Thursday, August 23, 2012

Texas Democrats: Judge who said Obama could trigger civil war should resign

Is this some shuggity or what?

Texas Democrats: Judge who said Obama could trigger civil war should resign
By Josh Levs, CNN

CNN) -- Texas Democrats are calling for the resignation of a Republican elected county judge who warned this week that the nation could descend into civil war if President Barack Obama is re-elected.

"It's really up to Judge (Tom) Head to do the right thing and resign and stop embarrassing Lubbock County," said Kenny Ketner, who became the county Democratic Party's chief Monday.

"I wish we were getting worldwide attention for something better than a crazy county judge," Ketner told CNN. "But what are you going to do?"

There is no recall process for Head's office in Texas, Ketner said.

The county's Republican Party chief, Carl Tepper, accused the Democrats of "opportunism" and said he called Head and left him a message offering "moral support."

"I don't agree with him, but everyone has their opinion. I can respectfully disagree with him and he can still be an elected official," Tepper said.

While Tepper said he has not heard from state Republican Party chiefs, the Texas Democratic Party did weigh in with a statement.

"This nonsense is what passes for mainstream in today's Republican Party," the statement said. "It's not only ridiculous, it's dangerous. It's crystal clear that Judge Head should resign."

In his remarks this week, Head called for a trained, well-equipped force to battle the United Nations troops that he said Obama would bring in.

The comments by Head, who oversees emergency planning efforts, were broadcast by CNN affiliate KJTV. He made similar remarks on radio station FOX Talk 950.

Saying that as the county's emergency management coordinator he has to "think about the very worst thing that can happen and prepare for that and hope and pray for the best," Head told radio host Jeff Klotzman that he believes "in this political climate and financial climate, what is the very worst thing that could happen right now? Obama gets back in the White House. No. God forbid."

Referring to unexplained "executive orders" and other documents that Obama and "his minions have filed," Head said, "regardless of whether the Republicans take over the Senate, which I hope they do, he is going to make the United States Congress and he's going to make the Constitution irrelevant. He's got his czars in place that don't answer to anybody."

Obama, Head said, will "try to give the sovereignty of the United States away to the United Nations. What do you think the public's going to do when that happens? We are talking civil unrest, civil disobedience, possibly, possibly civil war. ... I'm not talking just talking riots here and there. I'm talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator. OK, what do you think he is going to do when that happens? He is going to call in the U.N. troops, personnel carriers, tanks and whatever."

Head vowed to personally stand "in front of their personnel carriers and say, 'You're not coming in here.' And I've asked the sheriff. I said, 'Are you going to back me on this?' And he said, 'Yeah, I'm going to back you.' Well, I don't want a bunch of rookies back there who have no training and little equipment. I want seasoned veteran people who are trained that have got equipment. And even then, you know we may have two or three hundred deputies facing maybe a thousand U.N. troops. We may have to call out the militia."

Sheriff Kelly Rowe told KJTV there had been no conversation about such a civil war scenario. The two have discussed contingencies for emergency management, he said.

KJTV reported that the warning was linked to taxes. Head "indicates a tax increase is needed to shore up law enforcement to protect us," the station reported, adding that a tax increase is under consideration that "would largely benefit the district attorney and sheriff's offices. But the emphasis is more on salary competitiveness than doomsday scenarios."

Head made his controversial remarks Tuesday.

On Wednesday at a county commissioner meeting, he emphasized that his remarks were about "worst-case scenario in my opinion," and added, "Do I think those are going to happen? Probably not."

County Commissioner Gilbert Flores told KJTV he was "ashamed" of Head's remarks, and told the judge, "I think you better plan to go fishing pretty soon."

Attorney Rod Hobson jokingly put up U.N. flags outside his Lubbock office, KJTV reported. "When I saw the story I thought, once again, Lubbock is going to be the laughingstock of the entire nation," Hobson said. "What makes it so sad is he is our elected county judge, who is in charge of a multimillion-dollar budget. That is scary. It's like the light's on, but no one is home. ... I'd just like to think he's off his meds."

