Category Archives: Nevada politics

Here Comes The Dark Money

Dark Money Here comes the money – into the Nevada District 4 Congressional race:

“Crossroads GPS, a conservative group, said Tuesday it has bought $820,000 worth of TV time for ads to start airing today and run through Election Day on Nov. 4. A source familiar with the ad buy said it is aimed at Horsford, who represents the 4th Congressional District.

Paul Lindsay, communications director for Crossroads GPS, confirmed the group’s eleventh-hour spending plans for the campaign, which could be a game-changer, but offered no details.

“We have placed a buy in the Las Vegas media market and have an important message to communicate,” Lindsay said.” [LVRJ]

And what might the “important message” be? It’s that Representative Horsford is in the same political party as the President of the United States.  Horsford, the ads explain, supports the Affordable Care Act.  Yes, that’s the law which restrains some of the more egregious practices of health insurance corporations, requires that comprehensive insurance cover flu vaccinations, and autism screening, and makes shopping for private health care plans more convenient.   Then there’s the almost an outright lie.

The Affordable Care Act cut Medicare.” This prevarication has been one of the pillars of Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act.  Those “cuts” actually: (1) Close the do-nut hole in Medicare Part D prescription coverage until the ‘hole’ is eliminated in 2020; (2) Expands existing coverage for senior citizens; (3) Supports initiatives to support care coordination; (4) Does not reduce benefits from Medicare Advantage (the private option to Medicare); (5) Reduces payments to Medicare Advantage rewarding those providers who improve the quality of their coverage, bringing payouts in line with other areas of Medicare; (6) Helps protect the Medicare trust fund.  [OFacts]

The “cuts” were made to over-payments to Medicare Advantage providers which were higher than payments made to Medicare providers – in essence supplying the private Medicare option with a public corporate subsidy. “Your” Medicare (Advantage) benefits weren’t cut!  What was cut were unjustifiable taxpayer subsidies to private health insurance corporations.   And, maybe we should be reminded that those same “cuts” about which Rove’s Dark Money ads are caterwauling, are the same “cuts” which appear in  Representative Paul Ryan’s budget plans?

Someone doesn’t like “cuts” made to the public funds available to private health care insurance corporations.  Who might that be? We’ll not know because Crossroads is a Dark Money 501 (c) 4 which doesn’t have to reveal the names of its donors. [IBT]  There’s nothing grass-roots about Rove’s organization which takes advantage of the decision in Citizens United to cover the tracks of mega-donors.

“The large donations may renew questions from Sunlight and others about whether Crossroads GPS should be able to file as a nonprofit “social welfare” group under the tax code, allowing it to avoid disclosing donor names. According to IRS regulations, the group’s “primary purpose” cannot be influencing elections, but the group can spend up to half of its money on political campaigning.” [WaPo] (emphasis added)

This goes toward explaining why the GOP was so anxious to attack the IRS for “politicizing” 501 (c) organization decisions?  There are legitimate questions about the “social welfare” activities of organizations like Crossroads GPS, and someone didn’t want those questions answered.

Republicans may see an opening in Nevada District 4 and are willing to unleash the Dark Side Money into the breach. We can hope that the constituent services, and the person campaign style of incumbent Representative Stephen Horsford can overcome the money accreting to the Tea Party Radical campaign of challenger Cresent “Segregation” Hardy.  [NVProg]

Early voting has started, and the GOP base is out in force – as usual – Every. Vote. Counts. GOTV.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Rove

The Realtors Are Coming: Nevada’s Question Three

The Realtors Against Question 3, related to the Alliance for Property Protection Rights, related to the National Association of Realtors, related to Nevada Data Mine LLC, would like for me to vote “no” on Nevada’s ballot Question 3.  Oh hark! The fear mongering begins. Today’s mail includes my second mailer from their offices at 760 Margrave Drive, Reno, and it tells me:

Thousands of Nevadans would lose their jobs. Employers would have to pay the tax on total revenue, even if they have no profits and are losing money.”  Really?

Here’s the real Question 3: Shall the Nevada Revised Statutes be amended to create a 2% tax to be imposed on a margin of the gross revenue of entities doing business in Nevada whose total revenue for any taxable year exceeds $1 million, with the proceeds of the tax going to the State Distributive School Account to be apportioned among Nevada’s school districts and charter schools?

