Saturday, January 31, 2009

Yet Another Reason Not to Like HB1410 and SB5444

From The Oregonian, via Horse's Ass:

Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman gave a far more dire economic forecast in Portland last week than Oregon experts continue to present.

Krugman, a Princeton University economics professor and columnist for The New York Times, predicts — at a minimum — several years of a depressed economy. He calls the recession’s resemblance to the Great Depression “extremely frightening” and finds new signs of collapsing global trade shocking.

That vision starkly contradicts the opinions of Oregon economists, who generally predict the economy will bottom out this year and begin recovery in 2010. The discrepancy is partly philosophical, but could also reflect pressures on local economists to avoid presenting nightmare scenarios.
Making wholesale changes in the education system with the promise of future funding is a stupid thing to do when there's a very real chance that the 2010 legislative session could be just as difficult as this one is and 2011 may be flat.

I understand what the League of Education Voters is getting at, that this really could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink how we do the entire system. What I see is one long series of expensive changes without a financing mechanism to make them happen, and that's the poison pill that should give any one of our legislators enough reason to vote no.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In the Spirit of Bipartisanship

Via the Seattle Times:

Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, the House majority leader, said she thinks the balanced budget bill is a good idea, but members of her caucus will likely view it with suspicion because Republicans did not approach her party to push the bill in a bi-partisan fashion. She noted that all the bill's sponsors are Republicans so "there must be something devious going on."
My guess is that she probably said this as a joke, maybe one with a grain of truth to it in her mind, but a joke nonetheless. The trouble with telling jokes to the print media is that the humour doesn't always come through.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Harem of Buxom 18-year Old High School Seniors and I Would Like to Share a Few Words

Sure, I'm two weeks behind on this one, but Stacy, Stacie, and Stacey asked that I blog about it, so hey!

You've probably heard of the case of Matthew Hirschfelder, a piece of crap who taught choir in Hoquiam and was 33 when he began a sexual relationship with an 18 year old student. He was drummed out of the profession, as he should have been, but the outstanding question was to decide whether what he did was criminal. The girl, after all, was 18, and as the WEA correctly pointed out in their amicus brief to the appelate court there was some ambiguity to the law.

This, of course, pushed the EFF over the edge:

The WEA doesn't care that the teacher was in a position of authority over the student or that the victim was possibly coerced by that authority, only that the student was 18, so it shouldn't count.
...which requires a very jaundiced reading of the situation, but that's also to be expected.

It gets better, though, when the Court of Appeals goes and says that the WEA was right. Mike Reitz gets his outrage on:

Legal victory for the WEA: Teachers can have sex with 18 year old students

....which is a weak, pathetic, maudlin attack line that ignores the reality that the teacher in question still lost his job and will not teach in Washington State again.

...all of which ignore the piece that even if it isn't illegal, it's still a violation of the Professional Code of Conduct for Teachers. To wit:


Unprofessional conduct includes the commission by an education practitioner of any sexually exploitive act with or to a student including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) Any sexual advance, verbal or physical;

(2) Sexual intercourse as defined in RCW 9A.44.010;

(3) Indecent exposure as defined in RCW 9A.88.010;

(4) Sexual contact, i.e., the intentional touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a student except to the extent necessary and appropriate to attend to the hygienic or health needs of the student;

(5) PROVIDED, That the provisions of this section shall not apply if at the time of the sexual conduct the participants are married to each other.
Rep. Larry Haler out of the Tri-Cities has introduced HB1385, which would close the loophole. I think it's a bill we all should support, and I hope that it passes and becomes law. He's taking the right approach--actually fixing the problem, instead of shifting the blame. Bravo, Rep. Haler.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Rejected Viaduct Replacement Options

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Go to Brainstorm for Great Education Posts

.....and this from Kevin Carey, on merit pay for University professors, is a big part of the reason why. There's a lot in what he's said that could apply to K-12, too.

