Category Archives: Politics

The Annoying Voucher Debate

According to my numbers this boat would be the size of a thimble, thus dumb.

Governor Jindal is moving forward with an ambitious education reform agenda in Louisiana, which, unfortunately, includes a focus on vouchers to send kids in public schools to private schools. His push for vouchers, partially funded by my favorite Michigan conservatives – the DeVoses, is shielded by his argument that parents ought to have maximum choice in the education market. Private schools, his agenda argues, must be in the mix for there to be true school choice.

I disagee with the entire idea of vouchers. I strongly believe that if you play with public money you must play by public rules, which is something I do not really believe private, religious schools in Louisiana are willing to submit to. Regardless of this belief, I do not believe that the voucher debate is anything the proponents or oponenets of education reform ought to spend any amount of time on. The fact stands that there are not enough seats in private schools in Louisiana to support a large surge of public school students, thus making this entire issue moot.

The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops estimates that there are only about 1,000 seats for students opting to take a voucher and attend private schools. Under Jindal’s plan nearly 380,000 students will be eligible, which means only .003% (using my real complex math) of students will find seats in private schools. The entire idea that vouchers will play a large role in the education market place is merely a stick thrown into important discussions by those certain factions pushing for and standing against reform in Louisiana education.

Michigan is the New New Orleans

I don’t like Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder. Since entering office earlier this year he has proposed radically draconian budget reforms while instituting an Emergency Financial Manager program that effectively disenfranchises cities declared “failed.” Snyder fashions himself a benevolent overlord, but in reality he is just a less brazen WI Governor Scott Walker.

This week Snyder unveiled his plan to revolutionize education in the state of Michigan. I have some thoughts…

* One note. Read his plan in whole or read a summary… my incoherent thoughts might not help you come to your own conclusion on the merits of this plan.*

The Good 

What Snyder proposes puts Michigan on a serious path to putting children first in terms of education policy. His proposal consolidates early childhood education under one office which will help cement together fragmented programs with fragmented funding. He looks to pass anti-bullying legislation that has been stalled due to lack of Republican cooperation. Finally, he wants to expand and emphasize opportunities for college-bound students. Each one of these proposals put students back into the education discussion.

The Ambitious 

The Snyder proposal also works to end the monopoly of geography-based school districts in the State of Michigan. Through a combination of lifting charter school caps and forcing district to take students from other districts if they have room students will be given a choice and agency in their education. He also includes several systems to grade, evaluate, and reward schools that make significant progress with their students. All in order to provide parents and students more information to make crucial educational decisions.

This would essentially start turning some districts in Michigan into education systems that look like New Orleans. The benefit here is that independent schools led by independent school leaders will be able to innovate and offer unique educational opportunities to students who were previously denied a choice in education.

The Ballsy  Continue reading

“The money is the motive!” (Budget Post via Wayne)

by  necs2010

Not the same person.

SHUT ER DOWN, SHUT ER DOWN, SHUT ER DOWN was the rallying cry of House Republicans this week and they might just get their way.  Additionally, boy wizard Rep. Paul Ryan released a budget that builds an America that is held aloft by poor people, old people, and the deregulation of the financial industry.

I decided to wrap up all of this through Lil’ Wayne quotes.  This may be a stretch… follow along for a little bit.

“The top gets higher the more that I climb.” or “Elevator in my crib ’cause it’s 5 floors. I’m not expectin’ you to have one in yours.”

”Paul Ryan’s budget (READ THIS THIS TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS IN IT) essentially delivers astronomical cuts via trashing the elderly and the poor. Seriously 2/3 of the cuts from programs that help the poor in this country.  Within those cuts it explicitly roles back the Pell Grant program… one of the ways the poor in country actually are able to access the means to lift themselves up. This cynical budget cuts tax rates for the rich and prosperous and assumes that the poor will be able to deal…

Ezra Klein does a good job pointing out the risks of presenting a plan that so fundamentally sticks to CYNICAL, ABUSIVE, CONSERVATIVE principles instead of diversifying his plan.

“We probably ain’t supposed to be together, but I wonder if my love of her could last forever.” or “Been to hell and back, I can show you vouchers.”

What gets me, and relates to the Wayne quote, is that Republican spent all fall decrying Democrats for putting their government in old people’s Medicare. Now, Paul Ryan proposes a change to Medicare that would, according to the CBO, fail to CAP costs and merely SHIFT them to the elderly. Essentially, health care would continue to increase in cost and the elderly will be given a static (indexed merely to GDP, which is far lower than health care inflation) amount of voucher money and told to stick it in their pacemakers.

“We are not the same. I’m a martian, this is Space Jam.”

I am a huge fan of how Ryan’s budget predicts 2.8% unemployment. First, the Fed and everyone would never allow this low of unemployment, not seen since the 50s to exist, to ever exist. Secondly, he bases this off of some funny numbers from the Heritage Foundation that assumes an Ayn Rand reality where economics bend to their will.  I don’t understand math so I’ll link to smarter people.

