Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Made In China - Communistic Capitalism

I'm for free trade - but this is getting ridiculous.
Everything, and I mean everything, I see in the stores now is made in China.

Just as a matter of preference I avoid buying anything made in China because
1. I don't want to support a Communist government's economy and their slave labor practices and
2. I prefer to support businesses in the USA.

Unfortunately, because hardly anything is made here at home anymore this is difficult to do at best. But there are websites that support products Made in the USA and will point you to US businesses, here and here.

Needless to say the trade deficit we have with China is enormous. It was reported:
The department said the US deficit with China rose 15.4 percent last year to $232.5 billion, the largest imbalance ever recorded with a single trading partner. China's official trade figure concerning the US, usually much smaller, is not made public yet.
Additionally, the Chinese central bank, buys a great deal of Uncle Sam’s debt. Coupled with the trade deficit this is a cause of concern to many. Here's what one article says:
The trade imbalance with China places the United States in a potentially dangerous security situation. The outflow of U.S. dollars to China has enabled the Chinese to buy more and more government securities. This has given China tremendous leverage over the United States, since a quick sell-off of these securities would send interest rates spiraling up.

The Chinese of course are unlike to do this, not only because the U.S. government could retaliate by blocking Chinese imports, but because it would also have a negative impact on their economy. Low interest rates help Americans buy cheap credit, and it is in large part the use of credit that enables the United States to be such a rabid consumer of Chinese products.
Perhaps we ought to be more concerned with the USA racking up the amount of debt that it does in the first place. Our government spends like mad and then apparently just prints up more money to cover it.

Still one only has to look at the impact that the Shanghai market has on our own stock market to see that things can get dicey. Just yesterday we had a huge drop in our stock market precipitated by downward fluctuations in the Chinese market. It was the worst day of trading since 9/11 and the Dow fell 546.20, or 4.3 percent, to 12,086.06 before recovering some ground in the last hour of trading to close down 416.02.

Some say this trade is good for everyone involved. Here's a good article about this. Americans get cheap goods and the Chinese grow their economy and end some of their poverty (which no doubt Communism caused in the first place). I wonder why we ought to be helping them grow their economy anyway.. how much of their dollars will go into their military?
Cato Institute says we shouldn't worry.
Same thing from the Heritage Foundation.

Free trade is good - but I prefer to buy American and keep jobs at home and support our own economy.

The School Ate My Homework

Menlo Park Says Goodbye Homework
David Ackerman, principal of Oak Knoll Elementary School in Menlo Park wrote to parents at the start of the school year which in part said:

1. Schools have required more homework over the years.
2. Schools give homework because parents expect it, because they believe it indicates a rigorous program, it keep kids busy, and they believe that it is important to support the school. (The Hoover Digest cites those reasons)
3. Principal Ackerman believes this:
The preponderance of research clearly shows that homework for elementary students does not make a difference in student achievement. It is hard to believe that a strategy used so extensively has no foundation. Even the most ardent supporters of homework have only been able to produce evidence of associative rather than causal relationships. In addition, it is not surprising that there is no research that demonstrates that homework increases a child's level of understanding, improves their attitude towards school or inspires a love of learning. For a large number of students we know the opposite is true-- large amounts of homework stifle motivation, diminish a child's love of learning, turn reading into a chore, negatively affect the quality of family time, diminish creativity, and turn learning to drudgery.
Principal Ackerman doesn't believe that homework teaches our children responsibility. He feels that there are very few choices in homework and that kids only complete work that is required based on complying with adult demands. Ackerman says, "Comply or suffer the consequences. This is not my idea of responsibility."

Here is their policy:
- We will promote reading as the central aspect of our homework. Preferably, reading of the child's choice.
- We will not provide weekly homework packets that have not been differentiated based on individual student needs. Weekly packets help parents and students manage time. However, packets of this nature almost always include homework of which the child has demonstrated in class that he has absolutely no need to complete.
- At no time will homework exceed the district maximum time limits.
- We will not assign homework for homework's sake.
- Homework, other than reading, will be assigned when a specific need arises, when it's necessary to practice a skill or complete important work.
Oh my goodness! An educator that GETS IT!!! Can someone nominate him for educator of the year or something?

That was one of the reasons that we chose to homeschool. The school system was monopolizing my children's time as well as mine! Yes mine.. they were sending homework home for me to do! Isn't it sad that these kids spend all day in school only to come home to do 3 hours more? How would you feel coming home after a long day at work and then asked to do more work? Somehow it is just not fair, and it is so sad that our kids do not have time to discover themselves. And then they wonder why kids today stay up till all hours of the night on their IPods or computers socializing. When else do they have time to be themselves? What is even more tragic is the rush to give kids in lower grades homework. Pre-K and kindergarten kids are even getting saddled with homework! It seems to me that homework is also used to make up for the lack of teaching in the classroom now.

I am heartened to see the action of this principal and I am glad to see that there is a body of studies out there that show empirically that homework has no correlation to performance. More work doesn't translate to better - smarter more capable students. Look here and here and here.
National Public Radio (NPR) even did a segment. Listen here.

It's about time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Liberty Dollar

"There is no law that says goods and services must be paid for with Federal Reserve notes. Parties entering into a transaction can establish any medium of exchange that is agreed upon."

- Andrew Williams, a spokesman for the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C
I attended the New Hampshire Liberty Forum this past weekend and, my oh my, it was wonderful mingling among people who really understand the concept of liberty and actually know the laws that govern them.

One thing that I found out about and I'd like to share with you is an another type of currency that is minted in this country - not fiat currency - but actual money backed by real gold and silver. They are Liberty dollars. I even bought some. While at the conference people were using them and merchants were accepting them. There are establishments that take liberty dollars all around. The interesting thing is that you probably didn't know that another currency existed in this country. It's perfectly legal. In fact if you wanted to mint your own coinage you can. If people are willing to take your currency in exchange for goods and services then that's perfectly o.k.

It is a very interesting alternative to the Federal Reserve.

You know about the Federal Reserve right?

Listen to more of what Texas Congressman Ron Paul has to say about the Federal Reserve. He warns of currency collapse and the dangers of a fiat monetary system.

UPDATE: It looks like "the Fed" doesn't like competition. Don't they sound threatened in this piece? Fear not.. the Liberty coins are legal.

As the credit card commercial says: What's in YOUR wallet?

Monday, February 26, 2007

My Response To Governor Rell's Hartford Courant Editorial OR:

Yup - It Takes A School To Bankrupt A Village.
Governor Rell's editorial in the Courant today, explaining her tax hike, was really an insult to the taxpayers in this state. She talks about this bipartisan commission that she charged with the task of identifying better ways to distribute state funds for local education.

Governor Rell basically told them to go find ways to fix the morass of Education Cost Sharing calculations, which has become a bastardization of what was originally intended with regard to fair Education Cost Sharing. Rell's "commission" came out with their unsurprising recommendations in December: Tax and Spend.

So who exactly served on this commission? Mostly educrats and politicians who have a stake at getting more money into the education pie! People like the education commissioner and elected officials who have had their campaigns funded by teacher unions! Where were representatives of taxpayer groups on this commission? Where were people who represented independent think tanks who have studies to prove that throwing more money into education doesn't "fix" the problem of the so-called "achievement gap"? Where were experts from other states who have done a better job at spending less money and getting better results? No - the folks on this commission were the same old gang that just wants more and more and more out of CT taxpayers' pockets.

The ECS formula was enacted in 1988 to take effect on July 1, 1989. It was to be phased in over four years and be fully implemented in FY 1993-94. Since 1988, the General Assembly has adjusted the ECS formula or ECS grants in EVERY session. Most of the changes served to reduce the state's costs and, given fiscal constraints, to reallocate available state aid to different kinds of towns. Political pressures have caused lawmakers to tinker with the original formula so that one legislator's district could get more money than another's - and it basically favors large cities.

Legislators over the years have added caps, and adjustments and all kinds of calculations such that this formula is so unwieldy that no town ever seems to get it's fair share. The current Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula is horribly broken and needs to be scrapped, not given more money! A better and fairer means of providing money to municipalities, as well as satisfy Horton vs. Meskill, needs to be created and implemented. The proof is in that we not only have ECS, but an array of other grants and programs. It is a patchwork of inconsistent funding. We need to do a better job of identifying which education programs work and which don’t. We should reward schools that are improving, and drop funding for programs that don’t produce results.

