Thursday, August 31, 2006


Take a look at this excellent booklet from the Heartland Institute, "Ten Principles of School Choice." Pass it around. School choice is by far the best answer to our current pressing problems in K-12 education -- what's to be done about the lousy results from the untold millions we've poured into inner-city Omaha Public Schools, and what's to be done to preserve the heritage and effectiveness of Nebraska's remaining Class I country grade schools.

The answer to both: school choice.


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Tuesday, August 29, 2006


The massive Learning Community that’s now being crafted for the metropolitan Omaha area public schools may be the culmination of a dangerous process that began a few years ago in a related arena, and bodes evil for the future of freedom and accountability in Nebraska K-12 education.

The same person who drafted the Learning Community structure, State Sen. Ron Raikes, chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee, was at the center of some curiously similar, controversial changes to the state’s distance learning system that are still playing out.

But a few bold Nebraskans, led by ESU #6 board member Alan Jacobsen of Denton, Neb., may be able to block the scary, new process of funding and managing public education that seeks to skirt public accountability. If public policymakers listen to leaders like Jacobsen, they may be able to keep K-12 functions on the straight and narrow path of adequate public accountability.

At issue is the way educrats are using the obscure Educational Service Units, non-governmental and non-elected boards and commissions that operate well under the radar, paid education employees in oversight capacities over their own spending decisions, and sweetheart deals crafted with the relatively new and relatively unaccountable Interlocal Agreements, and doing all this probably in violation of Nebraska’s Open Meeting Act.

All this is so that educrats can have things their way and easy access to the public’s money with a minimum of accountability, which they mostly refer to as “fussing” from the “pests” who more properly should be called “concerned citizens” and “government watchdogs.”

This process is already well down the road with recent changes made to Nebraska’s distance education system. See for yourself:


It’s probable that this skirt-the-voters-they’re-too-dumb-to-care-anyway routine will be further cemented in place as the modus operandi of choice in the “One Metro Area, One Tax Levy” structure now being put in place by Omaha area superintendents and their educrat colleagues.

Some background is in order:

Interlocal agreements are supposed to be productive partnerships of two or more units of government to work on joint projects that couldn’t get done as efficiently if one governmental entity tried to do it on its own. In philosophy, it’s a great idea. In practice in Nebraska, interlocal agreements have basically been used by educrats to get around the Legislature’s spending lid, imposed several years ago in a vain attempt to hold the line on school spending.

Everybody knows it . . . except the voters, of course. But that may change, now that the stakes are getting bigger and the functions being funded and managed this way are coming out of the closet into the light of public scrutiny.

Nebraska educrats used interlocal agreements to get a large, expensive distance learning system in place several years ago, run by non-elected officials. Last legislative session, Sen. Raikes introduced LB 1208, now in place, which created the Distance Education Council as the coordinating body. An additional two state employees and up to $600,000 in additional state tax dollars were required to put the changes in place.

Members of that council are not elected, but are paid employees of the Educational Service Units across Nebraska. A “State Chief Information Officer” within the Nebraska Department of Education, who is of course a paid employee and not elected, is the central figure. State and federal tax dollars will fund operations through “technology allowances” figured in to state aid to school districts when school districts aren’t exceeding the spending lid on their own for the allowable exceptions of distance learning, or raking in state lottery funds.

The problem is, as Jacobsen pointed out in a July 26 letter to Raikes, that’s putting the employee in charge of the employer.

Jacobsen contends that Raikes failed to clarify that it wouldn’t be the elected boards of the ESU’s in charge of distance learning in Nebraska, but the non-elected ESU administrators. Jacobsen explained in the letter than he assumed, and reasonably so, that the elected ESU boards will choose who would serve on the board of control for the new distance learning operation. Instead, the bill put the ESU administrators in charge behind the backs of the elected officials and without their say-so.

Why didn’t concerned citizens complain at the time? Jacobsen said that the public, including elected ESU board members, were not given the straight scoop throughout the process, and consequently “we were misled about the governance.”

Apparently, the same people who are in one non-elected, under-the-radar group – the Educational Service Unit Administrators Association, or ESUAA – are now going to be on the Distance Education Council. They have already been conducting business as the Distance Education Council while formally meeting as the ESUAA.

Jacobson contends that the June 28 meeting of the ESUAA, held at ESU #10 in Kearney, was a conflict of interest; was illegal because an organization, not individual representatives, served as a governing board; and violated Nebraska’s Open Meeting Act since votes were taken and decisions were made that were of crucial importance to the distance learning operations.

Just as it is highly unclear who in the state has oversight over the many Interlocal Agreements that education bodies are signing continuously, Jacobsen points out that the oversight over the distance-learning system is highly clouded. Only one annual report to the Legislature is required as an accountability measure in the law. There is no practical way for elected ESU board members to supervise the decisions being made by the paid administrators in distance-learning operations.

“This is probably the most damaging blow to local control that you could foster throughout school districts,” Jacobsen wrote to Raikes. He contended that the change amounts to the start of a statewide ESU.

“Without sufficient elected accountability you put the State of Nebraska in a vulnerable position by creating a scenario that could allow for impropriety of a large proportion that would not be detected for nearly a year and possibly undetected in an annual report,” Jacobsen wrote to Raikes.

In a series of documents -- Raikes’ Statement of Intent on file before the Feb. 13 hearing, the hearing minutes, and the revised Fiscal Note of March 24 -- there was no mention of the buffer between the electorate and the spending and management decisions regarding Network Nebraska.

Jacobsen wrote, “There appears to be a concerted effort to make sure that this is not clearly understood. While I want to believe that this was not intentional I do believe that the board of governance requires review and correction.”

Raikes defended himself in an Aug. 4 reply to Jacobsen by saying that the ESU boards must trust their administrators enough to “appropriately” handle tax dollars, and there’s no reason that should change now that ESU’s will be the governing bodies over distance learning functions in the state. He claimed that the seven-page Education Committee statement and 69-page introduced bill both specified that the Distance Education Council “shall be composed of one administrator or his or her designee from each educational service unit.” He said the summaries which obscured that fact didn’t do so intentionally, but to “be respectful of your time.”

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We're keeping fingers and toes crossed that State Auditor Kate Witek gets enough signatures to get on the November ballot as a petition candidate. The deadline is Friday. I myself have collected eight signatures without even hardly trying; I hope scads more come in.

Yes, it stinks that she switched parties and invested her considerably admirable conservative pedigree with the darn old Democrats, but look at it this way: she's still the same person, and she's still our best hope for ever getting meaningful audits of education tax dollars.

Nebraska is the ONLY state in the Union that does NOT do performance audits of its governmental operations. Nebraska is the ONLY state in the Union that doesn't fine-tooth comb its education spending, at least a little. Witek has been pleading with GOP activists on this one, and getting nowhere. No wonder she walked. It's an obvious need, and they're too deep into cya status-quo governance to allow it.

