A sobering CRT discussion

As the storm clouds gathered, it was a full parking lot at the Crossroad Community Church for a Thursday evening seminar. The lot looked like a Sunday morning should.

On Thursday night a quiet megachurch in Georgetown, Delaware became a center of the Critical Race Theory (CRT) opposition universe as Heritage Action held a panel discussion before a well-packed house and many more online.

While I took quite a few notes, I would almost rather write this more as a summary than as a blow-by-blow since the topic was fairly familiar among the audience and most of you who read here know their stuff about it as well.

This gives you an idea of the attendance. The two center sections were fairly full, while the side I was on was about half-full, with the edge seats being empty. I would estimate about 400 people there, and it looked like a TEA Party crowd without the Gadsden flags.

Moderated by my friend Melody Clarke of Heritage Action, the event featured a diverse panel that looked at CRT through a number of lenses: its history, its impact on our educational system, and the effects it’s having on our military and workplace. In order of appearance, the panel was comprised of six participants:

  • Jonathan Butcher, who covered both the history of CRT (as a pinch-hitter for author Mike Gonzalez, who was a scheduled participant but could not attend) and its impact on education. Butcher is the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at the Heritage Foundation.
  • Xi Van Fleet, who I found was the most fascinating member. She’s not an academic per se (although she has an advanced degree) but based her testimony on her life experiences as a young child during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Shawntel Cooper, a concerned parent from Loudoun County, Virginia. Her school district has been a battleground in this struggle against CRT, and she’s involved in a local group called Fight for Schools that is seeking to recall members of the county school board.
  • Joe Mobley, a fellow concerned Loudoun County parent in Fight for Schools who also works as a motivational speaker, among other tasks. He was the most humorous panelist by far, although he was serious enough to make good points.
  • Jeremy C. Hunt, a West Point graduate and former Army officer who is now enrolled at Yale Law School. He was point man on the impacts of CRT in the military.
  • Stephanie Holmes, who operates a HR consulting firm called BrighterSideHR, LLC. Obviously she spoke on the impact of CRT on businesses, and Melody noted a speaker on that topic was the most difficult one to find given the political correctness climate. As a self-employed consultant, I thought she was an ideal pick.

The look at the history initiated by Butcher stretched back to the origins of Critical Theory in the 1930s. Created by the Frankfurt School, a group of academics who fled Nazi Germany and found teaching positions at several elite colleges, their Marxist students and proteges eventually evolved and branched off Critical Theory into Critical Legal Theory by the 1970s, adding the element of challenging the rule of law that we have based our republic on since the beginning.

While Critical Race Theory came after Critical Legal Theory, it shares more of the Marxist origins of Critical Theory, with the distinction of a substitute proletariat of race for economic class. The way Butcher illustrated it: it was oppressors vs. oppressed, and truth was what they came up with at the time. As another has put it: we have always been at war with Eastasia.

The economic class part of Marxism had already been tried, as Van Fleet illustrated in her remarks. As a young girl she witnessed the beginnings of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when Mao decreed that all the old ways had to be eliminated and students (the Red Guard) became the enforcers. She remarked that there was no difference between our social justice warriors and the Red Guard, and that our woke revolution was the “twin brother” of the Cultural Revolution, a continuation and “an American tragedy.”

One thing she’s noticed about America is that we’ve learned a lot about Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s fascism, but comparatively little about communism. Van Fleet believed that was intentional since communism was closer to the Marxism that academics would prefer we adopt, so they hid the truth. Xi believed that a CRT ban was “only the first step in the culture war.”

She concluded by pointing out that Mao’s initial backers were the peasants who were promised free land once the revolution was successful, only to have it become the property of the state after the previous regime was overthrown. “What the state gave you for free, they can also take it back.”

What our state of Delaware is giving us, in certain areas, is CRT as part of education. That was the assessment of Butcher as he returned to the podium to give his scheduled portion of the presentation. Noting that schools are often doing their best to hide their involvement (because they’ve realized it’s not popular among parents who learn about it) he went over several “myths” about Critical Race Theory: that it was just about history, that it wasn’t being taught in our schools, and that we needed it to teach compassion.

More importantly, though, he preached a response: center the opposition around (ironically) the federal Civil Rights Act. As I would say it: for now equality – not equity – is the law.

Cooper and Mobley, the two Loudoun parents, had their own perspective from being in the trenches, so to speak. Cooper, who came from an upbringing of being raised poor, exclaimed that “my strength allowed me to be a victor and not a victim,” unlike her sister. She seemed very determined to emphasize her beliefs that, “sexuality, religion, and politics should never be taught in school” and that CRT “is abusive.” One thing she brought up that none had noted prior was that teachers often have an in-classroom library of books that don’t go home with students, so parents don’t realize what their kids may be reading. On the other hand, Mobley was more motivational but came across to me as something of a huckster. He did state the obvious: “the environment has changed” due to CRT.

Mobley made a couple interesting Biblical references though: warning us not to be like Belshazzar was in Daniel 5 (the writing on the wall chapter) and more like Daniel 3, which is the account of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and the fiery furnace. He further encouraged us to be strong and of good courage, referring to Joshua 1:9.

While his charge was that of giving a military perspective, Hunt reminded us that, “racism is a sin problem” and urged us to pray about it. He warned the audience that Joe Biden has a “serious agenda” and we must protect our military from it. He believed, though, that “we win at the end of the day,” and like any good soldier, promised he is “not giving up my country.” While the military is trained to follow orders, Hunt reminded us there is now a whistleblower site where those enlisted can file complaints.

The final panelist, Holmes, made the case that CRT training now more common among corporations was creating risk for those companies and poor morale for employees, with the risk coming because of possible Title VII violations. It became a question of whether diversity goals were turning into a quota system. She also brought up the issue of off-duty conduct, such as postings on social media, and how that can affect employees.

The length of these presentations only left a short period for questions and answers that were either placed in advance or sent in from those watching the presentation from home, which oftentimes were dealt with in something of a rapid-fire fashion.

One weakness of the format, however, was that it had more of a federal focus and not so much of a state focus, as Delaware passed House Bill 198 – a bill mandating CRT training under the guise of black history – this session. It was explained to me afterward by Jonathan Butcher that the omission was a function of Heritage Action’s (c)(3) status; so I explained the law briefly to him. (But I also got to renew acquaintances with the lovely and gracious Melody Clarke, so that was a bonus.)

So I want to end with the beginning, when we were welcomed by Pastor Andrew Betts of Crossroads. In his invocation he prayed that America would “hold on to truth.”

But he also opined that CRT “has no place in the church,” and made another great point: “if you want to be politically powerful, you need someone to hate.” It would be better to bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute, said Betts. “Pray for the deceivers.”

I think we have a lot of praying to do right now.

An upcoming discussion on Critical Race Theory

First of all, my post isn’t really intended to be the discussion, although it may end up being so. I’m just passing the word along!

Anyway, every so often I get something of great interest from my longtime fan and friend Melody Clarke (back in her local radio and officeseeking days she was known as Melody Scalley, so Melody’s name may ring a bell with longtime readers – and the pun wasn’t intended.) Melody has been with the Heritage Foundation for awhile now as a Regional Coordinator, and her region includes ours.

In this case, she is announcing that the Heritage Foundation is putting together an intriguing panel event to be held right here locally in at the Crossroad Community Church just west of Georgetown (it’s right off Route 404.) I’m going to let her announcement take over from here before I jump back in:

Please plan to join us for a special event about critical race theory. This will be a panel discussion giving you the opportunity to hear from individuals with special knowledge across a broad spectrum on this issue. We hope you will attend in person, but there will also be an opportunity to join the event by livestream. Take advantage of this opportunity to ask panel members your questions about critical race theory. We want you to fully understand this ideology and the damaging impact it is having across all aspects of our culture and American way of life.

What is Critical Race Theory?

When: Thurs. July 29, 2021 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Where: Crossroad Community Church, 20684 State Forest Rd, Georgetown, DE 19947

Panel Discussion: Hear from dynamic speakers on the roots of critical race theory and how to identify it, as well as how it is infiltrating our schools, workplaces, and the military. Panelists will also be equipping attendees with action items for what you can do to stop it from dividing our children, families and nation.

Panel Moderator: Melody Clarke, Sr. Regional Coordinator, Heritage Action

Mike Gonzalez, Senior Fellow, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy and Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Fellow at the Heritage Foundation

Xi Van Fleet, A Chinese immigrant who has never before been involved politically. Compelled by her own experience in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, she has committed herself to warn the American people of the danger of Cultural Marxism and to help them to clearly see what is really happening in America.

Jonathan Butcher, the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation.

Shawntel Cooper, Parent, Fight for Schools, Loving, dedicated wife, mother, (mommabear), who doesn’t conform to the popular opinion just because it’s the popular opinion.

Joe Mobley, Parent, Fight for Schools. He is host of the Joe Mobley Show and a disabled US Army veteran. Joe’s experience is exceptionally diverse and includes time in the military, law enforcement, church staff, and as a professional musician. He currently consults with one of the world’s largest and most influential firms.

Jeremy C. Hunt, writer, commentator and current student at Yale Law School. After graduating from West Point, he served on active duty as a U.S. Army Captain. Jeremy appears regularly on Fox News.

