Tag Archive: Arne Duncan

This week in NJ ed ‘reform’: The truth is out there

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield.

This was quite a week in the battle over public education in the Garden State: Gov. Christie’s testing study commission heard mountains of testimony from concerned parents and citizens in three different venues; educators continued to host parent Take the PARCC nights; NJEA released a bombshell new poll showing massive numbers of NJ parents oppose the test; and NJ101.5 capped several days of PARCC discussion with a debate over the test.

Here are my thoughts:

A more perfect-er life for only $19.95

2000px-As_seen_on_TV.svgMy daughter and I have a running joke: All the world’s problems can be solved for only 3 easy payments of $19.95. If we just went out and purchased every single as-seen-on-TV product, our lives would be perfect.

That’s what ed ‘reformers’ want us to believe about the PARCC test. Just like the PedEgg, the Bacon Bowl and the Uro Club, PARCC promises to magically transform your child’s entire life from dull to dazzling-with just 10 easy hours of testing! No more struggles with ‘bad’ teachers who lazily sit around waiting to collect their pensions. PARCC will send them packing. White suburban moms will magically accept that their kids really aren’t brilliant when they see those crappy test scores. But wait! Call now, and Pearson will upgrade your flunkie kid’s educational experience with all sorts of Common Core/PARCC aligned learning materials guaranteed to make them College and Career Ready! (Just pay the cost of cuts to arts and foreign language programs.)

My open letter to President Obama about public education and his legacy

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield. And promoted by Rosi.

Dear President Obama,

Along with millions of Americans, I proudly and joyously voted for you in 2008. I believed that finally our nation was living up to its promise of a land where ‘all men [and women] are created equal’. I have continually admired your resolve and poise in the face of birthers and other racists who have purposefully jeopardized the best interests of our nation as they plot your political demise. And I voted for you again in 2012, albeit without the same level of enthusiasm. In many ways I’m still happy you are my president. The economy is heading in the right direction, millions of previously uninsured people now have access to affordable healthcare, and our troops are coming home from over a decade of war. But to be perfectly honest, in certain ways it’s more about what an alternate McCain or Romney universe would have looked like, and less about what yours looks like now because theirs would have been exponentially worse for people like me and those whom I serve.

ACA: Get Online or Pay the Fine

Get Covered America yesterday held a Latino Health Care Enrollment Summit with U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, Congressman Albio Sires and U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Quite an impressive list of speakers at a single event, but the cause is important not just for Latinos.

The deadline to enroll in a qualified marketplace health plan is March 31. So far the number of New Jerseyans who have selected a Plan is only 74,350, about 19% of the goal. The early snafus with the website did not help, but the system works much better now. The fact that only three NJ insurers are offering plans has also hurt. In addition, Gov. Christie was given a grant of $7.5 million to promote enrollment, but his disdain for the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) led him to lose the funds and have to return them to the U. S. Treasury.

If you don’t have coverage by March 31 you will have to pay a fee of either 1% of your income, or $95 per adult ($47.50 per child), whichever is higher. There are exceptions that allow you to qualify for a special enrollment period, but otherwise you can’t get  private health insurance inside the marketplace until the next open enrollment period for 2015 which starts November 15, 2014.

Governor Christie has acted churlishly regarding the Affordable Care Act. He realized that there is a benefit to expand Medicaid (it’s almost entirely paid for by the U. S. government and reduces the likelihood of expensive emergency room care and in-patient hospitalization.) In June 2013 he signed a state budget that includes monies for Medicaid expansion. However, he vetoed legislation that would have made the expansion permanent. He had earlier said, “If the fiscal and public health benefits ever change because of adverse actions by the Obama administration, I will end it as quickly as it started.” (Good red meat for conservatives.) He also refused to create a NJ Health Exchange, which would have been better suited for us and which would have provided much larger funding for promotion. Instead we use the federal health exchange website to enroll.

The somewhat better news is that some 230,000 people in the Garden State have been deemed eligible for Medicaid, both through the marketplace and the Medicaid office, although many are not yet fully enrolled. Those deemed eligible for Medicaid Expansion can enroll throughout the year.  


Open Thread: President Barack Obama Endorses Marriage Equality


Now, this is when national news becomes New Jersey news: President Barack Obama has just told ABC News that he thinks “same sex couples should be able to get married.” New Jersey, which has the distinction of marriage equality bills clearing both houses only to be stopped at the governor’s desk, plus a marriage equality court case, is now lagging behind its neighboring state of New York, and behind the leader of the free world. Who sure took his time.

