N&O editors lament Gen. Tata's "lack of experience in matters of education policy." As I wrote in August, NC General Statutes make it clear that district superintendents are not policymakers. State statutes do not require superintendents to have policy experience.
A group called PolitiFact has recently declared that the lie of the year was calling Obama's health bill a "government takeover." That's not just mistaken, claim the PolitiFact people, but a lie, because the legislation did not usher in a Soviet-style, complete nationalization of health care. Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute replies here that the president's legislation moved us far along the path to a thoroughly politicized health system and sets up structures that will keep that momentum going. So calling Obamacare a government takeover is at most a small, temporary exaggeration.
As an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal said, a far better candidate for "lie of the year" would be the title given to the legislation: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That is a whopper, but we should also consider Obama's statement that anyone who is satisfied with his current doctor and insurance will be able to keep them. Nope. It is undermining existing insurance and driving doctors into early retirement.
The News & Observer's editorial board apparently has decided that classroom experience (or at least significant seat time as an educator) is essential for the next superintendent of Wake County Public Schools. Today's lead editorial wails and gnashes over the choice of someone lacking those credentials, as retired Army brigadier Gen. Anthony Tata is likely to become the next Wake County superintendent.
Those criteria weren't so important for the UNC system, apparently, as the editors had no problem when Erskine Bowles, a former investment banker and chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, was picked for UNC's top slot. Consider this bouquet, from February, just after Bowles announced his retirement. Orthese.
Bowles did a fine job at UNC, and was not a career academic. He is an influential Democrat, for what that's worth ...
Meantime, Tata is a top administrator at the Washington, D.C. schools, working under Superintendent Michelle Rhee, lauded by many for her kick-butt-and-take-names approach as she attempted to turn around what may have been the nation's most dysfunctional (and yet expensive) public school system.
The general's role was largely administrative, but that hardly disqualifies him from taking the top leadership role at WCPSS. Just ask U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who was superintendent of Denver Public Schools before his appointment to the Senate and was recently elected to a full term. Bennet, like Bowles, had an extensive career in investment banking. He also was chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (another Democrat) before Bennet took over DPS in 2005. Hickenlooper recently won election to become Colorado's governor.
As Carolina Journal's Anthony Greco reported in June, many large public school systems across the country have brought in people outside the education establishment to implement reforms.
Anthony interviewed Bennet's successor in Denver, Tom Boasberg, whose background also was in investment banking before he became the chief financial officer of DPS under Bennet.
(Full disclosure: I got to know and respect all three as an editorial writer at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver from 2006-09.)
At DPS, Bennet hired a chief academic officer from the New York City Public Schools — led by another Democratic reformer, Joel Klein — to handle curriculum and instructional matters, so he could focus on administration, staffing, and finances. DPS under Bennet made a dramatic turnaround. He was on President Obama's short list to become U.S. education secretary and was appointed to an open Senate seat at the end of 2008. So the notion that only career educrats are worthy administrators is so 20th century.
Finally, the section of the editorial mentioning an online review Tata wrote praising Sarah Palin's memoir Going Rogue — and questioning Tata's judgment and qualifications to serve as superintendent because he's a Palin fan — is a head-scratcher.
The N&O frets that Tata's perspective might be tainted by "partisanship" — but we've seen no similar concerns raised by the editors about partisanship from Democrat-appointed superintendents at Wake schools, or other educational institutions (Bowles, or his successor, Tom Ross, at UNC, anyone?) that should be managed in the interests of all North Carolinians regardless of political ideology.
What are known as Project Labor Agreements drive up costs on government construction projects by mandating union labor and work rules rather than allowing competition. Here is a Washington Examiner piece on the way the Obama administration is pushing this policy, which needlessly increases the cost of government construction in order to pay off one of Obama's big support groups.
This is exactly the kind of wasteful spending that won't stop so long as the politicians can confiscate more money from taxpayers.
