The competition to introduce the silliest bill in the legislative session is now officially under way. Last year, Democrat Earl Jones smoked all contenders with HB 163, which called for the creation of a "Star Fleet Academy Complex" at N.C. A&T.
This year, Republican Fletcher Hartsell jumped into the lead with the introduction of SB 166--the "No Adult Left Behind" act. This bill allocates $5 million to increase the percentage of North Carolinians with higher education credentials of one type or another. I believe his colleagues are looking for ways to cut spending rather than increase it.
However, he immediately topped that with the introduction of another bill. No, not the "No Geezer Left Behind" act, but HB 169--the "Study Innovations/Incentives in Education" act. It will allocate $100,000 to start a study commission to do the following:
Study the feasibility of giving to every public school student in North Carolina an incentive of one thousand dollars ($1,000) per year beginning at grade one and extending to grade 12 if the student meets successfully specific academic, disciplinary, attendance, character, and parental involvement goals and benchmarks.
That's right. 1,000 clams to every student in the public school system who doesn't assault the teacher (that will be the only standard left, since failure or official punishment for other reasons will also mean denying income, something no teacher will want to do). The mind reels with this bill's potential for mischief.
"These budgets are way out of whack," Mr. Gates said. "They've used accounting gimmicks and lot things that are truly extreme."
He said he is concerned that states' public employee-benefit costs could now stand in the way of broader changes. These include programs Mr. Gates's foundation backs that aspire to use technology (including cameras that monitor classrooms) and strengthened teacher evaluations to improve K-12 education.
One focus of Mr. Gates is public pension funds' use of a relatively high discount rate to calculate obligations. The discount rate is an assumed rate of return used to calculate the current value of a future liability.
The higher the rate, the smaller a fund's obligations appear—and the less that states need to contribute to their pension funds. Critics blame this accounting approach for contributing to state pension shortfalls, estimated nationwide to total more than $1 trillion.
Senate takes up HB 48: No Standardized Testing Unless required by Feds
Tillman to explained the bill: We have test mania in NC. We
are teaching to the test and have forgotten about critical thinking skills and
creativity. Community College- reports that they don’t even pay
attention to tests. Need national barometer and not State tests. Courts can deal with it if it’s unconstitutional WHEN it
gets to their arenas. In the House- many democrats and NCEA endorse it. We need
to free teachers up.
D. Berger plans to vote for bill. But proposed a friendly
amendment which would make it clear that tests required by RTTT are still
Tillman: against the amendment and says Bergers concerns are
already covered in the existing bill.
Apodaca: urges everyone to vote down amendment.
Vote on Amendment: 11 to 38- amendment fails.
there is too much emphasis on standardized testing and teachers teach to test.
This is the number one complaint he has heard. Reports that this is a bipartisan bill- both NCEA and JLF
Rucho: Q to Tillman: Thinks it’s a good bill. Eliminates
testing unique to NC right? Yes. Not trying to do away with accountability and
wants to compare NC to rest of country and world. Will we look at curriculum
that will actually prepare our students? Yes.
Atwater: respects separation of powers in government. He
read the memo by Judge Manning and thinks we would be foolish to not pay
attention. Thinks we need to be careful about this.
Tillman: Do we want Judiciary to make law or rule on law? We
don’t want to abdicate the GA role to make law.
Vote on Bill: 44 to 5 McKissick, Purcell, Stein, Dannelly,
and Atwater all voted against.
Cato's Andrew Coulson writes here about the prevalence of corruption and waste in education. PUBLIC education. I'm aware of no evidence of large-scale corruption and waste in private education, or even small-scale. The huge pots of taxpayer money in government education are easy and tempting targets for scoundrels.
There was a small protest by a dozen or so students from N.C. Central outside the Legislative Building this morning. They were protesting a plan by the Republicans in U.S. House of Representatives to cut the federal Pell Grant program by 15 percent.
