The achievement gap between school districts in high-income neighborhoods and those in low-income ones is already more canyon than crack, and if $1.7 trillion in automatic sequestration cuts are allowed to go into effect on March 1, that gap could grow even wider.
Dozens of education programs would face reduced funding, but three crucial programs — No Child Left Behind, Head Start initiatives, and the Individuals with Disabilities Act — provide the most assistance to low-income students and also face the sharpest cuts if the sequester is allowed to go into effect, as the Center for American Progress’ Juliana Herman and Kaitlin Pennington detailed in a new report:
Altogether, the sequester would cut approximately $725 million from Title I funding, potentially affecting 2,700 schools, impacting 1.2 million students, and placing 9,880 education staff at risk of losing their jobs. [...]
Head Start and Early Head Start—a similar program for infants—both work to ensure that parental income does not determine whether a child will be able to learn during these influential years. But should sequestration happen next week, approximately 70,000 children will be kicked out of Head Start due to inadequate funding. [...]
If sequestration goes through, funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Act could be reduced by as much as $579 million.
In all, the report estimates, the cuts would impact as many as 1.2 million children, 30,000 teachers and 2,700 schools, the overwhelming majority of which will be from low-income communities.
Recent studies have shown the devastating correlation between income and student achievement. Since the late 1980s, the gap in metrics like college completion between students from high-income and low-income households grew by more than 50 percent.
If you’ll be watching the Academy Awards on Sunday, swing by here at 8:30. I’ll be liveblogging awards, speeches, and whether the sheer force of Anne Hathaway’s emoting or Seth MacFarlane’s snark melt down the Dolby Theater.
Avik Roy — who advised Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on health care policy — and Doug Holtz-Eakin published an op-ed for Reuters earlier this week in which they outlined their vision for a “free market” approach to health care reform. It’s a serious proposal, albeit one that makes the same fallacious argument as Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s assertion that Switzerland’s health care is more “entrepreneurial” than Obamacare is. Unfortunately, that claim is simply the least worrying aspect of a plan that is riddled with benefit cuts and shifting health care costs onto consumers.
First of all, mentioning Switzerland in the piece at all is essentially a red herring, as the duo’s proposal doesn’t actually shift American health care in the direction of the Swiss system — quite the opposite, in fact. While Switzerland shares important aspects with Obamacare, particularly its federally-subsidized health insurance marketplaces — a fact that Roy and Holtz-Eakin acknowledge, to their credit — the country’s health care program can hardly be described as a less regulated system, since it actually provides more generous insurance subsidies, requires insurers to offer at least one “nonprofit plan” akin to a public option, and imposes stricter price controls and negotiations between the government, drug makers, and health care providers.
Instead, what Roy and Holtz-Eakin want to see is a modified, and far more regressive, version of the proposal that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and former Sen. Michael Bennett (R-UT) proposed first in 2007 and then again in 2009 during the health care reform debate. Under Roy-Holtz-Eakin, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries would be shifted away from public insurance into private plans on Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces, consumer protections and regulations governing the marketplaces would be rolled back to encourage “innovation,” federal insurance subsidies would be limited to Americans up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) instead of the Obamcare-mandated 400 percent FPL, and the Medicare eligibility age would be raised by three months every year indefinitely.
Roy-Holtz-Eakin also caps federal insurance subsidies at 300 percent FPL rather than 400 percent FPL in an effort to contain government expenses. In the op-ed, the authors implicitly justify this by citing the example of Massachusetts — the birthplace of Obamacare — where reform has been working pretty well. But that ignores the fact that Massachusetts is a relatively wealthy state with unemployment and poverty below the national average. For the rest of the country, that cap would be pretty devastating, pricing millions of Americans out of the health care system. Roy and Holtz-Eakin also do not want subsidies to increase faster than inflation, even though that provision is meant to address the well-established reality that health care inflation tends to accelerate faster than regular inflation.
Although Roy-Holtz-Eakin may be an honest proposal for curbing costs, it is largely based on the dishonest notion that relinquishing more responsibility — a euphemism for shifting costs — onto consumers and making them pay more for their care will somehow magically curb the cost of health care. It won’t — but it will make Americans avoid receiving treatment, leading to a form of self-rationing that is particularly ironic given Roy and Holtz-Eakin’s goal of preventing government rationing of health care.
