• ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 18

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signs hotly-contested education bill (Orlando Sentinel)

    The major bill

    tackles everything from recess to teacher bonuses to testing. Backers called it “landmark” and “transformational” legislation, while critics said it will harm public schools and their most vulnerable students. . . . .

    The measure includes the “schools of hope” provision [House Speaker Richard] Corcoran championed, which will use state money to lure high-performing charter schools to neighborhoods where students in traditional schools have struggled academically.

    “These are kids who are being robbed of dignity and hope,” Corcoran said. “We want every single child to have an opportunity to get a world-class education.”

    The bill’s provisions related to charter schools — privately run public institutions — have prompted some of the biggest outcry, with many educators and school advocates urging Scott to veto the bill because they think it will reduce funding for traditional public schools.

    Comment: The bill was strongly opposed by teachers’ unions and other supporters of traditional public schools, strongly supported by proponents of charters and private schools.

     Carol Felsenthal has a thoughtful, succinct opinion piece at ZipDialog: Will Trump Ax Mueller?

    She thinks there is an excellent chance he will and that the political consequences will be very serious.

     Illinois state comptroller says she cannot pay the bills. State finances are in a “crisis mode” (Associate Press)

    [Comptroller Susana] Mendoza says a recent court order regarding money owed for Medicaid bills means mandated payments will eat up 100 percent of Illinois’ monthly revenue.

    There would be no money left for so-called “discretionary” spending – a category that in Illinois includes school buses, domestic violence shelters and some ambulance services. –Associated Press

    Comment: For years, the state spent lavishly on pensions for unionized state employees, who were so beloved by legislators that they actually wrote into the state constitution that pensions can never be reduced.

    On those rare occasions when the Democrats and Republicans agreed on budget cuts, they were struck down by the courts because they reduced future pension benefits, which violates the constitution.

    For years, the state has been deep blue, with House Majority Leader Mike Madigan (of Chicago) as the most powerful figure. Several years ago, a tough-minded Republican (Bruce Rauner) won the governorship, but he and Madigan have not been able to strike a deal. 

    Unlike Puerto Rico, Illinois and other US states cannot seek bankruptcy protection. But lots of city and state agencies can, and there is a real prospect that some will have to do so if the state cannot pay its share of their budget.

    You can easily imagine what the D’s and R’s say. “The other side is intransigent, and what we need to do is (a) raise taxes or (b) cut services.” You can guess who says A and who says B. (The one quirk is that not all Republicans favor being hard on unionized state employees. In some downstate districts, they are vote in large numbers, often for Republicans.)

     “Put down you make-up kit, m’am, and come out of the beauty shop with your hands up.”

    Idaho governor vetoed legislation to make it easier to work in cosmetology  (FEE, Foundation for Economic Education) Then, his wife called and asked her usual, unlicensed make-up artist to come and do some work. The make-up artist, Sherry Japhet, told her no.   

    Here’s what Ms. Japhet said on Facebook:

    Got a call to do [First Lady] Lori Otter’s makeup for a commercial on location and I said…

    “I would be more than happy to do it but her husband [Gov. Butch Otter, R] vetoed a bill to make it legal for me or any other makeup artist and stylist to do so. She will have to go to a salon or do it all herself.”

    She added in the Facebook post: “That felt so damn good.” –FEE

    Comment: Too many people need costly, time-consuming, irrelevant licenses.

    Bureaucracies love imposing them. That’s what they live to do. Professionals already in the field often favor them to prevent competition.

    So, who loses? Consumers lose, unless the licenses protect health and safety.

    Licenses for commercial truck drivers and food handlers are obviously necessary. But many others are unnecessary or are saddled with lots of unnecessary classroom hours. They raise costs and force people to go to unlicensed or blackmarket providers–or do without.

     The answer, my friend, is blowing in the . . . Spark Notes???  (Slate)

    Slate asks, “Did the singer-songwriter take portions of his Nobel lecture from SparkNotes?”

    Sounds like their lawyer went over that headline, doesn’t it? Anyway, they note the following:

    Across the 78 sentences in the lecture that Dylan spends describing Moby-Dick, even a cursory inspection reveals that more than a dozen of them appear to closely resemble lines from the SparkNotes site. And most of the key shared phrases in these passages (such as “Ahab’s lust for vengeance” in the above lines) do not appear in the novel Moby-Dick at all. –Slate

     Bodies of missing US sailors found in ship’s flooded compartment  (New York Times)

    The collision occurred in a  crowded shipping lane and the cause of the accident has not yet been determined.