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You're Damned Right I'm Union

An exerpt from Mary Stays After School or--What This Union's About, a piece published in 1939 by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. They've since gone on to be a part of UNITE HERE!, a conglamoration with the hotel and restaurant workers unions. For more stories like this, I can't recommend enough the excellent Tales for Little Rebels by Julia Mickenberg and Philip Nel, which is a fascinating look back at labor's heyday.

"Maybe they are right," her father continued. "Yes, it would be a wonderful thing to have a union of the clothing workers...but must the women and the children pay for it? Must you go without enough food? Not have a decent dress and stockings to put on? When I come home at night, I am afraid to look my own daughter in the face because there is so much pain in it."

"I don't like to hear you talk like that," Mary's mother said, and Mary could not believe it was her mother's voice, it was so clear and strong. "You are their leader. They depend on you. You knew that all this would happen before you began this fight for the union. But you thought, and they all thought, that it was worth making almost any sacrifice for a chance to live with a little security, a little hope in this world. And you shouldn't change your mind now because the women and children are suffering. I am not different from the other women, and Mary is not different from the other children. They all can stand it and so can we. Are we suffering more than before the strike? I had the same worries then that I have now....always trying to make ends meet on your earnings....trying to make a home that we could live in with a little decency.....that Mary could play in. Now at least we have something better to look forward to. And if Mary can have all the things that the other girls have, she will be happy again. No, John, if we lose the strike then we can go back to the old days. But I wouldn't have you go back otherwise.
Unionism has changed, and what unions should do has changed. But I think at the end of the day it always, always will boil down to getting a little security and a little hope for my members, and that's not a bad thing for anyone to accomplish in this life.

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Monday, January 19, 2009


From a recent email I received from the EFF, containing their legislative recommendations for the year:

Require Schools to Have Budgets: State law does not require that any of the more than 2,300 schools in our state have their own operating budget separate from the larger district, making efficient management of resources next to impossible. Following a previous JLARC recommendation, the legislature should insist that management and senior staff at every school be responsible for properly allocating the education resources each receives.
Reading between the lines I'm seeing a call for weighted student funding here, which isn't the best idea ever to come down the pipe. I also reject the underlying premise that schools don't have their own budgets; mine does, and it's something that every teacher in the building is highly cognizant of.

I've asked them to send me more information about the JLARC piece they cite; I'd be curious to see just how it reads.

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Science is Freaking Amazing

From the Chronicle of Higher Education ($):

It was a case of invention by necessity.

While in Europe researching the origins of a poem, Timothy L. Stinson, an assistant professor of English at North Carolina State University, became frustrated with the limited methods available for determining where the original text came from and when it was produced.

"And then there was sort of this light bulb," Mr. Stinson recalled. "Wait a minute, they're on animal skin. Why can't we look at DNA?"

Indeed, in the age before paper was widely available and affordable, the written word was recorded on the hides of sheep, goats, and cattle. Shortly after Mr. Stinson had his epiphany, he began putting his idea into practice. Working with his brother, a biologist who has performed DNA extraction and analysis, Mr. Stinson is developing a method of using DNA to determine when and where medieval manuscripts were written. The approach will significantly improve the accuracy of the standard identification process, which typically relies on analysis of the author's handwriting and dialect — approaches that are "notoriously unreliable," Mr. Stinson says.
The old history can quickly become the new history, and that's just a neat thing to see.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Good Conversation on the Costs of College

Is it unjust that people who don't go to college pay taxes to subsidize the education of those who do? It's an idea that I've been working through since some gentle prompting from frequent commentator JL, and this post at the Chronicle of Higher Education's blog speaks directly to the point.

You could argue that since we have a need for college educated workers, it's right that we pay what we do. On the other hand, we don't need more Humanities majors, which leads to a legitimate argument that the state shouldn't subsidize those who pursue those degrees that don't serve a larger societal purpose. That's a tough line to draw, though.

It relates, too, to an article in the January 9th 2009 Chronicle of Higher Education written by Ron Knecht, a trustee in the Nevada college system. The big finish:

At the same time, however, we in education should embrace the current budget challenges as an opportunity to begin, out of necessity, to do the things we should have been doing all along. We should reorient our efforts, change operational models, lower costs, improve our product, and be more responsive to our changing markets.

We must shed the barnacles that have accumulated on our ships of educational enterprise and become efficient competitors. We should not waste time and opportunity looking backward and pining for how things used to be.
The first big step I've seen out of the Washington college system is the UofW limiting the number of spring enrollees at the Seattle campus; it'll be very interesting indeed to see what the other Universities do to follow suit.

Update: Also on the topic of financial efficiency at the higher ed level, this commentary from William Massy of Stanford is worth a read.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Watch Kelly Linville Bait Joe Zarelli Into Bashing the WEA!

So Austin Jenkins was all, like, "Hey, schools cost money!" and Joltin' Joe was totally like, "Eh, the WEA is teh suxor", which made Kelli get all up in his bidness and try to nail him down on specifics, but then he started talking about health care and I fell asleep because the Basic Health Plan is both boring and will give you cancer, which is the kind of dichotomy that I should find fascinating but meh.

Seriously, though, I've heard this "Make teachers be on the Basic Health Plan" line before, and as a union guy I thank God every time that it comes up because that would be a wonderful gift for anyone trying to do organizing. It's useful, in a "Democrats want to take your guns away!" sort of scheme--it may not be true, but it gets attention.

Edit: Advanced embed, my ass. The good stuff starts at 49:30.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Good News Will Be a Day When There Is No Bad News

Courtesy of the Seattle Times I share with you The Layoff Ledger, detailing all the jobs lost. For every big story you've heard, there have been 8 smaller ones that matter just as much to the people out in the workforce.

And that list isn't updated to include the stories on the front page of the Seattle Times website RIGHT NOW, like these 374 jobs, or these 165 jobs, or these 50 jobs, or the coming announcement from Microsoft on potential job losses, or the increase in foreclosures doing that much more damage to the housing market, or the fact that I've given up Pepsi in the new year, which is certain to plunge the whole soda market into a morasse from which it might never climb.

Point is, when you've got Ranking Republican Joe Zarelli saying that the state budget hole might reach $7.5 billion, and that estimate looking more and more realistic every day......'taint good.

Read more here, if any.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Unpacking the January 2009 Evergreen Freedom Foundation Newsletter

Why do I have the EFF's newsletter, Living Liberty? Well, for one, it's available on their website; for another, I've actually given them money when I bought a copy of Flunked to watch, something which I actually haven't had a chance to do yet.

Anyhow, the EFF does a nice job with Living Liberty, but for a union guy like me there's plenty to comment on. Consider:

  • The front page, above-the-fold story is on the $1 million dollar fine against the WEA for using union dues for political purposes. That was a big victory for the EFF which was then made completely meaningless by legislative fiat shortly afterwords. Sure, they can insist the fight goes on:

    The state's stettlment with the WEA does not affect EFF's teacher class action lawsuit (Davenport) against the union.
    ....but the reality is that the issue is dead. If this is the best that they have to hang their hat on in the education field, then the battle has been lost and the war consigned to the books. The EFF dedicated an episode of their radio show to the topic, but again--is anyone else really talking about this?

  • Grammar fight! Below the fold on the front page there's an article from the usually reliable Amber Gunn on the Washington state budget, and consider this sentence about Governor Gregoire:

    Better late than never, though she won't be getting an "fiscal genius" award this year.
    I say it should be "a "fiscal genius" award", because the rule on a v. an is pretty well resolved: if the word immediately following begins with a hard consonant, then you use an. I could see a possible argument for "an" being the modifier for "award", which would be right--"an award"--but given the interference in between, methinks it should have been "a".

    That said, I teach first grade, so take it with a grain of salt.

  • The letter from Lynn Harsh points out that they've let 7 people go this year, which made me think of Sonya Jones, who made a big splash when she came in as director of their Labor Policy center and then disappeared. Looks like she was one of the seven. That was short.

  • They've got an opening for a volunteer school reform analyst. I'd be good at that, but that would be waaaaaaaaay to bipolar for my life to work well.

