Friday, December 31, 2004

The Feckes

The 2004 Feckes have been announced. Categories include:

Rick Kahn Award (for worst political speech)
Previous award winners have included Rick Kahn for his "Rallemorial" speech, and GDub for his "Mission Accomplished" address.

Biggest Loss for American Politics

Biggest Loss for Minnesota Politics

Best Year Politically (America)

Best Year Politically (Minnesota)
and several others.

Included in his 2005 predictions
Cubs fans will rejoice as Carlos Beltran leads them to...a World Series loss to Boston in six games. But at least we will have been there.
Good ole Jeff. Always a dreamer.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

A letter to the editor
Get over it?

During Christmas Eve dinner, a relative commented on the many people who still display Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers -- saying, "Why can't they just get over it and move on?"

Being one of this group, I'm writing to dispel the idea that I display my sticker as a sign of continued mourning over the results of the election. Instead, it's a sign that I will not be held responsible for the colossal domestic and international messes we'll be left with when Bush leaves office.

It's a sign of solidarity with those who believe that wars of choice are immoral, that the only way to support the troops is to oppose the dishonest policies that put them in harm's way unnecessarily.

It's a sign that I support protection of civil rights and liberties for all. It's a sign that I support preservation of the environment, our fundamental common interest.

It's a sign of hope that one day soon we'll have a leader of whom we can be proud.

And above all, it's a sign that I love my country.

Mike Gude, St. Paul.
My bumper sticker came off right away, although trading in the vehicle for a new car had more to do with that. Within a few days I took the sign down in my front yard, and within a week I had pulled the signs down out of my porch window. All has been retired to the garage, where many relics clutter the walls. Most of them from losing campaigns, with a few winners between the studs. There's over 25 years of campaign history in my garage, and a few more buttons added to the collection this year.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

We Voted For Him Anyway

It's simply amazing. 'We don't approve of what he is doing, but we voted for him anyway'.

From the STRIB:
President Bush will enter his second term with the lowest approval ratings of any just-elected sitting president in a half-century, according to a series of new surveys.
and the numbers:
A new Gallup survey for CNN and USA Today puts Bush's approval rating at 49 percent. That's 10 to 20 percentage points lower than every elected sitting president at this stage since World War II, according to Gallup.
So Bush received 51% of the popular vote, but only 49% of the people approve of what he is doing. Why would anyone support someone if they didn't approve of them?!?


Sunday, December 26, 2004

Mortality Check
'Minister of Defense' Reggie White dies at 43

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Reggie White, a fearsome defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers who was one of the great players in NFL history, died Sunday, his wife said. He was 43.

Latest reports are now saying it was a massive heart attack.

I turned 44 in August.


Friday, December 24, 2004

Luke 2:8-14

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Helloooooo, Chapter Two

Mitch is on an extended Holiday trip to North Dakota. We have spoken many times about his desire to find someone to share blogging duties on Shot in the Dark, and I think he has found a good match.

Steve Gigl of Helloooooo, Chapter Two is filling in this weekend, and his opening salvo is on Cell Phone etiquette. A very practical and informative read. Give it a 'Shot'.

As for me, the holiday transition begins, and I am not fortunate enough to have someone take over the reigns of Centrisity. Although, I am in discussion with a Right leaner to bring literal balance to the Centrist nature of this blog. Is there another site out there where opposing views battle it out on the front page, instead of in the comments section? It would be an interesting experience.

Until then, posting will be light, if non existent. If I can finish up the last minute Holiday errands, I'll be meeting up with 'The Doctor' for a trip to Keagan's tonight. I'm man enough to face my dissenters' face to face and off the clock, these guys are great company to keep!

Have a safe, healthy, and joyous Holiday Season. I've already received my first gift. My Oldest stopped by the other day. Tom, The marine!


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Washington Ballot Battle

There is still a bit of excitement left this elections season. No, it isn't the faux recount attempt in Ohio, but the hand recount in Washington State.

