Arizona ESA Prevails in Court

March 21, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Arizona Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program, allowing an outstanding Appellate Court decision to stand as binding precedent.

Congratulations to the crack legal eagles at the Goldwater Institute and the Institute for Justice and the State of Arizona for winning the case. It has been a great blessing to work with so many dedicated lawmakers, colleagues, parents and donors in Arizona and across the country that helped to bring this program to life.

To Senator Blaine, the Know Nothings, the KKK and anyone else involved in writing bigoted anti-Catholic language into the Arizona Constitution eat your hearts out. This is a small but crucial victory in a larger struggle against your disgusting legacy.

Most of all congratulations to the participating parents. Their stories can bring even the stoic to tears.  The program upon which your family depends is safe from court assault now. Thank you for your unyielding support!

The New SAT

March 11, 2014

The new SAT will be like totally awesome.  As David Coleman, that righteous dude who was Gates’ majordomo for writing Common Core and now re-writing the SAT, said, the old SAT had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”  Yeah, it had a bunch of bogus vocab words that only brainiacs use in literature, poetry, and other useless stuff.  

No man, the new SAT will test for words people really use when they are all-like career and college ready,  like “drill-down” and “synergy.”  As that excellent SAT company says “the SAT will focus on words that students will use consistently in college and beyond.”  Yeah, like “bong” and “extended unemployment benefits.”

And the new SAT will be all equal and stuff.  It’s no fair when people get an edge cuz they know more things.  We can’t have that.  So the new math test won’t have no pre-calculus stuff that nobody but some foreign kids know how to do anymore.  Don’t we have computers for that stuff?  The new test will just cover “linear equations, functions, and proportions,” man.  Maybe I can get extra points for writing a little note on the math problems about how they make me feel.

And there’s no penalty for guessing anymore, so I finally have a chance.  Totally excellent!

(edited to add typos)

UPDATE — Cora Frazer at The New Yorker has found some of the items from the new SAT.  Here’s a taste:

2. Student-produced-response math. According to an electronic sign in the subway, an uptown 2 train is arriving in 3 minutes. You lose a game of Tetris on your phone and see that 4 minutes have gone by, at least. The electronic sign says that a 3 train is arriving in 0 minutes. 0 minutes go by. Do you just say fuck it and walk from Barclays?

10. Short-response logic. If you wear your high-heeled boots, you will be as tall as or taller than your date. But, if you don’t wear your high-heeled boots, you will feel less cool. Should you stay at home and watch anything featuring Connie Britton?

11. Improving sentences. You receive the following text message: “You’re an animal.” This is an autocorrection of:

(a) “You’re almost at Ludlow.”

(b) “Young Leo DiCaprio.”

(c) “Do we need eggs?”

(d) No autocorrection.

12. Optional-essay response. Choose one of the following writing prompts and respond in essay form, drawing on what you have read, your observations, and your experiences.

• Write a letter to your building’s superintendent explaining that although it was you who left the roof entrance open the other night, because you wanted to show that “you’re not old yet!,” you are nevertheless a responsible tenant who puts the recycling in the right bins, unless the bins are empty and it’s unclear which is which.

• Write a controlled yet scathing Yelp review that conveys just how profoundly wrong your waiter was to refer to you and your friends as an “especially large” party, causing this waiter deep moral shame and personal fear.

• Write for as long as you can, in as many words as you can, in the space provided.

Oh Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble When You’re an Arkansas Razorback Fan

March 6, 2014

Last night’s performance by the Razorback basketball team was the most impressive showing I’ve seen in college basketball.  The Hogs destroyed Ole Miss 110 to 80.  Anthlon Bell scored 23 points in 12 minutes of play with 7 three point shots.  Mardracus Wade had 18 points with 5 three point shots.  In total the team was 17 for 30 from beyond the three point line, 37 of 77 overall, and 19 of 20 from the charity stripe.  I’ve never seen the Razorbacks shoot like that.  And the Razorback defense was ferocious, forcing 18 turnovers and blocking 2 shots.

These stats understate how well the Hogs were playing because after they were up 43 points, Coach Mike Anderson began playing everyone on the bench, especially seniors in their final home game.  Ole Miss didn’t look so bad.  We just looked awesome.

I don’t want to count our dance partners before they’ve come a-calling, but it looks like we are headed toward the Big Dance.

Here’s how Razorbacks render the old Mac Davis song:

UPDATE —  Of course it gets easier to be humble when you get whooped in the next game.

