Tuesday, February 28, 2006

N.C.L.B. Underfunded? Hah!

The Federal Government should not be playing a role in controlling our education system since that power was left to the states under our Constitution. However, when the states fail to properly educate our children, it becomes a national problem, threatening our security and economic well being. While the Federal government cannot directly control what goes on in our schools, it can achieve the same thing through the Federal Purse. States and School Districts will agree to do certain things in return for Federal dollars.

Over the years Congress and various administrations have sponsored education programs to address a plethora of issues. Overall, we cannot say things have improved because we are still dissatisfied with the results after 30 years of spending. A number of programs started out well intentioned, but may have created more problems because they came with unacceptable details.

For example, several years ago the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was intended to ensure privacy of student records. However, because of an expansive interpretation of what constitutes an "education record," FERPA has become an excuse for school districts to conceal what is happening in their classrooms, halls and buses. So, if you want to view a videotape of a class to see how your child is being taught (and how your hard earned tax dollars are being spent), you will be denied under FERPA because it violates the "privacy rights" of other parents'children who might be depicted on the tape. Even teachers have had problems in viewing tapes of their own classes. This is rediculous. THERE IS NO 'PRIVACY RIGHT" of students BECAUSE CONGRESS HAS NO CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY IN THIS AREA. Instead, what is happening is that your Federal tax dollars are being paid to get local bureaucrats to deny you access to the videotaped information. Was there ever a national problem of people getting into student's records with no valid reason? Who knows? The Federal interest in all this is really unclear -- but the purported NEED for FERPA would not be there (if it ever was) if local officials were handling students' records responsibly.

Another Federal requirement is that Special Education students be placed in the "least restrictive environment." This means that Special Ed kids are to be kept in the regular classsroom wherever possible. Common sense would dictate this because students taken out of regular class would miss what goes on in that class and fall behind. Apparently, the federal government recognized what was actually happening and tried to stop it: the wholesale segregation and warehousing of students who had fallen behind as "educationally disabled." The Federal Funds that were addressed to special ed came with a number of onerous "due process" requirements to make sure that student's "rights" are not being violated. As well intended as this was, it unfortunately resulted in a lot of litigation and paperwork, resources that would have been better spent on teaching children. Again, none if this would have been needed if the states had been doing their jobs properly.

Now we have the Federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) -- the latest national response to the national disgrace of our system of public education. Of course, the NEA is complaining about insufficient funding, and even local people are complaining about a lack of funding... What Nonsense. This act does nothing more than give money to the states and school districts to get them TO DO WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING ON THEIR OWN (WITH THEIR OWN MONEY): Using effective teaching methods and monitoring progress to ensure that ALL children are learning.. . . But for the educationists, there is NEVER enough money. .. and That will be their excuse when they Make NCLB fail.

But maybe Money for education is indeed the problem . . . Like too much ice cream will make you sick, perhaps there is so much money available for special programs (each with its own special administrative requirements) that our schools now spend too many resources on "compliance" issues and not enough on teaching. Perhaps the Fed should just get out of the Education business altogether and take its money with it.. . . and perhaps we would all be better off for it.

Technorati Tags:

Monday, February 20, 2006

A Quiet Presidents' Day Weekend . . .

Utica at Valley View, last year, when the snow was good

A quiet Presidents' Day weekend draws to a close. The tantalizingly brilliant days were simply too breezy and cold, and the snow was too patchy (in spite of the WeatherChannel's threats of "lake-effect"), for X-C skiing. It was a good weekend for household chores. Weatherwise, I suppose we can't complain this year. While not enough snow to ski, it was rather pleasant not to have to snowblow to get out of the driveway. It was certainly better than '02-'03 and '03-'04, which looked like the beginning of the next Ice Age. [I'm somewhat of a Global Warming Skeptic -- but I'll save that subject for another day]. Oh well, it's only 4 weeks and 1 day to spring -- and gardening!

One thing did get my attention this weekend: the story about Dubai Ports World acquiring the London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation. The latter company apparently controls operations in most of the U.S.'s major ports, and the former is apparently a corporate face for the Dubai government. I don't know about you, but this worries me. How can we allow our ports to be controlled by a foreign government? How could we have already allowed our ports to be controlled by a foreign corporation? Perhaps this was done in the same way we allowed National Grid (from the UK) to take over NiMo, or German RWE to take over American Waterworks (soon to be spun off). Perhaps this was done in the same way that "American" corporations have exported most if not all of their manufacturing overseas. (Can we really consider them "American" anymore?) Perhaps my worries may be attributed to the history lessons I learned in school (apparently no longer taught) on how we were able to convert our peace time assets to war production to protect ourselves and allies during the two World Wars. If our industrial capacity has been exported and our ports and utilities are foreign owned, what's to stop others from pulling the plug and walking in and taking over? I simply do not understand why the export of jobs and foreign control of vital operations are not viewed as national security risks.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Whining Educrats . . .

Did anyone catch the show on WCNY this evening "Making the Grade" about the state of education in New York? If not, it will be repeated Sunday, February 12, 12:30 pm. The panel included Commissioner Mills, Regent Botar, Mr. Lowengard (former Utica and now Syracuse Supt.) and the Buffalo Supt. It was the same old song ... the funding formula is wrong, we need more money, we need more programs, blah blah blah ... and a million excuses why the job of education has become so 'difficult.'

The most telling point during the entire program came in response to a caller. The gentleman related that he was a teacher who had taught in several very poor countries including Ghana, that children in those places could learn without any of the funding and luxuries we have here, and that we were spending more than enough on education. The response from the panelists: ignore the statement and talk about how more money is needed. If you didn't pay close attention you would think that the caller had asked for increased spending. They apparently never learned listening skills.

We have heard for many many years that our schools have not made the grade, and have seen one failed initiative following another. Regents competency tests, Regents Action Plan, the Compact for Learning, Shared Decisionmaking, "Higher Standards" . . . the list goes on and on. Schools consume more tax dollars and a greater percentage of total tax dollars than ever, and the results seem only to get worse. Why should the public believe anything that any of these so-called experts say when their track record has been so poor?

Technorati Tags:

Thursday, February 02, 2006

New Stores Ordered to Close

Because of a Pyramid Corp lawsuit a Judge orders stores to close in a new project in Watertown. This happened because the Watertown Planning Board failed to conduct an adequate environmental review when it approved the new project.


There are some similarities. Like Salmon Run Mall in W'Town, Pyramid Corp owns Sangertown Square, which is near newly built and occupied Consumer Sq. and the Orchard. As we found out last weekend, we now have overflows of raw sewage into the Mohawk in part caused by a "spate of recent development" which we all know has occurred in New Hartford. While I don't know it to be the case, the overflows suggest that the New Hartford environmental review may have been less than adequate.

What makes our situation more interesting is that (1) we have a clear environmental impact that is undeniable and (2) our "regionalized" sewer system visits damages on others who would be potential plaintiffs.

By default, the cost of solving the overflow problem will likely fall on ALL USERS of the sewer system: i.e., people in Utica, Whitestown and beyond, so the Part-County Sewer District could be a potential plaintiff. Additionally, if the situation results in a construction moratorium in Whitestown, Whitestown would be another potential plaintiff.

It certainly would be more than annoying if New Hartford is permitted to reap and keep the tax-base benefits of these projects to itself while passing on increased costs and restrictions to its neighbors who had no say in the matters.

Things could get very interesting if people are annoyed enough with New Hartford to want to make it so.

Technorati Tags: