Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Break

The last time I was in the Yucatan was over 30 years ago, when there were maybe four hotels on Cancun and no vendors around Chichen Itza or Tulum. I know things have changed. This time we're going by boat and spending just two quick days on shore, visiting Uxmal, because, as Paul pointed out, "How often do you get to go places that start with U?" We'll also stop on Cozumel for some snorkeling time. Sun would be nice!

TULUM, 1981

Friday, April 4, 2014

Honey Maid

I don't usually share pages like this, but I really like this story. Scroll down to watch the original ad that caused all the flap, then click on the response up top. ♥warming.

The Worst Decision?

The Roberts Court is responsible for a bunch of loser decisions—Gonzales v. Carhart, Ledbetter v. Goodyear, FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Morse v. Frederick (with a very different view of free speech), Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, and of course Citizens United v. FEC—but I can't help feeling that McCutcheon will be the one that most comes back to bite us. It's worth looking at Breyer's dissent, excerpted here. It's already being talked about on both sides more than the majority opinion is.

Monday, March 31, 2014

And the Final Budget

Well, the School Boards Association is kinder than I would have been. Summing up: More money = good. Retaining teacher evaluation systems = good. Tax freeze = bad. UPK = good, but plan for UPK = bad. And with a sigh, we give up for another year.

Friday, March 28, 2014

State Finances, encore

Here's my letter to the local Gannett papers:
I remember when the New York State Senate was routinely contrasted with the Assembly as the champion of upstate vs. downstate interests. Based on the current Senate budget resolution, that contrast is a fallacy. The Senate proposal favors New York City schools over upstate schools with every dollar it spends.

The Senate mysteriously locates $485 million to fund pre-kindergarten, $340 million of which will go directly to New York City to avoid taxing rich city residents. It allows charter schools to remain in public school buildings rent-free and even grants them building aid similar to that for public schools. This millionaire-backed, special-interest giveaway was supported by every single one of our region’s state senators despite the fact that the Charter School Office lists 42 charter schools in upstate New York (all city schools) compared to five times that many downstate.

Let’s hope that wiser heads prevail and that our hard-earned taxes don’t once again go to expand the gap between rich urban/suburban and poor rural schoolchildren. Downstate charter schools are less about parents selecting a school than about schools selecting their students. Upstate public schools are about education for all, but the state Senate has chosen this year to promote special interests over special education and to throw our small rural districts under the bus.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Who Wrote Those Standards, Anyway?

Maybe it's just my nearly three decades trying to parse individual state standards that makes me appreciate the Common Core Standards. Maybe it's that I love an underdog when it's being attacked by the fangs of misinformation. At last night's Bill Daggett event at IHS, a parent rose to spread the left-wing gospel* about CCSS—that educators had nothing to do with its construction, that it was a money-making construct by big business, led by Achieve, Inc. Well, Achieve is the organization created by the governors and state superintendents to lead the standards project. It was founded as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. Its board includes governors and captains of industry, its staff includes curricular experts and content advisors, but the people who did the work are mostly educators from the field, from both the K-12 and college levels. This list is easy to find; I have no idea why this myth of "no educators involved" continues to filter through the cyberscape.

—*Right-wing complaints concern the loss of local control (a myth, as every state already had its own standards), the federal takeover of schools (confusing CCSS with NCLB or RTTT), and the unfairness of increased rigor. Left-wing complaints have mostly to do with tying standards to accountability of teachers, overuse of assessment, and the corporate takeover of schools (as though there never was a multimillion-dollar textbook industry). Both sides complain about the suddenness of it all, as though seven years were but a blink of the eye. Most of the complaints could have been avoided by a decent rollout and much better use of the media. Shades of Obamacare.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Thought They Were Lawyers

Statistics I find show that 37 percent of today's U.S. Senators are lawyers. Yet the body as a whole seems to misunderstand the underlying principles of our system of justice, including the notion that all defendants, even the wickedest, should be afforded competent counsel. How else to explain the ridiculous failure to confirm Debo Adegbile as head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice? Cynthia Tucker calls out Bob Casey, but there is enough idiocy to go around.