Friday, January 29, 2016

SS Benefits: What is in Your Wallet?

MN Transportation Funding

You will have to read the linked article  and the comments to see where the following comment came from.  I have to start working on taxes  :-( so I can fill out a FAFSA before March 1...  Likely we will get no College subsidies, however that score is needed to apply for some scholarships... MP Transportation
"How about the DFL reduce the income or sales tax to offset their gas tax increase. That way both the "dedicated funding stream" supporters and the people who want to keep government growth at or slightly above inflation will both be happy. :-)

Also, let's see them stop proposing government growth, and start proposing using the budget surplus to catch up on these supposed required maintenance tasks. Not much sense taking out a loan(ie bond) when you have the money in the bank...

Raising taxes/spending faster than the inflation rate AND adding more Taxes for Transportation seem like over reach to me..." G2A

GOP Debate and Trump's Absence

CNN GOP Debate
CNN Trump's Party

Any thoughts on either of these topics? 

My only thought is that Trump reinforced again that he is one of the biggest narcissistic prima donnas in the world and I can not understand why people are supporting him...  If our population likes actors so much, I think George Clooney would be a shoe in for President if he chose to run.  And if people like that womanizer Trump... They would LOVE George...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How to Close The Achievement Gap?

Continued from here
"Eliminating the gap will require at least 3 things:

  1. Change status quo public education work, retention, compensation, assignment, etc rules so they meet the needs of the kids. Not the wants of the Teachers.
  2. Change policies so incapable and/or negligent parents do not have more children than they can personally afford. Enable society to be able to enforce this if needed.
  3. Change policies so that US has a stronger Parenting and Early Childhood Education program for questionable / young Parents. " G2A

"John, in some sense you are correct that there is no silver bullet, because to repair a failing public school is going to require a combination of things to be done, successfully, over a number of years. On the other hand, we have close to that silver bullet in school choice.

As for "eliminating the gap" I think that is impossible, especially approached as you suggest. It is like attempting to turn the car by standing outside and pushing on the front wheels, rather than turning the steering wheel. Far easier to change those things we do control, like the public schools' funding and policies, then those things we do not, like social breakdown regardless of cause (and I will blame government for that, just not now).

We can and absolutely must REDUCE the gap, however. You have suggested that private schools do better because they have entrance requirements, and because they can expel difficult or troublesome students. So how is that different than having a school with rigorous testing followed by remedial effort like the RIF program? What about a school having a rigorous curriculum and high expectations, with talented teachers in every room, paid on the basis of student improvement? Why shouldn't a school have a strong and effective discipline policy, including, as many districts now do, a separate building (ours has bars on the windows) for those who need the extra discipline, short of the last-resort of expulsion? There are public schools everywhere doing one or more of these things to a greater or lesser degree. It would take a concerted effort and several years to turn that train around, but we never do. " Jerry

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

GOP Deserves Trump and Cruz

GOP establishment deserves Trump, Cruz
"If John takes enough interest to comment on the state of the GOP, I expect he will say something like the dems are no different - look at Bernie. To which I likely will not care to reply, so just don't bother making a post." Laurie

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hillary Wants to Stack SCOTUS

I find the following statement by Hillary fascinating and scary. CNN Cure for Citizen's United
"As president, I'll appoint Supreme Court justices who recognize that Citizens United is bad for America. And if necessary, I'll fight for a constitutional amendment that overturns it."
Now I understand that Presidents try to select Justices that lean their way. However to actually say you want to appoint individuals who would rule because they agree with you that something is "bad for America" instead of if it "is Constitutional" is amazing.  Thoughts?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

U of MN Alert System Change

MPR Alert System Change

I found this amusing / strange when I heard it discussed yesterday on NPR.  Apparently young black men on campus felt singled out and discriminated against when a campus warning went out specifying the race of a person who was a potential threat.  Therefore they went through the effort to lobby to get the policy changed.

Maybe the warning should go out saying "beware a person in blue jeans, a brown coat and black hair" if the threat is a 20 year old black woman...  We would hate to be too descriptive in case it might save someone.

Of course if I had jeans, a brown coat and black hair...  Maybe I would feel unfairly singled out ...


Monday, January 18, 2016

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Monday, January 11, 2016

SCOTUS and Union Dues

Personally I think every state should be a right to work state and union dues / membership should be optional, so I am hoping SCOTUS agrees.  Thoughts?