It's embarrassing, and it's a big reason Nebraska's K-12 spending per pupil has topped the $8,000 a year mark. With our favorable demographics, that figure should be at least $1,000 or $2,000 less. The reason it's not is that we have zero, zip, nada accountability . . . but we could have fairly good levels if we could get performance audits in place.

Witek is up to speed, active nationally, and unassailably firm on this point. Other auditor candidates don't appear to even have this on their scopes. She's our best hope of ever getting it done.

So if you want to sign a petition, email me at swilliams1@cox.net, and if you're not too awful darn far out of my way, I'll come to you and get your John or Joan Hancock.
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No doubt they'll surf that wave all the way here to Nebraska K-12 and college education, and soon, unless more good defenders of morality and values spring up, like this one that's at least trying:


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Monday, August 28, 2006


Another education blog, the Business/Education Partnership Forum (www.biz4ed.org) had an excellent expose on biased language in a recent opinion survey that's being touted around the country as "evidence" that people aren't for school choice.

As if!

This is just one more reminder of how faulty a lot of what's pawned off as education "research" really is. Whenever you see poll "results" that violate your common sense, expect fandango, such as my brother blogger found this time:


Strange things afoot at the PDK

For the last 38 years, Phi Delta Kappa and The Gallup Organization have conducted a national survey on the public’s attitudes toward public schools. (
Go here for complete results of this year’s survey.) It’s an influential survey, put out by two credible entities, and one would be inclined to take its results at face value. But it seems as if there are some shenanigans happening behind the scenes that would severely compromise the integrity of this work.

Given the inroads made in recent years by voucher initiatives (programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and DC for example), it would seem as if the idea of school choice is gaining political and public acceptance.

Yet, according to PDK/Gallup:

Since 1991, the PDK/Gallup polls have approached this issue with a question that measures approval of the voucher concept — “allowing parents and students to choose a private school to attend at public expense” — without using the politically charged word “vouchers.” Table 5 provides this year’s results. In considering the results, it is useful to keep in mind that choice, independent of a specific program, is popular with the public.

Findings. The percentage favoring vouchers dropped from 38% a year ago to 36% this year, while opposition grew from 57% to 60%. Support for vouchers started at 24% in 1993, fluctuated up and down for years, and peaked at 46% in 2002. It is now at the mid-Nineties level.

Sounds bad for the voucher folks, right? It would – if this were the whole story.PDK/Gallup is technically correct when they say that they’ve been asking about the voucher concept without using the word “vouchers” since 1991. What they don’t say is that they’ve been asking about vouchers since 1970; the difference is that they actually used the word “vouchers” in previous years.

According to Andrew Coulson of The Cato Institute, on the Cato blog:

PDK actually started asking the American public about vouchers back in 1970, with a rather more informative question:

In some nations, the government allots a certain amount of money for each child for his or her education. The parents can then send the child to any public, parochial, or private school they choose. This is called the “voucher system.” Would you like to see such an idea adopted in this country?

Response to this question was initially somewhat unfavorable, but those answering favorably began outnumbering those opposed in 1981, and that pattern was never reversed. The last time PDK ever asked this question, in 1991, 50 percent of respondents were in favor while only 39 percent were opposed.

What Cato did not mention, but also can be found in the 1991 PDK report, is that “The voucher plan finds its strongest support among non-whites and blacks (57% in both groups), inner-city dwellers (57%), people with children under 18 (58%), and nonpublic school parents (66%).”If you want to politicize this, you can argue that The Cato Institute has an agenda of its own – but they’re simply presenting facts here, as evidenced by past editions of PDK/Gallup reports (archived here).It gets even stickier.

Sensing that the new question (“Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?”) promoted a bias against vouchers, The Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation commissioned their own survey last year, using Harris Interactive, another well-known polling firm. In this survey, they contacted 1,000 adults, asked 500 of them the PDK question verbatim, and asked the other 500 a slightly modified version.

The results, with changes in wording underlined:

PDK Question: “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?”
· 37% favor
· 55% oppose
· 5% neither favor or oppose
· 2% don’t know/refused

Adjusted Question: “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose any school, public or private, to attend using public funds?”
· 60% favor
· 33% oppose
· 5% neither favor nor oppose
· 2% don’t know/refused

That’s right – a 23-point jump in support, based on a slight rewording of the question.

And while the Friedman Foundation is wholly pro-voucher, I’ve got to consider their question the fairer of the two.

It seems clear to me that PDK’s work, at least on this issue, has been compromised by their agenda (they describe themselves as “a dedicated advocate for the public schools” on their site). As a result, it’s hard to take any of their findings very seriously – just one more example of education research that can’t be taken at face value.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006


Seems like the more popular homeschooling becomes, the more obstacles get thrown in its way. This is unfair, and hopefully, will be resolved:


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Saturday, August 26, 2006


School parent-teacher groups have come a long way from bake sales:


Want to bet that gambling was involved? So sad.

Hope this incident reminds school-related groups, and school employees, too, for that matter, to always require two signatures for checks withdrawing entrusted funds over, say, $50. Also a must: much more regular accounting reports to PTO leadership. Make sure more than one set of hands and eyes are shepherding the money, and keep on top of things. Note that this embezzlement took place over more than six months. That should never be.
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Here's one to watch: Ball State University in Indiana has received permission to launch an online public school next year for kids who, for whatever the reason, don't go to a regular public or private school.

They may be homeschooled, out of school a lot because of travel with their parents, or suffering from a chronic illness.

The online instruction would form the majority of their free public education, but they'd have to be in a traditional classroom at least 20% of the time.

The catch is that they would have to take the same statewide assessment as the public school kids, and that could be bad, as those assessments are geared toward assessing Politically Correct values and attitudes rather than academics.

But it's an intriguing idea that could produce some good solutions for Nebraska, if we could solve the assessment tangle with some viable alternatives.

Can't you see quality youth-serving organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, or churches in smaller towns, or new nonprofits that spring up just for this purpose, operating as cyberschools? They could be set up, either in the kids' individual homes or in multi-child attendance centers that already exist, but are empty most of the day as most of the kids are in school. They'd have so much more freedom to meet the kids' individual learning needs without getting all bogged down in the mandates. And the curriculum would flow to them online, already set up by professional educators.

What do you think:


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Friday, August 25, 2006


The annual embarrassment of the release of the statewide writing assessment mandated by the Nebraska Education Department is on again. It was Page One news in The World-Herald Thursday, with a "helpful" bar chart reflecting glory on Omaha-area districts Gretna (96.7), Douglas County West (93.5), Millard (93), Bennington (93) and Elkhorn (92.7) for all "scoring" above the 90th percentile.

