Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Senator Darrell Steinberg - school policy and school budgets

  Sacramento Senator Darrell Steinberg  has authored and promoted SB 1285 that changes seniority rules for the lay off of teachers.  He  seems to listening to Ed Voice and the corporations promoting the wrong assumption that seniority causes problems in schools.  Lets see.  There are low performing schools – most of them in poverty neighborhoods.  There are high performing schools – most of them in middle class neighborhoods.  They both have the same seniority system.  Seniority is not the problem – poverty is. ( See prior posts on this).
Legislators  should provide  every student a high quality education by providing the adequate funding that schools need.  California fails at this.  We rank 46th. out 50 states in per public  spending.  ( See the excellent new report by the California Budget Project, Race to the Bottom That is a legislative decision. Adequate funding would allow schools to keep libraries open; hire back laid-off teachers, nurses, and counselors; and reduce class sizes to provide students with needed attention.

Senator Steinberg claims in a letter to constituents this week, “Since I became leader of the Senate eighteen months ago, we have been able to increase Proposition 98 funding by  $1.6 Billion.  This claim is puzzling. 
According to EdSource, California has reduced Prop. 98 funding  from 50.3 billion to 31.2 billion dollars during this period.  I called the Senator’s office for clarification.  I was transferred twice and then promised that I would get a call back from the press office.  That was Tues.  Perhaps some reader can explain  these numbers.  I can’t. Senator Steinberg is up for re-election this year. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

School propaganda from the Governor's office

California has a Secretary of Education as well as a Superintendent of Public Instruction.  The Superintendent organizes the state educational programs and implements state mandates.  The Secretary of Education is an advisor to the Governor. The current Secretary is Bonnie Reiss, about the 5th. Secretary under Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Secretary Reiss has a letter to the editor in the Sacramento Bee of Tues. June 29, responding to an earlier column by Dan Walters about the state’s persistent high drop out rate.  The letter is a classic piece of propaganda.
You begin with the statement, “schools with effective teachers and effective principals do well and those with ineffective teachers and ineffective principals do not. “  She is correct.  But, in the service of propaganda, this statement tells only a part of the story.  It says something you agree with in order to introduce the propaganda message.  She then goes on to say, “It is time for California to join the national education reform movement  and change state law to move away from our current failed system that is based solely on teacher seniority.”  That is the propaganda piece.
Lets see. There are schools with high levels of drop outs, and schools with very low level of dropouts.  The high drop out schools tend to be in poverty areas and the low drop out schools tend to be in upper middle class areas.  Both groups of schools have precisely the same teacher seniority requirements.  That is, there is no evidence that teacher seniority leads to the high drop out crisis in California.
I have  taught in public schools and university teacher preparation programs for over 40 years and written books on this subject.  Lets look a little deeper.
California has had a chronic drop out problem since at least 1969 and the drop outs are concentrated in low income schools. The problem has not been improved.  In the last two years the Governor has cut $16 billion from school budgets, will that make matters better or worse?   As the Robles-Wong v California lawsuit asserts California spends $2131 less dollars per student than the national average.  ( Significant budget cuts increase class size. Large class sizes mean that many  2,3rd, 4th, graders are not learning to read well- even with good teachers.  These students will be your future drop outs.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Senate fails to pass unemployment extension

'The Washington post says that 900,000 people will lose
their jobless benefits by the end of the money.
Millions are losing their health insurance right now as
well. Why isn't this considered a national emergency.
It is certainly an emergency for those people, for the
stores where they buy groceries, their landlords or
mortgage-holders, their children, their relatives and
their communities. What is wrong with Washington that
they don't care/ What is wrong with our elite media
that they don't report this?'

Dave Johnson
Campaign for America's Future
June 24, 2010

The Third Great Depression; Krugman

Published: June 27, 2010
Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.
We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.
And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Little school reform happening

The U.S, and the school systems in most of  our cities, including Sacramento, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and others,  are currently at a crisis  point.  The  economic crisis has ended almost all school reform efforts. Politicians and candidates like Meg Whitman  continue to pontificate, but lack of funding and the demoralizing cuts in school budgets and staff have ended almost all real reform.  Nothing in Whitman's campaign promises will improve schools.  Her proposed budgets would increase the decimation of school opportunity.
  The anti tax candidates, like Whitman, would  continue schools  as they are. A segment of society will be well-educated, another segment will continue to fail.
The economic crisis for working families  will continue to grow (Mishel, Bernstein, Allegretto, 2007, Paul Krugman, The return of depression economics and the crisis of 2008.  (2009) Dean Baker,  Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy, (2009) Nomi Prins.  It Takes a Pillage: Behind the bailouts, bonuses and backroom Deals from Washington to  Wall Street. (2009), and the numerous other others cited on this blog in posts on the economic crisis. )
Alternatively, schools could  be transformed into places where education is a rich, compelling, and affirming process that prepares all young people to make thoughtful contributions to their community in economic and civic terms.