MinnPost Center of AE and Powerline
CAE View on Public Unions
Powerline Blow to Unions?
Fox News Forced Dues
MJ Major Blow

I like this quote from the CAE piece. 
"The Friedrichs case is not an assault on public unions, though if Friedrichs wins, public unions like Education Minnesota will have to stop taking their members for granted if they want to keep collecting fees and dues. An organization that can compel its members to fund its mission is bound to grow arrogant.

The Friedrichs case is, however, a heartfelt objection to the prejudicial idea that giving up one’s First Amendment rights in exchange for a job is somehow fair. It is also an opportunity for the court to get this one right."

Vikings Loss

So for something totally different, what did you think of the game.  At first I was going to be angry with the kicker and ball holder, then I remembered that without them the Vikings would have scored ZERO points yesterday.

On the upside I am sure they will be a much more consistent and better team once they move into the shiny new stadium. :-)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

BLM Historical Perspective

Here is a strange article and some pretty good comments.  MP BLM Historical Perspective Unfortunately my comment was denied, so here it is...

"I have found that my relationship is best with the police when I:
  • do not rob a store, illegally walk down the middle of the street and then argue with the officer.
  • do not buy my teenager a realistic looking gun and then let them stand in a park near the road aiming it at things.
  • do not argue and become verbally abusive with the officer when they ask me to do something simple like get out of the car, show me your ID, etc.
  • do not physically abuse my girl friend and then argue with the paramedics and police when they come to help her.
  • do not have a long rap sheet of selling drugs, stealing, etc.
I think BLM would have much better luck gaining the support of the main stream citizens if they focused on protesting the few times when law abiding people were abused or killed.  There must be a few in this list. Instead they seem to insist on being the voice of criminals, not the voice of Black people.  Then people like me are reminded of that old saying... "Those who live by the sword are likely to die by the sword."

I do feel sorry for the mentally unstable people who are shot by officers.  However given the number of officers killed each year in the line of duty, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

8 Education Stories

Here is an interesting piece and exchange I am having.
"Where's the objectivity? Hawkins' reformist views really show in her "8 biggest education stories" article.
  • Educators 4excellence? whose views do they really represent?
  • Things are better in New Orleans after Katrina?
  • The union DID NOT organize parents to support new school board members in St. Paul.
  • The accountability proponents and civil rights groups get good data via mandated tests? When many students don't even read through the test questions?" Sonja
"Status Quo.  Does this mean you are a proponent for the status quo? The one where the highest paid and supposedly most qualified Teachers in Mpls get to choose to avoid the schools with the most challenged families / students?
I have never figured out why Teachers are against tests, grading and consequences when they use these to determine how well a student is performing on a regular basis. :-)" G2A

 "You doubt that teachers who make the most money are better teachers? Why? Teachers are paid more for experience and schooling much like in other professions. Yet the idea persists that "young energetic" new teachers are often better. Would you prefer a doctor or lawyer who was experienced and educated or one who was young, fresh out of med school and eager to operate or freshly out of law school ready to represent you in court? You are devaluing what teachers do with that attitude.
As for avoiding the roughest schools, if you've been paying attention to the news lately some of these rough schools can be very difficult places to be. Teachers are often given little autonomy, must do extra paperwork of little value and are not supported in helping the students. What's the draw? Some teachers are even concerned for their safety in some schools. Would you want to work there? If such a school needs more experienced teachers, they need to offer incentives for them to be interested in adding the extra stress to their lives.
Finally, I will clear up for you the puzzle of why so many teachers are against your type of "accountability". Students are not widgets. So much of good teaching is very difficult to quantify. Teachers aren't against some sort of measure of effectiveness. They are against incorrect measures created by people with little to no education background being used to measure their teaching. That business model IS NOT ACCURATE. Would you like to have your work graded by an inaccurate measure and used to judge your effectiveness? What if your arguments against this inaccurate measure were dismissed as you not wanting any accountability? Unfortunately all of this wastes time, money and hurts students as well. Does that clear things up for you John?" Sonja
"My background is engineering, so yes I understand that education and experience are factors in being more capable and productive. However they do not ensure better performance / effectiveness. This is why the income level of engineers varies greatly even though they have similar degrees and experience.
I do not think that a 5 year energetic Teacher is better than a 25 year Teacher, however I think they can be at times. Whereas Tenure, Job Preference, Steps, Lanes, etc all give preference to older Teachers whether they deserve it or not. Sorry, for the good of the students compensation and job security should be based on the actual performance with the children / parents and the challenge level of the position, not degrees and years served.
I agree whole heartedly that the politically correct "keep them in the classroom" crowd is allowing our schools and classrooms to become too disruptive. Administrators and School Boards should ensure only children that want to learn and are capable of behaving are in the classrooms. It is unfair to the other students and the Teachers to do anything less.
The measures as prioritized by society are pretty simple in this case. Are the children in our schools able to read, write, do math and science when they graduate? Do you think the students deserve less? Do you think the tax payers deserve less?
And with MAP type testing it is possible to determine if students are making more or less yearly progress by similar classroom. (ie 6 classrooms in the same school)
Now I agree that questionable Parents are 80% of the achievement gap problem, however that problem is real hard to fix. Whereas the school system dysfunction 20% is much easier to address if the Unions and their supporters start putting the student's needs before the older Teacher's wants." G2A

