Monday, July 31, 2006

Clean money initiative

It's Official - California to Vote on Clean Elections - Initiative Provides Public Financing, Contribution Limits for All

A public financing initiative based on systems already in place in Arizona, Maine, Connecticut, Portland, Or. and Albuquerque, N.M. has qualified the November, 2006 ballot in California.

This initiative is intended to enable elected leaders to focus on the wishes and needs of all its citizens rather than their campaign contributors, and to ensure that elections are about the candidates’ ideas and not about the amount of money they raise.

The California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act establishes a system of public financing for candidates who reject private money and sets tougher limits on contributions from corporations, unions and private individuals. It also closes some current campaign finance loopholes and strives to reduce the influence of professional lobbyists. It contains strong enforcement provisions as well.

It qualified for the ballot with the signatures of 620,000 Californians in a petition drive sponsored by the California Nurses Association.

Although the initiative has only qualified today, it already has the support of the non-partisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, the California Clean Money Campaign, and Public Campaign.

Bipartisan clean elections laws now in place in the other states and cities have increased voter participation, made elections more competitive, inspired greater diversity of candidates, and reduced the influence of professional lobbyists.

Major provisions of the initiative include:

Public funding for candidates who agree not to take private money for their campaigns. To qualify for the funds, candidates must meet certain eligibility requirements including collecting a set number of $5 contributions. Initial grants and matching funds allow “clean” candidates to compete equally with privately funded candidates.
Contribution limits that apply across the board to corporations, unions, and individuals: no more than $500 per election cycle to individual legislative candidates, $1,000 for statewide offices, and $1,000 to so-called independent expenditure committees.
Aggregate total limits of $15,000 per year per donor to all candidates and committees that seek to influence the election of candidates.
A ban on contributions to candidates by lobbyists and state contractors.
Limits on contributions to ballot measures. Corporate treasuries will only be able to spend $10,000. Additional contributions from corporations on initiatives may be made, as they are from unions, through political action committees.
Extensive public disclosure requirements.
Strong enforcement provisions, including removing those who cheat the system from office.
Funding will not come from individual taxpayers or the state’s general fund. It will come through an increase in the corporate tax of 20 cents for every $100 of profit or 0.2%. This would restore the corporate tax rate to a figure lower than it was from 1980 to 1996.
For more information, please visit:

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Air War in Lebanon and Israel

Tomgram: Air War, Barbarity, and the Middle East
Degrading Behavior
The Middle East and the Barbarism of War from the Air
By Tom Engelhardt
Good article.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

How Schwarzenegger betrayed education : L.A. times

From the Los Angeles Times
Deal Breaker
How Arnold Schwarzenegger changed his mind on Prop. 98 and lost the support of the all-powerful teachers union
By Joe Mathews
Joe Mathews covers labor and politics for The Times. This article is adapted from Joe Mathews' upcoming book "The People's Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy" (Public

July 30, 2006

Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the Sheraton conference room with an unlit stogie in his mouth. On this day in November 2004, his concession to the Sacramento hotel's smoking rules was the only one he would make to limits set by others. After a string of victories in his first year in office, the governor believed that he had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overturn California's political order in 2005.

Although Schwarzenegger often oversold even his modest achievements as historic reforms, in private he talked about his frustration with the slow pace of change in the state, and about how the political reality stymied major progress. He wanted to invest billions in repairing California's infrastructure, but the budget, though far healthier than when he took office, was still unbalanced. As the governor tried to make political history, his own political history boxed him in. He knew it would be a struggle to reconcile his campaign promises to reduce the state budget deficit, avoid a tax increase and protect popular public spending, particularly the school funding guarantee known as Proposition 98.

Much has been said and written about the supposed reasons for the governor's slide in the polls during his second year in office, including his fight with a nurses union and the rhetorical misstep of calling legislators "girlie men." But the real story of his political rise—and the subsequent decline from which he has only partially recovered—centers on his relationship with the 335,000-member California Teachers Assn. and a deal that he and his closest advisor, Bonnie Reiss, negotiated with the union shortly after his election in the waning days of 2003. That agreement reflected his stated desire to protect Prop. 98 and education funding. During an interview at Riverside's historic Mission Inn in the midst of the campaign to recall his predecessor, Gray Davis, I had asked Schwarzenegger if he would suspend the Prop. 98 guarantee to balance the budget. "Not over my dead body," he replied.

Pamela Wu; On KCRA; on the War in the Middle East

On the 5 PM. local news on Saturday, host Pamela Wu just said something like,
"Secreatry of State Rice has traveled again to the Middle East trying to achieve a cease fire."
I do not know of anyone watching the war in Lebanon closely that would agree with this statement as factual. Indeed, Rice has prevented, avoided, a cease fire.
I don't know what the issue is here. I suspect that she is reading a press release for the Dept. of State.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The CSU Administration: pigs at the trough

An editorial from the Sacrmento Bee. Another indication of the failure of Bill Hauk to provide leadership in the CSU.
This story is taken from Opinion at

Editorial: Auditing the academy

Time to get answers in CSU pay mess

Published 12:01 am PDT Friday, July 28, 2006

Pay arrangements in a public university system are supposed to serve the state's interest in strong academic institutions, not the personal financial interests of administrators. That may seem obvious, but unfortunately it isn't always the case in California.
After revealing out-of-control administrative compensation schemes in the University of California system, the San Francisco Chronicle now has found outrageous administrative pay arrangements in the California State University system.

These arrangements include big, unwarranted payouts for people who are doing little if anything for the university system. Millions of dollars have been handed out to administrators after they have left their jobs in the CSU system -- without public disclosure by the chancellor and the university's board of trustees. This practice needs to be investigated, fully exposed and fixed.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez has called for a legislative audit of the CSU compensation practices. But the audit should look beyond the handful of administrators getting enormous payouts for who knows what. The larger issue is bureaucratic bloat and excessive compensation to administrators overall -- particularly at a time when the CSU system has scaled back academic programs in the face of budget cuts and increased student tuition and fees by 76 percent over the past three years.

Certainly, the starting point for an audit has to be the Chronicle's revelations of some administrators getting "transition pay," continued pay after they have left CSU, and others getting "special assignments" with no required work product.

Here's one example: David S. Spence, a deputy to CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed, took a job in Atlanta a year ago but has remained on the CSU payroll with a $173,952 annual salary. The Chronicle reported that he agreed to do some consulting for the chancellor.

Here's another example from the Chronicle: Manuel A. Esteban retired as president at CSU Chico in 2003. He remained on the payroll for two years -- with a transitional leave and a special project -- though he was also collecting early retirement benefits. He was paid a total of $301,959 for the two-year period.

