Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cruising the Web

Jason Riley of the WSJ reports on the closing of a NYC charter school because it found it couldn't exist under the teacher union rules it had chosen to operate under. Here is an example of how union rules differ from non-union rules.
To understand how union work rules can impact the quality of a school, consider this passage from Steven Brill's "Class Warfare," in which he compares the teachers' contracts at Harlem Success Academy, a high-performing charter school in New York City, and a traditional public school that share the same building space and teach kids from the same socio-economic background.

"The Harlem Success teachers' contract drives home the idea that the school is about the children, not the grown-ups. It is one page, allows them to be fired at will, and defines their responsibilities no more specifically than that they must help the school achieve its mission. Harlem Success teachers are paid about 5 to 10 percent more than union teachers on the other side of the building who have their levels of experience.

"The union contract in place on the public school side of the building is 167 pages. Most of it is about job protection and what teachers can and cannot be asked to do during the 6 hours and 57.5 minutes (8:30 to about 3:25, with 50 minutes off for lunch) of their 179-day work year."

In the 2010, 29 percent of the students at the traditional public school were reading and writing at grade level, and 34 percent were performing at grade level in math. At the charter school, the corresponding numbers were 86 percent and 94 percent.
How surprising is it that students perform better in schools where teachers will spend extra time working with them than in schools where teachers have one eye on the clock so they are sure not to spend one extra minute helping students?

I've talked to teachers who have worked at union schools in other states and they tell stories about how the union rep would come by and tell them not to tutor students after school because that would extend past the negotiated end of the day for teachers. They would describe how those unionized teachers would time their arrival not to get to school a minute before that 8:30 start of the day. I can't imagine teaching that way, but then I regularly spend somewhere close to 3 hours a day in the school building outside the hours of the school day and then spend many hours in the evening and on the weekends. But then I teach at a charter school where many of my colleagues are putting in the same sort of hours all the time. And we enjoy our jobs.

On related news, it is very heartening to learn that Eric Holder has thrown in part of the towel on his totally political fight against the Louisiana school voucher program. Despite evidence to the contrary, Holder was claiming that the program exacerbated efforts at desegregation. And the Justice Department wasn't interested in allowing parents' voices to be heard even if those parents were minorities, the supposed subject of the suit.
As the Jindal administration began to mount a legal defense to the federal suit, a group of parents of students, mostly minorities, who had benefitted from the voucher program sought to intervene in the case. Justice filed a motion to oppose the parent group's request to have standing.
Holder still wants the Justice Dpeartment wants to be able to review the voucher program before recipients receive those vouchers. Bobby Jindal is not having any of that as he continues to fight for those poor, mostly minority children against Holder's politicized Justice Department.
“The centerpiece of the Department of Justice's 'process' is a requirement that the state may not tell parents, for 45 days, that their child has been awarded a scholarship while the department decides whether to object to the scholarship award. The obvious purpose of this gag order would be to prevent parents from learning that the Department of Justice might try to take their child’s scholarship away if it decides that the child is the wrong race," said Jindal. “The updated Department of Justice request reeks of federal government intrusion that would put a tremendous burden on the state, along with parents and teachers who want to participate in school choice."
Read the stories of those families who are benefiting from Louisiana's voucher program in an excellent profile by the Free Beacon.
Coretta Pittman goes well beyond the 40 hours of service required of parents whose children attend the Good Shepherd School in New Orleans. Last year she did 100.

She borrows her mother’s car to take her son Elias, a second grader, to Good Shepherd each morning rather than sending him to a public school across the street. She chooses to work part-time so she can volunteer.

Without a voucher, Pittman would not be able to send Elias to the private Catholic school.

“I love the school,” she said. “I wouldn’t switch him for anything.”

Pittman fears that without the program Elias’s future could be snuffed out, like her nephew. She gets emotional when talking about his death. “Me and my mother raised my nephew from the time he came home from the hospital,” Pittman said. “A year ago, he was killed. He was really smart. I think he could’ve done and been anything that he wanted to.”

“I just wonder if he would’ve had somewhere like Good Shepherd to go, what could have become of him,” she said. “And I’m just hoping that, I don’t want to ever have to wonder what could have become of my son.”

When we find Elias he is sprinting across the playground. Baton in hand, he nearly barrels his cheering classmates over as he finishes his leg of a relay race. We summon him over. Wearing a huge smile, he tells us what he wants to be when he grows up.

“I like math and numbers,” he says. “I want to be a mathematician and a doctor. I’d love to be a police. My auntie’s husband is a police.”

Elias’s favorite part about school: “I get to talk to my friends.”

“I don’t want to imagine what would happen if the program ended,” his mother says. “It gives my son choices and it gives me hope.”
But Holder doesn't really care about these families; he is more interested in appeasing teacher unions. The racial arguments the DOJ is trying to make are not based on the actual facts of how the voucher program impacts desegregation. And DOJ is ignoring that the system operates by blind lottery so that race doesn't even enter into the choices of which students get the voucher.

So why don't the Democrats work on building up their bench instead of relying on a woman who has been on the public scene for over 20 years?

It's official now. John Kerry has repudiated the Monroe Doctrine.

The White House is starting to acknowledge the second part of Obama's lie to the American people - people are not going to be able to keep their doctors. Just think of it as another shoe ready to drop.

And then there is the woman whom Obama touted as an example of the success of Obamacare is now saying that she can't afford to buy one of the policies under the program. It turned out that Washington state government made an error when it told her that she would qualify for a subsidy. And it seems that people who are due government subsidies are going to be the group for whom the federal website is least likely to be ready to serve.

And now we're finding out how porous still is to hackers.
President Barack Obama's site is riddled with security flaws that put user data of millions of people at risk and it should be shut down until fixed, several technology experts warned lawmakers on Tuesday.

The testimony at a congressional hearing could increase concerns among many Americans about Obama's healthcare overhaul, popularly known as Obamacare. Opinion polls show the botched rollout of the online marketplace for health insurance policies has hurt the popularity of the effort.

The website collects personal data such as names, birth dates, social security numbers, email addresses and other information that criminals could use for a variety of scams.

In a rapid "yes" or "no" question-and-answer session during a Republican-sponsored hearing by the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, Republican Representative Chris Collins of New York asked four experts about the security of the site:

"Do any of you think today that the site is secure?"

The answer from the experts, which included two academics and two private sector technical researchers, was a unanimous "no."

"Would you recommend today that this site be shut down until it is?" asked Collins, whose party is opposed to Obamacare and has sought to capitalize on the failures of the website since it opened for enrollment on October 1.

Three of the experts said "yes," while a fourth said he did not have enough information to make the call.
I'm sure that will encourage people to want to use the website. And it says a lot about this administration that they rolled out the site to begin with while knowing of these security flaws.

John Hinderaker read the report that warned the administration back in March that the website wasn't going to be ready and concludes,
A fair paraphrase would be: You, President Obama, are doing every single thing wrong.

Perhaps these stories why Obama is no longer proudly calling the program Obamacare and is now going back to calling it the Affordable Care Act.