Looking at my own town of West Hartford, that has been shorted $46 million dollars of ECS funding in the past 10 years alone! For every dollar that West Hartford sends to the state in taxes we receive twelve cents back, as compared to other municipalities that receive about $3.60 back! West Hartford ranks 144th out of 169 towns in education funding, and we only receive 76% of our total ECS entitlement; And they call this fair? Kids in Hartford schools cost $13,000 per pupil and you are telling us this is not enough? You are telling us that more money is going to fix their abysmal results? Surely you are joking!

I believe that the money we are currently throwing at education is quite sufficient if we would stop wasting it on inefficient programs and other expenditures. How about we get rid of the unions and binding arbitration that is choking our school systems? How about we get the school psychologists, school based health centers, specialists, and other non-teaching staff out of the schools and get back to focusing on teaching reading, writing and arithmetic to our children. How about we stop spending precious tax dollars on artificial turf and air conditioning for public schools, and instead spend them on academic programs designed to make our kids #1 again? How about we forget the 12 pages of unfunded state mandates on our school systems and let them have local control to do the things that they need to do in the best way they can determine to do them?

Why is nowhere to be found a plan to pare down costs, and make programs more efficient and effective?

Apparently Governor Rell and her "Commission" just want to make the pie bigger, and continue the "Robin Hood plan" of wealth redistribution, taking obscene amounts of money from the suburbs and give it to the cities who continue to waste it on ineffective programs.

Predictably, Rell, liberals and progressives believe that the only way to tackle our "education funding problems" is to have government raise taxes to fund massive expansions of early childhood programs and mandatory preschool, and redistributing wealth from rich to poor. They believe that society's ills can be fixed by government.

Have you stopped to ponder why the national Asian graduation rate higher than the rate for whites? Is it because more Asians are enrolled in preschool programs than whites? Do they receive better government programs than blacks? Perhaps the reason that so many winners of academic competitions have eastern Indian, Chinese, and Korean family names, is that staying in school, learning English, getting a job, and delaying pregnancy are high priorities in those cultures. It wasn't because government threw more money at them.

Here's some cold hard facts that this Commission should have considered, and most likely did not (thanks to Yankee Institute's FISCAL FOCUS, August 25, 2005, Government-School Spending in Connecticut -ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS ):
In recent decades, spending on Connecticut’s K-12 government-school system has exceeded both enrollment growth and increases in the Consumer Price Index.

Adjusted to the purchasing power of today’s dollars, the state spent $3.43 billion on elementary and secondary education in 1981. Twenty years later, that figure had more than doubled, to $7.15 billion.

Enrollment growth was less than 10 percent.

Connecticut spends more, per pupil, on is K-12 government-school system than 45 other states. Only New Jersey ($10,235), New York ($10,002), Vermont ($9,915), and Wyoming ($9,439) rank higher than Connecticut ($9,188.)

The Nutmeg State’s effort to “equalize” K-12 education spending is commonly referred to as the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) program. In the current fiscal year, it will spend approximately $1.6 billion.

Connecticut’s large cities receive, on average, $5,980 per pupil in ECS funding. Suburban towns receive $1,381 per pupil. Over half of large cities’ government-school spending is paid by state taxpayers. For suburban towns, the figure is less than 15 percent.

Teachers in Connecticut earn an average salary of $57,337, the highest among the states.

School-construction costs represent a substantial portion of the state’s highest-in-the-nation bonded indebtedness. In 2002, 46 percent of Connecticut’s general-obligation bonding was devoted to school construction.

The high-school dropout rate for Connecticut’s class of 2001 was approximately 30 percent.

Connecticut’s average combined SAT score is only slightly higher than the national average. Between 1988 and 2003, the state’s average combined SAT score was essentially flat, rising by 1.48 percent.

GOVERNMENT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES - Connecticut’s government colleges and universities cost 50 percent more to run, per pupil, than the national average. Among states, only Delaware’s system is more expensive.

Connecticut’s state-funded higher education system will spend over $2.3 billion in the current fiscal year. This does not include debt payments for the system’s building projects.

In 1999-2000, the most recent school year for which data are available, tuition and fees accounted for 18.8 percent of current-fund revenue for the state’s colleges and universities.

According to Connecticut Higher Education Commissioner Valerie F. Lewis, “fewer than half the students who start with us end up with a degree.” Over 60 percent of the Connecticut State University system’s freshmen do not earn their degrees within six years.

Almost 30 percent of the University of Connecticut’s students do not graduate in six years.

Talk about inefficiencies! And all Governor Rell wants to do is throw more money into this pit? If we are losing ground it is not because of a lack of funding!

But now let's take a look at the taxation side -

Connecticut's General Fund, has had a surplus in the past 3 years!
2004 $565 million surplus
2005 $777 million surplus
2006 $940 million surplus

CT residents are being overtaxed as it is ! And this is a result of what higher taxes has brought to our state:(Forbes, 8/16/06, The Best States For Business)

With 50 being the worst:
Connecticut ranks 43rd in the list of the Cost of Doing Business
Connecticut ranks 43rd in the list of Regulatory Environment for Business
Connecticut ranks 28th in Economic Climate (bottom half)
Connecticut ranks 23rd in growth prospects

So Governor Rell... can you please rethink this ? Would you perhaps consider putting together a commission of people who do not have a direct interest in obtaining more money for schools and instead put some people together who can look at this objectively? Can you please hear the voices of your citizens and business people who are suffering under the yoke of taxation? 3.4 billion more is NOT going to fix this problem, it will only line the pockets of administrators and expand their employment rolls. If you truly want to do what is best for the state and our future, then cut taxes and demand that schools streamline their operations and produce results.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Illegal Immigration: The Cost For School Districts

While we're on the subject of school budgets and taxes, take a look at this article.

With local school districts getting ready to unveil their proposed budgets for the 2007-2008 academic year, some are expressing worry over an issue that they believe is causing school taxes to rise - illegal immigration.

The problem is this: Schools are not allowed to consider whether a child is here legally or not. They are obligated to educate them, and it doesn't matter what the child's status is. It is purely a matter of the law and according to a 1982 US Supreme Court ruling, school districts are "prohibited from barring access to a student on the basis of legal status or alleged legal status". But this is costing taxpayer billions annually and taxpayers have had it. They are saying let's get real and put a dollar amount on this monster already:
"The first thing school districts should be allowed to do is find out exactly how many students are here illegally, and then find out how much that is costing taxpayers," said Medford resident Arthur Francis. "Once we know what kind of dollar figure we're looking at, then we can say to ourselves, 'Is it worth going to the Supreme Court?' If it's costing us a lot of money, and we have to go all the way to the Supreme Court, we should. Those coming here illegally shouldn't be a burden on taxpaying citizens to the extent where they are hurting our quality of life."
After all, kids here illegally are requiring ESL teachers, more classrooms and other resources. Parents, who are legal citizens or legal immigrants, are beginning to feel that they are not only paying more in taxes, but their own kids are getting short-changed in the end as a result of over-crowded schools and less resources available. Add to this the issue of giving illegal aliens in-state tuition breaks and it is easy to see why people have just about had it with the whole issue. Legislators better sit up and take notice; a full-fledged revolt may be in the wings.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Homeschoolers - Work and Real Life

One of the strengths of homeschooling is the flexibility one has with time. Our children have the fortune of pursuing their interests in a real genuine way. Unlike in government schools or preschools, young homeschoolers don't have a pretend kitchen, or a pretend post office for them to explore. We give them the real thing. They are out in the real world experiencing real situations, baking real pies and buying real stamps. This ideology also follows them as they grow up.

A few years back, I met with directors of the "school to work" programs, which were run through the CT State Department of Education. They said that most of today's teens do not have any concept of what their parents do all day, nor do they have any knowledge of what their family's finances are like. I find this very sad, and a true commentary on how disconnected, from the real world and their families, kids can become. Because of the artificial situations, or merely theoretical discussions kids are exposed to in school, they now find it necessary to train kids and institute job shadowing and internship programs, as part of their curriculum, in order to prepare kids for the workforce. That is the thrust of many "school to work", "school to career", or "work-based learning" programs which flourished in the late 90's and were based in our high schools. This popularly was known as "Outcome Based Education initiatives". In my opinion, preparing kids for a specific job, or training kids in a specific field or industry, should not be the thrust of K-12 public education, but that is a different topic to be written about.