Stephanie Holmes, an experienced labor and employment professional and lawyer. Her legal career started at a large, international law firm where she represented employers in a wide variety of labor and employment matters, ranging from single plaintiff to complex class action cases. She then worked as in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 company.

Heritage Foundation announcement of the event.

This definitely sounds like it’s worth my time, and as an added bonus for me the Shorebirds are on the road that night so I’m not missing a home game!

CRT, and its cousin Action Civics, are topics I’ve visited recently on The Patriot Post, and – let’s channel Captain Obvious here – these are contentious subjects. Parents who oppose CRT in Delaware already have to gear up for a fight in their local districts, which will be mandated by the state in 2022-23 to teach public and charter school students about black history. And schools won’t necessarily be able to select criteria parents may deem appropriate, to wit:

The Department of Education shall develop and make publicly available a list of resources to assist a school district or charter school in creating Black History curricula. The Department shall consult with organizations that provide education about the experiences of Black people, or seek to promote racial empowerment and social justice.

House Bill 198 as passed, Delaware General Assembly, 151st Session.

Among these organizations being consulted are the NAACP, Africana Studies programs at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University (as well as their respective Black Student Coalitions), the Delaware Heritage Commission, and the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League. I would hazard to guess this will be a stacked deck in favor of emphasizing “restorative justice.”

It’s also worth pointing out that we have racists in our midst – well, at least that’s what they will be called by the other side because they properly voted against this mess. In the House that list includes Representatives Rich Collins, Tim Dukes, Ronald Gray, Shannon Morris, Charles Postles, Jesse Vanderwende, and Lyndon Yearick, and among Senators the five were Gerald Hocker, Dave Lawson, Brian Pettyjohn, Bryant Richardson, and Dave Wilson. So the concerned parents do have allies.

Having said that, I think there’s certainly a place for black history in the schools – however, it should be taught from the perspective that it’s our shared history, whether black, white, brown, yellow, or red. When it comes to blacks, we are a nation which has evolved from keeping blacks in slavery and treating them as three-fifths of a person (who couldn’t vote anyway) to having blacks in all walks of life, including the offspring of black fathers elected as President and as Vice President within the last 15 years with the support of millions of black voters. (Not to mention numerous other elected and unelected government officials, sports figures, and CEOs of major corporations.) I’m not going to lie to you and say it was an easy or straight path toward a colorblind society, but I would argue that, until we made a big deal of race in the last decade or so, we were raising the most colorblind generation that we had known in the Millennials – unfortunately, Generation Z has the serious potential to backslide in that regard thanks to misplaced white guilt, due in no small part to the effects this “1619 Project” style of teaching history have already had on us regarding events which occurred over a century ago.

Acknowledging that history and attempting to learn lessons from it is one thing, but believing that past discrimination justifies future discrimination is quite another, and it’s wrong. I encourage my readers to attend this seminar if they can, or just watch it to see what the race hustlers are up to now.

Disheartening numbers

No one ever said change would be easy. But the prospects for school reform in Delaware took a step backward in several districts.

You may recall a post or two ago I talked about dueling endorsements from the Patriots for Delaware (P4D) and the Democratic Socialists of America Delaware chapter (DSA), although the latter only implied their list was one of preference rather than endorsement given the “right-wing” nature of Patriots for Delaware. And by the time the smoke cleared on Tuesday night, it was apparent that the upstart Patriots group has some work to do.

Out of five (there was a late add in Smyrna) candidates that P4D endorsed, all five (including one incumbent) lost. The percentages varied from 20.58% for the Patriot-backed candidate in the Red Clay district to a close 47.92% from the incumbent who lost in Woodbridge. Even more infuriating, though, was that the quintet all lost to candidates preferred by the DSA. (In three of the races, it was obvious since there were only two running.)

But while the DSA could be happy that they knocked off all five P4D candidates, the other five they backed only went 1-for-5, including a big defeat here in my Laurel district. If anything, however, Ivy Bonk probably handed victory to the retread who was trying to get back in after losing last year because she split the opposition vote, meaning Joey Deiter fell seven votes short, 147 to 140. Bonk had 71, so it’s no stretch to figure most of those would have voted for Deiter if it were a two-person race.

So now that Patriots for Delaware has been through a race cycle, they have some lessons to learn. For one thing, candidate recruitment begins now. We know that pretty much every school district in Delaware will have a school board election next year, so there should be an effort to find someone in every district who can be trusted and won’t need vetting. (And some advice for those considering it: start culling anything remotely objectionable from your social media accounts.) We know those who purport to be “investigative” journalists tend to point their magnifying glass only one way, so be cognizant of that fact.

The second part is trying to figure out a way to seize the narrative. The key issues this time around were reopening schools after the pandemic and the battle against Critical Race Theory getting a foothold in the schools. Meanwhile, other kids in parochial schools have been in class all year and are being taught a proper appreciation for both history and one another. Find the success stories: good kids who go to these alternative schools (or are homeschooled) and hold them up as ideals when compared to public school kids. And ask the questions: why can’t public school kids measure up, and how are those on the school boards going to address the problem? (Hint: it ain’t more money.)

I know that P4D is trying to get people interested in taking the time to attend their local school board meetings, and that’s a good idea, too. If a rogue board knows there is public scrutiny, they may think twice about taking objectionable steps. Our side pays taxes, too – in fact, we may pay more than the other side does.

It was a great idea for Patriots for Delaware to take that first step, and now they have some inkling what to expect. Hopefully come May of next year, they will be celebrating some initial victories on the road back to sanity for the state of Delaware.

Becoming the loyal opposition

As the days of the Trump administration dwindle down to a precious few and the world is attempting to hoist him up on the petard of (so-called) insurrection, it’s clear that there are over 70 million Americans who are angry with the situation.

But let’s dispense with a few things first: the claims that Trump will return for another term after he declares martial law then drains the Swamp with thousands of arrests – ain’t gonna happen. Even if he uses the military, the size and scope of the necessary operation is such that SOMEONE would have leaked it out by now.

And it’s not just that: Trump doesn’t figure in the line of succession, even if you arrested Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi. It’s the same logic that said Hillary would be president if Trump was impeached and convicted. There’s just no Constitutional precedent for this – even in the midst of a civil war we held a Presidential election in 1864. We’ll never know, but would Abraham Lincoln have ceded power in March of 1865 had he lost?

There were originally going to be three main points to this post, but two of them have been taken care of in a different fashion. I liked Erick Erickson’s take on all the fake news that I alluded to above, so I encourage you to read it via The Patriot Post. My other writing home is also where the second part of this discourse ended up, regarding the fate of the Republican Party going forward. One key point:

Donald Trump was the candidate whose boldness on hot-button issues such as immigration and tax reform brought back those who became disillusioned when the Tea Party devolved to just another group of inside-the-Beltway grifters, and the Republican establishment cooled the fiery spirits of those the Tea Party helped to place in Congress.

“The Road Ahead for the GOP,” The Patriot Post, January 15, 2021

This was one of the longest pieces I’ve ever written for them because it’s a subject I am passionate about.

But in the wake of the purloined Presidential election and the catastrophe at the Capitol, people are probably shrugging their shoulders and resigning themselves to the end of our Republic, keeping their anger and passion inside to eat at them. Now I don’t have the overall surefire way to make you feel better, but perhaps it’s time to revisit what happened the last time we were in this situation.

Granted, the political landscape in 2021 is not really the same chessboard we were looking at in the dark winter of 2009. Back then we didn’t have the pervasiveness of social media to squelch the voices of conservatives nor did we have the upstream economic swimming made necessary by the ongoing CCP virus. (Of course, that will improve soon as Democrat governors finally decide that maybe, just maybe, they need to open up their state economies.) And that’s okay because perhaps this time we need to shift the focus to a smaller stage rather than try and play in a arena we’re not as familiar with. Complaining about federal spending and what would become Obamacare only delayed the inevitable twelve years ago because Tip O’Neill was right: all politics is local.

To that end, there is a trinity of issues which can be positively influenced at the local level in the near term, and in my opinion these are places the passion for Donald Trump can be well applied (or at least I think he would approve.) In at least one respect – the one I’m going to begin with – it’s not even necessarily political.

Support local small businesses.

This can be a lot easier said than done, particularly if you live in a rural area like I do. I have to admit we get a LOT of Amazon and Walmart boxes delivered to us, and the UPS truck is a regular sight around this area. On the flip side, though, we have a lot of small businesses that we can support in our town, particularly the restaurants. (I have my local favorite, and you should too. Patronize them often and leave good tips.)

The thing that is holding back businesses the most are the pandemic-inspired restrictions. I’m sure my local pizzeria would love to be able to open up all their seating despite their solid carry-out business. Initial mandates that favored big-box retailers as “essential” when their smaller counterparts – which often sold the same merchandise – were shut down led to the loss of millions of jobs and the perceived need to send out stimulus checks that are simply the gateway drug to the cherished regressive dream of a universal basic income. (Or, as Dire Straits once sang, Money for Nothing. I suppose it’s good the government hasn’t tried the chicks for free yet, because I could only imagine that disaster.)