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Timing’s fascinating. Yesterday North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on same sex marriage. The Democrats national convention is in Charlotte, NC Sept. 3-6. As soon as news broke about the North Carolina decision, petitions began circulating demanding the Democrats abandon North Carolina and hold the convention somewhere else. Practically impossible, given the investment the Dems have already made in NC, and how much they will need their money in the general election. Obama carried North Carolina in 2008, and its status as a 2012 battleground was guaranteed by Democrats’ decision to meet there. In the last few days, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan and VP Joe Biden have stated their support for marriage equality, which intentional or not, has had the effect of trial balloon.

Romney, of course, is against everything. Yesterday in Colorado, Romney said he opposes even civil unions.  And Christie, who has campaigned hard for the VP slot (while denying that’s what he’s doing) has stood in the way of his own gay constituents who wish to marry.

Steven Goldstein’s reaction, for Garden State Equality, below the fold:

Open Thread: US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mayor Cory Booker & Rep. Donald Payne in Newark

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is in Newark right now, at a “Town Hall” open only to teachers and other “education stakeholders”. He is joined there by Congressman Donald Payne, and Newark’s mayor, Cory Booker.

Duncan will be discussing the federal TEACH Campaign to recruit teachers to “high-need” urban and rural school districts. But it’s likely other issues, like privatizing New Jersey schools and the role Acting NJ Ed Commissioner Chris Cerf has played in the direction Newark’s public schools may take.

This is an Open Thread. Jump in anywhere.

Live Streaming by Ustream.TV

Note: I won’t be able to remove the ads from the ustream video streaming.  

Will Michelle Rhee be running Newark schools? Here she is on Meet the Press today

The timing of Mark Zuckerberg’s mega-gift to the City of Newark is interestingly timed for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the opening Friday of the documentary Waiting for Superman, which strongly advocates charter schools as educational saviors and specifically makes a star of Washington, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Rhee may indeed have a key role in the reform Mayor Cory Booker will seek to transact with Zuckerberg’s gift, and the mayor is a strong supporter of charters. So, here are two clips from this morning’s Meet the Press as they broadcast from New York City and the 2-day Education Nation Summit. Guests, along with Rhee, included Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Robert Bobb, Robert Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools, and Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education. Waiting for Superman and Zuckerberg’s gift were part of the discussion.

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Christie’s Dumb Remarks (Worst?) Press Conference

Christie in a press release Friday said, “I was extremely disappointed to learn that the videotape of the Race to the Top presentation was not consistent with the information provided to me by the New Jersey Department of Education and which I then conveyed to the people of New Jersey. As a result, I ordered an end to Bret Schundler’s service as New Jersey’s Education Commissioner.” He does not specify what information was inconsistent.  

The issue revolves around the fact that the Request for Proposals asked for education funding expenditures during the 2008-09 period but the state provided information for a later period. A definite “No No” in a grant.

The Star Ledger reported on what he “conveyed to the People of NJ” in his Wednesday press conference. It certainly was not his finest hour. Below are his quotes:

“The mistake was made by a mid-level official at the state Department of Education.” Such does not appear likely. NJEA has demonstrated that the version of the proposal prior to Christie deciding to have it re-written included the accurate data. Others have shown that a completely different response appeared in the re-written, final version, which covered a later period and provided a more favorable view of Christie and NJ education funding.

“Officials at the U.S. Department of Education could have easily either called New Jersey or found the information on the internet.” It is not up to grant reviewers to call or search the internet when an organization fails to answer a question correctly. During the video tape of the reviewers’ conference with the NJ team the reviewer sought to find out if the correct information was located elsewhere in the proposal. In fairness to other applicants the reviewer was not offering to accept revised data after the deadline.

“That’s the stuff the Obama administration should answer for.” Rather than being petulant, he might have accepted defeat more gracefully. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in his grant awards announcement was complimentary toward those not funded, indicated very few points separated them from the successful applicants, but said, “We had many more competitive applications than money to fund them in this round.” He also hopes for a third round next year.

“State Education Commissioner Bret Schundler gave the correct information to the U.S. Department of Education when giving his presentation two weeks ago.” Schundler disputes this fact saying “he never told the Governor he tried to add new information to the state’s application – which would have been against the rules.” There is no indication in the video he tried to provide such information. He says he warned Christie both in e-mails and in person not to make such a claim.

Note to the Governor: Trying to re-write a large and complex proposal over a long weekend when so much is at stake is a fool’s errand. Errors creep in and there is the danger of making spur-of-the moment changes that have not been well thought out. Also why did NJ not send a delegation to the Technical Assistance Workshop? 41 other states did. It might have helped.  

Rep. Holt and Secretary Duncan discuss education

At the House Committee on Education and Labor, Rep. Rush Holt and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had an exchange where they discussed the importance of math, science, and foreign language education.

According to Congressman Holt’s office, the Math and Science Partnership Program was funded at $79 million in FY ’08 and ’09. The Congressman has proposed increasing that figure to $179 million in FY ’10, but the Administration has proposed flat funded.