But video from the Wednesday meeting showed at least one citizen supporting him. "Judge Head, thank you, and God bless," the citizen said.

Head did not respond to an e-mail and phone call to his office Thursday morning.

Both Ketner of the county Democratic Party and Tepper of the county Republican Party said they have received many calls from people on both sides of the issue.

While many callers to Ketner have asked if there is any way to boot him from office, some have said they support the judge, Ketner said.

Tepper said he has heard from many Republicans split over the issue. "There's quite a divergent mix of views" within the party, he said. "Some people are very staunch defenders of Judge Head. And some people don't appreciate how he said what he said."

Democrats are pushing for members of the public to show up to a county commission budget meeting Monday morning. "Normally, nobody shows up," Ketner said.

But given the attention Head's remarks are getting, this meeting just might draw a crowd, he said.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

300,000 education jobs lost, White House urges investment

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Budget cuts are forcing districts to scale back on teachers and staff, resulting in larger class sizes and fewer school days, according to a White House report released Saturday.

More than 300,000 education jobs have been lost since the end of the recession in June 2009, said the report, which was prepared by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council.

"Think about what that means for our country. At a time when the rest of the world is racing to out-educate America, these cuts force our kids into crowded classrooms, cancel programs for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and shorten the school week and the school year. That's the opposite of what we should be doing as a country," the report quotes President Barack Obama from an address in June.

As a result of the cuts, the national student-teacher ratio increased from 2008 to 2010, from 15.3 to 16, the report said, reversing nearly a decade of gains. Typical class sizes are larger than the ratio because it includes teachers for students with disabilities and other special cases.

Some schools are also shaving the number of days students spend behind their desks by shortening the school week, school year and trimming programs like preschool and kindergarten, the report said.

The White House report, "Investing in our Future: Returning Teachers to the Classroom," highlighted the potential consequences of such cuts: lower graduation rates and overall achievement levels. Obama also discussed teacher hiring his weekly address.

The report, which comes in an election year for Obama, also stressed the need to invest in education and praised Obama's plan to provide $25 billion to prevent layoffs and strengthen public education, while slamming Republicans in U.S. House of Representatives for passing a budget that would cut non-defense discretionary spending by almost 20%.

Republican Mitt Romney's education plan emphasizes school choice over efforts to reduce class sizes, a stance he said was backed by some studies, and his experiences as governor of Massachusetts. Earlier this year, he said he frequently heard teachers seek smaller class sizes, but some of the worst-performing schools in the state had small classes.

"Just getting smaller classrooms didn't seem to be the key," he said.

The White House report echoed some campaign rhetoric, urging action to keep students from falling behind and touting Obama's American Jobs Act. The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association released statements Saturday in support of Obama's plan, warning of "poverty spiking and student enrollment increasing," and calling class size "a critical piece of the school improvement puzzle."

"The difference between the President's education budget proposals and those of Congressional Republicans highlights a choice between two fundamentally different visions for our country," the report said. "Nowhere is this contrast more clear than with regard to the choice about investments in teachers and educators as we enter the upcoming school year."

Florida GOP Takes Voter Suppression to a Brazen New Extreme

Here is another attempt by Republicans in Florida to suppress A. American and Hispanic voters.

Here is an excerpt:

Imagine this: a Republican governor in a crucial battleground state instructs his secretary of state to purge the voting rolls of hundreds of thousands of allegedly ineligible voters. The move disenfranchises thousands of legally registered voters, who happen to be overwhelmingly black and Hispanic Democrats. The number of voters prevented from casting a ballot exceeds the margin of victory in the razor-thin election, which ends up determining the next President of the United States.