A waiver may be the only way for North Carolina to afford Medicaid next fiscal year, but Washington is about to get approval for a waiver that it might not be able to afford.
Porter explains the problem well. The only thing the federal government has left for states is to cut optional benefits, but even cutting every single optional benefit does not provide enough savings. It may have to happen, but more will be needed on top of that. Which is why Gov. Perdue and Sec. Cansler should be pushing a federal block grant for all states or a waiver for North Carolina that gives us freedom to transform Medicaid.
I’m sure my friends at the Department of Education were thrilled to read in the Raleigh-based News & Observer that North Carolina school districts are using their Race to the Top funds to advance structural reform by… purchasing iPads. Durham, N.C. is spending $3.5 million in RTT funds to “put Apple iPads in the hands of students and teachers at two low-performing schools.” Durham Public Schools Superintendent Eric Becoats said, “Our kids are telling us, ‘This is how we learn. This is what we want.’”
Ah-ha, yes, this is the change we’ve been waiting for. Look, I own an iPad. I like the iPad. But I’ll tell you, when I’ve been to schools that feature one-to-one computing, personal computers, and iPads, they seem to get mostly used in one of two ways. Neither impresses me. The first involves students working on graphics, clip art, powerpoints, or adding sound and visual effects to video shorts. The second is students Googling their way to Wikipedia for material to cut-and-paste into powerpoints or word files.
Apparently things have gotten so bad with the Wake County Schools, they are calling on the Army to straighten things out, as reported here.
Comments about the likely new Wake Co. school superentindent retired Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata, from some folks who know him" "a take-charge leader who has helped make D.C. schools more efficient" and "he's very goal-oriented. He was a general so he knows ... how to get the job done."
Our schools could use a touch of discipline and army values to get back on track. Sounds like Tata's the man.
The governor and the General Assembly may want to take note. With a $3.7 Billion budget shortfall, unfunded state employee health plan and underfunded pension plan, $6 Billion debt, crumbling roads, record unemployment, skyrocketing unemployment, and a failing mental health system, we could use some direction, discipline and no BS management. Perhaps it's time to call in the troops. We could do alot worse than the expertise and experience from the United States Armed Services.
Deroy Murdock has a sharp column today on the campaign to demonize the rich, as recently exemplified in the rant by Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders on the Senate floor.
Murdock makes the point that some of the very rich acquired their money through political pull and knowing how to take advantage of opportunities for profit that would not have existed but for government interference in the economy, especially the winners in the great housing bubble. Instead of raising taxes on everyone, why not clean up all the cesspools that allow people with connections (for example, Fannie Mae's former director, Franklin Raines, who raked in a nice $80 million) to profit without risk?
As Donna points out over at Right Angles, the scuttlebutt is that Steven Spielberg is advising Nancy Pelosi on refashioning her, and Democrats', image.
Spielberg specializes in fiction, special effects, razzle dazzle, and fooling audiences into believing the fake is real. This says a lot about Pelosi's Congress:
[B]ehind closed doors, [Pelosi] is laboring to refashion the image of House Democrats - as well as herself.
Lawmakers say she is consulting marketing experts about building a stronger brand. The most prominent of her new whisperers is Steven Spielberg, the Hollywood director whose films have been works of branding genius. Lawmakers said Spielberg has not reported to Pelosi with a recommendation.
In today's Wall Street Journal, Alan Reynolds here demolishes the case being made by the mega-state redistributionists for higher tax rates on "the rich."
Reynolds' argument is Rock of Gibraltar solid on the impact of taxes, but he doesn't go into what I think is the really crucial point. More revenue for the federal government will just encourage more wasteful spending. Confiscating wealth from the idle rich, the productive rich, or anyone else takes money away from potential business investments, charitable donations, and job-creating consumption and transfers it to the wastrels in Washington. That will make the nation poorer, although politically favored special interest groups will remain fat and happy a while longer.
The old notion that government spending is for "the public good" is now widely understood to be just a cruel joke. If we can't starve the beast, at least we should stop overfeeding it.