George Bush is soaking the Rich?

A Wall Street Journalist says that under George Bush tax policies taxpayers making over $200,000 have seen their taxes rise from 41% to 47 percent……That caught my attention. I presume he’s not talking about the tax rate on the 2hundredthousandaires but their slice of the tax pie that goes toward the federal budget. Is this really a laffer? I linked first before reading the commentary which I only listened to with half an ear. I’ve got to read this carefully, think about it and make some pronouncement…… but right now I’m grilling shishkebobs.

Raising more money – for the Duluth Schools

My primary concern for the past two weeks has been the Duluth Public Schools Endowment. Six days from today there will be an organizational meeting to start fundraising to accumulate an endowment fund worthy of Duluth. Today I’ll start calling friends, retired teachers, PTA members, community leaders, and parents of school kids to get them to attend. I have seen little response to my column encouraging people to attend. This demonstrates an iron law of volunteerism. To get people involved you have to ask them. (The same iron law goes for getting contributions as well)

To make this succeed I’ll have to overcome my “Minnesota Nice” instincts which is partly a reluctance to intrude on others and partly a reluctance to have them tell you “no.” I need a minimum of 40 people. We’re half way there. We’ll find them.

There is a small division of opinion on the Endowment Fund Board about whether the best way to raise money is through a few big donors or through many small ones. I’m pushing for both.

Certainly there are people who could write large checks and for whom public education would be a worthy recipient even and above the taxes they already pay toward that end. On the other hand, I suggested in my Reader column a couple weeks ago that it might be possible to talk a thousand parents into making annual ten dollar contributions to the endowment. A thousand times ten is ten thousand dollars. One fat cat could do that with a single check. But I like the idea of giving everyone a chance to do a little something above and beyond the call of taxation for our schools. Besides, any contribution will help cement the relationship between our schools and the contributors. What’s more, today’s small contributor may be tomorrow’s bigger contributor.

Howie Hanson’s e’blog yesterday carried Duluth Marshall’s announcement of having successfully raised $4.7 million dollars in the past couple years. Sure, Marshall has no choice but to raise money and has a fairly well-to-do donor base. Still, Marshall’s families are a fraction of those in the Duluth Public Schools. This ought to provide some incentive for partisans of the Duluth Schools. If Marshall can do it so can we.

Wish us luck, or better yet send me an email telling me you are going to come. Oh, I forgot. I’ve got to call you first. What’s your number again?

Duluth tenth graders can right rite

The top story in the DNT’s local section showed that 93 percent of Duluth’s tenth graders can write passably. On a scale from 1 to 6, 3 being passing, all but seven percent pass muster.

This is not to suggest that writing at level 3 is anything special. You wouldn’t want to read a blog written at level 3 but a person can survive in our literate world at this rate.

The NCLB law is not the first effort aimed at pushing low functioning kids to higher levels. Its only innovation is being the first nationalized effort to do so. As a teacher a couple decades ago it began to dawn on me that I had lots of barely literate kids in my social studies classes. Rather than do all my testing with multiple choice tests I began testing my kids with essays. Its one thing to ask kids what caused the civil war in an essay than to offer them the alternatives of A.slavery, B.sectional economic differences, B.Kansas Nebraska Act, D.the banana boycott; to see if kids have learned their history. Many couldn’t and many wouldn’t write anything. Blank answers weren’t necessarily eividence of ignorance of the subject. It was just as likely an indication of their unwillingness to demonstrate their poor writing skills. How far would a kid go to hide such a failing?

Today’s Dear Abby has a letter from a young woman whose 33 year-old boyfriend refuses to do anything about his illiteracy. It raises the age old question of how a child can spend ten or twelve years in school without learning how to do the single most requiement of an education.

Whatever else its flaws NCLB testing is one way to keep a school district focused on student progress so that they don’t fall between the cracks.

It didn’t take passing NCLB to get this done. Fifteen years ago Minnesota adopted a process called “outcome based education” or OBE for short. The idea was simple. Schools would pay more attention to the outcome of a child’s schooling i.e. getting them educated than it would keeping trakc of their seat time (time spent in class). Ironically it was killed by Republicans and their allies for doing exactly what the NCLB is nnow attempting to do – make sure no child falls too far behind his classmates. But the outrage that killed OBE had more to do with the fear that schools would spend all their resources on the worst students by shafting gifted and ambitious kids. This complaint lives on with the Republican inspired NLCB.