A Good Teacher is Hard to Keep by By Sujata Bhatt

I would like to share this article by Sujata Bhatt.  The article is in the L.A. Times.  I read it and I immediately had to share it.  The article is text intensive so I will copy and paste the link for those who are interested in reading it.  I hope Superintendents and Education policy makers take note of this article as well.

Here is an excerpt from the article:
A great teacher can have a huge effect on a child's life. So, unfortunately, can a bad teacher. But in education, job performance has virtually nothing to do with opportunities for advancement. Teachers who are consistently successful with students are not given leadership roles that would allow them to reach students beyond their own classrooms, and if they don't have enough seniority, they can be let go without anyone seeming to care come layoff time. This is enormously frustrating.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was written by Joan Walsh

I just Preordered this Book!  Get it!

How scapegoat politics is dividing America and bankrupting the middle class
The size and stability of the American middle class was once the envy of the world. But changes unleashed in the 1960s pitted Americans against one another politically in new and destructive ways—while economically, everyone fell behind except the wealthy. Right-wing culture warriors blamed the decline on the moral shortcomings of "other" Americans—blacks, feminists, gays, immigrants, union members —to court a fearful white working and middle class base with ever more bitter "us" vs. "them" politics. Liberals tried but mostly failed to make the case that we're all in this together. In All for None and None for All, MSNBC political analyst and popular Salon columnist Joan Walsh traces this deeply disturbing dynamic as it has played out over the last forty years, dividing the country, poisoning its politics, jeopardizing its future—and splitting her working class Irish Catholic family as well.
  • Connects the dots of American decline through trends that began in the 1970s and continue today—including the demise of unions, the stagnation of middle class wages, the extension of the right's "Southern Strategy" throughout the country, the victory of Reagan Republicanism, the widening partisan divide, the increase in income inequality, and the drop in economic mobility.
  • Shows how liberals unwittingly collaborated in the "us" vs. "them" narrative and failed to develop an inspiring, persuasive vision of a more fair, united America
  • Explores how the GOP's renewed culture war—one which could conceivably make Rick Santorum president, and produced radical changes in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia—now scapegoats even segments of its base, as it blames the troubles of working class whites on their own moral failings rather than an unfair economy
As the United States becomes a "majority-minority" culture, while the GOP doubles down on racial and cultural appeals to rev up its demographically threatened white base in 2012, Walsh talks about race in honest, unflinching, unfamiliar terms, acknowledging not just Republican but Democratic Party political mistakes—and her own. This book will be essential reading as the country struggles through political polarization and racial change to invent the next America in the years to come

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paul Vallas’ new corporate partnership signs $18 million deal with Indianapolis School System

With the first day of school only weeks away; new administrators throughout the school system, including three brand new principals at Bridgeport’s three main high schools, and lots and lots of unfinished business, Paul Vallas and “The Vallas Turnaround System” have signed a three-year, $6 million dollar a year, deal with the Indianapolis School System.

The pattern is becoming all too familiar.

First came the state’s illegal attempt to take over the Bridgeport School System.

Instead of stepping back and developing an honest and fair process for moving forward, state and Bridgeport officials pushed forward, as the saying goes, like a herd of bulls in a china shop.

And that process introduced Connecticut to Paul Vallas and his $229,000 a year job to “turnaround” Bridgeport’s schools.

Then Vallas pushed through more than a dozen no-bid contracts, totaling about a million dollars a year, to bring in his team, including a number of people who actually worked for his private consulting company, “The Vallas Group.” (That doesn’t even count the $12 million in no-bid contracts for various computer software some of which was supposed to be ready but isn’t).

Then came word that The Vallas Group had signed a three-year; $1 million contract to help low-performing schools in his home state of Illinois.

Then came the additional news that The Vallas Group and Cambium Learning Group, a national, for profit company, were joining forces to market the “Vallas Turnaround System” to states, cities and schools around the country.