Job shadowing is nothing new, and homeschoolers have been doing it for a long long time. How many homeschooled kids join their parents at work and experience a real work environment even early on in their life? I suspect the answer is many.

Homeschool parents who are lawyers take their kids to the office with them, and homeschool parents who have retail establishments have their kids help out in the store. The kids learn about dealing with the public, making change, and having real responsibility. This isn't an issue of child labor, it is an issue of exposing kids to what our lives are really like away from home and how the world really operates in a financial sense. Even if your work is done from the confines of your home, it counts for the same thing. It demonstrates first hand to our kids how business is transacted, and how it should be transacted. Public education's version is "Take your child to work" day, which actually grew out of "take your daughter to work" day because people wanted girls to know they weren't "doomed" to become housewives. Yet another aspect of government schooling's "worldview" which downplays the importance of family life. Being a housewife can be a very satisfying endeavor, and also serves an important function in society, but apparently the notion is that every women must be "more" than "just a housewife". But I digress, and that is also another topic to be discussed another day.

If you, as a homeschool parent, have not had an opportunity for your child to join you in your workplace, I am sure you have at least discussed what you do with them. Other opportunities for job shadowing like this exist in and around the community.

Job shadowing is different from volunteer work in the sense that with job shadowing you are working with someone else to learn how that job is done. This may be in preparation for you to be hired for that job at a later date. Volunteer work is described as working on a job for no pay, and usually it is done for the benefit of helping others as well as gaining some sense of community contribution. Job shadowing and volunteer work can be somewhat similar in that both situations help your child learn a job. Sometimes volunteer work can turn into a part-time or full-time paid position. Internships are somewhat different than job shadowing. Internships are positions that are available to advanced students in a field of study, which can be paid positions, which give supervised and practical training. Internships may be available for a specified time period, like during summer break or for a few months.

The concept of job shadowing and internship may be an outgrowth of the old guild practices. Guilds used to be organizations set up to manage business dealings in a particular trade. Each craft had it's own organization and rules for membership. Workers typically started by serving three to twelve years as an apprentice to a master craftsman. They received no wages, but food and housing and clothing were usually included in the deal. They learned the trade this way, and when they had finished their training they were then eligible to become a journeyman and receive wages. Journeymen were then allowed membership into the guild. The purpose of this brief history lesson is to illustrate that "on the job training" is nothing new. Our rules have become less strict over the years but the purpose is the same, to expose a person to the job and teach them how it is done. Learning by doing, and learning from a professional is the overall strategy.

If your child is interested in being a veterinarian, or an architect, you may be able to find someone you know who will allow your child to spend a few hours a week observing and helping in their office. Just ask around. You will be surprised how eager people will be to share their knowledge and accept a pair of extra hands in their office. My son has done internships with a state representative and also one for a radio station. Both were unpaid positions and they were both very valuable experiences for him. It is a great opportunity for your child to "try on" the job and see if they like it. Many kids may step into the office of a field they have been dreaming of only to find that it definitely isn't their cup of tea (or maybe it is!). This can save you and your child many headaches later on when they are deciding on a career. Can you imagine going through a few years of expensive college training and later finding out that they don't like the job after all? It has happened.

The fellow at the CT Department of Education mentioned to me some statistics about how many college students have no clue as to what they want to do, and their parents are upset because they are spending lots of money without a goal in mind. This is not to say people aren't allowed to change their mind, as to a career or field of study. However, if you are laying down thousands of tuition dollars, you at least should be at a college that will offer you the courses you need later on. Pursuing a pre-med degree is not going to be accomplished at a school for architecture. It is wise to think this through because many credits and time can be wasted transferring from one school to another once you decide what you want to do.

This is where the value of job shadowing and internship comes in. It gives your child a taste, early on, of what the job is going to be like on a day to day and very realistic basis. Don't forget something very important too. When your child does some volunteer work, job shadowing or an internship, make sure that they get some kind of letter of recommendation from the place of business. It can be addressed to "Whom I May Concern" and should outline what your child's duties, responsibilities and accomplishments were. It should be signed and dated and filed in a folder for you to use at a later date.

Homeschooling clearly has some definite advantages. In this case it is a truly holistic approach to demonstrate that life and work and the skills to navigate through life are all intertwined and learning happens everywhere, not just in a brick building in 45 minute intervals accompanied by Pavlovian bells.

For my kids, the world is their classroom.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Does Pre-Kindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance?

The short answer is NO.

There are literally scores of articles that have been written on the outcomes of preschool, especially as seen as a return on investment, or closing the achievement gap. Some cite incredible conclusions like pre-k students won't end up in jail, or that they make better citizens, or that they show more advanced brain scans, or that will have more successful lives. Studies are being skewed like mad to push this pre-k agenda, because there is HUGE money to be made. Quite frankly many are coming to the conclusion that it causes more harm than good for kids to be wrested from their homes earlier, or that it is causing young ones too much stress and makes them more aggressive, or that any gains made early on just dissipate later (the "fadeout effect"). Here is one in particular that caught my eye.

Using a new rich source of data, researchers Katherine Magnuson, Christopher Ruhm, and Jane Waldfogel conclude in their paper, "Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance?" (NBER Working Paper No. 10452) that early education does increase reading and mathematics skills at school entry, but it also boosts children’s classroom behavioral problems and reduces their self-control. Further, for most children the positive effects of pre-kindergarten on skills largely dissipate by the spring of first grade, although the negative behavioral effects continue. In the study, the authors take account of many factors affecting a child, including family background and neighborhood characteristics. These factors include race/ethnicity, age, health status at birth, height, weight, and gender, family income related to need, language spoken in the home, and so on.

Does preschool help some kids? Sure - for those kids who have unstable homes, or parents who are less than nurturing, it can be beneficial. No one disputes this. Kids need a safe, loving, and nurturing environment. But even Headstart has been coming under fire for being ineffective. One article reports this:
The naked truth is that one to two years after entering public school, children from Head Start programs score no differently on tests of academic achievement, social behavior, emotional adjustment and other measurable outcomes from their non-Head Start peers.
States who have been dumping more money into pre-k are already re-examining this strategy because they are not finding that the billions of dollars in investment in pre-k to be paying off. Pre-school initiatives are in fact falling short. What it is doing instead is causing stress in young kids and other problems.

But look at this piece of correspondence from CT:
CT State Senator Thomas Gaffey, who is also co-chair of the Education Committee, wrote a letter to Allen Taylor, Chairman of the State Board of Education, in August 2006 in which he complains that money spent on pre-k had not been worth the investment: He said this …..
I have spent some time analyzing standardized testing scores among Connecticut public schools over the last seven years, and I am alarmed with some of the results and trends which I have discovered. My greatest concern regards 4th grade CMT reading scores. The state of Connecticut has invested large amounts of money in programs specifically designed to improve reading scores among young students. The School Readiness Program and the Early Reading Success Program, born implemented in 1998, were meant to help children in unfavorable situations.
With, these programs in place, it was expected that the state of Connecticut, and especially its priority districts, would experience meaningful improvement in test scores. Instead, the anticipated upward trend has not occurred, and in many instances, reading scores amongst 4 graders have declined. From 2001-2004, the percentage of students on the statewide level achieving a reading score at or above the goal level declined from 57.9% to 52.8%. Moreover, certain poorer areas have also shown a downward trend in, test scores. In Hartford, the percentage of students at or above the goal level declined from 20.0% to 14.6% from 1999 to 2004. New Haven, East Hartford, and other priority districts have also experienced notable drops in scores over the same time period.

These results lead me to question the efficacy of the reading and school readiness programs put in place and monitored by the Department of Education. The State of Connecticut continues to spend large sums of money to improve education, and it is imperative that this money is spent in the most cost effective manner. Most important, the huge sums of public investment should yield positive results. The 2004 4th grade reading scores released March 28, 2005 (2004 Fall tests) are extremely disappointing.

Please provide a detailed response to the following to what measures have been implemented during the past two years regarding;
1.) How carefully has the Department monitored reading and school readiness programs in the priority schools districts;
2.) What standards of review does the Department utilize to ensure that these programs adhere to the highest quality standards (that are generally agreed upon as nationally accepted standards);
3.) What analysis is done annually to correlate the most efficacious reading and readiness programs to the best performing districts (on CMT’s) as compared to lower perforating district with similar socioeconomic demographics and what recommendation for program change is made by the Department to the lower performing districts;
4.) Staffing levels dedicated to these tasks and OPM budget requests made for staffing;
5.) What specific remedies the Department offers to address these declining scores and what programs, if any, have been implemented in the last few years?

