Earning my presidential vote: education


This is the first of what will be about a weeklong series on the five candidates I am considering for President.

Regarding education (and the other subjects henceforth) these are the actions and philosophies I am looking for, in five bullet points or less:

  • The sunsetting of the Department of Education by the end of the first term. Education is not a federal concern, but properly decided at the state and local levels.
  • Returning the college student loan program to individual banks, allowing the student a broader array of choices for paying for education.
  • Taking the bully pulpit on vocational education, homeschooling, and other non-traditional paths to success. College is not for everyone.
  • Encouraging states to drop the Common Core program in favor of tried and true methods of teaching, with fewer days of testing.
  • Being an advocate for school choice and “money follows the child.”

Here are what the candidates think on the subject. Most often the information is gleaned from their website, but I tried to cite when it came from another source. As a reminder, education is worth a maximum of five points on my 100-point scale.

Castle: “Education is a big problem. If I were president, the Federal Government would not be using the education system to corrupt our children. I want education to be local.

Every year we spend more money, and every year our kids seem to get dumber. Third World countries are beating us in math and science education, and it just gets worse and worse. We aren’t going to be able to change much if we don’t change how we educate our children.”

Constitution is silent on education, so it should be a state and local issue per Tenth Amendment. Would disband the Department of Education.

Would be in favor of Constitutional education in state and local schools.

Hedges: Free college for all, supported by taxpayers. “The Hedges/Bayes administration would assist each state in providing free higher education to all of its qualified citizens.”

10th Amendment makes states responsible for education. Schools should emphasize science, math, citizenship, history, and English. (party platform)

Would fund retraining for displaced workers, paid for via tariff. (party platform)

Hoefling: “The government schools have become God-free and gun-free. So, they are now, quite predictably, spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical free-fire zones. If you have children there, find a way, make any sacrifice necessary, to get them out of there before they are led to the slaughter. What could possibly be more important?”

“What do children need? Before anything else, they need love. They need truth. They need protection from the evil that is in this world. Can government bureaucrats give them any of those things? Not really. As George Washington rightfully said, ‘government is FORCE.’ It’s not love. It’s not caring. Only parents, the ones who were entrusted by God with the duty to raise up their children to be good, decent human beings and honest, patriotic citizens, can provide that, with the help of a responsible, caring community, in cooperation with good teachers. That’s the primary reason I continue to advocate for T.L.C., which is True Local Control, of our schools. The financial, governmental reasons for these reforms are very real as well, but the primary motivator for me is the restoration of the love, the nurture, and the protection of our posterity.” (from Iowa governor campaign, 2014)

Johnson: Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld believe nothing is more important to our future as a country than educating our next generations.

Governor Gary Johnson worked tirelessly as governor to have a more substantive discussion about the best way to provide a good education for our children.

He did so while working with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and despite fierce opposition from powerful special interests. Knowing full well that the establishment would resist calls for change, he nevertheless advocated a universally available program for school choice. Competition, he believes, will make our public and private educational institutions better.

Most importantly, Governor Johnson believes that state and local governments should have more control over education policy. Decisions that affect our children should be made closer to home, not by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C. That is why he believes we should eliminate the federal Department of Education. Common Core and other attempts to impose national standards and requirements on local schools are costly, overly bureaucratic, and actually compromise our ability to provide our children with a good education.

Johnson and Weld believe that the key to restoring education excellence in the U.S. lies in innovation, freedom, and flexibility that Washington, D.C. cannot provide. (campaign website)

McMullin: The strength of the economy tomorrow depends on the strength of education today. In our high-tech economy, finding a good job depends more and more on having a good education. While our country has some of the world’s greatest universities, millions of students finish school with weak reading and math skills. Going to college keeps getting more and more expensive, while drop out rates are rising.

Evan McMullin believes that by empowering families and communities we can make sure that every child in America has access to a high-quality education. Mandates from Washington are not the way to reform education. The Obama administration’s heavy-handed effort to impose Common Core standards has demonstrated the need for a different approach. Meanwhile, federal loan programs are driving up the cost of a college education while poorly designed regulations prevent the emergence of new options for students.

American students have benefited greatly from a tradition of local control and decentralization for schools. However, there continue to be many poorly performing schools even in cities with very high levels of per-student funding. For example, New York City spends more than $20,000 per student, while Boston and Baltimore spend $15,000.

In struggling school systems, charter schools have become a powerful engine of innovation because they are not weighed down by the intrusive regulations that burden so many traditional public schools. Not every charter school succeeds, but charters as a whole are finally giving meaningful choices to parents whose children were once condemned to failing institutions. Still, access to charter schools is insufficient; right now, there are more than one million children on charter school waiting lists.

Students who do not have access to charters should have the option of vouchers that enable them to attend schools further away. By showing that schools cannot afford to take their students for granted, these alternatives should foster a healthy competition between schools to provide the best education.

Without great teachers, there can be no great schools. The teaching profession continues to attract hundreds of thousands of the most committed, caring, and talented college graduates. Schools should not hesitate to reward teachers on the basis of merit, in order to ensure that they stay in public schools. There also needs to be greater accountability for the small number of teachers who fail in the classroom or even abuse their students. Regrettably, teachers unions continue to protect these few failures instead of focusing on what is best for students.