I think if you asked the business owner who had to shut down whether they’d prefer the check or the business, 99% would be back in business. Seeing that the ice is beginning to break with some of these Democrats, perhaps it’s time to apply more pressure to Governor Carnage to end this so-called emergency and let businesses try to pick up the pieces.

Action items:

  • Patronize local, small businesses wherever possible.
  • Pressure local legislators and officials to advocate for the opening up of your state’s businesses as applicable. (Obviously people reading this from certain states can skip this part.)
  • If a business decides to go against a state’s forced closing mandate – don’t be a Karen, be a customer.
  • And it’s not just businesses: having open schools and resuming their activities would be a great help to employment as well. It brings me to my next part.

Reforming our schools.

One thing I loved about the Trump administration was the fresh perspective he brought to the Department of Education with Betsy DeVos. Unfortunately, her tenure was cut a bit short because she bought the media narrative about the January 6 protest, but her time at the DoE was the next best thing to it not being there.

Sadly, under Harris/Biden there will likely be some other NEA-approved hack running that show and undoing all the good DeVos did, so we need to do what we can to re-establish local control of our public schools as much as possible and push the envelope where required. If that can’t be done, then it’s time to support the alternatives such as homeschooling or non-public schools.

Of course, the best way to guide public schools is to become a member of their school board, but not everyone has that sort of time commitment nor do they want to go through the anal exam known as an election. (Furthermore, in the case of my local school district, reform would be slow: they elect one member of the five-member body every year, meaning it would take at least three years to install a like-thinking majority.) But it is a good idea to know about your local school board and see who the friendlies to the cause are. (If they have a BLM banner, it’s not too likely they’re conservative.) The ideal here is to revamp curriculum to bring it back to classical education as opposed to indoctrination, encouraging a variety of viewpoints and critical thinking. Public school students don’t have to be mindless robots; after all, I’m a case in point since I went to public school and a public university. I think I turned out okay.

On a state level, there are two priorities and this means you have to make some enemies in the teachers’ union: school choice and (corollary to that) money following the child. It’s your child and the state should be doing its level best to assist you in training up the child in the way he should go.

Action items:

  • Demand schools open up fully. The lack of in-person learning and activities has cost students a year of development.
  • Research your local school board and its candidates, even if you don’t have kids there. They are taking a lot of your tax money so you should be aware how it’s spent.
  • Advocate with your state legislators for school choice and money following the child.

And now for the biggie, the one which should be job one among all right-thinking Americans:

Restoring free and fair elections.

I’m going to begin with a quote. You may be surprised at the source.

Voting by mail is now common enough and problematic enough that election experts say there have been multiple elections in which no one can say with confidence which candidate was the deserved winner. The list includes the 2000 presidential election, in which problems with absentee ballots in Florida were a little-noticed footnote to other issues.

In the last presidential election, 35.5 million voters requested absentee ballots, but only 27.9 million absentee votes were counted, according to a study by Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He calculated that 3.9 million ballots requested by voters never reached them; that another 2.9 million ballots received by voters did not make it back to election officials; and that election officials rejected 800,000 ballots. That suggests an overall failure rate of as much as 21 percent.

“Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Balloting Rises,” Adam Liptak, New York Times, October 6, 2012.

It’s funny because that story concludes, “You could steal some absentee ballots or stuff a ballot box or bribe an election administrator or fiddle with an electronic voting machine,” (Yale law professor Heather Gerken) said. That explains, she said, “why all the evidence of stolen elections involves absentee ballots and the like.”

It didn’t get any better in 2020, as hastily-passed (or decreed) election law led to the chaotic scenes we saw played out in several big-city vote counting venues. Combine that with the molasses-like pace of mail sent through the USPS – I received a Christmas card sent by a friend in Kansas December 18 on January 4 – and we got an election result that millions are skeptical about.

I know there are some who swear these practices are on the up and up, but this is the question we should be asking these officials: If you support election practices we can’t trust, how can you be a public servant we can trust?

At a minimum, we should be demanding that changes made for the 2020 election should be scrapped entirely. This was no way to run an election, and it will always be fishy how Donald Trump (and a host of other Republicans) led in their election in certain states until the wee hours of Wednesday morning before suddenly being overtaken in a barrage of votes for Democrats. I will give kudos to the election officials here in Delaware who demanded all mail-in ballots be delivered by 8 p.m. on election night because the counting was pretty much done by the late local news.

I don’t care if you call it the TEA Party again – with the acronym now standing for Trump’s Election Avengers – but here are the action items, as the beginning of a list of demands for real election reform:

  1. The voter rolls should be purged of inactive voters (no voting in the last four years) and those who use fake addresses such as P.O. boxes. Big-city election boards should be made to use some of their ill-gotten largess to investigate these places.
  2. Absentee balloting should no longer be shall-issue. There has to be a legitimate excuse, although advanced age should remain a legitimate excuse. Deadline for absentee ballot return is Election Day, no postmark exceptions.
  3. Ballot-harvesting should be outlawed or curtailed to leave only family members allowed to return a limited number of ballots.
  4. Early voting should be eliminated, or at the very least cut back to the weekend just prior to the election.
  5. There should be more election observers, and not just Democrat and Republican. We should add two independent or minor party voters who are also allowed to observe and object.

This isn’t to say that we should ignore the excesses of the Harris/Biden administration and speak out when necessary. But in making these more easily attainable changes at the local level, we make it more difficult to enact change on a national scale.

If we want to make the necessary changes, we have to borrow the “think globally, act locally” mantra from the environmentalist wackos for a bit and ride out the next four years as the real shadow government. It’s only through us that a government for and by the people not perish from the earth.

2020 gubernatorial dossier: Education

This is the fourth part of a series taking a deeper dive into various important topics in the 2020 Delaware gubernatorial election. On the 100-point scale I am using to grade candidates, education is worth 10 points. 

This section of the dossier has been revised and updated to reflect the general election field.

These will be presented in the order of Republican, Libertarian, Independent Party of Delaware (IPoD), and Democrat, who in all cases are incumbents.

If there is a topic of importance to all the candidates running for the state’s highest office, it’s education. Some spend more time on it than others, but they generally have something to say.

Julianne Murray (R)

Aside from remarking, “We need to be teaching our children HOW to think – not WHAT to think,” I have yet to find a more broad-based educational platform on Julianne yet. It’s a good philosophy, but with no meat on that bone she gets just 3 points out of 10.

John Machurek (L)

Eight years ago, when he was running for a seat in the Delaware General Assembly, John put together a very solid analysis of the education issue. A couple key points: “The public education system is failing and it is NOT in many cases due to the educators, but rather the government,” and, “The Federal government provides less than 7% of Delaware’s public education funding, and yet that small percentage comes with mandates, compliance requirements, and strings that take control of our classrooms away from parents, teachers, and elected school boards. The Delaware Department of Education runs roughshod over our local school boards, using questionable data to declare failed schools, while committing millions to under-researched ‘reform’ initiatives that have yet to demonstrate any ability to improve education.”

Among his suggestions for improvement were making the State Board of Education an elected board, removing the Cabinet-level position of Secretary of Education and replacing it with a state superintendent of schools selected by the Board, shifting more authority to local boards, and creating school vouchers. Overall, it was a pretty good platform, so he gets 8 points out of 10.

Kathy DeMatteis (IPoD)

Her platform statement is that she would “Regenerate Delaware’s public school system for all students by setting higher standards and embracing science, math, the arts, and vocational education.” Unfortunately, the nuts-and-bolts of getting from point A to point B are missing, as are students whose parents would prefer them go to a parochial school or homeschool. So I can only give 1.5 points out of 10.

John Carney (incumbent D)

The initial 2016 education plan Carney presented is here. In part, he promised:

We need to create an education system where every student has the opportunity to succeed. Despite improvements over the past decade, too many students, especially poor and minority students, are not meeting the standards that have been set…

The challenges we face in improving our public education system are very difficult to overcome. We have to give every child access to a quality early education that sets them up for future success. We have to care for our students’ needs physically, emotionally, and academically to keep them on track. We have to give educators the resources and support they need to reach students who come to school every day with different abilities, challenges, and ways of learning. And we need to ensure that as students graduate they are well prepared to enter the workforce or continue their education in college.

John Carney education plan, 2016.

I’ll grant he’s only had four years, but I thought Lenin could do it that quickly.

But it sounds like he’s taking a village to raise a child and leaving families out of it. This is the same attitude which complains that closing schools for the summer denies kids a good breakfast and/or lunch – since when was that our responsibility?

I just wish he would try to improve the entire education system, not just public schools. 1.5 points out of 10.

Because it is a small state, Delaware could be a model for the rest of the country if we do things correctly. It’s easier to turn around a canoe than a battleship, and I think the best way of turning it around is through school choice as money follows the child. Public schools could still exist and they could continue to give a less and less thorough education on traditional subjects as they emphasize what is allowable under “cancel culture,” but they will do so to emptier and emptier classrooms. Finally they will get the point.