Pat Wolf on Obama and Vouchers

March 5, 2014

Pat Wolf has a superb post over on Choice Words about the hypocrisy of President Obama calling for program’s to advance the education of African American men while at the same time wrongly describing the results of voucher programs  that do precisely that and attempting to cut funding for those programs.

Here’s the money quote:

Given the results of these three studies, one which was overseen by the U.S. Department of Education and two which were recognized with the Department’s highest award for rigor, we might expect President Obama to receive a swift response regarding his call for the federal government to search for programs that boost educational outcomes for African American men. The U.S. Department of Education need not search far and wide for such initiatives: they have already found one. Research shows that private-school choice through vouchers or scholarships is one of our nation’s most effective dropout-prevention programs for African Americans. It should be number one on the list of programs that President Obama encourages My Brother’s Keeper to support. But, apparently, it isn’t.

In fact, President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal includes no program funding whatsoever for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, even though his U.S. Department of Education found it to be highly effective in promoting educational attainment for low-income African Americans. Why would the President use his phone to encourage nonprofits to promote educational opportunities for African Americans, but then use his pen to defund a federal government program already proven to do just that? Certainly that is not the sort of action one expects from his brother’s keeper.

Live Free and Learn

March 4, 2014

(Guest Post By James Shuls)

Yesterday, the Show-Me Institute released a new case-study, “Live free and learn: A case study of New Hampshire’s scholarship tax credit program.” The study was written by the incomparable Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute. In the paper, he presents the first survey of New Hampshire Opportunity Scholarship recipients. What he found should not come as a surprise – parents love the program.

Of the scholarship recipients whose children attended a public school in the previous year, all reported greater satisfaction with their current school. In all, 97% of the parents surveyed indicated they are satisfied with their chosen school or homeschool.

Here are a few choice quotes from parents:

“[My son] is thriving and the school is the perfect fit for his needs…”

“I feel like the private school saved my daughter.”

“We are thrilled with the improvement we have seen in our son both academically and socially.”

“This school is incredible.”

“This school has been a lifesaver for my child.”

What’s more, many of these parents were low-income families that might not have had the luxury of school choice without the program. The state’s only scholarship granting organization, the Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO), made it a point to prioritize need in the granting of scholarships. They appear to have done a great job. Roughly 91% of the families qualified for free or reduced price lunches and 74% indicated they would not have been able to afford tuition without the scholarship.

In the words of Matt Ladner:


Check out more about the program and NEO in this great video.


March 3, 2014

Antonio Salieri says”I am the patron saint of the Tufts RTF Department…”

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

My Austin sources inform me that McConaughey has started the biggest celebration since the 2006 Rose Bowl.  Now that Jay has been justly cowed by the overwhelming might of the UT Austin film brigade (former UT student F. Murray Abraham also won Best Actor by the way- HOLLA!) we can move on to other important business, like this interesting new study by Jason Bedrick about the New Hampshire tax credit program for the Show Me Institute.  Unlike Jay’s Oscar smack, a 97% satisfaction rate is strong.

Tufts vs. UT Austin, An Acting Showdown

March 3, 2014

Prom 1984

Matt threw down the gauntlet in his post bragging about UT Austin alum, Matthew McConaughey, winning Best Actor laurels last night: “So Jay and Greg, how long has it been since your eastern seaboard finishing schools for global technocrats graduates won a Best Actor Oscar?”

Well, I went to Tufts and the answer is 1985, when Tufts grad, William Hurt, won the Best Actor Oscar for Kiss of the Spider Woman.  Yes, that was a little while ago.  But given that UT Austin has 38,463 undergraduates relative to only 5,255 at Tufts, I’d say that each having one alum among the 76 people who have ever won the Best Oscar for Actors is a little more impressive for the much smaller Tufts.

Tufts also has more than its share of well-known actors who haven’t won the Best Actor award, including:

And two Oscar-winning producers:

Rainn Wilson and I went to high school together before both going to Tufts.  In fact, we double-dated to prom, as you can see in the photo above.  Yes, that’s him with the gloves.

And Greg’s doctoral alma mater, Yale, has dominated the Oscars.  Just last night, Yale alum, Lupita Nyong’o, won the Best Supporting Actress Award.  Three-time Best Actress, Meryl Streep, is also a Yale alum.  Other Oscar winners and nominees who attended Yale include: Paul Newman, Sigourney Weaver, Frances McDormand, Paul Giamatti, Elia Kazan, Sam Waterston, Oliver Stone, Jodie Foster, and Edward Norton.

Of course, UT Austin does have Wes Anderson, who is one of my favorite film-makers.  But in general Matt has picked the wrong fight.  There are many things not to like about what Matt calls “eastern seaboard finishing schools for global technocrats,” but failure to produce acclaimed actors is not one of them.