Reports have leaked that the Democratic Candidate now has an 8 vote lead, before the ruling on some 700 ballots that are in question. Most are in agreement that those 700 ballots will break for the democrat, so if the 8 vote lead is valid, the recount will reverse the original outcome of the election.

Dino Rossi, the Republican candidate, won the first count by 261 votes and won a machine recount by 42 votes. Now Christine Gregoire the Democrat may have the last word.

The final recount will be announced this afternoon. Arguments on the status of the 700 ballots from King Counts is also on the docket.


UPDATE: Gregoire by 10

The Court also ruled in favor of counting the found 700+ King County ballots.
Results do not include 700-plus recently discovered ballots from King County, home of Seattle and a Democratic stronghold. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that those ballots should be counted. They will be added to the total on Thursday, and are expected to favor Gregoire.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Can We Be Part of the Solution, Instead?

When a local columnist writes an article on literacy, and the local Right Wing Media machine chews it up, spits it out, and changes the whole intent into their own little focused message, it is nothing more the a perfect example of being part of the problem, not part of the solution.

These wingers have the time to pursue their agendas and grab hold of any message as part of their mission. In this case, their mission is nothing more then the systemic disassembling of the public school system. They refuse to look at the successes, they refuse to acknowledge the troubles these schools are having meeting the mandates placed upon them by the current administrations. They expect everything to work perfectly, they assume everyone should be able to start and stop on a dime. They can only crow about money spent, not money invested. They can only squawk about textbooks -vs- reading books while doing everything they can to prohibit access to any books, or at least so it seems. They talk about 'accountability' of the district and school staffs, but place no accountability on the parents.

There are no fewer then a half dozen members of the Right Wing Axis and their surrogates bashing away at this issue, and only one who is making any reasonable attempt to focus on the kids, albeit his goal is still the same as the rest.

These are rational individuals whom I consider my friends, but it is painful to watch them swing so far off course on some personal vendetta against an individual who is trying to make a difference. If they want to provide a best case environment for the students of St. Paul, then why not work together within the system? Seems their energies are going up the stove pipe, instead of heating the schools.

For the record, My SPPS History

Tom: K-3 Maxfield, 4th Galtier
(Moved to Mounds View with his father, then California with his mother)
Now PFC Marines

Josh: 4-6 Galtier, Highland 7-10(current)
Nick: K (California) 1-6 Galtier, 7 Ramsey (Current)
Bob: K Maxfield, 1-6 Galtier (Current) Maxfield had an all day Kindergarten

I've never switched my kids from a school, or changed their teacher during a school year. Stability is important, and transience is detrimental, not only to the child, but to the environment of the class itself. I have always worked within the system to effect change when I felt there may have been a problem, and the response has always been positive.

I don't think we should give the districts and their employees a free pass, but I don't think we should give the parents one either.


UPDATE: My apologies to the King who did try to separate himself from the vendetta, and stuck to the story itself:
You can call it wonkery if you like...
...but I didn't agree with the decision during the third hour of NARN to steer the discussion of the Coleman-Westover-Maxfield controversy away from accountability and towards the media flap. The flap, of course, continued yesterday with Coleman referring to Westover as "Captain Fishsticks", so I guess I am going to go even further afield. Mitch and Fraters and the Blog of the Year will take that side of the debate, and good for them. I prefer to practice my comparative advantage.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Forced Vacation

Winter break begins for us educators. It is a forced vacation that we must take regardless of whether we want to or not. Don't get my wrong, the respite is welcomed, but the half paycheck isn't.

Contrary to popular belief, we are not paid for this vacation in full. It is a forced two week siesta, but one of those weeks is unpaid. The buildings are inaccessible, so I can't go in to work if I wanted. If I was going to pick a time of year I wanted to get half a paycheck, Christmas wouldn't be one of them.