Such examples reveal a public university system emulating the worst excesses of executive compensation in the private sector. This is symptomatic of the ever-expanding growth of central administration bureaucracies at the expense of the academic mission of our public universities. It is yet another example of lack of accountability and a weak governing board structure.

Remedying this situation will require more than a one-time legislative audit. The CSU system needs better scrutiny of the central administration's finances -- detailed salary information by individual administrative positions on an annual basis.

With the CSU system, as with the University of California, the responsibility lies with the institution's governing body. CSU's 25-member board of trustees has proved to be utterly ineffectual in overseeing administrative compensation.

The system's trustees need to get control of the bureaucratic bloat, and answers to some basic questions.

How many employed in the CSU system are directly engaged in educating -- and how many are administering or assisting those administering? What is the gap between administrative salaries and perks and faculty compensation? What does it say that administrative salaries have become so much higher than faculty salaries that few administrators want to return to teaching after doing an administrative stint?

The only way to contain out-of-control administrative costs is to make the cost of administration public -- and hold the system's trustees accountable for how the system operates. A wide-ranging audit is an essential step toward that accountability.

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee, (916) 321-1000

L.A. Mayor continues to work for take over of schools

The mayor of Los Angeles continues to make taking over of the public schools a priority even though he has not done the other things available to him to approve schools, such as limiting gang activity and securing adequate funding.
See other opinions on the takeover plans.

L.A. Mayor Grilled Over School Takeover Plan
400 residents and officials of smaller cities under Los Angeles Unified rule express their concerns at a public hearing.
By Howard Blume
Times Staff Writer

July 28, 2006

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's school reform plan received its first and only local public vetting Thursday evening in a sometimes raucous hearing where Los Angeles residents addressed state lawmakers, who will have the final say.

Perhaps the most significant blow was landed by officials from neighboring cities, who announced their opposition to legislation that would give Villaraigosa substantial authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District. Parts or all of the cities fall within the boundaries of the Los Angeles school system.

The early evening gathering, convened by state Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), played out before an audience of more than 400 people, some of them recruited for the event, and undecided parents and community members at Washington Irving Middle School north of downtown.

The worst moment for Villaraigosa probably occurred before the hearing, at a news conference called by officials who said they represented the perspective of the cities other than Los Angeles that are within the boundaries of the L.A. school system.

A small retinue of council members and mayors announced, one after another, their view that Villaraigosa's plan gave the L.A. mayor authority at their expense.

"Mayor Villaraigosa is good for the city of Los Angeles, but not for the city of San Fernando," said San Fernando Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre.

Villaraigosa's plan would supplant key functions of the elected Board of Education with a council of mayors, but he would control 80% of the vote because 80% of L.A. Unified students live in Los Angeles. Earlier in the day, his aides had argued that the neighboring cities still would be getting a better deal than they currently have: The latest version of the legislation, unveiled today, offers cities in southeast Los Angeles County an opportunity to take direct control of some of their schools — an option that some of the city officials had not yet seen.

"We are just not going to have any meaningful say and we are not interested in that kind of plan," said Benjamin "Frank" Venti, a Monterey Park city councilman who is also president of the Independent Cities Assn.

"Not one of the 27 cities said they oppose our position" in opposition to Villaraigosa's legislation, said West Hollywood Councilman Jeffrey Prang, who also represents the California Contract Cities Assn. "It's unanimous."

At Irving Middle School, camera crews left the city officials when the telegenic Villaraigosa arrived, flanked by state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and L.A. Unified school board member Monica Garcia. All support Villaraigosa's reform plan.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Economics: Grieder and Rubin

Grieder and Rubin on the economy.

Excellent, important article in the Nation. Click on the title for the full article.
The question is: Will convergence happen because their wages go up or because our wages go down?
That leads right to my next question. I'm asking, as you must know, from the critics' camp. If you go to the core of what reasonable, intelligent, rational people are trying to say from the labor-left-environmental camp, it goes like this: The world's global trading system needs labor standards and worker rights and some mechanism that requires the poorer developing countries to build a rising wage standard in their economy--a minimum wage relative to their prosperity or poverty--so you won't wind up with an endless convergence, in which the top comes down from middle-income wages in advanced countries and the bottom doesn't rise as fast as it might. Because the world is huge and full of poor people and producers, multinationals and otherwise can constantly, continuously move their production to the next cheaper country.
Labor would say: If you are not going to stop the process of convergence, you are at least going to moderate it. Because you've forced rising wages at the bottom, you have some chance of not completely decimating high-wage, blue-collar labor in America or elsewhere.
Well, I guess there are two pieces to that. If you are saying what you want to do is improve the distribution of income in low-income trading countries and that will have advantage to everybody concerned, low-income countries and to us, I think that is in everybody's interest. On the other hand, I've had exposure to people who make that argument and I think make it as a way to prevent trade liberalization.... But it is a complicated question. The one hope that some of these countries have to take people out of abject poverty is that their labor-cost advantage will result in a shift of production to their countries from the place that it's now taking place and, if you require them not to take advantage of their labor-cost advantage, then you really have condemned them to poverty. It's not so simple, I think.
What we have now in many parts of the world is manufacturers, multinational and domestic, moving their production to the next country. You go from Thailand to Shri Lanka or Cambodia because the textile workers in Thailand are organized and demanding higher wages. Our side would say that way is the "race to the bottom" for everybody, both for the workers in Thailand and for workers in advanced countries.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In Bill Hauk we can't trust: The Business Roundtable

In Hauck we can’t trust
The general of ‘Arnie’s Army’—a CSU Trustee— is working for his cronies—not for the university
By Irv Muchnick
Contributing Editor
Point 10 of the California State University Trustees’ Code of Conduct, adopted in March 2004, prohibits a board member “from accepting duties, incurring obligations, accepting gifts or favors [or] engaging in private business or professional activities when there is, or would appear to be, a conflict or incompatibility between the Trustee’s private interests” and those of the CSU.
Strong words; “Caesar’s wife” standards, even. Yet just two years later CFA finds itself applying them, at high volume, to perhaps the best known of all the Trustees: William Hauck, a consummate Sacramento insider and main¬stream media go-to guy from his $300,600-a-year perch as president of the California Business Roundtable.
In early May some 250 CSU faculty, staff and students demonstrated out¬side Hauck’s office in Sacramento. They waved large red “F” signs alongside a huge puppet of the Trustee’s likeness, calling attention to the grade they thought he deserved for his failed representation of the public interest dur¬ing the fight to rebuild the nation’s largest public university system.

‘Bill Hauck is powerful and politically connected. When he speaks, people listen. But the question is, who is writing his script? The California Business Roundtable has an agenda. In our view that agenda isn’t shared by the 35 million Californians the CSU has a covenant to serve.’