Schools also need high standards to ensure that every student gets a first-class education. Common Core began as a state-driven effort raise the bar for K-12 education, yet the Obama administration used to federal funds to compel implementation. Rather than accept criticism, the administration sought to brand Common Core opponents as ignorant or worse. A believer in empowering both local and state government, Evan opposes Common Core and the heavy-handed effort to force it on hesitant communities.

Finally, Evan is a strong supporter of the right to educate one’s children at home. He would encourage states to make sure that home-schooled students are able to participate in school sports and electives so that all students are able to benefit from these activities.

Going to college or getting advanced training after high school is the surest path to a good job and a middle-class lifestyle. However, misguided federal policies are only increasing the number of students who leave college without a degree while being saddled with heavy debts.

By handing out more loans, grants, and credits in response to rising tuition, the federal government signals to universities that Washington will pick up the tab for runaway cost growth. Even worse, the government doesn’t hold universities accountable for students’ graduation rates or ability to repay their loans. To make sure that universities have skin in the game, they should have to repay a portion of the debt incurred by students who fail to graduate or default on their loans. To ensure that interests rates remain reasonable, the government has tied them to the yield of 10-year Treasury notes while capping the maximum possible rate at 8.25 percent, a policy that Evan supports.

Prospective students also deserve to know more about the institutions to which they apply; however, a 2008 law prohibits the federal government from collecting the information these students need. For example, students should be able to compare the graduation rates, post-college earnings, and loan default rates for different programs at a wide range of universities.

Prospective students also deserve more and better choices in the field of post-secondary education. In addition to two- and four-year colleges, students should have access to high-quality technical schools, online programs, and work-based learning in the private sector. However, the current model of accreditation makes it extremely difficult for students at non-traditional programs to qualify for federal aid. This prevents competition, which means that traditional colleges and universities don’t face any consequences for cost growth or poor student outcomes.

The principles of education reform are the same for K-12 and higher education. Students and families should have more choices. Schools should have high standards and be accountable for students’ performance. State and local governments should lead the way, while intrusive and misguided federal interventions should be rolled back. That is Evan McMullin’s vision for an education system that prepares American students to succeed in the economy of the future. (campaign website)

**********

Darrell Castle seems to have the right idea; however, I don’t have as many specifics as I would like to get from him. I think I can trust him to do much of what I would like to see being done, but until it’s in writing I think I can only give him partial credit. 3 points.

There is a direct contradiction with Jim Hedges, who advocates free college while his overall party platform dictates a return to the states. For that reason, I cannot give him any points. 0 points.

As time goes on and I hear more from Tom Hoefling, I think I would have more to go on than I have to date. One problem is that most of the educational philosophy I’ve found is from his run for Iowa governor, which is a completely different scope. I think he would be similar to Castle, but for now I can only give him partial credit compared to Darrell. 2 points.

Gary Johnson has a very good philosophy on education insofar as eliminating federal involvement, and adds the school choice element. I will give him 3.5 points.

While he brings up a lot of good points, the problem I have with Evan McMullin is that he still advocates for federal-based solutions. Regardless of how you reform things at the federal level, the fact that a federal level remains means we will be combating the same issues in 20 years once bureaucracy grows back. 1 point.

Next topic will be the Second Amendment.

The case against Trump (part 1)

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m one of those Republicans who occupies the #NeverTrump camp.

Before I go any further, let me explain some basic math to you: 0+0 = 0. My not voting for Trump does not add one to Hillary Clinton’s column because I’m not voting for her, either. By the theory some on the Trump bandwagon are using to criticize #NeverTrump, my not voting for Hillary should add one to his total. But it won’t. I will vote for someone who I feel is the most qualified on the ballot, rather than the lesser of two searing-hot evils.

This election was supposed to be the repudiation of the Obama big-government, strongly executive agenda. Unfortunately, unless the GOP comes to its senses next week, frees the delegates, and comes up with a good conservative candidate, they will sink like the Titanic in November.

But I don’t come by my distaste for Trump lightly. While he has some redeeming qualities that could conceivably come into play on the slim chance he’s elected, there is the sense in my mind that he takes the ideal of limited government and wrests it from the domain of the GOP, leaving both major parties as two sides of the same worthless coin.

It’s likely you recall that I based my original endorsement (of Bobby Jindal, who is backing Trump but has been quiet about it) on the field’s positions on ten items, with a sliding scale of importance assigned to each:

  • Education
  • Second Amendment
  • Energy
  • Social Issues
  • Trade and job creation
  • Taxation
  • Immigration
  • Foreign Policy
  • Entitlements
  • Role of Government

So I went back and reminded myself. To avoid this being overly long, I’m doing the first five in this part with part 2 hosting the second half.

On education, Trump claims to be for local control and against Common Core, which is an orthodox Republican view. But even though he would “cut it way, way, way down” he doesn’t support the complete elimination of the Department of Education. He does have a good point in reversing the trend toward the government being a student loan lender, pushing it back to the banks and other lending institutions where it traditionally rested.

