Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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Video: Arlington County School Board Debate

Just posting the video for now from last night's Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) School Board debate. Candidates are current School Board member Nancy...

Exclusive Blue Virginia Interview: Arlington County School Board Candidate Michael Shea

I recently posted my interview with Arlington County School Board candidate Tannia Talento. Yesterday, I had a chance to sit down with another Democratic...

State Sen. Scott Surovell Urges Fairfax to #advertiseadime; Fairfax Supervisor Jeff...

There's a fascinating - and important - fight going on right now in Fairfax County over how much taxes need to go up in...

McDonnell’s Pontius Pilate Pits State Against Localities


The Virginia budget shell game is creating tensions in localities revealing the no tax pledge's fallacy of composition. In the black and white pledger world, there are no consequences to cutting budgets. But stark reality is inspiring grassroots action demanding remedies to the McDonnell budget: LOCAL TAXES.

"I have softened the blow on local governments to allow them to phase in a small differential in tax revenues that need to be paid by local employers. I've allowed them five years to phase that in. I've tried to accommodate them, but these are local employees. They pay for teachers; they're local employees. They have the obligation...We pay a third of all the retirement for teachers even though they're one hundred percent local employees. This differential that everybody's talking about is a very small slice of the whole retirement pie" - Governor McDonnell to WHSV, Staunton, VA. (use Search: McDonnell, then select "1 on 1: Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell)

In Augusta County, an informal citizens group (Support Our Schools) has overwhelmingly demonstrated displeasure, coming out in force to show that grassroots support for funding and necessary tax revenues far outweighs the astroturf pronouncements of the Tea Party. However, popular, oversimplified mantras continue to inform the debate.

Record-Breaking Numbers of Public School Students Losing Their Homes

We live in a car. Don't just look away.Sorry, homeless children. If you're not rich people begging for tax cuts or wildly profitable oil corporations trying to keep multi-billion-dollar subsidies, good luck getting Congress to pay any attention to you.

With the GOP-controlled House continuing to ignore the ongoing unemployment crisis, more families are becoming homeless. The New York Times reports that's leading to a record-breaking number of public school students becoming homeless:

Nationally, the number of homeless students at public schools reached an all-time high after the recession hit. In the 2008-9 school year, there were 954,914 homeless students, compared with 679,724 in 2006-7, according to the latest data from the United States Department of Education.

Homeless children fare significantly worse in school than other poor children. In Virginia, 21.2 percent of students who are homeless at some point during their high school years drop out, compared with 14.8 percent of all poor children, the state's Department of Education says. In Colorado, the high school graduation rate is 72 percent for all students, 59 percent for poor students and 48 percent for homeless students, according to data from the state's education Web site.

A friend who works in child & family services says becoming homeless can destroy the support systems most parents take for granted. "I have had several clients that have had to move overnight to other parts of the state to a different homeless shelter. It's terrible," she says. "I try to form relationships with these young girls, but before they know it their entire life changes and they lose important constant relationships like their teacher or counselor."

For more, check out this 60 Minutes story from March. To find volunteer opportunities to help students in your community, visit UnitedWay.org.

A few facts about the military, and more, from Kristof

The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.

That's the first of four bulleted paragraphs of facts about the military offered by Nicholas Kristof in a column titled The Big (Military) Taboo. You might know that. You might even know that we have troops at 560 bases outside the United States. That's the 2nd. And the third?

The intelligence community is so vast that more people have "top secret" clearance than live in Washington, D.C.

But I have not yet offered the most shocking, from the 4th of those paragraphs, for which I suggest you continue below the fold.

This teacher reacts to seeing “Waiting for Superman”

Friday schools across Maryland were closed, so I went to the first show at Noon.  

On the way home I thought long and hard about what I would say.

No matter how I parse it, my reaction has two key points.

1.  Davis Guggenheim feels guilty about not sending his kids to public schools, and the result is a film which basically trashes public schools, public school teachers, teachers unions, while unjustly glorifying Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee, charters, Kipp, and union busting.

2.  The film is intellectually dishonest, so much so it is laughable.

I will explain my reactions below the fold.

An incredibly important speech on education by Diane Ravitch

That is a brief clip of Diane Ravitch addressing the Representative Assembly of the National Education Association on July 6, where she was receiving an award as the 2010 "Friend of Education."  

Please keep reading.

. . . the American Dream is still a restless night

Consider this data from a study by Brandeis University's Institute on Assets and Social Policy, of the median wealth, not including home equity, of white families versus black families:

in 1984, Whites -  22,000   Blacks - 2,000    difference  20,000

in 2007, Whites - 100,000   Blacks - 5,000    difference  95,000

(the figures are from a study by the Urban Institute)

Or as Derrick Jackson puts in, in an op ed titled An elusive payoff (subtitled "Gains elsewhere belie a wealth gap for black families"),

The study said the gap in 1984 amounted to a couple years of public college tuition. Today, the gap would fund "full tuition at a four-year public university for two children, plus tuition at a public medical school."

Stones into Schools – a response upon reading the book

On Friday I attended ceremonies at the Smithsonian's Baird Auditorium honoring Greg Mortensen as the 2010 recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Prize jointly awarded by the Smithsonian Associates in collaboration with the Creativity Foundation.   Each person who attended the ceremony received a free copy of Mortensen's new book, Stones into Schools:  Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The author stayed after the event to sign copies for as many as were willing to stand on line, then came to a reception in his honor at the Cosmos Club, where I was fortunate enough to briefly speak with him.

Much of my Saturday was spent reading the book, which has a foreward by Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

This diary is not a book review, but rather a response.  I will explore some parts of the books that spoke to me.  Then I will offer my response.

I invite you to keep reading.