Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick on Immigration in the WSJ

January 25, 2013

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick are teaming up for a book on immigration that will come out in March, and previewed their thinking today in the Wall Street Journal. Read the article here. Basic thesis:

In some conservative circles, the word “comprehensive” in the context of immigration reform is an epithet—a code word for amnesty. People who oppose such reform declare that securing the United States border must come before moving toward broader reform.

Such an approach is shortsighted and self-defeating. Border security is inextricably intertwined with other aspects of immigration policy. The best way to prevent illegal immigration is to make sure that we have a fair and workable system of legal immigration. The current immigration system is neither.

The immigration system is like a jigsaw puzzle. If one or more pieces are out of whack, the puzzle makes no sense. To fix the system, Congress must make sure all of the pieces fit together, logically and snugly.

The Implications of a Blue Texas

January 17, 2013

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So I have been thinking about the talk of a “Blue Texas.” Texas has experienced a profound shift in partisan dominance within our lifetimes, and demographic changes in the state portend that it may happen again. Texas moved out of being part of the “Solid South” starting in the 1970s with the slow but steady rise of the Texas Republican party. Republicans had captured all of the statewide elected offices by the 1990s. Finally, the Republicans overcame Democratic gerrymandering to capture a majority in the Texas House and Senate in 2003.

A profound demographic shift has placed an expiration date upon the control of the Texas legislature by conservative Anglos. Conservatives may or may not remain ascendant in Texas but the days of the political dominance of conservative Anglos are certainly numbered.

One can see this trend coming in the ethnic distribution of the Texas school population. In 2011-12, Hispanics comprised 50.8% of children enrolled in the Texas public school system. Anglos comprised only 30.5 percent, and African-Americans only 12.8 percent. You can also get a sense of the scale and the growth in Texas by looking at public education statistics. With nearly five million students, Texas educates nearly as many public school students as the twenty smallest states combined. Texas may soon have twice as many public school students as Florida-despite the fact that Florida has the 4th largest public school population.  Texas has been adding a public school population roughly equal in size to the public school system of Wyoming every 14 months or so. Texas was the only state to gain 4 new Congressional seats after the 2010 Census- a small number of other states gained two, no one else gained either 3 or 4.

In 2012, Texas Hispanics comprised 25 percent of the electorate and favored Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a margin of 62% to 37%. That’s a more balanced result than the national numbers, but hardly reassuring if you are a Texas Republican. Each passing year will see older Republicans passing on, and more young Hispanic voters entering the electorate. Some forecasters predict a “Blue Texas” by 2020- although it could happen either later or earlier or never depending upon a variety of factors.

Let’s start with the electoral college map. Republicans haven’t been very good at getting to 270 lately even with the now 38 Texas electoral votes in the bag. Without them states like Florida and Ohio could become mere style points for the Democratic nominee rather than crucial swing states. One could imagine other states trending Republican to counteract a Blue Texas, but it seems imaginary indeed.

For someone of modestly libertarian politics like myself, the most alarming scenario would be for a Blue Texas that becomes in effect a second California- a gigantic state in which organized public sector groups play an incredibly strong role in state policy making. I would expect that might blunt this momentum rather decisively:

Or perhaps not-predictions are hard, especially about the future. Some of you of course will be excited by the idea of a Blue Texas, others horrified by the prospect. Regardless the implications of a Blue Texas stretch far beyond Presidential politics. We can discuss some of those in future posts.

For now let’s keep an eye on this to see what happens next…

Starring Matt Ladner as the Difference Principle!

January 16, 2013

Hippies on stage

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Are you ready for this? A Theory of Justice: The Musical!

No, really:

In order to draw inspiration for his magnum opus, John Rawls travels back through time to converse (in song) with a selection of political philosophers, including Plato, Locke, Rousseau and Mill. But the journey is not as smooth as he hoped: for as he pursues his love interest, the beautiful student Fairness, through history, he must escape the evil designs of his libertarian arch-nemesis, Robert Nozick, and his objectivist lover, Ayn Rand. Will he achieve his goal of defining Justice as Fairness?

Wait, I thought they already made that show. It was called Hair.

Here’s a publicity photo from the production – Matt Ladner in costume for his co-starring role as “The Difference Principle”:


HT David Koyzis

Head Start Revealed

January 14, 2013

Despite the obvious effort to delay and conceal the disappointing results from the official and high quality evaluation of Head Start, the Wall Street Journal shines the light on the issue in today’s editorial.  DC’s manipulating scumbags might want to take note that efforts to hide negative research might just draw more attention.  It’s comforting to see that the world may sometimes look more like Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment than Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The Journal reveals that Head Start supporters have not only ignored the latest study, but they are trying to sneak an extra $100 million for Head Start into the relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy.  They also note that the most recent disappointing Head Start result is just the latest in a string of studies failing to find benefits from the program despite a cumulative expenditure of more than $180 billion.

