Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekend Web Cruising

Garrett Epps, a professor of Constitutional law, explains the flaw in the 17th Amendment. This is the Amendment that allows for the appointment of a replacement senator by a state's governor. Since Obama's election and choice of so many sitting senators for jobs in his administration, we've seen unseemly selection stories in Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and Delaware. Epps is exactly right that the procedures allowed in the 17th Amendment give too much power to a single person, a state's governor. All states should hold special elections just as they do for House seats. If we can't get a new amendment through, states should, at least, change their laws to mandate special elections for Senate vacancies and strip the governors of that appointment power.

Tom Bevan notes Barack Obama's admission
in his SOTU speech that the health care plans provided by the Democrats did allow for government to have gotten between a patient and his or her health care decisions, something Obama had vowed he would not do. Obama's speech said that such provisions were "snuck in" to the Democrats' bills. And thus did Obama admit that one of the Republicans' prime accusations against the Democrats' plans was indeed accurate.

Rasmussen's recent poll shows that a plurality of Americans just don't believe the President in his claims on the economy or what his administration has supposedly accomplished in trying to improve economic growth. And 51% don't believe that the administration's policies are responsible for putting 2 million people to work. And only 9% believe that Obama's promised spending freeze will do anything to reduce the deficit. I guess this means that the President should simply give more speeches to explain to the American people how wonderful he and his policies have been for America.

Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, raised a few eyebrows when he claimed in a television interview that Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans." I think he's exactly right. Obviously, he wasn't talking about the loss of life and property, but about the opportunity it provided the city to dump failing policies and adopt some bold innovations. My daughter co-authored an article in 2006 about the hope for New Orlean's education system after Katrina and Duncan's words today acknowledge that the hope that grew up after Katrina is bearing fruit today.
And the progress that they've made in four years since the hurricane is unbelievable. They have a chance to create a phenomenal school district. Long way to go, but that -- that city was not serious about its education. Those children were being desperately underserved prior, and the amount of progress and the amount of reform we've seen in a short amount of time has been absolutely amazing.
Here's another tidbit that demonstrates that Louisiana and New Orleans are on the right track. In an analysis of the state's grant applications for Race to the Top funds, Kevin Huffman, the Washington Post's new columnist since winning their pundit contest, writes that Louisiana submitted a "clear, concise, actionable plan" that is beautiful in its simplicity. Some of the most exciting school reforms are going on right now in New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana. If only the rest of the states would learn from their example and adopt similar reforms without having to go through the destruction of a hurricane. Sadly, my own state of North Carolina refuses to raise the cap of 100 on charter schools in the state. This is a cap that has existed since 1997 and thus, proposals to attempt to duplicate the success of schools such as KIPP charters or my own school languish because there is no room for more charters under North Carolina's cap. Meanwhile, waiting lists to get into such schools balloon as parents hope to get their children out of the regular public schools and into these charters.

Sticking to local news and stupid decisions made by administrators in the Raleigh area, here are two stories that are riling up people. In the need to cut a million dollars from the library budget, the county's officials have come up with the idea of closing one of the largest and most popular of the county's branch libraries. They've chosen the Garner public library which serves a larger number of poor families who depend on the library's computers and books. Why it would be better to deny a huge swath of the county's poorer residents access to a public library than to limit hours or cut services across the board or in some of the wealthier areas of the county is unexplained. Though I suspect that administrators hope that, by cutting where it really hurts, they can build people's support for tax increases. Another story that is upsetting people hereabouts is the need to shuffle students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade classes around at this point in the school year in order to comply with state-mandated class size limits. Apparently, the county's school officials were hoping that they would get a waiver for exceeding class size limits. Now that the state has turned down those requests, perhaps hundreds of little kids will be moved to different classes or even perhaps different schools in the middle of the school year. And the schools haven't even hired those new teachers or found rooms for them to teach in. In state officials' view, such discombobulation in a child's school year plus the added expense of hiring new teachers and equipping those new classrooms is preferable to having one or two kids over the mandated limits. Everyone involved in this mess should be taken to the woodshed and then made to stand in a corner with a Dunce Cap.

Convicted felons are lining up for jobs to conduct the Census. Hmmm. What could go wrong with that plan?