The problem with his approach is that it doesn’t go far enough. Other candidates vowed to finish the job Ronald Reagan vowed to start by eliminating the Department of Education. To me, the federal government has no place on education – states and localities should set standards and run their school systems as they see fit. But any attempt to wean local school districts off the crack of federal funding will be met with howls of protest and Trump fails to impress me as someone who will follow through with these promises. After all, Trump did say education was one of the top three functions of government. “The government can lead it, but it should be privately done.” I’m confused, too.

Trump seems to be a Second Amendment guy as he did get the NRA endorsement. But the chairman of Gun Owners of America was not as quick to praise The Donald based on his past statements. And again, the idea is not just to enforce the laws on the books but get rid of some of the most egregious, let alone get to “shall not be infringed.” But wouldn’t someone who is on the no-fly list in error be having their rights infringed? This observer asks the question.

And then we have the subject of energy. Now Trump went to North Dakota – a major oil producing state – and promoted his “America First” energy plan. In it, he promised “Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped.” But when he was in Iowa campaigning a few months earlier he threw his support behind a wasteful ethanol subsidy and carveout. So which is it? And would he allow Sarah Palin to sunset the Department of Energy?

On to social issues: Trump says he is pro-life and would defund Planned Parenthood, but how will he restore a “culture of life”? We don’t have that specific. Nor will be stand against the troubling idea of leaving people free to use the bathroom they feel like using – this despite claiming gay marriage should be left to the states – or is it the “law of the land“? (By that same token, so is abortion as it was based on a SCOTUS decision, too.)

So do you get the idea so far that I trust him about as far as I can throw him based on mixed messages and inconsistent policies? Once again, the idea here in the upcoming term was to reverse the tide of bigger, more intrusive government – but I don’t detect the same sort of impetus from Trump that I received from the candidates I favored. And to me, what would make America great again is for us to return to being good – at least in terms of re-adopting the Judeo-Christian values we’ve gotten away from after ousting God from the public square. I don’t see “Two Corinthians” but three marriages Trump as being a spiritual leader in the manner of a Reagan or George W. Bush, even insofar as being decent human beings.

And lastly for this evening, I’d like to talk about Trump on trade and job creation. Since history isn’t taught well, we tend to believe the Great Depression was the end result of the 1929 stock market crash. But there’s a convincing argument made that rural America took the biggest hit thanks to the effects of the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930. Granted, the world is a lot different and more interconnected now, but American farmers produce a lot of exports (as do chicken growers locally, as the products in demand overseas complement nicely with what we consume here.) Certainly a renegotiation of our current and proposed trade pacts is in order, but would Trump walk away from the table or just angle for any deal? And would he be against Trade Promotion Authority like he was as a candidate when he’s the president negotiating the pact? I doubt it.

And given the amount of union rank-and-file backing he seems to have, it’s no wonder he hasn’t come out more strongly for right-to-work laws, barely mentioning it during the campaign.

To many, Trump’s views on these subjects are on the outside of the range that’s acceptable to the standard GOP. And are they to the right of Hillary Clinton? For the most part, yes – but that assumes that he’s a man of his word and his business dealings suggest otherwise.

So in part 2 I will discuss the more important five issues on my scaling system, and this is where Trump really begins to sound like Hillary.

Harris weighs in on transgender issue

June 5, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Harris weighs in on transgender issue 

In a letter to local school superintendents within his district, Congressman Andy Harris urged those officials to maintain the stance of respecting the privacy of those who use gender-specific facilities:

I realize the tenuous position the Departments of Education (DOE) and Justice have put you in through the “guidance” provided in their letter, dated 13th of May, to school districts. I urge you to continue to respect a student’s right to privacy – including girls that do not wish to undress in the presence of biological males or whose parents feel likewise. Please know the Obama Administration will not have the last word on this issue.

(snip)

(T)he Obama Administration sent the May 13th letter to school districts across the country containing “guidance” that would require all public schools to accommodate students using restrooms of their choice regardless of their biological gender. Violation of this “guidance” is, of course, under the implicit threat of withholding of federal funds and/or legal action by the DOJ. On this issue, I believe the Administration is misinterpreting federal civil rights law, and violating state’s rights. There is no statutory authority for this “guidance.” (Emphasis in original.)

Although he’s not a lawyer, Harris goes on to cite a pair of court cases that are already underway to reinforce his belief that school systems have nothing to worry about insofar as federal funding goes. And he may be correct on this point, as it will likely be months (if not years) until this winds its way through federal courts – in the meantime it’s a safe bet that most school districts will cave on this and further blur the lines between genders, all to cater to perhaps one or two students in a 1,000 student school who are truly suffering from gender dysphoria as opposed to the couple dozen who may be doing so as a rebellion against authority or to get their jollies. I thought we were supposed to celebrate differences, so what is wrong with the one or two in question having respect for their peers and using a unisex restroom as available? I suspect most kids in a school would know the situation of the student in question.

