Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New Bacon's Rebellion: Transportation and Universal Pre-K Continued

“Raising taxes is not a serious transportation policy -- it's a substitute for the creative thinking that the General Assembly desperately needs to engage in.”
-- Patrick McSweeney, “Time for Genuine Leadership

This week’s edition of Bacon’s Rebellion is up, and as always, there are a several great articles. Patrick McSweeney gives a good look into transportation solutions, and as has been noted many times in this blog, real transportation solutions for Virginia require more thought and innovation than simply a band-aid patch of new taxes.

Also, Chris Braunlich takes a deeper look into our topic from last week, the Governor’s proposed universal pre-K program with this commentary.

As usual, it is all worth a read.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A closer look....

Seems I wasn't the only one to be intrigued by the Governor's comments regarding his support of universal pre-school.

Barton Hinkle at the Richmond Times Dispatch takes a closer look at the issue.


Monday, May 15, 2006

A Magic Bullet?

Last week, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported that Governor Tim Kaine is back to touting his universal preschool program and citing his support for a plan that “would funnel public dollars to private child-care providers as well as to public programs.”

Readers of this blog will know that we often discuss school choice. So at first glance this might appear to indicate the Governor may be open to the idea of allowing ALL children the opportunity to attend the schools of their choice, regardless of their age.

Alas, it appears that Kaine supports choice for 4 year olds, and we’ll assume he still supports it for college-aged students (in the form of TAG grants), but still he’s firmly against giving 5-18 year olds choice.

The article notes that “Kaine has expressed opposition to vouchers that would allow students in kindergarten though 12th grades to apply public money toward private school tuition.”

He is concerned about funding of K-12 education. Yet, he acknowledges how much his universal preschool program would cost, and how utilizing existing private providers would allow more money to go directly to the education of students.

"One option," Kaine said, "would be, do you do this purely through the public school system? But if you were to do that, much of the money that you would spend would be bricks and mortar -- to add classrooms -- and I want to spend the dollars on teachers and kids more than on buildings.”

So creating an entirely new program (with all it’s associated costs) is okay, but supporting a school choice program, such as HB1294, is not, even if it would save taxpayer dollars?

I’m confused.

For more fun reading on whether universal preschool is really all that it’s hyped up to be, check out this report by the Pacific Research Institute: No Magic Bullet: Top Ten Myths About the Benefits of Government-Run Universal Preschool .


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Indiana, let it go"

I am going to depart from my policy only restriction on this blog to comment on the events related to Will Vehrs. Feel free to comment as you wish.

One of the ways I express myself so that others understand me more clearly is to use a quote or a scene from a popular book, movie, song, event speech or whatever else is available.

In relation to the Will Vehrs episode, I just kept thinking to myself "let it go". It is not THAT big of a deal. I think Will made a mistake and told him so. He was wrong. But unlike many in our world today, he actually admitted it. BRAVO! That is a lost art. We all make mistakes. But for a guy to lose his job over a bad joke on a blog, is a bit over the top.

When I kept thinking "let it go" I was reminded of the scene in Indiana Jones where he is reaching for the Holy Grail - to repeat - THE HOLY GRAIL. It was the singular focus of his father's life and they were within inches of having it in their hands and his father, Sean Connery, gently says, "Indiana, let it go". Think about it...there you have the Holy Grail within inches and the man who has searched his whole adult life for it says "let it go". In the face of death, suddenly it was not that important. Plus, they were comforted by the fact that they found it and it actually saved Connery's character.

Honestly, if every time a state employee takes a cigarette break and says something negative about their job, vents, makes a joke will they be called out and asked to resign? How do we expect our employees to perform if we intend on overpoliticizing a blog post? It was not anonymous. It was a joke. It was wrong. The man has apologized. Let it go.

If we had spent the time that we have spent on this actually trying to solve the economic conditions of South Side Va, I think that would have been time better spent.

Will Vehrs is a smart, creative asset to state government and I think now he will be HIGHLY motivated to develop the economy of South Side. In business there is a saying, "problems are opportunities".

Those asking for his resignation should remember their own mistakes and put them into context when they realized what they had done and how truly sorry they were.

Forgive and move on....Let it go and let's work together to bring more jobs to South Side.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Education Notes: Funding, Charters and High School Rankings

There have been a number of interesting education articles in the past few days. Rather than write them up separately, I figured I'd just do a brief recap of several worth reading.

Does more funding actually produce results? It appears that even NJ Governor Jon Corzine has concerns about what is being accomplished by the state’s skyrocketing funding for education.

  • New Jersey funding of poor districts called into question: Critics say New Jersey has spent billions of dollars on 31 needy districts, but it hasn't produced results. These concerns have prompted Gov. Corzine to ask the state Supreme Court to freeze funding until an audit can be completed.

In some good news, Charter schools in Baltimore are producing amazing results for students. Their programs are become a model for education across the country. Even Virginia educators recently traveled to Baltimore to learn more about how the programs have positively impacted students. Unfortunately, the local school system in Baltimore is showing little interest in learning how they can incorporate these results-producing programs into their own schools.

  • Baltimore district fails to learn from successful charters: Crossroads School and KIPP Ujima Village Academy have earnered national attention for success in helping at-risk middle school students achieve. The Baltimore city school system, struggling to reform its own failing schools, has shown little interest in seeking guidance from these two successful models.

Finally, via the Washington Post, Newsweek asks the question, “What makes a high school great?”

The article notes: “A one-size-fits-all approach no longer works for everyone, the new thinking goes; a more individualized experience is better.

It also covers what is sometimes viewed as controversial: the annual ranking of high schools across the country.

Jay Matthews, who developed the ranking method used by Newsweek, defends his methodology, and in his article in yesterday’s Washington Post, “Four Steps to High School Greatness,” he debunks some common perceptions about how we superficially compare schools.

So we have to ask the question, does this competition help schools? Does comparing schools incentivize teachers, administrators and school systems to work harder and therefore provide greater opportunities for their students?