So keep that in mind, as you are taking your 2, 3 or 4 week vacations throughout the year. An educator gets two weeks vacation, for 10 months work (One week paid in Winter, one week paid in Spring). Some of us are forced to take other time off without pay. We can't pick the weeks we take off, they are built into the schedule. I'm not complaining, just pointing out one of the great misnomers in public education educators pay. It's not a bowl of cherries, but it is one of the most rewarding professions there is. I'll take the tradeoff.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Top Ten

First of all, Congratulations to Powerline, for being named Blog of the Year by Time Magazine. However, I did stumble on another article there that was most informative. 10 things we learned about Blogs.

Nestled in this grocery list was another local favorite:
Bloggers Can Be Fakers
Plain Layne, a highly personal blog supposedly belonging to a Minnesota lesbian named Layne Johnson that drew thousands of fans over 3 1/2 years before mysteriously disappearing, was revealed to be a hoax. Hundreds of fans helped track down the real author, Odin Soli, 35, a male entrepreneur from Woodbury, Minn. Later in the year, fake Bill Clinton and Andy Kaufman blogs became hits.

There are days that I miss Layne, but Odin has another writing project in progress. It's 'The Mexican Year', starring Nick and Nooshin. It's not Layne, but it is still the same quality prose that Odin is the best at. Give it a read when you are looking for a good book to read and don't have one at your fingertips.


UPDATE: Nice article in the STRIB this morning on Powerlines' success

Friday, December 17, 2004

What's Next for Rummy

Most of us who even hint to a left tilt have been criticizing Rumsfeld about his performance in what The Daily Show dubs "Mess O' Potamia". Over the last few weeks, several high profile (or wannabee high profile) GOP members have hopped on the bandwagon.

McCain began the flurry with
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Monday that he has "no confidence" in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, citing Rumsfeld's handling of the war in Iraq and the failure to send more troops
Then we have Sen. Trent Lott
:“I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld,” Lott told the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. “I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers.”
Sen Susan Collins (R-ME)
“I think there are increasing concerns about the secretary's leadership of the war, the repeated failures to predict the strengths of the insurgency, the lack of essential safety equipment for our troops, the reluctance to expand the number of troops,” Collins said in an interview.
There are others, but one local boy has jumped on the bandwagon:
Sen. Norm Coleman said he had "serious misgivings" about the process of providing armored vehicles for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I have reservations about what the secretary and the Army have done in this regard," the Minnesota Republican said, but later added, "I'm not at the point of pointing fingers. I don't (know) who did this. I don't know what happened."
Only Sen Norm Coleman can point fingers, while saying "I'm not at the point of pointing fingers" The Republicans King Flip Flopper has done it again, and all in the same paragraph. Amazing!


Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Plot Thickens

From the Austin Daily Herald (emphasis mine):
No one claimed credit for the Edwards vote. Several electors said they suspected that someone unconsciously mixed up the two Johns on the ticket rather than purposefully made a political statement.

Stevens was one of them.

The former Mower County DFL chair, who was a Kerry elector, said, "It was a real shock. Most of the electors thought it must have been a mistake; particularly when the vote was 10-0 for Edwards as the vice president."

Stevens sat next to Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, when the ballots were counted and saw his own ballot clearly registered a vote for Kerry as President and Edwards as Vice President.

He said the only indication that one ballot was for the other candidate and office -- expect for the candidate's name -- was the word "vice" at the bottom of the Vice President ballots.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

What, No inaugural Ball

I find myself listening to the Right Wing Media machine quite often. Last night, on my way home from a Board Meeting, I found myself listening to Mitch's favorite Right Wing Talker (scroll down to the comments) (OK, maybe not his favorite, but he does a great impression of him *laughing*)

Savage was stating clearly and definitively, that President Bush should forgo all the Pomp and Circumstance of the inauguration, and donate the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars saved to purchasing armor for our troops. It caught me off guard, to hear something so seemingly practical, and clearly appropriate, coming from the Right side of the Media machine.

Of course it will never happen, but maybe it should!!

Mystery Solved?