The next question, though, is when this will come down to the state level and, more importantly, when it will be impressed on Christian schools (such as the one Kim’s daughter attends) that these accommodations need to be made? It’s already becoming fair game for just anyone to use her restroom, such as at Target.

Of course, I have heard the argument that a truly transgendered person would be indistinguishable from their opposite sex in mannerisms and it’s likely they are already using the restroom of the gender they identify with. Fortunately, modern restroom design would either provide that a guy who identifies as a woman uses a stall (because a women’s room is all stalls) or that a girl that identifies as a guy uses the stalls available in the men’s room because they can’t use a standard urinal.

I think the issue is more in the realm of locker and changing rooms where it can become obvious that the biological equipment is different, and it presents an uncomfortable experience for both sides. So what is wrong with the right to privacy, particularly since the Left thinks it applies to a woman’s body in other situations?

The simple truth is no matter what surgery you subject yourself to or how many hormones you take, 99.99% of us are either male or female. (There is a very tiny group that is intersex or has a degree of those characteristics, perhaps 1 in every 2,000 births.) You simply can’t change the fact you are XX or XY at birth and it doesn’t matter whether you feel more feminine on some days – guys, stay out of the girls’ locker room. The policy in place for many, many years worked for a reason – because it was logical and respected obvious differences.

Hopefully Harris is correct about the federal government’s impotency, but that doesn’t mean school administrators will do the right thing as illustrated above.

WCRC meeting – March 2016

It was double-barreled action at last night’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting, perhaps appropriate because one of the speakers was Second Amendment advocate and Congressional hopeful Mike Smigiel. He was joined by a fellow challenger seeking the open United States Senate seat from Maryland, Dave Wallace.

Because we had out-of-town speakers, we quickly went through the usual business of reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introducing the elected officials and distinguished guests among us. I noted the February minutes were online, and treasurer-elect Muir Boda gave us a financial update.

Because Wallace was the first to arrive, he spoke first.

As an opening statement, Wallace vowed to represent all of Maryland “for the first time in 30 years.” He pointed out that “we’ve been going (in) the wrong direction,” so it was time to “alter our course until you get it just right.” Instead of the government’s favored cure of increasing taxes and regulations, Wallace advocated for what he termed a “maximum wage” that government can’t supply.

Wallace spoke at length about the Reagan years in his remarks, adding that he knew a number of his associates and opining in response to a question that we “needed a Jack Kemp model” for a Senator. He contrasted himself with prospective opponent Chris Van Hollen, who Wallace challenged for Congress in 2014, calling Van Hollen the “superfailure” of the supercommittee that, among other things, cut the defense budget. Echoing Reagan on the topic, Dave noted he believed in peace through strength.

Yet one topic Wallace expounded more at length on was a subject where I think Reagan erred, immigration. Dave stated his belief that the situation at the border now contributed to the drug problem; moreover, Wallace stated that up to 15% of the Syrian refugees were embedded by ISIS, and added that on his website was a petition calling on Congress to confront the refugee problem. If immigration wasn’t dealt with, said Wallace, we’ll end up with an America where we won’t want to raise our kids – this was a problem of culture and values.

On topics brought up by the audience, Wallace established his limited-government argument with a call to reduce the federal involvement in education, vowing to eliminate the Department of Education and saying “Common Core has got to go.” He thought that it’s not the role of the federal government to enforce the rules of education, but rightfully was that of the states. Additionally, rather than the “apple” that represents the preferred politicians of the teachers’ unions, Wallace believed candidates on the conservative side should use a school bus as their logo.

Shifting gears to the oversight responsibility of Congress, Wallace chided the body for not doing that job. He called for the heads of all 180 welfare programs to be brought before Congress to justify their programs’ existence.

Wallace concluded that Maryland needs someone in the Senate who will partner with Larry Hogan, and rather than the supply-side economics associated with Reagan conservatism Wallace envisioned a model based on production and ability to work that would lift our economy.

Later, when the conversation turned to a bill regarding forced unionization in Maryland, Dave added that he supported a federal right-to-work bill and would sponsor it in the next Congress. Dave believed that in right-to-work states, “unions were more concerned and responsive.”

The winner of an award for “upholding the Constitution,” Mike Smigiel spent 12 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, including the creation of the TEA Party Caucus. In his last four, Smigiel remarked, he shared office space and a desk in the chamber with local Delegate Mike McDermott, with whom he made “a pretty strong team.”

Yet the reason Smigiel sought the Congressional seat was his disgust with the voting record of the incumbent. Calling it a vote for funding Obamacare, executive amnesty, and abortion, Mike blasted the Republican leadership and Andy Harris for supporting the CRomnibus bill in 2014. He remarked that Democrats don’t settle or think they can’t accomplish their goals, but Republicans in Congress give up their principles far too easily.

Other bills that Smigiel hammered Harris about were an in-state tuition for illegal immigrants bill both voted on in the Maryland General Assembly as well as a bill regarding country of origin labeling – Harris backed a bill that allowed companies to not label for country of origin, about which Smigiel asked if you wouldn’t like to know if your chicken you thought was locally produced was instead imported from China.