I do not need to stress to you the importance of improving reading scores among today’s students. I am similarly concerned with the decline in the 4th grade math scores. While participation levels are up, that is no consolation for declining performance. I look forward to your response.
So if CT State Senator Gaffey states that the efficacy of spending more money on pre-k hasn’t worked here in CT why are legislators now looking to expand pre-k programs? I'll tell you why: It is because the only ones who stand to benefit from these programs are the teachers unions who will be growing their membership rolls by adding "certified pre-k" teachers to the public school employment machine. Taxpayers will dole out more money for more teachers, more benefits, more space in schools and more resources required.

From this article on the War on Toddlers:
Universal preschool will provide job security for teachers and education administrators and provide lucrative contracts for specialty interest groups such as curriculum providers, transportation providers, food service providers, construction companies that build schools, maintenance and custodial services, school psychologists, and drug companies. Drug companies? Yes! Preschoolers will be tested, and funding of preschools will be based on test results. What happens when a kid doesn't test well? A small child's inability to focus could be diagnosed as ADD. What will be the solution - Ritalin for 3-year-olds?
Instead of satisfying the teachers union by allowing pre-k to be subsumed into public education and adding to the NEA/CEA’s membership rosters we ought to really do some meaningful education reform to eliminate or fix the programs that do not work. We cannot merely throw more money at the problem and we certainly shouldn't be throwing younger kids into the mix. They ought to be concentrating on the kids who are in school instead of marching more into the door earlier.

More News on HPV, Merck Donations To Lobbyists, And CT's Public Health Committee Hearing

I attended the CT State Legislature's Public Health Committee meeting yesterday (02/21/07) regarding the bill HB 6977 which would mandate HPV vaccination of all girls before entering 6th grade. SB 86 was also on the docket. It looked to me like they will NOT be mandating the HPV vaccine here in CT - of course the session is not over until it is over.

First up to testify was James Hadler, who heads the CT Public Health Department's infectious disease division. He said that the experience with the vaccine is still limited and advised lawmakers to hold off before making the vaccine a requirement for school entry. He also said "Some vaccines have been shown to have unanticipated side effects when they go into wide use during the first year,". So clearly, even they aren't ready to rush into this.

There did seem to be many on the panel who were dead set against making it mandatory for various reasons. Members of the public health committee do not seem to keen on making this mandatory mostly because it is too new..and expensive.. and because HPV is not like an airborne illness like measles or mumps. Being that this is sexually transmitted, they didn't feel as if it had the same urgency, or even the requirements, to make it mandatory for school attendance.

They did however say that if it were ever to be made mandatory that they would have to rethink "opt out" options, such that this particular kind of vaccine should have some sort of parental consent or ability to opt out based on ethical reasons, not just religious or medical reasons. What was disconcerting to me was that despite really bad drugs like Vioxx being given clearance to come to the marketplace, some on the committee unfortunately still have faith in the FDA, the CDC, and the AMA, and still hold very high what these organizations have to say. I wonder if they have thought that they themselves (on the Public Health Committee) might ever be held liable for making drugs mandated that could be damaging to our children!!

Committee members have been getting tons of emails about this bill and the HPV vaccine (and people should continue to write to them!) which shows them the level of concern. Members seem to have been doing lots of reading on this issue. I personally testified at the hearing and I think I got some salient points across as well.

State Rep. Debra Lee Hovey, from Monroe, came out to testify in support of it, and no doubt will push to get it passed.. she is Treasurer of Women in Government. Some people have raised an eyebrow over this connection especially since Merck has bankrolled lobbying efforts through this organization. This article from CBS News just about shows the smoking gun in Texas.

While Merck may have backed off of their lobbying - the damage has been done - they still achieved their goal of getting these women legislators to submit proposed legislation nationally..and we'll have to wait and see what all these other states do. It has been rejected in Maryland, Utah and Michigan already. Texas is fighting the executive order that Gov. Rick Perry issued. People are furious that he by-passed his own legislature to mandate this vaccine.

As for here in CT - I hope that the bill dies in committee and my message remains: keep writing to your legislators.

Reason magazine offers another excellent article on this issue.

UPDATE: News article from the Hartford Courant is here.
The article brings out the controversy surrounding Rep. Hovey's affiliation with Women In Government, the group being bankrolled by Merck to push this legislation.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Decent Ruling By CT Supreme Court

The CT state Supreme Court boosted the CT state legislature's efforts in recent years to further criminalize sexual relations between school employees and students. The justices ruled that sexual acts between individuals who are situated in an inherently coercive relationship, such as the "teacher-student relationship" are not guaranteed the right of sexual privacy, and so Connecticut laws prohibiting such conduct don't infringe on one's constitutional "right to privacy".

It is good news that teachers taking advantage of their position of power over young impressionable teens can and will be punished for such obvious inappropriate behavior.

The fact that the two teachers are claiming that they did nothing wrong to their 16 year old students is pretty outrageous. Hiding behind privacy laws for the purpose of having sex with these kids is absolutely reprehensible. As for the students who claim they did not do something they didn't want to do... perhaps they ought to have some serious lessons in "good judgement". There are certainly more respectable ways to earn an "A".

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Just In: Merck Ceases Lobbying Efforts For HPV Vaccine !

NEWS ALERT ! - from the The Wall Street Journal Merck Suspends Campaign to Make Gardasil Vaccination Mandatory !!
February 20, 2007 4:52 p.m.
Merck & Co. said it would stop lobbying states to pass laws requiring that preteen girls be vaccinated against cervical cancer in the face of a growing backlash among parents, physicians and consumer advocates.

Merck's aggressive lobbying campaign was intended to boost sales of its Gardasil vaccine, which received Food and Drug Administration approval last year. Gardasil provides protection against two strains of the human papillomavirus that are thought to cause the majority of cervical-cancer cases.

But unlike a number of other diseases that U.S. schoolchildren are required to be vaccinated against, HPV isn't an airborne virus that can spread easily in a group setting. Rather, it is sexually transmitted. Gardasil also stands apart from other vaccines that are compulsory because of its high cost: $360 for a three-dose regimen.

In recent weeks, opposition to state mandates has grown among parents who want the freedom to make such a medical decision on their own and are worried about exposing their children to the unforeseen side effects of a new vaccine. Physicians and consumer advocates have also questioned the need to immunize young girls against a disease that is no longer very prevalent in the U.S. and doesn't develop until much later in life.

Merck's lobbying efforts have become a distraction from the company's goal of immunizing as many women as possible against cervical cancer, said Richard Haupt, Merck's executive director of medical affairs. Merck has "decided at this point not to lobby for school laws any further."
Now we just have to keep working to convince state legislators what a bad idea making this vaccine mandatory really is!

If you live in CT, you can still go to the public hearing tomorrow (see post below).

This news is all over the wires - Here's an additional piece from USA Today.

CT: HPV Mandatory Vaccine - Public Health Committee Hearing Tomorrow

On February 21 at 10: 00 A. M. there will be a public hearing in Room 1D at the CT Legislative Office Building in Hartford regarding HB 6977 the bill which will make the HPV vaccine mandatory for girls entering sixth grade here in CT. SB 86 is also on the docket.

If you live in CT please help stop this legislation by writing to legislators on the public health committee or planning to testify at the public hearing.

Public Health Committee contact:
Phone: 860-240-0560
Fax: 860-240-5306

If you haven't already, please read my first post about it and my second post about it.

Fat Tuesday - Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, the festival New Orleans, Louisiana, is famous for. "Mardi" is French for Tuesday and "Gras" is French for fat. It's a pre-Lenten festival celebrated in Roman Catholic countries and communities and has its origin in pre-Christian spring fertility rites. Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday occurs the day before the fast of Lent begins and is celebrated by the French as the last of the three days of Shrovetide. Mardi Gras is considered the last opportunity for merrymaking and indulgence in food and drink before Lent and it is generally celebrated for one full week before Lent. There are elaborate parades featuring floats, pageants, outlandish costumes, masked balls, and people dancing in the streets. The parties and parades will continue until Lent begins at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday.