So, some firm doing more than $1 million worth of business in this state might be “profit-less, or losing money?”  That isn’t a tax problem – it’s a lousy management issue.  If the firm’s total revenue exceeds $1 million, and the taxable margin is determined by taking the lesser of (a) 70% of the entity’s total revenue; or (b) the entity’s total revenue minus the cost of goods sold or the amount of compensation paid to its owners and employees – then if a 2% margin tax would put the outfit out of business I think we could reasonably expect the enterprise is already doomed.  But wait, the second item is pure doom and gloom:

It would devastate future job growth in the state. This would be one of the largest tax increases in Nevada’s history, making us less competitive with neighboring states like California.”  Devastate?

This is nothing more than the superannuated argument that lower taxes mean more economic growth.   So, let’s look at our neighboring state.  California was looking at a $60 billion budget deficit when the Housing Bubble/Wall Street Fiasco exploded, by using a combination of budget cuts and tax increases it had a budget surplus as of 2013. [USAT] In 2012 California’s GDP growth was 3.5%.  As of 2013 it improved by another 2%. [BEA] Nevada’s rate YOY 2012-2013? 1.0%.  Thus much for the anti-tax argument.  And, while we’re at it – just once could some organization NOT employ the hyperbolic “Biggest Most Gigantic Extra Colossal Humongous Tax Increase Ever” ploy? That’s getting even more hirsute than the anti-tax argument.

The Legislature would be able to divert funds to anything, not just education. It’s a blank check for politicians with no oversight or accountability.”  Obviously,  we DO need to put more money into our educational programs because these people can’t read.

What part of “with the proceeds of the tax going to the State Distributive School Account to be apportioned among Nevada’s school districts and charter schools” isn’t comprehensible?  Granted the vocabulary is about at the 12th grade level, but this shouldn’t be an obstacle to people used to reading real estate contracts?   But, there’s more:

Increased costs would be passed on to your family. All of us would soon pay more for healthcare, food, clothing, gas, water, and housing.” Oh please!

All business expenses are passed along the economic food chain. They always have been.  Imagine becoming worked up into a lather because the price of cocoa has increased to a three year high?  Merciful Heavens, it’s up to $3,185 a ton.  [WSJ]  This cost will surely be passed along to candy bar consumers! Oh, the horror.  However, how much more might we be paying if employees had to find private education, or private security, or private fire protection services, or pay for toll roads… Get the picture?  At it’s core, the APPR argument says that any and all pass-along expenses are bad for us, without, of course, offering any substantiation for the assumption.  It’s more logical to argue that the economic benefits of better public educational services are at least commensurate with any pass-along expenses we might incur as consumers.   We do know from both statistical and experiential information that better schools = higher property values for homeowners; [DukeEdu]  just as better police and fire protection contribute to the value of residential property.

And, this leads us to wonder – why are real estate interests so dead set against a business margin tax increase?

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Filed under Nevada economy, Nevada politics, nevada taxation

Thinking Minimum and Waiting For Yes

The minimum wage in Nevada is $7.25 per hour if the employer sponsors group health insurance policies, or $8.25 if health insurance is not part of the compensation package.  This doesn’t mean a person will automatically receive those wages because some employers are taking advantage of loopholes in current statutes [LVRJ] There are other elements which are the subject of FAQs on the Labor Commissioner’s web site. 

However, the bottom line is still that the minimum wage in Nevada is not a living wage.  The point is driven home in the realm of fast food operations, and there is talk of a bill in the upcoming session of the state legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.   Because minimum wage levels are a topic inserted in the state constitution, the raise would have to pass in two sessions and go to the voters. [LVRJ]  The second important point is that Nevada job growth is showing in sectors which employ a high number of minimum wage workers – in the sector we are pleased to call “leisure and hospitality.”

Nevada Job Growth 2014

The median wage for a fast food cook in Nevada is $18,890 per year.  [DETR]  A counter attendant can expect median annual wages of $20,990. [DETR]   Now, look at the 2014 Federal poverty guidelines:

Federal Poverty lines 2014

Obviously, there’s ample evidence from the charts above to support the contention that if employers pay sub-living level wages, then the state and local governments must make up the difference in the form of social safety net programs. In short, the taxpayers are subsidizing the businesses. 