OBE was followed by Minnesota’s even more ambitious “Profiles of Learning.”  It had too many cooks, hundreds and thousands of designers made it so complicated that it was almost beyond the public’s comprehension. Again state Republicans led the charge to kill another ed reform. Now Republicans are beginning to rebel anainst President Bush’s NCLB.

Why is it that 7 out of ten Duluth tenth graders can’t write? Some may be newly enrolled foreign students still learning English. Others may be special education students with limited intellectual abilities. Some may have gotten their education in other school districts so that Duluth shouldn’t have to be tagged with their failure. Whatever the reason it should remain a reason and not an excuse. An excuse is one step away from a justification.

The Aborted Girl

My Reader column for this week begins:

“In 1990 I was ecstatic when the popular Republican, State Auditor, Arne Carlson replaced the opportunistic, “pro-life,” political hack who had defeated him in the gubernatorial primary with the help of naive religious conservatives. When John Grunseth was outed for having chased his daughter’s friend around the family pool in a drunken attempt to rip off her bikini top he became instant poison. The pro-life Republicans had no face-saving choice other than to relinquish their death grip on the nomination in favor of Carlson. It would not be the last time that a false friend of religious conservatives would betray them. . .”

Reading the Story of El Salvador’s draconian pro-life ideal spurred me to get this off my chest.

El Salvdakota

What Minnesota’s neighbor to the west, El Salvdakota, aspires to become in its new law to protect human life. 

a small sample”

“Today, Article 1 of El Salvador’s constitution declares that the prime directive of government is to protect life from the “very moment of conception.” The penal code detailing the Crimes Against the Life of Human Beings in the First Stages of Development provides stiff penalties: the abortion provider, whether a medical doctor or a back-alley practitioner, faces 6 to 12 years in prison. The woman herself can get 2 to 8 years. Anyone who helps her can get 2 to 5 years. Additionally, judges have ruled that if the fetus was viable, a charge of aggravated homicide can be brought, and the penalty for the woman can be 30 to 50 years in prison.”

800 Schools left behind

In an earlier post I complained about the Left Behind policies of the Bush Administration and how Duluth Schools could be listed as failing their students starting next year.

Tom Boman, UMD’s Ed professor and a regular contributor to the Tribune, explained it so well that even I understand how stupid this is.

Better read it quick. The Trib only keeps stuff on their site for seven days unless it ends up being cached somewhere.

No time to blog

I’ve just started two posts on topics so big it would take a day to edit my thoughts into coherence. I’ve saved but not published them in case I decide to attempt the editing.

I need something bite sized to start blogging this week so I’ll just list today’s preoccupations. At noon I’m gathering with some like minded folks to figure out how to organize next Tuesday’s meeting which is intended to kick-off an effort to raise millions of non tax dollars for the Duluth Schools.

Sometime between now and tomorrow night (when I go to a begining ballroom dance class w/o my dance partner) I have to write my column for the Reader.

Tonight I’m spending three hours rehearsing for my choral part in the upcomming Verdi Requiem with the Duluth Symphony.

I will probably have to skip my church’s men’s group dicussion of Deitrich Bonhoffer at noon tomorrow in order to get my Reader column written. Meanwhile I’d really like to finish the Erdman book “Misquoting Jesus.”

All the while in the back of my mind I’m trying to figure out how to tell my wife that I want to spend the summer doing an incredibly hair brained thing. I’m just too chicken to do it right now. Maybe one of my readers will broach the subject to her.

Lesson in the Sub Caucus System

Like the Republicans the Democrats that met at Woodland Junior High managed to put the platform on the backburner. In the case of the Republicans the platform is kept like the Ark of the Covenant and trotted out for modest amendments during convention years.

There were a hundred or so resolutions handed out to the delegates to vote on but not debated. When the convention neared its end they were collected. There was a line for us to indicate whether we wanted to debate them but we never got any debate. A 50% vote would be required to be passed on. I have no idea what passed.

