Government schools don’t need more money

It’s been a little too long since I have harped on government schools. I only do it in hopes that at least one responsible parent will take their child out of the hands of the government to be educated. This is absolutely a reason why 40% of young Americans do not believe that they can make a better life for themselves than their parents. With a government education, they may be right.

So what is the solution? According to Democrats, spend more money to hire more government school teachers and build better schools. There’s only one, minor, teeny, tiny little problem with this theory. Throwing more money hasn’t been the solution to improving government education for decades, what makes us think it will be different this time around?

The truth is that spending on government education has increased 375% over the last four decades. Per pupil spending has gone from $5,671 in 1970 to $12,922 in 2007-2008. That’s a 128% increase in per pupil spending. And when it comes to hiring more people to staff government schools, employment has increased at 10 times the rate compared to student enrollment. The number of school administrators per pupil has doubled.

Yet Barack Obama and the Democrats say that it is imperative we pass a $35 billion jobs bill to put teachers back into the classrooms. Guess what else he won’t tell you about these teachers? They are being compensated at a 50% greater rate than private sector employees. That’s right. A new study by the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute has run the numbers on teacher compensation. They found that contrary to popular belief, “public-school teachers receive total compensation more than 50 percent greater than that of private sector employees – if you take into account benefits, job security, summer vacations and other factors. This means that the taxpayers are being charged $120 billion ever year over market value for these government school teachers. The study found that “teachers who switch to teaching from other jobs get a 9 percent pay rise, while people who leave teaching typically take a 3 percent pay cut.”

Schools arrange secret abortions

Schools are helping teenage girls keep abortions secret from their parents. Imogen Neale reports.

A MOTHER is angry her 16-year-old daughter had a secret abortion arranged by a school counsellor.

Helen, not her real name, found out about the termination four days after it had happened. “I was horrified. Horrified that she’d had to go through that on her own, and horrified her friends and counsellors had felt that she shouldn’t talk to us,” she said.

She had suspected something was wrong, but her daughter insisted her tears were over everyday teenage dramas.

But Helen confronted her daughter’s friends, who said the counsellor had taken the girl for a scan and to doctors. “I didn’t know that they could do that.”

Helen said teachers could discuss how a student was doing in school or phone parents when their child misbehaved, but would then keep life-changing situations such as abortions secret.

Her daughter had since told her the counsellor “wasn’t very forthcoming” with advice. The counsellor did ask the girl if she had talked to her parents, but never pursued it.

Helen said follow-up counselling for her daughter was “nonexistent”. She concedes patient confidentiality is a tricky issue and said her child feared she’d be disowned. “She’s come to realise that’s not the case. But if you’re responsible for them, surely you should be told.”

Helen has been too upset to approach the school. “Afterwards I was too wild, and I probably still am.”

Another mother who was worried for her 15-year-old daughter “hit a brick wall” when she approached the school, and eventually discovered it was a friend of her daughter’s who had undergone an abortion. “But I went through the horror of knowing that under the legislation, they did not need to say anything to me.”

One teacher told the Sunday Star-Times she had seen parents become “absolutely livid” after finding out they had been kept out of abortion decisions.

She knew of a Year 13 student who had had two abortions – one with her parents’ knowledge, and one without.

Read more here.

The Big Oil Dog and Pony Show

Did you happen to catch the big oil bash-fest that occurred yesterday in Washington? It was really quite a day for the progs with all those evil oil executives summoned to the liberal throne room to testify about their “obscene profits” – must be as close to Christmas morning as it gets in Washington. Right now the Democrats are in a push to pass the “Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act,” which would raise their taxes by $2 billion a year by eliminating tax subsidies for the five major oil companies. So before we go any further, let me catalogue some of the quotes from our Democrat Senators just slobbering … I mean dripping! … in wealth envy rhetoric.

* Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.: “I think you’re out of touch, deeply profoundly out of touch and deeply and profoundly committed to sharing nothing,” Rockefeller said. “You never lose. You’ve never lost. You always prevail

* Sen. Bob Menendez, D- N.J .: “I find it hard to understand how you can come here before this committee and the American people and say, when you are projected to make $125 billion in profits this year … That somehow the loss of $2 billion a year, which means you only make $123 billion in profits, is somehow so punishing, somehow not part of shared sacrifice, somehow you need to go back at them at the pump to make up for it.”

* Sen. Bob Menendez, D- N.J .: “If the big five oil companies could just live with $123 billion in profits in 2011, they could pay their fair share in taxes, help lower the deficit and not raise the price of gasoline, and all of the savings here go directly to deficit reduction. This is not an argument about there’s other spending we’d like to do; this is about going directly to deficit reduction.

* Sen. Chuck Schumer, D- N.Y.: “Do you think that your subsidy is more important than the financial aid we give to students to go to college?”

* Sen. Claire McCaskill, D- M.O.: “There is more hot air around this building about deficit reduction than any other topic right now, and if we cannot end subsidies to the five biggest most profitable corporations in the history of the planet that come from the federal taxpayer, then I don’t think anyone should take us seriously about deficit reduction. The bottom line is this: If we can’t do this, if we can’t remove subsides from these profitable big oil companies, then I don’t know if we can ever get to the really difficult work that lies ahead.”

Now, I’m trying to noodle this one out. While I am not one for corporate welfare, I also do not believe that our government should be singling out specific industries, and particularly specific companies. By the way, let me take this moment to point out that if we had the FairTax, none of this tax subsides nonsense would even be an issue. But moving right along …. so exactly what subsidies are we talking about? Can you answer that question? What subsidies are the Democrats demanding that we get rid of? This excellent article in the American Thinker has the breakdown:

* Domestic manufacturing tax deduction — $1.7 B. This is a tax deduction given to every manufacturer in the US. Per CNN, it was “designed to keep factories in the United States.” If that deduction were eliminated for oil companies only, it would mean singling out oil companies from all other manufacturers.

* Percentage depletion allowance — $1 B. Any industry can write down a portion of the cost of its capital equipment as part of the cost of doing business. Right now, oil in the ground is treated as capital equipment. Again, this “subsidy” amounts to how the cost of doing business is defined. All companies get it, not just oil companies.

* Foreign tax credit — $850 million. Companies get credit for taxes they pay to other countries. All companies get this “subsidy,” not just oil companies. Should a company pay tax on tax? Should only oil companies pay tax on tax?

* Intangible drilling costs — $780 million. According to CNN, “[a]ll industries get to write off the costs of doing business, but they must take it over the life of an investment. The oil industry gets to take the drilling credit in the first year.” Among these four tax “breaks,” this smallest one was the only one that treated oil companies differently.

As Randall Hoven, the author of the American Thinker article, points out … the only subsidy that is specific for the oil industry is the last one for intangible drilling costs. So $3.55 billion that the Democrats want to claim are tax credits that are offered to all industries and manufacturers in the United States. But what if the Democrats get their way and raise taxes? Hoven has the figures …

* The amount of earnings not collected in taxes is about $4.3 billion per year — about 0.2% of this year’s deficit and enough to fund about 10 hours of current US government spending.

* The only tax in which the oil industry seems to get special treatment compared to other industries is intangible drilling costs. The amount of that subsidy? That would be $0.78 billion per year — enough to fund less than two hours of federal spending in 2011, and not even half the amount we are lending a foreign-owned and state-owned oil company for drilling offshore Brazil.