Three weeks later, in Beverly Hills, another crowd of protestors, decked out in caps and gowns, and waving colorful signs, made more purposeful noise outside the exclusive hotel where Hauck was hosting a luncheon for Gov. SChwarzenegger and their fellow buig business Cronies. The problem, as CFA warned at the was hosting a luncheon for Gov. Arnold ments made the connections more than time, is that the Compact has proven Schwarzenegger and their fellow big-just obvious—

I am unable to copy the remainder of the article. For the full article and excellent photos go to
This is in the summer issue of California Faculty.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sen. Escutia: This isn't bilingual education

This isn't bilingual ed
Re "Latest from the school policy sausage machine," Peter Schrag, July 12: Schrag's article misinforms the public about the debate between the state Board of Education and the Legislature. What is being called for are textbooks, written in English, that give guidance to teachers on how to teach the state's standards to all students, regardless of a student's ability to understand English. It is a red herring to claim that this proposal has any association with bilingual education or lowering the state's academic standards.
For months, a broad coalition of education groups, including the California School Boards Association, the Association of California School Administrators and 40 school districts, have expressed to the state board the urgent need for textbooks that uphold the state's academic standards and also accelerate English acquisition. Senate Bill 1769 responds to their plea by providing a curriculum option that is aligned to the state's standards, systematically develops English fluency and is written to be useful for all levels of English speakers.

The aim of California's accountability system is to hold schools responsible for student performance. The state must support schools by providing multiple and rigorous textbook options so educators can choose the best tool to teach their students English and the academic content every student should know.

- Martha M. Escutia, Sacramento
State Senator, D-Whittier

Letters; Sacramento Bee. Monday

Calif. School Board needs change

California School Board
The article “Budgetless, School Panel,” by Aurelio Rojas in the Sacramento Bee does a good job of explaining the conflict over the budget of the State Board of Education.
Only poorly educated monolinguals, like the partisan majority on the State Board, would cling to the notion that you can teach a child to read using materials in a language the child does not understand by simply repeating the lesson over and over. Anyone who speaks a second language knows that you must have comprehension.
Yes, the voters have imposed an English immersion program on the state. The latest test scores reveal that immersion has not improved English learning nor reading scores in California. But even when you insist on English immersion, the student must be provided with comprehension assistance while learning English.
The request by teachers was to enhance the reading books with specific instructions for students who need to learn English. The debate is over English materials.
The State Board in a high handed and ideological driven decision refused listen to teachers and refused to provide students with materials with appropriate English materials.
Thank you Sen. Escutia for taking a stand. I encourage all to support SB 1769.

Dr. Duane E. Campbell
Professor of Education
Letter publshed in the Bee on July 15.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Social Justice School offers history and activism

From the streets to the classroom

Social justice school offers summer course in history and activism. Austin, Texas

By Juan Castillo
Monday, July 10, 2006

On a sticky day in April at the University of Texas, Luis Orozco, a diminutive, fist-pumping dynamo from Lanier High School, lit a fire under a crowd more than 2,000 strong, the vast majority his elders.

At a rally with a parade of speakers, Orozco railed against a U.S. House bill retroactively making all illegal immigrants subject to felony charges.

"We are not going to stay quiet anymore," Orozco, who will be a junior in the fall, would say later.

Emboldened by their participation in this spring's eruption of protests over proposed crackdowns on illegal immigration, he and other high school students wondered what would come next. Orozco and about a dozen others are finding the answer in a classroom far from that emotionally pulsating scene at UT, a new Social Justice Summer School designed to provide insight into historical social struggles and to instill skills to organize for change.

The six-week school at Lanier, which ends this month, has a small, diverse group of U.S.- and foreign-born students spending weekday afternoons confronting topics rarely covered in depth, or at all, in high school: prejudice and racial hatred, and stains on American history such as slavery and segregation.

By the time it's over, the class will have explored heady topics: the civil rights movement, the United Farm Workers labor movement, assimilation and acculturation, poverty and barriers to economic success, to name a few.

Students, not all of whom participated in the demonstrations, are there on their own time, not for high school credit.

According to its lead sponsor, the nonprofit Austin Voices for Education and Youth, the school grew out of conversations with some of the hundreds of area middle school and high school students who protested proposals to clamp down on illegal immigration.

Though supported by many, student protesters came under much public criticism for missing classes. Others complained, too, that students weren't fully able to articulate their message.

"Oh, yeah, a lot of the kids were just going with the flow," said Alfredo Santos, the school's coordinator, who says he has been a community activist for 38 years.

Santos said that at the height of the protests, he and veterans of the Chicano movement noticed a need.

"We commented that this is all emotion here, but at some point it's going to have to make a switch to some basic social justice 101-type stuff," said Santos, who successfully pitched the idea of a school to Amy Averett, director of Austin Voices for Education and Youth.

The nonprofit group works with community members, students, parents and educators to improve schools and neighborhoods.In 2005, with the Austin school district, it was host of community forums to gather input on redesigning and improving Austin high schools.

Social justice school instructors, including visiting college professors, teach U.S. history with a focus on social issues. They don't espouse ideological views, instead encouraging students to think critically.

"We want to also encourage young people to be politically active and active in decision-making, and one of the quickest ways to turn them off of that is to tell them what to think," Averett said.

At its heart, the school is intended to keep alive the intellectual curiosity that drove student participation, said Tim Eubanks,a community organizer with Austin Voices and, with Santos, an instructor in the social justice school.

"One of the things we've always found is that when students are engaged and take action, that lifts all boats in their lives," Eubanks said.

A typical class meets for a total of about 7 1/2 hours a week and combines instruction, lots of questions and free-flowing, unyielding conversations.

On a recent afternoon, virtually the entire canvas of U.S. history and race relations framed the lesson, with Santos and Eubanks finding common threads in how social justice movements such as the fight for civil rights formed, why they were necessary and why change was slow. Students offered examples of racism they'd witnessed or seen on the news: an incident at a local grocery store, motives attributed to the government's delayed response to Hurricane Katrina.

Many social movements were born when segments of society resisted change, said Santos, adding that similar experiences can be found in today's debate over illegal immigration.

"My opinion, it has to do with fear," he said. "The country is changing, and it's changing very quickly."

The next day, the instructional centerpiece, a documentary on 1970s efforts to desegregate schools in Boston, recalled an ugly era of racial violence, when the N-word was a commonly used weapon of hate. White residents strongly resisted court-ordered busing that sent black students into their schools. The courts later assumed oversight of Boston public schools.

Eubanks said the documentary captured how students and parents in black neighborhoods succeeded in improving the quality of their education.