The possibility for change exists and gives those of us dedicated to democratic schools hope.  Current   proposals promoted by conservative institutes and  Ed Voice,    such as school choice and using public monies to fund private education  will not lead to democratic reform. Rather than continue these privileges, a reform movement must build on democratic ideals of progress and equality of opportunity. These traditional  democratic values can triumph over the hostility and violence produced by racism, sexism, and class bias presently accepted as “normal” and natural in our schools.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Limited reform of the financial industry : Dean Baker

Washington, D.C.- Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research issued the following statement on the approval of the financial reform bill:
"The final compromise bill approved by the conference committee this morning will improve regulation in the financial sector. However, given the severity of the economic crisis caused by past regulatory failures, the public had the right to expect much more extensive reform.

"On the positive side, the creation of a strong independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stands out as an important accomplishment. Such an agency would have prevented some of the worst lending practices that contributed to the housing bubble. It will be important that President Obama choose a strong and effective person, such as Elizabeth Warren, as the first head of the Bureau to establish its independence.

"The requirement that most derivatives be either exchange-traded or passed through clearinghouses is also an important improvement in regulation. However, important exceptions remain, which the industry will no doubt exploit to their limit.

"The creation of resolution authority for large non-bank financial institutions is also a positive step, although the fact that no pre-funding mechanism was put in place is a serious problem. Also, the audit of the Federal Reserve's special lending facilities, as well as the ongoing audits of its open market operations and discount window loans, is a big step towards increased Fed openness.

"On the negative side, there is little in this legislation that will fundamentally change the way that Wall Street does business. The rules on derivative trading will still allow the bulk of derivatives to be traded directly out of banks rather than separately capitalized divisions of the holding company. The Volcker rule was substantially weakened by a provision that will still allow banks to risk substantial sums in proprietary trading.

"More importantly, there is probably no economist who believes that this bill will end the risks of  too-big-to-fail financial institutions. The six largest banks will still enjoy the enormous implicit subsidy that results from the expectation that the federal government will bail them out in the event of a crisis.

Friday, June 25, 2010

On time budget initiative qualifies

On Friday, May 7, CFT and coalition partners AFSCME and CNA submitted 1.1 million signatures on petitions to place a Majority Vote Budget measure on the state ballot for November 2010.
California is one of just three states that require a two thirds Legislative supermajority to pass a budget.  Under these circumstances, a small minority of legislators controls the state budget process, and ensures the continued decline of funding for public education and other vital social services.  Democracy is supposed to be simple majority rule (50% plus 1).  We have lost democracy in our state budget process, with terrible effects for all of us.
Each year the state budget is held hostage by the legislative minority until the majority agrees to eliminate a tax, or until the majority is forced to agree to additional tax loopholes for special interests.  
Well, it is less than the Majority Rule initiative which did not make it to the ballot.  But, half a loaf is better than none.

Hello Hoover: Republicans kill unemployment extension

Republican partisan politics won—and working families lost—again last night when Senate Republicans for the fourth time this year blocked a bill that would revive the extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits program that is the last lifeline for millions of jobless workers.
The 57-41 vote (with Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson from Nebraska joining all Republicans) fell three votes short of the 60 needed to end the filibuster against the bill. The bill also included aid for states facing huge budget shortfalls to keep 900,000 people on the job.
The extended UI program expired May 31 after the Senate left town for the Memorial Day recess without acting on a House-passed jobs bill that would have kept the long-term unemployment benefits program alive. Since then, 1.2 million jobless workers have lost their benefits.