Can students read, write, do. Can students read, write, do math and science? What do you think we work on every day? Most are learning as much as possible if they have any motivation. Their interest in showing how much depends upon what's in it for them. Testing that has no impact on their grades, ability to graduate or get into college just aren't worth the sustained effort to them. Many don't try. That invalidates their scores. At least try to judge their teachers or schools based on ACT scores. Those they are motivated to try on. Better yet go into the classrooms and observe to get a feel for what's going on. 
John you repeatedly make snarky comments about teachers and unions not putting the poor kids first. Did you have a mean teacher when you were a kid? Did he or she have tenure? Union protection? Do you now worry about legions of "bad teachers" getting paid for shoddy work? Untouchable due to seniority and tenure? Do you worry that the union knows they're bad but (kid haters that they are) cover up for those horrible teachers anyway? Breathe easy John. Taking away all of teacher's job protections and tenure to root out the few mediocre ones would throw the baby out with the bath water. Really excellent teachers already are leaving the profession all the time. They are driven out by the stress, the exhaustion, the frustration. There are so many people like you that have a lack of understanding of what is really going on but think that the solutions must be so simple. They think that good teaching is so simple to measure and thus reward or punish. They are also so quick to suspect, criticize and attack the people who are juggling the multiple roles that most teachers are forced to take on, especially in urban schools. Teacher, mother, father, social worker, babysitter, life-coach, supporter. Bad teachers hardly ever make it long enough to get tenure. If they do any competent principal can fire them. I've seen it happen numerous times. Stop obsessing about them. Try another track." Sonja

"Bad System. I don't see bad teachers, I see a bad system that the Union, some Teachers and their Politicians seek to protect. A system that is based on years, degrees, steps, lanes, tenure, employment contracts, etc instead of based on personal performance, accountability and the students.
This a system where an excellent Teacher in one classroom can make half of what a mediocre Teacher makes in the next classroom just because of their years / degrees.
This is a system that promotes the lowest paid employees working in the most challenging positions, and the highest paid employees taking the easiest positions.
This a system that does not have parents/students do class / teacher satisfaction surveys to ensure the best Teachers and the worst Teachers are trained/removed.
I actually have enjoyed working with 96% of the Teachers my daughters have had over the past 2 decades. The other 4% should probably be in a different profession." G2A

Obama's Gun Control Action

A gift from Lauie
Obama's Emotional Speech on Gun Control 
As I am sure you can predict I am a strong supporter of greater gun safety measures, such as Obama has just taken and more that would probably require congressional or state legislative action, I definitely don't expect much else to be done and have not put much thought into what laws/regulations should be passed. I do favor banning machine guns and assault rifles.

Obama's Overblown Moves on Gun Control 
Rip up the Second Amendment? Save thousands of lives? Despite the hype and the dread, the president’s new policies seem too limited to have much effect.
Personally I am indifferent to this lame attempt by Obama that apparently accomplishes little to nothing to stop the attacks he was crying over.  Thoughts? 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

As Efficiently and Effectively as Possible

Sean made a very logical and reasonable comment in the Congress post.
"The government has roles and responsibilities to fill, and it should be funded as such to fill those roles and responsibilities, making sure that the programs that do exist are running as efficiently and effectively as possible."
Now instead of focusing on his lack of specifics and that this seems like giving the bureaucrats and politicians a blank checkbook.  Let's instead discuss what in our current system encourages government personnel to strive to attain the underlined portion.

You know my view that there is very little in the system that encourages this behavior.  I mean:

  • many politicians get votes by providing programs and services that their constituents appreciate, whether they are effective or efficient
  • most bureaucrats and public employees desire better compensation and benefits for themselves, even if it reduces the number of people available to provide the program or service
  • it is much easier to ask for more money than to cut programs and services
  • with the ability to deficit spend, current citizens can get more benefits and services than the need to pay for

So what is the other side of the story?