Where is Minnesota these days? And how about those Yankees - only $200 million a year for a 10-14 record. Nice.
Posted on Sun, Apr. 01, 2007
BALTIMORE - Consider the neighborhood.
Words tumble to mind by way of description. Words like desolate. Words like tough. Words like hard and mean and grim and sad.
Now consider the girl who goes to school here. Danielle Branche, 16, is tiny, has a pretty smile, and speaks with self-possession about her dreams. "When I graduate, I want to go to either Antioch College in Ohio or Point Park University in Pittsburgh and I want to get my bachelor's in both dance and business management so I'll be able to open my own dance company."
Consider the neighborhood. Consider the child. If they seem not to fit one another, well, that's the point. Welcome to St. Frances Academy. Welcome to What Works.
The latter is my series of columns highlighting that which is helping to improve the lives of black children. The former is a sterling example thereof.
St. Frances (www.sfacademy.org) was founded in 1828 by Mother Mary Lange, a Haitian-born nun who eventually moved to Baltimore, where she used her own money to educate free children of color, which was then illegal.
Nearly 180 years later, the order (Oblate Sisters of Providence) and school she founded serve more that 300 students. More than 70 percent of them qualify for free or subsidized lunches. More than 90 percent of them go to college.
What makes this miracle? David Owens, a teacher of theology and, like a number of his colleagues, an alumnus, ticks off a few factors: small class sizes, uniforms, discipline, rigorous academics, high expectations. "And then lastly, love. When I scold you - yell at you, they say - it's not because I don't like you. It's because I love you."
In some form or another, every student or teacher says that.
"What makes us different," says Sister John Francis, the school's president, "is we're independent. We can do whatever we want, pretty much."
In public schools, she says, "the principals' hands are tied, the teachers' hands are tied" and no one has the freedom to simply do what works. But at St. Frances, they do. For example, the school provides counseling to mend the emotional wounds of kids who have seen mom on drugs, dad in jail, brother murdered. A third of her students, says Sister John, are in weekly therapy.
"My belief is that you can take the smartest kid in the world, but if they've got all these issues, they're not going to be able to focus on their academics until they at least start dealing with the issues."
Across the street from the school is a prison. High stone walls topped by concertina wire. Squatting there massive, ugly and cold. Squatting there like a warning. Squatting there like a threat.
Deonte Tuggle, 17, goes to school in the literal shadow of that threat. Yet he is a young man of offhand confidence.
"I'm not like most boys my age that live in the neighborhood," he says. "I'm not out there smoking, drinking and getting high and all that kind of stuff. I don't let people dictate my life and tell me who I am as a person. Only I know who I am as a person."
Consider the child. Consider the neighborhood.
Now, consider the possibilities.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Readers may write to him via e-mail at email@example.com. His column publishes most Wednesdays and Sundays.
Americans for Prosperity, Three Other Citizen Groups Launch Coalition and Website to Mobilize “Google-Government” Movement
WASHINGTON – States should follow the federal lead and make user-friendly online databases of government spending accessible to the public: that’s the word from a diverse coalition of four citizen groups, which have set up an Internet-based clearinghouse on the state-based “Google-government” trend. The coalition consists of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), National Taxpayers Union (NTU), Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW.)
The one-stop website, www.ShowMetheSpending.org, will serve as a grassroots resource to persuade state leaders to emulate federal legislation sponsored by Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL). Signed by President Bush last year, that law mandates the creation of a searchable online source that citizens can use to track hundreds of billions of dollars in federal grants and contracts.
“Last year, taxpayers finally gained the ability to ‘Google’ their federal tax dollars, and there’s no reason in the world why they shouldn’t have the same ability to ‘Google’ their state tax dollars,” said AFP President Tim Phillips. “The more information taxpayers have about how lawmakers are spending their money, the more likely it is that tax dollars will be spent wisely.”
“No state has fully embraced the technology that could make government spending data accessible to the people who pay the bill for it all,” NTU Senior Government Affairs Manager Kristina Rasmussen noted. “Our goal is to ensure that any taxpayer with a computer can become a watchdog over state funds.”
“The movement to bring transparency to government spending has the potential of bringing immense cost savings for taxpayers simply because lawmakers will think twice about certain expenditures,” said ATR President Grover Norquist. “Taxpayers will be best served when all levels of government are required to disclose their expenditures in a clear, searchable format – and can be held accountable."
“This is the first step in citizens lifting the veil of secrecy of government spending,” CCAGW Vice President David Williams said. “Every state that passes this legislation will show that government is still for the people and by the people.”
Coalition members are confident that www.ShowMetheSpending.org will help Americans “better understand the spending that takes place closer to home,” as its online introduction notes. The site features a constantly updated state-by-state legislative status center, model legislation for officials, research on the benefits of state spending disclosure, and a grassroots action center that gives citizens the ability to petition state legislators on the issue.
One of the biggest problems facing the country in the next 50 years is an explosion of government debt.
Experts call it a "tsunami" of red ink that will swamp the country as it borrows more and more to pay for all the obligations it has incurred for health care, retirement and other federal programs. The multibillion dollar cost of the war in Iraq is but a small part of the problem.
This projected debt is calculated in the trillions. Bringing this planned spending into line with forecasted revenues will make for some of the most difficult political choices the country has faced in years.
The big spenders hope that taxpayers will temporarily forget tax-funded services like government golf courses, fairs, arts grants, subsidized agribusiness, marketing campaigns and many other reasonable opportunities for belt tightening. Further, the public is expected to assume that it is impossible to operate core government functions any more efficiently or that they can’t be competitively contracted out for less.
In other words, the stark "either/or" proposition put forth by defenders of the status quo – either raise taxes or cut services – is a scam. It deliberately ignores a third way, which is to do more with less. In the private sector, this is always the first choice. In government, if considered at all, it is always the last choice.