Doesn't that sound like the kids in those districts all got "A's"? Doesn't it seem like Omaha-area schools are doing a fantastic job teaching writing? Doesn't it bolster the belief that the "rich" kids are easier to teach and doing great, while the "poor" kids in the Omaha Public Schools (78.5) are harder to teach and need MORE money to catch up?

Yeah. Right. You don't find out 'til the jump to the inside page, buried several paragraphs down, that the score in the bar chart reflects how many kids had scored a C+ or above.

Let me say that again: you and I think a score in the 90's in a Page One chart that's labeled as reporting student writing "proficiency" means the average score was in the 90's -- an A.

But the State of Nebraska has determined that "proficiency" is the same as C+ work.

And I've seen these writing samples, People. C+ work is pretty awful.

See how we're left with the wrong impression?

Look. External examinations are great. I'm all for having students' writing samples scored by someone other than their own teacher. It's an important accountability tool and can be very good for feedback.

But, as I've reported before, the actual quality of the writing is much worse than these scores reflect. You can verify that with a quick trip into the classrooms of any of these schools. I've had lifelong school-district rah-rah's come up to me, saucer-eyed, to tell me that all these years that they thought I was a crackpot and ranting and raving unfairly about poor writing instruction in these schools, and then they were asked to score senior projects or took a goosey gander at kiddie writing samples on the halls of their school one day -- and saw how rotten these kids write and spell these days.

Sad to say, but this assessment and these scores are meaningless.

If we still want to try to have a statewide writing assessment, then to make it meaningful, two things must happen:

1. Truth in reporting results so that the public knows what's being measured and what the statistics mean.

2. Publication of several random samples of student writing that are scored as high, medium and low quality, so that parents and the public can grasp the truth about how poorly many students write whose work is scored as "proficient."

Until those things happen, this is just a waste of time and puts needless stress on teachers. It's "funny numbers" make-work and propaganda. Can I write it more clearly than that? Don't think so.
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Here's a long, but interesting article about someone high up in teacher education who actually understands how bad sight reading and whole language is for kids. Unlike most ed school professors, she recognizes how badly children need phonics as the central core of their reading instruction instead of the lick-and-a-promise treatment most teachers are taught to give.

She very much overcomplicates things, but makes these three points that are right on:

1. Too many rules and things to memorize are bad.

2. It's important to keep the reading matched to the instruction so that the child's error rate for decoding will be low and the child will feel good about his or her reading progress.

3. Directionality is key; kids who grow up on TV don't know they have to decode text and write it from left to right, and from top to bottom, so they need to be explicitly taught those skills.

Her website, www.phonicsplusfive.com, might be worth a look.

Here's the article:

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Thursday, August 24, 2006


It's exciting to hear about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's new program in association with the Grand Island Public Schools. The UNL College Preparatory Academy will shepherd 47 low-income but academically talented kids through Grand Island High School with an eye toward attending UNL on scholarship on down the road.

Apparently the brainchild of Grand Island counselor Larry Uhing, the program will increase contact between students, teachers and counselors and expose these nontraditional students to more college admissions information and experiences than they had been getting.

University-based secondary-school academies such as this are old news in many other states, so it's about time that the state university stepped up to the plate to work on one of our worst K-12 problems. Nebraska has been embarrassed in recent years by an incredibly low rate of college-going among disadvantaged students, especially non-English speaking immigrants.

This program could really help. Let's hope similar programs are developed for Omaha and Lincoln high schools, and soon.

The utter lack of school choice in Nebraska is probably the reason why smart alternatives such as this simple program haven't arisen sooner. Consider what's going on right now in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa: Arizona has hearty school-choice legislation in place, in stark contrast to Nebraska's complete lack of it. So the traditional Mesa public schools have lost quite a few students to new public charter schools and private schools. According to the Goldwater Institute, www.goldwaterinstitute.org, about 700 kids left Mesa last year alone. Most of these students are low-income kids whose families qualify for various kinds of tuition assistance through the cool state laws Arizona has. So they voted with their feet.

Well, the loss of enrollment has awakened the sleepy public schools in Mesa, after losing enough revenue through lost enrollment to feel some pain for once. So they're opening an alternative of their own. It's the Crossroads School, a smaller environment for students at high risk of dropping out, or who for whatever the reason struggle with academics, attendance, or social problems at larger schools. This small school targets students who previously dropped out or left traditional schools for smaller charter alternatives or private schools.

Next year, Mesa will open a K-9, college preparatory academy for academically gifted kids, to try to compete with private and charter schools that offer more high-octane curriculum and instruction than the public schools have previously offered.

Isn't that great? Here's hoping that someday soon, Nebraska will develop a free educational marketplace, too. But how to get the powers that be awake and aware, in the absence of school choice and free-market pressures here?

I know -- let's schedule a junket for educrats down to Phoenix in oh, say, February, to check all this out! Complete with golf rounds and free margaritas! That may be the only thing that'll work; apparently, improving the lives and fortunes of disadvantaged kids isn't incentive enough.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Here's one that's extra encouraging for Nebraska's high-poverty and rural schools, where it's reportedly harder to find and keep quality teaching staff. A special heads up to districts in Bellevue, Papillion-LaVista and other systems close to military bases.

A 2005 national study found that former military personnel retrained as teachers were considered more effective in the classroom than traditionally-prepared teachers with the same amount of classroom experience.

As reported by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the survey was of 2,103 former military personnel who went through the Troops to Teachers (T3) program, and their school administrators. The T3's obtained alternative certification through this special retraining program, rather than going the traditional route of college, student teaching and certification.

The survey covered 21 research-based instructional practices and four effective classroom management strategies associated with increased student achievement.

More than 90% of principals responded that T3's were more effective in classroom instruction and classroom management/student discipline — and have a more positive impact on student achievement — than teachers' college graduates.

Moreover, T3's teach in high-poverty schools, teach high-demand subjects (special education, math, science), plan to remain in teaching, and increase the teaching pool's diversity, the study concluded.

Source: NASSP Bulletin, Vol. 90, No. 2, 102-131 (2006)DOI: 10.1177/0192636506289023
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Did you catch this excellent op-ed in USA Today the other day, by William J. Moloney, Colorado's educational commissioner? He's right on. It's so encouraging to find someone in high ed office who "gets it."

I have the first book he mentions, and intend to get the other two. Colorado is doing some cool things with merit pay for teachers, requiring 100% of high-school seniors to take the ACT, and so on. Would that we had someone like him in charge of our state ed department:



A half-century ago, Rudolf Flesch wrote his classic Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do About It, in which he described how a growing confusion in American academic circles was undermining the literacy of future generations.

In the years since, the malady revealed by Flesch has grown to epidemic proportions in which nearly one-third of all U.S. school children have serious literacy deficits. If you think this is just a problem of poor children, think again. Among first-year college students, one-quarter require remediation for literacy deficiencies.

