?

Or all of us who get to deduct our mortgage interest and take a child tax credit.  Is Hiram saying that we all are "public entities" that government should be allowed to control and use as it wishes?  Thoughts?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Prosecute Mall Protest Organizers

Before I get started... If you appreciate MinnPost, please donate some money to them TODAY. I finally pried open my wallet yesterday in order to help them meet a year end goal. Unlike me, they actually need some income to operate.
I know neither of these statements will surprise you.
  1. I disagree with some of the Liberal commenters regarding the following MinnPost article.
  2. The MinnPost moderators and I have a difference of opinion regarding what is an acceptable comment...
MinnPost Make and Example

So here we go...
"I don't understand what is happening in this country. Nor do I like it. Maybe it's a generational thing, but lawlessness isn't the answer.
These protestors were warned by MOA letters, and personal police visits, that they would be BREAKING the LAW, as the MOA is private property. So they all should have been arrested on site.
Also, all of my adult life~I'm a Sr~it was commonly known (and perhaps the law) that while one could protest peacefully, one could not 'impede commerce'. So no blocking of highways or entrances or exits of businesses. No physical damage, either. Etc.
I don't know when things changed. Or if they officially have. But getting involved proactively in the formal processes is a far better use of one's time and energy than mob mentality protests. And one has to wonder why so many folks have so much time to spend protesting, too. Do they not have jobs, and have homes & families to attend to? Or volunteer activities to participate in?
I don't see any positive gains in all of these protests. In the case of ongoing protests still in Missouri, who is paying for all of it?? The extra police presence, the store & other property damage? That is normally a tax payer expense. But again, if many of the protestors aren't working, they aren't paying taxes....
We all need to be grown ups and learn to calmly discuss issues and work on and negotiate practical resolutions that work well for the masses. Not to just always REACT." LK
"First, let me note that the protestors did not block entrances or exits of stores, that is was the police and the mall security that did so.
Second, let me note that American history is replete with protests that not only impeded commerce but also did physical damage, but if you are over 250 years of age you may possibly remember a time when our country was not like this.
Our nation was born of protest that impeded trade and actually damaged property, that being of course the Tea Party. In fact, pretty much nothing about our nation's birth was 'legal'.
The illegal protests, sometimes including damage to property or actual violence, went on to such things as the whisky rebellion all the way to the labor movement riots in the early 20th century.
The 60's of course hardly need to be mentioned as an example of not just protests but violent riots.
There was no time in American history devoid of protests, and in fact this point in time is relatively quiet compared to some. Things have not changed- a nation born in protest continues in protest- and even gainfully employed people with homes and families do have time to engage in them." Theo
"I am fine if people choose to break the law to make a point or generate publicity.
That is if they are fine accepting the punishment for choosing to break the law.
To break the law and assume there should be no punishment "because they arre protesting" seems silly.
I hope they enjoy their time in jail, paying restitution and/or paying fines. And that the publicity they gained was adequate to justify these expenses." G2A
"I'm not sure if your statement above was really a reply to mine or a separate point altogether because I'm not seeing a connection. Are you somehow thinking my argument was that nobody should be punished...because I'm not sure how you could from what I wrote(?).
My understanding is that about a dozen protestors got arrested, and they are therefore being punished. Going after the organizers for further punishment is ridiculous. Nobody participating in the protests are under the organizer's control, they all made individual decisions to participate and each took on the individual risk of arrest and some of them took the punishment that such risk can result in." Theo
Now for the first concept I can not get past Moderators...
"Theo,  So are you saying that people should be free to organize events that they know are illegal with no fear of consequences?  Does this make sense?  Does this mean someone could plan crimes without risk prosecution?  As long as they don't commit the crime..." G2A
Now here is the other string. 
"I wouldn't find it very amusing for people to protest on my private property. Illegal activity should have consequences." Alfred

"Protests on my property would not last long." Pavel

"Is that a challenge? Post the location of your private property and let's see how long it does last." Matthew
 And my response...
 "Matthew, If you owned a business, would you really allow people to protest on your property?  Even if by doing so you may annoy or alienate your paying customers who disagree or are indifferent to the protestor's message?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

In of chaos, discord and disagreement, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas !!!

Comic 1    Comic 2    Comic 3   Comic 4   Comic 5

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Black Officers Perspective

This is an interesting read.

CNN Black Police Officers Thoughts
The Grio Officers Open Letter

Of course, then there are these sad stories...
CNN Officers Executed
CNN Florida Officer Shot

So what do you think, are all these protests encouraging the crazies to get violent?

Or are these murders just a normal risk of being a police officer?  If so, I think I would be shooting first and asking questions later...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cuban Vacation Anyone?

No time so I will keep this short.  What do you think of Obama re-engaging Cuba?  Will the Congress embrace this bold change or balk?

CNN Obama and Cuba

My friend who went their for agricultural business said they have beautiful beaches...

Monday, December 15, 2014

That Stubborn Achievement Gap

Now if you want to talk about systemic racism, maybe this an example.

