Friday, January 27, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Paging Mr. Gerry

Living in Dryden has the proposed maps, and I have the bust of Mr. Gerry himself, erstwhile governor of Massachusetts, who started the ball rolling by redrawing salamander-shaped districts to improve his friends' chances against the Federalists.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Syria, Revisited

My 2010 book for kids on the Assads ends with the questions:
Can Bashar turn Syria's economy around in time to save the country from an internal coup? The history of Syria's nationhood sets the odds against his success. Will he return to the reforms of his first year in office? Crackdowns on journalists, teachers, and activists since the early 2000s make that openness seem a distant dream...[Bashar's] choices over the next few years could mean the difference between war and lasting peace in the Middle East.
Hardly prescient, given the realities in Syria. My outside reader on the book was Joshua Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and his blog remains the best site I know for finding out what's really going on in that benighted country. His inside contacts, friends and in-laws alike, give an angle on the news that you just won't get on CNN, and he has links to many other useful sources. If you want to know about Syria, start there.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

When Is a Dollar Not a Dollar?

Before everyone gets overexcited about restoration of school aid, understand that the percentage change (which is over 7 percent in Dryden without building aid) does not represent more dollars added to the bottom line (i.e., an increase in foundation aid) but rather a decrease in deficit reduction, which the schools refer to as the "gap elimination adjustment"—the money the district owes back to the state. It's a little bit as though your mom loaned you $25 to fill your car up, and instead of raising your allowance as you'd expected, told you that you only had to pay her back $20.

Hidden in the governor's speech was a great boon for counties—the removal of preschool special ed costs over time and their return to the school districts. What one hand giveth, the other taketh away, of course, because those preschool special ed costs can really add up. If you have, say, just eight little two- and three-year olds with extremely special needs, and they have to head off to Racker Center or Binghamton to have those needs met, that can cost $30K a pop, and suddenly a little district whose 1 percent tax levy = $48,000 has an unexpected and unfunded annual expense of $240,000, or a 5 percent increase in the tax levy.

Again, this is a change that will hit small schools hardest.

Schools have done their massive calculations required to determine what their "2 percent cap" really looks like (it is never really 2 percent), and the range seems likely to be great. However, none of the districts around here has a cap as high as 5 percent.

The biggest difficulty will be explaining any of this to the general population, not because the general population isn't capable of understanding it, but because it's all so odd and counterintuitive. "Hey, the governor gave you 4 percent, and your tax cap is only 2 percent! You should be able to make things work without any cuts at all!" "Hey, the governor said 2 percent, but your levy is coming in at 3.47 percent! Why should I approve your budget?" I see no way that the governor doesn't come out of this smelling like a rose, while the districts continue to wallow in despair. It's brilliant, actually.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Not surprising, but saddening. It makes it even more likely that NY 22 will be in the mix for redistricting in 2012.

Confused about SOPA/PIPA?

As an author and one-time songwriter, you'd think I'd be all for it. But Living in Dryden has a number of useful links that show better than I can why it's a mess and should be shitcanned immediately.

Monday, January 16, 2012

One to Watch

This four-way potential school district merger in Herkimer is on my radar, because if it passes, others may be encouraged to follow suit. The districts are Frankfort-Schuyler (1209 students in 2009–2010), Herkimer (1200 students), Ilion (1570 students), and Mohawk (875 students). Details of the feasibility study are available on any of those school districts' websites. The resulting district would serve over 4800 students, putting it a little under Ithaca City School District's total population.

Maybe, Just Maybe

The Regents, bless their souls, are raising their voices at last on the issue of school equity and urging the legislature to divvy up the 4 percent increase in a way that benefits high-needs schools. Many thanks to Rick Timbs and the Statewide School Finance Consortium and to the upstate Republican senators—if this in fact works.


MLK on the pressing issue of his time—and ours, nearly 50 years on.
There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will. The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible.
—Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Required Reading

Today's NYT editorial on the Republicans' fear of talking about income inequality.
Mr. Romney’s image of a country where workers have nothing but admiration for benevolent, job-creating capitalists (and no one is so impolite as to mention jobs destroyed) bears very little relationship to reality. But his suggestion that it is un-American to talk about rising populist resentment is self-serving and hypocritical.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Blogger

DZ is off to Gent at the end of the month and has decided to blog about it. I'm linking to her site on the right, or you can get to it here. We'll be there at the end of June; can't wait!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hope from an Unexpected Source

Today I read a letter that upstate Republican state senators sent to the governor, stating their intention, as Senator Nozzolio (R-54th) put it, to "continue fighting during the upcoming State budget negotiations to ensure a fair and equal distribution of aid to all regions of the State and help local schools control costs by eliminating unfunded mandates." It's an outstanding letter, signed by a lot of people I haven't thought much of in the past, and a reminder that in the notorious upstate-downstate battles for NYS domination, there's often a Republican-Democratic divide. I give Nozzolio and our other locals, Seward and O'Mara, credit for stepping up.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Required Reading

Politico on The Bain Bomb. It's about time that Robber Baron Romney's fellow Republicans ganged up on him regarding this topic.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Required Reading

Leonard Pitts on Ron Paul's consistency. Since I, too, have been guilty of saying, "Well, at least he's consistent," it's useful to remember what that really means.
Maybe it's easy to make freedom an issue of "property rights" when you have never been the property.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bye Bye, Michele B

Since she's out of the running, I'm taking down the running strip of Bachmanisms. Too bad; I'd hoped to get more mileage out of her.

We Think We Have Problems

In New Hampshire, until now known mostly for snow and primaries, parents may now demand an alternative curriculum for any piece of their child's schooling that they find objectionable. This way lies madness.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

7 Kids in Cuenca

Our friend Kris is chaperoning seven TC3 students on a trip to a tiny village in Ecuador, where they will travel around a bit and learn about the culture for a couple of weeks. Here is the link to the students' blog.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

RT3 Catch-22

This little-reported item may be just the beginning of a union backlash against the state's plans for evaluation of teachers. It's a requirement for states that agreed to accept Race to the Top federal funding, yet it has wandered through the courts here, with the unions winning concessions. Meanwhile, most districts agree that the amount they're getting in federal funds is dwarfed by the amount they'll have to spend to implement all the regs. The gift that keeps on taking.

Sunday, January 1, 2012