Actually, poor children do quite well regarding literacy — as long as they don't live in the USA. As former U.S. Education secretary Rod Paige frequently pointed out, all of the generally impoverished English-speaking nations of the Caribbean have higher literacy rates than the USA's. Similarly, studies among poor children in Africa show levels of English literacy that would be the envy of any U.S. city. Throughout the 20th century, the U.S. economy not only sustained global dominance but provided satisfactory employment for the marginally literate. Today, that economy is being replaced by an increasingly complex information-based economy that will reward only those who have the skills to serve its changing needs.

Beyond the lower rung of the agricultural and service sectors, this economy has ever fewer places for the marginally literate. In short, the person who cannot read will be disconnected from the promise of the American Dream.

As the ominous implications for our future gradually emerge, U.S. policymakers to ordinary citizens will be left wondering how to explain this education deficit. How can a nation where education spending is nearly twice the average of those in European Union countries produce such woeful results? Furthermore, if one of the most common excuses for educational dysfunction — poverty — cannot be invoked, what can explain the inferior performance of U.S. students in virtually all international comparisons?

In the past year, two books have appeared that, taken together, not only capture the full dimensions of our problem but also offer useful advice on possible solutions.

In The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Friedman introduces readers to the looming economic tsunami best exemplified by the Asian giants India and China, now riding their powerhouse educational systems toward an international dominance in the 21st century that has the potential to equal the U.S. dominance in the 20th century.

While Friedman compellingly describes the educational strength of America's economic competitors, the second book — The Knowledge Deficit by E. D. Hirsch — provides an equally persuasive analysis of the educational weakness of the USA. Blending both intellectual history and cognitive psychology, Hirsch unmasks the faddishness, incoherence and hostility to research-based practice that characterizes most of the U.S. reading establishment.

Anybody who doubts Hirsch's devastating critique should look at the recently released report of the National Council on Teacher Quality, “What Education Schools Aren't Teaching About Reading — and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning.” This study examines 72 schools across the nation and measures them against the extent to which they teach the five common tenets of reading research (phonemic awareness, phonics, guided oral fluency, vocabulary building and reading comprehension). The result: 31% use none of those tenets, and only 15% employ all.
These figures help explain the assertion of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development that 85% of U.S. reading teachers were never properly trained.

When those who teach our teachers are clueless about or even outright hostile to reading research, is it any wonder that our children become the victims of a monumental literacy deficit traceable not to problems of poverty or funding, but to an unwillingness or inability to grasp realities that have been clear to professional educators in every other industrial nation?
Robert Kennedy once said that the “fate we impose on our children today shall be the fate of all of us tomorrow.”

Absent dramatic corrective action in America's classrooms, the fate of our nation is in serious peril. Not because of what others have done to us, but because of what we have done to ourselves.

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Over the past few years, I've pointed out that education is being globalized before our very eyes, either by unsuspecting educrats or those who want to see local control -- nay, national control -- lost over the mind-shaping process of our children.

Their lust for federal cash keeps pulling us deeper and deeper into global doo-doo, with interlocking regulations that are the same worldwide for everything we do in education. Today's standards, assessments, practices and programs are geared with what other countries are doing whether we like it or not. They're locking our kids into a global society in which meaty and wholesome American principles are going to get lost in the borscht, chow mein and tortilla surprise casserole.

Quite often, readers think I'm nutso for saying this. Well, hold on to your hips:


I feel a song coming on. Actually, this is one of my educational protest songs. It's to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." Hope you like:

Yankee Global came to school
And told a real rip-snorter.
Said, "America is dead!
"Let's join the New World Order."

If you think we'll go for that,
You've got brains of a poodle.
Stop this globalization stuff
Or we'll kick your dandy doodle.

Globalists hate freedom's engine:
Sneer at capitalism.
Don't they know world government
Is economic prison?

Stick a feather up your nose!
Globalism: let's ban it.
You can run the world, just do it
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Man! Here's another example of school fandango that more than likely is taking place somewhere in Nebraska, since it's going on all over the country:

The former superintendent of schools in Prince George's County, Md., was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges that he steered lucrative school contracts to his friends in exchange for promised kickbacks of more than $100,000 in art, a yacht and other luxuries.

Andre J. Hornsby is accused of manipulating a school purchase of $1 million worth of materials from the software company, LeapFrog SchoolHouse, where his girlfriend worked as a saleswoman, then splitting the $20,000 commission with her.

He also is accused of insisting that a certain company associated with a personal friend be given a consulting contract to help get grants under the federal E-Rate technology program, and to conceal the alleged kickback, suggested the associate buy him lavish gifts instead of giving him money.

Hornsby's attorney said he is confident he will be acquitted, but the U.S. Attorney said he has lied to investigators, and told others to destroy evidence.
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The New York Daily News just reported that New York City schools forked over $120 million worth of no-bid contracts to consultants, teacher trainers, testing companies and other vendors of ed-related goods and services last year.

It makes you wonder how much of that sort of thing goes on in the Cornhusker State.

No-bid contracts are noncompetitive and lack the typical public oversight that other governmental agencies are required to have whenever expenditures of any significance are going out the door. Naturally, the implication of this "quickie spending" is that the public's money is not being spent wisely, or that actual fandango is going on, if the educrats are ducking the public's OK.

Lots of times, the schools whine that there were "time constraints" that kept them from bidding a certain function out . . . or the new contract was a routine extension of an existing contract . . . or the work to be done was in some way highly specialized and no one else in the whole, wide world could do it.

Yeah. Right. There's just no excuse for that kind of schmaltz, in this high-tech day and age where information is at our fingertips, and worldwide.

What's really bad about no-bid contracts is that they skirt accountability so blatantly. Consider the public scrutiny going on right now over the City of Omaha's quarter of a billion dollar budget. The media coverage, public hearings and other examination of that budget is far more than the attention given to all the budgets of all the school districts in the state, and together, they spend more than eight times as much, over $2 billion a year.

The city's budget discussion is the kind of light and air that we DON'T see with school funding, but we really should. Once place to start would be to do away with no-bid contracts altogether.

In NYC schools, the no-bid contracts amounted to 3% of the total operating expenditures, according to the article. So, for a ballpark figure of how much money we're talking about, 3% of Nebraska's $2 billion in school operating expenditures comes to $60 million a year.

It's possible that that's how much our districts are spending in no-bid contracts . . . that maybe wouldn't hold up to the light of day, if no-bid contracts were banned.

It's a thought!
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Nebraska's child welfare woes and public education difficulties could both be solved in one fell swoop with an obvious solution that apparently our politicians don't have the chachungas to even talk about:


Florida is trending more and more toward universal school choice, and its education system is flourishing as a result. That state took its child welfare services private in 2005 -- foster care case management, emergency youth shelters, parenting classes, drug treatment, and so forth -- and wow! What great results they're posting already.