And now we learn that on July 24, 2012, the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners voted to enter into a contract with Paul Vallas and VOYAGER Learning, (a subsidiary of Cambium Education, Inc.), to turnaround fifteen Indianapolis schools. The price tag of which is $6 million a year for three years, the total amount not to exceed $18.1 million.

Each chapter was met with the same answer. No problem, according to Vallas and his supporters. He works very hard, more than 10 hours a day, even on weekends. That or, he is just the “supervisor” for other projects, or news, that his team takes care of the details, he only works on the big picture.

But the final answer was always the same, the students and taxpayers of Bridgeport will get his undivided attention.

Imagine Governor Malloy discovering that his Commissioner of Education or Commissioner of Economic Development or even his chief of staff took on a private consulting project that was 4 times their salary and then another one that was 18 times that amount.

Would Mayor Bill Finch be fine with his Chief of Police or Fire Chief or Chief of Staff taking on massive consulting jobs in other states while claiming to be fulfilling their legal and moral responsibility to the people of Bridgeport?

It’s unclear if Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education even knew that the Vallas operation was trying to pick up an $18 million project when they voted to extend Vallas’ contract earlier this summer.

It’s also not known when Governor Malloy, Mayor Finch, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor or the State Board of Education were told that while Vallas collected his $229,000 Connecticut salary, his team and corporate partners were agreeing to at least two projects totally nearly $20 million.

But just last Thursday the members of the State Board of Education showered Vallas with complements. One board member, Charles Jaskiewicz, told Vallas and Robert Trefry, the chairman of the illegal Bridgeport Board of Education, to “keep up the good work.”

And it is certainly not clear which would be worse. That Malloy, Finch, Pryor, Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education and the State Board of Education knew that Vallas was engaged in these other activities and chose not to say or do anything or that they didn’t know.

What is clear is that plenty of others knew. In fact, in their 2nd Quarter stockholder earnings conference call on August 8, 2012, Cambium Learning Group, Inc. (you can find them on the Nasdaq at “ABCD”), reported that while net revenues for Voyager Learning were down 33% over the year before, things were looking up.

According to their official corporate filings, the company told their stockholders and Wall Street analysts that “in June, the Company announced an exclusive partnership with The Vallas Group, Inc. to bring nationally known education reform leader Paul Vallas’ unique school improvement model to struggling schools across the nation.”

And then they added that, “during the first half of 2012, the Company was selected as the school turnaround provider for 15 schools in Indianapolis, IN…”

Meanwhile, in stark contrast to Vallas’ assurances that none of these contracts will diminish his ability to lead Bridgeport’s schools, there remain numerous questions about the impact Vallas’ actions, or lack thereof, will have on Bridgeport’s school children, Bridgeport’s schools and the taxpayers of Connecticut and Bridgeport.

Tonight, Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education is meeting. It will be interesting to see if the Malloy Administration or the Finch Administration or the Board itself begins to explain how this incredible situation was allowed to develop.

Battlegrounds: America's War in Education and Finance Review by John Pratt


Mr. Harris addresses the problems facing our educational institutions from a teacher's /parent's point of view in his book and it should be obvious to everyone that changes must be made - and soon.
Mr. Harris does a good job of explaining why and how our educational system came into being and why it's no longer working. He also addresses the factors in our society that have shaped, and continue to influence, the educational system. America is on the verge of losing its middle class and the distribution of wealth has never been so one sided. It would seem that a major underlying problem is the lack of accountability in America. From the politicians, to the wealthy, to the parents - even our children, it is apparent that passing the blame and responsibility, has become the norm in today's society.
Having spent time teaching part-time, I have seen the problems in our school systems first hand and know that our educators aren't paid enough and certainly don't get the respect, much less the help, they deserve. It's time to make changes, our future and your children’s, depend on it.
This is a must read book for not only parents but everyone that wonders why our school system, and society in general, is failing.

