Friday, March 21, 2008

NCLB and the Dropout Crisis

Approximately 1 million American high school students should graduate each year. No one can be certain of the actual numbers - of graduates or dropouts - because no one is tracking that data. No reporting nationally, by state, district, gender, or ethnic group. For good reason! It's embarrassing - to the school, to the school district, to the state, and to the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) Administration. Current estimates put the national graduation rate at best, at 70%. That's a conservative dropout rate of 30%. That's appalling! That's more than 300,000 students who enter adult life having failed the right-of-passage in our society.

The dropout rate is much higher in some states, localities, and ethnic groups than others. Where is that you ask? Poor is the operative term. Poor in material resources, poor in environmental resources, poor in health care, poor in SES (Socio-economic Status), poor in spirit. All the NCLB emphasis on high-stakes, test score accountability totally ignores this dropout crisis. The best analogy compares NCLB to the mile race. Test them rigorously every tenth of a mile - but pay no attention to who crosses the finish line.

Worse yet, NCLB is a major contributor to the dropout crisis. Poor performing students are hardly encouraged to stay in school under the high-stakes, consequence-laden NCLB testing regime - particularly when there are no NCLB graduation standards! Schools would rather lose those students than have their school fail to make AYP (Annual Yearly Progress). As for those students themselves, which students are going to come back year after year to be tested one more time and be told, one more time, they failed?

Tracking this crisis is the first step. Set graduation standards and require AYP. However, it's not as simple as one would think. As I explained in Plaintiff Blues, education data and statistics are not equal, district to district, state to state. As one example, if there are 100 students in a senior class and 96 graduate, that's a 96% graduation rate, right? What if that same senior class had 120 students back in 9th grade? Where did those other 24 students go?

There has to be an established reporting protocol and mandated reporting of graduation and dropout rates before we'll get a handle on the magnitude of this crisis - and find out who is really being left behind!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's the Money, Stupid!

"Money is the root of all evil" is a concept that's been around forever. It's probably more accurate to quote the Bible, "For the love of money is the root of all evil." I Timothy 6:10. Just because it's an ancient concept does not mean that it has no currency today. It's not the money itself but what men do to get it that's at the root of it all.

Aside from the recent bailout of Bear Sternes, coupled with the decades-old S & L bailout we're still paying for, estimates are that we are stuck in $2-3 trillion dollar war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the good old economic analogy, "guns or butter," imagine the common good those trillions could have accomplished: social security fixed, medicare funded, energy independence implemented, inner city schools fixed, mortgages saved, etc.

But bailouts and wars are good for the economy - and vastly better for a few than for the many. Those same few take their billions and spend it to further insure and protect their interests. They lobby to block solutions to major problems and contribute obscene sums of money to political campaigns to make certain new policies and programs never interfere with their profits.

If you consider any of the major problems facing us, it is not difficult to figure one which of the few, big money interests will be working against any reasonable solution. If it's health care solutions, the drug companies, insurance companies and medical supply companies will be doubling timing to protect the status quo that is working so well for them. Energy independence, carbon emissions, global warming - count on the oil and power industries to spend billions and more to protect their present investments, including those in Middle Eastern oil.

Perhaps the worst and most comprehensive evil generated by the love of money is the selling of our democracy. Today only a billionaire can run for national office without the money from the few big money interests - whether corporate or PAC. And how naive to suppose that there's no quid pro quo with those huge contributions. The buying and selling of congresssmen is a relatively unregulated, open market. Until we get the money out of the political process, we should expect little in the way of real solutions to serious problems. It's the money, stupid!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bush + Deregulation=Bailout for Big Guys

We must have forgotten the massive Savings $ Loan Bailout of 1989. Reagan and Bush 41 were the presidents who presided over the deregulation of those S & L's and the largest corporate bailout in our history - $32 billion for 30 years! By 2020, that will approach $1 trillion! That money keeps coming from taxpayers and goes to the people who bought those 30 year bonds. And the rich get richer!

FYI, another son of Bush 41, Neil Bush, was involved in that crisis, as director of the Silverado Savings and Loan. That one alone cast taxpayers $1.6 Million. The cause of the S & L crisis? Deregulation that opened the door to wild and speculative real estate investments.

However, the costs of that bailout were more far-reaching than even those staggering figures suggest. The real costs were felt yesterday, when the Federal Reserve Board bailed-out Bear Sterns for $30 million. Bear Sterns was one of the biggest cowboy investment banks plundering the sub-prime mortgage business - our current crisis. The S & L bailout of 1989 sent a clear message to the cowboys out there. It's green light for greedy, high-risk, speculative real estate investments. If you get in trouble, the government (that's us, the taxpayer) will bail you out. Don't worry, no one in this Bush administration is minding the store and there will be no heavy handed regulation - or any at all for that matter!

Meanwhile, once again, the John and Jane Doe's are losing their homes all across the country. Will we ever see a bailout for the average taxpayer?