MinnPost Painful Truths About Mpls Schools

Are we saying that the education system is systemically racist?


Is there something else at play that is keeping these kids from getting ahead? (ie parents, culture, priorities, attitudes, capability, lead, etc)

See the Minnpost comments for some more of my thoughts.

G2A Why are poor people poor?
G2A Factors Affecting Educational Success

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Do We Want Police to Stop Thinking

 I found both these comments very interesting, especially Ilya's.  Thoughts?
MinnPost US Too Many in Jail
"Police officers are taught to evaluate the risk (to them and community) and act accordingly. So they do use their prior knowledge, experience, and statistics to make a decision (which they often have to make quickly). Imagine yourself walking down the street and seeing a Golden Retriever running at you. Unless you are afraid of all dogs, most likely you will not feel fear. Now imagine a Rottweiler running at you… So basically you will be judging the situation based on your general knowledge and statistics of dog bites which is a very reasonable thing to do. The same with police officers – and the danger is higher. Obviously, all three things police officers are considering before making a decision involve noticing the race of people around them but that is not the same as racism. In other words, race is taken into account but most likely that is not due to racism (even though there are racists around in general and in police force in particular but not as many as some want to claim).

For example, George Zimmerman did take Trayvon Martin’s race into account when he made a decision to confront him even though his supporters may say that he did not. But it wasn’t racism that influenced him, as Martin’s supporters assert, but the knowledge that young black men had burglarized the neighborhood. Zimmerman acted rationally on the basis of very specific information he had because his goal was to prevent possible burglary in his area. If he were to confront a black teenager in this manner in, let’s say, Disneyland, it would have been much less reasonable and the possibility that he were acting this way because he was a racist would have been much higher.

Here is another example. Imagine police are called for a burglary in progress in a store. When a police officer arrives, she sees a person running out of the store; clearly she will try to stop that person because the behavior looks suspicions. Now imagine she sees two people running out of the store – a man in a suit and a man in dirty ragged clothing. If an officer may stop only one person, she will have to make an immediate decision and most likely she will go after a disheveled man based on experience even though in this case it may be wrong. Imagine now that there is a man and a woman running out of the store. Again, if she can stop only one, she will stop a man and not because she is sexist but because it is more likely that a burglar is a man. Same with the case if there is a black and white man running out of the store dressed about the same; again, it is more reasonable to go after a black man based on statistics, not bias. A police officer may be wrong in her judgments in all of the above cases but she is doing what is the most logical thing in each case which has nothing to do with racism or sexism or any other bias.

The fact that there are more black people in jails affects people’s perception in general and police officers’ perception in particular but not because they are racists. So while there may be some truth to saying that it may be more difficult to be a young black male, that is not because of racism (and obviously, I would tell my white son not to grab police officer’s gun and cooperate with them all the time, just the same as a black father should tell his son). But the only way out of this situation lies within black community, not white community. If blacks commit less crime (and now they do commit more crimes regardless of effect of perceptions) then perceptions will go away.

Sure, I can see people saying that this perception I am talking about is racism. But it is not –because racism is subconscious and this behavior is rational, just like fearing Rottweiler more than Golden Retriever.

Mr. Rovick, the question should be how many violent and repeated criminals on the street can a society support? I am sure my system will result in fewer people in prisons, less crime, and not so overworked court system." Ilya
  And Jon had an equally interesting comment.
"The dilemma is that street crime and crimes against other poor people occur where poor people live which tend to be disproportionately African-American. Poor people also are involved disproportionately in crime for survival, e.g. drug trade. Also, law enforcement has attempted to lower crime rates by so-called "broken window" policies that also has a tendency to target poor people for petty offenses, like jaywalking, turnstile jumping and shoplifting or possession. (It would be interesting to see some comparative statistics on level of arrest and prosecution for possession of firearms (conceal and carry) by race and class.).

The other side of "broken windows" policies is that poor people tend to be victims of more serious crimes which "broken window" law enforcement policies often ignore. I've read that many residents of poor communities feel unprotected by the police who are unresponsive to the serious crimes committed there against them while feeling and often being victimized by the police for committing these petty offenses. I personally know someone (white) who used to live in a racially mixed but poor section of Milwaukee whose home was burgled 20-30 times and who, when reporting one of the crimes while in progress to the Milwaukee police was asked to call back after the criminals had left the home. This person confirmed this perception for me.

I wonder of anyone has seen the HBO show "The Wire"? This show really grapples with the topic of Eric's post in a realistic way from a dramatic angle. It was written by a former Baltimore Sun reporter and a former Baltimore homicide detective and featured among its cast former members of the Baltimore police as well as former (and in some cases not completely reformed) criminals. I've read that many cops have confirmed the realism and authenticity of this show from a law enforcement standpoint. What this show dramatizes so effectively (and probably understates ), is just how law enforcement and law enforcement policies work (or really don't work) in the poor sections of our cities and how damaged and broken our cities are in this respect. (Caution: while I recommend this show, it's definitively in the "Rated R for violence, language and sexual conduct" territory.)." Jon