Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teachers' Woes Grow Ever More Intensely

Recent actions at the state levels have drawn attention to the role of teachers’ unions in the public education process. It should be said that most of this attention is unwarranted. The fact is that, in the context of education cuts, more demands are being made on teachers than they are able to deliver in the current public school setting. This has nothing to do with teachers' unions.

Regular education is facing the consequences of increased class sizes and pressures resulting from NCLB and state budget cuts. One consequence of this is the increasing turnover of teachers and the rising median age of teachers. http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/03/08/high-teacher-turnover-rates-are-a-big-problem-for-americas-public-schools/ http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/SASS/tables/state_2004_19.asp Young people are more likely to avoid the profound difficulties of the current public school work environment in favor of other careers. It is worth saying that public school teachers have heard the message of the public - parents, public officials and public opinion. Teachers have always considered themselves as advocates for their students. But for the past 20 years this has turned into a situation where teachers are being scapegoated for the poor status of student academic performance.

The profound demographic changes in the nation have added basic language skills to the array of issues that impact on student performance. The ELL training is not proving sufficient in expanding the skills needed by non-English speaking students and ELL classes are inadequately constructed in numerous settings to address the issues of improving student achievement. “If mainstream teachers are to help meet the many challenges inherent in educating ELLs, one of many subgroups within a single classroom, a researched-based effective professional development source must be devised to create the workforce with the skills needed to teach these students effectively. Equity of education for ELL students will depend ultimately upon how schools respond to the individual student and his or her needs. The training, follow-through, and support of the mainstream teachers for English language learners are important to all Americans, as education is the pathway to employability, economic independence, and social wellbeing.” http://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1709&context=gradschool_diss

Increasing teacher training will not benefit if new potential teachers see that the environment they are considering is so profoundly dysfunctional. Expectations on current teachers have been raised beyond the capabilities to achieve. This is resulting in teacher turnovers and cheating scandals such as the one in Atlanta.

Learning technologies are often pointed to as the silver bullet in public education. The fact is that these technologies have their own issues that include the difficulty in monitoring and the lack of personal interactions and dialogue between students and teachers. On-line schools and other alternatives have arisen and gained a certain popularity. http://www.kvue.com/news/Online-K-12-schooling-on-the-rise-138317819.html It is not reasonable to presume that it will ever replace the public education system.

Increasing common core standards holds no solutions when they are not sufficiently relevant in the existing classroom settings. Standards in California have been raised in the face of repeated failures throughout the state public school system. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2011/11/many_california_elementary_stu.html One thing we are learning from the NCLB testing is how inadequate student performance is in meeting those standards. In this context, there is an increasing atmosphere of antagonism between teachers, parents and administration, not collaboration. Teacher demoralization is an issue in itself that will not be addressed simply by core standards. Training will help. There appears to be more training being expected of public school teachers than is being delivered by either public schools or higher education. Focusing solely on teacher training will not address the profound demands that are being made on teachers in the classroom.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A clear article on the Peripheral Canal.

One of the things that California Greens need to think about is the long term effects of the decisions and planning for a new "conveyance" for water through, under or around the Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta. It was once called the Peripheral Canal and voters defeated it the last time Jerry Brown was Governor.
If you want to understand what is happen, you know, the basic questions like:
  • Who benefits? 
  • How much will it cost?
  • Who pays for it?
there is no better place to start that with Deanna Lynn Wulff's article in the Bilingual Weekly out of Stockton.  This quote tells you why it is important.
Nearly two-thirds of California residents and the majority of agriculture get their water from the Delta and its tributaries, which surround Stockton in an intricate pattern of levees, rivers and farms. But the Delta faces multifaceted environmental problems, which have led to a crisis for fisheries, wildlife and water quality.
The second place to look for information about cost / benefit is from Fresno friend, Lloyd G. Carter. His comments about the lack of any cost / benefit analysis regarding the State Water Project makes it sound like we are just replaying an old newsreel.
But, of course, Pat Brown and southerners in the Legislature ignored Ballis’s call for a cost-benefit analysis of the State Water Project and the problem has been beset by financial problems ever since, delivering half the water promised and costing twice as much as advertised, with many billions of dollars more need to actually finish it
. Greens need to be engaged in dealing with such major issues. It is what political parties do if they are relevant.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How much regulation is enough?

It was clear from Obama's SOTU last night that governmental regulation is going to be a major issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. The Republican mantra of less regulation, especially environmental regulation, will flow easily from nearly every Republican Candidate and you even heard Obama cite a Republican President, Lincoln, to the effect that "That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more."

With that background, we need to be look at the economic impact of some problems that we try to resolve through regulation. That this for an example:
Study: Citrus Greening Cost State $3.6 Billion, 6,600 Jobs


some info from the article:
Citrus Greening (called Huanglongbing in it's contry of origin, China) has now been confirmed in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas and most citrus-producing regions of Mexico. It was discovered in Florida in Sept 2005. At the Second International Research Conference on Huanglongbing in January 2011, researchers estimated greening had already infected about 18 percent of Florida's citrus trees, estimated at 70.6 million trees last year. Some say as much as 25% are infected. Thousands of acres of citrus are no longer producing saleable fruit and are now abandoned, with the psyllids continuing to spread the disease to nearby orchards.
A UF study says that since the citrus seasons of 2006-07 through 2010-11, the disease has cost the state's economy $3.6 billion over five years, including 6,611 lost jobs in agriculture and related industries.