Mardi Gras is a legal holiday in New Orleans. It occurs 46 days before Easter. Since the actual date Easter occurs on changes yearly, Mardi Gras can happen on any Tuesday between February 3 and March 9.

The first American Mardi Gras was celebrated near modern-day New Orleans on March 3, 1699. Apparently, this year everyone is back to pack the streets and watch the parades and join in the revelry in New Orleans, even after the devastation that Katrina caused.

The official colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold (representing justice, faith and power).

So as they say in N'Orleans - Let The Good Times Roll!

Hmmm.. Can I give up paying higher taxes in CT for Lent? (probably not)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dear Presidents: A Very Merry UnBirthday To You!

Presidents Day? It's not Washington or Lincoln's birthday today! And there really is no statutory federal designation or holiday called "Presidents Day". But, the malls are having great sales, schools are closed and federal employees have the day off. Let me explain.

Up until 1971, February 22 was observed as a federal holiday to honor the birthday of George Washington. People used that day to remember a great man, and celebrate. Washington's Birthday was the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, and was was celebrated on Washington's actual birthday according to the Gregorian calendar. It was originally implemented by the federal government in 1880 in the District of Columbia and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices.

Lincoln's birthday was never made a federal holiday, however it is a legal holiday in the U.S. state of Illinois and in some other states. It is observed on the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth on February 12, 1809. Again, this to is to pay homage to one of our important leaders.

In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill of 1968 was enacted. It was legislation designed to give federal employees more three day weekends. In the case of what is called "Presidents Day"; Washington's birthday is still celebrated, but not now always on his actual birthday, and since Lincoln's birthday was nearby on the calendar, many took the opportunity to combine the two and just call the federal Monday holiday in honor of Washington's birthday in February, "Presidents Day". This of course, has worked quite well for retailers, and now we are used to thinking, that this holiday was meant to honor all presidents. According to federal Statute, that really wasn't the case.
There are lots of urban legends out there about this holiday, but the truth is that it really still is the celebration of Washington's birthday and has morphed into "Presidents Day" by popular observance, mostly pushed by retailers. The mythology of Presidents Day being a celebration of all presidents, is also unfortunately taught to our kids in school. I am sure they have absolutely no idea what the real meaning of this day off is all about.

Read the actual statute..
TITLE 5 > PART III > Subpart E > CHAPTER 61 > SUBCHAPTER I > § 6103
The following are legal public holidays:
New Year’s Day, January 1.
Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the third Monday in January.
Washington’s Birthday, the third Monday in February.
Memorial Day, the last Monday in May.
Independence Day, July 4.
Labor Day, the first Monday in September.
Columbus Day, the second Monday in October.
Veterans Day, November 11.
Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November.
Christmas Day, December 25.

An explanation of Federal Statute regarding holidays says this:
1968—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 90–363 added Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, to the enumerated legal public holidays, and substituted provisions that Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day are to be celebrated on the third Monday in February, the last Monday in May, and the fourth Monday in October, respectively, for provisions that the above mentioned public holidays are to be celebrated on February 22, May 30, and November 11, respectively.
So happy Washington's un-birthday and I hope that you enjoy the day just the same. The White House offers a good resource for presidential information, and here is another from Presidential Factfile.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

CT- More Tax Revolt !

Radio Free West Hartford has initiated some Tax Revolt tools that you can use. Read the editorials and news items and then please contact your CT legislators today! Let them know that you don't want the income tax raised by 10% with spending also going up 11.4 %.

Phone Numbers
- GOV. M. JODI RELL - (800) 406-1527
- HOUSE REPUBLICANS - (800) 842-1423
- HOUSE DEMOCRATS - (800) 842-1902
- SENATE REPUBLICANS - (800) 842-1421
- SENATE DEMOCRATS - (800) 842-1420

E-mail Addresses:

CT House Democrats

CT House Republicans

CT Senate Democrats

CT Senate Republicans

Don't forget to send a "teabag" greeting as well.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Welcome A New Blog ! The Capitalist League

The Capitalist League.
First post:
We believe that capitalism is the best form of economic organization. In a nutshell, capitalism is the distribution of resources by private means, with individuals deciding how, when and with whom to trade. The great power of capitalism is that it turns our desire for self-improvement from a greedy vice into a force for production. The harder we work, the greater the reward. And as we work, we increase the standard of living for everyone else. We start industries that employ people. We invent new products, like penicillin, the washing machine, and indoor plumbing. Our activities are made more efficient, giving us more time for leisure, enterprise, and intellectual pursuits. We develop new ideas and new philosophies, art and music, and culture. And our prosperity shines as an example to others, lighting the path to freedom and happiness. Hence our motto "Freedom, Progress and Happiness through Capitalism." This site is dedicated to the advancement of Capitalist principles and ideals.
Read more from this wonderful and intelligent Boston University graduate. Go Terriers!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Dear Mom and Dad: I'm Not Going To College

Your homeschooled highschooler (or even your government/public or private schooler) may announce one day that he has no intentions of attending college. Should you panic? I think the short answer is NO. If anything, you may rejoice at the amount of money you may save in college costs. Kids change their minds and majors regarding career several times in college, and in fact unless they have a clear view of what it is college will accomplish for them, it most likely will be wasted time.

Many people delay college for that very reason. They want to have some time to figure out what it is they really want to do. Statistics may prove out that kids with college degrees make more money in the long run and may get better jobs or have an advantage over others. The plain fact is that nowadays college is quite an expense and quite an investment. Your child may be saddled with thousands of dollars of loans payable soon after college graduation. While there are no guarantees, you at least want to be sure that you'll have the credentials to get you a job that will help pay that off.

If your child decides that they don't want to attend a college they should have a plan in their pocket about what they are planning on doing. Perhaps attending a trade school or doing an apprenticeship is an option. Some kids who have had some really great ideas and a bit of ingenuity have even gone into business for themselves. I have known a few people over the years who began working right away and eventually attended and completed college with financial help derived from the benefits of their job. There is no law that says you must go right into college when you finish high school. For most people, getting college out of the way, right away, is the tactic, and for others getting experience by working is another.

There are many famous and successful people who either never went to college, or went a year or two and then dropped out. Some people attend colleges years, and even decades, later after they finished high school. The Internet provides lists of famous people who even dropped out of elementary school!

Now don't get me wrong, I am not advocating not pursuing a college degree or furthering your education, but what I am saying is that there are other paths to success, and if you have the drive and ambition to do something in life then you certainly can be successful. Just look around and see the number of people who have worked very hard to get a degree, like an MBA, and see that it has not gotten them an automatic job. Many are waiting tables. So sometimes it might be worthwhile to get into the job market right away and perhaps consider college when you are more ready and have a clear idea of what you will do with that college degree.

What you really ought to be thinking about is your overall goals. Realize that there are many ways to achieve them and college is a means to an end in that respect. Life offers us many opportunities, and some pop up out of nowhere. The path to reach your goals may not be entirely clear, nor will you always stay on course and sometimes you will have to be flexible and meet some challenges, but isn't that part of what makes the future so interesting?

Just Passing This Along - Re: Zyprexa

As I always say: "Caveat Emptor"
It is important to be an informed consumer especially when it comes to our health.
Medical Science has given us lots of wonderful things which have made our lives better.
There are of course good products in our pharmacies and there are also some pretty questionable products lurking there as well.
Our doctors are not gods and they do not know everything.
They certainly may mean well, but I believe a lot of information is lacking from them to the average consumer of medication.
They merely pass along what the drug company marketing reps tell them.
But things are not as simple as. "take this pill, and by the way there may be some side effects". Sometimes those side effects can be devastating and irreversible.

What I object to most is that our population is beginning to be the guinea pig laboratory for too many products coming out of Big Pharma, and the FDC is not doing the job that it was meant to do, especially when it comes to drugs. We wouldn't have disasters like Vioxx if they did.

Regarding Zyprexa, a drug that is supposed to treat "mental illnesses", I believe there are some things that people ought to know. I came across these websites and thought that I'd share them with you.

So I am exercising my freedom of speech and freedom of the press and providing links to a few websites if you are interested. There was an attempt to block the sharing of this information. There are many other websites with this information out on the Internet as well. Read on if you are interested in following up on the article that was in the New York Times: "Lilly Settles With 18,000 Over Zyprexa" (Jan 5, 2007), which reported on the ongoing product liability lawsuit against Eli Lilly regarding Zyprexa.