Minnesota Democrats Exposed has posted copies of all the Elector oaths along with a copy of the 'Ewards' Ballot. They include a poll for us to speculate who they think the 'rogue' elector might be. There is one elector way out front, and when you compare the ballot with the Oath, the 'r's are very telling. You can peek below. For the other oaths, take a trip to the Right side of the Blogosphere.

You be the judge.

Original docs are all at MDE. I've cropped and combined them for ease of comparison here.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I Know Who It Wasn't

An E-Mail from my Mom
I signed mine John F. Kerry . . . We signed at least 10 different things so I'm sure that the Secretary of State has matched handwriting by now!
At least I know who it wasn't!


MORE: From the PiPress:
In response to public information requests, Kiffmeyer's office released copies of the ballots along with other documents bearing signatures of the electors. Some electors had distinguishable handwriting, but comparisons involving the Edwards ballot were inconclusive.


"All I can say is, I know it wasn't me, because I signed it 'John F. Kerry,' " said Jean Schiebel of Brooklyn Center, a DFL volunteer and elector. She added that she believes the errant elector made a mistake, and added, "I think the person that did it is embarrassed.

"Everybody's going to be wondering now," Schiebel added. "We may well never know."

Monday, December 13, 2004

9 - 1

In a surprise turn, the Minnesota slate of Electors voted 9 Kerry, 1 Edwards. All 10 Vice Presidential ballots carried John Edwards' name.

The news hounds on site immediately went to the Elector table and polled the votees to interview the hold out, but no one came forward. As discussion continued, it appeared that there was one person who may have thought at the time that they were casting the Vice Presidential ballot first. Either way, the vote count was certified, and the 9 - 1 count will be forwarded to Washington, DC.

The ceremony was very dignified and honorable. I was proud to be there to witness my mother be a part of history, and to have her name and signature stored in the National Archives. I will post a couple photos when I get home later

I am sure the news will do further snooping to see if they can identify who cast the Edwards ballot.


UPDATE:From the Secretary of States' Website

Minnesota Electoral College Assembly; Matthew Little,Lil Ortendahl, Sonja Berg, Tim O’Brien, Frank Simon, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, Everett Pettiford, Chandler Harrison Stevens, Jean Schiebel, Michael Meuers, Vi Grooms-Alban
Election Day

The electors meet at the state Capital, today, to cast their ballots for President. All electors are to report at 9:00 to be certified. If anyone is missing, they will be replaced. They return at 11:30 for the ceremony that begins at Noon. It should be a great lesson in our election process. I hope to get away during lunch to witness Mom cast her ballot.

I'm Back

Well, I leave for a couple days and the place gets taken over *laughing*

I am looking forward to responding to some of the specific comments made in the various blogs debating this issue, but I need some time to absorb the responses so I can comment appropriately. I'm just a lowly educator, with a wife and three kids. My blogging time is limited to about an hour in the AM, and some time after dinner. I'll be able to do a bunch of reading today to get up to speed.

Thanks to all for your comments and spirited debate!


Friday, December 10, 2004

Leaving, on a Jet Plane

I'm am flying out to Newark, NJ this AM, in route to Scranton, PA. The biannual drum corps Rules Congress is this weekend. It is an opportunity for the members of the association to propose rule changes that govern our association, and the contests we perform in. These meetings have come a long way from the smoke filled, east coast, mob style meetings they once were. But things will still get intense with several controversial items on the agenda.

Posting will be at a minimum, but I'll have a laptop, and will check in whenever I hit a hot spot.

What Was He Reading

Mitch, in one of his cheesier attempts to 'set the record straight' swerves way off course today. All I was doing was answering St. Paul's question at Fraters, which I did. Apparently that means I was missing the point. So I ask you, Mitch. When someone ends a post with a question, are we not suppose to answer it?!? And if we do, does that mean we missed the point?