Parents used to scrimp and save to be able to afford a house in a desirable school district. Thirty years ago, we did just that and made it by about five blocks into a nice neighborhood elementary school that fed into one of the two most desired high schools in the Toledo Public Schools district. But we can go way beyond that and allow people trapped by economics in poorer zip codes to more easily find a way to give their kids the education they need. The right governor can make that a reality if he or she is willing to try.

Updated standings, and another lead change: Machurek 12.5, Murray 9, DeMatteis 5, Carney 1.5. Sadly, the maximum score at this point would be 40 so no one is setting this competition on fire (mainly due to a lack of response to earlier questions, but even in ones where they do.)

Regardless, next up will be a special segment of the dossier as I discuss the Second Amendment.

Odds and ends number 97

You know, I figured just as soon as I put old number 96 to bed that my e-mail box would fill up with interesting tidbits, so it wouldn’t be nearly as long before I got to number 97. So let’s see what I have here.

A look at theology

People tend to think of Erick Erickson as just a radio personality and pundit, but it’s not as well known that he’s studied divinity. So when he talks about religion it makes my ears perk up, and this recent column of his was one of those times.

Christians need to be preaching Jesus, not Christianity. We need to preach about the end and the return and the world made new. It is fantastical and supernatural and unbelievable for so many. But it is real and right and true and will give the hopeless hope.

Erick Erickson, “Groaning for Justice: The Theology of What is Happening”, June 25, 2020

It sounds a lot like my church. But it’s worth remembering that on one side is the world and on the other side is God, expressed in the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I have a simplistic perspective about it all, but then again I came to the game later in life than a lot of other people so my flaws were more apparent.

I believe that when Jesus said no one comes to the Father but through him that He was absolutely right. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make the world better but there should always be that end goal in mind, too.

Is there any reason for college?

This may seem strange to say as an alumnus of Miami University, but insofar as career preparation I learned as much in a year of work as I did in securing my four-year degree. (However, I did manage to consume many “Gobblers” and adult beverages from various eating and drinking establishments around Oxford, Ohio, and I got to go see Division I sports for free. So there was that.)

By the same token, Victor Davis Hanson has toiled in the academic field for decades – yet he delivers a scathing critique of college life and educational achievement in 2020, 34 years after I walked away from Millett Hall with my diploma case in hand.

31 years later I was witness to a similar scene but under wildly different circumstances, as my wife received her bachelor’s degree from a nationally-recognized college after taking online courses tailored to the working world. For these folks, their campus was the Washington, D.C. area and beyond, and hundreds of them were in what was then the Verizon Center for their big day. They received their degrees after enduring a lifestyle of trying to juggle work, kids, and other responsibilities with their academics as opposed to being cloistered on a campus and shuttling between academic halls, student centers, and their dorms. That was my world in the mid-1980s as a snot-nosed kid from a small Ohio town.

Yet many kids still do the same thing I did four decades ago, and the problem with that approach is that it’s rapidly becoming an information silo. Kids learn a lot about things of little importance in real life then wonder why it bites them in the ass. I remember pounding the pavement for a job right out of college then finally taking something outside my field to tide me over – turns out I was there less than a month before I got the break I needed; then again I was in an avocation where there was demand in the real world so it finally needed my supply.

And my alma mater wonders why I ignore their pleas for alumni donations.

More from smart people

How this guy ever got to be governor of his state – and then re-elected – often mystifies me. IMHO he was really too smart for the job, and the same went for being President. I think Bobby Jindal could have been the next Calvin Coolidge, a President who exhibited admirable restraint of his powers and led the government to do the same.

Recently he penned an op-ed for the Washington Examiner where he focused on some items he saw as long-term trends accelerated by the onset of the Wuhan flu. This one was the one that piqued my interest the most:

De-densification: Elevators, mass transit, and air-conditioned spaces, all critical components of urban living, will be rendered safe again one day. Yet, the nation’s most successful cities were already victims of their own success, with the rising cost of living pushing working families to the suburbs and exurbs. Workers are going to demand more flexible work arrangements and less time wasted commuting. Remote work and virtual meetings will allow many office workers to be productive in the exurbs and in the country. Wealthy families will join them with getaway homes, and companies will require less-dense and smaller offices. Smaller communities near urban centers will benefit and become more economically viable for their permanent residents. The economic efficiencies that have driven urbanization will still continue to be compelling, and first-tier cities especially will reinvent themselves and continue to attract immigrants and new businesses.

“How the COVID-19 pandemic will change us”, Bobby Jindal, Washington Examiner, June 24, 2020.

The initial push to the suburbs in the postwar era was fueled by the surge of new families looking for room to grow, coupled with the inexpensive cost of gasoline and car maintenance and expansion of highway construction allowing commuters to bypass mass transit. Suddenly small towns that were once on the outskirts of metro areas and surrounded by cornfields became the loose center of dozens of subdivisions looped together by beltway interstates surrounding the city core. My parents did this in spades, bypassing suburbia altogether to buy five rural acres for three active boys to play ball on and dealing with a half-hour or more commute.

Being in the design world, I’ve seen the push for a new urbanism. For example, in nearby Salisbury their mayor Jake Day has pushed for a new style of downtown revitalization, attempting to bring in mixed-use development accessible by multiple modes of transportation. Surface parking on city-owned lots downtown is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as lots are sold to developers.

Fortunately for Day, Salisbury is still a small enough city that it doesn’t suffer from the maladies of Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, and others which have seen their urban core rot away from a toxic combination of crime, poverty, and lack of opportunity. It could yet go that way, or it could become a destination precisely because it’s been small enough to escape these issues – the sort of small town Jindal envisions succeeding thanks to the remote technology we now have.

But these urban escapees have another close-by alternative which is also retiree-friendly – if we don’t screw it up.

Picking too many losers

The state of Delaware lags the field in state-level GDP growth these days, one survey placing the First State last in the nation.

Perhaps a reason for this, argues the group A Better Delaware, is that our state government is terrible at determining winners and losers. As it has often turned out, the well-connected are the winners and taxpayers are the losers, and the group goes through some examples in this recent piece.

As I see it, job creation is about filling needs. An entrepreneur sees a market void and figures out a way to fill it, then once that venture is a go he or she may find the work is too much for one person to handle. Suddenly they’re signing the front of a paycheck, and the measure of a business-friendly state is just how easily that employer can get to that point without feeling violated from the anal rape of a corrupt system installed to grease the palms of a thousand bureaucrats. Somehow Delaware seems to believe that making life easier for those who promise scores of jobs without figuring out the market void is a good thing to do. I tend to like my strategy better.

The library

I was recently introduced to an interesting website in a unique way: one of its employees requested to purchase a paper copy of The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party. So I autographed it and sent it to Tennessee for his enjoyment. (By the way, I have several more available.)

So while Ammo.com sells – as you may guess – many different varieties of ammunition, they also feature what’s called the Resistance Library: a collection of articles on many and varied topics. (Actually, the whole site is worth exploring.) The post my newfound friend was dying to share with me, though, was on “Policing for Profit.”

Civil asset forfeiture is a popular concept with the “if you don’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” crowd; the same ones who shout “blue lives matter!” (And they do, but so does the law.) In reading this lengthy, well-written treatise on the subject I found out that Delaware is a state which is one of the worst in that regard.

And civil asset forfeiture laws are difficult to change because there are two large lobbies already stacked against these efforts: law enforcement and local government. Imagine what $200,000 seized could do for a local government’s bottom line when they may spend $2 million on a police department annually. Never mind it’s not their property and they have only suspicion that it was gathered illegally. It’s like crack cocaine to an addict: wrongly or not, they can’t pass it up. We need to send our state to a proverbial NA meeting next year when the General Assembly reconvenes.

More bad advice

I like to end on a light-hearted note when I can, and what better way than to poke fun at those who tell me how to run this place?

Hello monoblogue.us team:

As you know because of Global pandemic, the world has shut down and a big question mark on sustainability of business.

We are connecting the business owner to create a high standard for their business website and marketing strategy. To start this, we recommend to upgrade the website to more customer friendly.

If you have same idea in your mind, Let’s discuss about redesign of your website in economic cost.

A really badly written e-mail.

I can’t decide whether this came from China, India, or some other third-world country where English is taught as a second language. (In this case, maybe third.)

Fortunately, I didn’t shut down during the pandemic. Now I won’t say that I was terribly productive during the time span, but the college degree I alluded to way above led me to a job deemed “essential” so I have been working my usual full-time hours. Even so, I sustain into my fifteenth year of this site. (I even outlasted Red Maryland.)

My site is not really a business site, but I do have a marketing strategy: write good sh*t. It’s even customer-friendly because I kept out the offending letter.

And, in case this guy missed it, I redesigned my website a couple years ago, finally retiring old “Black Lucas” after nearly a decade of service. I still miss that theme sometimes but I like the back end that goes with the current “Twenty Sixteen” theme much better.

So I think I have flogged the dead horse of my inbox enough for one visit. I didn’t even get to the silliness that’s the Delaware governor’s race, but maybe I’ll hold onto that for a standalone post after all.

Programming note

Once we clear the filing deadline this coming Tuesday I’m going to add my Delaware political sidebar with all the primary and general election candidates and then the following Monday or Tuesday release the 2019-20 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware edition. The delay is because I have to determine whether the legislators involved get a free ride in November or not.

