Lucky John is a better nickname than Hick

Great news everybody, Mike Littwin is still writing. The former Rocky Mountain News legend known for his rumpled look, up yours attitude, and call ‘em as he sees ‘em style continues to practice his fine art over at the Colorado Independent. (I know, it’s so easy to forget they’re over there…)

I’ve always been impressed by how accurately Littwin calls balls and strikes in the world of Colorado politics, and his recent piece summarizing the Great Colorado Fracking Wars Compromise was no exception.

I know many liberals are discontent with the compromise. I certainly have a hard time swallowing a “deal” that Frank McNulty boasts is a “victory.”

And I know some of Jared Polis’s constituents were upset enough to protest and call him a sell-out. Which is, of course, stupid. Jared was, and probably still is, the best, if not only, hope the anti-fracking crowd has in their long-shot battle to stop fracking. It’s here to stay people, whether you like it or not. Don’t be like the Republican Taliban. Get over it.*

Governor John Hickenlooper – labeled Lucky John by Littwin – is an upbeat and hardworking pro. He knows you create your own luck.

Give the guv some credit here. The fracking compromise was a brilliant move from a purely political standpoint. And it never hurts to reassure the business community.

The bottom line is this – while the outcome of those anti-fracking initiatives was hard to forecast, there was no doubt that the oil and gas industry was poised to pour millions of dollars into Colorado, and not just for TV, but for an Obama-style GOTV effort. And that would not have helped any Dems on the ballot, including important races like Senator Mark Udall, which could be the balance of power in the US Senate, Andrew Romanoff, one of the few pick-ups the national party realistically has a shot at in the US House, and, of course, the Governor’s race. Where Lucky John just created some more good luck for himself.

As for Congressman Polis, you have to respect the fact that he was gearing up for a fight shaping up to be Jared Polis v. The World. Yes, he’s safe in his liberal district with Boulder at its heart. But Jared has larger ambitions – as he should – and he really took a bold and somewhat risky stance here. He got the lawsuit dropped against the city of Longmont, which will save the taxpayers there countless thousands, no small sum for a small town. Most of all, he showed us he’s unafraid. Jared Polis is one of Colorado’s best Democrats. All true blue liberals owe him a huge thanks.

Thanks Jared!

* I don’t want this to be a post about fracking. I’ve been accused before of being a pro-oil Republican dressed as a Dem for not being all-in on the anti-fracking movement. Let me be clear – I think the idea of smashing up the Earth to save a few pennies per BTU is somewhere between risky and lunacy. Also, the amount of water they use is unimaginable. And they can’t leave it down there – it would only further increase the risk of earthquakes. So when they bring the water up it’s poisoned and has nowhere to go. Again, risky to lunacy. Fracking certainly feels shortsighted and unsustainable.

But it’s here to stay. At least until they’ve fracked it all up. It creates jobs, and believe it or not, the people who work those jobs aren’t gun toting criminals. They may own firearms, but they’re good honest people, just like those of us who oppose fracking. They have families, they pay taxes, and I refuse to refer to people who work in the oil and gas industry as “the enemy.” That’s stupid. Friends and neighbors is more like it.

We have to pick our battles. Natural gas is 50% “better” (less worse is more accurate) than coal on CO2, and something like 100% better on mercury emissions. My numbers here are rough, not scientific, but the point is made. We need energy, and natural gas is better than coal. It’s better than gasoline too. Electric motors can’t propel 18 wheelers over your standard issue Rocky Mountain. Natural gas can, making it the perfect complement to a primarily electric car nation. Which is where we need to go. Electricity that can be generated by renewable sources like solar and wind with, as a stabilizing supplier, natural gas.

Now, I realize the ballot initiatives were about local control. Those ballot initiatives could have passed, and if nothing more happened, if no locality passed any new laws, nothing would have changed. In other words, the initiatives themselves weren’t the threat, just the possible repercussions. But it certainly would have put the legal department of any oil and gas company into overdrive. And they were gonna fight tooth nail first to keep the status quo certainty any business prefers. And that would have made this election even worse for us Dems. We’re already in choppy seas here. We didn’t need this.