"It showed that change happens when people help make change happen," Eubanks said.

Orozco is trying to make things happen at Lanier.

"He's a natural-born leader," said Principal Edmund Oropez, citing the 18-year-old's involvement in school discussions to energize the PTA and to end isolation of Spanish-speaking immigrants in separate classrooms.

Having emigrated four years ago from the Mexican state of Michoacán, Orozco led a few of his classmates, including twins Eduardo and German Sifuentes, in a March 30 immigration march and protest. The Sifuentes brothers also attend the social justice school.

With a genial smile and self-deprecating humor, as well as a penchant for stirring class conversations, Orozco also is making a mark in the social justice school. He said he was drawn there because he thought it was important to understand the historical contexts of social protest in the United States and why social movements began.

"What I'm seeing now with the movements led by Martin Luther King and César Chávez, they worked because they led them peacefully," Orozco said.

Proposals clamping down on illegal immigrants, which could separate families with members both legally and illegally in the country, awakened Orozco.

"I didn't agree, and as always, I raised my voice and I said it, and I did something about it," he said.; 445-3635

Find this article at:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sen. Escutia takes a stand

California School Board
Recent letters by ex governors and recent letters to the Bee by ex staff members of the California Board of Education reveal one of the conflicts presently confronting the State Board.
Only poorly educated monolinguals, like the majority on the State Board, would cling to the notion that you can teach a child to read using materials in a language the child does not understand by simply repeating the lesson over and over. Anyone who speaks a second language knows that you must have comprehension.
Yes, the voters have imposed an English immersion program on the state. And current evidence is that it has not improved English learning nor reading scores in California. But even if you insist on English immersion, the student must be provided with comprehension assistance while learning English.
The request by teachers was to enhance the reading books with specific instructions for students who need to learn English. The debate is over English materials.
The State Board in a high handed and ideological driven decision refused to provide students with materials with these aids to comprehension.
Thank you Sen. Escutia for your willingness to take a stand.

Dr. Duane E. Campbell
Professor of Education

School Board with no budget

Budgetless, school panel meets today

Its president has quit after squabble with Democrats.

By Aurelio Rojas -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:01 am PDT Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The California Board of Education, which sets policy for the state's 6 million public school students, will meet today with no money in its budget, no president and feeling neglected by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On June 30, the same day the Republican governor signed a budget that did not include any money for the board's staff, the panel's president, Glee Johnson, abruptly quit.

"I think she felt the Governor's Office was overlooking the significance of the board and what it does," said Roger Magyar, the board's executive director, adding the budget mess was a factor.

Johnson, who as an aide to Gov. Pete Wilson helped usher in school standards and accountability, did not give a reason for her resignation and was not available for comment Tuesday.

But during her six months as president, the 11-member board split on several matters, including how English learners should be taught -- a recurring issue that has divided Democratic lawmakers and the board.

In April, the board voted down a proposal for instructional materials designed to help English learners, angering members of the 27-member Latino Caucus. In response, Democrats stripped $1.6 million for the board's staff from the budget that Schwarzenegger signed -- despite appeals to the administration by board officials, Magyar said.

Sen. Martha Escutia, who is carrying legislation, Senate Bill 1769, to expand instructional materials for English learners, said she told the governor late last month that the board would not get funding in the state budget.

"I said it in front of his chief of staff (Susan Kennedy) and other people," said Escutia, D-Whittier. "Maybe they made the mistake of underestimating me."

The money for the board's staff is now in SB 1769, which also would provide the instructional materials Escutia asked the board to support.

Meanwhile, the board's civil service staff is being paid with money from the state Department of Education while other staffers are on the payroll of the Governor's Office, Magyar said.

"We want to work with the Legislature to restore the funding as quickly as possible," said Sabrina Lockhard, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger.

The budget, she said, contains two items for materials for English learners -- a $30 million, one-time appropriation and $20 million to research how best to teach such students.

Magyar said that because the overall education budget was not as contentious as in previous years, the board's funding "slipped through the cracks."

He said Johnson and other board officials alerted the administration about the issue, to no avail.

"There were some people who said, 'Governor, we think you ought to take action against the Legislature,' " Magyar said. But he said the governor's advisers told him it was too late to hold up the budget over the matter.

Schwarzenegger, who is running for re-election, had made a strong push to sign the budget before the fiscal year that began July 1. It was the first time since 2000 that the budget had been signed that soon.

Lockhard said the board is still carrying out its responsibilities -- and has Schwarzenegger's strong backing.

"The governor is proud of the board," she said. "He really supports them, he believes that they're doing an excellent job."

Rebecca Parker, a board consultant and civil service employee, said the staff remains committed to its jobs.

"We've chosen to continue to do business because the (school) districts in the state depend on us," she said.

On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger -- who has been courting Latino voters during his re-election campaign -- appointed David Lopez, president of National Hispanic University in San Jose, to replace Johnson on the board.

Today, the board is scheduled to select a new president. A possible candidate is Joe Nuñez, currently the only Latino on the board and an official of the California Teachers Association.

Lopez is expected to attend the board meeting, although his appointment to the four-year term requires Senate confirmation. Last year, a Senate panel rejected Schwarzenegger's bid to reappoint Reed Hastings to the board.

As head of the panel, the Silicon Valley businessman lost support of Latino lawmakers for bucking their efforts to expand instructional materials for English learners.

Lopez, who runs a school whose goal is to increase college attendance of Latino students, should meet less resistance, said Maria Quezada, director of the California Association for Bilingual Education.

Last week, former Govs. Wilson and Gray Davis, in a rare show of bipartisanship, sent a joint letter to Schwarzenegger urging him not to retreat from the curriculum standards and testing they pushed through while in office.

Escutia said the legislation she is exhorting Schwarzenegger to back would not change standards or expand bilingual education.

That issue, she said, was settled by Proposition 227, the 1998 ballot measure that largely eliminated bilingual education in California.

"What we're trying to do is provide the materials for these students to learn," she said. "This is not about bilingual education."

About the writer:

The Bee's Aurelio Rojas can be reached at (916) 326-5545 or
Go to: Sacbee / Back to story

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee, (916) 321-1000

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Jill Stewart creeps in again:2, Issue of 3/16/06
Classroom quarrel
Too bad Jill Stewart didn't look at the 2005 test data and only listened to "one school reformer" before she vilified over 50 school and county administrators and hundreds of teachers who only want to upgrade the current English language arts textbooks. So what are the facts? (3/2/06, Capitol Punishment, "The education wars") The achievement gap between students who speak English and those who don't (English learners) has grown consistently since the passage of Prop. 227.

