Day: March 2, 2011

Keeping Schools Out of the OR

  As Texas legislators and education officials are scrambling to find ways to reduce school spending, a few of the politically savvy ones are spinning the budget crisis as a means to “reinvent public education in Texas.” However, the cost-saving measures they are proposing are simply more strongly-worded versions of the same complaints we’ve heard from both sides for years. Administrators want to roll back the introduction of new achievement tests and reduce other costly requirements imposed on their districts by the state. Legislators want to cut the fat by slashing funding for expansive new programs like grants for full-day Pre-K. While the specifics might have changed slightly this time around, it largely remains the same old song and dance, just at a more frantic pace. To be sure, carefully evaluating new programs and unfunded mandates is a worthwhile exercise, but it is at best a cosmetic fix, given the huge hole we’re in now. Legislators and school leaders need to do some deeper thinking and truly reevaluate the structure of our public education system and the way we intervene with struggling students. One of the biggest drags on the school system that has yet to be mentioned in the midst of all this budget slashing is the problem of in-grade retention. One study estimated holding kids back a grade cost Texas roughly $1.7 billion a year, which is...

Read More

Getting Back to the BASICs of Climate Change

  Members of both chambers of the U.S. Congress are pushing bills that will dramatically slash what little funding the U.S. spends on climate change research and action. This includes major funding cuts for the EPA and other environmental initiatives across the States, as discussed in last week’s Baines Report. To this I say… So what? Yes, it is worrying that the United States, still the sole hegemon, is rapidly losing its hold on this position while its international reputation falters. No, I will not argue that climate change (alone) is the reason. However, if we are being honest, then we know that there is little hope that the United States, though try as it might, is going to be a real leader on climate. That is not to say that the United States is not a game changer. It is arguably the biggest game changer on climate issues. However, it’s time to face the facts that the world is continuing to address climate change without us. Over the past weekend, members of BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) met for the first time since the December 2010 climate talks in Cancún. For those new to the climate debate, BASIC is the most powerful and vocal bloc of the non-Annex I countries (Annex I countries are industrialized and transitioning economy countries … the big polluters). This informal group of emerging...

Read More