But, but, but…  Spare me the noble story of How I Started Mowing Lawns in the 7th Grade And Worked Up To….  Only about 7% of the low wage work force in this country is composed of teenagers.  This means 93% of low wage workers are adults.  Women make up about 60% of the low wage work force, and a growing number of low wage workers are men. [LWW]

But, but, butgranted that wages are low in retail and fast food sectors but this is insufficient to raise the minimum for everyone… yes, fast food work considered nationally makes up about 5% of low wage employment.  However, we’re forgetting about data entry operators, bank tellers, child care workers, teachers’ aides, home health care providers, maids, cooks, porters, cashiers, pharmacy assistants, parking lot attendants, ambulance drivers, dry-cleaning workers, hotel receptionists, and a plethora of other low wage occupations.   The median annual wage for a home health care provider is $26,170; for a bank teller $24,940; for a grocery cashier about $21,370.  None of these jobs would get a person with a family of four above the federal poverty line.

But, but, butif we raise the minimum wage that will actually destroy jobs… this bit of mythology has been around since time out of mind.  It’s purely theoretical, rising from the minds of well paid lobbyists from the United State Chamber of Commerce, and at least five academic studies have debunked it:

“A significant body of academic research has found that raising the minimum wage does not result in job losses even during hard economic times. There are at least five different academic studies focusing on increases to the minimum wage—including increases ranging from 7 percent to 12.3 percent made during periods of high unemployment—that find an increase in the minimum wage has no significant effect on employment levels. The results are likely because the boost in demand and reduction in turnover provided by a minimum wage counteracts the higher wage costs.

Similarly, a simple analysis of increases to the minimum wage on the state level, even during periods of state unemployment rates above 8 percent, shows that the minimum wage does not kill jobs. Indeed the states in our simple analysis had job growth slightly above the national average. [...]

All the studies came to the same conclusion—that raising the minimum wage had no effect on employment.” [emphasis in original] [TProg]

But, but, butthink of the Mom and Pop store… which we would except for the fact that 2/3rds of low wage workers don’t work at the corner bodega. 2/3rds of our low wage workers labor for large corporations.  For example, WalMart has seen profits grow by 23% since the Recession, Yum! Brands by 45%, and McDonalds by a hefty 130%, with help from U.S. taxpayers supporting their personnel.  [TP]  From the April 15th edition of Forbes we learn that WalMart workers cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $6.2 billion in public assistance.  One certainly wouldn’t want to disparage the efforts of the Walton’s to create a successful business – but on the other hand there’s no reason to give the ultra-rich family gifts from the taxpayers.  McDonald’s cost the U.S. taxpayers some $1.2 billion in public assistance. [HuffPo]  A billion here, a billion there, and soon, as the late Senator Everett Dirksen opined, it starts to add up to real money.  That would be real money Mom and Pop are paying in taxation to support their competition.

And then there’s the concept – repeated to the point of redundancy – that increasing wages increases aggregate demand, and increased demand produces increased sales, and increased sales yield increased profits – for any business, large or small.

We should be asking Nevada politicians who are out seeking our votes this season: Do you support raising the minimum wage in Nevada to $15.00 per hour?  If what comes back is a “No” qualified by the standard talking points – it’s just kids, or it’s just a few jobs, or it’ll kill employment – then the politician in question is simply regurgitating the corporate line, the big corporate line.  The big corporate lie.

We’re waiting for Yes.

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Filed under Economy, Nevada economy, Nevada politics

There were some weddings in Las Vegas

Rainbow Flag 2 Some couples got married in Las Vegas, NV yesterday, a headline which now joins “Dog bites man,” and “Spring Flowers Bloom” in the archives of conspicuous banality.   The question in Nevada shifted from “could it ever happen?” to “will it happen?” to “how come it has taken so long?”  [more from Ralston]

Conservatives who are still uncomfortable with the idea of letting a relatively small number of homosexual citizens in the state take on the joys and obligations of marriage may not take much comfort in the thought that part of their message over the last 30 years has been received:  Government should not intrude on our private lives.  And, when we’re talking about truly private matters – who can argue with that?

It’s never been a simple matter to claim religious authority in the public sphere.  It’s especially difficult in a country in which initial religious practice ranged from the Brownists in Plymouth – marriage was an invention of man without scriptural authority, to Catholics in Maryland – marriage was a sacrament. [CJPH]   However, it’s also never been a simple matter to avoid entangling religious beliefs and political ideologies – witness the Rovian formula welding Patriotism and Christianity for the benefit of the Republican Party.

The result has been a right wing conglomeration of the fiscal ultra-conservative (Grover Norquist) added to the religious ultra-conservative (Patriot Pastors) mixed with the military/financial interests (Koch Brothers, Wall Street).  At some point the seams start ripping.

Small But Not Too Small?

It’s impossible to have “small government” if the government is tasked with supervising individual sexual behaviors.  It’s impossible to have “small government” if the government is charged with executing statutes on family matters and women’s individual healthcare decisions.

It’s impossible to have “small government” while maintaining a military budget of at least $682 billion – as large as the combined military budgets of the next ten highest national budgets combined. [WaPo]  And, it’s impossible to have “small government” if we also want to secure fiscal and economic stability.  We tried ‘de-regulation’ and what we got was Enron and Lehman Brothers – and the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Now the frazzle shows up in the religious realm.  It’s now impossible to anchor a political ideology on a  floating buoy – public opinion has moved remarkably on same sex marriages in the last decade.  What was a useful wedge issue in 2004 has become something to avoid in 2014.  Witness the palaver over Blundermeister John Boehner’s decision to campaign on behalf of a gay Republican in California? [TDB]

No majority is ever permanent. No radical ideology is ever secure.

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Filed under Nevada politics, privacy, religion, Republicans, Rove

Laxalt Endorsed By Famous Person: Word Salad Shooter Version

Laxalt First Republican candidate for Attorney General, Adam Laxalt,  told me he wanted my vote because he’s a native Nevadan, “ready to serve,” making much of his stint in the U.S. Navy – thank you for your service sir.  BUT it escapes me exactly  how prosecution of terrorists in military courts  prepares a person for administering the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Consumer Complaints, Insurance Fraud, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Mortgage Fraud Unit, resolution of questions regarding the application of the Open Meeting Law, Worker’s Compensation Fraud, and Special Prosecutions.  Nor does this explain to me how Mr. Laxalt is ready to participate in the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice, the Attorney General’s Substance Abuse Working Group, the Committee on Domestic Violence, the Nevada Board of Examiners, the Nevada Council on Domestic Violence, the Nevada Information Technology Board, the Nevada Supreme Court Commission on Statewide Juvenile Justice Reform, and the Nevada Open Meeting Law Task Force.

And, then there’s that not so little matter of having some really dismal evaluations from one’s own law firm.  Rather than demonstrate he did not earn the sobriquet “Train Wreck,”  Mr. Laxalt is outraged his opponent could be the source of the leaked evaluations – which Mr. Miller is not.  That would be a denigration of Mr. Jon Ralston’s skills as an investigative journalist – Ralston got them, Ralston shared them. [NVProg]  Even a layman can figure out “promotion to counsel” doesn’t equate to “promotion to partner.”  There’s little left but the whining that Evil Doers have sabotaged his campaign?  Most of the time using the Victimization excuse  merely serves to remind voters that those who are good at making excuses are rarely good at much else.

“Adam is running for Attorney General to protect the safety of Nevada’s families, to preserve the liberty of Nevada’s citizens and businesses and to stand up for Nevadans against federal government overreach.” [Laxalt]

And for this he gets the endorsement of none other than the most infamous Word Salad Shooter the conservatives have to offer – Sarah Palin.

“While most of the focus leading into 2014 elections has been on the country’s life and death fight for our future with a conservative majority serving in the U.S. Senate, there are other offices we need to count on to put a stop to the liberal Obama agenda. In individual states, good Attorney Generals have led the legal fight against Obamacare, to protect religious liberties and states’ right, and to uphold other imperative core Constitutional principles. Here are four conservative Attorney General candidates I’m supporting. They will continue the fight for all of us!”

OK, sometimes I do get into “Comma Queen Mode,” but “death fight for our future with a conservative majority…” says to me the fight is with the conservative majority, which as a progressive is something with which I could agree.   This, in turn, reminds me that Mr. Laxalt told me he wanted to “stop Obamacare.”  Translation: Mr. Laxalt would like to repeal the health care insurance reforms enacted in the Affordable Care Act.

Seriously? He doesn’t want Nevadans to have any recourse if an insurance corporation rescinds a policy because the person made a legitimate mistake in the medical history portion of an application? Forgot you had measles in 1972?  He wants policies for women to automatically be more expensive than those for men?  He wants to kick the kids off family policies before age 25?  He wants to allow insurance companies to sell junk “life time limit” policies?  He wants to tell new entrepreneurs they can’t go to an insurance exchange (market) and pick out a policy from Anthem, Nevada Health Care Co-Op, Health Plan of Nevada, or Saint Mary’s [SSE] that fits his needs and finances?  Perhaps Mr. Laxalt hasn’t yet figured out that Obamacare isn’t a thing.  There’s are no government issued insurance policies.  There are only markets (state and federal) where people who do not have employer sponsored insurance policies can find affordable plans to purchase.   If candidate Laxalt hasn’t figured this out, perhaps there is a reason those evaluations weren’t stellar?