Last year's third grade test scores dropped for almost all students but even more dramatically for English learners. The worst part is that the numbers of students scoring at the lowest levels of achievement in the third grade increased, and especially for English Learners. These third graders began their reading experience under the one-size-fits-all program currently mandated by the California State Board of Education designed for native English speakers. Students who speak the least English do not understand the lessons contained in the current and proposed new textbooks, voted on by the State Board of Education on March 9.
The request is to enhance the new books with specific instruction for students who need to learn English and how to read English at the same time. The recommendations before the state board from a broad group of educators do not even mention bilingual education. This debate is over English materials.
So why would Ms. Stewart use all the hot button words to scare the public and intimidate the State Board of Education members? Maybe because she is only a political commentator and not an educator? She should stick to politics and let the State Board of Education do the right thing for 1.6 million English learners who need books to accelerate their learning of English and prepare them to compete in a dynamic, diverse and global economy.
Shelly Spiegel-Coleman
President, Californians Together
Long Beach
forgive this delayed posting. I just encountered this letter on the CABE web site. Regular readers will know that I try to keep taps on Jill Steward, the Ann Coulter of California.

Calif. Board of Education - failure

Ex-governors push school standards

By Aurelio Rojas -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:01 am PDT Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A week after Democratic lawmakers stripped funding for the state Board of Education, former Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis have asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reaffirm his support for curriculum standards, testing and how English learners are taught.
In rare show of bipartisanship, Wilson, a Republican, and Davis, a Democrat, said "term limits have left Sacramento with little institutional memory of the goals and rationale" for the reforms they ushered through while in office.

"Standards provide a measure of excellence regardless of one's skin color, family income or ZIP code," the former governors wrote in a letter dated Friday. "We took a standards-based approach in California because we believe that it set expectations high."

Rancor has escalated in recent months between the Democrats who control the Legislature and the Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor and sets policy for California schools.

After the board voted down a proposal in April for instructional material designed to help English learners more quickly overcome their limitations, Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier, turned to fellow Democrats in the Legislature.

The budget that lawmakers sent the governor last week for his signature contained no money for the board's staff; $1.6 million had been taken out.

"We tried to talk to (the board) and they just say 'no,' " said Suzanne Wierbinski, Escutia's chief of staff. "That's when we said, 'Fine. Here you go.' "

In their two-page letter to Schwarzenegger, Wilson and Davis do not refer to the budget skirmish. But they assert that the standards they fought for are under assault, without specifying the aggressors.

"Some have attacked the standards by arguing the process for creating them was politically manipulated or even hijacked by 'ideologically based scholars' such as 'fellows' at the conservative Hoover Institute," they wrote.

Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, said Democrats have no designs on changing standards.

"This is the same thing that gets said over and over and over -- and there's absolutely no one attacking the standards," Goldberg said.

She said the proposed legislation the ex-governors "are talking about says there is more than one road to meet those standards. That's all its says."

The legislation -- Senate Bill 1769 by Escutia -- would "integrate supplemental instruction into the core curriculum and maintain every state standard," Wierbinski said.

Sabrina Lockhard, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said the administration received the letter Monday and the governor had not weighed in on the debate.

"(But) the governor believes that English learners do best when they're immersed in the language," she said. "When he came to this country, that's how he learned to speak English."

Lockhard added that the Republican governor "is working with the Legislature" to restore funding for the Board of Education.

Note: from Duane Campbell
The standards should be re-examined. The History/Social Science standards were a victory of traditionalist-conservative forces. And, they fail to help students to understand the present society. They are obsolete.
For more on this see Chapter 12 of my book, Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. ( Merrill/Prentice Hall. 2004)
Also note: Alan Bersin, the California Secretary of Education is on the California State School Board. see other posts in this blog about Bersin and his time in San Diego.

Bracey: Reading Educational Research

Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered. For years Gerry Bracey has been challenging the conventional wisdom on educational research and statistics. If you follow his EDDRA listserve you saw this summer how he challenged the recent drop-out numbers from the Education Week study. Of course most people don't want to hear inconvenient truths, preferring to just listen to the numbers that make them justified in their own thinking. But if you want to get behind the numbers and not be fooled again, pick up this slim volume and then keep it handy on your desk for frequent reference.
2006. Hieneman.

Monday, July 10, 2006

LAO: Budget analysis

The Legislative Analyst Office has posted their description of the budget.
Note the allocations to k-12 education. In 2006-2007, their is a claim of a major increase in ADA. Does anyone have an analysis of this? Will we really make progress?
Duane Campbell

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bush is not incompetent: Lakoff

A long post, but well worth reading.
Bush Is Not Incompetent
By George Lakoff, AlterNet
Posted on July 3, 2006, Printed on July 8, 2006

Progressives have fallen into a trap. Emboldened by President Bush's plummeting approval ratings, progressives increasingly point to Bush's "failures" and label him and his administration as incompetent. For example, Nancy Pelosi said "The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader."

Self-satisfying as this criticism may be, it misses the bigger point. Bush's disasters -- Katrina, the Iraq War, the budget deficit -- are not so much a testament to his incompetence or a failure of execution. Rather, they are the natural, even inevitable result of his conservative governing philosophy. It is conservatism itself, carried out according to plan, that is at fault. Bush will not be running again, but other conservatives will. His governing philosophy is theirs as well. We should be putting the onus where it belongs, on all conservative office holders and candidates who would lead us off the same cliff.

To Bush's base, his bumbling folksiness is part of his charm -- it fosters conservative populism. Bush plays up this image by proudly stating his lack of interest in reading and current events, his fondness for naps and vacations and his self-deprecating jokes. This image causes the opposition to underestimate his capacities -- disregarding him as a complete idiot -- and deflects criticism of his conservative allies. If incompetence is the problem, it's all about Bush. But, if conservatism is the problem, it is about a set of ideas, a movement and its many adherents.

The idea that Bush is incompetent is a curious one. Consider the following (incomplete) list of major initiatives the Bush administration, with a loyal conservative Congress, has accomplished:

Centralizing power within the executive branch to an unprecedented degree
Starting two major wars, one started with questionable intelligence and in a manner with which the military disagreed
Placing on the Supreme Court two far-right justices, and stacking the lower federal courts with many more
Cutting taxes during wartime, an unprecedented event
Passing a number of controversial bills such as the PATRIOT Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, the Medicare Drug bill, the Bankruptcy bill and a number of massive tax cuts
Rolling back and refusing to enforce a host of basic regulatory protections
Appointing industry officials to oversee regulatory agencies
Establishing a greater role for religion through faith-based initiatives
Passing Orwellian-titled legislation assaulting the environment -- "The Healthy Forests Act" and the "Clear Skies Initiative" -- to deforest public lands, and put more pollution in our skies
Winning re-election and solidifying his party's grip on Congress
These aren't signs of incompetence. As should be painfully clear, the Bush administration has been overwhelmingly competent in advancing its conservative vision. It has been all too effective in achieving its goals by determinedly pursuing a conservative philosophy.