As mandatory budget cuts loom, a group of Congressional Republicans has cheered the coming reductions in federal spending — so long as federal funding is maintained for a plane that is years behind schedule and doesn’t fly, that is.
The Department of Defense announced on Friday afternoon that it has grounded the entire fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in light of an issue with its engine. Grounding the fleet, in all three of its variations, is just the latest in a slew of setbacks to the troubled acquisition program. Produced by Lockheed Martin to the tune of $100 million per plane, the total cost of the project so far has climbed over $400 billion, making it the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history. By contrast, the Manhattan Project — which created the nuclear weapon from scratch — cost about $55 billion in today’s dollars.
The F-35 project as a whole is currently at least six years behind schedule, slated for delivery in 2015 at the earliest. Beginning on March 1, the Defense Department budget is poised to fall under the effect of mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, cutting $1 trillion from the budget in military and domestic spending over the next ten years.
Formed in 2011, as talks to avoid sequestration were first ongoing, 49 members of the House of Representatives — hailing from both parties — signed on to protect the F-35. Several of the Republican members of the JSF Caucus, however, are among the most ardent supporters of slashing federal funding currently in Congress. Among their ranks are Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), each of whom have called for deep reductions to programs that actually work.
Broun, in a 2012 interview with Politico, estimated that he had proposed $4 billion in cuts in the House Science, Technology, and Commerce committee alone. Franks has made clear that he believes the only way to shrink the government “is to choke the monster.” Poe has compared Congress to “addicts” when it comes to spending, proposing a 12 step program to break the habit as he argued against the fiscal cliff deal.
While several Republicans have favoredraising revenues to help offset sequestration, none of the Republicans listed above have joined in. Instead, the Representatives listed above all voted “aye” on a bill to replace the defense cuts in sequestration entirely with cuts on the domestic side. Cuts to defense can be made certainly made to military spending — if done smartly — making voting to protect a plane that doesn’t work in opposition to providing health care to millions of Americans near unconscionable.
Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock actually have the option to opt their children out of taking the classes, which the school’s superintendent describes as, “stretching, moving, breathing.” But their lawyer, a part of the conservative National Center for Law and Policy, still believes there is a strong case for why yoga classes are an unconstitutional violation religious freedom:
In a press release issued by Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy, attorney Dean Broyles said the Encinitas yoga program was a “breach of public trust” that sets a “dangerous precedent.”
“This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney,” Broyles said.
The lawsuit, which alleges civil rights violations, was filed in San Diego Superior Court. It ultimately seeks to suspend the yoga program indefinitely and “restore traditional physical education to the district.”
If the couple’s lawyer thinks that this is “the clearest case of the state trampling on [religious] freedoms” that he has witnessed, he may want to look a little harder. The First Amendment does not simply protect against legitimate threats to the free exercise of faith, it also forbids the government from endorsing religious views or forcing religion upon others — most often non-Christians. So when an Indiana lawmaker proposes requiring “the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day,” that’s a violation of religious freedom. When a conservative judges places a massive Ten Commandments monument in the middle of the Alabama Judicial Building, that’s a violation of religious freedom.
When a child does a yoga pose, on the other hand, that’s just a good way to stay in shape.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Catholic Youth Organization banned 11-year-old Caroline Pla from playing in a boy’s football league earlier this year, even though she had played in the same league for more than two years and had been voted onto the league’s all-star team after the 2012 season. Last week, the CYO reaffirmed that decision, upholding its ban on female participants in grades 5 through 8.
The original ban was about safety, the CYO explained then, even if there were no indications that Pla was in any more danger than any of the 11-year-old boys playing football. When they upheld the ban, the reasoning shifted to fears of “inappropriate contact” between male and female players, even though neither Pla nor her family had ever given thought to such an issue before.
At nearly the same time, a football league far larger than the Catholic Youth Organization took a step in the opposite direction. In 2012, the National Football League formally instituted a rule allowing women to participate in its league, and next week, the annual regional scouting combines for amateur players will feature its first female participant.