(While the bill seems to be anti-consumer, it is worth noting that it is a response to a WTO complaint from Canada.)

Other Harris measures that angered Smigiel was a bill which he alleged became part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and Harris’s support of a bill opposed by state regulators who want Exelon Energy to meet certain conditions before their permit to operate the Conowingo Dam is renewed for over 40 years.

On the other hand, during the eight years of the O’Malley administration Mike sued them three times for actions he considered unconstitutional. In one case regarding a $1.5 billion budget item, the state court ruled against him quickly but took five years to render their formal opinion because the “question is too political.” When it comes to matters such as these, “you stand on principle and you fight,” said Smigiel.

Those principles are embodied in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, copies of which Smigiel passed out before he began speaking. But Congress was seeing its authority usurped by “a potentate President,” added Mike, who said he would be the guy to shout out “you lie!” His principle was that of “the Constitution first, always.” We needed to have the government run in accordance with the Constitution; to that end, Smigiel advocated for single-subject bills that would make legislating easier to understand.

I asked him a question which addressed a tactic the presumptive Democratic nominee for the seat, Jim Ireton, was using of painting Harris as a do-nothing Congressman. Smigiel reminded us that he had worked across the aisle with Heather Mizeur on a pre-natal care bill that got mothers care they needed while saving thousands of abortions, as well as decriminalization of marijuana legislation.

That ended the speaking portion of the program, although both Wallace and Smigiel stuck around to talk with the voters once we finished our business.

In his Central Committee report, Mark McIver announced we were still seeking applicants for the Board of Education seats opening up later this summer. He also distributed a proof copy of a mailing to be sent out to unaffiliated and certain Democrat voters reminding them that they can still change their voter registration until April 5th. The mailing is a joint effort between the Central Committee and Republican Club.

Updating us on the Ted Cruz campaign, Julie Brewington assessed that “things are going pretty well.” They are looking for volunteers to make phone calls as well as some local sign locations. Dave Wallace chimed in to say he was also looking for the same thing locally. He had brought a few yard signs and shirts as well.

(Unfortunately, the ones on the bottom left didn’t end up in the garbage. #NeverTrump.)

Shelli Neal, who was speaking for Jackie Wellfonder on behalf of Senate candidate Kathy Szeliga, announced they would be knocking on doors soon.

In club news, Woody Willing announced our scholarship winners had been selected and would be introduced next month. Jim Jester told us that he would be coordinating this year’s Crab Feast, for which we needed to nail down the date and location.

Finally. John Palmer from the Board of Education revealed that Dr. Donna Hanlon would be the new Wicomico County superintendent of schools. and one of her first challenges would be redistricting.

So the candidates said their piece, the audience got their questions in, and we will roll along up to next month’s meeting on April 25 with a speaker to be determined. Chances are this will be our legislative wrapup meeting.

Utopian school bill passes House and heads to Senate

July 12, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Education, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Utopian school bill passes House and heads to Senate 

By Cathy Keim

On July 8, 2015, the House passed HR 5, the Student Success Act, which is the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This behemoth of a bill weighing in at 800 pages will guarantee that every child that graduates from high school is ready to attend college or start in the workforce without remediation. Yes, you read that correctly.

The hubris of our Washington elite putting into law that every child that graduates from high school will need no remediation is amazing. Just that one statement alone assures me that the 800 pages are filled with bureaucratic overreach.

What kind of measures must be in place to assure that grandiose statement? This is the same government that cannot get patients seen at the VA hospitals in a timely fashion, yet they are proclaiming that every child that graduates from high school in these United States will be stamped proficient to advance to the next step of their lives by the Department of Education.

I can think of only one way that they might even pretend that this could be true and that would be by dumbing down the system so that more children could meet the criteria, but even that is not going to convince me that the government can achieve their goal.

Just try to think of anything in real life that can be achieved 100% of the time. You can’t come up with much, can you? (Remember that NCLB declared that there would be 100% proficiency in reading and math in the entire US school system by 2014.) You can check out American Principles in Action’s 24 points for plenty of details on why this is a terrible bill.

HR 5 was brought up in February 2015, but was pulled because the Republican leadership could not get the votes to pass it. They have used the time tested ruse of bringing it back in the summer when parents are not paying attention to school issues.

It narrowly passed, 218 to 213, with every Democrat voting no, and 27 courageous Republicans joining them. This is similar to the TPA battle where a few Republicans joined the Democrats in opposing another awful bill.

Of course, their reasons for opposing were completely different, just like the TPA fight. Once again it gives me pause when I find myself on the same side as the Democrats.

One of the reasons given for conservatives voting for HR 5 was that the Senate version, SB 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, (ECAA) is even worse. The reasoning goes that by voting for HR 5 it preempts the Senate version, so that even if the Senate passes their bill, it will be forced into conference rather than the Senate bill coming directly to the House.

From past experience we all know that what comes out of the conference back room will very likely be worse than what went in.

Andy Harris voted yes on HR 5. I called his office to inquire what his reasons were for voting yes, but I have not received an answer yet.