Go Register One Voter

At last night’s JFK Dinner, AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. challenged over 250 Adams County Democratic Party activists and supporters to get out there and register one, just one, new voter between Saturday night’s festivities and “sundown on Monday.”
He’s right on a couple of levels. First, if it is to be, it’s up to me. If every attendee registers one voter now, and one more between now and the end of registration, that’s over 500 new voters right there. And when the people vote, Democrats win.
He’s also right in that this will be a grind-it-out, turn out the vote election. By which I mean this won’t be a wave a election (see 2006 and 2010) where one party has an overwhelming advantage heading into election day. Republicans should have such an advantage, given the historical “six year itch.” The six year itch refers to an incumbent lame duck President, whereby the voting electorate, historically, has grown fatigued with the present party occupying the White House. While there is ample evidence of this historical “itch” heading into Barack Obama’s sixth year, the GOP has hindered themselves by showing their true colors and continuing to engage in divisive and negative tactics (see gov’t shutdown, immigration). Their antics have them behind the eight ball when they should be riding a surge in a most American political sentiment – send the bums a message!
Talk radio host Norman Goldman was our emcee for the evening. A larger than life figure with pipes made for radio, Norman warmed us up nicely with comments about the GOP and their extremism.
A lawyer by trade, he made the choice several years ago to shift from practicing attorney to full-time activist. He initially got his start on The Ed Schultz Show as Big Eddie’s “Senior Legal Analyst,” which Norman said was a stab at CNN and their use of the same title for one of their commentators.
Norman said he’s always a little surprised when people call in complaining. “We’ve been winning elections recently!” he pointed out, noting that Barack Obama received the affirmative vote of over 66 million Americans in 2008, and if that wasn’t enough proof or validation for everyone, he was re-elected four years later by over 65 million Americans, almost 5 million more than his nearest competitor.
The challenge of the night however belonged to AFGE President Cox:
Identify someone you know who isn’t registered to vote, and register them!

***
Check your Colorado voter registration or request a registration form be mailed to you. (Colorado does not have on-line voter registration.)
Norman Goldman’s smart phone app: http://www.normangoldman.com/about/app/
Listen to Norman Goldman on the Internet: http://www.normangoldman.com/listen/

Adams County and Education Reform-Part 3: Cost Efficient and Authentic Reform

If you ask most parents you’ll find that they are happy with how well their child’s school is doing. Research data shows that a majority of citizens support their public schools and school districts, and view public schools as vital to their child’s future. (1) It is the corporate media and corporate “reformers” like the American Federation for Children, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Better Education for Kids (B4K), the Center for Education Reform, Education Reform Now, and on ad-nauseum…that bash community supported public schools, their outstanding performance records, and dedicated teachers. (2) These reforms are not for the benefit of children but for the profit of a few. Since the Clinton presidency our nation has seen the largest privatization efforts to take away public and local control of our schools to private corporations and federal control.

Our schools actually do well preparing students for life after high school. Schools are a microcosm of our society and reflect the values and culture of a community. The public schools that teach and nurture our children are being slowly dismantled and shut down because the federal government begins to impose punitive rules on our public schools for not meeting standards at one-hundred percent. Between President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Obama’s Race to the Top Act public schools have seen good teachers fired or had their contracts non-renewed; class sizes double; and public schools closed for not meeting state standards imposed by the feds to compete for government funding dollars.

Barack Obama’s Race to the Top Act is the first time in United States history that the states and public schools have had to compete for dollars than funding schools based on the number of children that fall into poverty and in need of more instructional time. (3) Instead, Obama’s law created an environment of hyper-competition between states and school districts to grab up the meager federal dollars set-aside for our children’s education. States and schools districts now spend over a third of public tax dollars on consultants, software, staff development, grant writers, and standardized tests. (4) Our tax dollars are better spent on classroom instruction, hiring highly qualified teachers, assessing the whole-child, authentic assessments or portfolio assessments, helping poor parents access schools through parent engagement, teacher preparation, and reducing class size.

Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have gulped down the “privatization punch” so toxic to education reform and even more toxic to our children’s ability to succeed in schooling. Both political parties are making education reform decisions that are neither research based nor properly tested. The Common Core and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests have not been thoroughly tested to show academic improvement. Certainly the PARCC test was piloted, software readied and purchased at great cost to the Colorado taxpayer, but it has never been shown to show improved academic achievement. In fact, none of the standardization that has occurred over the past three decades has shown improved academic achievement. Instead, what it has done is create a multi-billion dollar industry for tests, test prep materials, consultants, consulting companies, for-profit charter operators, and charter school companies. All at taxpayer expense!

The people of Adams County and the state of Colorado are paying a large amount of money for very little return. 

The “reforms” Adams County residents are paying for are costly and take up valuable instructional time from our children who could be experiencing a progressive, holistic education instead of preparing for standardized tests using an untested standardized core curriculum.

