The Reich’s Reading Racket

2readingfirst1 President Bush’s $1 billion a year initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report released on Thursday.

The program, known as Reading First, drew on some of Mr. Bush’s educational experiences as Texas governor, and at his insistence Congress included it in the federal No Child Left Behind legislation that passed by bipartisan majorities in 2001. It has been a subject of dispute almost ever since, however, with the Bush administration and some state officials characterizing the program as beneficial for young students, and Congressional Democrats and federal investigators criticizing conflict of interest among its top advisers.

Reading First did not improve students’ reading comprehension,” concluded the report, which was mandated by Congress and carried out by the Department of Education’s research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

One would think a program like this would be a great idea, until examining the reasons it failed:

2readingfirst2 The Bush Administration has been using the Reading First program to reward political cronies and ideological allies, ignoring a legal mandate to make funding decisions that reflect “scientifically based research,” according to federal investigators. These and other findings are detailed in a report by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education, released on 22 September 2006.

As a result of favoritism and conflicts of interest, the IG found, states were pressured to approve materials from only a handful of preferred publishers. Virtually all others were excluded from participating in the Reading First program, which has provided $4.8 billion in grants to states and school districts since 2002.

The disclosures brought calls to hold Bush Administration appointees accountable for the alleged abuses. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, charged that Reading First officials had “wasted taxpayer dollars on an inferior reading curriculum for kids that was developed by a company headed by a Bush friend and campaign contributor. Instead of putting children first, they chose to put their cronies first.” Miller asked the Justice Department to initiate a criminal investigation… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Institute for Language and Education Policy>

Bush, McConJob and the GOP love to strip worthwhile educational programs of their value to taxpayers in order to use the programs as fronts for No Millionaire Left Behind. Here’s an example of what I mean:

By Walter F. Roche, Jr.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

2readingfirst3 A company headed by President Bush’s brother and partly owned by his parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act.

With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush’s company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally.

At least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds available through the president’s signature education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite’s portable learning centers at $3,800 apiece.

The law provides federal funds to help school districts better serve disadvantaged students and improve their performance, especially in reading and math.
But Ignite does not offer reading instruction, and its math program will not be available until next year… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Institute for Language and Education Policy>

Is it any wonder that so many kids can’t get a decent education in this country. Bush and the GOP have done everything possible to dismantle education in the US while their feckless relatives and cronies reap the profits.

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

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McCain: It’s Academic

mccain4 On “Hardball” the other day, John McCain was confronted a bit with his record of siding with the Bush White House on Iraq policy. McCain didn’t want to talk about the past.

“We can look back at the past and argue about whether we should have gone to war or not, whether we should have invaded or not, and that’s a good academic argument. But we’re there now, and the question is, is what we do in the future.”

“Academic argument.” Holding leading senators accountable for their votes is “academic.” Looking for some sense of responsibility from those who seek the presidency is “academic.”

As Yglesias put it, “Over 4,000 people died in this academic arguments. People need to use the term “trillion” to express its fiscal cost. And, obviously, the question about whether or not it was a good idea speaks to some important points of doctrine and theory. This isn’t like quibbling over some vote on some amendment back in 1983, it was the biggest national security policy decision of the current era.”

Atrios added, “Proving he’s truly at one with the Village, John McCain thinks it’s just an academic question of whether it was a good decision to invade another country, create a situation in which hundreds of thousands of citizens of that country die, cost a trillion dollars and 4000+ and counting US lives. Because the Village is an accountability free zone, where as long as you agree with the serious people you can never be wrong, and even if you were it doesn’t matter so stop mentioning it.”

That’s clearly right, but I think this is a uniquely annoying problem for McCain.

The thing that’s always struck me as odd about McCain’s campaign pitch is that it only works if you refuse to look below the surface.

McCain, for example, goes to great lengths to emphasize his past. He’s running on his “experience.” The entire pitch so far has been based on a backwards-looking approach — look at his family history, his military service during Vietnam, and his quarter-century in Congress.

It sounds great, until we actually want to scrutinize this experience, at which point the past is an “academic exercise,” and the only thing that matters is “the future.”

The argument, in a nutshell, is that McCain’s past matters more than anything else, except when he decides it shouldn’t… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The Carpetbagger Report>

Such arguments are good fodder for the GOP faithful, spoon fed intellectual dross by Faux Noise.  But what ‘academic’ position should we expect from McFlipFlop, who would have graduated at the bottom of his class, even if he had attended Dementia University.