It's not Bush the man who has been so harmful, it's the conservative agenda.

The Conservative Agenda

Conservative philosophy has three fundamental tenets: individual initiative, that is, government's positive role in people's lives outside of the military and police should be minimized; the President is the moral authority; and free markets are enough to foster freedom and opportunity.

The conservative vision for government is to shrink it - to "starve the beast" in Conservative Grover Norquist's words. The conservative tagline for this rationale is that "you can spend your money better than the government can." Social programs are considered unnecessary or "discretionary" since the primary role of government is to defend the country's border and police its interior. Stewardship of the commons, such as allocation of healthcare or energy policy, is left to people's own initiative within the free market. Where profits cannot be made -- conservation, healthcare for the poor -- charity is meant to replace justice and the government should not be involved.

Given this philosophy, then, is it any wonder that the government wasn't there for the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Conservative philosophy places emphasis on the individual acting alone, independent of anything the government could provide. Some conservative Sunday morning talk show guests suggested that those who chose to live in New Orleans accepted the risk of a devastating hurricane, the implication being that they thus forfeited any entitlement to government assistance. If the people of New Orleans suffered, it was because of their own actions, their own choices and their own lack of preparedness. Bush couldn't have failed if he bore no responsibility.

The response to Hurricane Katrina -- rather, the lack of response -- was what one should expect from a philosophy that espouses that the government can have no positive role in its citizen's lives. This response was not about Bush's incompetence, it was a conservative, shrink-government response to a natural disaster.

Another failure of this administration during the Katrina fiasco was its wholesale disregard of the numerous and serious hurricane warnings. But this failure was a natural outgrowth of the conservative insistence on denying the validity of global warming, not ineptitude. Conservatives continue to deny the validity of global warming, because it runs contrary to their moral system. Recognizing global warming would call for environmental regulation and governmental efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Regulation is a perceived interference with the free-market, Conservatives' golden calf. So, the predictions of imminent hurricanes -- based on recognizing global warming -- were not heeded. Conservative free market convictions trumped the hurricane warnings.

Our budget deficit is not the result of incompetent fiscal management. It too is an outgrowth of conservative philosophy. What better way than massive deficits to rid social programs of their funding?

In Iraq, we also see the impact of philosophy as much as a failure of execution.

The idea for the war itself was born out of deep conservative convictions about the nature and capacity of US military force. Among the Project for a New American Century's statement of principles (signed in 1997 by a who's who of the architects of the Iraq war -- Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby among others) are four critical points:

we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future
we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values
we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad
we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.
Implicit in these ideas is that the United States military can spread democracy through the barrel of a gun. Our military might and power can be a force for good.
It also indicates that the real motive behind the Iraq war wasn't to stop Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, but was a test of neoconservative theory that the US military could reshape Middle East geo-politics. The manipulation and disregard of intelligence to sell the war was not incompetence, it was the product of a conservative agenda.

Unfortunately, this theory exalts a hubristic vision over the lessons of history. It neglects the realization that there is a limit to a foreign army's ability to shape foreign politics for the good. Our military involvement in Vietnam, Lebanon, the Philippines, Cuba (prior to Castro) and Panama, or European imperialist endeavors around the globe should have taught us this lesson. Democracy needs to be an organic, homegrown movement, as it was in this country. If we believe so deeply in our ideals, they will speak for themselves and inspire others.

During the debate over Iraq, the conservative belief in the unquestioned authority and moral leadership of the President helped shape public support. We see this deference to the President constantly: when Conservatives call those questioning the President's military decisions "unpatriotic"; when Conservatives defend the executive branch's use of domestic spying in the war on terror; when Bush simply refers to himself as the "decider." "I support our President" was a common justification of assent to the Iraq policy.

Additionally, as the implementer of the neoconservative vision and an unquestioned moral authority, our President felt he had no burden to forge international consensus or listen to the critiques of our allies. "You're with us, or you're against us," he proclaimed after 9/11.

Much criticism continues to be launched against this administration for ineptitude in its reconstruction efforts. Tragically, it is here too that the administration's actions have been shaped less by ineptitude than by deeply held conservative convictions about the role of government.

As noted above, Conservatives believe that government's role is limited to security and maintaining a free market. Given this conviction, it's no accident that administration policies have focused almost exclusively on the training of Iraqi police, and US access to the newly free Iraqi market -- the invisible hand of the market will take care of the rest. Indeed, George Packer has recently reported that the reconstruction effort in Iraq is nearing its end ("The Lessons of Tal Affar," The New Yorker, April 10th, 2006). Iraqis must find ways to rebuild themselves, and the free market we have constructed for them is supposed to do this. This is not ineptitude. This is the result of deep convictions over the nature of freedom and the responsibilities of governments to their people.

Finally, many of the miscalculations are the result of a conservative analytic focus on narrow causes and effects, rather than mere incompetence. Evidence for this focus can be seen in conservative domestic policies: Crime policy is based on punishing the criminals, independent of any effort to remedy the larger social issues that cause crime; immigration policy focuses on border issues and the immigrants, and ignores the effects of international and domestic economic policy on population migration; environmental policy is based on what profits there are to be gained or lost today, without attention paid to what the immeasurable long-term costs will be to the shared resource of our environment; education policy, in the form of vouchers, ignores the devastating effects that dismantling the public school system will have on our whole society.

Is it any surprise that the systemic impacts of the Iraq invasion were not part of the conservative moral or strategic calculus used in pursuing the war?

The conservative war rhetoric focused narrowly on ousting Saddam -- he was an evil dictator, and evil cannot be tolerated, period. The moral implications of unleashing social chaos and collateral damage in addition to the lessons of history were not relevant concerns.

As a consequence, we expected to be greeted as liberators. The conservative plan failed to appreciate the complexities of the situation that would have called for broader contingency planning. It lacked an analysis of what else would happen in Iraq and the Middle East as a result of ousting the Hussein Government, such as an Iranian push to obtain nuclear weapons.

Joe Biden recently said, "if I had known the president was going to be this incompetent in his administration, I would not have given him the authority [to go to war]." Had Bush actually been incompetent, he would have never been able to lead us to war in Iraq. Had Bush been incompetent, he would not have been able to ram through hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Had Bush been incompetent, he would have been blocked from stacking the courts with right-wing judges. Incompetence, on reflection, might have actually been better for the country.

Hidden Successes

Perhaps the biggest irony of the Bush-is-incompetent frame is that these "failures" -- Iraq, Katrina and the budget deficit -- have been successes in terms of advancing the conservative agenda.

