As We Live and Breathe

As we live and breathe

Two education articles made me sigh this morning. One had me worried about sighing itself.

What can one say when on Page B1 there is a headline “Stimulus Funds Aid School Needs.” OK, good, federal money is a-coming! – which is really our money that took a trip to Washington before it came home after shedding a few pennies at the Washington Monument. But, no, federal money is not coming. It is not. The funds are coming from a bond issue to be sold by the East Baton Rouge Parish school system through something called the “Qualified Zone Academy Bond Program.” Our Advocate, through our “writer” Charlies Lussier of the Advocate staff itself, does not hazard a guess as to what the Q-ZAB is. What on earth is a Qualified Zone Academy? Would that be a school that exists anywhere, say, in the zone of the United States? Or are some zones unqualified? Or is it just a Zone Academy matter? And what is a zone academy? Beats me. The name of this program is mush. Still, the headline says it is Stimulus Funds. Yet the money is to come from a bond issue, to be paid back later by Baton Rouge. Or are they federal bonds? Beats me. Not a word from our reporter, the man entrusted with getting me the news. But selling bonds cannot be stimulus funds. There is said now to be some 200 Billion in unspent federal stimulus funds – and still we have to sell bonds.

Lussier says that Schools Superintendent John Dilworth has outlined $5.6 million worth of work in 69 schools. Writes Lussier: “it’s not clear how quickly the work will get under way.” What sort of work? Painting “about half.” There are 69 schools a-waiting. A certain number will get painted. Lussier could not come up with a number for sheer word economy? How about “35 of 69” schools will be painted. Is about half higher or lower than half? Now, the Superintendent, good man that he is, has to spend a lot of time working on how to access the QZAB bond – what guarantee? Lussier does not tell us how the Q gets the funds for bonds we could have sold for our own needs without the Q. How does the Q provide any funds? And no doubt lots of compliance reporting, too. In fact, I’d say that the time spent on obtaining the federal whatever is time not spent on figuring out how to do the actual work.

Amazingly, this is just Phase 1 of $21.4 million worth of construction over the next three years. “The work for phases 2 and 3 has yet to be determined,” writes Lussier. Then he quotes Dilworth: “These issues are crtical to us right now.” How can critical matters be unknown? How can they even be critical if they are unknown? There is no logical way on earth you can determine that something unknown is critical. Surely, in Dilworth’s days at the office he would have come up with a rather exact list of what is needed. That’s his job, presumably. Superintendents in New York make sure the building is kept up. Isn’t that what superintendents do here? Or is there a different definition of the word? Plus, hasn’t there been constant reports for decades about the physical condition of the school buildings here in Baton Rouge? Of course there have. Our Advocate has constant stories. Could not Dilworth have sent out someone to each and every school to find out what was the matter? You know, to determine what was critical? Isn’t there a check list of some sort, you know, like pilots use before they take the plane aloft? Could not Meyer and Landry, lofty credentialed and goaled able advisers to John Pastorek, the big kahuna of education, have better spent their time getting information about critical construction needs rather than working so diligently in preparing grants so that the federal government might give us our local money back without us having to win it as federal prize money?

Now, in the second headline it is said on Page One: “Panel OK’s tougher school standards.” Will Sentell, of our Advocate says right off the base: “Public schools in Baton Rouge and elsewhere would face tougher standards to avoid state takeovers under a plan endorsed … by a key education panel.” Well, good to have key panels for sure. But isn’t mandating tougher standards the state telling the schools what to do? And isn’t telling someone what to do taking over their decision making? And is that therefore the state taking over the local schools? Well, just take them over already and be done with it. Oh, yes, well, the organization chart is not being reorganized, so there is no takeover. And though, as reported previously, the state school employees and the teachers are all part of the state retirement system. What is there left to takeover when you are already in complete control already?

What standards is the key panel (and what is it’s name?) toughening up? Why, it’s the “performance scores” issued by the state, presumably with federal involvement. So the no doubt independent schools facing takeover are already taken over – by body snatchers. The schools are required to meet standards set by key panels galore, and now, in a fit of pique, the – ah, here’s the name: Louisiana School and District Accountability Commission – is going to mandate that schools follow the rules that are already set. Zounds!

In “what amounts to an annual report card” the schools have “to earn” scores of “at least 60 out of about 200.” What’s with the “about”? Or is that a critical unknown thing too? Could not Sentell have gotten the exact number that a score of 60 must come out of? Is it 198? 175? 206? Why not just say it!

Now, to pass the performance test out of roughly 200 points the schools have to get 60 right. Oh my. If 200 things are recommended to be good schools, but only 60 needed to pass the test, why I’d say that’s a call for failure. To leave 140 things undone seems to be rather poor performance. I’d say that any student getting a 60 our of 200 would get an F, no? Shouldn’t the requirement be 200 out of 200? Isn’t that what we pay our QZABs and LSDAC – our qualified accountability folks in key panels to do? To make the schools the very best? That’s what Chaz Romer, a member of the “state school board” (no word exactly as to the title of this key panel) says: “You know what drives performance? Expectations drive performance.” Brilliant. So getting 60 out of 200, a failing grade, is all we can expect to be driven too? And the increase in the score is to be at 5 points a year. Why not just stimulate the performance expectation by saying: “next year each school must meet 200 out of 200.”?

Would you fly with a pilot who only got 60 out of 200 things right?
Would you go to a doctor who only got 60 out of 200 things right?
Well, if I may digress: you may be doing that soon, if there comes a key panel called the Louisiana Health and District Accountability Commission funded by bonds by the federal Qualified Zone Health Bond Program to pay for a passing score of 60 out of 200. Why, we’ll need young men fresh from the study French Politics, the perils of the schools of Hawaii and shadowing the secretary of defense as Meyers and Landry were, lofty credentials indeed, as our Advocate said a week ago, to apply for no funds to sell bonds so that we might win a prize of our own money to take care of well known, but now critical unknowns can be attended to with a failing grade.

Such is the glory of our times. I sigh at the illogicality of it all.

Meanwhile, that sigh could be against the law soon. Since a sigh exhales CO2 and the Environmental Protection Agency is now going to regulate it as dangerous to humans, well, my sigh just endangered me, of course. The EPA said it was forced to take action because the Congress would not act. The EPA regretted, through its administrator, Lisa Jackson, that it had to act because Congress would not. And John Kerry, socialist of Massachusetts, immediately jumped into gear and said, well, yes, now Congress must act to give the EPA the authority to regulate sighing because the bureaucrats regretfully seized the power to act. Yet, the Congress, charged with making the laws under the Constitution, was not going to pass such a law. So an unelected bureaucrat is going to decree what amounts to law, but called rules and regulations, because the people’s representatives would not allow the bureaucrats to make such rules and regulations in the first place, and Congress, with great foresight is going to rush to create the authority for the bureaucrats to do what they just did.

And in the face of this nonsense our Advocate informs us that there are now 17 days until Christmas. No doubt, we are hoping that Santa does not have a 60 out of 200 down-chimeny score in dealing with the well known, but critical unknown if we’ve been naughty and exhaled CO2 or nice enough to get some of our local money that got a trip to Washington while we had to stay home.

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1 Comment

  1. I agree with what you wrote here. Have you read Cem Kaner’s books? He is such a great author, I have read all of his books and learned so much from them. I was fortunate enough to see him give a speech a few years ago on his methodology. He is as good a speaker as he is an author. Do you know of any authors of Kaner’s reputation?

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