Howard County Maryland Blog

Convention of States in Maryland

Archive for September, 2007

Thorton Spendning – What’s the old adage about insanity?

Posted by Ed C on Monday, September 17, 2007

Remember the adage: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I suppose a candidate for proving this would be Maryland’s Thorton spending. From the Examiner Advocates: $500M in Thornton funds misspent:

Yet this year, the special funding total still will increase to $1.3 billion, for a six-year total of almost $3.5 billion.

Reading and math scores for fourth- and eighth-graders have plateaued on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the past five years, according to the think-tank analysis.

I was going to write more, but the Editorial: Wasted dollars waste young lives pretty much sums up what I would have liked to have said.

One thing that puzzles me though are the comments by State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick:

State schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick dismisses NAEP scores as inappropriate for measuring achievement of Maryland’s students. “The NAEP is not aligned to our curriculum,” said Grasmick, noting that NAEP only tests a sample of students.

Okay, but according to Peggy Carr of the National Center for Education, on the NAEP test:

“It’s not aligned with any one curriculum, and that’s by design because it represents the basic skills students should know, regardless of what students are taught.”

So, do the Maryland State tests adequately measure student achievement in basic skills? What is the Maryland curriculum? I’d think that reading, writing and arithmetic would be in there somewhere. If they are, shouldn’t a bunch of teachers and schools administrators be able to figure out a test to measure it? Maybe not:

As William Kirwan, the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland said recently, “exit requirements [for high school] are not at all aligned with entrance requirements of college.”

If Maryland is going to spend $3.5 billion dollars, wouldn’t you think that a few percent of that money could be used to create (or buy) a fair, objective test?

Here is my proposal. We spend a few dollars and team up with another state, say Wisconsin (pop. rank 18) or Arizona (pop. rank 20) (Maryland pop rank is 19) or any state with a similar number of students / teachers and create tests that are given to every 4th, 8th and 10th grader. We have teachers from both states create the tests and then get them reviewed by the NAEP people, the Dept of Education or educators from the State’s universities to verify that it really tests the basics. To measure reading and writing skills, the test should include short essays on material presented in the test to minimize the impact of having the subject covered in a particular locale.

To grade the tests, we send our students tests to Wisconsin and they send us theirs. The tests would be graded by say 3 teachers each and the final score would be the average. Throw in some random sampling and quality control and we’re done. The teachers could do the grading in a day. Because each state would be doing the same thing the only “additional” cost would be for some shipping. Hopefully each state would be a neutral arbiter for grading, because it really isn’t doesn’t matter that much to the Cheese-Heads how a particular Maryland school district performs, besides we would have those quality control samples if it became an issue.

So, the total cost for both Maryland and Wisconsin would be for X teachers to create 3 tests, a day of salaries to give the test (which we would have spent anyway), a day of salaries to do the grading, some money for shipping plus whatever review and quality control would cost. So for a fraction of the $500 million that was “wasted” last year both Maryland and Wisconson could get a netrual, comprehensive assement of every student’s progress.

Would it work? Probably not, but it seems obvious the current method isn’t working, so how about we try something, anything else and see if we can get a different result this time, otherwise its just insane.

Posted in Ed C, Education, Maryland | Leave a Comment »

The Myth of the Racist Republicans.

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, September 16, 2007

On Saturday, Hilliary Clinton spoke to a NAACP banquet in North Charleston, SC. She outlined her civil rights agenda, “Promoting Civil Rights and Fighting Discrimination in the 21st Century” Some of my favorites:

“Restore professionalism and remove politics from hiring, case deliberations, and policy decisions across the Department of Justice.”

Do you think she will accomplish by hiring Republicans? Just as in Maryland where firing a Democrat is crass partisanship, but firing a Republican, well that’s okay. (O’Malley firing illegal over GOP ties) MD democrats spent 13 months and $1.1 million of public money to find out that Gov. Ehrlich did not fire anyone illegally. We are still waiting to see if the O’Malley administration will be held to the same standard.

Sen. Clinton proposes the following:

Direct the Attorney General to submit – within 90 days of taking office – a report that recommends how to rebuild DOJ’s traditional role in defending civil rights and the rule of law, and that reviews charges of improper, politically motivated hiring to determine whether laws were broken.

How do you think she will do this? Well, we can look at the past Clinton administration to see how they handled it before (from the Wall Street Journal) :

Congressional Democrats are in full cry over the news this week that the Administration’s decision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys originated from–gasp–the White House. Senator Hillary Clinton joined the fun yesterday, blaming President Bush for “the politicization of our prosecutorial system.” Oh, my.

As it happens, Mrs. Clinton is just the Senator to walk point on this issue of dismissing U.S. attorneys because she has direct personal experience. In any Congressional probe of the matter, we’d suggest she call herself as the first witness–and bring along Webster Hubbell as her chief counsel.

As everyone once knew but has tried to forget, Mr. Hubbell was a former partner of Mrs. Clinton at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock who later went to jail for mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also Bill and Hillary Clinton’s choice as Associate Attorney General in the Justice Department when Janet Reno, his nominal superior, simultaneously fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993. Ms. Reno–or Mr. Hubbell–gave them 10 days to move out of their offices.