I called Senators Cardin and Mikulski’s offices to inquire if they had any statements out about this bill. Senator Cardin’s office said that he supports the bill in general, but is concerned about the Title I funding following the child since it might allow money to go to schools that don’t need it rather than to the schools originally intended.

(Editor’s note: one selling point given for the SSA is that it would allow certain parents who have children in failing schools a choice in where to send their children for their education, although the choices are limited to just public and public charter schools. This is the meaning between the lines of Cardin’s remarks.)

Senator Mikulski’s office said she did not have a statement out yet, but that she is against No Child Left Behind. Since ECAA is a reauthorization for NCLB, which actually expands it, we will just have to see how she decides to vote.

Generally speaking the Democrats seem to be against this bill due to the Title I funding shift potential and also because they fear it could lead to universal vouchers.

The Republican leadership crows that HR 5 is returning education issues back to state control. If so, why do they need 800 pages to do this?

The Senate should take this bill up in the coming weeks, so please call your senators and explain to them why they should vote no. Their offices need to be bombarded with parents telling them to not expand on No Child Left Behind.

However, the best reason is the one given by former Delegate Michael Smigiel, who is running for Congress in the First Congressional District. When I asked him whether he would support HR 5 he replied, “I would do away with the Federal involvement in education as it is not authorized by the Constitution. The individual States should determine educational standards for their own States. I led the fight against Common Core and argue and voted against No Child Left Behind.”

While that is the correct reason for opposing ECAA, our current leadership is not impressed by the concept. Until we can elect sufficient Constitutionalists to represent us, we will have to rely on a massive phone campaign to get the attention of the DC crowd.

2016 dossier: Education

As I promised awhile back, now that my monoblogue Accountability Project is out of the way I can begin to focus on the 2016 presidential race. With the exception of governors John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, it looks like we have the initial field in place for the start of what should be a memorable campaign – if only for the sheer number of people seeking to clean up the mess Barack Obama has made.

As I have done before, I break my method of choosing a candidate to support down by issues, which I rank in importance as part of a 100-point scale. Education ranks at the bottom of my ten top issues, thus a perfect score in this category is five points.

So what would be the ideal course of action for our next President? There are a number of answers I’ve written about previously, but to boil it down to a few items:

  • The first step would be to eliminate Common Core as a federal incentive. It would be the icebreaker to a philosophy of restoring educational control to the states, with the eventual goal of maximizing local control.
  • This President should then do what Ronald Reagan promised to do but could not: abort the federal Department of Education.
  • He (or she) should then become the leading voice for real educational reform in two areas: maximizing school choice and establishing the standard that money follows the child.
  • The President should also be an advocate for alternate career paths such as vocational education and apprenticeships as well as ending the stranglehold the federal government has on financing college education.

For this exercise I am going to rank the fourteen current candidates from best to worst, assigning them a point value from zero to five.

Rand Paul would abolish Common Core – although since it’s actually owned by a private corporation he can’t exactly do that.

He also believes strongly in local control, quipping that “I don’t think you’ll notice” if the Department of Education were gone, and adding that local boards of education shouldn’t have to fight Washington over curriculum. But where he shines is his statement that money should follow the child.

As you’ll see below, some put qualifiers on their advocacy of that concept. “Let the taxes Americans pay for education follow every student to the school of his or her family’s choice,” he wrote in the Washington Times. That, friends, is the correct answer.

Total score for Paul – 4.4 of 5.

Ted Cruz has many of the same good ideas Paul does, vowing to end Common Core and scrap the Department of Education. He also proposed legislation designed to enhance school choice for children on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. While I haven’t heard or seen Cruz speak much to the other areas on my docket, I am giving him a little bit extra because he has shown a willingness to lead on issues.

The only faults I find with his Enhancing Educational Opportunities for All Act is that it only benefits lower-income children. If every child has a right to a quality education, every child should benefit, as Paul points out.

Some may ask why I feel that way, since wealthier students can likely afford private schools. However, the chances are good that they invest more in the system through paying higher property taxes, so they should be given the same opportunity. Remember, money is only following the child to the extent a state would support him or her, so any overage would be borne by the parents.

Total score for Cruz – 4.2 of 5.

Bobby Jindal was for Common Core for awhile, but now notes the more parents and teachers deal with it the more they dislike it – he also thinks it will “strip away state’s rights.”

Yet he’s definitely hurt in my process because, while he argues that federal control should revert back to the states, he only wants to return the Department of Education “to its original intended purpose.” There was no intended purpose for the Department of Education except to suck up to the teachers’ unions for backing Jimmy Carter. They just wanted a Cabinet-level department.

Bobby’s only reason for scoring as high as he does is that he has done the most to create a situation in Louisiana where money indeed follows the child regardless of school type – a roster which includes online schools. In doing so, he has also shown the true feelings of teachers’ unions, who claimed Jindal’s reforms “would destabilize the state’s public education system and reduce teachers’ job security. They also claimed parents are not mentally equipped to choose a good education for their children.” (Emphasis mine.)

Once he realizes that the federal government is infested with bureaucrats who think the same way, Jindal could do a lot of good.

Total score for Jindal – 4.0 of 5.

It dawned on me that the reason Rick Perry doesn’t speak out as forcefully against Common Core is that his state never adopted it. He also wasn’t as forceful about dismantling the Department of Education, although it was part of the gaffe that ended his 2012 campaign.

Yet the reason, Perry claims, why his state did not do any federal programs was that Texas had established higher standards. He had also called upon colleges in his state to create degree programs which could cost no more than $10,000, which several Texas universities have achieved. It’s a initiative Perry claims has spread to Florida and California.

Of course, the question isn’t whether these state initiatives can be done at the federal level but whether Rick can stand by as President and allow the laggards to fail. He seems to understand, though, that education is a local issue.

Total score for Perry – 3.8 of 5.

The one thing that sticks out about Lindsey Graham is his support for homeschooled kids, for whom he vows “you have no better friend. He also expresses his opposition to Common Core as a tool of coercion, which is good but maybe not quite as good as those above him.

However, he has previously worked to eliminate the Department of Education and supported tax measures aimed at assisting young educators with their student loans. It’s not a idea I could wholeheartedly back because I dislike pandering via tax code, but it will be interesting to see how Graham’s campaign develops on this front and hear some of his other thoughts.

Total score for Graham – 3.4 of 5.

Mike Huckabee was once for Common Core, believing it needed a “rebrand,” but now is against it saying “We must kill Common Core and restore common sense.” Whether that means some sort of standards just for public schools or not, his thinking has changed dramatically. But it could be better late than never, unlike Jeb Bush.

Mike is an advocate of school choice, claiming he was the first governor to place a homeschooling parent on his state board of education, and also noted that he increased teacher pay. He also thinks the federal Department of Education has “flunked” and needs to be “expelled.”

While he says the right things, I just don’t trust him to be a forceful advocate for sound educational policy. I just sense that Big Education will roll over him.

Total score for Huckabee – 2.8 of 5.

While he is new to the race, Chris Christie has a 15-point reform agenda which he believes “can and should be a model for reform for the nation.” It covers a number of subjects: teacher tenure and pay, school choice, charter schools, college affordability and accountability, and ideas for higher education.

Unfortunately, what it doesn’t tell me is what he would do to eliminate federal involvement; in fact, as this is written it sound to me like he would simply make New Jersey’s initiatives nationwide. Other states should succeed (or fail) on their own merits, but I would encourage them to adopt ideas like “stackable credentials,” apprenticeships, and credit for prior experience.

Total score for Christie – 2.6 of 5.

More than any other candidate, Marco Rubio talks about the federal role in college financing. But he also talks about alternatives such as vocational education and believes parents need to be empowered through the enhanced choice of educational scholarships that they can use anywhere. Local control also extends to curriculum, and Rubio suggested that the Department of Education may be eliminated.

But if the federal government is going to have a role in college financial aid, it’s likely that no federal agency will be eliminated. Rubio seems to be on a populist rather than conservative path, with the major difference being Uncle Sam’s role in financing school. Why should they have any role in something the private sector could easily do?

Total score for Rubio – 2.5 of 5.

Scott Walker has a mixed record on the important subject of Common Core. He will say he’s against it, but hasn’t gone out of his way to eliminate it in Wisconsin. And while his state has gone farther than most to install a measure of school choice, there are a number of restrictions and only certain families qualify, so it’s not always a case of money following the child.

Like Huckabee and Graham above him, Walker is a strong backer of homeschooling. He also has shown the teachers’ unions he’s the boss, but has been silent on what he would do with the Department of Education and doesn’t speak a great deal about local control. This puts him more squarely in the middle of the pack.

Total score for Walker – 2.5 of 5.

I don’t know if Rick Santorum intentionally stole the tagline of “common sense not Cfommon Core” from Mike Huckabee or vice-versa. But that’s about all he talks about, aside from a nod to local control which he doesn’t really come out and embrace.

One thing that I would expect Rick to talk more about is vocational education, considering he has supported the rebirth of manufacturing. But nothing has been said, at least that I’ve found.

Total score for Santorum – 2.4 of 5.

George Pataki was the governor of New York for 11 years, so a large portion of his agenda is an extension of his record there. So while he says that “Common Core should go” and that education should be local, he would not rid us of the Department of Education, but retain it in a “very limited role.”

The idea of tax credits that could apply in either a public or private system has a little bit of merit, though, and that’s what pushes him ahead of other contenders – that is, assuming he could use his office as a bully pulpit to get states to adopt this.

Total score for Pataki – 2.2 of 5.

In his educational platformBen Carson talks mainly about local control and that Common Core must be “overturned,” which is good. School choice is also a subject he has touched on.

But aside from the platitudes and buzzwords, I really don’t see a lot of depth in what Carson has to say. And, like Pataki, there’s one thing which definitely detracts from his overall score – he will not eliminate the Department of Education. While I don’t agree the Department should be an arbiter of speech, I really don’t agree that any government agency will accept a reduction in its role – it simply must be uprooted.

Short of some major pronouncements of policy regarding issues others above have touched on, this is not a strong category for Ben.

Total score for Carson – 2.0 of 5.