So what is really going on here? The Democrats know that people are screaming about the cost of gas. Now the fact of the matter here is that while the people are screaming, they’re also doing something about it. They’re consuming less. As they consume less – as the demand decreases – the supply increases. What happens with reduced demand and increased supply? Prices come down, that’s what, and that’s exactly what happened with the wholesale price of gas this week. Give the dealers the chance to replace the more expensive gas in their storage tanks with less expensive fuel and the price comes down at the pump. But before that happens the Democrats want to make sure that this price crisis doesn’t go to waste. So they haul the oil company executives to Capitol Hill and hammer them with their moronic class warfare rhetoric and lies about wanting that money to reduce our deficit.

The problem again is education. The American people are not well enough educated to see through this political rhetoric for a glimpse of the truth. But then that’s the very purpose of government control of the education process.

America the Ignorant

This shouldn’t surprise you. Americans are ignorant .. .and they’re especially ignorant when it comes to government. No surprise — look who is in charge of education. Plus, we have all of the information at our fingertips and yet we are too lazy to seek it out. Instead we are content with reading People Magazine and watching American Idol. Meanwhile, the politicians at all levels of government are making decisions that truly affect your life, your freedom and your pocketbook.

So Newsweek gave over 1,000 Americans a citizenship quiz to answer basic questions about our government. Now you can take the quiz for yourself .. but you should know that 38% of your peers flat-out failed the test, and you only needed to get 60% of the questions right in order to pass. Here are just a few of the questions that tripped up our fellow American Idol Americas:

· How many justices are in the Supreme Court? (63 per cent did not know)

· Who is the Vice President of America? (29 per cent did not know)

· Seventy per cent of Americans do not know what the Constitution is

· Six per cent couldn’t tell you when Independence Day falls.

· Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War

· Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights

The fact is, folks, that Americans aren’t getting dumber .. but with all the information available to us, we are not getting any smarter. This is by design. This is exactly the way that our government schools and our politicians would have it. The more you know the greater threat you are to those in power. The original goal of America’s government schools was to educate you to the point that you would be a good employee and government subject … but no further. It’s no wonder that Americans believe the following:

A 2010 World Public Opinion survey found that Americans want to tackle deficits by cutting foreign aid from what they believe is the current level (27 percent of the budget) to a more prudent 13 percent. The real number is under 1 percent. A Jan. 25 CNN poll, meanwhile, discovered that even though 71 percent of voters want smaller government, vast majorities oppose cuts to Medicare (81 percent), Social Security (78 percent), and Medicaid (70 percent). Instead, they prefer to slash waste–a category that, in their fantasy world, seems to include 50 percent of spending, according to a 2009 Gallup poll.

As boring as it may be .. knowledge about our budget and spending is crucial at this moment in our history.

Government Schools are a Disgrace

Swift and severe changes are coming to Detroit Public Schools.

State education officials have ordered Robert Bobb to immediately implement a financial restructuring plan that balances the district’s books by closing half of its schools, swelling high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidating operations.

This week, Bobb, the district’s emergency financial manager, said he is meeting with Detroit city officials and will set up a meeting with Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency to discuss consolidation opportunities in areas such as finance, public safety, transportation and other areas.

Bobb also is preparing a list of recommended school closures and Friday said layoff discussions are under way and would be announced closer to April, when notices would be issued. “We are moving forward with the plan,” he said “Right now my focus is on my transition plan and the DEP (deficit elimination plan).”

Bobb’s last day with DPS is June 30. After that, the state plans to install another financial manager who must continue to implement Bobb’s plan, according to a Feb. 8 letter from Mike Flanagan, the state superintendent of public instruction.

In the letter, Flanagan said the Michigan Department of Education gave preliminary approval to Bobb’s plan to bring the 74,000-student district out of its financial emergency. As a condition of approval, Flanagan said Bobb cannot declare the district in bankruptcy during the remainder of his contract.

Bobb, appointed emergency financial manager in March 2009, filed his deficit elimination plan with the state in January, saying it would wipe out the district’s $327 million deficit by 2014. On Feb. 9, he told state lawmakers the plan is the only way DPS “can cut its way out” of its legacy deficit.