And, in a fine show of desperation, he takes a pot shot at New Patriot about not fact checking my job title, so you decide. I am alone in a classroom, while seeing 143 students everyday. I take attendance, grade, and teach them how to use the software. I monitor their progress, correct them when appropriate and help them when needed. Do I have a teaching license, no. But I do have a 4 year degree and the same responsibilities a licensed teacher has. Most people would call that teaching, and thus I would be the teacher. You do the math!


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Which is it?

The contextually challenged of the NARN are taunting Nick Coleman, again, this time on education. They are trying to screed him into a corner so they can call him a liar. Now I'm not a big fan of anyone with the last name of Coleman, but I can't sit back and watch the NARNiacs imply that which is clearly not the case.

In Nick's column back on Nov 14 Mitch quotes:
How did we get to the point in Minnesota that we have a school in a minority neighborhood of our capital city where there aren't enough books? If you don't find that situation outrageous, you are part of the problem.
What he leaves out, is the key contextual statement that comes before it.
But when Zelma Wiley walked into Maxfield Magnet School in St. Paul and took over as principal a couple of years ago, there were hardly any books on the shelves
See, rhetorical questions were asked of a situation from a 'couple of years ago', not now, today! The outpouring of support received through the Coleman column provided two followups, Nick's Dec 4 piece:
Three weeks ago, I told you about Maxfield Magnet School in the heart of St. Paul's black community, which was desperately seeking books so its kids can learn to read.

You responded with overwhelming kindness, and I am glad to report that Maxfield has been inundated with books.
So common deduction is that over the last couple years, Principal Wiley has restored the reading coffers at Maxfield, most recently with a fresh supply of materials from impassioned Coleman readers. I see no contradiction here. And when Zelma rattled off her response to the Westover editorial, she stated:
If Mr. Westover and Mr. Stern had visited our school, they would have seen our hard work paying off. They would have seen that all of our classrooms have the textbooks they need. They would have seen that we know with precision how every dollar we receive is being spent to help our students learn. And they would have seen students from diverse backgrounds improving and achieving.
Which brings us to the questions St. Paul asks over at Fraters:
So which is it? Either "we don't have enough books" or "all of our classrooms have the textbooks they need."
Well, St. Paul, it's both, and yes it can be both. The innovative and dedicated staffs of the public school districts are doing the best they can with the limited resources that are available. Maxfield clearly had a shortage of adequate reading materials 'a couple of years ago', but due to a resourceful staff and compassionate neighbors, the stock on the shelves are growing. Is that good enough, I don't think so, but it is enough that they can get by. And is that what we want for our future, enough for them to 'get by'

Maybe those on the Right can start to comment on the other issues that plague inner city schools, the high transient rate with kids coming and going in classrooms like a revolving door, lack of parental support at home prohibiting their ability to succeed, parents that would rather blame the school for their child's behavior and performance, rather then having adequate expectation of their students own behavior and performance.

Sorry, I am on the inside looking out, and the problems that many students in this district have begin at home, and all the money in the world can't fix that!


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Rummy has some 'splaining to do

Rumsfeld was at Camp Buehring, Kuwait yesterday, firing up the troops. During a Q & A portion after his prepared remarks, it was the troops firing away at Rummy.
``Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?'' Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.
Rummy's response
``You go to war with the Army you have,'' . . . ``You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up,''
Another concern raised was why regular Army units appear to get preferential treatment when it comes to doling out the best equipment.
``There's no way I can prove it, but I am told the Army is breaking its neck to see that there is not''
It's unusual when the administration is distracted off their message. I don;t think there was any squirming going on, but at some point you would think they would start listening to what is actually happening on the ground.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

December 7, 1941

Paul Goodyear was standing on a signal bridge on the starboard side of the USS Oklahoma in 1941 when bombs started falling from the sky and torpedoes zeroed in.

Explosions, screams, chaos and gunfire shattered the calm morning of that Dec. 7, and within 12 minutes, the massive battleship rolled over and capsized, trapping hundreds of men belowdecks.

Sixty-three years later, Goodyear can still hear their cries and tapping for help.


Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours. Twenty-one ships were heavily damaged, and 320 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. In all, about 2,390 people were killed and about 1,178 were wounded, according to the National Park Service, which maintains the Arizona site.
Thank you, to the brave men and women in all our armed forces throughout history. It is your commitment, dedication, and sacrifice, that allow people like me to flourish in this great country!

USS Arizona Memorial

Pearl Harbor Survivors Association


Monday, December 06, 2004

Agreement Reached

A tentative agreement has been reached in the battle for an Intelligence Reform bill.

Republican House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter's concerns involved protecting the Chain of Command involved in Military intelligence gather, specifically, satellite data. The fix seemed to create language which is "intentionally ambiguous". Hunter stated:
"We have come to an agreement on changed bill language that we believe protects with necessary clarity the time-tested chain-of-command," the committee chiefs' statement said.

"Pending a review of the rest of the legislation, we are prepared to support the bill as amended by this new language."
The other major holdout, Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) related to immigration provisions. Sensenbrenner backed off his opposition when assured they would be addressed in separate legislation next session.

One other item did catch my eye in the article. We have all heard Senator Frist squawk about up or down votes, and how important it is to at least allow for the full body to vote, up or down, regardless of the support an issue may have. But how does the GOP work:
The bill had enough votes to pass before the Thanksgiving break, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, would not let it go to the floor without the support of a majority of Republicans.
As usual, it is OK for them I guess

Black and Purple Division

Mitch could have honed his screed to two simple words.

"Vikings Suck!"

The classic Minnesota Sports curse prevails. We always seem to play down to the level of our opponents. Thanks God the Packers lost, too.

It's been a weird morning. More later . . .


Friday, December 03, 2004

The Intelligence Battle

It had looked like the Intelligence bill was going to die a slow painful death. The president's luke warm support, to appease opposition in the House's majority caucus, is being forced by heavy lobbying from members of the 9/11 commission and public concerns.

It is unusual to see the GOP fighting amongst themselves on any issues, let alone one that is evolving into the first test of the President's ability to shape policy.

Reservations are many, the least of which is the reluctance of the various defense agencie’s intelligence ops to be under a newly created Intel Czar. This article explains:
As much as 80 percent of the annual intelligence budget goes to military intelligence. The proposed overhaul would put all 15 government intelligence agencies, including the CIA and military intelligence units, under the new national intelligence director. The legislation also would create a national counterterrorism center to coordinate the government's response to global terrorism.
Bush is pretty clear on where he stands, as he stated in Ottawa this week;
"Let's see if I can say it as plainly as I can. I am for the intelligence bill"
The bill received almost unanimous support in the Senate, 96-2, but remains stalled in the house. Why? A couple of GOP committee chairmen claiming to be looking out for 'us'
(Rep. Duncan ) Hunter (R-CA), reflecting concerns at the Defense Department as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, doesn't want to dilute the Pentagon's control over military intelligence. He's vowed to stand up to presidential pressure, saying he's more concerned about doing the right thing for people such as his son, a Marine lieutenant who's served two tours in Iraq.

(Rep. James ) Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wants the bill to include immigration restrictions and border-security measures.
The bickering is beginning to escalate
"That's the arrogance of the House at the moment," said Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, a Republican moderate who opposes a confrontational strategy. "To me, it's showing incredible lack of leadership on the part of my leadership and the president. ... What we're saying to the Democrats in the House is that they have to do it our way or no way. How are we going to pass tax reform and Social Security reform? ... We have to start building some bridges."
The President has put himself in a precarious situation before his second term even begins. On one hand, if he pushed too hard for passage, he may have to spend some of his 'political capital' that he would rather save for tougher battles ahead, if the bill fails, many may call it a failure in leadership for his inability to 'unite' his own party in protecting our homeland and it's borders.

Either way, it is a lot more intriguing watching them battle for power amongst themselves, then joining forces against the Left.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Another Educational Perspective

Swiftee over at Pair 'O Dice had his own take on the dire straits facing the St. Paul Public School (SPPS) district. He also shared his concerns in my comments below. Specifically, with the following questions.

