California Education – Can You Buy Results?

Last week our district superintendent addressed our site concerning the current budget situation and how it will affect education. He posed an interesting question: “How is it that the 8th largest economy in the world ranks below the territories in education spending?”

Although it doesn’t change the point that was being made, some corrections to the facts should be pointed out. First, California ranks 11th as a world economy and we rank 47th among states in per student educational spending. More importantly, we rank 34th in SAT scores. This begs the question; does spending really have an effect on educational results? Even a quick glance at the two lists would indicate that the answer is no. The highest ranked state in SAT scores (Iowa) ranks near the middle in spending, while the state spending the most (Vermont) ranks 29th in SAT scores. Even in California, we rank higher in scores than many states spending more, but also lower than some spending less per student.

Due to the nature of our economy, it is unreasonable to even compare the cost of anything in California with that in other states directly. Everything in California costs more. It costs more to live in California, so it stands to reason that teacher salaries have to be more here than in other states. Construction costs are higher, as are maintenance and utilities. These are arguments (and there are others) for increased spending in California.

On the other hand, we have higher SAT scores than states spending more than we do per student. Does that mean that our programs are more effective than those states? Does that mean our teachers are better? Every state uses curriculum from only a few text book publishers. We all have the same material. We have the same or similar credentialing criteria. The biggest single factor seems to be the local economy.

Truth be told, the government has longago proven that the cost of something has little to do with its value. The local economy determines the time that parents have to spend with their children and that is the major determining factor of success.

Special Election… AGAIN?

I really would like to get away from writing about politics, but politicians keep doing really stupid things and too few people are taking notice. As a people, we just let them keep screwing things up for us. It seems more like we have given up than anything else.

I thought we elected these people to make laws, but all they can do is spend billions on special elections because they can’t make a decision. The special election next week is no exception. We are given six propositions, not so cleverly disguised as one, by giving them the names 1A through 1F, all of which are designed to give the legislature permission to take money previously designated by voters and us it in different ways to “balance” the current budget mess.

My initial thought is that we should boycott the election because it should not even be happening, but the tax and spend crowd would tthen pass all of these and our state would sink further into the abyss we are currently wallowing in. The money has already been spent, so we amy as well do the legislatures job for them… again.

1A creates a fund (from what?) that allows the government to spend however it sees fit and 1C, 1D, and 1E all allow money currently designated for specific purposes by voters to be used elsewhere. Even though some of these would take money from education, the CTA wants them all passed. That’s because the CTA does not care about education, it only wants more taxes for more government. 1B forces the government to pay back the money it has taken from schools this lat year. 1F prohibits pay increases for legislatures while the budget is in deficit. I think I will vote yes on 1B and F.

Truth be told, the legislature put all of these on the ballot because they are incapable of doing their jobs within the confines of the state constitution and the will of the voters so now they want a panicked voting public to give them permission to spend money however they want. Isn’t that what got us into this mess in the first place?

Change? What change?

In President Obama’s first two weeks he has sent missile strikes into Pakistan, ordered $800 billion in bail out money and alienated Speaker Pelosi… so what’s changed? I realize, as does the president, that the current economic circumstances will take years to recover, but what the new administration is about to learn is how little the government has to do with the economy. What surprises me is that President Obama’s strategy is exactly the same as that of President Bush.

Our new president has also continued to surround himself with advisers with questionable backgrounds and connections. Our treasury secretary should be in jail for income tax evasion. The secretary of state has a foundation with her husband that accepts donations from governments with adversarial attitudes towards the US. Most recently, the nomination for health secretary is reported to have accepted what amounts to bribes (he called them “speaking fees”) from health care groups with vested interests in his upcoming decisions. Yet, his rock star status continues.

The economy continues to worsen. Government bail outs do nothing to help the people who are losing their homes. Lenders rescued by the feds are now giving creative loans to homeowners, but many of these modified loans will have adjustable rates that could skyrocket again in about 2011. Remember 11-12% interest rates during Carter’s leadership (I use the term loosely)? We have to prepare for that possibility.

Truth be told I hope I am wrong, but the best we can do is prepare for the worst.

Governator: What Happened?

Five years ago the people of California removed Gray Davis from the governor’s office. The reasons we had for recalling Gov. Davis were mostly centered around his dishonesty concerning the economic situation of the time and his tax plan. Additionally, the fiscal security of or state was in serious jeopardy, most believed, because of the corruption in Davis’ administration. We replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger who promised to protect us from economic corruption and from the extreme special interest groups trying to take over the policy making of our state.