Also at the time, allegations concerning some of the Clintons’ Whitewater dealings were coming to a head. By dismissing all 93 U.S. Attorneys at once, the Clintons conveniently cleared the decks to appoint “Friend of Bill” Paula Casey as the U.S. Attorney for Little Rock. Ms. Casey never did bring any big Whitewater indictments, and she rejected information from another FOB, David Hale, on the business practices of the Arkansas elite including Mr. Clinton. When it comes to “politicizing” Justice, in short, the Bush White House is full of amateurs compared to the Clintons.

As Sen. Clinton and the Democrats try to paint Republicans as racist, maybe a little history will help. In a 2004 book review for the Claremont Institute, The Myth of the Racist Republicans and in a recent Weekly Standard article, The Party of Civil Rights, Univ. of VA associate political science professor Gerard Alexander. (h/t PowerLine) provides some context:

A myth about conservatism is circulating in academia and journalism and has spread to the 2004 presidential campaign. It goes something like this: the Republican Party assembled a national majority by winning over Southern white voters; Southern white voters are racist; therefore, the GOP is racist. Sometimes the conclusion is softened, and Republicans are convicted merely of base opportunism: the GOP is the party that became willing to pander to racists. Either way, today’s Republican Party—and by extension the conservative movement at its heart—supposedly has revealed something terrible about itself.

And from the conclusion:

The point of all this is not to deny that Richard Nixon may have invited some nasty fellows into his political bed. The point is that the GOP finally became the region’s dominant party in the least racist phase of the South’s entire history, and it got that way by attracting most of its votes from the region’s growing and confident communities—not its declining and fearful ones. The myth’s shrillest proponents are as reluctant to admit this as they are to concede that most Republicans genuinely believe that a color-blind society lies down the road of individual choice and dynamic change, not down the road of state regulation and unequal treatment before the law. The truly tenacious prejudices here are the mythmakers’.

And from the conclusion of Prof. Alexander’s Weekly Standard Article:

It took no time at all for individual commentators to point out these problems, but it took decades for the intellectual orthodoxy to develop serious cracks. In the 1980s, Reagan administration lawyers challenged head-on the most expansive racial preferences and the assumptions that justified them. Welfare came under withering scrutiny from scholars like Charles Murray, and, in the 1990s, politicians and voters from both sides of the aisle enacted welfare reform to propel more of the poor into the labor market and toward lives of greater self-sufficiency. Just in the past few years, scholarship has begun to document some perverse effects of affirmative action programs. In 2005, the fortieth anniversary of the Moynihan Report was noted with articles that validated the original conclusions and condemned the smear that greeted its author.

In the end, the position that has best stood the test of time is the long-standing conservative proposition that improving individual capabilities–through quality education–is the best means of reducing socio-economic disparities, with the additional virtue of not being zero-sum, as racial preferences and minority set-asides are.

In the half-century since the 1957 Civil Rights Act, dramatic gains occurred in many areas, but rigid intellectual orthodoxies heavily contributed to the terrible worsening of problems in other areas. Maybe after 50 years, America is finally prepared to have a debate–driven by facts and not ideology–on how to tackle the remaining racial disparities.

If you can find the time, please read the both articles.  With that, I’m off to listen to Micheal Steele and support GOPAC.

Posted in Democrats, Ed C, Republicans | 19 Comments »

Gov O’Malley’s pick for Insurance Commissioner – With qualifications like these, what could go wrong?

Posted by Ed C on Saturday, September 8, 2007

As reported in the Examiner (O’Malley’s insurance chief puzzles many) and in the Baltimore Sun (O’Malley legal counsel to be insurance chief), Gov. O’Malley has picked Ralph S. Tyler, an adviser with no experience in insurance to oversee regulation on Maryland’s $26 billion insurance industry.

Quoting from the press release.

Tyler served as one of the Governor’s closest advisors as Chief Legal Counsel and led the effort to reconstitute Maryland’s Public Service Commission with independent and professional regulators.

I guess the definition of a “professional regulator” does not require experience in that particular domain.

As Baltimore’s City Solicitor, Tyler successfully led the lawsuit against the Maryland Public Service Commission and a pending BGE 72 percent utility rate increase this past summer. The lawsuit is credited with allowing the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation to keep utility rates affordable and give utility companies more flexibility in purchasing electricity.

Yea, that worked out soooo well. Okay, so other than giving O’Malley an election issue, he was able to turn a 72% increase into a 72.5% increase. How does this rate as an accomplishment to “keep utility rates affordable”?

The Sun article also quotes Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, a Southern Maryland Democrat and the chairman of the Finance Committee that oversees insurance issues:

“… the Ehrlich administration’s focus on increasing competition in the state’s insurance market was good but went too far.”

Could Sen. Middleton explain how increased completion has been detrimental to Maryland residents?

The Sun aslo quotes Howard County delegate Warren Miller:

Del. Warren E. Miller, a Howard County Republican, said that if the commissioner sides too heavily with consumers, insurance companies will stop writing policies in the state.

“I hope we don’t go back to the days where the regulator was wanting something for free,” Miller said. “You have to be fair and balanced.”

Let’s hope this appointment benefits Maryland consumers, not just members of the Maryland Bar Association.

Posted in Ed C, O'Malley | 3 Comments »