And then the Journal finishes with this:

The Department of Health and Human Services released the results of the most recent Head Start evaluation on the Friday before Christmas. Once again, the research showed that cognitive gains didn’t last. By third grade, you can’t tell Head Start alumni from their non-Head Start peers.

President Obama has said that education policy should be driven not by ideology but by “what works,” though we have to wonder given his Administration’s history of slow-walking the release of information that doesn’t align with its agenda.

In 2009, the Administration sat on a positive performance review of the Washington, D.C., school voucher program, which it opposes. The Congressionally mandated Head Start evaluation put out last month was more than a year late, is dated October 2012 and was released only after Republican Senator Tom Coburn and Congressman John Kline sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting its release along with an explanation for the delay. Now we know what was taking so long.

Like so many programs directed at the poor, Head Start is well-intentioned, and that’s enough for self-congratulatory progressives to keep throwing money at it despite the outcomes. But misleading low-income parents about the efficacy of a program is cruel and wastes taxpayer dollars at a time when the country is running trillion-dollar deficits.

A government that cared about results would change or end Head Start, but instead Congress will use the political cover of disaster relief to throw more good money after proven bad policy.

[UPDATE: And here is a good follow-up op-ed on the study by Lindsey Burke on the Fox News web site.]

Head Start Manipulating Scumbags

December 20, 2012

I’ve heard that the latest round of results from the federal evaluation of Head Start is due to be released tomorrow afternoon.  And my psychic powers tell me that the results will show no lasting benefit from Head Start, just like the two previous rounds of results.

You heard that right — the federal government is releasing results that the administration dislikes on a Friday afternoon just before Christmas.  They might as well put the results on display in a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory behind the sign that says “beware of the leopard.”

Why is the Department of Health and Human Services burying this study just like they delayed, buried, or distorted the previous ones?  Well, because the study is an extremely rigorous and comprehensive evaluation, involving random assignment of a representative sample of all Head Start students nationwide, that I expect will find no enduring benefits from this program that politicians, pundits, and other dimwits constantly want to expand and fund.  Anyone who casts doubt on think tank research should cast a critical eye toward gross manipulations and abuse of research that are perpetrated by the federal government.

I should repeat that the researchers have done an excellent job evaluating Head Start in this case.  It is the bureaucratic class at the Department of Health and Human Services who have cynically manipulated, delayed, and misreported this research.  The pending report is already delayed several years and has been around for a long time.  The decision to release it on the Friday afternoon before Christmas is completely calculated.

I don’t know your names, but I’m going to invest a little energy in tracking down who is responsible for this cynical abuse of research.  If there were any reporters worth their salt left out there, they would bother to expose you but I guess that job has now been passed to bloggers and enterprising individuals.  When I do find your names I will post them so folks can know who the scumbags are who think they can manipulate the policy community by delaying, burying, or misreporting research.  And then when you get hired by that DC think tank, advocacy organization, or other waste of space we’ll be able to remember who you are and assign no credibility to what you have to say.  These kinds of dastardly acts by public servants should not be cost free and if I have any say in the matter they will not be in this case.

Yahoo, yayhoo or patriot? You be the judge…

November 20, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A reader of this blog has taken me to task for not spelling the word “yahoo” correctly. This is deeply distressing and unfair! An expert in such things (a man from Wyoming) once imparted to me lore regarding the distinction between a “yahoo” and a “yayhoo.” Perhaps it is spelled the way it is pronounced: “yay-hoo.” I can’t be certain.

The distinction was very fine-I think “yahoo” might have made reference to people who don’t know as much as they think they do, whereas “yayhoo” might refer to someone far-gone on the ideological spectrum as to have lost touch with reality. I find it all a bit confusing, so I tend to use the terms interchangeably.

Now the writer also makes her case against Tony along the way. “With the advent of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind in 2001, followed by President Obama’s Race to the Top, Common Core and NCLB waiver programs, we have been under constant pressure to surrender education decision-making to Washington and its trade association partners. Every aspect of voter disdain can be traced to the requirements imposed by federal programs such as the Race to the Top Fund Assessment Grant and the NCLB waiver.”

So the people of Indiana rose up in long-suffering anger regarding federal interference in schools and chose to take it out on Tony Bennett. This is plausible if we take “the people” to mean “the writer” but not so much otherwise.

Tony didn’t have anything to do with NCLB, and Indiana pulled out of the Race to the Top competition. I’d be willing to wager by left big-toe that if we administered a survey to the Indiana public and asked them to explain the elements of Indiana’s NCLB waiver that all but a small percentage would likely reply “what NCLB waiver?”  or something similar. People are rational actors and the vast majority of them won’t make time in their lives to learn anything more about NCLB waivers than studying Mayan hieroglyphs absent some good reason to do so. I’m also willing to bet that the new Superintendent will lose her real or imagined federalist fervor and choose not to nullify the waiver so as to have almost every public school in Indiana facing NCLB sanctions.

