Felix Alvarado is a candidate for governor in the Democratic primary. Since most of the candidates for governor, especially Democrats, are emphasizing education as one of the centerpieces of their campaign, I thought you should know about Felix Alvarado's ideas on how to improve education in Texas. Personally, I think his plan makes a lot of sense. Here is what Mr. Alvarado has to say about education in Texas:
The major problem with education in Texas is the fear on the part of its leadership that they will be blamed for its failing. This fear must be dealt with in the open as we recognize that today?s problems with Texas education can be traced back to our Governor and Legislature?s ongoing decisions to ignore the problems or blame someone else.
In Texas, nearly 2/3 of high school graduates who go on to college or a university are required to take non-credit remedial courses at Texas universities and universities around the country.
Over 30 % of Elementary and Middle School teachers are either not certified to teach at all or are being forced to teach subjects where they have little or no background and where they are not certified. In our high schools that number is more than 11% of non-certified teachers.
Why is this happening here among our Texas schools?
My recommendations will not require any tax increases, just a new way of looking at how state programs are funded.
1. The efforts of our state leaders have been focused on who is to blame and not on how to fix the problems. It seems to me that punishing the teaching staff and community served by a failing school is not a reasonable approach.
2. Instead of punishing failing schools, we should recognize that the school has problems, target those specific problems with additional materials. , technology and personnel and begin helping that staff and community to reverse the trend and work with the school to make it an acceptable learning community where the question ?How does this affect the Children? is asked before every decision is made.
3. Standardized testing needs to be used diagnostically to identify needs in a school community so that competent people provide aid to an ailing school.
Instead it has become a means of blaming Principals, staff, teachers and the community.
4. We should be using standardized testing as a minimum standard, rather than as the goal of our educational community.
5. If the parents in the school community do not have enough money to provide students with the materials and technology that they need to surpass the minimum standard of standardized testing, the state and the businesses in the community need to provide those needed materials, rather than punishing the school and parents. If parents in a school community do not speak or understand English the community and the State must intervene and provide incentives for the families to be able to communicate in both their native language as well as English so they can help their children read and study to be able to live up to their potential.
6. Teachers should be given meaningful opportunities to learn languages spoken by students in their school, to allow better communication with the student, parents and interested members of the students? families and communities.
7. Your Governor needs to understand that we cannot train students to be successful in the 21st Century when there is one 5 year old computer in our classrooms. Classrooms need to have up-to-date computers with current software available for each student to prepare for whatever the world will need when they graduate.
8. Most rural and some urban districts in Texas are doing a great job of preparing students to live in the 20th century. However these students will be forced to compete for colleges and jobs, not just in their county, not just in Texas and not just in the US, but in the flexible worldwide economy of the 21st Century.
9. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that today's graduates are likely to have 7 ? 10 different careers in their life time and that of those 7 ? 10 careers; more than 5 don't exist yet. We need to be preparing students to be able to function in this fast paced and ever changing world they will live the rest of their lives.
10. Teachers in Texas are paid poorly; there is no doubt about that. 33 states pay their teachers better than does Texas. Now I am not saying that paying teachers more will make them better teachers. They are, for the most part, highly committed people who have the best interests of our children at heart.
But paying teachers more, would encourage better qualified teachers, who are not now teaching, to fill the positions now given to non-certified teachers. This may convince new teachers that they can make an adequate living as a teacher. Today nearly 80% of new teachers leave the profession in the first 3 years.
11. Every decision about education needs to include the question
?How will this affect the children.?
For the past decade and a half this question has NOT been part of Texas' planning for our children's education. Instead the questions have been more like ?What can we do to limit funding for education so I can fund my pork barrel project?? And ?How can we keep the people of Texas from finding out that the biggest problem with education is the State Legislature and the Governor??
12. Texas has one of the fastest growing populations in the country. Yet there is an artificial cap on the amount of property tax that citizens in a school district can authorize for their school budgets.
13. Our legislature has consistently under funded education, statewide, by failing to budget amounts dictated by their own funding standards.
Legislatures and Governors have arranged for school districts to not be able to deal effectively with large numbers of new children moving into their areas. Every dollar of increased property tax these new families contribute is offset by a reduction in state funding, so that school districts available funding remains flat with the exception of the Average Daily Attendance funding (ADA).
When was the last time that your Governor asked the question ?How does this affect our children?? If he did, the answer would be ?They are not being treated well by their state.?
Now, how do we provide funding for all of this?
Each week thousands of good Texas citizens cross the border into other states to be entertained at their Casinos and associated tourist destinations. It does not make sense to me that all of that tax money should go to our border states when we have so many needs right here in Texas.
