Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

This Just In

Our embattled guv will hold a press conference at 11:30 today to announce that he will not run again. A scandal too far, it appears.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

School Board Meeting

More stunned silence at Monday's Dryden BOE meeting, which I attended mostly to hear the BOCES budget presentation (as a BOCES board member, I have absolutely no say over the budget) and the intro to Dryden's instructional budget. The BOE hopes to get down to about an 11% tax levy hike (!), which means cutting perhaps 10 teachers and 7 staff positions.

Given the "last hired, first fired" policy of most school contracts, it's hard to imagine why Cortland State still has any students in its teaching degree programs. What hope do those young people have of getting--and retaining--a job?

Required Reading

This screed from Salon is absolutely the best explanation of why progressives currently hate the Democratic Party. Thanks to Marty for this one. Do not fail to watch the attached YouTube, either.
They're willing to feign support for anything their voters want just as long as there's no chance that they can pass it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sierra Club Rift

NPR had this story this morning about how our local Sierra Club chapter is at odds with the national one over *surprise* hydrofracking.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another Birthday Over

Although it's hard to admit how old I am, the scariest part is the sudden realization that 1990 was 20 years ago. How'd THAT happen?

Friday, February 12, 2010

They're After Me

You've got to admit--if you've seen Andy Cuomo's henchmen, you'd think this was just their M.O. On the other hand, does Andy really want to open his former marriage up to scrutiny? And hadn't he better hurry up and marry foodnographer Sandra Lee?

On the other hand, I've personally witnessed the Guv canoodling with aides over drinks, so nothing much would surprise me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Blizzard of Bad News

I attended Rick Timbs's talk at DHS last night on The State of the District's Finances. The word, in a nutshell, is "sucks"--not through any fault of the district, which has been relatively prudent lo these many years, but rather via 9/11 followed by Wall Street followed by bad bank loans followed by economic collapse, both state and federal.

If they use the governor's budget and add nothing at all (roll over), they're looking at over 20 percent increase in the tax levy. Or they can cut $2.5 million in program and personnel and maintain a tax levy increase that looks about like those of the last few years.

The high costs in all NYS districts this year are special ed and employee benefits, especially retirement costs, which were creamed in the Wall Street crash. They can take money from reserves, but that will ultimately mean they can't pay their bills and have to borrow money, which means they'll pay interest on that money, which will in turn be passed on to the taxpayers.

They could get rid of most administrators and all sports and not make a dent. Cuts will have to come from teachers and staff, and lots of them. This will, of course, lead to more unemployment in our area, which eventually affects revenue.

The problem with cutting teachers is that you must cut the last hired first, and they tend to be the young and peppy ones rather than the dead wood you'd like to see gone.

Our relative wealth factor is about 0.5, meaning that we're half as rich as the average district in NYS. Our state aid is, to some extent, built around that number. However, big foreclosures and big unemployment are not hitting us locally--they are hitting those wealthier districts. That means that if the state sits down and does a reassessment, we'll look richer than we did (although we're not richer than we were), and we'll automatically get less state aid.

The board mostly sat in stunned silence, and who could blame them. I asked Rick whether he'd heard of any clever ways to mitigate special ed costs. He said no, mostly schools are finding they're out of compliance and actually have to spend more.

Ithaca is talking about closing Fall Creek School. I have to assume that our primary schools will need to be on the chopping block again, no matter what people say.

There are things to be done legislatively: 1) get rid of the roadblocks to negotiations (Triborough/Taylor); 2) get rid of high tax aid to high wealth districts and divide that money among poor districts like ours. But there's not a thing that can be done fast enough to solve this year's problems, and since our legislature, in its infinite wisdom, already plunged into next year's federal stimulus funds to keep us from having midyear cuts, we're looking at an even worse 2011-2012.

Right now, most Dryden residents pay $20.43/$1000 in school taxes. Even just a 10 percent tax rate increase would bring this household's school taxes up over $10K/year. I'm really not getting my money's worth.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

New Yorkers who scan the blogosphere are waiting with bated breath to see whether their current guv goes the way of the last guv--into the annals of history one step ahead of a sleazy sex scandal.

It makes Paterson's singlehanded appointment of his own lieutenant governor and the subsequent lawsuit about that all the more fascinating.

Who's Sorry Now?

Maybe the Japanese media find the Toyota chairman's apology weak, but I find it refreshing. I can't remember hearing one from the AIG chair, or any bank CEO, or any of our lamebrained automobile manufacturers, any one of whom has committed more malfeasance and created more chaos than any number of stuck accelerators could do.

Pleasant Thought of the Day

Courtesy of PZ, writing from Kabul and quoting a paper he just read:
“… the current hourly growth rate of the human population in excess of 9000 dwarfs the total global populations of many threatened species.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Racial Divide

I think Ishmael Reed's screed on "Precious" (which I haven't seen) pretty well sums up race relations in the new millennium.
In guilt-free bits of merchandise like “Precious,” white characters are always portrayed as caring. There to help. Never shown as contributing to the oppression of African-Americans. Problems that members of the black underclass encounter are a result of their culture, their lack of personal responsibility.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The New Curriculum

I like the simplicity of this proposed curriculum for America's children. It's getting there from here that's the problem.

I will say that at our legislative breakfast Saturday, no school official griped about having to cut programs. They all begged for mandate relief, not more money.

I'm imagining the kind of streamlining we could do if all school-related regulation were federal, not state-imposed. The clunkiness of our system is dragging us under.