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  • When the “wrong people” fail the test . . . stop giving the test? Another case of identity-group politics harming kids

     New York state requires prospective teachers to take a basic test for reading and writing.

     A federal judge has evaluated the test and ruled it is fair and not discriminatory.

     No matter. This competency test for teachers is being stopped because it screens out too many minorities, reports the Associated Press.

    NEW YORK (AP) – New York education officials are poised to scrap a test designed to measure the reading and writing skills of people trying to become teachers, in part because an outsized percentage of black and Hispanic candidates were failing it. . . .

    Leaders of the education reform movement have complained for years about the caliber of students entering education schools and the quality of the instruction they receive there. A December 2016 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that 44 percent of the teacher preparation programs it surveyed accepted students from the bottom half of their high school classes.

    The reformers believe tests like New York’s Academic Literacy Skills Test can serve to weed out aspiring teachers who aren’t strong students.

    But the literacy test raised alarms from the beginning because just 46 percent of Hispanic test takers and 41 percent of black test takers passed it on the first try, compared with 64 percent of white candidates. –AP

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    Comment #1: This revision is designed to help adult school employees (and potential employees) at the expense of children’s learning. 

    That misses the whole point of proper K-12 Education Policy. It should focus exclusively on what is best for the students, not the adult employees. In too many cities and states, it doesn’t.

    If what is best for kids is also best for teachers, as it often is, that’s great. If the two diverge, go with what is best for the kids. That should be the goal of education policy, even though students don’t have well-paid lobbyists or union organizations working for them. (Ah, see the problem!)

    In New York’s case, any help to minority teachers from slackening requirement will surely come at the expense of minority students in classes taught by poorly-qualified teachers. Who speaks for the kids?

    Comment #2: If the test’s content is not biased, and if it is directly related to the job, then the test is not biased, regardless of the outcome. Period.

    Unfortunately, progressives now consider a test biased if the outcome does not suit them, even if the underlying process is neutral and non-discriminatory.

    The test itself has been ruled non-discriminatory, meaning that it has neutral content. The Obama Administration was moving to reverse these rulings based solely on outcomes they did not like, even if the content was neutral and the process fair. Under Eric Holder, the Dept. of Justice filed suits against employment tests, even if they were fair and directly relevant to the job requirements, solely because more minorities failed them. That viewpoint is firmly embedded in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, inherited by Jeff Sessions. Any wonder the “career civil servants” in that department are pushing back, reading to do everything they can to undermine the Administration? They have civil service protection, but the are highly politicized advocates and were put there by previous administrations for that very reason.

    More broadly, the whole idea that outcomes, not process, should be the legal measure of discrimination is wrong. If the outcomes show “too few” of group X or Y, we should focus on correcting the underlying reasons, not changing a subsequent result reached by a fair process.

    Comment #3: MEDIA BIAS: The Associated Press gave this story a seriously misleading headline. Local papers are repeating it.

    That headline is both slanted and inaccurate. The key word is “instead.”

    According to the article, the test did screen teachers for competence in reading and writing. That it, it did its job and did it using a neutral test, pre-tested for non-discrimination and approved by a federal judge. It also “weeded out” people who could not pass, whatever their race. More minorities than white failed, but many whites failed, too.

    But the test did not “weed out minorities” instead of screening teachers for competence. It weeded them out because it screened teachers for competence.

    The AP has written an editorial instead of a neutral, descriptive headline.

    Once upon a time, readers could count on the Associated Press for fair reporting, adhering to the Joe Friday rule, “Just the facts, m’am.” No more.

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, February 11

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump rejects Tillerson’s choice for No. 2 at State, Elliott Abrams  Tillerson wanted Abrams, an experienced strategist who had served in the Reagan Administration and in a more senior position under George W. Bush. Abrams had attracted opposition from both left (predictably) and some on the right for too close to neoconservatives and interventionists. (New York Times)

    Mr. Trump had a productive meeting with Mr. Abrams on Tuesday, according to a White House official and a person close to Mr. Abrams. But after it took place, Mr. Trump learned of Mr. Abrams’s pointed criticisms of the president when he was running for president, the administration official said. Among those criticisms was a column headlined “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate,” which appeared in May 2016 in The Weekly Standard.  –New York Times

    Comment: Trump’s decision appears to be based on personal pique and disloyalty, not policy issues, but we will learn more over the next few days.