According to a report by the Reason Foundation, before privatization of Florida's social services for children and youth, one out of five of the minors who were in the state health and human services system were abused and neglected. Now, after private, nonprofit, community-based people are in charge of those kids, the abuse and neglect population has dropped to one in 30.



The same kind of great result would happen for our neediest, most abused, most neglected citizens under age 18 -- low-income, disadvantaged and often minority children in our public schools. They're the ones who need privatization, STAT.

Gov. Heineman got his face on Page One of The World-Herald Tuesday talking about the "progress" being made in Nebraska's messed-up child welfare system. Not a whisper of a word about privatization, though. Does he have ANY idea what an election boost he would get, if he would nuke government-run child welfare programs, which have never worked and never will, and take them private, for the benefit of all of us, but especially vulnerable little kids?

Hey! Maybe if we offered the educrats a junket to Florida, to check all this out, we could get somewhere.

Here's the portion of Reason's privatization report that deals with education and child welfare. Great info:


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Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Don't get me wrong -- I'm for private schools, not charter schools, because they're still government schools subject to "stuff" that I think kids need out from under. But I hate it when government statistics, which we all pay for, are twisted by improper research methods and made to say what they really don't say.

In this case, stats published by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics imply that charter schools are NOT doing a good job for disadvantaged kids compared to the regular public schools that they fled. Say it ain't so! Well, it AIN'T so:

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Here's an outrageous story out of Kentucky. A middle-school teacher burned two American flags in class, with no advance notice to parents, in what he claims was intended as a demonstration of free-speech rights:


Do you think he should be fired, or do you think this was an OK lesson?

If you think this was OK, do you think a teacher should be allowed to do other things in front of other people's children, at taxpayer expense, that are frightening, confusing and terribly offensive, but "necessary" to allow him to exercise his free speech rights?

For example, should he be able to disparage a student's religion? Family? House? Clothing? Then why his or her country?

Of course he should be fired. It shouldn't even be a controversy. If you can't get a point across without a nasty stunt like this, you shouldn't be a teacher.
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Many people were shocked to learn that an educator in a rural school just north of Plattsmouth, Neb., doing double duty as the elementary school principal and part-time kindergarten teacher, has a contract for this school year worth $101,000 in salary.

Not bad dough, even though she apparently did everything in the school for that, and produced better student achievement at less cost than the in-town school district now taking her job over. Mainly, even though she was handsomely paid, she saved beaucoup bucks for the taxpayers just in the form of the legions of non-teaching educrats they DIDN’T have to employ because of her good work ethic.

But it raises the ironic point: what about all the griping about “starvation wages for educators” these days? Doesn’t this kind of expose that as a crock?

On the other hand, State Sen. Ron Raikes, chairman of the Legislature’s all-powerful Education Committee, called that salary “obscene,” a word that was picked up in inch-tall letters on Page One of the state’s largest newspaper.

Well, is it?

A quick check of
www.cbsalary.com shows that the average grade-school principal in Kansas City, Mo., is paid $91,100. Now, most of them are in their 40s or so, with maybe 20 years in the teaching profession, and that many years of stair-step pay increases. You know: the numbskull compensation system put in place by the cartel of the teachers’ union and its sycophants, including the corps of educrats of whom State Sen. Ron Raikes is king.

So using their own logic, an educator in Nebraska who is 79 years old, and has been in teaching for 51 years instead of just about 20, would have received about 30 more years of stair-step pay increases than those Kansas City educators. Therefore, a salary of $10,000 more than her 30-year career juniors make, or $101,000, is probably CHEAP.

That’s not obscene. That just exposes the stupidity of the way we pay teachers and other school staffers. There’s a four-letter word for the way we’re doing that: D-U-M-B.


This is:

1) Union wonks and educrats, who have everything upside down in education when they focus on what’s best for them, instead of what’s best for kids.
2) Superintendents in the Omaha metropolitan area, whose world was recently turned upside down by the “One City, One School District” mad rush by the Omaha Public Schools and the imposition of a new Learning Community governance structure.
3) Adorable schoolchildren enjoying the first day of school in North Platte, Neb.

(photo of kids hanging upside down from playground equipment from www.nptelegraph.com available only to email subscribers)


The influential North Platte Telegraph (
www.nptelegraph.com) originally was all for the consolidation of Nebraska’s Class I elementary-only country schools into the larger in-town K-12 districts. They bought the line that LB 126 would save money. Now that they know that isn’t true, they’re doing the right thing, and calling it what it is: a horrible mess.

Here’s their recent editorial, a thing of beauty:


As Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say on Saturday Night Live, "It's always something.''

The latest reason taxpayers may not expect meaningful property tax relief -- in a state that is already the sixth highest taxed in the nation -- is the disastrous, ruinous LB126 small school consolidation debacle.

School officials announced months ago that absorbing two Class 1 school districts would cost taxpayers here about $1.5 million extra per year in taxes. And sure enough, the budget approved this week by the North Platte Board of Education includes $1.5 million extra to cover the costs of absorbing the Hall and Lake Maloney schools.

The amazing thing is that consolidation was supposed to be about saving taxpayer dollars. But, that's before the lawmakers and the bureaucrats had their way with this monstrosity. Before they were finished, all of the Class 1 teachers were in line for a big raise, bridges were burned despite the fact that voters will decide on the law in November, and maximum chaos was created for all involved. And local taxpayers are getting the bill.

This is not the only reason taxpayers will be getting a fat increase in the bills they'll pay next year.Air quality concerns in the schools for some reason make it necessary to build five new classrooms, despite the fact that enrollment has been trending downward.

Our Natural Resources District finds it necessary to raise its tax request 83 percent, in the name of addressing water concerns in Nebraska. Last year, the NRD wanted to build a new building, but was turned back by frugal board members.

Mid Plains Community College has big plans for the North Platte campus, involving multiple impressive buildings. We've seen the schematic drawing.

Our airport apparently doesn't have enough parking space for the planes high rollers fly into town. The airport board wants a new, larger apron.

And at the city council -- where it was unanimously decided last year not to save $500,000 annually on the electric utility -- there are those who now want to backtrack on savings being realized through cuts in staffing.

Whether it's inadequately funded pensions, a low-level nuclear waste settlement, or not enough water, the one consistent thing is that addressing Nebraska's high-tax reputation is always the very last priority.

Decisions are being made right now by taxing districts that will make it more difficult for many to continue living in North Platte and Nebraska.

It's always something. But it's never about tax relief.

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Monday, August 21, 2006


There's a lot of concern in Nebraska about foster children slipping through the cracks in various ways. They're exposed a lot more than the general population of children to abuse, neglect and, horribly, murder. It's easy to marshal support for programs that will help itty bitty babies in foster care programs. But when they get a little older -- into the teen years, for instance -- it often seems as if the public doesn't care.

