Monday, March 15, 2010

The Last Few Days...

A little good news in Delaware revenue:
The DEFAC group which tracks state revenue in Delaware revealed some good news today. The revenue stream known as "escheats" was up by $70 million. Escheat refers to a state's ability to claim abandoned assets. In Delaware, our escheat is tied to corporate law and allows the state in certain situations to claim the assets of defunct corporations, even to access bank accounts in other states. While $70 million is a long way from the $287 million deficit, every bit helps.
My old home town in the news:
The Kansas City, Missouri public school system has been in the national news lately for taking the radical step of closing half of their schools. At one time Kansas City had one of the most beautiful and innovative network of schools in the nation. When Kansas City engaged in desegregation, they received a bonus from a judge who ordered the city to tax itself to do it properly. With the revenue, Kansas City desegregated not by forced busing, but by making a magnet school system so appealing, that white children from the suburbs voluntarily enrolled in the predominantly African American city schools. One school was a performing arts magnet with a state of the art theater, another was a Greek magnet with emphasis on classical learning and sports and included an Olympic sized indoor pool, and others focused on science with an abundance of computer access, some on language, etc.

The schools were huge, new, and lavish. The plan worked. Desegregation was achieved voluntarily. Then a strange thing happened with strange bedfellows. Anti-tax conservatives effectively teamed up with black neighborhood activists to challenge the desegregation program. The conservatives' position was simple, they believe taxation for any purpose (other than the military) is evil. The activists did not like the fact that many times children could not get into their own neighborhood schools because the slot was taken by a white child from the suburbs.

In the early 1990s the court overruled the earlier decision of forced funding, pleasing the unusual allies on the right and left; and leaving the KCMO school district with physical structures that were extremely expensive to maintain on the inside and outside. This act drove the Kansas City public schools to the edge of the cliff. The current recession has just provided the additional push.
Obama at odds with educators, again:
About a week ago President Obama, in a speech before the US Chamber of Commerce, praised the termination of an entire staff of teachers at a school in Rhode Island. It was obviously a crowd pleaser for the assembled bankers, insurance company executives, and corporate CEOs.

Now this week, Obama releases "A Blueprint for Reform". The Blueprint is his plan for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The National Education Association's president, Dennis Van Roekel, was blunt in stating his disappointment with the Blueprint. The following quote sums it up:
"What excited educators about President Obama’s hopes and vision for education on the campaign trail has not made its way into this blueprint. We were expecting to see a much broader effort to truly transform public education for kids. Instead, the accountability system of this ‘blueprint’ still relies on standardized tests to identify winners and losers. We were expecting more funding stability to enable states to meet higher expectations. Instead, the ‘blueprint’ requires states to compete for critical resources, setting up another winners-and-losers scenario. We were expecting school turnaround efforts to be research-based and fully collaborative. Instead, we see too much top-down scapegoating of teachers and not enough collaboration."

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