Speaking of families, there’s the gay marriage issue on which Mr. Laxalt has made his opposition clear, in spite of advice from Governor Sandoval and AG Masto.  There is something to be said for following the news:

“Case law over the last year and a half has completely turned our argument upside down,” Masto told the Reno Gazette-Journal on Tuesday. Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican and former federal judge, also said the state’s ban is “no longer defensible” in court and told the Gazette-Journal on Tuesday that he looked at the case “as a judge and a lawyer” and agrees with Masto.” [LVSun]

Indeed, the case law is changing, and in light of the recent refusal of the Supreme Court to take same sex marriage cases Mr. Laxalt continues to say he will “enforce the law” whatever that might be – a far cry from his adamant opposition to LGBT rights in 2010. [RGJ]  We might say, given Mr. Laxalt’s Navy experience, that that ship has sailed.

There’s one other arrow in Mr. Laxalt’s quiver – Tough On Crime – he wants to keep women and children safe – and who doesn’t?  However, Mr. Laxalt is not running for District Attorney.  Or Sheriff. Or applying to be Chief of Police. Or, even running for a state legislative seat wherein crimes are defined and penalties assigned.  He’s running to be an an administrator, and thus far his agenda is to fight anything Federal, fight anything that impinges on health insurance corporation profits, and fight anything that says members of the LGBT community should have equal rights.   For some this agenda will be adequate, even acceptable.  For others it’s an admission that he’s frozen in the politics of the past.

Indeed, those congealed into the Rovian politics of the Culture Wars will find our National Word Salad Shooter only too pleased to endorse them.  The remainder of the electorate may see only the candidate’s imploring brown eyes, seeking our votes, and looking for all the world like a young beagle trying desperately to comprehend house-breaking instructions.

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Filed under Nevada politics

Hutchison, Schools, and Reforms: A questionable mixture

Hutchison Mark Hutchison, Republican candidate for Lt. Governor has a message for public schools – and it’s not all that supportive. Yes, he wants more funding for schools, BUT there are some ropes attached:

“As for students, they should be able to read at grade level or higher by the time they’re in third grade.

For teachers, he said it should be easier to fire bad ones and hire those just out of college or in the “Teaching for America” program that sends the best and brightest to schools that need help.

And parents should be given a choice between sending their children to public schools of government-subsidized private schools to encourage competition.”  [LVRJ]

Read and Heed: Okay, having kids read at grade level is fine, and a worthy goal. However, perhaps the first thing we ought to note is that third grade isn’t the big hurdle. It’s the 4th one.  In most school curricula reading changes during the 4th grade. 

First grade is about the mechanics if you will, how to decode those printy things on the pages. Second grade is still pretty much reading for the sake of  knowing how to read.  And, two years isn’t all that long to introduce phonology (sound units), morphology (word formation), syntax (sentence structure), sematics (relationship between language and meaning), orthology (fancy name for spelling), and “pragmatics” (choosing the best word.)  [Ed.gov pdf]  We also know from the research that children have different vocabulary levels associated with socioeconomic levels, with youngsters from professional families coming to school with an average 1100 word oral vocabulary, those from working class families average about 700 words, and those coming from disadvantaged households having about 500 words. [Ed.gov pdf]

Third maintains and reinforces the flow.  Nevada tests little readers in the 3rd grade using passages about 300  to 500 words long, and measures things like knowledge of prefixes and suffixes, and reading comprehension items like “themes.” 

Then the scene changes, during the 4th grade it’s not just reading to understand the words being read, and the story being told;  it’s reading to learn.   Here comes the notorious 4th Grade Slump. Along with this, enter the Curriculum Debate, especially with the advocates of phonics and other mechanics of reading. Vocabulary development is crucial. “Understanding key words that support the main idea or theme and details that contribute shades of meaning further enhance comprehension to create a richer experience. This association is reflected in the results that show that on average students who performed well on the vocabulary questions also performed well in reading comprehension.”  [NAEP]

Now, think back to the numbers given above.  Some kids will start school with a vocabulary of 1100 words mastered, some will show up with a vocabulary half that – and then there are all the youngsters in between. So, what are we measuring in the 3rd grade?  This is the point at which we’d be better served by looking  locally rather than globally at the testing results. For example, which is a better question? (A) How well do Nevada children score on reading/vocabulary tests in comparison with children in other states? or (B) How much progress has Student X made in vocabulary development and reading skills from the end of the 1st grade to the end of the 3rd?