The Republican blockade means about 250,000 unemployed workers a week lose their benefits, which averages around $300 a week, while Republican lawmakers take in a nifty $3,346.16 a week of taxpayers’ money.
Maybe if they spent a few months out of work in an economy where the unemployment rate is near 10 percent, at least 15 million people are out of work and 6.8 million people have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, they wouldn’t be so cavalier in calling for “tough love” for the unemployed and telling them they’re just not looking hard for work.
This is how you make a recession worse. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Goodbye Keynes, Hello Hoover- William Grieder

The first fundamental failure of Keynesian economics occurred forty years ago during the Vietnam War when the economy was overheating but the political system failed to take the corrective steps that would restrain price inflation—that is, raise taxes and reduce federal spending. The decade of economic stagnation that followed became a central factor in discrediting both liberalism and the Democratic Party.
We are now witnessing a second great failure of the doctrine John Maynard Keynes devised for managing a healthy economy. This time, Washington faces the opposite problem—a starkly underperforming economy in which 10 percent of the workforce are without jobs and income. Yet the President and Democratic Congress, spooked by the swollen federal deficits, are unwilling to do what Keynes prescribed in these circumstances—pump up federal spending enormously and run even larger budget deficits in order to force-feed a stronger recovery.
The results of this political decision will be tragic for millions of struggling families, but also potentially devastating for the Democratic party. Democrats are implicitly choosing to do nothing more to rescue the country from the deepening dislocations and lost output. Making mistakes can be forgiven, but not giving up.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Teach for America: what the evidence says

Professor Su Jin Jez, of Sacramento State’s Public Policy and Administration Graduate Program, has coauthored an education policy brief titled, “Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence.” 

The brief looks at the impact of Teach For America, which aims to address teacher shortages by sending graduates from elite colleges, most of whom do not have a background in education, to teach in low-income rural and urban schools for a two-year commitment. The brief is available at
Research on the impact of TFA teachers produces a mixed picture, with results af- fected by the experience level of the TFA teachers and the group of teachers with whom they are compared. Studies have found that, when the comparison group is other teachers in the same schools who are less likely to be certified or traditional- ly prepared, novice TFA teachers perform equivalently, and experienced TFA teachers perform comparably in raising reading scores and a bit better in raising math scores.
The question for most districts, however, is whether TFA teachers do as well as or better than credentialed non-TFA teachers with whom school districts aim to staff their schools. On this question, studies indicate that the students of novice TFA teachers perform significantly less well in reading and mathematics than those of credentialed beginning teachers.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tea Party Jacobins

Important reading.  Tea Party Jacobins.

 Also: Harpers.  July 2010.  Tea Party in the Sonora : for the future of the GOP governance, Look to Arizona.   Ken Silverstein. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Failed school reform

Recently, I (Diane Ravitch)  wrote a book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, in which I took issue with a number of currently popular education strategies that I had once supported, and now, seeing their questionable outcomes, challenge. Since then, I have been traveling across the country and have made three dozen speeches. What started out as a conventional book tour—with stops only in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco—turned into something else: a whistle-stop campaign to warn against some of the education “reforms” currently in vogue. From the day that the news broke that I had turned against No Child Left Behind—the federal law that nationally enforces a heavy emphasis on testing and accountability—and that I’d come out against against market-based ideas of school choice, I have been overwhelmed with invitations to speak in almost every state.
The result has been exhilarating, exhausting, and ultimately disheartening. The exhilarating part was meeting thousands of teachers and hearing their appreciation for my support of their work. Teachers repeatedly asked if I could voice their opposition to what is now called reform. Many described the challenges they face trying to comply with the unrealistic goals of No Child Left Behind. At Stanford, a teacher from Salinas County broke into tears as she described her students, the children of lettuce pickers, most of whom knew no English. When I spoke in Oakland, a group of teachers drove four hours to hear me and to get copies of my book for every member of their school board.
The disheartening part was recognizing, along with my audiences, that the policies I criticize now have not only the unwavering support of Republicans but also the endorsement of the Obama administration. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been campaigning with Newt Gingrich to enlist bipartisan support for what I believe is a very conservative agenda. For me, the irony of all this is that I broke ranks with my former colleagues at some staunchly conservative think tanks by writing my book at precisely the moment the Obama administration has embraced their ideas. Again and again, I have been asked by talk show hosts (at least the well informed ones), “How did right-wing ideas become the education agenda of the Obama administration?”
My sense is that it has a lot to do with the administration’s connections to the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation. Although both are usually portrayed as liberal or at least Democratic, their funding priorities have merged with those of the very conservative Walton Family Foundation. I explain this curious power elite in a chapter of my book called “The Billionaire Boys Club.”