I told Craig Grau that the convention seemed to confirm Will Roger’s comments from the thirties. It was not exactly disorderly but it was only loosely stage managed. The sub caucus system was the most mystical part.

About 20 of the 172 delegates lined up to announce the category of their sub caucuses. Some were for one candidate, some for a couple candidates, some were for issues some for candidates and issues. To elect a delegate to the next level of convention each subcaucus to gather 8 participants.

I jumped from one to another mostly interested in finding other centrists. The biggest group of the eventual six or so was led by AFSCME. The whole process was like a party mixer.

I was content to watch and didn’t try to get elected to the next level so this is the end of the convention system for me this year. Maybe I’ll get farther in 2008.

Off to the races

I’m off in ten minutes to the DFL District Convention. I’ve got an early meeting of the Rules Committee to attend.

Listening to Weekend Edition on NPR was a treat. A very interesting commentary by Joe Klein on how consultants have ruined politics…Amen. He made an surprising comment about Dubya. I think I agree….its too damn late though.

And a bio of the composer of “Brother can you spare a dime”

And an interesting tidbit on the iconic 60’s lefty and victim of the HUAC, Lillian Hellman, who did her best to keep Martin Luther King and later the NAACP from being given the bequest from Dorothy Parker’s will. Today’s leftists ought to look to her example for a little taste of humility before getting too puffed up about the self righteousness about religious conservatives.

A Good Reading

The Sedaris reading was great fun. Its the first reading I’ve been to since college when I heard Dick Gregory. Guess I’m just not the literary type.

He began with an animal story he’d just written about a mother crow and a mother lamb. Well written and with enough of an “ick” factor to make it memorable. He got a rise out of the largely urban audience when his crow asked the sheep mother whether she had eaten the placenta. Then the crow made the contemporary scornful comment about straying vegetarians who dismiss their straying. After that reading he mentioned that a young woman who was the daughter of a hippy had told him at a recent book signing that her father had cooked and eaten her placenta.

I couldn’t help but remember my Mother telling me about the Doctor in War torn Europe bringing a surprisingly regular supply of meat home for the families dinner. He was an obstetrician and it kept his family alive.

 

David Sedaris

I’m going to hear a reading by David Sedaris at the DECC tonight. Never heard of him? He’s a hoot. Sometimes an x-rated hoot.

This one isn’t x-rated and its a Christmas classic. Santaland Diaries was recorded on This American Life in 1996 at the beginning of his story telling career. Be patient. It starts after a four minute introduction. Its worth the wait.

The Decembrist

Forbes Magazine has correctly used the world “dross” to describe most political blogs. Nonetheless, they have suggested five that they think have merit. As I really don’t read a lot of blogs I wasn’t familiar with their selections. This piece came from their pick “The Decembrist.”

The Decembrist says there’s no turning back on global competition and suggests that a college degree will no longer guarantee economic prosperity. He recommends five possible remedies to alleviate this situation for Americans left out of the NAFTA race. The last of is universial health care. I concur:

Is a college education going to help you make it in the dog eat dog world of global competition?

What’s the murder with kids these days?

The foiled plot to exceed the carnage Columbine put writer Walter Kirn in a reflective frame of mind. He’s been filling in for Andrew Sulivan for the past couple weeks. His post put what a lot of us have been thinking quite well:

“There’s something about the world these days that brings out the worst in the lonely and the obscure and feeds their grudges until they grow enormous. And I don’t think it’s violent video games and movies. I don’t think it’s access to firearms. I think it’s the simple message that you’re not anyone until you’ve done something worthy of media coverage, whatever that thing may be. The star-system has become a kind of moral code with only one commandment: Thou Shalt Not Go Unnoticed. When the concept of fame broke free from its old grounding in the concept of public virtue — when it was supplanted by the lesser idea of Warhol-ish celebrity — the lid was off the jar.

Luckily (I think), the Web has come along, where anyone can make his presence felt — or have the illusion of making his presence felt — without having to perpetrate a sensational crime. The Kansas kids were eager to do both, of course, and they foiled themselves. Perhaps the Web’s promise of liberating people from anonymity will aggravate their mania, but here’s hoping it will bleed it off some.”

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."