The $663,000 Superintendent

March 3, 2014

(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)

What happens when government officials think no one is watching? Sometimes this:

Residents demanded answers at an emergency meeting in Lawndale Tuesdaynight after a series of reports revealed an excessive amount of compensation for the superintendent of the Centinela Valley Union High School District.

KCAL9’s Dave Bryan reports that Jose Fernandez’s total compensation last year was $663,000, all for running a district of three high schools with only about 6,500 students.

The school district also floated a loan of more than $900,000 for Fernandez at 2 percent interest over 40 years at a time when he had already declared bankruptcy, Bryan reported.

Perhaps he’s so well-paid because he runs such an efficient and effective organization?

Hawthorne High School teacher Caryn Charles said the district is giving lavish loans and huge salaries to the superintendent when she has to pay to buy paper for her students.

“It’s really embarrassing as a teacher that we don’t have any paper at our department at our school. With all due respect to all of you, but it’s embarrassing when I have to go to Office Depot and buy paper, and I read that other people don’t have to worry about things like that,” she said.

So how are public officials able to get away with this for so long?

Part of the problem is their timing, explained Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney. Centinela Valley elections are held in November of odd years, which means there are no state or national races on the ballot to attract attention and draw in more voters.

And small districts in large metropolitan areas are further challenged because they get limited media coverage, Pitney said. Residents can’t just turn on the TV or open up the newspaper to regularly find out what is going on.

“People just don’t have the access to information about what their locality is up to,” he said. “They don’t even know there is going to be an election.”

Naturally, in response to the citizens’ outrage upon discovering that the school board they had elected was squandering their hard-earned money, the Centinela Valley school board officials did the only responsible thing: they hired a media-relations consultant.

We’ll give Ron Swanson the last word on this story:

Pass the Clicker: The Escapism of House of Cards

February 26, 2014

The main appeal of most entertainment is simply to escape from the humdrum of regular life.  High school film students will often make the mistake of driving around town with a camera, filming the people and places they would regularly see, thinking that their regular life would be interesting to others.  It isn’t.  Real life typically lacks the condensed story-telling and dramatic arc that good film-making or theater requires.  Of course, the thing that makes theater and film interesting also make it artificial.  Drama may capture some essential aspect of life, but it is not life itself.  If it were, it would be boring.

House of Cards is about as far from real life as one can imagine.  It’s characters are so sinister, so clever, and so competent in their sinister cleverness that the series bears no resemblance whatsoever to real political life.  Real politics is the dullest thing in the universe.

I have met a great many politicians and no more than a handful could be described as clever and none as sinister.  For the most part, politicians are bland, weak-egoed, moderately bright folks who are eager to do nothing daring, exciting, or controversial in their entire lives.

So, House of Cards is an escapist fantasy of what politics would look like if it weren’t so dull.  The show is so cynical and the characters so diabolical that it is sometimes hard to suspend disblelief.  But like watching Itchy and Scratchy, it is so ridiculously unreal that it is fairly entertaining.  And yes, it is very, very dark.  But again, the darkness is so cartoonish that it is hardly menacing.  The darkness of Breaking Bad was more true to real life, but that is precisely what made it so much harder to stomach.

American movies and TV have had a very hard time making compelling political dramas.  Too often they are either hyper-cynical, like House of Cards, or they’re saccharinely idealistic, like West Wing. The reality of politics is closer to high school kids filming while they drive around town… boring as crap.

Perhaps the best political movies are not dramas, but absurdist comedies.  Notice that of the Washington Post’s list of best political movies, a large number are actually absurdist comedies, including Being ThereBob RobertsDr. StrangeloveDuck SoupElectionO Brother, Where Art Thou, and Thank you for Smoking.

That’s the way you should watch House of Cards.  It’s actually a very dark comedy.

(corrected for typos)

See The Glass Menagerie Before It Closes

February 22, 2014

We went to see The Glass Menagerie again last night and it was even better than the night before, if that is possible.  There are two more performances, tonight (Saturday) at 7 pm and tomorrow (Sunday) at 2 pm.  It is at The Black Box Theater at Fayetteville High School.  See it before it closes.

Yesterday’s post on the play generated some interesting discussion in the comments, so you may want to check that out.  I also learned from Twitter that Morgan Polikoff played Laura, the same part as my daughter, in his sophomore English class.  I’m discovering more reasons to like Morgan all the time.  And he says there is a video out there to prove it.  I promise to post the video if it ever surfaces.


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