Senate Republicans kill jobs bill, unemployment

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the Republican’s action toSenate Republicans last night blocked a jobs bill that would have extended unemployment insurance (UI) for long-term jobless workers. Some 250,000 unemployed workers a week are losing their unemployment benefits because they can’t find jobs.

block unemployment benefits for the hardest-hit jobless Americans is an outrage–sadly, it’s simply the latest shame. All members, both Republicans and Democrats, must remember that come November, voters will be thinking about one thing—jobs.
Senate leaders scaled back the bill to win the 60 votes needed to end the Republican filibuster against the bill. The 56-40 vote included all Republicans present and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
The extended UI program expired May 31 after the Senate left town for the Memorial Day recess without acting on a House-passed jobs bill that would have kept the long-term unemployment benefits program alive. The U.S. unemployment rate is near 10 percent, at least 15 million people are out of work and 6.8 million people have been out of work for 27 weeks or more.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bank reform in the balance- call your Congressman

No More Gambling with Taxpayer Money!

Let's Get the Job Done, Help Us Whip the Conferees!

The House-Senate banking conference committee is underway in Washington, D.C. If you are a nut like me, you will want to watch on C-Span. But even if you are not, you can still have boatloads of Bankster fun by helping us whip the conferees! We are making progress, Fed Presidents across the land are supporting Lincoln, along with top economists, the New York Times editorial board and even Paul Volcker, who apparently changed his mind. With your help we can win this!


Reckless swaps and derivatives trading played a critical role in the financial crisis, inflating the domestic housing bubble and turning it into a global economic catastrophe. As the House and Senate conference committee begins final work on the financial services reform bill it is critically important to preserve the strong language cracking down on those “financial weapons of mass destruction” contained in the Senate bill. Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz makes the case for Senate derivatives chapter plainly" “If [Congress] fails to pass strict oversight of dangerous over-the-counter derivatives and swaps the U.S. economy will continue to be vulnerable to significant financial risk.”

Casino Banking

Currently the five largest banks in the United States have an anti-competitive strangle-hold on 90 percent of the U.S. swaps and derivatives market worth some $300 trillion. The five banks are Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. These five bank-dealers can fund their swaps trading units with FDIC-insured deposits. They have access to the Federal Reserve's discount window, which allows them to borrow money for gambling in swaps at near-zero percent interest rates. But these government supports were created to reassure the public that their deposits are safe, and to protect banks from runs on their deposits –- not to help banks finance their own casinos.

Endless teacher layoffs

by Ann Bibby:An endless summer awaits many of Detroit's teachers and school buildings this Thursday. Detroit, one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in America, is about to add thousands of teachers to its unemployment rolls and dozens of buildings to its vacancy problem. A third of this cash-strapped city is reported to be vacant already. The closing of more schools could be the death knell for many of the remaining neighborhoods in these dire economic times.
Although the city has a five-year plan to renovate or replace school buildings, funded in part by federal stimulus, 32 buildings will be closed permanently by the end of the year, with a dozen more to follow over the next two years.
Detroit is not the only urban school district facing massive staff layoffs, and tasked with shuttering schools. Kansas City will close 26 of its 66 schools. Cleveland will lose 14 schools. And the state of California is braced for massive teacher reductions.

Every child deserves a world-class education

President Barack Obama
Every child in America deserves a world-class education.
Today, more than ever, a world-class education is a prerequisite for success. America was once the best educated nation in the world. A generation ago, we led all nations in college completion, but today, 10 countries have passed us. It is not that their students are smarter than ours. It is that these countries are being smarter about how to educate their students. And the countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.
We must do better. Together, we must achieve a new goal, that by 2020, the United States will once again lead the world in college completion. We must raise the expectations for our students, for our schools, and for ourselves – this must be a national priority. We must ensure that every student graduates from high school well prepared for college and a career.
A world-class education is also a moral imperative – the key to securing a more equal, fair, and just society. We will not remain true to our highest ideals unless we do a far better job of educating each one of our sons and daughters. We will not be able to keep the American promise of equal opportunity if we fail to provide a world-class education to every child. 
This effort will require the skills and talents of many, but especially our nation’s teachers, principals, and other school leaders. Our goal must be to have a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every school. We know that from the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents – it is the teacher standing at the front of the classroom. To ensure the success of our children, we must do better to recruit, develop, support, retain, and reward outstanding teachers in America’s classrooms.
Reforming our schools to deliver a world-class education is a shared responsibility – the task cannot be shouldered by our nation’s teachers and principals alone. We must foster school environments where teachers have the time to collaborate, the opportunities to lead, and the respect that all professionals deserve. We must recognize the importance of communities and families in supporting their children’s education, because a parent is a child’s first teacher. We must support families, communities, and schools working in partnership to deliver services and supports that address the full range of student needs.