Because the Delaware session was truncated this year, I decided to simply amend the 2019 edition to use four votes this year and drop the least impactful four votes from last year to maintain 25 separate votes. You’ll see what I mean when I put it up later this month.

It’s time for more choices

This week marked the ninth annual rendition of National School Choice Week, and a good time to remind readers that, when it comes to governmental education dollars, money should follow the child.

This is a subject I’ve often written about, although normally it’s been from a prompt by the fine folks who run National School Choice Week. (This year the e-mail is probably in a spam folder, which is a shame because they do good work.)

I will grant to you that I don’t come from an unbiased perspective: my wife’s daughter is a recent graduate of the school portion of our church ministry, and those who follow my Facebook feed know I frequent many of Faith Baptist School’s sporting events (go FBS Falcons!) On the other hand, though, my wife and I are both public school and university graduates with my experience in Ohio and hers here in Maryland. Add to that the fact that both of us graduated from vocational-style programs a fair number of years ago and I think we have a pretty good perspective on education.

In the terms of my adoption of the phrase “money follows the child,” I give the credit to a Toledo City Council candidate for whom I volunteered two decades ago named Linda Hendricks. She introduced me to the concept, which didn’t endear her to the unionistas who ran the city of Toledo but made great sense to me as a way to bring competition to a field where it’s even more sorely needed today.

At that time my older stepdaughter was in the midst of her school years. As a young couple starting out, my former wife and I could not afford a place in the suburbs let alone tuition for a private school, so we bought our modest home in the most affordable neighborhood feeding into what we perceived to be the best public high school in Toledo. We were about five blocks from the line that divided kids who went to Bowsher from those who went to Libbey, a more working-class, inner-city school – ironically the school from which my mom graduated four decades earlier, when it was in the midst of a middle-class area. All those folks moved out to the suburbs as the years went by, and since I left town Libbey was closed due to consolidation, with many of its former students transferred to Bowsher.

However, when it came to school for my older child it wasn’t just sending her to class, because we adopted the elementary school – joining the PTA, helping out with coaching the kids, and so forth. A big part of the reason hers was still a relatively desirable school was the fact the parents and other members of the community remained involved with it. Certainly there were issues with the Toledo Public Schools at the time, but they also had some assets: this daughter was considered gifted/talented, so they had a facility for advanced students. She also got to take advantage of evening foreign language classes the district had for junior high kids, freeing her up for taking other classes in high school since her foreign language requirement was out of the way.

Unfortunately, insofar as I know things haven’t improved on this front since the late 1990’s when the older child was in junior high and into high school. I do know that, in the interim, the state of Ohio bulldozed all three of the Toledo schools she attended (plus the one she graduated from in another town) to build new schools – a shame in the case of her elementary school, which was considered for the National Register of Historic Places as a relatively unblemished example of period school architecture from the 1920s when the neighborhood was built. Even with new buildings, though, the learning inside is more suspect – a subject I will get to in due course.

In the modern day my current wife was adamant about sending her daughter to a Christian school so she spent her entire K-12 academic career in that environment, which came with some tradeoffs: limited facilities and class choices being perhaps the biggest drawbacks, stemming from the school’s small enrollment and lack of funding for expansion. Yet she’s been well-prepared for college nonetheless.

Meanwhile, that two decade difference between kids has seen an explosion of new educational choices, particularly charter schools and homeschooling. But those victories have been hard-won and the educational unions and their allies plot constantly on how to reverse those gains. (One such salvo: sneering about how School Choice Week is “not what you think.” Never mind the author works for a public school advocacy organization.) Instead, here are some quick facts provided by NSCW about the situation in both Maryland and Delaware.

There is some good news I recently became aware of: there are a handful of states where money can follow the child through their own education savings accounts. Unfortunately, Maryland and Delaware aren’t among them and the prospects of their joining this expanding club anytime soon (as four other states are considering this) are slim and none – and slim has packed up and left town. Blame the overly strong teachers’ unions for this one.

In this country there are still some of us who prefer phonics to phoniness, cursive to hype over climate change, and fractions to Friere. In the last case, the name is probably not familiar, but Paulo Friere is considered the father of critical pedagogy, which, according to Wikiversity, is where “the student often begins as a member of the group or process he or she is critically studying (e.g., religion, national identity, cultural norms, or expected roles). After the student begins to view present society as deeply problematic, the next behavior encouraged is sharing this knowledge, paired with an attempt to change the perceived oppression of the society.”) This is an approach that, in the words of the institute named after Friere, “owes a lot to the techniques pioneered by Freire and supplemented by practice elsewhere. We also draw upon organizing principles derived from Saul Alinsky and others.”

It’s interesting to me that this philosophy is now a staple at institutions which teach teachers to teach. Since Friere’s seminal work only dates from the early 1970’s, most of the teachers Kim and I had were taught under the old oppressive philosophy, which I guess is why we have our heads screwed on straight. Forty years later, most of the teachers at Faith come from Christian colleges where education is taught in a Bible-based curriculum rather than the otherwise prevailing method, so our younger daughter is covered. This puts us at odds with the other daughter, whose public school education of the late ’90’s and early aughts and the environment within the working-class suburban school she eventually graduated from seems to have left her as more left-of-center.

Yet if you want to subject your child to that sort of cultural rot, feel free. Just allow the rest of us the choice to opt out and have our children taught as we see fit under the same conditions. That, to me, is what school choice is all about. The rising tide would indeed lift all boats.

How much will it cost? (Part one of a multi-part series)

I know, I know, you want Tawes coverage. Look for it tomorrow or Friday.

Since Ben Jealous won the Democrat Party nomination for Maryland’s top job, the progressives who have already seen his campaign as a chance to put their dreams into action on the state level are beside themselves with giddiness about the prospect of a state that borders Washington, D.C. being set up as a contrast to the relative austerity of one President Donald J. Trump.

But skittish voters may have been turned off by a Department of Legislative Services report (as reported by the Baltimore Sun) that claimed Ben’s single-payer health scheme could cost the state as much as $24 billion a year – astounding when you consider Maryland’s annual state operating budget runs about $44 billion. It would become the single largest line-item on the budget overnight and (of course) necessitate significant tax increases.

The story, however, neatly coincides with the question I’m sure I’m not alone in asking: how much is the Jealous agenda going to cost?

Well, I can’t give you an exact answer. But what I can do is study his platform, point by point, and give as good of an estimate as possible. And when you say, “Michael, all politicians promise to spend taxpayer money when they pledge to ‘invest’ in whatever item they think will get them the most votes,” I would say yes, you are correct – but Ben Jealous pledges to do it in spades.

If you go to his issues page, you will find Jealous has laid out a wide-ranging agenda of several issues:

  • Education
  • Medicare-For-All
  • Criminal Justice
  • Ending The Student Debt Crisis
  • Police Reform
  • Great Cities: A Vision For Maryland’s Future
  • Opioid Crisis
  • Make It In Maryland: Building A More Inclusive, Thriving Economy
  • Civil Rights
  • Immigration
  • Environment
  • Seniors

On many of these, Ben goes beyond the standard one-paragraph blurb and lays out fairly detailed plans – although they are often lacking in financial estimates. So today I’m going to start laying out my thoughts on what this agenda may cost taxpayers, and I’m going to begin with Education and the related subject Ending the Student Debt Crisis.

As a baseline figure, bear in mind that the most recent budget adopted by the state (for FY2019, which began at the start of this month) has the state of Maryland spending $14.72 billion between education and higher education, for a total of 33% of the budget. K-12 gets $8.099 billion and $6.621 billion goes to higher education. (The total budget, by the way, is $44.416 billion, compared to $42.142 billion just two years ago.)

Here’s the first concrete proposal in the Jealous education plan, increasing teacher salaries:

In the Kirwan Commission’s preliminary report, there’s a recommendation to bring Maryland’s average teacher salary to the average of Massachusetts and New Jersey’s – two of the country’s top performing states – by the 2024-2025 school year. Ben Jealous is committed to raising teacher pay by 29% between now and the 2024-2025 school year – the exact same percent increase as was accomplished in the seven years following the Thornton Commission.

To determine the cost of this salary increase plan, we need to find the difference between the natural cost of increasing salaries under the current Thornton funding formula and a new salary plan.

In an attached chart, Jealous details the cost over the five year period from FY2020 – FY2024. Total cost to taxpayers: $1.8953 billion over five years, with FY2024 alone contributing a $658.5 million increase. This is above and beyond raises already baked into the budget totaling $2.1845 billion.

Jealous, however, says he has a way to pay for this – but it depends on Maryland voters.

Late in this year’s session, a Senate bill was passed that placed an amendment to the Maryland Constitution on this year’s ballot. The “Fix The Fund” Act mandates that gambling revenue become a supplement to educational spending rather than a component of it. The Fiscal Note for the bill notes that revenues for education are expected to increase by $1.2678 billion from FY2020 – FY 2023. Unfortunately, that money doesn’t replace what would have gone into the General Fund: as the Fiscal Note continues, “Designating the use of a portion of (Education Trust Fund) monies for supplemental funding requires general fund expenditures to increase by an equal amount.” However, this money is folded into the expenditure from above, yet Jealous admits to being short in year 5. His solution? Enacting a combined reporting tax on Maryland businesses.