     Newly-confirmed Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos physically blocked from entering Washington, DC, elementary school (WJLA, ABC7)

    The Washington Teacher’s Union organized a gathering outside of the school, but were not among the protesters who blocked her. –WJLA

    She eventually made it into the school.

    Comment: The Teacher’s Union peaceful protests are fully protected by the First Amendment. They are fine, whether you agree with their viewpoint or not. By contrast, the others, who tried to block DeVos entry and enter her car, deserve full-throated condemnation.

     Trump has very positive meeting with Japanese PM Abe, says US committed to defense of Japan (Reuters via CNBC) The US defense commitment represents a significant change from Trump’s rhetoric as a candidate

    At the same time, Pres. Trump had a positive phone call with China’s leader, Xi, reaffirming Washington’s traditional “one-China” policy.

    Comment: These are significant, positive steps to stabilize both deterrence (protecting Japan) and diplomacy (discussions with China).

     Michael Barone is worried–and for good reason–that liberals are not condemning street violence in the US

    The response of liberal politicians? So far as I know, there has been almost none. At the Powerline blog John Hinderaker links to a Grabien video showing Democratic politicians and celebrities making statements that some may take as endorsements of violence, such as Sen. Tim Kaine’s urging followers to “fight in the streets.” I suspect he would claim that he was speaking metaphorically and only urging peaceful protest. But it would be nice if he could find time to condemn the violence we have seen at Berkeley — and which is increasingly unsurprising on our college and university campuses, which have become the part of our society most hostile to free speech. Michael Barone on Berkeley riots in the Washington Examiner

    Comment: My answer to Barone’s question: Liberal politicians probably do care, but they care more about their political standing. That means they do not want to alienate the highly-mobilized left, much of which supports the violence or is simply too cowardly to speak out again it.

     To help build its self-driving cars, Ford spends $1 Billion to buy majority stake in Silicon Valley startup (Detroit Free Press)

    Comment: Ford is buying the expertise of Argo AI’s founders and their robotics expertise. Ford has already made considerable progress on its “virtual driver system”

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Monday, January 16, the day honoring Dr. Martin Luther King

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     The Strategy of Delegitimating Trump  Rep. John Lewis, civil-rights leader from the MLK days, calls Trump’s presidency illegitimate because of Russian hacking. Republicans disagree, predictably. The New York Times, predictably, runs an article headlined: “In Trump’s Feud With John Lewis, Blacks Perceive a Callous Rival”

    The Congressional Black Caucus, whose motto is “The Conscience of the Congress,” is, predictably, lining up with Lewis, providing a strong invitation for more democrats to join in the claim that Donald Trump is not the legitimate president.

    Days before his inauguration, President-elect Donald J. Trump is engaged in a high-profile feud with some of the country’s most prominent African-American leaders, setting off anger in a constituency already wary of him after a contentious presidential campaign.

    Mr. Trump’s criticism of Representative John Lewis of Georgia, a widely admired leader of the civil rights movement, has prompted a number of Democratic lawmakers to say they will not attend his inauguration on Friday. –New York Times

     

     Trump blames “all those illegals” from the Middle East for troubles in the European Union.  Interviewed by the Times of London and Germany’s Bild, Trump says

    People, countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity. But, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it … entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. -Donald Trump interview

    The Los Angeles Times story about the interview and aides’ comments is here.

     Drumbeat of Teachers’ Unions against Trump’s nominee for Education  Expect plenty of headlines like this one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pa. educators have ‘worries’ about Trump’s Cabinet nominee

    Comment: In this news article, the word “wallet” appears in the second sentence and “billionaire” in the third. The first quote is from the state teacher’s union. In my opinion, the article is closer to an opinion piece than straight news.

     

     How American Charities Fund Terrorism  Interesting investigative report in National Review, focusing on American charities connected to Hamas.

    Some of the conclusions are debatable, though.