Why NCLB Was Doomed to Fail

20NCLB When it comes to high school graduation rates, Mississippi keeps two sets of books.

One team of statisticians working at the state education headquarters here recently calculated the official graduation rate at a respectable 87 percent, which Mississippi reported to Washington. But in another office piled with computer printouts, a second team of number crunchers came up with a different rate: a more sobering 63 percent.

The state schools superintendent, Hank Bounds, says the lower rate is more accurate and uses it in a campaign to combat a dropout crisis.

“We were losing about 13,000 dropouts a year, but publishing reports that said we had graduation rate percentages in the mid-80s,” Mr. Bounds said. “Mathematically, that just doesn’t work out.”

Like Mississippi, many states use an inflated graduation rate for federal reporting requirements under the No Child Left Behind law and a different one at home. As a result, researchers say, federal figures obscure a dropout epidemic so severe that only about 70 percent of the one million American students who start ninth grade each year graduate four years later.

California, for example, sends to Washington an official graduation rate of 83 percent but reports an estimated 67 percent on a state Web site. Delaware reported 84 percent to the federal government but publicized four lower rates at home.

The multiple rates have many causes. Some states have long obscured their real numbers to avoid embarrassment. Others have only recently developed data-tracking systems that allow them to follow dropouts accurately.

The No Child law is also at fault. The law set ambitious goals, enforced through sanctions, to make every student proficient in math and reading. But it established no national school completion goals.

“I liken N.C.L.B. to a mile race,” said Bob Wise, a former West Virginia governor who is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a group that seeks to improve schools. “Under N.C.L.B., students are tested rigorously every tenth of a mile. But nobody keeps track as to whether they cross the finish line.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

NCLB is fraught with problems, not the least of which is its mandates of standards while cutting aid to schools. Realistically the only way states can avoid losing the reduced funding that remains after the GOP gutted support for education is to push failing students out of the system, especially in poor school districts. That keeps the numbers high to game the system.

Bush, McConJob the GOP claim NCLB needs some minor adjustments, and the nobody could have foreseen the problems, but this, of course is a lie. NCLB was designed from the outset to push poor students from education. How can I say that? When Potomac Pinocchio was Governor of Texas and instituted the forerunner of NCLB there, he used the exact same tactic of pushing out the poor students to cook the books to compile the statistics he used to sell NCLB to Congress in the first place!

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

McCain: Worst Senator for Children!

28mccain2 Today, the Children’s Defense Fund Action Council released its 2007 Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard. CDF reports some positive news, particularly that average scores for members of Congress “improved from the previous three years with more Members scoring 100 percent than in 2004, 2005 or 2006.”

Many, however, did not fare so well. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) received a 10 percent ratingthe worst in the U.S. Senate.

CDF ranked members on 10 votes affecting children:

  • 1. Increase minimum wage (H.R. 2)
  • 2. Increase funding for children with disabilities (S. Con. Res. 21)
  • 3. Protect children from unsafe medications (S. 1082)
  • 4. 2008 Budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 21)
  • 5. SCHIP Reauthorization (H.R. 976)
  • 6. College Cost Reduction and Access Act (H.R. 2669)
  • 7. SCHIP (H.R. 976 – motion to concur)
  • 8. DREAM Act (S. 2205)
  • 9. Funding child health and education (H.R. 3043)
  • 10. Improving Head Start programs (H.R. 1429)

… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

Every penny McCain and the GOP have to spend on worthy goals such as these is a penny they can’t spend on millionaires. To McCain and the GOP, children matter only insofar as they are a resource for their future use slave-wage workers and cannon fodder.

Cross posted from Politics Plus

GOP Preserves Sloophole

21yacht Yacht buyers will continue to benefit from a loophole that allows them to avoid sales tax on their boats, after Republicans in the Assembly blocked an effort to close it Tuesday.

The vote came hours after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked state agencies to consider freezing hiring for nonessential workers and to make reductions in their travel and public outreach budgets to save $100 million.

Closing the tax loophole — “sloophole,” as it has come to be known by Democrats — takes a two-thirds majority vote in each house of the Legislature, which requires some Republicans to get on board.

Not enough of them did Tuesday, so on a 47-18 vote by the 80-member Assembly, the move to scuttle the tax benefit failed.

Last week, lawmakers voted to cut schools, healthcare and welfare programs by $2 billion… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <LA Times>

Cut the schools! Cut the health care!! Cut the welfare!!! Make the poor pay tax on their pitiful survival rations!!!! But God forbid thet a millionaire should have to pay tax on his yacht!!!!!

Cross posted from Politics Plus