A well-regulated casino industry would pour millions, tens of millions and perhaps hundreds of billions of new tax money into the state without raising anyone?s taxes. If you don?t think we have gambling here in Texas today, go to any convenience store on Wednesday or Saturday afternoon or evening and see the people lined up to pay the voluntary tax of the Texas Lottery.
We have the ability to begin correcting the problems that neglect and apathy from the previous Republican administrations have created while deflecting the blame from themselves.
Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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Total Eclipse Of The Heart -- Literal Video Version.[...]
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January 19, 2010
Euro takes Beating as Greek Debt Woes Continue
The EUR USD took a beating on Tuesday. This current round of weakness is being triggered by mounting concerns about Greece?s ability to resolve its debt issues.
Traders are expecting the European finance ministers to hold their ground and maintain that Greece solves its own problems. This could be an indication that this problem will persist
as Greece is having problems reaching a budget solution. In addition, similar problems could crop up with Spain and Portugal. …
video details and more
I don't know much about Martha Coakley. I doubt she's any more crappy than the rest of our nation's embarrassingly horrible political class-- although she did seem to want to break the world-record for conceding defeat last night. (Boneheaded? Sure, though not nearly as boneheaded as Virginia ConservaDem Jim Webb's declaration that there should be no votes in the Senate until Brown is seated, a bizarre approach considering that the other 99 senators were also elected by citizens of this country.) I don't want to blame Coakley for what happened, although I'm sure 52-47% vote could have been turned around with a better candidate. I thought Rep. Mike Capuano was a way better candidate, but Democrats in Massachusetts lightly attended primary picked Coakley and she... promptly went on a vacation and gave the Republicans all the time they needed to define Scott Brown and to define her. And that was that.
The media had their narrative in the can and ready to break out: "Democrats are too liberal." And you get a couple of bad faith reactionaries like Evan Bayh and Holy Joe Lieberman to repeat it on TV a couple of times and a chorus of other Republican-like Democrats to do the same and the Village will have it playing from every jukebox in the joint.
I know this sounds crass and worse but Obama's place in the history books is already assured. Aside from having been elected president-- almost always a big deal-- he's the first Black president. The "Hope and Change" thing was like a slogan, not a program and by the time he announced appointments like Rahm Emanuel and Lawrence Summers and his appendage Tim G, only the hopelessly naive could still persuade themselves that there was any hope for change. I hate to say "I told you so"-- worse is telling myself I told me so-- but Obama's Senate voting record (kind of an unattractive cross between his ConservaDem colleagues Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus) predicted it all. Agent of change? Well... symbolic change. And that's a biggie. But beyond that? Don't count on it. If you see Rahm move off to his destiny as heir to the legacy of Richard J. Daley, the next Capo di tutti capi of the Chicago Democratic Machine, maybe Obama is deciding to reach for the sky. But that's really unlikely. Turning the health care travesty into a straight-out expansion of Medicare-- the nightmare of the predatory, bribe-dispensing Insurance Industry and Medical-Industrial Complex-- is as unlikely as Obama actually turning on his-- and the political class'-- financiers on Wall Street or ending Bush's War, now his own, against Afghanistan. Last night Andy Stern, president of the SEIU said, "The reason Ted Kennedy's seat is no longer controlled by a Democrat is clear: Washington's inability to deliver the change voters demanded in November 2008. Make no mistake, political paralysis resulted in electoral failure."
What a hassle that would be for Obama to try to deliver! And who knows if he could accomplish anything! Doing nothing much... well, like I said, his place in history is set. Last night Peter Daou, a longtime respected blogger and former Hillary Clinton advisor, pointed out on HuffPo that liberal bloggers had indeed told Obama so. He points out that Obama "hasn't been true enough to fundamental Democratic principles, has embraced some of Bush's worst excesses on civil liberties, and has ditched popular ideas (like the public option) in favor of watered down centrist policies, thus looking weak and ineffectual."
[W]hen you fail to govern based on a morally sound, well-articulated, solidly-grounded set of ideals, you look weak. All the legislative wins in the world won't change that. People gravitate to people who exude moral authority. The vast majority of voters lack the detailed policy knowledge that would enable them to make an accurate assessment of policy differences, but they do have a visceral sense of when a candidate or an elected official believes in something and fights for it. It's why campaigns are laden with moral arguments; politicians ask to be elected because they'll "do the right thing." The right thing in the current administration's case was to be the anti-Bush, nothing more, nothing less. The ethical antidote to a radical administration. It was both politically smart and morally right. And it worked wonders for Democrats as the entire subtext of the 2008 campaign.
Massachusetts has gone Republican? I really don't get that.
Republican Scott Brown has captured the US Senate seat held by liberal champion Edward Kennedy for nearly a half century, leaving President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in doubt and marring the end of his first year in office.