On this particular point of combined reporting, Jealous references an unsuccessful bill from 2017 that would have enacted this, with the carrot to business of eliminating filing fees for a business or entity with 10 or fewer employees. That may not necessarily be in Ben’s plan, so I am going to make two assumptions here: one. that the revenue for a five year period of FY2020-24 is similar to that which would have occurred FY2018-22 as covered by that particular Fiscal Note and that the filing fee waiver would be eliminated. Given those two items (and the fact business taxes aren’t paid by businesses but by consumers) I will say this adds $150.8 million over five years – but that still leaves Jealous short, and WAY short if “Fix The Fund” doesn’t pass – however, you can bet your bottom dollar the teacher’s unions will be out in full force to pass that one come November. (The odds of the Fix The Fund Act passing are very good, though, as Maryland voters seldom turn down a referendum. But it won’t be a fix, just more tax on the poor.)

And the fun is just beginning…next up is this gem:

In the 2018 legislative session, two former educators in the General Assembly proposed legislation to guarantee all education support professionals a living wage: at least $31,500 a year in lower cost of living counties and at least $36,000 a year in higher cost of living counties. It would be phased in starting in FY2020 and fully funded from FY2024 onward.

Based on the Fiscal Note for this bill, over three years (FY2022-24) the total cost to taxpayers will be $527 million.

Another biggie comes up a page or so later:

As governor, Ben Jealous will provide the funding necessary for full-day, universal pre-kindergarten and he will pay for it through the tax revenue generated by legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult use.

In a report entitled A Comprehensive Analysis of Prekindergarten in Maryland, the authors noted that at the time (early 2016) the state spent $132.9 million to educate the 35.58% of 4-year-olds who are already enrolled. Doing the math for 100% of 4-year-olds means an annual expenditure for pre-K on a state level would be a total annual cost to taxpayers of $375.3 million, and over a five-year period the cost would edge close to $2 billion.

Yet again, it’s likely that revenues will not keep pace. Obviously laws vary from state to state, but a good fit for projecting Maryland’s success might be Colorado because of its similar population. In 2017 Colorado generated $223 million in revenue from the sale of marijuana, while Washington state (which is somewhat larger) added $314 million. It’s not likely that Maryland would be able to sustain its revenue stream to the extent needed, meaning money would need to come from the general fund.

Next up is an unknown amount of money to address this seeming disparity:

We need to reimagine what schools provide in our low-income neighborhoods by making the school building the central hub for community services – counseling, job training, meals, mentoring programs, and health clinics. As part of the new funding formula, the state should add a concentrated wealth factor that drives more funding to schools with 40% or more of their student population coming from low-income families.

To me, this is akin to the current Geographic Cost of Education Index that cost taxpayers $141.6 million this fiscal year (page 47 here). But that money is a starting point because, in order for schools to take on all these functions, there is an unknown capital improvement cost involved. I suspect when all is said and done this could easily exceed $2 billion in additional spending after five years.

Lastly on the K-12 education front, there is this idea:

Providing children with a critical mass of mental health services requires an investment in personnel like inschool social workers and psychologists, but it also requires fully incorporating these service providers into the broader academic ecosystem, and providing other key members of that ecosystem with the training they need to help our mental health service providers.

So let’s begin with this:

By providing the child with case-management, the social worker can ensure a student is connected with an in-school counselor (and) has up-to-date treatment from an inschool psychologist.

(…)

… it is important that enough counselors be hired to maintain a low student-to-counselor ratio…

(…)

Every school should have at least one on-site psychologist, who is focused fully on addressing the mental health needs of the student body.

(…)

As governor, Ben Jealous will work with key stakeholders like the MSEA to increase staffing levels for service providers like social workers and school psychologists…

Yes, because we know the MSEA teacher’s union is oh-so-careful with taxpayer dollars.

The information is a little out-of-date, so I’m extrapolating the 1.449 schools that Maryland was claimed to have a half-decade ago to 1,500 for ease of math. So let’s make some more assumptions: three new social workers, one new psychologist, and three counselors (to maintain the low ratio) are added per school – that is a total of 10,500 staff statewide. And they’re not going to come cheap: on average a school psychologist makes almost $60,000 per year, a school counselor checks in at almost $49,000 a year, and school social workers earn just over $48,000 a year. Therefore, the additional per-school staffing expenditure (just for salary, mind you, and not including benefits) would be $351,000 a year. Multiply that by 1,500 public schools in the state and the total annual cost to taxpayers is $216.2 million.

Once you’ve paid for K-12, you still have the aspect of “free” college.

As governor, Jealous will make community college free for every Marylander… The guarantee of free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate. This program will be paid for by increasing the state income tax for the top 1% of earners ($500,000+ annually) by 1%, and savings from significantly reducing Maryland’s levels of incarceration.

Now this is a little bit confusing because I thought we already had that, based on a bill passed last year. And the question is whether Ben means every dollar of the average $4,324 (see here) for tuition and fees or whether it’s an expansion of the “last-dollar” program where prospective students have to exhaust other avenues of aid first (although, in all honesty, the taxpayer pays most of it anyway.) Now multiply that by a projected 46,592 full-time students and just a high-end estimate of Ben’s scheme comes out to be $201.5 million every year. And since it’s “free” we should probably assume a total annual cost to taxpayers of $300 million because more will take advantage and (naturally) colleges will increase their tuition and fees to get in on this largess.

Yet as they say on the home shopping networks…but wait, there’s more.

As governor, Jealous will create a MD Careers program that partners with industry experts to determine growing job sectors, and incentivize education and training in these sectors by covering any education costs associated with entering the fields. Special priority will be given to service professionals like first responders, organized labor sectors like educators, and healthcare workers who can help drive down the cost of quality treatment for our population in the years ahead. The guarantee of free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate who commits to staying in Maryland for five years after they receive their degree.

This program will be paid for with a percentage of the savings generated by significant reductions to Maryland’s incarceration levels. This funding stream will stretch even further when one considers that training for in-demand sectors like construction rely on apprenticeships and technical training that are less cost intensive than traditional 4-year degrees.

As governor, Jealous will extend this guarantee to students pursuing graduate degrees at Maryland’s public institutions. This will be paid for by increasing Maryland’s cigarette tax, which is currently less than the cigarette tax charged by regional competitors such as D.C., Pennsylvania, and New York.

I love how he pointed out “organized labor sectors.” Like we need more of that.

So we come to the “savings” part. Jealous proposes to save our dollars by emptying out the jails.

Ben Jealous will reduce Maryland’s prison population by 30%. He will do so by ending returns to prison for technical violations, downgrading drug possession, expanding opportunities to earn parole, and investing in reentry programs. Doing so will create savings of up to $660 million.

Obviously the amount spent on free tuition is going to depend on the shape of the program, but more predictable is the increase in the cigarette tax. Maryland currently has a $2 per pack cigarette tax, which indeed is less than D.C. ($2.50), Pennsylvania ($2.60) and New York (tops in the nation at $4.35.) It’s even a dime less than Delaware’s and New Jersey comes in at $2.70 as well. (And then you have Virginia, second lowest in the country at 30 cents a pack.) Nor should we forget about the millionaire’s tax I cited above.

So let’s speculate that the cigarette tax of $2 a pack increases to $3, which would peg us just above the surrounding jurisdictions aside from Virginia and West Virginia. For FY2017 (the latest figures available) the cigarette tax raised $348.8 million. So a 50% increase in the tax brings a 50% increase in revenue, right?

Well, not quite. For taxes, there is almost always a lag between the rate of increase and the revenue increase. I’m thinking the difference in this case will be about 30%, although your mileage may vary. Total cost to taxpayers (particularly the poor and working class): $244.2 million a year.

On the other side of the scale is the tax on the “top 1%.” It’s harder to judge the impact based on a lack of parameters, but the “millionaire’s tax” of a decade ago reportedly brought in $120 million. I think with inflation, and the fact income taxes bring in $9 billion a year, that a 2% increase in revenue is a realistic estimate because there aren’t that many who would qualify. Total cost to taxpayers: roughly $180 million a year.

After that, there is another highly variable promise:

The guarantee of debt-free tuition will be extended to every Maryland high school graduate.

Jealous will offer this debt free path to graduation in the form of a state-financed work study program that pays students the cost of their tuition each year, including for public graduate schools. A significant part of this restructuring will also come from driving down the overhead costs associated with higher education: expensive book purchases, inflated rents, and non-essentials like luxurious gyms.

The obvious question is how many students would be eligible and how much of the tuition they will pay. Pennsylvania has a similar program where students are allowed to make $10,000 a year toward their college funding. If this is the case, for every 100 students that are accepted there’s a million dollars that has to come from somewhere, oftentimes from the college itself.

Jealous also desires the state get into the student loan refinancing business:

10 states currently offer refinancing programs for student loans. It is long past time that Maryland embrace its role as a national leader, and join these states in easing the often onerous financial burden that student loans pose for Marylanders.

Assuming the state can find the cash reserves, this is actually very inexpensive in comparison. A state study found other states run these programs for less than one million dollars a year, Total cost to taxpayers over five years: $5 million.