At the same time, Bobb said he doesn’t believe the proposal is viable because it would drive more students away, exacerbating the district’s financial emergency. But on Friday, Bobb confirmed he is working to implement the plan that will shrink the district to 72 schools for a projected 58,570 students in 2014.

“I believe the district can work its way out of these challenges,” Bobb said. “It will take some time. I am firm believer we have to continue to make the deep cuts, and they are going to be painful. In the long run, the district will be stronger. There can be no retreat.”

Bobb said he continues to work on an alternative plan — one similar to a General Motors-style restructuring — but has yet to release details or announce a sponsor for such a bill.

“Whatever comes out of the transition plan and whatever my new thinking is will be a part of that,” he said.

Bubble Think/How to escape a partisan echo chamber.

By William Saletan

Two days ago at the University of Michigan, President Obama criticized the “echo chamber” of today’s electronic media. “We now have the option to get our information from any number of blogs or websites or cable news shows,” he observed. “If we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own, studies suggest that we become more polarized, more set in our ways.” This trend doesn’t just fracture society, he argued. It also “prevents learning.”

Obama’s speech was itself an echo. For the past month, the blogosphere has been buzzing about this phenomenon. Libertarian blogger Julian Sanchez, who kicked off the conversation on March 26, called the impaired-learning problem “epistemic closure.” He defined it as confining oneself to a mutually reinforcing network of partisan commentators and news sources. If you watch only Fox News or read only angry left-wing blogs, you become closed to contrary information. You lose touch with reality.

The online discussion started with the ouster of David Frum from the American Enterprise Institute after Frum criticized fellow conservatives for their partisanship in the health care debate. Then MSNBC booted guest host Donny Deutsch off the air after he used two MSNBC anchors to illustrate left-wing rage. Several writers have contributed thoughtful essays to the conversation, most notably Sanchez, Ross Douthat, Jim Manzi, and Noah Millman. We’re all learning as we go, but a few lessons seem clear. If you don’t want to end up in a groupthink ghetto, here are 10 ways to keep your mind free.

1. Treat insularity as a weakness. If you don’t seriously consider your opponents’ best arguments, you’ll be unprepared to answer them. If you don’t engage people whose premises differ from yours, you’ll never learn to persuade them and broaden your movement. If you don’t heed changes in the country’s needs and political climate, you’ll fail to adapt and survive. A conservative who matches wits with the New York Times every day is stronger than one who mainlines Fox.

2. Don’t be a sucker for conspiracy theories. Sanchez goes through a list of bogus or overhyped stories that have consumed Fox and the right-wing blogosphere: ACORN, Climategate, Obama’s supposed Muslim allegiance, and whether Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s memoir. Conservatives trapped in this feedback loop, he notes, become “far too willing to entertain all sorts of outlandish new ideas—provided they come from the universe of trusted sources.” When you think you’re being suspicious, you’re at your most gullible.

3. Never define yourself by an enemy. Conservatives duck internal disputes because their coalition is “a motley assortment of political tendencies united primarily by their opposition to liberalism,” writes Douthat. The only thing they agree on is “trashing Obama.” Megan McArdle makes a similar point: “The Republican Party is not putting forward bold new ideas; its energy lies in thwarting the Democrats’ policy plans.” Accordingly, conservatives reinforce their identity by denouncing dissenters as closet liberals. Bruce Bartlett, who was kicked out of a conservative think tank after criticizing George W. Bush, calls this “a closed loop in which any opinions or facts that conflict with the conservative worldview are either avoided, ignored or automatically dismissed on the grounds that they must be liberal or come from liberals.” The net result of this reflexive antipathy is that conservatives don’t define what they stand for. Liberals do. Whatever you’re for, we’re against.