Furious Seasons - has some documents and links regarding the fact that Eli Lilly knew the drug caused weight gain and diabetes.

Zyprexa Kills - has more information on the facts behind this medication

Mind Freedom
- They write about how making information regarding Zyprexa is an expression of their right to free speech. They are actively warning consumers.

Important article by Evelyn Pringle, Zyprexa Injury Clock Keeps Ticking Away.

Alliance of Human Research Blogsite also has some great posts on the issue.

If you live in Connecticut, below is the contact in the CT Attorney General's office who you can contact to report adverse effects of psychiatric drugs which you, or your children, or anyone else in your family have experienced.

Assistant Attorney General Charles Hulin
He can be reached at 860-808-5355.
His address is 55 Elm Street PO Box 120 Hartford CT 06141-1020.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

CT Legislators and Attorney General Aiding And Abetting Illegal Aliens

After the illegal alien gets his credit card from Bank of America, he'll be able to pay a reduced rate (subsidized by taxpayers in this state) to attend college! It really pays to be illegal here in CT!

Subsidizing lawbreakers, now there's a concept! Can you believe that our Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, supports it? What's wrong with THAT picture? Fancy that! We have an AG that supports illegal activities! "Regardless, Blumenthal said, the price would be fully justified, calling it an investment that will repay itself many times over." Yup - it's an investment for him all right.. those folks will most likely be illegally voting for him in the next election too!

Maybe our legislators would like taxpayers to pay for their Spring break trip to Fort Lauderdale as well? I think we have had enough of the stories where $140,000 in free tuition was given courtesy of the Connecticut taxpayer in order to send one illegal alien to college (that story came out of DCF ). Gee whiz, I sure wish all my kids had to pay was $500 a semester!

A bill (HB5329) before the CT state legislature requires illegal alien students to have attended two years of high school in state and to have graduated from an in-state school. To get in-state tuition, those students must file an affidavit with the school they will attend stating they have applied for legal immigration status or will apply if they become eligible. Yeah, and who pray tell, will be checking up to see if they have lived up to their promise? Their parents ought to be forced to file for citizenship as well.

There's another bill (HB5656) which seeks to require the Department of Children and Families to provide college tuition and costs to "undocumented immigrants" (excuse me they are illegal aliens) who are committed to the care and custody of the Department of Children and Families in an amount equivalent to the in-state tuition and costs associated with attending The University of Connecticut. Unbelievable! So kids here illegally and under DCF custody get a free ride! This is precisely one of the reasons why our taxes are increasing again. I am struggling to pay for my kids to go to school, and on top of that I am paying for some illegal alien too!

Supporters say that "every child deserves the chance to go to college" and "we shouldn't penalize children for the decisions of their parents." I am sorry, but
when people decide that our laws don't mean a rat's tail to them, and they jump the fence to get here, then they don't deserve anything, especially my tax dollar. What this amounts to is rewarding law breakers with cheaper college educations while my family struggles to pay taxes AND send our own kids to college. Why should I subsidize these kids' college tuition? If their parents came here illegally, they say it isn't their fault. Well I don't see these kids lining up to be citizens of this country .. do you? I don't care if they are class valedictorian in their high school, they and their family have broken the law. Why should they be above the law? Because they are nice and well spoken? Because we should feel sorry for them? No dice.. I don't wish to reward law breakers.

Legislators are choosing to ignore the word illegal when attached to the word alien, and allow the taxpayer to foot the bill for any and all expenses incurred by people who are obviously and clearly breaking Federal law. Additionally they are intentionally confusing illegal immigration with legal immigration to say that anyone who questions "helping" illegals are anti-immigrant, which is the furthest from the truth. Attaching the euphemistic term "undocumented" to purposeful lawbreakers does not make the reality of their breaking the law any less true.

And pardon me, but you cannot compare our parents and grandparents immigration with the invasion that has been happening on our borders, and to do so is absolutely outrageous, historically incorrect, and incredibly insulting to any immigrant who came here legally. This is a slap in the face to every naturalized citizen in this country. It is a slap in the face to the taxpayer, and it is a clarion call for more illegals to come to CT.

Oh and by the way, as I understand Federal law, if you give illegal aliens in-state tuition breaks you have to give the same breaks to everyone!

Connecticut - Estimated number of illegal immigrants

1990 - 20,000
2004 - 80,000

increase of 300%

The state is home to an estimated 0.8% of the country's illegal immigrants.

Research by the non-profit Pew Hispanic center
US illegal immigrants
3.5 million - 1990
10 million today

Here's another article.

Bank of America Aiding and Abetting Illegal Aliens

According to Money News, Bank of America has started offering credit cards to customers without Social Security numbers or credit history, i.e. illegal aliens.

Apparently customers can qualify for a credit card if they have had a checking account at the bank for at least three months without an overdraft, and they are required to leave a deposit and pay a relatively high interest rate. Looks like they are taking advantage of those people living under the radar, eh? That in itself is unethical to me. Never mind aiding and abetting criminal activity; i.e. being here illegally. How banks could be allowed to issue bank accounts to illegals in the first place is another one I can't understand. Do they really need the business that badly?

Bank of America says it will help undocumented workers build good credit. They don't need good credit - they need to be deported for crying out loud!!! They are breaking the law. I don't believe that one of this country's largest financial institutions should be helping people who violate our country's immigration laws!!

But we all know money is the driver here, and they see $$$$ in people who are here illegally.

I think the federal government ought to fine Bank of America big time. They are no different than other businesses that hire illegal aliens under the table. But then again we all know that the underlying reason why our borders are not being protected is because we are truly headed towards becoming the North American Union. It'll happen unless we stop it; unless we say no to businesses like BoA, and unless we support candidates like Ron Paul who are against the destruction of our sovereignty.

I am urging everyone to cancel their Bank of America credit cards and bank accounts and vote with their feet. Call BoA's customer service lines and tell them you disapprove of them aiding and abetting those who are here illegally. Undocumented immigrants is just a nice little euphemism ... they are lawbreakers pure and simple.

And for the record, I am not anti-immigrant.. I am anti ILLEGAL immigrant. They can follow the laws and stand in line like my family did.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kenosha Wisconsin Crushes TeenScreen !

Kenosha Unified School District has decided to pull TeenScreen from the agenda and will no longer be considering this program. A full press release is expected tomorrow. Many thanks to Kenosha Parent's Union (KPU) members, school board members, friends and family, the daily Kenoshan, and of course Lenny Palmer, Wisconsin radio show host who has been an avid opponent of TeenScreen from the start and who has been blasting TeenScreen almost daily, and Lisa Loring, a caring mother, reporter, investigator and the driving force behind the TeenScreen opposition in Kenosha!!!

Lenny Palmer is the radio show host for AM 1050 WLIP 8am - 11am "The only radio program devoted exclusively to issues that matter to Kenosha. Lenny puts his unique spin on local and national events and takes on callers who often disagree with his entertaining point of view. "Lenny!" Is the only program devoted exclusively to the issues that matter to 'Kenoshans'."

19,251 Total Signatures on the petition

CT - Tax Revolt !!

Welcome to the Tea Party!
Brad Davis on WDRC is helping spearhead a tax revolt in CT. Governor Rell's new budget features a hike in the income tax in CT and people are pretty angry about it. (See previous post)

from the Journal Inquirer:
She (Gov. Rell) proposes that the personal income tax rate should rise half a percent across the board over two years.

The maximum 5 percent rate would climb to 5.25 percent in the first year and to 5.5 percent in the second.

Half a percent doesn't sound that bad. Especially for all Rell wants to do.

But here are the scary numbers: Spending will increase 6.7 percent in the first year of the budget and 4.7 percent in the second year.

Again, we have a disconnect. Taxes are going up 10 percent. But spending is going up 11.4 percent. Rell exceeds the constitutional spending cap but says she respects it and will uphold it.

Our government is growing faster than our capacity to pay for it.
Well CT, if you feel so inclined write your legislators and send them a copy of the teabag (shown above or on WDRC's webpage) in your email or in a letter to them. Let them know how you feel about the attempt to take more money out of your paycheck!

Oh and don't forget to stop by this blog: CT Taxed

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wishing you all a Happy Valentine's Day!