Brown's defeat of once-favored Martha Coakley for the Massachusetts seat is an embarrassment for the White House after Obama went to Boston on Sunday to try to save her candidacy. Her defeat signaled big political problems for the president's party in November when House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates are on the ballot.
More immediately, Brown will become the 41st Republican in the 100-member Senate, which could allow the Republicans to block the president's health care legislation and the rest of Obama's agenda. Democrats needed Coakley to win for a 60th vote to thwart Republican procedural maneuvers to block votes on legislation.
Brown led by 52% to 47% with all but 3% of precincts counted.
One day shy of the first anniversary of Obama's swearing-in, it played out amid a backdrop of animosity and resentment from voters over persistently high unemployment, industry bailouts, exploding federal budget deficits and partisan wrangling over health care.With the exception of healthcare, I am unsure which of the above can be fairly left at Obama's doorstep. All of these problems were inherited, and why one would wish to elect a Republican in order to show one's displeasure at unemployment, industry bailouts or budget deficits is quite beyond me.
So what the Hell just happened here?
Although the race has riveted the nation largely because it was seen as contributing to the success or defeat of the health care bill, the potency of the issue for voters here was difficult to gauge. That is because Massachusetts already has near-universal health coverage, thanks to a law passed when Mitt Romney, a Republican, was governor.
Thus Massachusetts is one of the few states where the benefits promised by the national bill were expected to have little effect on how many of its residents got coverage, making it an unlikely place for a referendum on the health care bill.
This could get especially ugly if there is any truth to this.
The sources, who are familiar with the situation, told Reuters that the attack, which targeted people who have access to specific parts of Google networks, may have been facilitated by people working in Google China's office.
"We're not commenting on rumor and speculation. This is an ongoing investigation, and we simply cannot comment on the details," a Google spokeswoman said.
Oh wait! That was the “Family Values Crowd” that was talking about that… I forgot!!Hooray for the liberals in Massachusetts!! They’ve elected their first porn-star!![...]
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I just landed in Newark, New Jersey this morning after 23 days travelling throughout India … and it feels good to be home!Despite the many problems in our country today, we should never take for granted the amenities, freedoms, and opportunities available here.And with that in mind, I’d like to turn your attention back to the U.S. markets today, especially the outlook for domestic stocks in the coming year.Let’s start with a question I’ve been hearing …“Does the Strong Start in 2010 Signal an Even Better Finish?” If you read this column frequently, you know that I’m a big fan of…
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Maxine, girl economist, writes something well worth reading:
Until last year, Maxine had always assumed that at least one reason for investment bankers' high compensation was that the market had chosen to reward them for competence and knowledge about high finance, things we lesser mortals couldn’t possibly grasp with our mundane, tiny little minds. Now we find out that they apparently hadn’t even grasped the basics that Maxine’s rather less well-paid businessman father drilled into her from a very early age. "Maxine," he used to say. "The higher the returns, the higher the risk, and if the returns are high and sustained, you’re in a Ponzi scheme or a bubble. Never forget that." And Maxine never has.
It seems so basic and no amount of clever math and models can really change it. Say it now, all together, children: Higher returns means higher risk and if the returns are high and sustained, you’re in a Ponzi scheme or a bubble.
We and our elected representatives have a choice to make. We can continue to compensate clueless victims way beyond the value of their marginal product in any domain of productivity you care to name and we can continue to allow them to cluelessly manage financial institutions for their own short-term short-sighted gains until they plunge the rest of us into serfdom or we can change how they are compensated and maybe even who is compensated (as in throw the bums out) and we can change the rules by which they are allowed to "play" with our money.
But even then, reform and regulation will not be enough. We need a new language about business and markets that is sensible and grounded in reality. In the last thirty years, both have been elevated to near religion, with financiers and CEOs as high priests. ...
Adam Smith appears to have understood the value of the moral side effects of commercial transactions: trust, sympathy for our fellow tradesmen and women, for our customers, for our neighbors, a sense of community and of the common good, all traded in the marketplace along with the money, goods, and services that change hands. He recognized the interdependencies that markets create and reinforce, interdependencies that bind us to common objectives and that lower the transaction costs of achieving them.
So you see it isn’t just about the money. If it were, then the investment bankers who appeared before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission would still have much to answer for. But it’s about more than money. It’s about the moral side effects of market transactions and exchange. Morally clueless investment bankers have trashed the fabric that binds us together as a nation. They have sent a message loud and clear that short-sighted, immoral cluelessness that serves only one’s own short-run self-interest is what is rewarded. That unearned wealth, power and prestige have more political and economic currency than the hard-earned trust, confidence, and lower profit margins of honest businessmen embedded in, committed to, and serving their customers and their communities.
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