I say they do. And one way we could really prove that is to bust a hole in the solid wall of nasty defense against school choice that has been erected by the state teachers' union and selfish educrats, and enact a law that would allow Nebraska's foster children to go to the school of their choice, even if it's a private school.

Private schools have what foster kids need: good academics, clear teaching of values, more personal attention, and a better chance to participate in extracurricular activities since private schools are generally smaller than public schools.

Meeting kids' needs: what a concept! Especially when they're our most vulnerable citizens.

Arizona just did this. It's time we ponied up.

Here's an interesting story about how much school choice might have helped a woman who lived her childhood in foster care:


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Friday, August 18, 2006

Class I Educator’s $101,000 Salary
Shows Rural Schools Are More Efficient After All;

Raikes Should Apologize, STAT

It was embarrassing Thursday when the head of the Legislature’s Education Committee referred to a $101,000 salary of a longtime educator in a Class I country school as “obscene” in inch-tall type on Page One of Nebraska’s largest newspaper, and then called her an “80-year-old lady” as if that was something bad.

But what’s more embarrassing, for Nebraska and for him, is how wrong State Sen. Ron Raikes is about the cost-efficiency and spending patterns between the educator’s now-defunct rural school, Stull School, and the larger K-12 district into which Raikes’ LB 126 forced it to consolidate as of this school year, the Plattsmouth Community School District.

Stull School actually cost $353.67 less per pupil than the Plattsmouth district in the most-recent school year for which figures are available.

Moreover, Stull School spent 85% of its funding on instruction, while Plattsmouth spent only 63%, according to 2004-05 annual financial reports on file with the Nebraska Department of Education.

One would think Sen. Raikes should have known about that. Either he deliberately ignored it to deceive people into thinking Class I schools cost more money than town schools, or he was ignorant of the facts, in which case he probably should resign from being chief of the Legislature’s lawmaking, fund-allocating and policy-setting committee on education. As it is, he really should apologize to the state in general and the educator he smeared in particular.

Has it come to this in Nebraska? Beating up on “an old lady” to try to get your way?

The main difference: much higher administrative spending in the Plattsmouth district. While Stull School showed zero’s for a superintendent’s salary and total executive administration categories, Plattsmouth was spending $112,020 and $174,690, respectively, that school year. While Stull’s halftime principal absorbed $41,858.85, principals within Plattsmouth cost $174,690. Further, Stull spent just $7,935.44 for board of education expenditures and $2,253 for general administration and business services . . . in stark contrast to Plattsmouth’s $98,372 and $192,690, respectively.

Because Class I schools are so small, they don’t have or need formal administrative structures. Usually, a teacher doubles as an administrator, and that was the case at Stull School up until this fall. The educator in question, Carrie Ann Hansen, 79, worked a half-day as a kindergarten teacher, and the other half day as principal of the 62-pupil school.

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Nebraska did fairly well compared to other states on the recent ACT test, logging an average score of 21.9 out of 36, with 70% of Nebraska's Class of '06 tested.

That compares to a national average score of 21.1, with the average state testing just 40% of its graduates, as shown on www.act.org. The Cornhusker State is in a tie for 12th place, and only Iowa did better among the contiguous states, with a 22.1.

But . . . and this is a big footnote . . . the scores say more about the demographics of the students in a given state, than about the quality of the schools or instruction. In fact, a pretty strong case could be made that Nebraska actually is seriously underachieving, compared to its demographics.

That's because it is well-established that white students do better on standardized tests than students of color, and Nebraska has one of the highest percentages of white students in the country: 78.5%, according to the Nebraska Department of Education's "State of the Schools" report.

Colorado's average score of 20.3 looks a little better when you consider these two things: it has far fewer white students, proportionately, with 63.5%, according to the Colorado Department of Education. And, far in excess of Nebraska's 70% test-taking rate among 2006 grads, Colorado state law requires 100% to take the test.

So Colorado had more minority kids taking the test, and couldn't sweep anybody under the rug and not test them, the way Nebraska and most other states get to do.

See? The scores are pretty much of a demographics horse race, not really a clear picture of the quality that's going on or the value that's being added. And it holds true on the high school level.

The World-Herald listed ACT scores Wednesday for 29 of the largest public high schools. It looked like the Lincoln East (24.4) and Omaha Westside (24.2) kids were the biggest smarty-pantses in the state.

But look again: according to the NDE's "State of the Schools" report, Lincoln East's student population is 92% white, and Westside's is 90%.

Now look at the two high schools who look the "worst" in the table: Omaha South, with an average ACT of 17.3, and Omaha Benson, with 18.8. We aren't told what percentage of the 2006 seniors took the ACT, but it was most likely quite small and represented the best of those two schools. The "best," huh? In comparison, Washington, D.C., often cited as the nation's worst school system, posted an 18.4, with 30% participation.

You have to face it: racial composition had a lot to do with those results. State ed data shows that South's student population is now 36% white, and Benson's stands at 41%.

The World-Herald's table also is suspect for not including the participation rate of the high schools' senior classes. A high score with a low participation rate suggests something very different than a fair to middlin' average with a high participation rate. It has been suspected for years that the high schools are jimmying the numbers to "look good on paper."

What would REALLY help would be if the paper would publish those participation rates -- of seniors, not just college-prep students or those sure to graduate. Also key: the paper used to publish scores of a number of private high schools, which always mooshed the public ones. It would be most helpful to the ongoing discussions of the day, in how to improve education for all demographic groups, if that information were available.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006


Here's a neat letter to the editor from someone on my favorite ed listserv. He's from North Carolina, and sees through the slick presentation of the handsome, likeable new superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School District. That new educrat is basically calling for a toothless "learning community" as we're getting in the Omaha metro area -- the circling of the wagons of the entrenched educracy -- to enforce the status quo and keep poor kids down, rather than innovating in a meaningful way.

Charlotte-Mecklenberg is more than three times the size of the Omaha Public Schools, and was the first district in the country to undergo court-ordered busing because of the yawning racial achievement gap. Omaha soon followed suit after a similar lawsuit forced the issue.

Today, Charlotte-Mecklenberg's inner-city kids are languishing while its suburban kids are doing OK, just as in Omaha. The racial gap is, if anything, even wider. And just as in Omaha, the "solutions" being promulgated to help the inner-city kids all come from slick-talkin' but do-nothin' educrats like this new superintendent.

Anybody who suggests a better way -- involving the private sector, competition and the paring down of the educracy -- gets stomped on and snuffed out. There, as here, people suggested deconsolidation, private scholarships to private schools for needy kids, and dividing up the troubled schools among several suburban districts to try to share the load more evenly, instead of just throwing more money and staff at the problem. There, as here, the new ideas were quashed by the educracy.

Same old, same old. And yet the solution is right there, staring us in the face, both places: private-sector initiatives.

At least this fellow tells it like it is. Rarely does Nebraska get this quality of discourse in our education-related mass media. Sigh.

