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James Quinn is a senior director of strategic planning for a major university. James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 25-year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of strategic planning. He is married with three boys and... More
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TheBurningPlatform.com
  • PUBLIC SCHOOLS - THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC HEALTHCARE

    www.TheBurningPlatform.com

    Amazingly, three excellent pieces in today's Phila Inquirer. The Inquirer is generally a liberal newspaper, but today they actually presented common sense. The Phila public school system is a corrupt, bureaucratic, dangerous, bankrupt farce. 15,000 criminal incidents reported by the school system. Double that number to get the truth. Teachers forced to pass derelicts who can't read, write, spell, or add because they have government imposed passing goals. The students graduate with the ability to use a knife and shoot a gun. 

    Last  year, 68-percent of Philadelphia's Asian and 63-percent of white students scored 'proficient' or better on state reading tests.  But 40-percent of Blacks and 38-percent of Latinos made the grade. In math, 79-percent of Asians and 68-percent of Whites were proficient, while 45-percent of Latinos and 43-percent of Blacks scored well. 

    Here are the facts from the Census Bureau. There are 74 million children under the age of 18. 

    Race   # of Children   # of Children living with both parents      % of Total

    White      56.5 mil                              43 mil                                            76%

    Black       11.3                                    4.3                                               38%

    Hispanic   15.6                                   10.9                                              70%

    Asian        3.0                                     2.5                                                83% 

    Until our first black President starts talking to the black community like Bill Cosby, the public school system will founder. Passing idiots into society just perpetuates this failure. It is clear from the numbers that the black community has failed in raising their children. Until personal responsibility in the black community is required, their lot in life will not improve.

    When the government takes over our healthcare, they will fudge numbers, waste billions, cover their bureaucratic asses and turn our excellent system into a public school model.

                                                    

    Teachers cite intense push to promoteMany say pressure continued from their principals despite an Ackerman e-mail.

    By Kristen A. Graham and Martha Woodall

    Inquirer Staff Writers

    The pressure to pass students - even those who rarely go to class or can't read - is pervasive in the Philadelphia School District, teachers around the city say.

    The push comes in memos, in meetings, and in talks about failure rates that are too high, the teachers say. It comes through mountains of paperwork and justification for failing any student. It comes in ways subtle and overt, according to more than a dozen teachers from nine of the city's 62 high schools.

    "We have to give fake grades," said a teacher at Mastbaum High in Kensington. "The pressure is very real."

    A teacher at University City High described getting pressure from the school's administrators to pass a student who had 89 absences over a half-year.

    Social promotion - moving along students with their same-age classmates whether they deserve it or not - has plagued the district for decades despite efforts to stop it.

    The reasons for its persistence are unclear, but teachers suggest that the push to pass is especially great now because of increased scrutiny from Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. Schools are now judged on many criteria, including the number of students who pass.

    The Inquirer interviewed 15 teachers who spoke on condition that their names not be reported for fear of reprisal.

    Since The Inquirer first reported June 7 on alleged pressure to pass at South Philadelphia High School, Ackerman has disavowed the practice and ordered an investigation into the complaints.

    Teachers from around the city have now come forward to say pressure to pass students is prevalent at their schools, too.

    The teachers say the pressure continued from their principals despite an e-mail Monday from Ackerman directing them to report the grades students earned. High school grades were due that week, and school ends Tuesday.

    Teachers also blasted a district policy that requires them to give every student at least a 50 even if he or she didn't attend class or do the work. At some schools, teachers said, the minimum grade is 60. Passing is 65.

    Late Friday, Ackerman issued a statement abolishing the 50 minimum starting in the fall for all 167,000 students, saying it conflicted with her "long-held philosophy."

    Jerry Jordan, president of the teachers' union, condemned the push to pass, saying it undermined his teachers' professionalism.

    But the practice is prevalent throughout the system, he said. "Absolutely. No doubt. At every level."

    Jordan also said the union could push only for contract language protecting teachers from pressure.

    Michael Silverman, a regional superintendent who oversees the neighborhood high schools, acknowledged that the district had asked principals to do more to prevent failures this year.

    Teachers might interpret the new controls differently, but they should not, he said.

    Principals now track the percentage of students failing courses so they can offer adequate supports, he said. A failure in a major subject could trigger a student's failing the grade.

    Ackerman declined to be interviewed for this article, directing questions to Silverman.

    "The goal of none of this is intimidation or to inflate grades," Silverman said. "It's really to look at the instructional practices necessary for our kids to be successful."

     

    Debate over "social promotion" is an old one

    The National Commission on Excellence in Education's 1983 study, "A Nation at Risk," concluded that grade placement "should be guided by the academic progress of students and their instructional needs, rather than by rigid adherence to age." Elaine Simon, codirector of the University of Pennsylvania's Urban Studies Program and a member of Research for Action, an education research organization in Philadelphia, agreed. "They never really catch up," she said. "They are stigmatized, and that makes it worse." Those findings have been challenged by the Manhattan Institute's Marcus Winters and Jay Greene, who looked at Florida's 2002 decision not to pass most third graders who scored below grade level on a statewide test. About 14 percent were held back in the first year.The repeat third graders, who got extra help through summer school and worked with the best teachers in their second year, showed substantial improvement compared with those who moved on."The idea is that it will improve academic performance and put them back on a track to achieve," Winters said in an interview, calling the results "encouraging."