  • Let's end on the performance audits. The EFF loves 'em, for obvious, fiscal conservative reasons, but this is the sort of uncritical analysis that I find disappointing from a think tank (Brett Davis, p. 11 of the newsletter):

    Amazingly, performance audits have recommended $11 in savings for every $1 spent. Washington State can hardly afford--literally, in the context of the current economic situation--to axe a program that pays for itself 11 times over.
    But it doesn't. It doesn't even come close to doing that.

    Consider the September 2007 audit of the Educational Service Districts (ESDs) around the state. That one had 215 recommendations come out of it, which is more than 1/3 of all the recommendations they've made in the reports in the past two years (SAO 2008 Annual report; see page 2).

    And now go here and read the responses from the ESDs regarding the recommendations that the auditor made. The one from ESD 101 is especially fun; each of these is a response to a different recommendation:

    ESD 101 Response: Declined. ESD 101 does not have statutory authority to implement this recommendation. This statewide issue is being addressed in the Response to Global ESD System Performance Audit Report (Global Report) by AESD. ESD 101 supports the AESD position.

    ESD 101 Response: Declined. ESD 101 does not have statutory authority to implement this recommendation. This statewide issue is being addressed in the Response to Global ESD System Performance Audit Report (Global Report) by AESD. ESD 101 supports the AESD position.

    ESD 101 Response: Under Review. ESD 101 has a strategic planning process in place. ESD 101 will continue to research other available models and processes. ESD 101 disagrees with the Report’s claim that implementation of this recommendation can be achieved with existing resources.

    ESD 101 Response: Declined. As stated in the Global Report, the ESDs would like to embrace the concept, but with so little stable ESD funding (~3-4% core) this is not realistic. The vast majority of ESD revenue is received as the result of cooperatives, fee-for-service, or grants – each with specific requirements/expectations prerequisites to receipt of those funds. Tying these funds to ESD and school/school district performance measures or goals would, in many cases, result in exceptions to grant agreements and the possible loss of cooperative fees and fee revenue – and resultant services to school districts.

    ESD 101 Response: Declined. The ESD 101 board of directors has already adopted policies and staff has developed procedures related to bidding. In many, if not most, situations, the agency’s bidding policies and procedures are more stringent than this recommendation.
    ...and that's just in the first two pages of a five-page response. Whee!

    Another recent audit was on district travel practices; I wrote about it here, and it's similarly underwhelming. And here's a post from many moons ago where I wrote about the ESD audit.

    I'll freely admit that I haven't read the audits on roads and ferries, which is an area that the EFF has been spending a lot of energy on the last year or so. Maybe they're better than the ones on education spending. I certainly hope so.

Read more here, if any.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On the Seattle PI Closing

Eli at the Slog nails it. It's the sort of blog post that makes you think the future of reporting could, maybe, be the internet, but I'd have to see it work before I could believe that it would work.

As someone who has loved newspapers since he could read, but never lived long-term in the Seattle media market, I can't say that I've ever had a preference between the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI. When I would visit I'd always buy both, along with the late King County Journal, the Tacoma News Tribune, the Everett Herald, and whatever other newsprint I could get my hands on. I hate to see any of them go.


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Vocabulary Words from This Week's McLaughlin Group

Friday, January 09, 2009

National Board Certification: Are We Seeing a Backlash, a Trend, or Just Noise?

A few weeks back I wrote about how Florida is backing off of its support for teachers going after their National Board Certification. The most recent hit comes from Michelle Rhee in Washington DC:

But budget uncertainties, labor tensions and the timetable for the program's rollout have sparked questions from teachers' advocates about its effectiveness. At the same time, Rhee has dropped the school system's direct support for instructors seeking certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a rigorous one- to three-year teacher development program, citing a lack of evidence that the training improves student achievement.
If it was just Florida you could shrug it off, but with DC following behind in such short order it sort of starts to look like a trend. When the budget rubber meets the road districts are saying pretty clearly that paying additional money for Board certification isn't worth it, and getting to the bottom of why they feel that way is a pretty important thing to do.

For more on Rhee dropping the NBPTS check out Eduwonkette and the DC Examiner.