One of the goals of Conservatives is to keep people from relying on the federal government. Under Bush, FEMA was reorganized to no longer be a first responder in major natural disasters, but to provide support for local agencies. This led to the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina. Now citizens, as well as local and state governments, have become distrustful of the federal government's capacity to help ordinary citizens. Though Bush's popularity may have suffered, enhancing the perception of federal government as inept turned out to be a conservative victory.

Conservatives also strive to get rid of protective agencies and social programs. The deficit Bush created through irresponsible tax cuts and a costly war in Iraq will require drastic budget cuts to remedy. Those cuts, conservatives know, won't come from military spending, particularly when they raise the constant specter of war. Instead, the cuts will be from what Conservatives have begun to call "non-military, discretionary spending;" that is, the programs that contribute to the common good like the FDA, EPA, FCC, FEMA, OSHA and the NLRB. Yet another success for the conservative agenda.

Both Iraq and Katrina have enriched the coffers of the conservative corporate elite, thus further advancing the conservative agenda. Halliburton, Lockhead Martin and US oil companies have enjoyed huge profit margins in the last six years. Taking Iraq's oil production off-line in the face of rising international demand meant prices would rise, making the oil inventories of Exxon and other firms that much more valuable, leading to record profits. The destruction wrought by Katrina and Iraq meant billions in reconstruction contracts. The war in Iraq (and the war in Afghanistan) meant billions in military equipment contracts. Was there any doubt where those contracts would go? Chalk up another success for Bush's conservative agenda.

Bush also used Katrina as an opportunity to suspend the environmental and labor protection laws that Conservatives despise so much. In the wake of Katrina, environmental standards for oil refineries were temporarily suspended to increase production. Labor laws are being thwarted to drive down the cost of reconstruction efforts. So, amidst these "disasters," Conservatives win again.

Where most Americans see failure in Iraq - George Miller recently called Iraq a "blunder of historic proportions" - conservative militarists are seeing many successes. Conservatives stress the importance of our military -- our national pride and worth is expressed through its power and influence. Permanent bases are being constructed as planned in Iraq, and America has shown the rest of the world that we can and will preemptively strike with little provocation. They succeeded in a mobilization of our military forces based on ideological pretenses to impact foreign policy. The war has struck fear in other nations with a hostile show of American power. The conservatives have succeeded in strengthening what they perceive to be the locus of the national interest --military power.

It's Not Incompetence

When Progressives shout "Incompetence!" it obscures the many conservative successes. The incompetence frame drastically misses the point, that the conservative vision is doing great harm to this country and the world. An understanding of this and an articulate progressive response is needed. Progressives know that government can and should have a positive role in our lives beyond simple, physical security. It had a positive impact during the progressive era, busting trusts, and establishing basic labor standards. It had a positive impact during the new deal, softening the blow of the depression by creating jobs and stimulating the economy. It had a positive role in advancing the civil rights movement, extending rights to previously disenfranchised groups. And the United States can have a positive role in world affairs without the use of its military and expressions of raw power. Progressives acknowledge that we are all in this together, with "we" meaning all people, across all spectrums of race, class, religion, sex, sexual preference and age. "We" also means across party lines, state lines and international borders.

The mantra of incompetence has been an unfortunate one. The incompetence frame assumes that there was a sound plan, and that the trouble has been in the execution. It turns public debate into a referendum on Bush's management capabilities, and deflects a critique of the impact of his guiding philosophy. It also leaves open the possibility that voters will opt for another radically conservative president in 2008, so long as he or she can manage better. Bush will not be running again, so thinking, talking and joking about him being incompetent offers no lessons to draw from his presidency.

Incompetence obscures the real issue. Bush's conservative philosophy is what has damaged this country and it is his philosophy of conservatism that must be rejected, whoever endorses it.

Conservatism itself is the villain that is harming our people, destroying our environment, and weakening our nation. Conservatives are undermining American values through legislation almost every day. This message applies to every conservative bill proposed to Congress. The issue that arises every day is which philosophy of governing should shape our country. It is the issue of our times. Unless conservative philosophy itself is discredited, Conservatives will continue their domination of public discourse, and with it, will continue their domination of politics.

George Lakoff is the author of Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate' (Chelsea Green). He is professor of linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and a Senior Fellow of the Rockridge Institute.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Friday, July 07, 2006

NEA Challenges NCLB

A majority of the 8,200 delegates gathered for the National Education Association’s annual convention overwhelmingly approved a plan that would push for aggressive changes to the federal No Child Left Behind law, which is up for reauthorization next year. The nation's largest union, whose leaders have often complained they were not allowed to participate in the crafting of the country's chief education law, approved a plan that calls on NEA members to lobby Congress for reforms to bring the law more in line with the views of the 2.8 million-member union. The changes proposed include establishing an accountability system that no longer relies only on testing as the measure of success or failure. Instead, the union recommends designing a system based on multiple benchmarks, including teacher-designed classroom assessments, student portfolios, graduation/dropout statistics, and college-enrollment rates, among other measures. The plan also calls for smaller class sizes, more funding for schools, and revisions to the definition of “highly qualified” teacher. The plan passed with just three delegates speaking publicly against it, reports Vaishali Honawar, because they argued that the union should take even more extreme measures and try to repeal the NCLB law in its entirety. At the Representative Assembly, the union also released a survey of 1,000 NEA members that showed nearly 70 percent dislike the No Child Left Behind Act and believe it has failed to improve education. Only 29 percent of those surveyed said they approve of the law.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mayors and school ( cont.)

Mayor Antonio Villariagosa of Los Angeles is in the midst of seeking power to control the Los Angleses city schools. This effort continues a pattern of urban mayors trying to reform the schools. In considering this direction it is important to consider what mayors could do with their current powers.
Here is a brief from West Ed by Richard Rothstien from his recent book, Class and Schools: Using Social , Economic and Educational Reform to close the Black-White Achievement Gap. (2006)

Reforms that could help narrow the achievement Gap.

Policymakers almost universally conclude that persistent achievement gaps must result
from wrongly designed school policies — either expectations that are too low, teachers who are insufficiently qualified, curricula that are badly designed, classes that are too large, school climates that are too undisciplined, leadership that is too unfocused, or a combination of these. This exclusive focus on schooling is wrong. Without complementary investments in early childhood preparation, health care, housing, after-school and summer programs, and other social and economic supports, the achievement gap will never be closed.