If this were anything else that you morning orange juice, I am sure that we would have heard about it through the morning news. In stead, we get a guessing game over the medical condition of Demi Moore. However, you don't hear about this type of work, and it goes on every day. But it is easy to find attacks on the Endangered Species Act or restraints of free trade.

Greens need to have a clear definition of the role of government regulation. Maybe Lincoln's thinking is a good starting point. We also need to clearly articulate how we can do this with community based economic development, because it soon become apparent that what is good for one community may not be good for it's neighbor. Lacking such an understanding, we will easily fall victim to the massive, industry financed publicity campaigns, not only as politicla voices, but as voters and consumers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

New directions in water policy, or just shirking responsibilities.

It is rare that I will use this blog to call attention to another blog, but today's post at On the Public Record illustrates the depth of the problem that Greens would have with a rational regional water management policy.
I’ve wondered about the State and Fed’s role diminishing, especially as the legislature and the agencies explicitly set their water management approach as ‘supporting integrated regional water management’. I worry about that some, since I believe that local governments generally don’t have the luxury to do anything more than work in their immediate self-interest and compete with their neighbors for “growth” and its accompanying new tax revenue, which will always require additional water sources. (emphasis mine)
However, regional, watershed based management the only way to ensure that Green Values will govern the development and use of this indispensable resource. My observation of the politics of water in California is that it will always be governed by urban growth. At time, urban needs are hidden in the demand to support CA's agribusinesses, but too often the subsidized agricultural water allocation is only resold to urban users at a bigger profit than can be made from using that water for growing food. If you care about water and politics in this semi-arid state, then On the Public Record is required reading. In this case, his concern is very real and probably even understated.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kids Going 120 Miles to School

Do "minority kids" do poorly in school because "those people" don't have a high enough regard for education? You know you've heard variations of this argument about a 1,000 times. The L.A. Times published a story that I personally found poignant on a number of levels.

The Los Angeles Times, Thursday, January 19, 2012
Death Valley Students Face
Loss of Lifeline

By Teresa Watanabe

A school bus carries students from Death Valley High School in Shoshone to a Native American village in the national park. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / January 10, 2012)

California has pulled funding for school transportation for the rest of this fiscal year and may eliminate it entirely next year. In Death Valley, where some students have a two-hour round trip, the cut is 'catastrophic.' ... It is 6:54 a.m. Marlee, a 14-year-old with raven hair and red nail polish, climbs aboard. She is one of nine students who spend more than two hours riding this bus 120 miles every school day to and from the Furnace Creek area to their school in Shoshone...

The long distance and light passenger load make this bus ride exorbitantly expensive. The Death Valley Unified School District spends about $3,500 a year for each of its 60 students on home-to-school transportation — compared with about $26 per student in more densely populated districts, according to data compiled by the California School Boards Assn.

So when Gov. Jerry Brown announced that lagging state revenue would require eliminating all school transportation funding for the rest of this fiscal year, it hit this tiny school district harder than just about any other in California. Death Valley Supt. Jim Copeland calls the cut, which took effect Jan. 1, "catastrophic."

For students like Marlee, the issue goes way beyond dollars and cents. The bus is her lifeline from the desolation of the desert to a wider world of teachers and friends, school sports and art projects and academic stimulation.

"School is the highlight of my life, and we can't get to school without the buses," Marlee said after a recent morning ride.

Educators statewide have decried the busing cuts as particularly unfair to small and rural districts that shoulder disproportionately high transportation costs. They are scrambling to reverse the move with legal action, letter-writing campaigns and legislative lobbying. Some are arguing that if cuts have to be made, they should be distributed equitably across the state ...

Of course, Governor Brown, like all the Democrats and Republicans in California, is playing games. The object of his game is to convince California voters to approve his retro tax plan. Meanwhile, he talks big about "investing" in big ticket projects for California's future [Translation: shoving a lot of money into programs favored by particular interests joined at the hip to the Democratic Party Machines].

There is no lack of criticism of California's once great system of public education. The problem is that most criticism comes from the so-called "conservative" side of the aisle. While everybody is busy obsessing over Barack Obama Democrats versus the barbaric Republicans we are in for another rough ride in 2012 at the state and local level in California.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Ecology of the Gardens of Democracy

While eating a late lunch yesterday, I turned on the Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC.  Luckily I caught his interview with Nick Hanauer, author (along with Eric Liu) of a new book entitled Gardens of Democracy.  I embed the clip below because I want you to hear how he argues for considering that the economy is truly an ecosystem or rather what that means.

;Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This makes a lot of sense to me. For the most part, the Green Party has not been very adept at clarifying just what economic policies we want to put in place. This election cycle, with the lack of jobs being high on every candidate's list of talking points, it will be imperative that we find our economic voice. This just might be part of the story.