Letter, August 16, 2006
Raleigh News & Observer

I have a different take on Charlotte's energetic and appealing new school superintendent, Peter Gorman, than does Rick Martinez ("Riding herd on Charlotte schools," Aug. 9 column).

The appealing theme of Gorman's maiden column in the Charlotte Observer was "we must work together. All of us." That sounds good, but the unwelcome truth is that Gorman's is a collectivist vision of how excellence is be achieved.

The genius of American success in all fields but schooling is the scope this singular country gives to individual initiative. What serves the nation and what would serve education is competition. Not "working together." But that is an idea that Charlotte and, for that matter, North Carolina are not yet willing to embrace.

There will come a day, however, when all central-planning, top-down, no-customer-feedback, no-incentive, one-size-fits-all models for providing education will be seen for what they are: prescriptions for frustration and failure.

Tom Shuford

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Work with me here. This takes some thinkin'. You know the fellow they've just arrested in that hotbed of pedophilia, Thailand, who claims he murdered JonBenet Ramsey after having had sex with the 6-year-old girl? You know how he's a teacher?

He's the kind of guy the National Education Association wants to be hired more often in schools, and protected and enabled once they get there.

The case is a good example for why our society needs to stand up big and tall, and protect our public, private and homeschools against the infiltration of the sex perverts who would seek to teach children that having sex with grown-ups, or sex with same-sex partners, or sex with someone who is not your husband or wife, is just A-OK hunky-dory.

Specifically, the JonBenet case is Exhibit A for why we ought never to allow pro-homosexual curriculum or pro-homosexual "tolerance" and "diversity" training in our statewide standards, accreditation requirements, tax-paid training inservices and workshops, curriculum guides, teaching contracts, discipline codes, etc. To the extent that they're already in there, thanks to the union and the gay activists, we have a lot of work to do to root them out.

What on earth does the JonBenet Ramsey case have to do with pro-[gay curriculum in K-12 education? Plenty.

If it's true that this guy really did have sex with JonBenet and cause her brutal death, it fits with what we already know about pedophiles: they tend to put themselves close to the source of supply for their thrills. That means kids -- their potential victim pool. That's why we keep finding pedophiles among teachers, schoolbus drivers, priests, youth workers, and others who have more opportunity than most to take advantage of vulnerable young children.

I'm not trying to smear youth-serving occupations; I'm actually trying to protect the vast majority of the people who work in them, because they have high moral standards and would never hurt children. Ironically, by letting the teachers' unions dictate that there HAVE to be pro-homosexual student clubs in schools, and pro-gay curriculum and instruction, and special days for homosexuals in schools, and pro-gay assemblies, and pro-gay guest speakers, and same-sex dances, and all the rest, we are setting up kids to be just like JonBenet Ramsey.

Meaning brutalized, assaulted, damaged and dead.

And I have really, truly, had it with the people who are doing this. That includes every legislator, school board member and school administrator who keeps looking the other way and letting their pockets be lined with blood money from gay activists, as the funding and the power keeps growing for the pro-homosexual lobby in education.

Here's the deal:

While JonBenet's perp is of the opposite sex, we know that a much higher percentage of pedophiles go for same-sex victims than opposite-sex victims. And we know that a much higher percentage of pedophiles are male, rather than female. And we know that a much higher percentage of male homosexual pedophiles act out against children than any other group.

That puts male teachers and male school staff members of all kinds in a whole new light, doesn't it?

You look at what the National Education Association did in its 2006 convention in Orlando, and you just shudder. The union's Resolution B-8 states that "sexual orientation" rates right up there with "race," "geographic location," "age," "marital status" and other features about people that need to be "appreciated" and "accepted" by everybody in education.

Did you catch that? Not just "tolerated." But now, "appreciated" and "accepted."

Now note Resolution B-10: the NEA wants people with all kinds of "sexual orientations" to be respected, understood and accepted by everybody else . . . or else. The resolution calls for textbooks, curricula, activities and everything else that has anything with do with education to be purged of anything that even hints that homosexuality and pedophilia are not A-OK. Then there's and corker for what we need to do in schools of all kinds:

"Offer positive and diverse role models in our society including the recruitment, hiring, and promotion of diverse education employees in our public schools."

"Diverse," the NEA resoltuion clarifies earlier, includes "sexual orientation" and "gender identification."

O . . . K. So even though we KNOW there are more gays, pedophiles, cross-dressers and the like are working in education than practically any other field, and we KNOW more gays than straights are pedophiles, and we KNOW more pedophiles hurt children -- sometimes kill them, but always damage them for life -- than just about any other outsider, putting children at much higher risk than from strangers, for example, then if we listen to the NEA and the do-nothings in charge of state education departments and state standards and so forth, and continue to make it seem perfectly A-OK to accept and appreciate sex perverts in education, we are setting up our children to become victims of sex perverts in the name of "appreciating and accepting diversity."

Now, you have your child in a private school, or you homeschool. What does this have to do with you? This is the kind of thing that caused you to give up on public schools a long time ago, so that your child wouldn't be in the line of fire. Right?

Think again. The Governator of California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneger, is expected to sign SB 1437, a pro-homosexual curriculum law that would force private schools that want the state's seal of approval through accreditation and so forth to teach kids that homosexuality is A-OK.

Similarly, the state university system of California is fighting in court to force Christian high schools to stop teaching kids about history from a Christian perspective. The university is attempting to force Christian schools to teach a pro-gay curriculum and otherwise cleave to the statewide standards, or else the graduates of those high schools -- never mind their "5's" on the Advanced Placement History test or SAT scores above 1,500 -- would not get in to California universities because Christian course work would be labeled as second class compared to secular course work.

That kind of bigotry is already entrenched in state standards across the country. Exhibit A: pro-evolution propaganda, and censorship of anti-evolution evidence, in state standards including Nebraska's.

So no doubt the pro-gay propaganda is almost in place here, too.

See why it's such a bad mistake to sit back and let the NE, state governments, higher education and the gay lobby all conspire to set up more JonBenets -- and fewer Americans smart enough to understand why it's wrong to sit back and let all this happen?

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006


A frequent contributor to an education listserv that feeds GoBigEd daily, Tom Shuford, has written a provocative letter to the editor of the government watchdog website, www.stateline.org, published Aug. 8. It's pretty juicy!

Here it is:


You report that over the next year Governor Napolitano will try to recreate some of her successes at the national level, by promoting policies to improve science and mathematics education and spur new technological innovations: "There really needs to be a sense of urgency about this because we're fast losing our position."

She is right about the urgency. In my state, North Carolina, for example, the entire UNC system turned out three physics teachers in the last four years.

But the solution will appall her --- and the major Democratic Party interest group: the teachers unions. For the shortage of physics teachers is a bell curve phenomenon: Few have the aptitude to master physics.