John M. H. Pratt

Here's where you'll find Mr. Harris's book:

Average Is Over Part Two by Thomas L Friedman

Published: August 7, 2012

A big mismatch exists today between how U.S. C.E.O.’s look at the world and how many American politicians and parents look at the world — and it may be preventing us from taking our education challenge as seriously as we must.

For many politicians, “outsourcing” is a four-letter word because it involves jobs leaving “here” and going “there.” But for many C.E.O.’s, outsourcing is over. In today’s seamlessly connected world, there is no “out” and no “in” anymore. There is only the “good,” “better” and “best” places to get work done, and if they don’t tap into the best, most cost-efficient venue wherever that is, their competition will.

For politicians, it’s all about “made in America,” but, for C.E.O.’s, it is increasingly about “made in the world” — a world where more and more products are now imagined everywhere, designed everywhere, manufactured everywhere in global supply chains and sold everywhere. American politicians are still citizens of our states and cities, while C.E.O.’s are increasingly citizens of the world, with mixed loyalties. For politicians, all their customers are here; for C.E.O.’s, 90 percent of their new customers are abroad. The credo of the politician today is: “Why are you not hiring more people here?” The credo of the C.E.O. today is: “You only hire someone — anywhere — if you absolutely have to,” if a smarter machine, robot or computer program is not available.

Yes, this is a simplification, but the trend is accurate. The trend is that for more and more jobs, average is over. Thanks to the merger of, and advances in, globalization and the information technology revolution, every boss now has cheaper, easier access to more above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius than ever before. So just doing a job in an average way will not return an average lifestyle any longer. Yes, I know, that’s what they said about the Japanese “threat” in the 1980s. But Japan, alas, challenged just two American industries — cars and consumer electronics — and just one American town, Detroit. Globalization and the Internet/telecom/computing revolution together challenge every town, worker and job. There is no good job today that does not require more and better education to get it, hold it or advance in it.

Which is why it is disturbing when more studies show that American K-12 schools continue to lag behind other major industrialized countries on the international education tests. Like politicians, too many parents think if their kid’s school is doing better than the one next door, they’re fine.

Well, a dose of reality is on the way thanks to Andreas Schleicher and his team at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which coordinates the Program for International Student Assessment, known as the PISA test. Every three years, the O.E.C.D. has been giving the PISA test to a sample of 15-year-olds, now in 70 countries, to evaluate reading, math and science skills. The U.S. does not stand out. It’s just average, but many parents are sure their kid is above average. With help from several foundations in the U.S., Schleicher has just finished a pilot study of 100 American schools to enable principals, teachers and parents to see not just how America stacks up against China, but how their own school stacks up against similar schools in the best-educated countries, like Finland and Singapore.

“The entry ticket to the middle class today is a postsecondary education of some kind,” but too many kids are not coming out of K-12 prepared for that, and too many parents don’t get it, says Jon Schnur, the chairman of America Achieves, which is partnering with the O.E.C.D. on this project as part of an effort to help every American understand the connection between educational attainment at their school — for all age groups — and what will be required to perform the jobs of the future.

“Imagine, in a few years, you could sign onto a Web site and see this is how my school compares with a similar school anywhere in the world,” says Schleicher. “And then you take this information to your local superintendent and ask: ‘Why are we not doing as well as schools in China or Finland?’ ”

Schleicher’s team is assessing all their test results — and socioeconomic profiles of each school — to make sure they have a proper data set for making global comparisons. They hope to have the comparison platform available early next year.

Says Schleicher: “If parents do not know, they will not demand, as consumers, a high quality of educational service. They will just say the school my kids are going to is as good as the school I went to.” If this comparison platform can be built at this micro scale, he says, it could “lead to empowerment at the really decisive level” of parents, principals and teachers demanding something better.

“This is not about threatening schools,” he adds. It is about giving each of them “the levers to effect change” and a window into the pace of change that is possible when every stakeholder in a school has the data and can say: Look at those who have made dramatic improvements around the world. Why can’t we?