Lastly, Jealous wants to correct the supposed shortchanging of HBCUs in the state:

As governor, Jealous will reallocate future state-based funding streams for higher education to provide restorative funding that equals the historic underfunding of HBCUs in Maryland. Moreover, ongoing funding will be fixed to prevent this disparity in the years ahead. Jealous will also end the practice of allowing other public institutions to offer duplicative programs to those traditionally offered by HBCUs.

(…)

Under Jealous’ leadership, the state will begin to fund immediate infrastructure improvements at HBCUs using a percentage of the over $1 billion in general obligation bonds that it issues each year. Beyond improving the physical infrastructure of HBCU facilities, it will allow HBCUs to reallocate existing infrastructure spending to other programmatic investments.

It’s been claimed (by a minority member of the Maryland Senate) that HBCUs have been shortchanged by $2 billion over the years. I don’t think Jealous would try to eradicate that in four years, but over eight it would be a doable thing, simply increasing the $1 billion the state annually puts on its capital funding credit card by 25%. Over four years, this would be $1 billion in additional debt which needs to be paid eventually.

So, to total all this up: just for education at all levels, Ben is looking to ladle on at least $6.743 billion to the budget. In order to fill this gap, we will have to endure the adoption of an ill-considered amendment to the Maryland Constitution, the legalization and taxation of marijuana, increases in business taxes, cigarette taxes and income taxes for certain brackets, the emptying of our jails (with no telling how that will affect the crime rate), and squeezing people out of a legitimate business, refinancing student loans.

And that, my friends, is just for starters.

Now allow me to say that Ben seems like a nice, personable guy. I spoke to him a little bit at Tawes about a concern I had unrelated to this series, and he seemed receptive to help out. But in order to be informed, it should be known that his “free stuff” is going to come at a cost people may not be willing to pay.

Odds and ends number 86

As I culled the vast number of possible items I had in my e-mail box down to a manageable few for this latest excursion into stuff I can handle in anything from a couple sentences to a couple paragraphs, I took a break – then promptly forgot I’d started this and let it go for several weeks. Sheesh. So, anyway…

The election season is here, and it’s blatantly obvious that the Maryland Republican Party feels local Senator Jim Mathias has a vulnerable hold on his position. One recent objection was the vote to both pass and overturn Governor Hogan’s veto on House Bill 1783.

If you want a cure for insomnia you could do worse than reading all 53 pages of the House bill. But what I found interesting is the vast difference between the amended House version and the Senate version that never made it past the hearing stage. The bills were intended to codify the recommendations of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, but the House bill added two new wrinkles: eliminating the input of the Board of Public Works by upgrading the current Interagency Committee on School Construction to a commission and adding to it four new members (two appointed by the governor and two by the leaders of the General Assembly) and – more importantly for the fate of the bill – adding an appropriation to prevent it being taken to referendum. All those amendments came from the Democrat majority in the House Appropriations Committee, which meant that bill was put on greased skids and the other locked in a desk drawer.

Yet there wasn’t a Democrat who objected to this, and that’s why we have government as we do. It also proved once again that Senator Mathias is good at doing what the other side of the Bay wants – obviously since I have done the monoblogue Accountability Project since the term Mathias was first elected to serve in I know this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

But the fair question to ask is whether anyone else is listening? Results of a recent poll tended to be a little disheartening to me. According to the Maryland Public Policy Institute:

Marylanders support spending more money on school safety and career and technical education, according to a new statewide poll. But they are less enthusiastic about expanding pre-kindergarten or paying teachers more if those initiatives mean higher taxes or reductions in other services.

(…)

Broad majorities oppose paying more in income or property taxes to expand pre-K. Voters are against making cuts to roads and transportation (70% total less likely), public safety (70% total less likely), or children’s health insurance (77% total less likely) to afford expansion of pre-k education.

They should be opposing universal pre-K in general. Far from the days when kindergarten was optional and getting through high school provided a complete enough education to prosper in life, we are now working on taking children as young as 4 or even late 3 years old and providing schooling at state expense for 16 to 17 years – pre-K, K through 12, and two years of community college. This would be more palatable if public schools weren’t simply Common Core-based indoctrination centers, but as the quality of education declines quantity doesn’t make up for it.

For example, a real public school education would teach critical thinking, exhibited in these facts about offshore drilling and steps the industry is taking to make it safer. After all, logic would dictate they would want to recover as much product they invested in extracting as possible – spills benefit no one.

Interestingly enough, my friends at the Capital Research Center have also embedded a dollop of common sense into the energy argument.

This goes with the four-part series that explains the pitfalls of so-called “renewable” energy – you know, the types that are such a smashing success that the state has to mandate their use in order to maintain a climate that, frankly, we have no idea is the optimal, normal one anyway. (For example, in the last millennium or so we’ve had instances where vineyards extended north into Greenland – hence, its name – and times when New England had measurable snow into June due to the natural cause of a volcano eruption.)

Solar and wind may work on a dwelling level, but they’re not reliable enough for long-term use until storage capacity catches up. The series also does a good job of explaining the issues with the erratic production of solar and wind energy and the effect on the power grid.

On another front, the summer driving season is here and we were cautioned that prices would increase by the American Petroleum Institute back in April. Oddly enough, a passage in that API piece echoed something I wrote a few weeks later for The Patriot Post:

But while it isn’t as much of a factor on the supply side, OPEC can still be a price driver. In this case, both Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia have put aside their foreign policy differences and enforced an 18-month-long production cut between themselves – a slowdown that has eliminated the supply glut (and low prices) we enjoyed over the last few years. And since those two nations are the second- and third-largest producers of crude oil (trailing only the U.S.), their coalition significantly influences the market.

Finally, I wanted to go north of the border and talk about 2020. (No, not THAT far north – I meant Delaware.)

Since Joe Biden has nothing better to do these days and needs to keep his name in the pipeline for contributions, he’s organized his own PAC called American Possibilities. (He’s also doing a book tour that comes to Wilmington June 10, but that’s not important for this story.)

A few weeks ago his American Possibilities PAC announced its first set of candidates, and so far they’re uninspiring garden-variety Democrats. Supposedly they were suggested by AP members, but we have two incumbent Senators in vulnerable seats (Tammy Baldwin and Jon Tester both represent states that went to Donald Trump), current freshman Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida (another Trump state), and challengers Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey.

As of this writing, all are still in contention; however, this comes with caveats. Baldwin and Tester are unopposed in their upcoming primaries for Senate seats, Houlahan and Kim are unopposed for nomination as well, and Murphy has token opposition. The one race that will test Biden’s “pull” is the NJ-11 race, where Sherrill is part of a five-person race on the Democratic side to replace retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a GOP moderate. All three House challengers Biden is backing are trying for GOP seats, as a matter of fact – no insurgents here. We’ll see in November if he fails.

Shifting sides on the political pendulum, here’s some good political news from our friends at the Constitution Party:

We received great news this week! The Constitution Party effort to gain ballot access in North Carolina exceeded the required number of registered voter signatures to qualify for ballot access in 2018 and 2020.

To do this they needed 11,925 valid signatures in a timeframe that stretched about five months – so far they have over 16,000 total signatures and 12,537 have been declared valid (at least until the NCGOP sues to deny them access because it will be deemed to hurt their chances – see the Ohio Libertarian Party cases for examples of this.) If that development is avoided, it will be the first time the Constitution Party has had ballot access in the state.

Honestly, I believe the two “major” parties should be made to live with the same petitioning for access standards the minor parties do. If they are that popular then it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Once the 2018-22 cycle gets underway, perhaps the same thing should be tried in Maryland.

Lastly is a housekeeping note: in updating my Election 2018 widget, I’ve decided to eliminate for the time being races that are unopposed and focus on the primary races only. So you’ll notice it’s a bit shorter.

After seven weeks of interim, now you know the truth: writing delayed is not writing denied.

41st annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

For some reason the vibe seemed a little different to me this time around – maybe it’s because this is the first one I’ve attended as an erstwhile political participant. But at 10:00 I rolled into town and got my ticket (this was a first, too – more on that in a bit) so I started looking around while I was there. Immediately I found there was still one constant.

Bruce Bereano probably brings half the people down there, and I’m not kidding. If you consider that the political people are a significant draw to this festival, and his massive tent is annually chock-full of Annapolis movers and shakers, one has to wonder just what would be left if he ever pulled up stakes. Would they have a crowd like this?

But the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce (as event sponsor) has its own ideas on VIP treatment.

For an additional $15 fee on top of the ticket price, you could get access to this tent with its amenities. It was an answer to some of the corporate tents that were doing this anyway. Many of those were still doing their thing.

Most of the people were already in line at 11:30 waiting on lunch. While the ticket says 12, if you wait until then you’re waiting for food.

But let’s face it: the media doesn’t really come here to see food lines, although that’s where I found this crew from Channel 47, WMDT-TV.

No, the real draw for this edition was the potential 2018 candidates. Until the last couple cycles, odd-numbered years were somewhat sleepy because the campaigns weren’t really underway yet, while the even-numbered years saw Tawes fall on a date less than two months before the primary. That’s now flipped on its head because the primary was moved up to June, so this is the last Tawes before the 2018 primary. So several contenders were out scouring for votes – none, I would say, moreso than this guy.