Education reforms that are cost-efficient, authentic, and research based are portfolio assessments; increased parent engagement; proportional teacher tuition and career pre-assessments; mentorship for new teachers; and teacher/site-based curriculum and instructional reform. Portfolio Assessments are the gathered evidence and student product of learning in a set period of time. I will discuss portfolio assessments in Part 4. Increased parent engagement will be covered in Part 5 is the inclusion of parents in the school decision-making process and the training of parents for communication between themselves and their schools or teachers. Part six of this blog subject on education reform will explain the advantages and research data on charging teachers lower tuition rates and pre-assessing a teacher’s readiness or skill toward a successful career in education. The Part 6 explains how mentorship for new teachers benefit students, teacher longevity and the taxpayer’s wallet. Part 7 is about site-based curriculum and instructional reform. Parts 8, 9, and 10 will deal with Charter Schools, Unscientific and non-Researched Based Curriculum, and Adams County Citizen Action toward School Reform.

1.) https://www.aft.org/pdfs/press/publicschoolparentsurvey0713.pdf

2.) Ravitch, Diane (2013), Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, ‘The context for Corporate Reform, ‘ Chapter 2, Pg. 21, Alfed A. Knopf, New York.

3.) Ibid., Pg. 17

4.) Brown, Jennifer, “Cost Doesn’t Spell Success for Colorado Schools Using  Consultants to Improve Achievement,” Denver Post, February 19, 2012.

The Effects of Israeli Violence on the Palestinian Children of Gaza.

The conditions in the Gaza Strip of Palestine are horrendous. Poverty among the citizens of Gaza is below third world standards and the United Nations considers this a “gross violation of humanitarian law.” (1) The inhumane occupation by Israel, an aggressor state, has blockaded Gaza from getting the humanitarian assistance that the people who live their need to survive. Basic survival needs such as water, clothing, food, medicine, energy, and fuel are extremely hard to find in the small strip of land called Gaza. Efforts from Doctors Without Borders to the United Nations World Health Organization to aid in alleviating a bit of the pain suffered by the Palestinians of Gaza are often blocked by Israel. The children of Gaza suffer the most from the harsh military rule and continuous bombardment by Israel.

One major effect of the poor and violent conditions of Gaza caused by the Israelis is the psychological impact they have on young children and teenagers. War always has a negative impact on the psyche of children and does make children lethargic, numb, suicidal, angry, depressed, and, eventually, mentally ill or, if they turn to drugs, drug addicts. The children of Gaza experience homelessness and lack of shelter on a scale unprecedented since the illegal occupation by Israel. Homes of Palestinians are frequently bombed or bulldozed by the occupation forces (IDF). Since there is no place for the children to escape to and many Palestinians are unable to flee the aggression, the forced living conditions of limited living space or in shelters that do not meet basic safety standards. Many of these buildings collapse due to the bombing and many children die beneath the rubble.

Drug addiction is rampant among young teenage boys in Gaza because of not knowing what the future holds for them. Tamadol is the drug of choice as it is an opiate and easily smuggled in to Gaza. Opiates, hashish, and heroin numb the pain and depression felt by teenagers experiencing lack of control over their own destinies.

Public schools, orphanages, and hospitals run by Hamas are targets for Israelis missiles and rockets. Whatever the reason or justification for bombing these places, they are certainly not safe places for kids. Here is a quote from Richard Falk the United Nations Special Rapporteur,

“Since 2000, he noted, 1,335 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of the presence of the Israeli military and settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory. ‘The arbitrary opening of fire by Israeli military against Palestinian children is appalling,’ he said, adding that the policies of land confiscation, expansion of settlements, home demolitions and forced displacement of families, revocation of residency permits and restrictions on freedom of movement continue to have a greater impact on children. 

He stated that Israel continues to arbitrarily arrest, detain and abuse children, noting that 226 children are currently in Israeli detention, including 45 who are between 12 and 15 years old.

 ‘Children continue to be arrested at night, at checkpoints or off the street. Upon arrest, children and their families are seldom informed of the charges against them,’ said Mr. Falk, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.” (2)

The United States and the citizens of Adams County must demand that our Congressional Representatives, our Senators, and our local politicians do not support Israeli violence against the children of Gaza as it is a violation of human rights and it is just plain evil to harm a child! It is imperative that we contact our representatives to let them know that we do not support the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the continued illegal building of settlements on Palestinian Arab soil. Our tax dollars are better spent on building new schools, hiring qualified teachers, and supplying our own children with the necessities for a quality of life here at home and not wasting billions of dollars on supplying Israel with weaponry used to slaughter innocent children.