After a one year honeymoon, and subsequent re-election, Gov. Schwarzenegger began to reaveal his true nature and has since been catering to the far left idealogues and doing much of what we elected him to protect us from. Our economy is every bit as bad as we feared Gray Davis would lead us into, the mortgage and real estate market is alarmingly similar to the Enron scandal, and the secular progressives who would destroy our nation are well on their way to destroying California, embraced by the governor.

The most recent evidence of the conversion of the Governator to the left is his switch on gay marriage. He would rather cater to the liberal agenda than defend the voters that he supposedly represents. The governor is completely wrong on this one, for at least two reasons.

First, attempting to turn the issue of gay marriage into a civil rights issue is an insult to those who fought the civil rights fight. Civil rights include the right to own property, freedom of religion, and the right to express one’s self. Civil rights include equal pay for equal jobs, equal protection under the law and equal opportunity. Some may believe that gay marriage falls under the category of equal protection or opportunity; however, neither opportunities nor protections are included in marriage. Marriage is an institution with a long-standing definition as the union of one man and one woman with the intent of forming a family. Marriage is not a civil right. Marriage does not give any couple any further rights than they would have under civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Second, the people have spoken on this issue, at least twice. The governor is supposed to protect us from liberal judges and extreme special interest groups. We, the people of California, passed a law which was overturned by judges with a liberal agenda who told the people that we could only pass this law with a constitutional amendment. Well, here it is. The governor’s job now is to enforce that law, not enable and encourage those who break it.

I have often heard it said that your right to swing your fist stops at the end of my nose. Truth be told, gay marriage is hitting my nose and it is time to stop this hatred toward people of faith by those who would twist marriage, which is created by God, into a perversion of it.

What Next? A Summary of VOTE08

Obviously, we have made history. Some are claiming that they have helped “change the world” and I think that it is a bit premature for that analysis. Electing an African American president does not change the world or even our nation. The fact that we have elected an African American president is evidence that our nation has changed. When the color of our president no longer matters, then we can say that our nation has truly changed.

Much more important than the color of our president is the policy that will come out of this White House and Congress. What we know or Pelosi and Reid (and others) is that policy can not be liberal enough. Obama has the reputation of being the most liberal in the senate. According to his speech on election night, he wants to unify the nation. If he follows this rhetoric with actual governing from that position we will see two key results. First, the leftist ideologues and press corp that is largely responsible for getting him elected will feel betrayed and be very angry. Second, the nation will unify and the world will see us as less divisive and a stronger ally.

Some are saying; “he is not my president,” but he is our president and he is (or will be) the leader of the greatest nation on earth and we must unite behind our leader. Karl Rove said it best when he told us that we should work with our president, persuade him when we can and oppose him when he is wrong.

There are two aspects of our national circumstance over which President Obama has no control. The first is the war in Iraq. Three possibilities exist; it may be over before inauguration, he may be convinced to let General Petraeus complete the task since the surge is working and progress is being made, he may decide to pull the plug and we will be fighting the same terrorists on our soil within his administration. The second aspect beyond the control of the President (any president) is the economy. Most people blame the president, but Congress, consumer confidence, and economic powerhouses like the oil cartel who set price and production determine the state of the world economy, not the President. A friend of mine described it as dropping a new captain on the deck of the Titanic right after the iceberg was struck… too late, won’t matter. The only thing we can do to save our economy is to cut taxes and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I don’t know how the rest of the country decided, but T. Boone Picken’s plan was voted down in California. Only time will tell how the people will respond, but in the 1930’s we began a rash of new thinking that pulled us out of the Depression. It took 20 years, but, by necessity, brought us to new thinking and new ways of doing things. That is what we need now.

Speaking of California… We voted to preserve marriage, but we indicated that the comfort of chickens is more important that parents talking to their daughters before killing a fetus. Go figure! Meanwhile, we have elected to spend billions on the investigation of the possibility of maybe building a high-speed train. The people who support gay marriage really believe that it is a “right” and so they will continue to fight and have already called for law suits and to place a new initiative on the ballot for the next election. Because they believe that marriage is a civil right, they see this as a battle equal to the “separate but equal” issues of racial discrimination. I hope we can ensure the rights of everyone and still protect marriage, which I believe is not a right, but an institution ordained by God and my religious beliefs and not to be twisted into something that it is not. Governor Schwarzenegger has just announced mid-year budget cuts, including $2.5 Billion from education this year. Teachers will lose their jobs and classes will become more crowded. There is less tutoring available and less support for students in general, but the expectations for standardized test scores continue to be raised. As the saying goes: “we have been doing so much with so little in such a short time for so long, that soon we will be expected to do everything with nothing in no time at all.”