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By Early May the State Deficit Will Be $20 Gazillion Dollars

I go to the Stranger's Blog Slog for lighthearted fun like killer pitbulls and pedophile youth pastors, but now they can kill my soul with economic news as well. Consider these posts, ALL FROM TODAY:

I think the best solution is to close the schools, all of them, for the remainder of the year. This will save money in teacher salaries, and the private schools can fill a void and make it a free market kind of deal. This will make certain folk deliriously happy, like me, because I could finally cross "Collect Unemployment" off of my bucket list.

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Could be something, could be nothing, but it's certainly worth watching. From a New York Time article on how the AFL-CIO is looking to heal from its recent schism and become one big labor union again:

One somewhat surprising attendee was Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, which, with 3.2 million members, is the nation’s largest labor union, but has traditionally remained outside any larger labor federations.
A couple of years ago the Seattle EA affiliated with the AFL-CIO, though I'm not sure that much ever came of that alliance. If any of the Seattle teachers out there have thoughts, I'd love to read them.

Oh, and Eduwonk beat me to this.

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Striking a Blow for Equality!

For the first time in its history, the president of the National PTA will be a guy!

I approve, since I think we need more men involved in schools.

(via Blogboard at EdWeek)

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Visual Evidence of Washington State's Great Depression

Nate Silver said both that I had to use the picture above and that rats will eat our corpses during the coming Greater Depression, but pay him no mind--he's only right about everything, always.

Here in Washington State we've given the Magic 8 Ball a good shake; it has come back with "All Signs Point to You Are Going To Die." For a representative sample:

  • Unprecedented flooding closed I-5 and prompted officials to urge nearly 40,000 to evacuate as swollen rivers inundate Western Washington. (Seattle Times)
  • "We have totally stopped commerce in this state," state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said this morning. "That's the problem we face now." and "The closed freeway stretch is normally used by 55,000 vehicles a day, including 10,000 trucks. Closing that highway alone means a loss to freight movement of about $4 million a day, Hammond said." (Seattle Times)
  • Helicopter Rescues Resume in Morton and Randle (The Centralia Chronicle)
  • Orting Evacuated, Aberdeen and Hoquiam cut off from rest of state, Spokane flooded.
I can't blame Governor Gregoire for making a trip to Iraq. Who'd want to stay here right now? Besides the environment, there's the economy:

  • The state Employement Security Department says more than 90,000 people applied for regular unemployment benefits in December. That’s a 75 percent increase over December 2007. (the Spokesman-Review)

  • Hundreds of truckers pulled their rigs off onto the shoulders or packed truck stops as the bad weather bottled up nearly all freight in and around Seattle, costing the economy untold millions of dollars of day.

    “You can’t go north, you can’t go east, you can’t go south. What are my options?” said Jon Amerman, a trucker from White Hall, Mont., who had planned to head east to Yakima to pick up apples after delivering a load of goods to Seattle. He figured his company was losing more than $1,000 a day every day that he was idle. (Spokesman-Review)

  • Canadian mining company Teck Cominco has filed paperwork with Washington state that makes official the permanent layoff of 165 workers at its Pend Oreille zinc mining and milling operations near Metaline Falls. (Sadism-Review)

  • Severe weather events can dramatically affect the entire state economy. The December 2007 and January 2008 storms cost almost $75 million in lost economic output and cut state tax revenue by about $3.8 million, according to a study by the state Department of Transportation. Those closures cost about 460 jobs and reduced state residents’ combined personal income by more than $23 million, according to the study. (Puget Sound Business Journal)
The next economic indicator to watch: when the citizens of Okanogan County (we'll call them Okies for short) begin to load up their beaten-down pickup trucks and move west in search of work, it's a bad time. I've embedded a reporter in Loup Loup to keep me appris apprais apris up on any developments.

It may be time to start planting a Victory Garden.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

If You Give Me a Test, my Grandma Will Die

The State Budget Deficit is Bigger Than, Like, Godzilla, Man!

Given that we have no money, my proposed legislation to give every state employee a free pony may not come true. This is clearly Dino Rossi's fault, for running on BS stances like "fiscal responsibility" and "no new taxes" that caused our beloved governor (pictured here) to slam her wallet tighter than a Joan River's facelift and squeeze nickels (not Greg) until Jefferson got a migraine.