State Senator Jim Mathias (standing, in the gray shirt) has a huge target on his back that’s far larger than the logo on the front. He is the one Democrat Senator on the Eastern Shore, and the GOP sees his seat as a prime candidate for taking over next year as they need to flip five Senate seats to assure themselves the numbers to sustain Larry Hogan’s vetoes.

To that end, Mathias was the one candidate who had his own supporter tent. To me, that was interesting because most of the local Democrats that I know spent their time milling around the Mathias tent (wearing their own gray shirts) and didn’t hang out at the “regular” Democrat party tent.

Just a couple spots over from Mathias was the Somerset GOP tent.

Now you’ll notice I said Somerset. For whatever reason, Wicomico’s Republicans chose not to participate this year and there were few of my former cohorts to be found. Since that’s how I used to get my tickets, I had to make alternate arrangements this time. That’s not to say there weren’t Wicomico County Republicans there such as County Executive Bob Culver, Judge Matt Maciarello, Salisbury City Councilman Muir Boda, and many others – just not the Central Committee.

Closer to their usual back corner spot were the Democrats.

Their focus seemed to be more on the larger races, as even their state chair Kathleen Matthews was there. Here she’s speaking with Crisfield mayor Kim Lawson.

(Lawson has a smart-aleck sense of humor I can appreciate. When a photographer introduced herself as being from the Sun, he thanked her for making it a little cooler here than back home. I got it right away, she looked befuddled.)

The small posse you may have noticed in the original photo of the Democrats’ tent belonged to gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross, who eventually caught up to them at the tent.

I asked Ross what he would do differently than the current governor, and he said he would focus more on education. One thing I agreed with him on was something he called a Democratic “failure” – focusing too much on preparing kids for college when some aren’t college material and would be better suited for vocational training. But he limits himself in the palette of school improvement and choice to public and charter schools, whereas I believe money should follow the child regardless. Ross also has this pie-in-the-sky scheme about government credit to working moms for child care which I may not quite be grasping, but one assumes that all moms want to work. I think some may feel they have to work but would rather be stay-at-home moms.

The thing that stuck out at me was his saying that when two people disagree, at least one of them is thinking. You be the judge of who ponders more.

But the Democrats’ field for the top spot is getting so crowded that I got about five steps from talking to Ross and saw State Senator Richard Madaleno, another candidate.

Having done the monoblogue Accountability Project for a decade now, I pretty much know where Madaleno stands on issues – but I was handed a palm card anyway. Indeed, he’s running as a “progressive.”

And then there’s this guy. I didn’t realize he was talking to the state chair Matthews at the time, but I wonder if she was begging him to get in the governor’s race or stay out of it. I suspect state Comptroller Peter Franchot is probably happy where he is.

Franchot is probably happy because he works so well with this guy, the undisputed star of the show.

This turned out to be a pretty cool photo because I was standing in just the right spot to see his car swoop around the corner, come to a halt, and watch the trooper open the door for Governor Hogan to emerge.

If you follow me on social media you already saw this one.

Say what you will, and Lord knows I don’t agree with him on everything: but Governor Larry Hogan was treated like a rock star at this gathering, to a point where he could barely make it 50 yards in a half-hour.

This would have been of no use.

I said my quick hello to Larry moments before WBOC grabbed him for an interview, and that’s fine with me.

Here are two ladies who were probably glad he was there, too.

In her usual pink was State Senator Addie Eckardt, while Delegate Mary Beth Carozza was in her campaign blue. And since Carozza told me she treasures my observations, here are a couple.

First of all, it’s obvious that Jim Mathias is running scared because why else would he spend the big money on a tent and dozens of shirts for the volunteers that showed up (plus others who may have asked)? Not that he doesn’t have a lot of money – the special interests across the bridge make sure of that – but Mathias has to realize there is some disconnect between his rhetoric and his voting record. And he’s not prepping for a major challenge from Ed Tinus.

A second observation is that most of the Mathias signs I saw driving down there were flanked by signs for Sheree Sample-Hughes, and you don’t do that for a Delegate seat you were unopposed for the first time you ran. Something tells me Sheree has a higher goal in mind, but it may not one worth pursuing unless the circumstances were right.

One thing I found out from the Democrat chair Matthews is that at least two people are in the running against Andy Harris and were there. I didn’t get to speak with Michael Pullen, but I did get to chat for a bit with Allison Galbraith.

So when I asked her what she would do differently than Andy Harris, the basic response was what wouldn’t she do differently? We talked a little bit about defense, entitlements, and health care. Now she is against government waste (as am I) but I think my idea of waste is somewhat different. She also claimed to have saved some sum of money based on her previous work, but I reminded her she would be one of 435 and there seems to be a “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality in Congress. (I should have asked her who she would pattern herself after as a Congresswoman.)

But in the end, I was hot, sweaty, sunburned, and dog tired. I will say, though, that despite the rancor that seems to be pervasive in our world these days when it comes to politics most of the people in Crisfield got along just fine. I think I was very bipartisan in speaking since I talked to many GOP friends and met some of these Democrat candidates I didn’t know so I had an idea who they were. And who knows? I haven’t checked yet, but I may be on the Sun‘s website – that same photographer Lawson joked with took my photo later while I was asking Ross questions and got my info.

By the time we do this next year, we will know who’s running for office and the campaigning will be more serious. So will the eating for the 50% that don’t care about politics and never wander by Bereano’s massive setup. As long as the Tawes event can cater to both they should be okay.

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 right idea but with the wrong approach

I find the controversy over Governor Hogan’s executive order mandating that Maryland public schools begin classes after Labor Day and wrap up by the following June 15 to be a good opportunity for commentary, so I decided to add my couple pennies.

First of all, this isn’t a new idea. In 2015 and 2016 legislation was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to create a similar mandate. As proof of how Annapolis works, the 2015 versions only got House and Senate hearings but the 2016 versions picked up the remaining local House delegation as sponsors (only Delegates Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto were local co-sponsors in 2015) and got a Senate committee vote. (It failed on a 5-5 tie, with one of the Republicans on the committee being excused. The other two voted in favor.) There was a chance this legislation may have made it through in 2017, but apparently Hogan was unwilling to take the risk. He took the opportunity to make a news event at a perfect time – when most local districts were already a week or two into school, Larry announced this from the Ocean City boardwalk on a pleasant beach day – and showed he was willing to stand up for one of his principles, that being improving opportunities for small business. (At a minimum, with Hogan’s edict kids are off for 11 weeks for summer vacation.)

In reality, what Hogan has done is shift the calendar backward by about a week: for example, Wicomico County public school kids had their last day of school June 9 and returned August 29 and 30. But the thought process is that families are more likely to take a vacation in July and August than they are in June, so because Ocean City is a great tourist attraction the state should follow Worcester County’s lead and begin school after Labor Day. (They simply went an extra week into June, concluding on June 17 this year.)

Granted, our family has enjoyed a post-Labor Day start for a number of years since parochial schools have more calendar flexibility: our child began her summer vacation after classes ended June 3 and returns on Tuesday the 6th. Growing up, I seem to recall the city schools I attended began after Labor Day and went into June but the rural school I graduated from began classes in late August and was done by Memorial Day. (We had a longer Labor Day weekend, though, because our county fair runs that weekend and the Tuesday after Labor Day was Junior Fair Day. Thirty-odd years later, it still is.) The point is that each of these localities knows what works best, so I can understand the objection from those who advocate local control of school schedules. And talk about strange bedfellows: I’m sure many of those praising Hogan’s statewide mandate locally are also those who have fought for local control of our Board of Education – after at least ten years of trying, we finally have a chance for local control (as opposed to appointments by the Governor) over our Board of Education through a referendum this November. (I recommend a vote for the fully-elected Option 2 on Question A.)

So I agree with the objections on those grounds, even though I personally think a post-Labor Day start is a good idea based on the school calendar typically used. (If I truly had my way, though, we would adopt a 45-15 style plan so that summer break is somewhat shorter and kids spend less time relearning what they forgot over the break.) What I don’t see as productive are those who whine about how this would affect preparation for particular tests – that shouldn’t be the overall goal of education. Obviously they would be the first to blame the calendar (and by extension, Larry Hogan) if test scores went down. But Hogan’s not alienating a group that was squarely in his corner anyway, as the teachers’ unions almost reflexively endorse Democrats, including his 2014 opponent, and mislead Marylanders about education spending. It’s increased with each Hogan budget – just not enough to fund every desire the teachers have.

Come January, it will be interesting to see if the Democrats attempt to rescind this executive order through legislative means, daring Hogan to veto it so they can override the veto and hand him a political loss a year out from the election. While most Marylanders are fine with the change, the Democrats are beholden to the one political group that seems to object and those special interests tend to call the tune for the General Assembly majority.

Yet the idea that the state feels the need to dictate an opening and closing date to local school districts is just another way they are exerting control over the counties. We object when they tell us how to do our local planning, so perhaps as a makeup for this change our governor needs to rescind the PlanMaryland regime in Annapolis.