Friday, February 28, 2014

Sessions To Dems: Is There One Wasteful Program You'd Be Willing To Cut ...

Here's a message for Congress from the people, if I may be so bold as to speak for the people: " STOP SPENDING MONEY! THERE ISN'T ANYMORE! Our pockets are NOT bottomless."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Q and A with Senator Leibham part 1

Over the weekend I attended a Q and A session with Wisconsin State Senator Joe Leibham. Mr Leibham wanted to concentrate on the budget, but did get into other topics towards the end of the session. This was over two hours long, so I have several videos to process and I will post them two or three at a time to keep the posts manageable. Please forgive the unsteadiness of the video as I neglected to bring my tripod.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
"Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good."~ Proverbs 14:22  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Rebranding of Karl Marx - Intellectual Froglegs 2014 #2

Congressman Threatens To Cut Off Funds For Obama's Illegal Executive Orders

Rep. Kestell Question and Answer

Tonight I attended a Q and A session with WI State representative Steve Kestell. This was hosted by the Sheboygan GOP. I had planned to take video and post it here as I have done for similar Q and A sessions with WI State Senator Joe Leibham, but after the first minute, I was asked to turn off the camera and told I could not take video .. at a free event that was advertised in the paper as being open to the public, where a legislator was speaking.

After the event, I asked Mr. Kestell if he had any objection to my posting the small snippet of video I took on my blog and he said go right ahead, that's fine, I have no objections", as I rather suspected that he would. So here is the video:

This is only about 2 minutes long and I will attempt to write from my own notes what was said during the rest of the session, but be aware, please that these are my interpretation of what was said with all of my own biases and limitations. (I can only write so fast, even if I am a compulsive note taker - one of the reasons I wanted to video the  session.) I did turn off my camera at the request, because I am a polite person, not because I was legally required to do so.

Before I go on to detail the rest of the session, let me say how very disappointed I am with the Sheboygan GOP. One of the myriad reasons I despise the Obama administration is because of the way he treats those who he considers hostile to his agenda - even going so far as to forbid phones along with all other recording devices at his speeches. This is so that he may control the message that gets out. Many do not know this, but the Obama administration requires the right to edit any interviews or etc before airtime/going to print if a reporter wants access. That is a blatant violation of the freedom of the press, but the press has, by and large, accepted the restrictions. (Shame on them.) I do not consider myself to be a reporter, just a blogger, but I have the same freedoms. This was a public event and the GOP, who tries so hard to reassure conservatives that they are different, that they respect our freedoms and want to maintain them, told me to turn my camera off.  That's a fail folks.

Now, on to the meat of the Q and A. My own comments are in italics. 
After the budget question Mr. Kestell also noted that the Wisconsin legislature has not done a good job, historically, of looking down the road with regard to the budget.

Q Is WI accepting federal funding for the implementation of common core, with the addendum that the questioner would prefer the budget surplus to be sent to DC if it could "buy" us out of federal interference with our educational system.

A. Mr. Kestell said it is his dream for WI to divorce ourselves from the federal level entirely in the area of education. He said it would take about 2 billion dollars per school year to do that at this point. He also noted that even at that, federal funding for education only supplies less than 10% of our educational budget here in WI and that it isn't worth the price we have to pay for it. There are too many strings attached and the feds have too much control of our educational system.

 Mr.. Kestell further noted that we can't change our educational system here in the blink of an eye, that it would take planning and study. (I both agree and disagree on this one. Technically we could change it in the blink of an eye, but it is probably better to do such a thing gradually if we can.)

Q There was an inquiry made as to whether or not the current state Sec of Ed is able to distribute the federal money as he sees fit(with implications of cronyism).

A. Mr. Kestell said the Sec of Ed does not control the purse strings, the legislature does. The awarding of grant money is subjective, but there isn't any leeway otherwise as to how that money is to be spent. He allowed as how the current Sec of Ed had issues with the degree of authority he wields within the system, but the State Constitution outranks him.

Q. Are there any other states out there taking the lead in getting their educational systems off of the federal teat?

A. No. And Mr. Kestell was disappointed that such a thing was so.(In my estimation)

Q How did the Sec of Ed become an elected office rather than being appointed by the governor?

A It is required by the WI State Constitution. Mr. Kestell also referenced a 1996 court decision.

Q What about the counties who don't want to comply with state mandates - particularly unfunded ones?

A. Mr. Kestell sympathized with local units of government and said the solution is to have as little government as we can. He mentioned the major local expenses like law enforcement, and then referenced a number of court cases with which I was unable to write fast enough to keep up. :(

Q Is there federal pressure in the form of funding for the state to adopt the common core curriculum?

A No. (Bear with me here as I am not as up to speed as I should be.) Mr. Kestell said that when Mr. Bush implemented No Child Left Behind, it was the largest expansion of the federal government into education since Mr. carter was president. That, in order for a state to receive waivers for the requirements of NCLB, we had to implement the WKCE testing and the school report card system. Common core is just a set of standards that can be also be used to waive NCLB requirements. That the districts in WI are free to do whatever they like for curriculum, that there are suggested curriculum materials that go along with the common core standards, but which our school districts are free to ignore. Mr. Kestell expressed the opinion that NCLB did some good in waking some people up to the fact that schools were not doing such a good job, but that it was the wrong way to go about it.