1.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Fact_Finding_Mission_on_the_Gaza_Conflict

2.) http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38255#.U8VLo1aE4TA

by Antonio D’Lallo

Adams County and Education Reform-Part 2: A brief history of reform (“A Manufactured Crisis”)

The Reagan Era ushered in the most aggressive attacks against public schools and teachers. President Ronald Reagan and the neo-conservatives ruling the Republican Party sought to privatize education and create a diversion away from the public eye on the decrease in wages, the dismantling of unions, the lowering of our standard of living, the disintegration of our quality of life, and the shipping of jobs overseas. Public schools were the easiest target and the most emotional one because they work with children, and the party of family values would use the “cult of the child” to manipulate the public’s view on teachers and public education. The “cult of the child” refers to a bizarre movement among the family values fanatics that everything is for the kids and we must do all things for the children, and in their name, and take whatever measures are necessary no matter how ridiculous or harmful to the children or the community to “protect” our children. This, of course, requires a ‘bogey-man’ or a scapegoat to accuse of harming our children. Who works with kids and who was the easiest target to scapegoat? TEACHERS!!

President Ronald Reagan would commission U.S Secretary of Education, Terrence Bell, to write a report on how horrible our schools were performing compared to other foreign countries. It lambasted public schools for not keeping our children competitive in the global market place and blames public schools for the decline in our nation’s economic strength. According to the 1983 report called “A Nation at Risk,” teachers were to blame for falling test scores compared to the Japanese and other foreign countries. It was public schools and teachers that destroyed our children’s futures and that we needed to seek alternatives to public schooling outside of publicly financed and democratically governed schools. The report issued a clarion call to all parents to fight teachers’ unions, dismantle the public education revenue system, and demand school choice in public education.

After a decade of watching public schools rely on austerity budgets due to decreases in state and local funding, and observing the damage the report had done to public education in the 1980′s and the 1990′s, Drs. Berliner and Bittle wrote a book called “A Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud and the Attacks on America’s Public Schools.” The book analyzes the claims made in “A Nation at Risk” at points out that students’ SAT scores rose over time and that U.S. schools remained competitive globally as more students were benefitting from our public education system. Berliner and Bittle demonstrated that public schools reached a more diverse student population and did so successfully in the 70′s and 80′s. Both authors dispel the myths perpetuated by the neo-conservatives and the Reagan administration, and they called for an END to STANDARDIZED TESTING, which showed absolutely no valid measurement of academic growth! In fact, the authors of Manufactured Crisis recommended a more sane, cost-effective and accurate measurement of student academic achievement: PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENTS. I will discuss portfolio assessments later in our blog. However, if you have not read this book, then it is absolutely required reading for those of you interested in education reform and how neo-conservatives have destroyed public education over the past four decades.

Neo-consevatives are the ones who’ve harmed your children not liberals or progressives or teachers or public schools.

The past four decades our public schools and teachers saw a relentless attack by market and religious fundamentalists to privatize public schools through vouchers, charter schools, and introducing religious curriculum in our schools to include creationism and abstinence education! Right-wing fanatics want prayer in school, all-white, English only, Euro-centric and back-to-basics curriculum that neither helps our children be competitive in a diverse global marketplace nor trains our children critical thinking skills.

We MUST keep education publicly funded for the common good of our nation.

We need to expose neo-conservatives in both the Republican and Democratic Parties for their REAL PUBLIC EDUCATION AGENDA, that is to destroy a scientifically, researched-based, critical-thinking centered, holistic, and modern education system that promotes diversity and reaches every child and replace it with a watered-down, ‘McDonaldized’, cheap back-to-basics version where children are not taught to think critically or learn about their connected to our world through the maths, humanities, and sciences.

by Antonio D’Lallo

Adams County and Education Reform-Part 1: A brief history of reform (The Coleman Report)

The story of education reform actually starts with the Eisenhower presidency with Brown vs. Board of Education and desegregation. We will start the story of reform with the Johnson Administration’s attempt to equalize education through the federal compensatory program Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I that attempted to level the playing field for African-American children in urban and rural public schools. President Johnson commissioned a report through the U.S. Office of Education in 1964 to 1966 that involved over 500,000 children; 60,000 teachers; and 4,000 elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. It remains the most extensive education research in history and the most debated. The report’s formal name is the “Equality of Education Opportunity” and it was a mammoth document that has over 700 pages of data and analysis of student academic performance or standardized test. It was the first research and report that used student response or tests to measure student success. Eventually, the report would be stamped the Coleman Report after the man who led the study.