4. Don’t outsource your beliefs to your allies. Douthat explains how Republican factions defer to one another: “Pro-lifers handle abortion, Grover Norquist handles taxes, the neoconservatives handle foreign policy and the Competitive Enterprise Institute handles environmental regulations.” The problem is that “nobody stops to consider if the whole constellation of policy ideas still makes sense, or matches up the electorate’s concerns, or suits the challenges of the moment.” Maybe it’s time to ask those questions.

5. Seek wisdom, not just victory. Some conservative bloggers, responding to Sanchez and his sympathizers on the right, dismiss conversation with the liberal enemy as a political trap. Creative policy ideas won’t bring Republicans to power, argues Jonah Goldberg, and “political reality” dictates that “when liberals control all of the policy-making apparatus, being the party of no is a perfectly rational stance.” Hogan, a blogger at Redstate, takes this argument further, reasoning that it’s OK to “distill” complex facts to propaganda “when you are at war” with the left. Such ruthlessness might be the surest path to power. But what’s the point of power if you haven’t learned how to govern? “An open mind seeks wisdom, first and last,” writes Millman. I can’t put it better than that.

6. Distrust polarization. Conservatives who see the epistemic-closure conversation as a political threat describe politics as a “team” contest. They call environmentalism a “Trojan Horse for socialism,” assert that Democrats are “for ever higher taxes,” and depict a choice between “saying no” to Obama and saying “as you wish” to whatever he asks. “It is once again a time for choosing, and I choose to fight the statists,” declares Hogan. On this view, everything is binary: Either you’re with us or you’re a tax-loving socialist. I’ve seen the same dynamic on the left, where internal critics are dismissed as “concern trolls.” That’s too bad. If you’re seeing the world in black and white, you’re missing all the color.

7. Look in the mirror. Some writers have turned the epistemic-closure conversation into a debate over which party is more smug. Conor Friedersdorf, a blogger at the American Scene, aptly mocks their hypocrisy: “There may be a problem in our thinking, but the important thing to focus on is that the other guys are worse.” Goldberg, a perpetrator of this blame-deflecting tactic, is right about one thing: Epistemic closure isn’t unique to any era or faction. It’s a problem “for all human associations and movements.” Challenging your community’s delusions is your responsibility, whether that community is CPAC or Jeremiah Wright’s church.

8. Beware abstraction. This was Bush’s fatal flaw, and it persists in bloggers who boil down all disputes to “statists,” “socialism,” and who’s “consistently conservative.” Hogan’s brush-off is classic: “Nor do I know if every statistic or number in Reagan’s A Time For Choosing speech in 1964 was correct. I DON’T CARE. I know the facts were in the ballpark, and more importantly, the principles were timeless and correct.” Really? “A Time for Choosing” was about the Soviet Union and the Department of Agriculture’s takeover of the U.S. economy. Times and facts have changed. If you want to apply Reagan’s principles today, you’d better adapt them.

9. Test your theories. One sign of a closed worldview is its refusal to risk falsification.
No fossil can debunk creationism; no atrocity can discredit the party; whatever happens is God’s will or history’s mandate. The surest way to puncture this stupor is to make your theories testable. Ezra Klein and David Brooks have brought this spirit to the epistemic closure debate, seeking data that turn out to complicate the picture of who’s closed and why. Douthat, too, has challenged the original theory by showing how politicians, thinkers, and interest groups behave differently. In the face of evidence, theories must evolve.

10. Overcome your urges. Hogan refuses to analyze opposing arguments in detail, arguing that he lacks “the desire” to do so. Perhaps he should brush up on the tradition he purports to represent. Real conservatives understand that desire is a lousy way to run a society. You don’t feel like working? Work. You don’t feel like supporting the kids you fathered? Support them. You don’t feel like challenging your biases? Challenge them. We’re all vain and lazy. In the electronic echo chamber, it’s easier than ever to shut out what you don’t want to hear. Nobody will make you open the door and venture out. You’ll have to do that yourself.

Become a fan of Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. William Saletan’s latest short takes on the news, via Twitter:

%d bloggers like this: