Everywhere one looks there is increasing evidence of considerable pushback from the states and the people to the relentless and overbearing imposition of federal power in all aspects of daily life. This massive federal intervention is threatening our federal system, our solvency, our culture, and our way of life in ways that cannot at this point be estimated, and the most damaging aspect of it is the disregard for the rule of law (think GM bailout, mandatory health insurance, violation of mortgage contracts, mandates attached to “stimulus” bills, to name just a few). So the pushback from the states, taking various forms initiated by the state governors and attorneys general, is a healthy sign, and it is taking the form of what I am calling the “10th Amendment Campaign”, which is a big part of the sentiment fueling the Tea Party movement and the incumbent opposition building for the fall elections. It promises to get messy before it’s over, but Tom Paine would love it; bring it on!
It has been both amusing and instructive to watch the disintegrating nexus between the Democratic Party and one of its staunchest and most reliable constituencies, the teachers unions, over the reform of public education around the country. When liberal columnist Leonard Pitts can write this–”Enough. It is time teachers embraced accountability. Time parents, students and government did, too”–and when Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton are singing the same tune, you know that there is disarray in the anti-reform protectionist crowd. The growth of this phenomenon is being further confirmed by the emergence of a well-funded national organization named Democrats for Education Reform, the stated reform mission of which could have been written by the most aggressive reform advocates, such as yours truly. The reason? The Obama administration’s education initiatives have something to do with it, at least in terms of providing political “cover”, but the main reason is simply that the forces of the status quo have run out of excuses and the data on the failures of the antiquated system have become overwhelming. I don’t quite know where all this support from many of our erstwhile policy opponents will lead, but it’s encouraging and fun to watch.
Now at least there is a pathway to a resolution to the same-sex marriage issue. With the district court decision overturning California’s Proposition 8 prohibiting such marriages, the stage is set for a process almost certainly leading to the Supreme Court. Again, as I have noted any number of times, the judiciary has decided to impose its will to circumvent the democratic process, a habit that, beginning most notably with Roe v. Wade, has been the single most destructive element to civil discourse, coloring and often poisoning almost every area of deliberation of domestic policy. When will we ever pay due attention to the damage that has been done to our republican system by the imperial judiciary and the abdication of our elected officials? As for the institution of marriage, David Blankenhorn, lead witness for the defense of Proposition 8, said it best: Historically, marriage has been a child-centered social institution, and “same-sex marriage would accelerate the deinstitutionalization of marriage and weaken the family by mainstreaming alternative family forms”. And, make no mistake, these additional “forms” and their consequences would certainly follow.
Speaking of abdication, is there a better example of it than the continuing abject failure of the federal government to enforce its immigration laws? And the very idea of the President of Mexico standing before a joint session of the U. S. Congress castigating one of our states for attempting to protect its property and citizens while receiving a standing ovation from the majority party should be outrageous to every American. Hats off to Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona for carrying this judicial challenge to her state law forward on appeal and exposing the duplicity of this administration. Incidentally, I thought I might never hear it, but there are finally some voices among the loyal opposition suggesting a review of the “birthright citizenship” clause of the 14th Amendment. Nothing is more timely. Clearly, this clause was intended solely for freed slaves and there is absolutely no grounding in the thought that produced this amendment that justifies its application to the children of illegal aliens from whatever source. In fact, analysis by University of Texas law professor Lino Graglia leads him to conclude that Congress could end this birthright privilege on its own without constitutional impediment. I would be surprised if there are enough elected officials with the necessary courage to seriously pursue this debate, but we need to have it.
To the surprise of no one, Elena Kagan was easily confirmed by the Senate to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court and, despite her skimpy paper trail and absence of prior court experience, I suspect that she may be more of a catalyst than many expect. Beyond a reliable vote with the liberal wing, she appears to have the makings of a leader for the jurisprudence of the left, certainly more so than Stevens ever was. There is little doubt that she shares the expansive progressive ideology of President Obama and is a full 180 degree turn from Chief Justice Roberts, the latter point confirmed very easily by their diametrically opposed views expressed in the Citizens United free speech case in which she was Obama’s solicitor. No surprise there, either. But she is very bright and very articulate and this is still a closely divided court on all the wedge issues. And when one considers those issues that are almost surely headed for a Supreme Court showdown pretty soon–the health care bill, immigration, gay marriage, various issues related to the Commerce Clause, etc.–she could be a significant factor. Anthony Kennedy, tighten your chin strap.
Sometimes the moral ambiguity boggles the mind. It is difficult to believe the relatively casual reception on the part of the public of the recent WikiLeaks attack on the national security of the U. S. This was tantamount to an act of war, folks, and the only people I have noted who are willing to call it by its true name are Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal and Marc Thiessen of the American Enterprise Institute. Thiessen said it most forthrightly: “Let’s be clear–WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise. Its reason for existence is to obtain classified national security information and disseminate it as widely as possible, including to U. S. enemies.” At a minimum, this is a violation of the Espionage Act and is almost certainly material support for terrorism, and I would submit constitutes an act of war. This Assange character should be indicted and extradited to the U. S. post haste, with a warning that any nation that harbors him or fails to extradite is subject to the letter and the spirit of the Bush Doctrine.