The answer, of course, is to legalize pot, because that is NEVER NOT THE ANSWER, and we should privatize the liquor stores, too, since not being able to buy my MD20/20 on Sundays is why the state has a revenue shortfall. This is fact, and not open to debate. It's especially important that Washington State take off the shackles that bind booze and drugs, what with the pr0n industry needing a federal bailout and on the verge of insolvency BWAHAHAHA yeah, I know, that's not going to happen, but still, it'll only contribute to THE REVENUE CRISIS.

5 days until Budgetmageddon begins!

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Holy Crap!

The headline says it all:

Education Report: When students miss class time, learning suffers

Well, knock me over with a feather. Never would've guessed.

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I Met a Man Upon the Stair; The MLA Wished He Was Not There

I'm not as up on David Horowitz as I should be. I know that he's a big deal at the University level, that he doesn't think much of academic freedom, and that anyone named in his book probably has a good reason to punch him in the nose. His "war" on academe is long running, reflective of the larger culture wars, and probably quite exemplary of Henry Kissinger's famous quote about the university.

All that said, this article ($) from the Chronicle of Higher Education is absolutely fascinating.

"Are you now proud that you are the only organization to invite Horowitz to speak?" an angry Barbara Foley of Rutgers University at Newark asked. "Did you do your homework" about Mr. Horowitz's blog, she continued, to audience applause. Grover Furr of Montclair State University and a self-described "victim" of Mr. Horowitz's book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, said he objected to Mr. Horowitz's being invited "not because of his views but because he is a liar." Another audience member complained that out of thousands of MLA members, the organization had picked "two FrontPage columnists" for the panel.

"You have to have a modicum of respect for people," Mr. Horowitz responded. "I was in the civil-rights movement before Barbara Foley was even born."

At one point, a member of the audience could be seen giving Mr. Horowitz the finger. Brian Kennelly of California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, who presided over the event, wrote on The Chronicle's Web site that he observed an audience member repeatedly mouthing an obscenity to Mr. Horowitz — behavior he called "troublesome" and "repugnant."
I have every confidence that Obama will fix this, too.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

It's Nice to See the Church Worrying About the Important Things

I was raised Episcopalian, married Catholic. I feel at home in my wife's church, and I don't mind seeing my daughter raised Catholic.

That said, the Catholic high school in San Antonio that fired a teacher for marrying a divorced man is just stupid. They may have been within their rights (and rites!), but giving a good teacher her marching papers over something like that isn't in the best interest of her students, at all.

And it turns out that the guy's first marriage had been annulled, anyhow.

I'm sure using the "oops" tag a lot lately.

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It's Not a School, It's an Adventure!

Selling Ad Space: a K-16 Program!

A couple weeks back on Washington Teachers I made a post about a math teacher who was selling ad space on his exams; apparently that works for the mighty University of Montana as well. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

First it was the long-distance phone calls. Professors in the history department at the University of Montana at Missoula were told this past spring that the university could no longer foot the bill. Then the annual travel budget was slashed to $350 per person — enough to get as far as Lansing, Mich., but just barely, as the department chairman, Richard Drake, puts it.

"I think they would expect us to parachute in to Lansing and then hitchhike to wherever else we needed to go," Mr. Drake says.

Finally came the copy machine. When the toner ran out, the department had to finish the semester without it.

In the midst of this economic mini-crisis, one of the professors, Kyle G. Volk, came up with a bright idea: Get a local business to sponsor a course. After all, advertisements and sponsorships have become commonplace on campuses, so why not in the classroom?

Mr. Volk cut a deal with El Diablo, a locally owned taqueria, to sponsor his course, "The Americans: Conquest to Capitalism." In exchange for $250, Mr. Volk plastered the restaurant's logo on the syllabus, handed out the stickers to the course's 250 students and, on the first day of class, projected its stick-figure devil image, with horns, tail, and pitchfork, on one of the classroom's walls. His plan was to use the sponsorship as seed money for a department newsletter and other projects.
Subscribers can read the whole article at the link above; the upshot is that the university came in and said to cut it out.