    Editorial: Can't learn in bad schools

     

    There were 15,000 criminal incidents in the Philadelphia public schools last year - a 14 percent jump from the previous year.

    District CEO Arlene Ackerman has taken steps to bolster school safety. Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner toured two city schools last week and proclaimed a "new day" when it comes to school safety.

    But if what occurred inside the Philly schools just a couple of weeks ago reflects a "new day," then we'd hate to see what was going on in the old days.

    The Editorial Board has reviewed all of the reports detailing incidents that occurred in the schools from June 1-5. The two-inch-thick pile of reports offers a rare glimpse inside the classrooms and halls of city schools.

    It's not a pretty picture. In fact, it's rather disturbing, showing just how much effort it's going to take by Ackerman to really turn the situation around.

    The incidents range from students bringing knives and guns to school, masturbating in class, going to school drunk, pulling down other students' pants, making death threats, punching a teacher in the face, stealing thousands of dollars worth of equipment, throwing an eraser at a teacher's head, and stuffing feces in bathroom sinks.

    One 8-year-old second grader at McClure Elementary School pulled out his penis and threatened to rape another student.

    Here's a snapshot of some other incidents that occurred, all before lunch on one random day:

    At 8:30 a.m. on June 1, a teacher in Room 300 at University City High School asked a student to stop eating food in class. The student refused. When the teacher attempted to take the food away, the student smacked him in his face.

    Fifteen minutes later, a fight broke out inside Room 309 of Lee Elementary School between two seventh graders. One student sustained facial injuries. While trying to break up the fight, the teacher fell and injured her ankle.

    Just after 11 a.m., a second-grade girl at Meade Elementary School assaulted another student. When the teacher intervened, the 8-year-old began punching her in the arm and shoulder.

    At 11:30 a.m., a third-grade girl at Morris Elementary approached another student with a pair of scissors in her hand and said "I'm going to cut your s- up. Get the f- out of my face."

    Around the same time, a student at Clymer Elementary grabbed a fire extinguisher from the hallway near Room 405 and began spraying a teacher in the face.

    Just after noon, two first graders approached another first grader at the Ethel Allen Elementary School. One student held her from behind and began "humping" her, while the other student started kissing her on the face.

    The picture that quickly emerges shows that many schools remain dangerous. While there have been some improvements, the school district still has a lot of work to do when kids return in the fall.

    Jun 21 10:54 AM | Link | 2 Comments
  • THE FED HIRES AN ENRON LOBBYIST

    www.TheBurningPlatform.com

    Why does the Federal Reserve need a lobbyist? Do they need a lobbyist to fight Ron Paul's HR 1207 that would pull back the curtain on their activities? Do they need a lobbyist to keep the public from seeing what "assets" they have on their books from the insolvent banks that they are owned by? Do they need a lobbyist to protect Ben Bernanke from being prosecuted for instructing Ken Lewis to lie to his shareholders and the public? Do they need a lobbyist as they make the biggest power grab in history?

    Sounds like they have a perfect person. As VP of government affairs at Enron, Linda did a bang up job of helping thousands of employees and shareholders lose their entire life savings. She also worked for that other standard of ethics, Bill Clinton. Her lack of soul or morality will come in handy working for the Fed. Congressmen will surely find someone who is on the same page as themselves.

    Fed hiring veteran lobbyist: source
    Fri Jun 5, 2009 2:42pm EDT
     
     
     
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    By Mark Felsenthal

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve is on track to hire a veteran lobbyist to help manage its relations with Congress at a time of heightened attention to its role in national affairs, a source familiar with the situation said on Friday.

    The Fed plans to hire Linda Robertson, who previously worked for now-defunct energy company Enron, as well as the Clinton administration.

    She is currently head of government, community and public relations at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the hiring process was not complete.

    The Fed believes it will be useful to add to its resources at a time when there is great public and congressional interest in the institution, the source said.

    The U.S. central bank has been at the forefront of government actions to limit damage from the financial crisis that began in August 2007 and the impact of the deep recession that began in December of that year.

    Members of Congress have chafed at the Fed's bold use of its emergency powers and in particular its multibillion-dollar bailouts of investment bank Bear Stearns and insurer American International Group.

    Critics also bristle at the Fed's practice of maintaining the confidentiality of the companies that borrow directly from the central bank on the grounds that divulging their names would risk runs on those institutions.

    Many lawmakers and private analysts also fault the Fed for failing to stop risky lending and flawed market practices that laid the groundwork for the crisis.

    A non-binding budget bill approved by Congress in April opened the door for lawmakers to seek disclosure of the names of firms that receive emergency Fed loans and paves the way for a possible study of the Federal Reserve System's structure of 12 regional banks and a Washington-based board.