The answer to Question A is interesting, and informative for general policy discussions, but ultimately the answer to Question B is a better indicator of instructional success – especially as that 4th Grade Slump looms:

“Suddenly, it’s not good enough to simply sound out words. The child has to make sense of the context in ever more difficult textbooks. Whether or not he (or she) has the motivation, maturity or physical (including brain development) capacity to do that, teachers will now throw more and more sophisticated reading materials at him, along with expectations that he’ll do plenty of reading outside of school hours.” [Keen]

With this  information in mind,  we have to figure out what candidate Hutchison means by “reading at grade level.”  Does he mean that 100% of Nevada’s third graders will score 100% on CRT items covering spelling, common prefixes and suffixes, pragmatics, and vocabulary? Are they to score 100% on basic questions about content and theme?  100% from 100% is indeed laudable, if somewhat unrealistic – and is further from the subject of educational success if we take the view that basing educational policy on the test scores of 8 year olds is taking the easy way out.  The real test is how well the kids can do when faced with the transition from reading to read, and reading to understand short passages and stories, to reading for learning.

Undue Process:  For the 1000th time (or so) Nevada does NOT have teacher tenure.   Not sure about this? Read NRS chapter 391.  Now take a look at the teacher evaluation process; half based on test scores and half based on modeling good instructional practices. [LVSun]   It really isn’t all that hard to fire “bad” teachers.  Every teaching contract is for one year. The only safeguards teachers have is that after completing a probationary period they have access to due process if fired.  Here’s what makes it hard to fire “bad” teachers:

Bad administrators – the ones who don’t adequately document poor instructional techniques, poor classroom management, and inadequate preparation.  These are usually the first to complain that they “can’t” fire Mrs. Sludgepump because of the “union.”  They could, if they’d adequately documented Sludgepump’s slumbers at her desk, but since they didn’t do that the hearing isn’t going to have their desired outcome.   Or, we have the Fill in the Blank Administrator – the one who will hire absolutely anyone to teach almost anything just to get the position filled.  You get what you want, even if it’s not what you want.  Which brings us to Hutchison’s next recommendation.

“It ought to be easier to hire those just out of college or in the Teaching for America program.”

We might assume that Hutchison means anyone, with any degree, just out of college?

The Teach for America program assumes, almost as a point of reference, that currently trained professional teachers are failing, and that highly motivated top tier college students who complete a five week training program will ride in to save the day. Not quite, the internal numbers indicating success are “not up to the standard for research,” and in most cases show TFA personnel are “at least as effective” as non-TFA teachers. That’s a relatively low bar if the initial assumption is that non-TFA teachers are less competent or effective.   [Atlantic] [Rubenstein]

Since a leadership change in 2013 TFA is becoming ever more closely associated with “market based” educational reforms – such as those coming from the often debunked Michelle Rhee et. al.  [Ravitch] [Rubenstein]  Nothing says “Marching with Michelle Rhee” quite so clearly as  catch phrases about making it easier to hire untrained teachers, and ascribing Silver Bullet qualities to TFA, a route to the classroom which seeks to bypass licensing requirements and longer preparation programs.  

This isn’t to argue against those effective, dedicated, and successful TFA teachers out there, many of whom have made teaching a career choice rather than a 2 yr. stint.  However, there is evidence aplenty that teacher retention is more important in low income areas than in upper income level schools in terms of student achievement. [EdUtp] [AEFP pdf] [Harvard 2013 pdf] Interestingly, those TFA teachers who had more Education background or who held Education degrees were the ones most likely to stay in the field – probably a matter of both initial interest and preparation?

Ask one of those non-TFA professionals what improves instruction and most of them will offer answers falling into the categories of (1) lesson plan preparation, (2) classroom management and discipline, (3) continuous student evaluation, and (4) support from parents and administration.  Ask teachers what factors motivate them to stay and most responses will relate to administrative support, collegiality, appropriate in-service professional development, and  school culture. [Harvard 2013 pdf]  Notice that none of these elements  directly relate to norm-referenced or criterion-referenced testing.

And finally, we ought to ask why students at Harvard University have asked its president to cut ties with TFA?  Answer here.

In short, what Mr. Hutchison is proposing is little more than the platitudes of market based educational “reform,” and a preference for the “reforme du jour” Silver Bullet approach to educational improvements.