Lauren Silberman, a 28-year-old former college club soccer player, is attending a regional combine with the hope of becoming the first woman to play in the NFL. The odds that Silberman, a kicker, will make a team are longer-than-long, but that doesn’t matter: the NFL provided a path for women to participate, and for the first time, one will. There are more than 1,600 girls playing on boys’ high school football teams, and multiple women have played college football, so Silberman almost surely won’t be the last woman to go out for the team.
But these stories aren’t as much about football and making the team as they are about just having the chance to play. Women now enjoy far more access to sports than they did 40 years ago, when Title IX became law, but female participation still doesn’t match that of men. Neither does funding, even though sports participation has substantial health, education, and economic benefits for the women and girls who participate. It’s wonderful that the NFL is expanding access to women, but those efforts are undermined when youth leagues like the CYO, where there are more girls who want to play and fewer who have access, refuse to let the Caroline Plas of the world play the games they love.
Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren
Today, the White House released a memo directing federal agencies to make publicly funded research available to the people who pay for it:
“The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hereby directs each Federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government.”
The directive is similar to the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), a recent bi-partisan legislative proposal aimed at opening up access to federally funded research, although the waiting twelve month waiting period before research is made available in the White House plan is twice the length of the six month delay suggested by FASTR. Both the White House plan and FASTR build upon the success of the National Institute of Health’s 2008 public access policy.
Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, thanked signers of a We The People petition calling for the reform, saying its popularity was “important to our discussions of this issue.”
Today’s announcement could be critical to addressing the broken for profit academic publishing system that has led to a flourishing open access movement in scholarly circles. The movement gained a new public spotlight following the suicide of activist Aaron Swartz while facing prosecution for what many believe was an attempt to liberate research from the closed academic database JSTOR.
Marco Rubio, a U.S. Senator from Florida, recently said that he was not sure that climate change is human caused. This is one of the reasons he’s unwilling to support U.S. government action to reduce the threat of climate change. Many other U.S. politicians have also recently said they will not support legislation to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions because they’re not convinced that climate change is happening or is human-caused. In fact, 7 out of 8 Republican candidates for the US presidency proclaimed they didn’t believe that climate change was a problem.
When these politicians are asked about the basis for their positions on climate change, they almost always respond by saying such things as they “have heard that there is a disagreement among scientists,” or similar responses that strongly suggest they have formed an opinion on climate change science without any understanding of the depth of the scientific evidence on which the scientific consensus view of climate change has been based. For instance, U.S. politicians frequently assert that it’s an open question whether humans are causing the undeniable warming that the Earth is experiencing — thus exposing their ignorance of dozens of lines of independent and robust evidence of human causation, including attribution studies, finger print analyses, strong evidence that correlates fossil fuel use to rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, and other physical and chemical evidence.
Although ordinary individuals may have no duty to go beyond their own personal opinion about the science of climate change, government officials — who have the power to enact policies that could present catastrophic harm to millions of people around the world — may not, as a matter of ethics, justify their refusal to support policies to reduce the threat of climate change on the basis of their uninformed opinions on climate science. This is so because government officials, unlike ordinary citizens, have the power to prevent or minimize great harms to millions of people around the world, that mainstream scientists have concluded that their constituents or governments that they represent are causing or contributing to. That is, government officials have more responsibility than the average citizen to understand the state of climate change science because government officials can uniquely prevent harm that their constituents or governments are causing.
And so, when government officials with the power to enact climate change policies are on notice that respectable scientific evidence supports the conclusion that their constituents or governments are likely causing great harm, they may not appeal to their uninformed opinion on climate science as justification for not taking action.
The government official is like the railroad official who’s been told by employees in a position to know the location of the company’s trains that there is a runaway train hurtling toward a bus full of children that’s stuck on the track, when the official has the ability to divert the train onto a track on which no humans will be harmed.
In the case of climate change, government officials should know that 97 of every 100 scientists that actually do peer-reviewed climate science research in the United States — by the most prestigious scientific organizations including the US National Academy of Sciences — have concluded that greenhouse gases coming from their constituents threaten catastrophic harm. Not only to their constituents, but to millions of people around the world, most of whom have done little to cause climate change.
In the case of climate change, the U.S. politician not only has the power, working with colleagues, to prevent great harm caused by his or her constituents, he or she has the responsibility to prevent his or her constituents from harming others outside United States. This responsibility was expressly agreed to by the United States when it ratified the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, which contains the following acknowledgment of the U.S. government’s responsibility to prevent harm to those outside the United States in the convention’s Preamble:
This post discusses plot points from the February 21 episodes of Parks and Recreation.