Obama ed plan shuts out parents

Shutting Out Parents

Obama's Disappointing Blueprint for Reform

As public school parents and parent advocates, we have grave reservations about the Obama administration’s "blueprint for reform"Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, laying out its proposals for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Along with 16 other parent activists from throughout the country, we recently wrote a letter to the president and Congress, which hundreds more signed on to, registering our opposition to the administration’s agenda for the nation’s schools.

As this letter from “parents across America” pointed out, the parent voice has been missing so far from the national debate on education, and is entirely absent from the top-down, often draconian policies put forward by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Secretary Duncan’s approach not only ignores the central role parents should play in their children’s education and lives, but also gives scant attention to the reforms we believe are necessary to improve our schools. Overall, we strongly maintain that the blueprint’s proposals would undermine rather than strengthen the public education system, particularly in the urban districts whose parents we represent.

We are aware that Secretary Duncan’s track record in Chicago included dismantling parent-majority local school councils and returning millions in federal parent- involvement funds to Washington because of administrative roadblocks to their use. The fact that the blueprint for federal education programs the secretary helped devise omits the need to involve parents in decisionmaking cries out for redress. Most of the funding for family-engagement programs has been cut, with the remainder consolidated into the federal charter-school and parent-choice programs. The only instance in which parent involvement in decisionmaking is mentioned in the blueprint is to require that parents of Native American children be included in the design of programs at the school level.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blame the teachers- its good politics

The ‘Blame the Teacher’ Movement, and the Public-Sector Union Crisis

Friday June 11 12:51 pm

By Richard Greenwald

Will government workers join the race to the bottom?

I was stopped dead in my tracks and felt a cold chill run down my
spine while reading the current issue of The Atlantic. Its cover story
is “The 14 3/4 Most Powerful Ideas of the Year,” which is a Top 10
 that makes fun of Top 10 lists (hence the 3/4).

Idea number 13 is the one that got me. It was written by The New York
 David Brooks and titled “Teachers are Fair Game.” As Brooks
sees it, it is now open season for intellectually assaulting teachers.
To be honest, Brooks aims mostly for the teachers unions. The result
is yet one more mainstream media outlet joining the echo chamber
claiming that teachers and their organizations are at fault for the
poor state of education in America.

What I call the "blame the teacher" movement is smart politics for
those on the right. It shifts public debate away from funding and
economic equity issues to teachers on the frontline. In some ways it
is like a Fordist speedup without the $5 day. Newly proposed policy
would tie teacher salaries, merit pay, and even tenure to student test
scores. The pressure is up, but, with diminished funding, resources
are down.

Now, improving education is something everyone favors. It’s like
democracy. But how one gets there is the million-dollar question. Can
you improve education by putting increased pressure on teachers to
raise classroom test scores in a time of declining public funding for
education? We are about to see.

Tea Party Jacobins

In my own search to comprehend the craziness of the anti immigrant Right and the Tea Party, I found this insightful piece.  From, the NY Review of Books. May 27.  Mark Lilla. Click on the title above to get the entire piece. A review of 5 books on the subject.

Which brings us to Fox News. The right-wing demagogues at Fox do what demagogues have always done: they scare the living daylights out of people by identifying a hidden enemy, then flatter them until they believe they have only one champion—the demagogue himself. But unlike demagogues past, who appealed over the heads of individuals to the collective interests of a class, Fox and its wildly popular allies on talk radio and conservative websites have at their disposal technology that is perfectly adapted to a nation of cocksure individualists who want to be addressed and heard directly, without mediation, and without having to leave the comforts of home.
The media counterestablishment of the right gives them that. It offers an ersatz system of direct representation in which an increasingly segmented audience absorbs what it wants from its trusted sources, embellishes it in their own voices on blogs and websites and chatrooms, then hears their views echoed back as “news.” While this system doesn’t threaten our system of representative democracy, it certainly makes it harder for it to function well and regain the public’s trust.