One student was holding a sign that said "Get your hand out my pocket!" Ignoring the cringe-worthy grammatical error (not a strong selling point for a college student asking for more money for further education), I believe this student should be able to sue the education system for crippling his natural sense of logic, fairness, and knowledge of how things work. After all, his hand (through the federal government) is in taxpayers' pockets to pay for his education, not the other way around. And not a single one of his fellow protesters (I think there was a professor in there somewhere) seemed to have a clue, either.
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only
exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse
from the public treasury."
I am not surprised to hear State Board of Education member John Tate (who represents Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Stanly, and Union counties) speak out against the the charter school, testing, and tax credit bills making their way through the General Assembly.
As per State Board of Education policy, there is no public comment period. So, Tate's misguided comments will go unchecked. Cowards.
The number of students who dropped out of school in 2009-10 was at a record low and the number of suspensions and expulsions also decreased. At the same time, school crime and violence was up, according to the 2009-10 Consolidated Report today presented to the State Board of Education.
The economy/job market is certainly a major reason why the dropout rate hit the basement.
The lead editorial in today's News & Observer goes to bat for Golden LEAF, the largest political slush fund in North Carolina history.
As an editorial in the March Carolina Journal points out, Republican lawmakers tried to divert more than $100 million from Golden LEAF, the two other funds supported by the Master Settlement Agreement, and various "economic development" pots of money to help balance the budget and to place that funding under the control of the General Assembly and away from the boards, stacked with political insiders who parcel out millions of dollars annually with scant oversight and little public scrutiny.
The tobacco funds, the One North Carolina Fund, and the Job Development Investment Grants that would have been diverted by the Senate Bill 13 — which Perdue vetoed — were created or championed by Mike Easley, who made them dens of cronyism, pork-barrel politics, and in some instances, corruption. Using classic ends-justifies-the-means logic, the N&O editorial says while it may be tempting to revert Golden LEAF money to the General Fund,
sensible lawmakers will resist. Golden LEAF's endowment, if preserved, will continue spinning off earnings that can be put to good use. Taking it to help plug the anticipated $2.4 billion hole in the upcoming state budget would ease the task of budget-writers as they look for places to cut, but once the money was gone it would be gone for good. And one of North Carolina's key efforts to bring people who used to depend on tobacco into a more sustainable, diversified economy would be stubbed out.
Because Golden LEAF does "good work," the editorial argues, it should be preserved, even though it does spend public money with no accountability to the people of North Carolina. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.
CJpointed out in January that the boards governing Golden LEAF, other tobacco and economic development funds, and just about every other executive branch board and commission with a mixture of members appointed by the governor and the legislature has become a shadowy, fourth branch of government, accountable to no one other than the handful of politicians who pick them.
The N&O's editors presumably have no problem with that.
1. Public unions are big money. Public unions are big money. Paul Krugman is correct: we do need “some counterweight to the political power of big money.” But in the Alice in Wonderland world where what’s up is down and what’s down is up, Krugman believes public unions do not represent big money. Of the top 20 biggest givers in federal-level politics over the past 20 years, 10 are unions; just four are corporations. The three biggest public unions gave $171.5 million for the 2010 elections alone, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s big money.
2. Public unions redistribute wealth.
Public employees contribute real value for the benefit of all citizens. Public-union bosses collect real money from all taxpayers for the benefit of a few. Unlike private-sector jobs, which are more than fully funded through revenues created in a voluntary exchange of money for goods or serv-ices, public-sector jobs are funded by taxpayer dollars, forcibly collected by the government (union dues are often deducted from public employees’ paychecks). In 28 states, state and local employees must pay full union dues or be fired. A sizable portion of those dues is then donated by the public unions almost exclusively to Democratic candidates. Michael Barone sums it up: “public-employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.”
3. Public unions silence the voters’ voice.
Big money from public unions, collected through mandatory dues, and funded entirely by the taxpayer, is then redistributed as campaign cash to help elect the politicians who are then supposed to represent taxpayers in negotiations with those same unions. In effect, the unions sit on both sides of the table and collectively bargain to raise taxes while the voters’ voice is silenced.