Their shows are entirely different animals, but in recent weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope. Both are the main characters of tonally innovative and critically loved but ratings-challenged sitcoms, both have as their best friends older, Alpha-male archetypes, and both lead teams of people who are not always eager to make their lives easy. And both of them recently married their soulmates, laid-back food truck operator Criss Cross and anxious geek and good-government nerd Ben Wyatt, in impromptu ceremonies where they wore dresses that summed up significant themes of the run of their shows. As I watched Leslie and Ben tie the knot on last night’s Parks and Recreation and thought about the episode today, something came clear for me. Liz Lemon is a much pricklier, more challenging character than the relatively normal if professionally ambitious Leslie Knope. But Leslie’s relationship with Ben is more radical than Liz’s marriage to genial weirdo Criss.
Much of Liz Lemon’s dating history was about her coming to terms with what she really wants. In Floyd, she learned that she wanted her career and relationship with New York more than she wanted him in the suburbs. With Drew, she found out that handsome is only as handsome does. Carol turned out to be as rigid as Liz herself was. But in Criss, Liz found someone who was complimentary to her, whose great strength and expression of love for Liz was to help her handle her worst tendencies. He was a guy who’d never mistake an argument at Ikea for a breakup, who wasn’t intimidatingly perfect—his idea of romanticism was making Liz a table out of found objects that almost immediately collapsed—and, as we found out in the finale, really just wanted to stay home and raise their adopted children, letting Liz be the primary breadwinner. It makes sense that Liz married Criss in her Princess Leia outfit: their relationship was about Liz finally embracing herself precisely as she was, even if sometimes it’s the worst, because of society.
But while I appreciate 30 Rock‘s embrace of ladyweirdness, from female science fiction fandom, to using your treadmill as a hanger for a ham-stained wedding dress, to ambivalence about sex, Liz and Criss’s relationship came down to a fairly common argument about being loved for who you really are, even if who you are is kind of neurotic and strange. Parks and Recreation, by contrast, took two relatively conventional humans, albeit ones with intense fondness for calzones, waffles, Game of Thrones, and in Leslie’s case, a hoarding problem, and used a conventionally shot sitcom wedding where a makeshift family comes together at the last minute, to make permanent a relationship based on ideas that are deeply challenging by the standards of popular culture.
When Leslie met Ben, he was working as an Indiana State auditor, a job he’d chosen in part to redeem his disastrous tenure as the teenaged mayor of his small town, where he’d bankrupted the city government by building an elaborate ice skating complex and been impeached. The auditor’s job was a way for Ben to demonstrate that he’d definitively left the misconceptions of his first foray into government behind, so someone might give him the chance to run an agency or a city again. But over the course of Ben’s relationship with Leslie, he’s made a significant shift from planning for his own long-term ambitions to working to make Leslie’s dreams happen. Read more
A 13-year-old student in Durban, South Africa accidentally shot himself in the leg at school this week – reportedly using a school security guard’s gun. Guards are not armed at the school, but this guard had allegedly brought his personal gun from home. IOL reports:
A security guard was on duty at an oThongathi (Tongaat) primary school when the teen allegedly removed the guard’s private gun from his unsecured bag.
The Grade 7 pupil at Hambanathi Primary, sustained a single gunshot wound to his thigh and is reported to be in a stable condition at Osindisweni Hospital, in Verulam.
According to the school principal, he had allegedly removed the gun from the guard’s bag and was attempting to shove it into the waist of his pants, when a shot accidentally went off, said the school principal, Mrs S Mahlinza.
The guard, who was meant to be unarmed, is contracted by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education.
He has been arrested and charged for failing to secure his firearm.
The incident has prompted calls for “urgent” action to ban guns in schools, with officials citing the recent Newton, Ct. tragedy. In the United States, meanwhile, the National Rifle Association has urged more armed school guards as a solution to preventing future school shootings, and several states are now considering legislative proposals, in spite of scientific and historical evidence that armed school guards don’t prevent these sorts of incidents. Many states are even implementing programs to arm teachers and add gun coursesfor students.