Truth be told, only time will tell what the next 4 years will bring. I pray for my leaders, even (and maybe especially) when I disagree with them. Again I hope that the next 4 years are so properous and posititve that I will want to re-elect President Obama, but I haven’t decided yet. I am certain that it will get worse before it gets better.

To sum It All Up… The propositions (part 3)

Well, here it all is. For those of you who can’t fill out and mail that absentee ballot or are filled with trepidation of facing the polling place next week. I know what you’re all thinking: “if only I knew how Kirk was voting on these… then I could make up my mind.”

1A – Take the fast train, or not. This is too expensive. It might be a good idea, but not now. Vote no.

2 – Protect the animals? Truth is, we already have laws for this. We don’t need more money spent to make duplicate laws and form committees. If you don’t like a way a company treats their animals, don’t buy from them. Let the system work. Vote no.

3 – For the Children, or the hospital beaurocrats? We just gave the same people a 10 year bond 2 years ago. What did they do with it? More accountability and no more money until you do. Vote no.

4 – Parental notification. The anti ads say this will endanger children. The only thing it endangers is Planned Parenthood profits. Don’t let a stranger take our daughters to get abortions without us knowing about it. Keep parenting rights with the parents. Vote yes.

5 – Non violent offenders rehab. This is the only measure on the ballot that saves us money. The program has been working, let’s expand it. Vote yes.

6 – Police funding. I hate t be stingy, but things are tough all over. I thought abut voting yes, because I don’t want to hurt law enforcement, but if 5 passes they have the money right there. Vote no.

7 – Energy A. This is the bad one. Not enough results. Creates a committee that will force energy companies to comply, but the consumer will pay much more. Vote no.

8 – Protect marriage. We already passed this and the liberal judges ignored us. The constitutional amendment can’t be ignored. It’s not about rights, it’s not about freedom. It’s about stopping people from forcing their liberal agenda down are throats and forcing our children to learn morals in school that we, as parents, don’t agree with. Ignore Jack O’Connell. Look at Massachusetts. Vote yes.

9 – Victim’s Rights. Victims already have these rights. This is an unnecessary law. Vote no.

10 – Energy B. This is Picken’s Plan. Google it. Sure, he will get richer (he’s a business man), but he may save our country in the process. This will cost more up front, but less to consumers in the long run and will encourage utility companies to develop clean energy rather than punishing them if they don’t. Vote yes.

11 – Redistricting. This takes the conflict of interest out of redistricting an lets a committee do it rather than congress. I usually vote against committees, but this seems like a good idea. Vote yes.

12 – Veteran’s bonds for homes. Give the returning soldiers an easier road to home ownership. Loans should be paid by the home buyers so no net cost to tax payers. Vote yes.

Well, that’s it. I am not going to say anything about candidates right now except that Alyson Huber’s ad really irritates me. It shows her running against some random “professional politician.” The deception is that she is running against small business owner, Jack Sieglock. He isn’t a professional politician. He has done a lot of good in Lodi and his county and now he wants to represent us in the State. Huber couldn’t find anything bad about her real opponent, so she created a fictitious one she could run against.

Truth be told, I think they all get paid. That makes them all professional politicians. Doesn’t it?

It’s About The Money… the propositions (part 2)

You have probably noticed that the economy is not having its best week monthyear. Yet, most of the propositions on the State ballot are asking for more spending. Five of the twelve propositions create bonds to be issued. What many voters do not seem to realize is that “bond” means “loan.” The state has to pay that money back, with interest.

Take the train: Prop 1 was removed from the ballot because it was poorly written and could have resulted in a $9.95 billion bond (pay back nearly twice that at $647 million per year) to do research that may or may not result in a high speed train. Prop 1A has replaced Prop 1 on the ballot and creates the same bond and associated costs to research, develop and build a high speed train system.

Things to consider: A high speed train could reduce individual transportation costs and reliance on fuel (at least for the consumer), but the train still needs energy to run and the money to build it has to come from our depleted state budget.

Energy:  There are two energy related propositions on the ballot. Prop 7 requires utilities to increase their clean energy production significantly. The cost to the state is only $3.4 million per year to monitor the adherence of the utilities. Prop 10 is part of the T. Boone Pickens Plan to reduce or eliminate our nations dependence on foreign oil. This proposition creates a $5 billion bond ($10 billion to pay back at $335 million per year) to fund research and construction of wind and solar energy producing sites.