    By providing social services, Islamist terror groups gain political and moral legitimacy among the people under their control as well as among their supporters abroad. –Sam Westrop in National Review

    Comment: That’s an understandable position, but there is another view about these “indirect” benefits. It argues that, because Hamas completely controls Gaza, the provision of almost any social services to ordinary people there would count as benefiting Hamas, according to Westrop’s logic. That may be true politically, but it may cast too broad a net if it includes independent charities that do not work closely with Hamas. 

     Why Women Are Colder than Men  The science behind that common difference. (Glamour Health)

     Political Correctness: so pervasive at American universities that German publications are running major series about it.  Spiegel has a thoughtful, two-part investigation in English (part 1 here), concluding that many campuses are utterly disconnected from ordinary citizens’ views and experiences. That disconnection and the excesses of the PC movement helped Trump win, they argue.

    Comment: I would add that what makes PC movements so troubling is their willingness to shut down others’ speech and their condescending sense that they are morally superior.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Timothy Favero
     for the Der Spiegel article, which I would not have seen without his suggestion

     

  • Parents volunteer to help Chicago school kids; teacher’s union blocks them

    It breaks your heart.

    Chicago’s public schools are broke–and broken.

    Overburdened by excessive pension obligations (because city politicians deferred payments for so long), the city has asked the state for money.

    The state is broke, too, so the Chicago schools won’t get anything close to what they need.

    That leaves the schools with serious budget gaps. That, plus declining school enrollments, has led to some layoffs for teachers, administrators, and support personnel.

    Among those laid off: the new librarian at the Pritzker Elementary School, who replaced a long-serving librarian who retired.

    The loss of Pritzker’s librarian galvanized the parents, who want to support their children in a quality school.

    The parents did a wonderful thing: they pitched in and volunteered to staff the library in rotating shifts.

    That exactly the kind of civic engagement we need in cash-strapped cities.

    The Teacher’s Union Says Volunteer Librarians Will Hurt Their Members

    Teachers’ unions constantly say, “it’s all about the children.”

    It is not.

    It is all about the union’s members. That’s what unions do, just as corporations maximize profit.

    If the children’s interests overlap those of union members, that’s great because it builds political support.

    If not, tough luck for the kids.

    That’s what happened at Pritzker Elementary.

    “NO WAY we’re gonna let volunteers run this school library,” said the Chicago Teacher’s Union. (DNA Chicago)

    The Chicago Teachers Union filed a grievance against the school because the roster of 40 volunteers would be taking a union-based job, Pritzker Principal Joenile Albert-Reese confirmed Monday, one day after the conundrum made national headlines when Pritzker parent Michael Hendershot penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the issue.

    The WSJ op-ed is here.

    Why was the librarian laid off? Because the school’s pupil-count was a bit low, which meant the school received less city and state money than expected.

    The Union Does What Unions Do

    The Teacher’s Union does exactly what unions are designed to do. It fights for its members.

    That’s true even if their members’ interests are directly opposed to the best interests of children, their parents, and taxpayers.

    Parents and taxpayers are supposed to defend themselves, and in our political system, they have every opportunity to try.

    Because teachers unions are well-organized and powerful, however, because their members’ livelihoods are at stake, they have compelling reasons to mobilize politically. In city after city, in state after state, they have persuaded politicians to back their position, not that of disorganized parents and taxpayers.

    The results are predictable. In big cities with entrenched teachers unions, schools are designed around the main goal of adult employment, union employment. That showed up in stark relief at Pritzker Elementary.

    When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the poor kids,” remember that 47% of Pritzker students are poor. (Data from the WSJ article.)

    When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the minority kids,”remember that 47% of Pritzker students are minorities.

    When you hear nothing at all from the unions, remember they are thinking, “it’s all about us.”

    Again, that “me, first” approach does not make them different from other organizations, whether they are manufacturing unions or profit-making businesses.

    The question we as outsiders should ask is whether, in helping themselves, they are helping or hurting us.

    The Political Connection

    The nexus between unions and politicians shows up across the country, but it is particularly strong in deep blue cities, the last redoubt of unions.

    But even in blue cities, things are changing.

    The pushback against politically-connected teachers unions is growing because the financial costs have been so high, the educational results so mediocre.

    This pushback will soon gain a powerful ally in Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s newly-designated Secretary of Education.

    That is exactly why Senate Democrats will resist her confirmation with every bone in their body (excepting, of course, their backbone).

    For children who want a better education, that fight is one of the most important in the new Congress.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip to
    ◆ Joe Morris
     for highlighting this story