I say they should have been applauding the guy. That's pure capitalism, right there, and it was taking some of the burden for running the department off of the taxpayers shoulders. Plus, it was for a place that makes burritos. Hooray for burritos!

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Is the State Budget Shovel Ready?

Not in the sense that it's in the grave and should be buried, but ready for a big Obama bailout. From Politico:

A group of Democratic governors warned Friday that without as much as $1 trillion in federal assistance, many states will not be able to pay their bills in the next year.

The $1 trillion the governors are seeking would be spent to prevent cuts in social services and education, as well as “shovel ready” infrastructure projects that could begin with 18 months. The group has presented its plan to the transition team and congressional leaders. The New Jersey governor said both have been receptive to the idea.
Maybe this is where we'll get the money for the viaduct from. Remember too that (As Lisa Brown has pointed out) the Governor's budget counts on getting a billion dollars in federal aid to make DSHS run for the next biennium; maybe that's a part of the trillion-dollar number.

The legislature goes in on January 12th; Obama is sworn in January 20th. Lead GOP budgeteer Joe Zarelli has indicated that he wants to finish the supplemental budget in the first week of the session, which doesn't mean a whole lot since the majority party could kill a puppy on the floor of the Senate and get away with it, but it will be fun to watch what sort of signals come out of the Other Washington regarding any help that we could get here.

Update: Obama Pledges Schools Upgrade in Stimulus Plan, from District Administration Magazine.

Update 2: There's also Flypaper's take on how a stimulus plan could go right to the education budgets. Great post, well worth reading for anyone following ed finance!

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Seattle Business Monthly: Oops.

I'd been getting Washington CEO magazine, since it's free, and with this month's issue they've merged with Seattle Business Monthly. It's a telling sign of the economic times when even the CEOs can't afford to keep their magazine subscriptions up.

Anyhow, the editor's note from Jeffery Bond had this quote:

The state's budget deficit for the next biennium may grow to $6 billion, forcing the Legislature to make major program cuts and, while no one seems willing to admit it, almost assuredly some form of tax increase.
...which is pretty notable in its own right to see, given the forum it appeared in.

Then I went to their web site to see if I could find an electronic copy, but what I found instead regarding their cover boy was even more fun:

When we decided to profile Terry Drayton and put him on the cover of our January issue, we had no idea that he would become so prominent so soon and for all the wrong reasons.

As many of you know, Drayton, best known for founding, was a co-founder and CEO of a small Bellevue-based company called the Arena Group, which runs a software firm called Count Me In. This firm produces software to manage sports leagues of all types, including handling the registration and collection of fees for Little Leagues and soccer leagues across the country.

On Dec. 11, three weeks after our issue had been sent to the printer, we were stunned to hear that Count Me In was being sued in federal court by a New Jersey soccer club that claimed the company failed to turn over $142,000 in registration payments. Since then, we have been contacted by parents from local baseball leagues to say that they, too, have lost tens of thousands of dollars in registration fees.

Neither the writer of the profile nor anyone on our staff had any idea while the article was being prepared for publication that there was a problem with Count Me In’s procedures or that Little League organizations around the country were facing the possibility of losing their registration fees.
It kind of reminds me of this, or the Weekly World News publishing autopsy photos of Timothy McVeigh without considering that his execution date could get postponed and that when they published these pictures of him dead he could still be, you know, very much alive.


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Secret and Confidential to the Association of Washington School Principals

There are people in the world who can look really, really good in an 8x10 headshot.

The segment of your membership (hell, of people in education in general) that can pull that particular trick off is a very, very, very small fraction indeed.

So how about cutting the picture of the person featured in the profile in the usually-excellent "Principal News" magazine down to, let's say, 2 inches by 3 inches? That'd be cool.

Your pal,


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The Long Term Health of the GOP...