In several ways, Jeb Bush is like Rick Perry and others above. His state has been a leader in school choice, he advocates for digital schools conducted online (think of a high school version of the University of Phoenix, to use a familiar example) and he favors school choice.

But the issue I have is that he would prefer a top-down approach, and while he argues Common Core should not be construed as a federal creation of standards (which is true to an extent, as a private entity created and licenses it) he still encourages the federal government to have a role in education, to provide “carrots and sticks.” Those carrots and sticks should be created by the market, not the federal government.

Total score for Bush – 1.8 of 5.

For all I know, Donald Trump could be good on education – perhaps he could make it into one giant for-profit enterprise and eliminate the government altogether. But I doubt it.

And aside from thinking Common Core will “kill Bush” (he is against it, though) and believing education should be local, there’s not much on the Donald’s educational platform. I hate the lack of specifics, and if he was to run based solely on educational philosophy I would fire him.

Total score for Trump – 1.0 of 5.

Aside from a number of vague statements about school vouchers, the size of federal impact, and the thought that Common Core limits parents’ options, Carly Fiorina really hasn’t put together much of an educational platform. And some question her change of tune from her Senate run four years ago.

When others have an agenda that is well spelled out, the lack of specifics from Fiorina sticks out like a sore thumb.

Total score for Fiorina – 0.5 of 5.

Postscript 9/26: After hearing her “answers” on education, I have decided she should score 1.5 more points in the category, bringing her to 2 points.

Next up will be a category with considerably less nuance and a value of six points – the Second Amendment. And as a programming note, I think I will leave this up through Sunday night and otherwise leave the site dark for Independence Day.

Lessons from Sandy Hook

December 18, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Education, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Lessons from Sandy Hook 

While he has a pretty good bully pulpit and a rapt audience of those he won over during his ill-fated U.S. Senate run, another thing Dan Bongino has is expertise in law enforcement and criminal study. So it was good information he passed along in a release yesterday regarding the Sandy Hook massacre:

There are simply no words appropriate to describe the tragedy at Sandy Hook.  As a father to two young daughters I can’t help but ask, “What if it were my daughters?” I am sending you this email because there are experiences and lessons I learned while working with the Secret Service that may help assist in preventing another tragedy.

In 2002, the Secret Service, in conjunction with the Department of Education, conducted a research study on school shooting incidents called the Safe School Initiative. The study sought information about the shooters’ pre-attack behaviors and communications. Their stated goal was to “identify information about a school shooting that may be identifiable or noticeable before the shooting occurs, to help inform efforts to prevent school-based attacks.” Although this email is not an appropriate forum for an exhaustive list of their conclusions I have highlighted a few of the study’s main conclusions below with a link to the complete report at the bottom.

According to the Secret Service website, the study highlights include the following:

  • School shootings are rarely impulsive acts. Rather, they are typically thought out and planned out in advance. In addition, prior to most shootings other children knew the shooting was to occur – but did not alert an adult.
  • Very few of the attackers, however, ever directed threats to their targets before the attack.
  • The study findings also revealed that there is no “profile” of a school shooter; instead, the students who carried out the attacks differed from one another in numerous ways.
  • Almost every attacker had engaged in behavior before the shooting that seriously concerned at least one adult – and for many, had concerned three or more different adults.

You can view the report here.

Obviously there’s been ten more years’ worth of data to compile since the report came out in 2002, although many of the domestic mass killings of late have occurred outside the school setting: examples include Fort Hood, the Aurora theater shooting, and the Safeway attack in Arizona where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was seriously wounded and six others lost their lives. Like the school incidents studied, though, there was no real common denominator involved aside from the willingness of someone to break whatever laws were required to get the point across, whether it be for religious reasons, to get even with someone for a perceived slight or wrongdoing, or acting out a drama on a stage of their own creation.

One finding in the report Bongino cites was that incidents “were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention and most were brief in duration.” Some reports of the Sandy Hook massacre indicate the shooting stopped when Adam Lanza knew he was cornered by police and chose to take the cowardly way out by killing himself. Given the fact he was the only one with a weapon in the school until police finally arrived, this seems like a logical explanation.

But that assertion brings up the old adage that “when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” While many schools at junior high level and above have law enforcement officers who work at the school, the practice is relatively rare at the elementary level. It’s unfortunate that the Sandy Hook killings may lead to more police officers in the schools, but that may be the next step in the eyes of those who don’t mind the implied police state schools are becoming.

Maryland legislators like Delegate Mike McDermott are already working on the problem:

 

He Tweeted that last evening just before I wrote this piece. Knowing that the Annapolis majority would never go for arming teachers, this may be about as much of a middle ground as we can get in our General Assembly. I’d be inclined, though, to make arming the teachers the bill and have this in my pocket as a compromise.

Yet the clamor to do something – anything – in response to the Sandy Hook murders is a strong one. We could very easily slip and go the wrong way by enacting more gun control laws murderers like Adam Lanza will laughingly ignore as they set about their business of carnage creation; or, we can take the right approaches like I discussed the last few days. We still have a choice, but time is running out.

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