Thursday, January 30, 2014

Required Reading

"... a new strain of racial, ethnic, and cultural reductivism has crept into the American psyche and public discourse."
Mehta taps into something distasteful with this short, thoughtful look at America's new "model minorities."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Governor's Budget

C+ for Education, at best. He's offering $ over two years that most in the biz think we need in one. Hooray for the focus on Pre-K and afterschool, boo hiss for the $2 billion bond for SmartBoards and iPads. Again, it's the "gift that keeps on taking," as anything bought in 2014 will need to be replaced by 2019. Why not raise a bond for infrastructure alone, allowing those districts that need better broadband to invest the funds for that while others update or expand? Why muddy the waters by slapping Pre-K and afterschool classroom expansions into the technology bond? Creating yet another panel of experts to determine what legislative moves to make re Common Core implementation in NYS is ridiculous; as far as I can tell, Cuomo's panels of experts (education, mandate relief) exist only to pad their own resumes and chow down on fancy lunches on the taxpayers' dime. The applause following his excited utterances about not testing K-2 kids was unwarranted; NYS does not test K-2 kids (or at least leaves such testing to the discretion of districts).

And the property tax relief plan will not work for our county, where school districts and towns have stayed under the cap but the county has not. Only if the entire aggregate stays under the cap will taxpayers have their increases paid for by the state. Not exactly a winning solution. C+. Lots of room for improvement.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Senator's Agenda

Dr. Matteson from TST and I went to Senator Seward's press conference today in Cortland, at which the Senator unveiled his agenda for the coming budget year. My main reason for going was the Senator's reference in his release to "modifications to the Common Core Learning Standards," which tends to make my hair stand on end when I hear it from politicians. However, we were pleasantly surprised to hear him differentiate correctly between standards and assessment and between standards and teacher evaluation, and he was amenable to Dr. M's suggestion for a one-year moratorium on using the new tests to evaluate teachers. As for the rest of the agenda, some of it we'd heard before (kill the SAFE Act, cut corporate taxes, fund all state mandates). He's very much behind extending broadband into those pockets of his district where it doesn't yet reach. I can honestly say that the leftest of Cortland legislators is probably to the right of the rightest of Tompkins legislators; they wanted to hear when we were going to be allowed to frack and why they can't hire capital-project workers at half the going rate.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

State of the State

A few fundamental misunderstandings underlie Governor Cuomo's ideas about education in his State of the State. First, school districts aren't refusing to consolidate because of tax issues. The mergers around here would actually have brought taxes down. They aren't merging because they want to keep their schools no matter what. Period.

Delivering universal Pre-K that is truly universal is something I can fully support, but it is a meaningless promise if it's unfunded.

The entire tax plan (capped for two years, then upped with rebates to folks making under $120K) hurts those schools and municipalities that have already done the hard work to bring costs down.

Bonuses for top teachers is one of those incentives that science suggests does not work as planned.

Finally, it's great to propose a huge bond for technology in the classroom, but if that money arrives and is disseminated according to the same old formulas, the rich will get the good stuff, and upstate schools will be left with the same old crap.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Health Care Costs

Here's Olivia's favorite author expounding quite accurately on American healthcare. Worth a listen.