Never mind any of that- we mustn’t let mere logic or facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory, especially if the conspiracy is thwarting the will of the public. Tony Bennett was controlled by Arne Duncan and special interests, and this NEA candidate will serve as Tribune to the People. Let’s see how that works out. Tuttle concludes “As for Ladner and his ilk, I note that long ago, the British disdainfully called the patriots ‘Yankee Doodles,’ and they mocked George Washington as an ignoramus. So go ahead. Call me a yahoo. But if you paint my portrait, make sure you show me holding the Declaration of Independence in one hand and the Constitution in the other.”

For my part, I’m content to allow Tuttle to continue to draw her own self-portrait and for readers to reach their own conclusions.

El Paso Cheating Scandal

October 15, 2012

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

One guy who isn’t going to be nominated for this year’s Al Copeland award is Lorenzo Garcia, disgraced ex-superintendent of El Paso schools. He’s at the center of the latest major cheating scandal connected to NCLB. From the New York Times:

Students identified as low-performing were transferred to charter schools, discouraged from enrolling in school or were visited at home by truant officers and told not to go to school on the test day. For some, credits were deleted from transcripts or grades were changed from passing to failing or from failing to passing so they could be reclassified as freshmen or juniors…

In 2008, Linda Hernandez-Romero’s daughter repeated her freshman year at Bowie High School after administrators told her she was not allowed to return as a sophomore. Ms. Hernandez-Romero said administrators told her that her daughter was not doing well academically and was not likely to perform well on the test.

Ms. Hernandez-Romero protested the decision, but she said her daughter never followed through with her education, never received a diploma or a G.E.D. and now, at age 21, has three children, is jobless and survives on welfare.

“Her decisions have been very negative after this,” her mother said. “She always tells me: ‘Mom, I got kicked out of school because I wasn’t smart. I guess I’m not, Mom, look at me.’ There’s not a way of expressing how bad it feels, because it’s so bad. Seeing one of your children fail and knowing that it was not all her doing is worse.” [ea]

Accountability systems don’t work when those being held accountable percieve the system as political and illegitimate. Schools need these systems but they’re not going to work as long as education is a government monopoly. More on that here and here.

Via Bill Evers

Progressives for School Choice

October 3, 2012

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

There was a time when Jack Jennings posed as a nonpartisan voice of apolitical wisdom. That was then! It was always a thin disguise, but the mask is really off now:

The Republicans’ talk about giving parents the right to choose is a politically expedient strategy … Just beneath the surface of the education rhetoric are political motivations to thwart integration, weaken the Democratic coalition, and cripple the teachers’ unions.

Over on RedefineED, Doug Tuthill responds with a really amazing history of progressive support for school choice. Go take a look! Even if you think you know this history, you’ll learn something.

Actually, Tuthill leaves two major figures off his list. Thomas Paine proposed school vouchers for England, justified as a way to advance the well being of the poor, in the appendix to the second edition of The Rights of Man. And J.S. Mill supported vouchers as a blow against socially conservative cultural dominance, writing that “A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another.”

(via Bill Evers)

Kevin Williamson on Homeschooling

October 3, 2012

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

If you subscribe to National Review, don’t miss Kevin Williamson’s fantastic piece in the new issue on home schooling. Here are three little tastes of a long article in which every paragraph is good:

In the public imagination, homeschooling has a distinctly conservative and Evangelical odor about it, but it was not always so. The modern homeschooling movement really has its roots in 1960s countercultural tendencies; along with A Love Supreme, it may represent the only worthwhile cultural product of that era. The movement’s urtext is Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, by A. S. Neill, which sold millions of copies in the 1960s and 1970s…

[Dana Goldstein, writing against home schooling in Slate] went on to argue that the children of high-achieving parents amount to public goods because of peer effects…She does not extend that analysis to its logical conclusion: that conscientious, educated liberals should enroll their children in the very worst public schools they can find in order to maximize the public good…

Teachers’ unions have money on the line, and ideologues do not want any young skull beyond their curricular reach. A political class that does not trust people with a Big Gulp is not going to trust them with the minds of children.

If you don’t subscribe – shame on you!

Walter Mead Russell on the Plight of the Black Middle Class

August 30, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Every now and then you read something that just sits with you for a long time. My mental processor has been working on this provocative piece from Walter Mead Russell for weeks now.

Go read it. I’ll be here when you get back. Plenty of edu-implications here, and some obvious crucial points that WMR omitted, but tell me what you think in the comments section. I’m still trying to decide how I would try to tackle this if I were a billionaire philanthropist.


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