David Brooks recently outlined his view of competing visions of economic growth and vitality. He named them the Moon Shot Approach and the Unleash America Approach, the former being of the “industrial policy” persuasion, with government induced and directed enabling of economic development through infrastructure, tax credits, and subsidies, and the latter being more a project driven by American entrepreneurial spirit as outlined by Arthur C. Brooks in his book, The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future. Surely it will surprise none of my regular readers that I strongly favor the latter approach, and no one currently in a meaningful policy-making position in public life has articulated this approach better than Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Those who believe that there are no alternative ideas being offered by Republicans should read at least the executive summary of Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future, initially introduced in 2008 and updated earlier this year to reflect new realities.
The three key objectives of the plan are (1) providing health and retirement security, (2) lifting the debt burden, and (3) promoting American job creation and competitiveness. Its main components are health care, Medicare, Social Security, tax reform, and job training, and the measures recommended are comprehensive, aggressive, transformative, and fact and data-driven. Each provision is represented by solid proposals and legislation vetted by the Congressional Budget Office. The beauty of it is that it represents a new vision for the role of government, a new legacy, if you will, one that we thought we were building in 1980 and 1994 before the wheels fell off.
The plan represents transformative leadership in the finest sense, but surprisingly, as reported recently by Bill Murchison in Townhall, many Republicans are avoiding it like the plague, believing a plan offering such a drastic change in the role of government in people’s lives to be politically risky and dangerous for electoral longevity. Evidently, many of Ryan’s colleagues wish that he would just “cool it” on all the aggressive reform talk. To these people, friend or foe, I say: you are not the solution; in fact, you are the problem. If you are not willing to follow such leadership, not willing to pursue meaningful transformational reforms, then don’t continue to seek office, step aside and, in particular, don’t seek a governing majority. You have already blown it too many times.
I have been asked by quite a few people lately about recent media reports on the Texas public school ratings and, in particular, the controversy over the “Texas Projection Measure” and its role in the recent significant improvement in the ratings. To explain this issue as concisely as possible, I can’t improve on the article below by my colleague, Andrew Erben, President of the Texas Institute for Education Reform (TIER), from the current issue of the TIER Capitol Report.
“The Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Texas Projection Measure (TPM) has drawn its share of controversy lately. But what is the TPM and what is it supposed to measure?
Before we get into that, let’s look at the recent history that led to the creation of the TPM. Since the state’s accountability system was created in the early 1990s, critics have pointed out that the system only measures the percentage of students that pass tests and gives no credit for improvement or academic growth. For example, take an immigrant student that enters a Texas school in the 5th grade but tests at the 1st-grade level in English. Even if the school helps the student to reach the 3rd-grade reading level by the end of the year (a two-year improvement), the school is penalized under the accountability system if that student fails the 5th-grade TAKS test.
To address this, the legislature instructed the TEA to adopt a “growth” measure. Ideally, this is a measure that looks at student improvement over time and gives credit for academic growth towards proficiency by the time the student graduates. In other words, the student is counted as passing if he or she is making enough academic progress to perform at grade level in the near future. This is referred to as a “growth-to-standard model”.
The TEA looked at several models before adopting the TPM. At the time, TIER suggested that the model address the following:
1. Base projections on student data from multiple years. Research indicates that multiple years of performance are required for validity and reliability.
2. Secure multiple independent validations of the growth measure by nationally-recognized test experts.
3. Adopt the TAKS Commended Level as the standard for showing a student is ready for postsecondary pursuits.
4. Pair a growth-to-standard model and a value-added model. This will allow schools to get credit for students meeting state standards, improving so that they are on track to meet state standards, or exceeding expectations.
Unfortunately, the TPM did not include all of these recommendations. Instead of predicting student achievement by looking at the student’s performance over time, the model takes a student’s test scores from a single year, and predicts future achievement based on how other students—who had similar test scores—performed on future tests.
While the TPM is advertised as an accurate forecaster over 90% of the time, this includes results from high-performing students (who are highly likely to pass the next test) and low-performing students (who are very likely to fail the next test). As a result, the accuracy rate for marginal students is quite a bit lower.
Criticism of the TPM reached a peak during a recent legislative hearing when Rep. Scott Hochberg pointed out that a student could get no questions correct on the writing portion of the TAKS and still be projected to pass writing based on his or her scores in other subjects. While this is an extreme example, it underscores the flaws with the TPM.
These flaws are important because the TPM projections were used to raise the 2009 accountability ratings of 331 school districts and 2,560 campuses. Of these, 79 districts and 358 campuses used TPM to move to a rating of “academically acceptable” and avoid sanctions that come with underperformance. In all, 61% of campuses were rated as “recognized” or “exemplary” under the TPM.
The good news is that the TEA has promised to either stop using the TPM or radically retool it. TIER and our partner organizations will continue to work with the TEA to develop growth-to-standard and value-added measures that accurately predict student growth and give credit for students who are moving toward postsecondary readiness.”
I hope this helps to clarify to some extent a very complicated issue. Unfortunately, shortly after this article was written, the TEA compounded the problem by releasing the 2010 school accountability ratings without any adjustment to the projection model, and the debate continues as to the adjustments to be made to this model in order that our school accountability system truly reflects the growth or lack thereof in the achievement of each student toward proficiency and college and career readiness.
To keep current on this and other Texas public education issues, visit www.texaseducationreform.org.