Combined Graduate Record Examination scores of applicants for graduate study in physics and astronomy -- 1272 -- were the highest of all 51 areas of graduate study (tested between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2004). The mean GRE score of all 1.2 million applicants was 1066; the mean for all education majors, 984. Education majors, with the exception of secondary education (1063) in the middle, are bunched on the left side of the curve; physics majors are on the right tip.

It's not because of the "profession's low pay" (and hence the need for more funding, the traditional Democratic Party answer for all problems with schools). It's because the great leveling monopoly we know as public education will not abide differential pay for rare talent.

One reason may be that the people in charge of these politically controlled monopolies, education administrators, are on the far left side of the bell curve themselves, with a mean GRE of 950. (emphasis added)

Tom Shuford
Lenoir, North Carolina

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Go Big Ed reported Tuesday that the Bellevue Public Schools' proposed budget is 8% bigger than last year, while its touted enrollment increase is just 2%.

A keen-minded reader sends this spending footnote:

"Don't forget Bellevue built the Lied Activity Center and the new administration building recently. If you haven't driven by there, you should. The 'Welcome Center' is a joint Offutt/BPS admin building and has a water feature on the corner of Highway 370 and Ft. Crook that has three ponds, a footbridge, huge boulders and plants. Although I have never been in the superintendent's office, my guess is that it faces the water feature."

Yeah, well, it's all water under the dam . . . or down the drain. :>)
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It may be the fastest-growing line item in special education, and thus in the entire public education system: autism is becoming a very big deal in education, a crying need for both prevention and intervention.

Now the two state senators who tried to ban a major cause of it -- preservatives in childhood vaccinations that contain toxic mercury -- but came up against a special-interest roadblock, want to hear your story for how autism has affected your life, and the lives of those you love. Hopefully, they'll come back next legislative session with another attempt to protect children and their families, or at the very least, improve services for them because right now, they're pretty limited.

Sens. Mike Friend, Carol Hudkins and Arnie Stuthman invite citizens to attend the discussion meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, at theParalyzed Veterans of America Building, 76th and Maple Streets in Omaha.

Whether or not you can attend, the senators ask that you summarize your story in 250 words or less, bring it with you and they'll submit it to the Nebraska state senators for you.

Those unable to attend mail email the story to autisminnebraska@cox.net
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The gifts of Legislative Bill 126 just keep on giving: a report on KNOP-TV in North Platte showed how grade-school pupils in tiny Oconto, a town right in the belly button of Nebraska, are going to have to ride a bus to and from school for an hour and a half each Friday.

The reason: they are being forced to attend school one day a week in Callaway, Neb., another tiny town miles to the northwest, because of LB 126, the school consolidation law that’s forcing many Class I country grade schools to close or make other drastic changes.

The station quoted Dave Jeffrey, a father who used to be a member of the school board for the Class I school in Oconto, who opposed the change. Once the law was put in place, the school board was demolished, and became a toothless “advisory council,” of which he is a member. However, not much advising is going on: the Oconto representatives weren’t even asked before the busing plan was imposed, Jeffrey said.

The Callaway school board made the change formal at its meeting Monday, Jeffrey said.

He and Mike Nolles of Bassett, Neb., head of the advocacy group Class 1’s United (
www.classonesunited.com), are among those working to get rid of LB 126 in the November election after a successful petition drive got a rethink on the ballot. Nolles said 40 small schools have closed because of the law, even though the state’s voters may very well throw it out in a few months, and then there’d be a muddy mess resuscitating them.

See the report on:

Meanwhile, Back at the (Near North Platte) Ranch:
Hershey Tries to . . . BAR a Class I Family’s Options

Another example of the havoc being wreaked by LB 126 comes from an unrelated and slightly happier case also near North Platte, on the western hinterlands thereof: the North Platte school board voted 5-0 not to accept a family’s land for tax purposes because it would have forced their kindergartner to go to a school 20 miles away instead of 10.

The Barger family told the board they preferred a former Class I country grade school, Rosedale School, and were willing to transport her there. Its enrollment has dropped from 13 students to five in the wake of the school consolidation bill.

Now that the nearest K-12 district, in Hershey, Neb., has authority over the Barger land, it apparently wanted to force the Bargers to take their child to school there, even though it’s 20 miles away. In a letter to the editor of the online North Platte Bulletin, the Bargers contended that the Hershey district attempted to “redistrict” their land by shifting it to the North Platte school district, without their knowledge, in an attempt to deny enrollment and revenues to Rosedale and force its closure.

Since the North Platte school board voted to pass up the Barger land, they can now apparently put the child where they want to for school, at least for the coming school year.


Feds Have Mercy? Or ‘Ve Haff Vays’?
State Ed Department May Get a Break

Talk about government pushing people around when it comes to education, as in the Class I school examples: government also pushes government around.

The U.S. Department of Education plans to meet with what it has defined as slacker states, including Nebraska, and may let them beg their way out of sanctions imposed recently because of unsatisfactory testing programs in schools that use federal funding, especially affecting non-English speaking students.

Federal educrats contend that Nebraska’s homegrown assessment system fails to conform adequately to the requirements of the federal education law, No Child Left Behind. They have threatened to deny the state education department $126,741 in Title I administrative funding, and to pass that money directly to school districts instead, as a rebuke.

But according to
http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=136&languageId=1&contentId=130627, the feds may waive that punishment if state educrats agree to hang their heads, bite their lips, be contrite, and be hot-boxed into listening to how other states test for reading and math in a meaningful way, especially for English language learners.

Cristo Rey School Looms in Inner-City Omaha:
Healthy Competition at Last!

Competition for students is ratcheting up in inner-city Omaha, as the Catholic niche school, St. Peter Claver Cristo Rey High School, gears up to open one year from now in the former St. Mary School building, 36th and Q Streets.

Open houses are being held this week, and teens who want to go there are busy recruiting other teens. Organizers have hopes of signing up 125 students per class, which would put a noticeable dent in the Omaha Public Schools’ inner-city enrollment. That could be a very good thing in terms of fostering positive change to adapt to the new competition.

The Cristo Rey schools around the country are based on a self-reliance concept: the students are poor, but attend school for four longer-than-usual days in a challenging, college-prep environment. Then they work in internship jobs on the fifth day to help offset their tuition expenses and gain valuable job experience. Nineteen Omaha companies have already offered jobs to students for the program.

Bellevue Raises Budget By 8%,
While Enrollment Rises 2%: Hmm! New Math!

The board of the Bellevue Public Schools held a hearing Monday on its proposed $83.3 million budget, which would represent an 8% increase over last year. The reason given for the increase is added staffing because of enrollment growth.

According to district administrators, there will be 173 more students this year for a total of 9,429. If you do the math, that comes to an enrollment increase of less than 2%.

The board is set to vote on the budget in September.

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