    Some officials believe lawmakers would like to go so far as to demand that the presidents of these regional banks -- or at least the head of the powerful New York Fed -- be subject to congressional approval. Currently, directors at these regional banks pick their presidents, subject to the approval of the Fed's Washington board.

    Robertson was vice president for government affairs at now-defunct energy company Enron Corp from November 2000 until she closed its Washington office in early 2002. Enron collapsed in scandal in 2001 and her work there may raise some eyebrows.

    Before that, she was an assistant Treasury secretary for legislative and public affairs under then-President Bill Clinton.

    Dennis O'Shea, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins, said Robertson was not available to comment.

    Jun 21 10:49 AM | Link | Comment!
  • DAVID WALKER ON HEALTHCARE REFORM

    www.TheBurningPlatform.com

    I find David Walker, the former Comptroller of the U.S., to be the most thoughtful dedicated fighter for fiscal sanity in the U.S. today. If you haven't seen the documentary I.O.U.S.A, you should watch it. It paints a disturbing picture of our future. Here are some common sense words about healthcare reform. The Democtrats will not be inviting Mr. Walker to their socialism gone wild meetings to discuss healthcare.

     

    We at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation are pleased to be partnering with the IOM in addressing the issue of how best to defuse the ticking time bomb associated with escalating health care costs. We are sponsoring this meeting and a series of other meeting as well as engaging in a number of joint activities. Just last Friday we conducted a small Health Care Summit of key leaders that was focused on how to address escalating health care costs and what role(s) our foundation should play in the months and years ahead.

    We all know that health care costs are out of control and dissatisfaction among a broad range of key stakeholders is growing. Our nation spends plenty of money in the U.S. on health care. Over $2.5 trillion a year, 17 percent of GDP, and about double the average of other industrialized nations, even though almost 50 million Americans lack any health insurance. At the same time, many researchers believe that 30-50 percent of health care costs do not contribute to better outcomes. And what about outcomes? While we have the best high end health care on earth, many of our broad-based outcome statistics are below average for industrialized nations.

    Last week's Summit and our various other efforts have served to reinforce a number of key points:

     

    • First, health care costs represent the single largest challenge to our nation's fiscal future.
    • Second, escalating health care costs represent a major competitiveness challenge to American business and a growing concern to American families.
    • Third, as I noted previously, despite spending over double per capita on health care costs, our nation has below average outcomes in a number of key areas.
    • Fourth, if there is one thing that could bankrupt America, it's out-of-control health care costs.
    • Fifth, there is broad-based and growing discontent with our current health care system and general agreement that the "status quo" is both unacceptable and unsustainable.
    • Finally, while we must take immediate steps to control health care costs, we ultimately need to engage in comprehensive health care reform that addresses the four key pillars of coverage, cost, quality and personal responsibility.

    What are some of the key drivers of health care costs? They include, but are not limited to: inadequate health and wellness efforts by individuals; the perverse incentives associated with our current payment systems; the lack of coordinated and integrated care; variances in standard practices by geographic areas; legal liability and defensive medical practices; a proliferation of medical procedures, technologies and equipment; the lack of timely, reliable and useful cost and quality information; excessive administrative costs, and; the failure to properly design and target existing taxpayer subsidies.

    While controlling health care costs is essential, we at the Peterson Foundation also support the need for comprehensive health care reform. This includes achieving the ultimate goal of providing universal coverage for a basic and essential level of care that is both affordable and sustainable over time and avoids taxpayer funded "heroic measures". At the same time, we are against any attempt to engage in a reform effort that will serve to worsen our nation's financial condition and longer-term fiscal outlook.

    We should adopt a fiscal Hippocratic oath in connection with any health care reform effort. Namely, "do no further harm" to our nation's already deteriorating finances and already unsustainable fiscal path. In particular, we must avoid any attempts that would expand coverage in ways that are not fully paid for, both in the short-term and beyond the 10 year budget horizon. We must not enact anything close to a Medicare Part D program on steroids. We cannot afford to shoot ourselves again.

    We must also recognize the reality that solutions to our health care challenge will require tough choices and some dramatic and fundamental changes. For example, if the nation invests in health care IT and evidence-based practice standards, the government must be prepared to adjust its payment systems based on the related results. Failure to do so would result in a partial waste of the initial investment and a failure to significantly reduce health care costs.

    In the final analysis, any system, including a health care system, must be designed consistent with three key principles in order to be both successful and sustainable over time. First, incentives need to be properly aligned and integrated to encourage desired behaviors. Second, there needs to be adequate transparency, including cost and quality, in order to encourage proper behavior because others will be looking. Finally, there needs to be appropriate accountability, including economic consequences, if people do not behave properly. Unfortunately, our current health care system is zero for three. That's a strike out. We can, and must, do better.

    In closing, the days of Harry and Louise ads may be over. However, we must avoid a "Thelma and Louise" ending to the current health care reform debate. Specifically, our nation is already headed for a fiscal cliff; we must take steps to avoid it. This will require not punching the accelerator and finding a way to change course before it's too late.

    Jun 19 1:28 PM | Link | Comment!
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