When Choice isn’t a Choice?  And then there’s the blatant give-away that Mr. Hutchison isn’t talking about supporting public schools at all. Not really.   Awaiting the next round of public school funding are those who would like nothing better than to get their mitts on the money.  Some of these organizations are relatively effective, some are demonstrably close to criminal.  CPD recently blew the lid off in an expose of “Fraud and Financial Mismanagement in Pennsylvania Charter Schools.”  No one wants to read something like the following conclusion:

“Charter school officials have defrauded at least $30 million intended for Pennsylvania school children since 1997. Yet every year virtually all of the state’s charter schools are found to be financially sound. While the state has complex, multi-layered systems of oversight of the charter system, this history of financial fraud makes it clear that these systems are not effectively detecting or preventing fraud.”

Then there’s Chicago’s dismal history of top down reform.  This doesn’t diminish the expectations of the budding “Charter Industry” whose formula is to use standardized testing to “prove” public schools are failing, then put these schools under unelected authorities and have the authorities replace the public schools with charters. [Nation]

“Thus, what “slum clearance” did for the real-estate industry in the 1960s and ’70s, high-stakes testing will do for the charter industry: wipe away large swaths of public schools, enabling private operators to grow not school by school, but twenty or thirty schools at a time.”  [Nation]

The Bottom Line

And there we have it. Mr. Hutchison’s version of Heaven on Earth:  Third graders who all read at grade level – whatever that might be – and however that might not relate to the development of skills necessary to get beyond the 4th grade slump;  Removing the right to due process when one’s livelihood is threatened; Hiring just about anyone to teach just about anything – ready or not, including from a program with controversial ties to the Market Based Reformers and Goldman Sachs; and Offering up more opportunities for educational entrepreneurs to profit at taxpayer’s expense.

Good enough reasons to support the candidacy of Lucy Flores.

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Filed under education, Nevada politics

SB 385 Cegavske’s Foray into Vote Suppression 2007 edition

Cegavske How can a person tell when a proposition is an effort at vote suppression?  Republicans across the country have offered, and in some unfortunate cases adopted, measures which they say will secure the “integrity of elections.”  There are several reasons why this should set off the BS Alarms.

#1. Because they’ve said so.  Bastion of ultra-conservative women’s subjugation advocate Phyllis Schlafly  who opined that early voting facilitates illegal votes – a term she left undefined – and for which she offered no proof whatsoever. [TDB 2013]  Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai told an audience in 2012 that Voter ID would deliver the Quaker State to Romney in 2012. [TPM 2012]  Pennsylvania GOP chairman Rob Gleason said after the election that voter ID helped to cut Obama’s margin by 5%.  [TNM] Former North Carolina GOP official Don Yelton lauded that state’s new restrictions as “going to kick Democrats in the butt.”   Current gubernatorial candidate in Texas, Greg Abbott, thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to have a GOP controlled legislature gerrymander districts and do so at the expense of Democrats. [TNM] South Carolina state Representative Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) passed out packets of peanuts with cards attached which read, “Stop Obama’s nutty agenda and support voter ID.”  The GOP chairman (2102) in the second largest Ohio county, Doug Preisse,  advocated cutting early voting hours in Democratic leaning counties and expanding them in Republican controlled areas, saying: “ I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African American – voter turnout machine.” [TNM]

#2. Because none of the vote suppression, gerrymandering, or access restriction suggestions have been paired with proposals to facilitate voter engagement.  For example, when Texas enacted its strict voter ID law someone forgot to mention that because of name changes in marriage some 66% of voting age women in the state might lack the proper identification to vote.  Did anyone think to suggest that along with the marriage license a county official might offer a voter registration form to the couple so SHE could revise her personal information?  Or, when divorce proceedings were finalized, and a name change was recorded, an official could offer the same form? Crickets.

North Carolina’s new voting restrictions forbid the use of a student ID for poll identification.  [BrennanCenter]  Did any North Carolina official propose that county clerks and voting registrars in locations where colleges and universities are located  increase their staffing such that registration and acceptable ID documents could be easily procured?  More crickets.

Indiana enacted strict ID provisions in the wake of voter fraud in absentee ballots – not voter impersonation fraud – in one county election.  Problems arise  for people who are natural born citizens but perhaps because of poverty have difficulty getting access to a birth certificate. [PRI] Did any Indiana official suggest at the time that a voting registrar could access other databases in Indiana and beyond, free of charge, for authentication of a voting registration application?  Crickets.

Wisconsin passed Act 23 in 2011 which requires a government issued ID before a person may cast a ballot.  Officials said they “fixed” the access problem by creating a free program from the state motor vehicle department so that people wouldn’t have to pay for the documents necessary to register. [Bloomberg]  Did any official in Wisconsin put forward a bill to expand the hours and the locations of DMV offices?  More crickets.

If a bill which restricts, impedes, or potentially suppresses a citizen’s right to vote, then if it’s not simply an exercise in partisan vote suppression it seems reasonable to conclude that provisions would be included to mitigate or remove the hurdles placed in front of otherwise eligible voters.

On The Home Front

And now we return to Nevada, and the campaign promise from candidate for Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske that she will insure the “integrity of elections.”  She took a shot at this before, in SB 385 in 2007.  SB 385* required photographic identification in the form of a driver’s license, an Armed Forces ID, a U.S. passport, a Native American tribal ID, or a voter registration card issued by a county clerk (at no charge.) Here we go again.

The DMV issue in Nevada has been the subject of numerous posts already, and there’s nothing free about getting a driver’s license in this state – the going price is $41.25.  The price for an ID issued by the Nevada DMV is $21.25 for those under 65, and $7.25 for those over 65.   [DMV]  If an individual in Nevada who uses public transportation, and hence doesn’t really need a driver’s license, wants to vote should the individual have to pay up to $41.25 for the ‘privilege?”  Poll tax anyone?

The U.S. passport provision in SB 385 was gratuitous immigrant bashing; my passport shows – me (in an unflattering photo), where I was born, and my birthday. That’s it. That’s all.  Mine happens to be a garden variety plain vanilla passport, and the little books cost $110.00.  The passport is no proof at all that I am a resident of Nevada, nor would it show I’m voting in the proper precinct, nor that I’m even eligible to vote in the election at interest.

It was all well and good to have the county clerks issue “free” IDs under the terms of SB 385, however the background costs for the most common ID (the driver’s license, DMV ID) aren’t anything close to free, nor would be the documentation required by the clerk or registrar.   For the moment let’s stick to the basics for the average person who wants a Nevada driver’s license.  The documentation which must be presented to the Nevada DMV is (1) a state issued birth certificate or (2) a valid unexpired passport.  What does a copy of a Nevada birth certificate cost?  That would be $20.oo if issued by the Nevada Office of Vital Statistics.  A birth certificate from California will cost $25.00, from Arizona $20.00; from Utah the going price is also $20.00.  Someone born in New York will have to fork over $30.00.  Massachusetts is a relative bargain at $18.00.

Under the terms of Cegavske’s SB 385, a county clerk would issue a “free” ID for voting purposes if the person comes to the office with “documentation showing the person’s date of birth,” (birth certificate price at least $20), and evidence the person is registered to vote, and documentation showing the person’s name and address.   There’s nothing ‘free’ about this whole process.

And now Barbara Cegavske’s campaigning to be the next Nevada Secretary of State, who doesn’t want to “suppress” anyone – that would be anyone who isn’t put off by the current prices for photo identification like the $41.25 for  the driver’s license, or the $110 for the passport, or the $20 for the birth certificate… and who can get to a DMV or voting registrar’s site during working hours…. that wasn’t quite the interest in “engagement” she was demonstrating in 2007.

Republicans across the country have already made it crystal clear that the purpose of voting restrictions is to restrict voting, especially voting while Democrat.  The only sop to the suggestion that SB 385 might be a form of poll tax was the inclusion of the free IDs from the county.  Nothing in the bill called for an extension of hours for the DMV to handle applications. Nothing in the bill called for additional DMV staffing to deal with applications. Nothing in the bill called for an increase in the number of DMV locations where ID’s could be obtained.   Nothing in the bill mitigated the potential costs of obtaining photo IDs for voting purposes. Nothing in the bill offered assistance to women who needed to update their personal information.  Nothing in the bill encouraged the university system to either provide appropriate IDs or make it easier for students to register.

Thus the BS Alarm should be going off at a decibel level sufficient to drown out  the engine of an F-22 Raptor (150dB).  The Republicans have made their intentions very clear, and when there are no suggestions for alleviating the inconveniences it merely serves to reinforce the contention that they mean to restrict voting by women, minority ethnic communities, and young people.   Period.

* SB 385 was cosponsored by Senators Cegavske, Beers, Heck, and Raggio.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Vote Suppression, Voting