After two years, the Coleman Report came to the conclusion that “what mattered more in determining children’s academic success… was their family backgrounds.” (1) Yes! a family’s socio-economic status and ability to provide their child(ren) with a stable home life was the strongest determinate of academic success. Teachers have been shouting this truism for decades and it has fallen on deaf ears! Let me repeat again, a student’s home life and family background will determine academic success. Students that are self-aware and self-assured, and who feel secure and feel safe do better in school compared to students who experience lack of stability, high mobility, poverty, and feel that they do not have control over their destinies.

What does this all mean for public education and the children of Adams County? It means that our federal, state, and local governments need to offer children with stable environments outside of school through meaningful programs that improve our families’ quality of lives. This means that the families of our community need good paying, secure employment or a means to offer their children stable backgrounds. Our politicians must focus on job creation, increasing the minimum wage, universal health care, free day care for single parents, improving our public transportation infrastructure, increasing affordable housing, access to healthy and nutritional food sources, and an overhaul of the culture of shaming fragile families or families that are struggling economically. Homeless families, working-class families, and immigrant families or a combination of all these are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living in  Adams County. These families have no other place to go and rely on the good will of neighbors, friends, and family members–if they have that support– to give the basics of food, clothing and shelter for their children. Increasingly, public schools are taking on the heavy responsibility of feeding, clothing, and providing housing referrals for struggling families.

School reform begins with removing the outside barriers to education such as poverty and lack of access to basic needs. Public schooling and teachers are not the problem and there is no crisis in education. We have a poverty crisis in this nation and in our community, and in Adams County, Colorado. (2) When we address these issues first then we will see an increase in student academic performance and a decrease in our drop-out rates!

A great website to learn more about education reform and the history of education reform in the United States is:

http://www.archives.nysed.gov/edpolicy/research/res_essay_contents.shtml

By Antonio D’Lallo

1.) EdWeek 2006 Article on the Coleman Report and its legacy; Vol. 25, Issue 41, Pages 1,21-24

2.) http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/12/10/education-poverty-international-student-assessment-column/3964529/

Adams County and Education Reform–Introduction

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Education reform has been one of the most important issues for Colorado voters since the Progressive Movement of the early 1900′s and Coloradans have responded with expanding universal education and access to all children in Pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade. The past four decades from the Reagan Administration to our current time have brought about an increase in privatization of public education. Charter schools, vouchers, decreased spending, out-sourced programming, private ‘reform’ institutes, on-line education, and reform gurus have all tapped into the public’s tax investment to reap billions of dollars in profits. Privatization of the commons or our government services always comes at the expense of the taxpayer while corporations that seek to fix government only reap the profits creating little change in bureaucracy and diminishing services in the guise of “efficiency.”

Public education governance and funding is not understood very well by many parents, community leaders, and taxpayers. It is confusing with all of the district policies, state revised statutes and federal government rulings or codes of law. Adding to the confusion are the myriad federal programs available to children in need or who have learning disabilities and education institutes advocating their protocols for curriculum decision-making and how it will be taught. The confusion is only made worse when private corporations continue to offer their ‘expertise’ in what and how curriculum will be taught at taxpayer expense. Needless to say, millions of dollars of taxes are wasted on standardization of curriculum, the assessment involved with measuring student growth, and the institutions contracted or out-sourced to implement education reform. Teachers and education professionals can testify to the fact that these “reforms” don’t last for more than 5 years and often are repackaged when the next President of the United States is elected or when the district gets a new superintendent.

Teachers, para-professionals, building principals, and parents are the experts in what curriculum ought to be taught and how instruction ought to be implemented. Instead, politicians often leave these vital groups of people out or, when teachers and community groups are involved, the ideas and suggestions are often ignored for the wants and needs of business stakeholders deemed the most impacted by failed education policies. A parent or teacher can tell you differently who is mostly impacted when a child fails to meet reading or math standards. The child and family suffers the most, not McDonald’s or Walmart!

Over the next few weeks, this blog will introduce you, the reader and Adams County taxpayer, to the facts surrounding charter schools, school reform, school governance, and the movement to privatize our public schools. Hopefully, an understanding of how very important voting in school board elections and this year’s election has become because not everybody who runs for school board or state office has our children’s best interest in mind. There is an agenda to strip your child and your grandchild’s education to a bare bones curriculum and service while handing over important local school decisions to business and corporations with absolutely no investment in your child’s academic success, health and well-being.

Posted by Antonio D’Lallo