For my crafty Homeschool friends: VALENTINE CARDS

Verses and Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, when lovers said or sang their valentines. Written valentines began to appear after 1400. The oldest "valentine" in existence was made in the 1400's and is in the British Museum.

Paper valentines were exchanged in Europe where they were given in place of valentine gifts. Paper valentines were especially popular in England. Early valentines were made by hand and were made with colored paper, watercolors, and colored inks.

There were many different types of handmade valentines, including:

Acrostic Valentines - These had verses in which the first lines spelled out the loved one's name.

Cutout Valentines - Valentines made by folding the paper several times and then cutting out a lace-like design using small, sharp, pointed scissors.

Pinprick Valentines - These were made by pricking tiny holes in a paper with a pin or needle. It created a look of lace.

Theorem or Poonah Valentines - These Valentines had designs that were painted through a stencil cut in oil paper. It was a style that came from the Orient.

Rebus Valentines - This had verses in which tiny pictures took the place of some of the words. For Example, An eye might replace the word 'I'.

Puzzle Purse Valentines - This was a folded puzzle to read and refold, and among their many folds were verses that had to be read in a certain order.

Fraktur Valentines - These valentines had ornamental lettering in the style of illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

Enjoy the day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Engineering Marvel Or Colossal Eyesore ?

Extending out over the Grand Canyon almost a mile above the Colorado River, there is a massive, multimillion-dollar glass walkway that will soon open to tourist business. This cantilevered structure, called the Skywalk, opens to the public next month. It is buttressed by 1 million pounds of steel and supports 90 tons of tempered glass serving as a see-through deck giving visitors a breathtaking view of the canyon. Skywalk will be the most conspicuous commercial structure in the Grand Canyon. It was the brainchild of the Hualapai, a struggling Indian tribe, who plan to lure tourists to its remote reservation. Skywalk kicks off the 9,000-acre development, known as Grand Canyon West, that will open up a long-inaccessible 100-mile stretch of countryside along the canyon's South Rim. The cost of the Skywalk alone will exceed $40 million.

Critics say that the Skywalk and related development will only add to the commercialization that has detracted from the experience of nature in the national park.

Well, I think it's pretty cool.. pretty scary.. and well, some development if done right can be a good thing. I've been to some of our National Parks, and I have to tell you that while the sights are breathtaking the parks can appear fairly run down in spots and in need of some sprucing up. This development can significantly help this tribe, so this can really be a great thing for them.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The American College of Pediatricians Opposed To Legislation Making HPV Vaccination Mandatory!

The American College of Pediatricians is opposed to any legislation which would require HPV vaccination for school attendance.

I was glad to see that the American College of Pediatricians dug deep into the studies and are not jumping on the bandwagon of pushing this vaccine for Merck. They take a conservative well reasoned approach which takes into consideration the overall family perspective on the issue. They are also very sensitive to parental rights. Human papillomavirus (HPV), is a sexually transmitted virus which is believed to cause cervical cancer.

They say this:
The American College of Pediatricians is opposed to any legislation which would require HPV vaccination for school attendance. Excluding children from school for refusal to be vaccinated for a disease spread only by penetrating vaginal intercourse is a serious, precedent-setting action that trespasses on the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children as well as on the rights of the children to attend school.
They also say this:
Despite encouraging results in prelicensure studies, research definitively establishing the duration of HPV vaccine protection, degree of protection and spectrum of side effects remain to be determined.
This legislation is being pushed hard by Merck, the makers of Gardisil, who stand to make billions on the sale of this vaccine if it is made mandatory in schools across the country. They are lobbying through the organization Women In Government, who has received funding from Merck.

On February 14 there will be a public hearing at the CT Legislative Office Building in Hartford regarding HB 6977 the bill which will make the HPV vaccine mandatory for girls entering sixth grade here in CT.

If you live in CT please help stop this legislation by writing to legislators on the public health committee or planning to testify at the public hearing.

If you haven't already, please read my previous post.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

CT Homeschoolers In The New York Times - A Report on Homeschool Co-ops

Several of my friends and colleagues are mentioned in this piece about homeschool co-ops. Deborah Stevenson, of NHELD, was grossly misquoted. In fact, Ms. Stevenson was on the phone for about an hour with this reporter and did not say what this reporter said she said! She spent quite a while explaining to her what the law was here in CT. Ms. Stevenson didn't call co-ops a "great new idea"...She told her it's nothing new...that people have been getting together for classes or group activities from the beginning...She told her only the name "co-op" is new. Additionally, Ms. Stevenson was not challenged by the state for homeschooling her kids. Ms. Connors, of CTCHEER, contacted me to say that she was also misquoted. So much for truth in journalism.

State Educrat, Thomas Murphy, continues to give out false information, because we are NOT REQUIRED to give the superintendent of the school notification when we decide to homeschool. Parents may CHOOSE to give that notification, but it is not required! We do have an enumeration statute (CGS 10-249) that says the schools may contact every parent and ask to know how their child is being educated, their ages, and names.

When parents decide to take their children out of school, they simply write a letter of withdrawal to the school administrators. However, there currently is a huge issue in CT because schools are ignoring the letters of withdrawal and keeping kids on their enrollment lists. That's a whole other issue and you can read about it here.

Below is the article that was in the NYT in case you cannot link to it:
February 11, 2007
Home Schoolers Find Strength in Numbers

WASHINGTON DEPOT - FOR all the reputed romance of home schooling — teaching children on your own time, in your own way, without the early morning stress of making lunches and catching the bus — teaching children at home has always had its potential problems.

There’s the socialization issue: Will the children interact enough with peers to build communication skills and develop emotionally? Then there’s the question of qualifications: Home schooling may seem sweet through the A B C s, but how many parents are confident, or competent, enough to teach calculus, chemistry, physics or foreign languages?

Now, however, many home schoolers throughout the state are taking it upon themselves to allay those concerns. More and more, these parents are forming co-ops, where they meet to share teaching talents and advice, as well as socialize. Some are small clubs that meet in different places, like public libraries or someone’s living room. Others are bigger and more structured, often meeting in classrooms in church basements. Some have a religious focus, while others are nondenominational.

“We wanted to combine all the great stuff happening out there, sort of pool our resources into one place, where all the kids and parents could benefit from each other,” said Jodi Nager of Roxbury, who started a co-op in Washington Depot with Carol Hackett, a friend from New Milford.

Ms. Nager, who has been home schooling her daughters, Rebekah, 15, and Alexandra, 9, for seven years, said: “All the home schoolers we talked to wanted the same thing. It’s like something was missing.”

The result was the opening in September of the Western Connecticut Home-Schoolers Cooperative, where 53 home-schooled children and their parents meet every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Salem Covenant Church in Washington Depot.

For $40 a child for 12 weeks, the cooperative offers 24 classes, taught by parents, ranging from Latin, critical thinking, anatomy and SAT math, to yoga and exotic animal studies. It is like a small school, only without the buses, the backpacks, the chaotic cafeteria or standardized tests.

“We’re sort of like a family here,” said Ms. Hackett, exchanging hugs and high-fives with some of the students, who range in age from 5 to 18.

Ms. Hackett, who has been educating her sons Tommy, 14, and Jimmy, 12, for five years, said she turned down a chance to join a home-schooling co-op in Bethel because “you have to sign a pledge of Christianity, which didn’t work for some of us.”

“We wanted to start something that was nondenominational — open to everyone,” she said.

Deborah Stevenson, a lawyer from Southbury, started National Home Education Legal Defense in 2003 after being challenged by the state for home schooling her daughters, Samantha, 23, and Cassandra, 19, in the early 1990s. No one questions her decision anymore, since her children began college at 10 and 11 and have earned several degrees.

Ms. Stevenson called home-schooling co-ops “a great new idea that you’ll be hearing more about.”

“People are finally starting to realize that it’s perfectly legal and acceptable to home school your children,” she said.

State statutes dating back to the 1600s say parents are responsible for instructing their children or ensuring that they are instructed. “Many people have the misconception that it’s the law to send your child to school,” Ms. Stevenson said. “They need to realize that’s not at all the case, because school is just not the right answer for some kids.”

Thomas Murphy, spokesman for the State Department of Education, acknowledged that home schooling “can be a beautiful thing, but when it’s not done right, it can amount to educational negligence.”