Outrage from the Tea Party

 There is vehement outrage from the Right on the Sac Bee news site covering the City Council vote 6-1 to boycott Arizona. 
These folks are a small minority pretending to be a majority.  Poizner received some 26% of the Republican vote in the primary with his anti immigrant rhetoric. 
BTW,  You can get much of the same zeal in the letters  by attacking teachers' unions or public sector workers pensions. Not quite as bigotted, but equally vehement. 

 We are in the greatest economic crisis since the 1930's. Part of the problem is the legitimate anxiety of people with few jobs and few opportunities.  The Tea Party activists and their Republican funders, and the anti immigrant activists promote conflicts over issues of immigration, teachers' unions, public workers pensions, and big government as substitutes for a real analysis of economic problems. The  financial crisis was caused by the greed and the theft of a few very rich operatives. The oligarchy caused the unemployment ( not immigrants), the economic losses, the off shoring of production jobs, the cuts in services such as police and fire to families.

We need Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

A Jobs Crisis Without Outrage?
It is simply amazing that hardly anyone in Washington is fully engaged in pushing for job creating legislation.  At least 8,000,000 jobs have been lost since the recession began. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million, public employees in state and local government face layoffs as a result of budget cuts caused by reduced tax revenues as a consequence of all the lost jobs. Unless something is done it is entirely possible, even likely that we will face a double dip recession resulting in even more job losses.
The fact is that we are losing an ideological struggle in Washington. The deficit hawks in both parties argue that too much is being spent. They have prevented extensions of unemployment and subsidized COBRA for the unemployed. They have blocked extending unemployment to distressed workers beyond 99 weeks in states with high unemployment. And they have discourage the passage of new job creating legislation that would provide localities with new funds to prevent public employee layoffs and generate job growth in the private sector. 

New York Times Columnist Bob Herbert described the problem well in his June 14th columnThe deficit hawks are a problem in the House and Senate. Although because of senate rules they are more of a problem in the Senate.
We must act now to counter the deficit hawks and push for job creating legislation and other measures that would help restore the economy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sacramento City Council votes to boycott Arizona

By a vote of 6-1, the Sacramento City Council voted to support the boycott of Arizona over its immigration law. The letter columns of the Bee are afire with threats from Right Wing, anti immigrant extremists.
For more on the Arizona law, go to

We are in the greatest economic crisis since the 1930’s. The Tea Party activists and their Republican funders, and the anti immigrant activists  promote  conflicts over  issues of immigration,  teachers’ unions, public workers pensions, and big government as substitutes for a real  analysis of  economic problems.  The U.S. and eventually world wide financial crisis was caused by the greed and the theft of a few very rich operatives.    The oligarchy caused the unemployment ( not immigrants), the economic losses, the off shoring of production jobs,  the cuts in services such as police and fire to families. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Teachers robbed of jobs by deficit cult

On Saturday night, the White House released a letter Obama sent to congressional leaders of both parties asking for nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments to fend off "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters" and to prevent a possible double-dip recession.
"We are at a critical juncture on our nation's path to economic recovery," the president warned. "It is essential that we continue to explore additional measures to spur job creation and build momentum toward recovery, even as we establish a path to long-term fiscal discipline. At this critical moment, we cannot afford to slide backwards just as our recovery is taking hold."
And, from the Economic Policy Institute: Mishel urged Congress to pass three key pieces of jobs legislation, including the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loophole Act of 2010, which would extend unemployment insurance and COBRA health care subsidies for the long-term unemployed; legislation from Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to preserve education jobs; and the Local Jobs for America Act, introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), which authorizes $100 billion over two years to create and save jobs in local communities around the country.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jobs for teachers- stalled in the Senate

Education Jobs Fund. A part of Jobs for Main Street Act.  At present the legislation is being held up in the Senate.  Why? Because  a number of Senators –including some Democrats- believe that the deficit is the most important issue; not jobs.  This is a failure to understand the basic of Keynes.   See: Why We Are Moving Toward a Recessionary Era, and Why  Keynes is Being Exhumed

Coming Soon, National Exit exams for teachers

See the excellent article on PACT in Rethinking Schools.