Keep in mind that the SPPS district cuts, over the last 6 years, have totaled about $50 million bucks. The current budget shortfall is half that at 24.3 Mill.

What happened to the cash from the last two excess levy referendums.
The first one was primarily for technology improvements in the district. And one of the great features of this upgrade is the Parent Portal, allowing Parents to instantly review and monitors their student's performance online. Lack of parent involvement is the greatest detriment to their education, and SPPS has taken great steps to provide student information to the parents in an efficient and timely manner. The second referendum, I believe, was spent on improving achievement by providing Summer School for all students, and restoring some funding that was cut prior to the referendum.
Why is $12k\yr\student not enough to make sure the kid has a book.
I am not privy to recent data. This site does show an interesting picture. SPPS spends about the same per pupil as Seattle, but with triple the Non English students and 1.5 times as many students in poverty. Buffalo Public Schools have a higher Poverty rate, but only a fraction of Non English students but spend $2000 per pupil MORE then SPPS. Why isn't it enough, I don't know, yet, but it seems that SPPS is making pretty good strides with much less then other district are using.
Where is the $553M\yr (More than half a Billion!) going?
Well, 80%of the budget is salary, plain and simple. At this point, you would have to freeze and/or cut salary to make any significant dent in the deficit without increasing revenues. In my case, my salary is already froze, so that means the next step is a cut, which may drive me out of the profession. Is that what we want to do. Turn people away and deal with second tier educators willing to 'settle' for less pay.

All I have been trying to point out, is that this city's public school system has made a concerted effort to streamline function, while providing quality service, and is now facing a deficit larger then they have ever seen. You can only cut so much, and demand more gains, before one needs to look at other ways to resolve the shortfall.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

- 24.3 Million

If you thought things couldn't get worse, they have. A 24.3 million dollar shortfall in the Saint Paul Public School district's budget is staring them right in the face. The district has been nicking the bone already, as they have trimmed the fat, and some of the lean, to get into balance.
After five years of continuous program-shaving worth more than $50 million, St. Paul's budget-watchers have come up with their worst projected shortfall yet. And it all means, Harvey lamented, that the district since 1999 will have cut nearly $75 million in staff and programs.
I had been concerned about past referendum proposals and my belief that the district hadn't tightened it's belt enough. I voted against the referendums as I believed there was more the district administration could do to streamline themselves into a lean mean education machine. But now it is apparent to me, that the best efforts have been made to assume fiscal responsibility, while still succeeding in this challenging urban educational environment. Test scores have risen, and schools are improving, in spite of the financial limitations.

What's next:
The time has come . . . for St. Paul to join the growing roster of Minnesota school districts pressing the governor and the Legislature to stop the slide. St. Paul officials plan to join an effort next week by the Association of Metropolitan School Districts in sounding the alarm about a deepening gloom in districts across the state. Revenues simply are not keeping pace with expenses, educators say, and children will ultimately pay.
In the past, we have blamed enrollment declines, but with the influx of refugees, that decline has been stifled somewhat. Furthermore, the district's Finance and Budget director states:
the main culprit has been four years of unchanging state revenues and continually increasing costs. She cautioned that simply increasing the basic per-pupil aid formula holds little hope to avoid a deficit. For every increase of 1 percent in the state general education formula, St. Paul would net only another $2.3 million.
It is time for a closer look at the educational coffers in this state. I am not sure how much more the district can endure, and still meet the grocery lists of expectations being placed upon them by state and federal governments while refusing to provide adequate funding. Superintendent Harvey explains:
"Without a doubt, we are in danger. And if we don't think carefully about this, we will lose all that good that we have gained," Harvey said.
Folks, you can only take out the knife so many times, and if you keep cutting and cutting, at some point there isn't anything left, but the vital organs needed for any entity to survive. The St. Paul School district is no different.