Things to consider: Energy companies never increase their costs without increasing yours and mine. The energy produced as a result of prop 7 will cost us more, at least in the beginning. T. Boone Pickens is the 131st wealthiest man in the country. His plan will make him richer. It will also make our nation free of our dependence on foreign oil. All of the people I can find who oppose Pickens’ plan do so because he is rich and not because they disagree with the plan (although they say they do). Maybe they would like it better if he just agreed to give his money to Obama and let him “spread the wealth around.”

From the sublime to the ridiculous: The children’s hospital bond, Prop 3, creates a bond of nearly $1 billion which would cost twice that to pay back at $64 million per year. The bond provides for construction and renovation of children’s hospitals throughout the state and requires children’s hospitals to provide care for children with life-threatening and terminal illnesses.

Things to consider: I am all for children’s hospitals. Just last election I voted for a 10-year bond to support children’s hospitals. Wait, that was only 2 years ago. Who did what with that money? Maybe we should pay that back before we take out a new billion dollar loan. Don’t children’s hospitals already do the things required by this statutes? I would be concerned that there are those who would take advantage of us by asking for a billion dollars “for the children” when it is not really needed… just a thought.

Truth Be Told, when you look at where the money comes from and who gets it, you sometimes have an easier time deciding what to vote for and what to vote against. It is left to us as voters to decide if the proposition provides something worth the cost and if we can afford it or not. I’ll agree that some things are worth the money, even if we can’t really afford it. On the other hand, with the economy the way it is, I might just vote against anything that costs.

It’s Only Money… We Can Print More

The Democrats are blaming Bush, the Republicans point to the Democratic Congress, the lenders are blaming the consumer and the borrowers ask the banks why they were given a loan they couldn’t afford. So whose fault is this big mess?

The media is calling this the biggest economic crisis since 1929. It really started with Enron, although I don’t know if that led to everything else, the greed of Enron was not isolated to that company. Greedy lending institutions awarded mortgages to people who could not afford to make the payments when rates adjusted. They (both the lenders and the consumers) assumed homes would continue to increase in value, but they obviously didn’t. Dropping home values and rising mortgage rates combined with salaries that did not rise as expected (“I’ll be making more money by the time our mortgage adjusts”) to force thousands into foreclosure. Mortgage companies suddenly found themselves owning homes they could not sell for what was owed on them and the mortgage companies began folding like a house of cards. Investment bankers, who had invested in mortgage companies were in trouble. Stocks dropped sending the investment banks further into the red. This week, Lehman Brothers folded and took with them AIG, who was their insurer. The chain of events started with greed. False home values, unwise lenders and consumers, selfish politicians with ear marks and pork to benefit themselves and their cronies all contributed to what may be the closes we have been to total economic collapse in 80 years.

The big surprise to me is how the stock market has experienced its largest two day increase in over six years after the federal government pledged to bail out all these failing companies. Seriously?! What, in our nations history, has instilled such confidence in our government’s ability to handle money? Maybe it’s the record deficit. Maybe the money we just borrowed from China has encouraged investors to trust our government’s economic decision making process. Maybe Obama will get elected and raise our taxes enough to pay for it all. Maybe McCain will win the war on terror and Iraq will pay us back. Maybe not.

California is not any better off. The budget was 81 days late and no one in the legislature cares. They laugh in the face of the Governor when he threatens consequences. The Governor now wants to spend millions we don’t have on a special election to borrow money from the lottery. Isn’t that money supposed to go to education? Hasn’t Schwarzenegger raped the pubic schools enough? He also wants to create an emergency fund (with what?) to help prevent future financial emergencies.

Last year I opened a special account to save for a new TV. I hoped to siphon off a little each month and buy the big screen I have been waiting for. Now, I have to tell you, I am much better at managing my money that the State of California, and I can tell you that you can have as many accounts as you want; they do no good if you don’t have any money in them… I still don’t have a big screen TV.

Truth be told, we have poor leadership (that may be the most non-partisan group of all politicians), making selfish decisions. We have greedy corporations gouging the public with virtually no oversight. We are overtaxed and underpaid. We are under-insured. The government isn’t doing its job serving the people because it is too busy trying serve itself. We need good leadership, without more taxes. We need people to step up and do what is best for the folks rather than what seems best to themselves. I still say “fire em all!”

These too… two… three are useless

Sometimes something seems like a great idea at the time, and it might be, but after it runs its course, served its purpose, it’s time to let it go. Here are some examples of things that should go the way of the Dodo bird.