PACT is used as an exit requirement in the Teacher Preparation Program at Sacramento State. In my experience it takes important time ( at least 1/3) away from actual student teaching.  That is the student teacher is performing for PACT rather than preparing, teaching, and motivating children.
We have sought to have this changed but received no assistance from our legislators.  There are faculty with an opposing viewpoint.  They see PACT as good.
It has now become increasingly normalized. That is current students do not often recognize that this is an imposition that detracts from teaching and learning.
Duane Campbell

Sacramento City School budget woes

An excellent piece by a local teacher.  It will  be followed by an outburst of anti teacher writing. Readers might want to write in and support him.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Arne Duncan; the Chicago story on school reform

Arne Duncan's own 'pay for performance' program in has been a fiasco, according to a new study described by Valerie Strauss below (

It turns out that bribing teachers doesn't even work on its own terms -- i.e., in producing significant gains in test scores. Nevertheless, the Obama administration heavily cites the Teacher Advancement Program, the same outfit that Duncan relied on in Chicago, in "research" documents supporting its Blueprint for ESEA:

Apparently, the Mathematica report doesn't go into all the negative side-effects of test-based teacher pay. For an excellent summary of research in that area, see:

Jim Crawford

Chicago's teacher performance-based pay didn't work -- new analysis

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and all of his acolytes who are rushing to implement performance-based compensation for teachers might want to take a close look at thepreliminary results from a Chicago program with this focus that was initially started when Duncan ran the city school system.

County, city, state budget cuts- How is that working out for you?

County, city budget cuts loom
Sacramento County is cutting its sheriff patrols, closing mental health clinics, closing parks, and closing emergency health care clinics.  There has been an almost 30% decline in sales tax revenues in the past two years. Property tax funds are a   large  share of county budgets, and plummeting real estate values have meant even less income for counties to pay their bills .   The  on going  state budget-crisis state  cuts funding for counties yet  the state still requires them to provide costly programs. The reality is that almost all of California's counties are facing significant budget shortfalls resulting in cuts in programs, services and staffing.
Sacramento City is closing fire stations on a part time basis, closing senior centers, and reducing police protection.  Both the county and the city are depending upon major concessions from labor unions to respond to declining revenues.
In the last two years California’s  k-12 schools have received over a  $16 billion  cut back in  state funding.   California presently ranks  44th  of the states in per pupil spending and last among the states in class size.   This year in the budget  the Governor proposes to reduce  k-12 spending by another  $2.4 Billion.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We need jobs, not budget cuts

In order to help the economy grow, national, state and local governments need to maintain and to create jobs.  This policy is called Keynesianism.   Interestingly candidate Meg Whitman proposes exactly the opposite – cut jobs and reduce taxes for the corporations.   That is Reaganomics.
County revenues and state revenues are down. There has been a  nearly 30 percent drop in sales tax for Sacramento County over the past five years. Property tax funds an  large  share of county budgets, and plummeting real estate values have meant even less income for counties to pay their bills.  State cutbacks have been severe cutting some 16 billion from schools in the last two years.
 The reality is that almost all of California's counties are facing significant budget shortfalls resulting in cuts in programs, services and staffing.  And, some 42 of the states have severe budget crises.
 California and other states  have budget restrictions that prevent deficit spending, yet, according to Keynesian theory  we need deficit spending to get out of this recession.  The cutbacks at the state and local levels around the country are negating the value of the federal stimulus of 2009.  We must  stop the cutbacks at the state and local level.
Paul Krugman,  won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2008 and is well known for his regular columns  in the New York Times.  He has republished The Return of Depression Economics with an update- the Crisis of 2008.  Krugman, a Professor at Princeton,   argues that the crisis is endemic.  It has been growing since the 1990’s.  He describes  particularly the 1994 Peso Crisis in Mexico , the East Asian Crisis, and the  US stock market bubble of 2001/02.  He could have well added the Russian Crisis of 1998.
The 2007/2009  U.S. economic  crisis was severe in part because of the   growth of finance capital as a  dominant actor  in our economy .   Finance was in crisis, not the production of goods and services.  Since the 1980’s,  in the age of globalization,  U.S. finance capital and financial services grew as a percent of the total profits in the economy  while manufacturing  declined.  At the same time, while the financiers made billions from stock options and bonuses, the average wage of working families remained stagnant, thus they had limited  money to use to buy new products.  And, when they did buy, the products were often manufactured in China or Vietnam and their production stimulated  those economies, not the US economy.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Candidate from Goldman Sachs wins Republican primary in California