....isn't a topic that I spend a lot of time thinking about, beyond hoping for continued employment for my friend JL and reading the occasional post at Sound Politics, but if it was something that I had a personal interest in this would worry me:

But the most ominous voting trend confronting the GOP is the young voters to whom Obama has laid claim. On the eve of the election, Pew Research Center polling gave Obama a 29 percent advantage among voters born after 1978, the so-called "millennials." Pew's exit polling gave Obama 66 percent of those voters under 30.

This year, 48 million millennials were eligible to vote; in 2012 that number will increase to 64 million; by 2016 to 80 million.
That's the macro trend; the micro here in Washington State could conceivably be even more pronounced, given our tech sector.

The Washington Spectator newsletter is quite good; I'd recommend it to anyone.

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Charlie Rose Murders Best Friend!

Well, to be fair, he actually declared his friend was dead during a 2008 retrospective, and it was more his producers' fault because they got the names confused, and he's apologized profusely for the mistake, but all the same--when Charlie Rose says that you're dead, YOU ARE DEAD. As evidence I give you this video:

(for the YouTubers out there, 23/6 is woefully underappreciated; they can be hit and miss with their political comedy, but when they hit it's solid gold.)

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Gregoire's Education Budget: How to Save Levy Equalization

(For more posts about Governor Gregoire's proposed education budget, try here and here.)

In her budget proposal Governor Gregoire suggests cutting the amount of money from the state for local levy equalization by 33%, which would have a profound impact on many of the smaller, property-poor districts here in Washington (and, for some reason, Spokane, but that's a topic for another day).

There's an awful lot of information available from the Office of Financial Management website, and if you poke around in the agency summaries section you can get enough numbers to keep you in Excel for the next decade. One of the interesting documents to me is on the compensation plan, wherein we can read that the increases in health benefits for K-12 employees are projected to cost $127,904,000.

The cuts to levy equalization are estimated to save $125,400,000.

I think you can see where I'm going here.

If we suspended the increase in health insurance benefits for the next two years and instead fully funded levy equalization, the only hit to the district budgets would then be the reduction in I-728 money. This is fair, because then at least every district is getting hit in the same way. If you cut levy equalization, though, a lot of districts that are already struggling are going to get hit in a way that the Bellevues of the world will not, and that doesn't help anyone.

You can't mention levy equalization without also mentioning Neal Kirby, the godfather of LEA; he wrote a great editorial for the Aberdeen Daily World on what exactly levy equalization is and why it matters.

And sure, ideally, education wouldn't take any sort of cuts. I think we need to deal in reality, though, and look for those areas that would cause the least harm. Levy equalization is not that area.

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Legislative Preview 2009: What the Professional Groups are Saying

With the long legislative session set to kick off in 10 days I thought it'd be good to collect some of the proposals that will be kicked around during; it's one stop shopping for Ed-heads!

The longest document comes from the Washington State School Directors Association, but it's also the most thorough; they have 94 different items that they rank order by priority, so you can look at the top of the list and see they care quite a bit about unfunded mandates, and at the bottom and see that WASL accommodations aren't such a big deal to them. They then refine that down to a few priorities. It's a good read; the piece about unfunded mandates is one that I've heard from 3 members of the house in recent weeks, so that message must be getting through.

Next is the Association of Washington School Principals. I've already criticized an aspect of it, the push for continued funding for the principal interns, but it's a program that benefits their members so I can see why they'd work to see it funded. I don't think they have a prayer of making that happen, but hey!

The WEA legislative priorities can be found here; the work that RW and the rest of the communications crew have put into making this site hum shows. The breadth of the organization shows when they have collective bargaining rights for community colleges listed as a top priority; the focus on classroom matters is evident, too, in the push for WASL reform. I get to help carry the water for this agenda, and it's something I do gladly.

All three also mention the Full Funding Coalition, a group comprised of the WEA, WSSDA, AWSP, the Washington Association of School Administrators, and the Public School Employees. I'm doubtful as to how much of a chance their recommendations have to take hold in this financial environment, but if you're looking for signal, here it is.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

For all my teaching friends out there, keep helping the kids to dream the impossible dreams.

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star
(Thanks to Reel Classics for the lyrics)

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