Americans have concluded that the
achievement gap is the fault of “failing schools”
because it makes no common sense that
it could be otherwise. After all, how much
money a family has, or a child’s skin color,
should not influence how well that child learns
to read. If teachers know how to teach and if
schools permit no distractions, children should
be able to learn these subjects whatever their
family income or skin color.
This common sense perspective, however,
is misleading and dangerous. It ignores how
social class characteristics in a stratified society
like ours may actually influence learning in
school. It confuses social class, a concept which
Americans have historically been loathe to con-
sider, with two of its characteristics, income and,
in the United States, race. For it is true that low
income and skin color themselves don’t influ-
ence academic achievement, but the collection
of characteristics that define social class differ-
ences inevitably influences that achievement.
If as a society we choose to preserve big
social class differences, we must necessarily also
accept substantial gaps between the achieve-
ment of lower-class and middle-class children.
Closing those gaps requires not only better
schools, although those are certainly needed,
but also reform in the social and economic
institutions that prepare children to learn in
different ways. It will not be cheap.
What follows is a series of reforms, in addi-
tion to school improvement, that could help
narrow the achievement gap.
The contents of this issue of Policy Perspectives are excerpted from Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and
Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap, by Richard Rothstein, and published by Teachers College Press (2004). Class and Schools is available at booksellers and at

Patriotism : Howard Zinn

July 3, 2006

Patriotism & The Fourth of July

By Howard Zinn

In celebration of the 4th of July there will be many
speeches about the young people who 'died for their
country.' Let's be honest about war. Those who gave
their lives did not die for their country, as they were
led to believe but for their government. The
distinction between country and government is at the
heart of the Declaration of Independence, which will
be referred to again and again on July 4, but without
attention to its meaning.
Click on the title for the full document.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The most important Senate race in the nation

The Most Important U.S. Senate Race in 2006

By: David Sirota, The Huffington Post
July 5th/2005

A lot of people have asked me which races in 2006 are going to be most crucial.
The disgusting Katherine Harris of Bush-Gore 2000 fame is running in Florida -
should defeating her be progressives’ biggest priority? Or what about taking
out wild-eyed right-wing lunatic Sen. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania?

Both of these races, and many others, are definitely important. But if you are a
progressive who wants to start seeing some fundamental, long-term change (as
opposed to short term incrementalism), there’s one race in 2006 that stands
head and shoulders above the rest in terms of significance: The race to replace
retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords in Vermont.

Why do I say this? Because the leading candidate in that race is Vermont’s
Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders - the longest-serving Independent in
Congress. This is not a man who is independent in the “between Democrats and
Republicans” way - this is one of the most committed progressives ever to hold
federal office, a man who is an independent because he has long believed the
current political system is bought by Big Money. Electing him to the U.S.
Senate transcends this election because it would elevate one of the strongest
voices progressives to the national stage - a stage that, beyond a handful of
courageous leaders like Ted Kennedy and Paul Wellstone, has been sorely lacking
strong progressive voices for years.

You may have recently heard about Sanders after he managed to defy a veto threat
by President Bush and pass legislation to reform the Patriot Act. You might also
have heard about him when he was the first Member of Congress to take seniors to
Canada to highlight how the drug industry is ripping off Americans with the
highest prices in the world.

The Capitol BuildingBut if you don’t know much about Sanders and think I am
overblowing the case, do yourself a favor and read this new piece on him in
Vermont’s Rutland Herald - the newspaper that covers one of the more
conservative-leaning areas of the state. If you don’t want to read an article,
check out some video of Sanders’ angrily confronting people like Fed Chairman
Alan Greenspan - people that most bought-off politicians are too afraid to
criticize in private, much less challenge in public.

Make no mistake about it - the GOP and its Big Business backers are going to do
everything they can to try to knock off Sanders. They have already recruited a
multi-millionaire corporate executive who has pledged to spend $5 million of
his own money to try to buy the election. And Sanders faces special challenges
because he refuses to accept corporate PAC money. That’s why you should join me
in heading over to his website and making a donation. No matter how small, it is
important - Sanders has always relied on small contributions from ordinary
people to fund his campaigns.

For far too long, the U.S. Senate has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of
Corporate America, taking orders from Big Business and conservative interest
groups. Electing someone like Sanders to the Senate would finally give The Rest
of Us a voice in an insitution we have been locked out of. That’s why Vermont’s
Senate race is the most important election of 2006: because it goes beyond the
short-term partisan makeup of Congress, and finally gives us a chance to power
someone who fights for real people into the most exclusive, elitist-dominated,
and important institutions in America.


Monday, July 03, 2006

NCLB: little evidence of success

The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (CRP) has released a new study that reports the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) hasn't improved reading and mathematical achievement or reduced achievement gaps. The study also revealed that the NCLB won't meet its goals of 100 percent student proficiency by 2014 if the trends of the first several years continue. The report compares the findings from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) to state assessment results and concludes that high stakes testing and sanctions required by NCLB are not working as planned under the NCLB. The findings contradict claims of the Bush Administration and some previous studies that showed positive results under NCLB. "This report is depressing given the tremendous amount of pressure schools have been under and the damage that a lot of high poverty racial schools have undergone by being declared as failing schools," said Gary Orfield, director of the Civil Rights Project. "We have not focused on the kinds of serious long-term reforms that can actually produce gains and narrow the huge gaps in opportunity and achievement for minority students."

Military spending

From Oxfam Ireland,
" For every dollar spent in development aid, ten dollars is spent on military budgets. The amount that the rich countries spend on fighting Hiv/AIDS, a disease which claims 3 million lives a year, represents three days spending on military hardware."
In Somalia, " I could clearly see emaciated and sick children and aduilts in the streets. But there were others- boys as young as 8, I would guess, and young men who roam around with Kalishnikovs and M16s- that made them the rulers of their particular street corner."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Alan Bersin : Calif. Superintendent opinion

Alan Bersin left the San Diego city Schools in June 2005 -- after seven tumultuous years as superintendent of the 141,000-student system. Formerly a U.S. Attorney, Bersin and his chief academic officer, Anthony Alvarado, in 2000 launched an ambitious reform effort aimed at strengthening instruction throughout the district. The effort, known as the Blueprint for Student Success, produced gains in student achievement, particularly in the elementary grades, but also attracted strong opposition from the local teachers’ union and its allies on the school board. In 2001, San Diego became one of seven cities to participate in the Schools for a New Society Initiative. Sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the initiative aims to redesign high schools using a working theory of action that involves forming community partnerships -- particularly with local education funds (LEFs) -- and enlisting the community’s help to expand learning opportunities for youth and demand educational excellence. In this publication, Bersin shares with Collaborative Communications Group his reflections on the purpose of high school reform, how he would change San Diego’s theory of action for high schools -- and the political and governance contexts in which the reforms occurred.

Look at this interview. It reveals a great deal about the views of the the California Secretary of Education
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