Fresh from his featured speech at the John Locke Foundation's 21st-anniversary dinner in Raleigh over the weekend, George Willwrites in the latest Newsweek about the folly that is taxpayer-funded high-speed rail.
Remarkably widespread derision has greeted the Obama administration’s damn-the-arithmetic-full-speed-ahead proposal to spend $53 billion more (after the $8 billion in stimulus money and $2.4 billion in enticements to 23 states) in the next six years pursuant to the president’s loopy goal of giving “80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.” “Access” and “high-speed” to be defined later.
Criticism of this optional and irrational spending—meaning: borrowing —during a deficit crisis has been withering. Only an administration blinkered by ideology would persist. ...
... Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute notes that high-speed rail connects big-city downtowns, where only 7 percent of Americans work and 1 percent live. “The average intercity auto trip today uses less energy per passenger mile than the average Amtrak train.” And high speed will not displace enough cars to measurably reduce congestion. The Washington Post says China’s fast trains are priced beyond ordinary workers’ budgets, and that France, like Japan, has only one profitable line.
So why is America’s “win the future” administration so fixated on railroads, a technology that was the future two centuries ago? Because progressivism’s aim is the modification of (other people’s) behavior.
Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.
Today's WSJ has a letter from a writer who thinks that labor unions are the key to prosperity:
Messrs. Biggs and Richwine have shown, without meaning to I'm sure, that belonging to a union is a good idea. They demonstrate that unionized workers earn about 30% more than their counterparts. This is in line with what labor economists, and some union leaders, have been saying for years.
The decline in union membership during the last few decades has been congruent with the stagnation in workers' wages and with the increasing economic inequality in this country, and the authors show, in quite a convincing form, why this is so.
This is sheer lunacy. It's not true that unionized workers always earn 30% more than non-union workers, although that may well be true among government workers. Evidently it does not occur to Levine to ask where all that additional compensation comes from. Are unionized workers more productive than non-union ones? If anything, it's the opposite, since unions usually interfere with the efficient use of labor. The famously obstructionist work rules in union construction are a good example. So if the added compensation is not due to increased productivity, we have a zero-sum or even negative-sum game. The gains for the union workers must be offset by losses to others.
Who bears the losses? Some combination of the investors in the firm, consumers, and other workers in the private sector. (Union advocates want people to think that the gains are all at the expense of the "capitalists" and that's simply doing justice; the trouble is that the less capital investment there is, the fewer high-paying jobs there will be in the future.) In the public sector, the answer is easy: taxpayers.
Simple-minded people may fall for the idea that unionization is a magic wand that can make almost everyone better off, but it is utterly false.
Under common law principles, contracts were only valid if both parties agreed to exactly the same terms, without any fraud or coercion. That meant that employees could SEEK to bargain collectively, but equally that employers could decline that offer. The National Labor Relations Act, one of the most egregiously authoritarian pieces of special interest legislation ever enacted in the US, changed that. It destroyed the neutrality of the common law in this regard by mandating that employers must bargain "in good faith" with union representatives. (It also made it illegal for workers who don't want union representation to negotiate their own deals.)
Unions are thus backed up by the threat of government coercion and have exploited that unique privilege to the maximum.
Historian Niall Ferguson uses his latest Newsweekcolumn to urge caution among those who foresee good results from the latest round of regime change in one of the world's hot spots:
So as you watch revolution sweeping through the Arab world (and potentially beyond), remember these three things about non-American revolutions:
* They take years to unfold. It may have seemed like glad confident morning in 1789, 1917, and 1949. Four years later it was darkness at noon.
* They begin by challenging an existing political order, but the more violence is needed to achieve that end, the more the initiative passes to men of violence—Robespierre, Stalin, and the supremely callous Mao himself.
* Because neighboring countries feel challenged by the revolution, internal violence is soon followed by external violence, either because the revolution is genuinely threatened by foreigners (as in the French and Russian cases) or because it suits the revolutionaries to blame an external threat for domestic problems (as when China intervened in the Korean War).