 billionaire CEO Meg Whitman won California’s Republican gubernatorial primary “after months of obscene campaign spending,” says Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Federation of Labor.
In the race for Sacramento against Attorney General Jerry Brown (D), Whitman will now “use her seemingly unlimited fortune to try to stage a hostile takeover of our state.”
She’s made clear that, if elected, she plans to bring a Wall Street agenda to California. What that means for working families is more massive tax giveaways for corporations and the wealthy and wholesale cuts to education, public safety and programs that our state’s most vulnerable rely upon.
Pulaski says the contrast between the candidates “couldn’t be starker.”
Jerry Brown shares the Main Street values that built this state’s economy into a global powerhouse and expanded our middle class. Brown has a spent a lifetime fighting for working families. He presided over the creation of nearly 2 million jobs as governor. He fought the exploitation of workers by large corporations as attorney general.
Read Pulaski’s full statement here.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Glenn Beck: Historian ?

Glenn Beck: “Historian” For a Troubled America

By Joseph A. Palermo

Mr. Palermo is Associate Professor of American History at CSU, Sacramento. He's the author of two books on Robert F. Kennedy: In His Own Right (2001) and RFK (2008).
Update: Glenn Beck has responded to this article on his TV show. You can see the clip on YouTube here. Mr. Palermo's response to Mr. Beck can be found here.
It’s official: Beck is now a doctor of philosophy. The Reverend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University recently conferred upon Glenn Beck an honorary doctorate in the humanities. Liberty University’s honoring of Beck is fitting because he has clearly established himself as Fox News’s resident “historian,” with his area of expertise being American civilization, with emphases on the early republic, progressivism, and the New Deal. Glenn Beck, Ph.D. makes about $1 million a month, earning him the distinction of being the highest paid “historian” in the world.
Beck has emerged as the most influential promoter of the Jonah Goldberg/Amity Shlaes contention that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal were unmitigated “calamities” for the country. Almost nightly, Beck tells his several million viewers that FDR, Woodrow Wilson, and other “progressives” (even TR) were engaged in a long-term project to strip Americans of their freedom and impose some kind of totalitarian state. Historians who specialize in the early twentieth century probably could never have dreamt that a TV and radio personality could convince so many ordinary Americans that laws that ensure the safety of meat and drugs, minimum wages, expanding voting rights, etc. undermine their “freedom.”
Beck, Goldberg, Shlaes and others seem to be pursuing a long-term project of their own to misinform their rather gullible audiences into believing that anytime a government imposes limits on the ability of private business (especially giant corporations) to exploit the country’s land and labor it is an attack on individual “liberty.” It’s the same argument that representatives of corporate trusts deployed at the turn of the last century when they demanded the “freedom” to do anything they wished. In the wake of the Wall Street financial meltdown and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill catastrophe, both brought to us by the less than benevolent actions of unrestrained corporate power, Beck’s views are not only stupid and false, but dangerous.
But one of Dr. Beck’s main pet peeves is his belief that the “founders” intended the United States to be a Christian nation and that the idea of a “wall of separation” between church and state is a myth perpetrated by secular liberal elites. It’s not that Beck is wrong about the ambiguity of the personal beliefs on the subject by the founders, but he and others like him are monumentally wrong by overstating the relevance of the intent of eighteenth century views on the thought and practices of twentieth and twenty-first century America.
Gordon S. Wood, in a June 2006 edition of The New York Review of Books, writes: “We can’t solve our current disputes over religion by looking back to the actual historical circumstances of the Founding [sic]; those circumstances are too complex, too confusing, and too biased toward Protestant Christianity to be used in courts today, and most of them are remote from or antagonistic to the particular needs of the twenty-first century. We do not, and cannot, base American constitutional jurisprudence on the historical reality of the Founding [sic]. . . . What Founders’ [sic] intent should we choose to emphasize? That of the deistic Jefferson and Madison? Or that of the churchgoing Washington and Adams, with their sympathies for religion? Or that of the countless numbers of evangelical Protestants who captured control of the culture to an extent most of the Founding [sic] elite never anticipated?”
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