As I am understanding this, the point of common core is to establish a set of standards - i.e. a child in kindergarten shall be able to do thus and such, (Know their alphabet and count to 20 was what I was told 20 years ago, which I found an appalling standard for kindergarten. In my opinion you could teach a child that in 2 weeks or less.Clearly we can do better than that.) The idea is that a high school diploma in Alaska should mean the same thing as a high school diploma in Arkansas or Wisconsin or Texas, which is not a bad thing. The problem comes when those who have an agenda try to twist such a basic goal to serve their own ends.

Q. We should have expectations of the school at the local level, so why shouldn't the standards be set at the local level. ( I would argue that they are, since parents are supposed to be attending curriculum and other school board meetings. If we choose not to do so, our children will reap the rewards of that choice and have been.)

A. The majority is not paid for locally and Constitutionally, the state is responsible for public education. (That does not mean that the state is responsible for educating our children, merely that the state is responsible to provide the option of public education to the parents of the state as they are deciding how to meet their right, responsibility and duty to direct the education of their children.)

Q. This was a question regarding standards that didn't make logical sense to me, so I was flummoxed about how to write it down.

A. Standards testing is to show how kids are doing, not for the sake of testing. (to get federal funding or a waiver of NCLB requirements is my assumption of how Mr. Kestell meant that.) To that end, the WKCE is being replaced.

At this juncture there were quite a few comments about the MKE school system - most negative. Voices were being raised and many started trying to remind each other to be calm and keep it polite.  It is my own opinion, that we need to work with people where they are and not where we think they "should" be. Reality trumps idealism, so let's deal in reality both where it comes to the education unions and parents in Milwaukee.

Mr. Kestell said: "A high school diploma should mean something".

Q There was a comment saying that we need to give teachers back the tools they need to enforce discipline in their classes.

A Mr. Kestell said that WI has a suspect teacher preparation program.  He continued to say that after the Act 10 stuff was settled, Gov Walker came to the education committee to ask what could be done to improve reading performance. They brought in a number of people to ask about this, including a number of teachers. The teachers told them that the DPI made it easier for elementary school teachers to become certified. (I wondered at this point if that was due to a shortage of teachers we had in WI about a decade ago. As I recall , the standards were lowered in order to encourage more people to become teachers so we would have enough, but I didn't get the opportunity to ask as the meeting was moving pretty quickly.)
In response to this, they looked around the nation to see what was being done in this area. Florida and Massachusetts had a system test which they allowed us to use for free to see that teachers are properly prepared.

Q What can we do about kids who take over classes and waste class time with unruly behavior?

A. Mr. Kestell acknowledged the problem and said it has now been made worse by the federal directive to discipline children differently according to their race. He doesn't have a solution and schools are in a tough spot.

Q There was a question about the federal government's apparent intent to collect data on us from the cradle to the grave.

A We should be worried about that. The data collected on our kids under NCLB and under the waivers to NCLB currently dictates that there are to be no personal identifiers in the data once it leaves the school district. For groups under 20 (voucher schools and some private schools), no data may be collected because it is deemed to be statistically insignificant. Mr. Kestell referenced the Pridemore legislation (I haven't heard of this)

Q. Who governs the content of the data collections?

A. All the data is related to student performance.

Q. I have seen some forms that are asking an intrusive amount of information.

A. There are all sorts of forms that have snuck in over the years. Mr. Kestell recommended answering none of your business to any intrusive questions or simply not answering.

Q. There was a question about SIS (Student Information Services) testing costs.

A. If the state requires it, in general the state has to pay for it. He also noted that the ACT will now be a state required test. (One of those replacing the WKCE) He said that since 60% of WI students were taking the ACT anyway, the legislature decided they may as well use that instead of having them subjected to another test. This means the state will now be paying for ACT testing. 

Q. There was a question asking if the deterioration of discipline could be linked to the mainstreaming of special needs students.

A. Mr. Kestell referred to Lightfoot school(a school I do not have sufficient history in this area to know about) and noted that it worked. Then he said that there were some court decisions in the 80's that said that all students must be given the least restrictive environment possible and that this is what drove and is driving the mainstreaming of special needs individuals. He said that there is such a spectrum of possible special needs that it is very difficult to find a solution.

Q. The referenced the many broken promises of the federal government (such as "If you like your health care, you can keep it") and asked how are we to keep the federal government from becoming more intrusive with regard to data collection?

A. Mr. Kestell would like to see a "trigger" put in place in WI, so that if the federal governments starts demanding more intrusive information, the trigger would be pulled and WI would refuse to give it.
 Mr. Kestell also reiterated his concerns about the potential costs of school choice. His concern is that the cost of public education as it currently exists will not decrease even though 5% of the students opted for school choice. Then we would be paying for the current system as well as, for the sake of argument I term it, another system.

I apologize for any errors or omissions, but, as noted above, I can only write so fast and I was asked to turn my camera off. At a Q and A session with a state legislator. That was open to the public. By a member of the local GOP.

"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness."~ Romans 12:6-8