It is up to the superintendents in Connecticut’s 166 school districts to report to the state the number of school-age children and where they are being educated. “In some cases, the school districts will work with home-schooling parents to help them with their curricula,” Mr. Murphy said. Once parents decide to home school, they are required to notify the superintendent, he said. “We have to have some checks and balances to make sure home schoolers are not just running a day care,” he said.

Over all, though, “Connecticut is very friendly and supportive of home schooling,” Mr. Murphy said. “There have been many successful cases, and some outstanding universities, like Harvard and Brown, look quite favorably on home-schooled students.”

There are 2,166 home-schooled children registered with the state, or 0.3 percent of the total student population, up from 1994 when there were 1,461, or 0.2 percent.

Mr. Murphy said the home-schooling co-op concept “seems to blur the line between home schooling and private schools.” But the difference, he said, is that co-ops usually meet only once a week, the parents are in charge, “and the price certainly beats any private school’s.”

In eastern Connecticut last year, Diane Connors of Columbia founded Cheers, the Connecticut Cooperative of Home Educators East of the River (the Connecticut River). “We post everything on the Internet, so you can pick what you want,” she said.

Ms. Connors, who has home schooled five of her seven children, said the co-op offered free, parent-taught classes ranging from geography to science, art to fiction writing.

Another kind of co-op started in October at FineLine Theater Arts in New Milford. Paula Burns and Lockey Coughlin, who educate their children at their homes in Sherman, wanted to organize a performing arts program because “that’s something most parents can’t teach at home,” Ms. Coughlin said. Classes include jazz, tap, ballet, voice and ballroom dancing, she said, adding that it costs $285 for a 16-week session.

Judith Ehrman-Shapiro of Litchfield, who teaches anatomy and photography at the Washington co-op, said home schooling saved her son, Max, 14, from a nervous breakdown. He hated attending public and private schools, she said. “He was losing confidence,” she said. “I felt I was losing him.”

She started home schooling him two years ago, and “he completely turned around.”

“He’s doing an 11th-grade curriculum now, and he’s totally into it,” Ms. Ehrman-Shapiro said.

At the co-op, Max said, “You get classes that are interesting and people who understand you.”

Sitting on a couch with six other teenagers in his mother’s anatomy class, Max was eager to answer the Jeopardy-style questions about the skeletal system. “How many bones are in the human body?” Ms. Ehrman-Shapiro asked. “Two hundred and six!” Max replied, and his mother threw him a Smarties candy.

“You couldn’t do this in a regular school,” he said.

Vote For Randy!

Homeschool Alum Randy Kizer's video was chosen by Walden-Disney as a finalist in their Ultimate Narnia Fan contest. The grand prize is a trip to the filming of the next movie: Prince Caspian. The winner is chosen by you and me.

Apparently, media-film is Randy's college major, so he is especially interested in the possibility of winning. This is where you can help! View Randy's video and if you like it, vote for his entry once a day between Feb 9 and 23.

(Hat Tip: Mary N.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

CT - Gov. Rell's Budget or How To Throw More Money Down A Rat Hole

Poor M. Jodi Rell.. she just hasn't been keeping up on her reading, and is relying instead on her misguided advisers. She has bought into the fantasy that more money buys better education, or perhaps she has been shaken down by the union goons. According to the report in the Hartford Courant:
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, in her first budget address since being elected, will call today for pumping nearly $3.4 billion into state school funding over five years, including millions more for towns and cities and additional aid for everything from preschool classes to college scholarships.

In what the governor's office is calling "the most important increase in education funding in a generation," Rell will outline a wide-ranging plan that would immediately boost the state's share of school funding in virtually every municipality.
Apparently she desperately needs to read results of studies that prove these facts: Money spent on education has no correlation with educational results at the local, state, or even international level. Unless real reform comes, the U.S. will lose the economic advantages that currently allows its education establishment to exist.

Instead of calling on restraint in state and local school spending, we are seeing the education pie get much much bigger, and taxpayers asked to empty much more out of their pockets. They will not only be giving more to the state in income tax, but will most likely also see a rise in their local property taxes to boot!

We'll be increasing preschool initiatives and setting up the infrastructure to eventually subsume it into the public school system. Preschool teachers will now be employed by local schools and be added to the teacher union membership rolls. They'll have to be accredited and go through newly minted credentialing programs set up at colleges. It's a huge money maker for many people, and a joy to the ears of the teacher's union. Not only that, but many private preschools will eventually close their doors because "free public preschool" for 3-5 year olds will be available on the taxpayer's dime. Yeah it'll be free all right (wink wink nod nod). Parents will have to use this free public daycare because they will absolutely need two incomes to support their tax bills. Outsourcing parenthood will become the rule of the day. Despite the fact that other states have already proven that the millions of dollars they have spent on public/universal preschool has not closed the so-called "achievement gap", nor has it even made test scores rise, we still continue down this road. No one wants to acknowledge what has already been proven: no matter what gains are made early on, all kids normalize by third grade. The return on investment just has not materialized, and even our Education Chairman Thomas Gaffey wrote a letter to the State Board of Education Chairman, Allen B. Taylor, on July 10, 2006 to tell him so. But that's ok, because we all really know that it isn't really about the kids, the real goal is to increase union membership and grow the school budgets.

But anyone who lives and works here really can see things for what they are. Connecticut is owned and run by the unions, and any kind of binding arbitration reform is merely a dream. Binding arbitration, which rewards union members with all kinds of raises, bonuses and other perks at the taxpayer's expense, is choking towns and municipalities. And they are allowed to continue to do so. Giving more money to towns is not going to do anything to make them restrain their spending. Rather than mandate changes in the way in which schools budget and spend; rather than reform binding arbitration and unfunded mandates from the state; the answer is always to come back to the taxpayer and demand more money. Towns would rather complain and moan to the state to give them more money, which by the way still comes out of our pockets, then to put the brakes on spending. We tell our kids "Just Say No" to drugs.. why don't we say "Just say No" to school spending and more taxation. We can't, because the addiction to the public purse is already persistent, as are the threats made by highly paid educrats.

No one, and I mean no one, will bring up that nagging little fact that better education is not directly proportional to the amount of money spent on it.

The studies abound, like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) reports, to prove it.. but the myth that more money is needed continues to live on robustly.
"Raising student achievement levels and improving our schools is not a matter of spending more money doing the same things as before but rather using the resources we have available in better and more innovative ways," said ALEC Education Task Force Chairman Rep. Jane Cunningham from Missouri.
These are the facts:
With over half the municipal budget going to education we have become a “hyper-taxed schoolocracy”. Yes, this is a new term my son shared with me, and it implies that we are over taxed and that the school boards have become the defacto governing body of each and every town. Because education places financial demands on us in the name of maintaining excellence, the school boards can now dictate how our towns spend money and what services the general population will receive in the end. When taxpayers balk at the continual rise of mill rates and taxes demanded by towns, and when they threaten referendum, the school then threatens loss of programs, making hurtful cuts and creates enormous division in town between the PTO moms and the elderly living on fixed incomes. It's shameful. The state of Connecticut and our Governor M. Jodi Rell is now officially supporting that kind of extortion.

The schools can never seem to cut anything quietly or responsibly, and one never ever hears of cutting staff. Hartford alone spends an ungodly $13,000 per year per student! Their results are abysmal to say the least. Unfortunately the problem is that hardly ever does the money poured into "education" actually translate into more money being put directly into the classroom. We are spending gobs of money on "education" and hear daily reports of music and art programs being cut. With all the money currently being spent on education we still hear the persistent stories of those poor unfortunate teachers who have to spend money out of their own pocketbooks to buy supplies for the classroom. Pardon me??? So where exactly IS all the money going? Take a look at costly school construction and new fangled programs that just do not work. Take a look at union member salaries, and the proliferation of staff in our schools. It's absolutely an outrage.

So thanks M. Jodi Rell... raise the income tax.. chase out business and make it more difficult for people to afford to live here in CT. Make it so that no kid who is receives a costly education in CT can actually graduate and make a living here and stay here. If anything, every other state in the nation is benefiting from our "world class" education system, because our kids are all moving to their state. Let's tax ourselves into oblivion. The report just came out about how we are losing population and the exodus no doubt will continue. The elderly and the poor who are forced to stay here because they can go no where else, will also no doubt be forced into dependence on the state and continue to vote in the people who make their dependence continue. Raise taxes, and grow government. Who would have thought that we'd see this mayhem from a Republican governor who had at one time promised to do the opposite. Third party anyone?