Labor unions. There was a time when saying this could get me killed, or at least unemployed. Labor unions did some great things for the American worker.  They created child labor laws, they stopped unsafe work environments and stabilized wages for similar jobs. However, what they mostly do now is force the work force to surrender a portion of their wages for the sake of “negotiations” and line the pockets of union leaders who spend union money to promote their own political agenda. The Teachers’ Unions are prime examples of this. They get kick-backs for promoting “benefits” for teachers that are no benefits at all. I am constantly receiving union sponsored mailings for car and home insurance at discount rates for teachers. The problem is that the offerings are significantly more expensive than other sources of the same service, but the CTA takes donations in exchange for promoting these companies. The biggest problem I have with unions is that they spend way too much time and money promoting a political agenda that usually has little or nothing to do with labor or the specific part of the labor force they supposedly represent. Union leaders get very wealthy from mandatory union dues. When they negotiate a contract they may force their laborers to strike while they, the leaders, continue to collect their salary. The unions no longer ensure that good workers receive fair treatment, they, more often, protect the jobs and wages of all workers, whether they are effective at their jobs or not. Unions no longer do what they were designed to do. They have left the arena of their purpose and expertise and become a negative influence on the work force.

Lobbyists. With apologies to my nephew, the entire lobbyist industry needs to disappear. At its inception the industry gave people a direct line of communication to law makers. However, once certain wealthy parties discovered that they could purchase influence they began perverting the system into what it has become. Now special interest with substantial funds persuade (bribe) law makers to create/support/sponsor laws that will benefit their own interests. Lobbying firms prostitute themselves to the highest bidder and law makers receive campaign contributions, conferences (read vacations), and other donations in return for their favor. Lobbyists do not represent the people any more than the electoral college (let’s get rid of that too).

Pork Barreling. Come on! How did this ever get this far? I understand the concept. Law makers negotiate for certain concessions so that they will support a law that benefits another law maker’s constituents in exchange for that law maker’s support of a law that benefits their own. However, now the majority of law makers tack on pork barrel riders to benefit themselves. If it keeps regressing the way it is, I’ll be writing about why we should eliminate Congress. Elected by the people for the people? No, more like elected by special interest money to benefit the highest bidder and the elected official. The vast majority of Congress is no longer running to help the people of their constituency, but to see what they can get out of it.

Truth be told, if you or I did the things that union leaders, lobbyists, and congressmen do every day, we would be in jail. If we don’t do something about it, we will be watching the complete disintegration of our country and we will have no one to blame but ourselves for our silence.

The Real Racists in Politics

With an African-American and a woman running for President, it seems unlikely that we could get through the entire campaign without discussing race and gender equality issues. It seems that both have waited for the other to bring it up, but Hillary drew first blood (albeit vicariously) and Barack has since been on the defensive. What has really hurt him, however, are the comments of his pastor, Rev. Wright, and (even more so) the response to that by the press and others. To his credit, Obama has been attempting to run his campaign outside of the race issue, but he was finally forced last week to discuss it at length. The jury is still out concerning the effectiveness of his speech, but it seems to be somewhere between “the best speech on race ever given” and “completely ineffective” depending on who you listen to.

Dinesh D’Souza wrote a great book on the topic, which I read some years ago, The End of Racism. He seems to confirm my own experience that racism now exists, mostly, for the sake of racism. Although there are still individuals with unjust biases towards those of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds from themselves, the barriers that once existed because of color and creed simply do not continue to exist in this country in the form which they once had. Don’t misunderstand me, there are still barriers. But the barriers that now exist are dependant upon an individuals financial status much more than anything else.

Of course there are those who seem determined to perpetuate racism as the cause of all things bad in America. Rev.Wright, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are chief among them. The so-called “Hip-Hop Culture” leads the way in making sure any person of color continues to feel oppressed and repressed. More significantly, they want to make sure that people stay angry and continue to point fingers and place blame.

Not only was Geraldine Ferraro wrong, but she illustrates what is so wrong with the liberal racism. They believe that a black man could not be president without relying on his color to propel him into the spotlight. They believe people of color could not get jobs or educations based on abilities, so they offer affirmative action to compensate. In the public schools we continue to be forced to analyze test scores and general performance according to race and then develop programs designed to help the “lower performing” races.

What is ironic is that when people claim that the need for special programs based on race no longer exists, they are labeled racist and it creates such an uproar that we simply stopped trying to fight it. So racism continues for its own sake.

Truth be told, I don’t mind a woman president, but I don’t want one who wants to be a “woman president.” I don’t mind a president who is black, but I don’t want a “black president.” I don’t want Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to be president because I disagree with their politics. One of the reasons I disagree with their politics is that their policies will perpetuate the divisions in America; along race lines as well as others. The real racists are those preventing the nation from moving past racism by promoting anger, hatred and blame.