FireDogLake (I know…) compiles Krugman’s take down.

“Me and shawty go together like chemicals.”

Speaker Boehner is quoted as saying there is no sunlight between him and the Tea Party. This bonded association is now making it nearly impossible for Boehner to reach a consensus with Obama and the Democrats. Boehner, I legitimately believe, is a consensus figure in the mold of Harry Reid and maybe even Obama, but has now boxed him, and the future of his job, into the Tea Party corner. This may now be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t hell situation for Boehner.

“I don’t go around fire expectin’ not to sweat”

The House Republicans attached little hot button issues to their budget 1) neutering the EPA and 2) de-funding Planned Parenthood and some sort of Mythical United Nations Abortions funded by the United States. Unfortunately, these have ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT ON THE BUDGET. Therefore, we might get a shut down over…. Planned Parenthood. I think this will confuse and anger most Americans.

Additionally, PAUL RYAN included some of his own hot buttons into his plan that have no effect on the long-term fiscal health of the country. He repeals the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill – Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (something that reduces the deficit) – and adds some energy reform portion that focuses America on fossil fuels… for some reason. These are all issues that could hinder any serious consideration of this budget plan.

“I’m the cashier, I change girls.”

Seriously, this is all coming down to Planned Parenthood?

Note – this is all I have for right now. Let me drive home and think of some more / get angrier.

Wherein I Disagree with President Obama

I don’t like this either, but…

Amidst budget battles education reform has repeatedly come up as a solution to budget problems, a way to break up Unions, a way to save children, and a non-partisan way to solve our Union. Basically, it is the next big fight our political system will have.

President Obama has staked himself pretty squarely in the crowd of reformers. Many of these policies I vehemently agree with. Unfortunately, he goes and says something like this

“One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.”

This is the kind of sloppy attack and argument that often obscures legitimate policy discussions around education reform. Should there be multiple ways to gauge effectiveness in the classroom? Absolutely yes. Yet, when we allow silly arguments like “Teachers spend all day, every day in the classroom teaching kids to fill out bubbles” to permeate the discourse we lose sight of real reform. You just whacking an already tattered pinata.

Obama advocates for strong national standards of educational excellence. I agree, but to make sure those measures are being hit a student must be measured and quantified. Whacking the test pinata doesn’t move us towards a better system… it just muddies the debate.

Note – I am writing this as a teacher who is administering a standardized test in T-7 days.

Great Moments in Billboards

by  necs2010

Disclaimer: I am neither a long-time New Orleans resident nor a advertising guru.

With that disclaimer, I know that this billboard in Jefferson Parish, the parish immediately to the West of New Orleans, is in horrible taste. I may also be about a month late on this one, but I found this image on the blog Humid City. Humid City does a great job at tearing down the ridiculousness of this billboard, but I think they missed a few key points.

From an education standpoint Jefferson Parish performs at the same level, or below, Orleans Parish Schools. Additionally, Jefferson Parish is notorious for going through rounds of staff layoffs at the end of every school year only rehire or reshuffle staff. A teacher hired at the beginning of one year is hard pressed to believe he or she will be working in Jefferson Parish the next year.  For Jefferson Parish to trumpet itself so quickly as the better, safer, more reliable alternative to New Orleans is rather ridiculous.

Additionally, this once again emphasizes the decades-old feud of urban vs suburban communities. This fight seems especially futile considering Jefferson Parish benefits from the rich culture, employment opportunities, and significant tourism pull that New Orleans provides for the entire metropolitan area. This bulletin board fails to be both factually and morally the right decision for Jefferson Parish.


I think some of the commentators from Humid City appropriately close out this blog post.


Just because they have all the Raising Cane’s and the Chick-fil-a’s, JP gotta get all uppity.


Tom Fixes the Tax System!

by Tom

Nathaniel’s snark below aside, I am technically a co-contributor to this site and will keep blogging occasionally until Nathaniel removes my access.

The issue that I really wanted to get into was an issue of marginal tax rates.  This may seem like a bit of an esoteric topic, but I wanted to talk about it in the context of the income inequality that we see in America today.  My question then is at what rate should the marginal tax rates be set to insure that each income group is paying its proper share of federal income tax.  My guiding principle in doing this is that the percentage of total annual income earned by each quintile should be equal to the percentage of total tax paid by each group.  I know that I’m ignoring local and state tax rates, earned income tax rates, tax expenditures, every tax deduction out there, and using gross generalizations, but this is my thought experiment and I’m going to do it how I want.

Click image to make big… and see Tom’s genius.

If we then assume everybody in each grouping has the average income, the marginal tax rates for each quintile would be below:

Lowest fifth Second fifth Third fifth Fourth fifth Highest fifth Top 5 percent
29.51% 29.21% 29.60% 29.29% 12.22% 41.37%
4.33% 5.27% 6.18% 16.56% 18.74% 27.97%
173.13% 158.61% 79.01% 10.64% -13.26% -3.18%

There are three different scenarios above.

The top one is what happens if we assign tax rates based on percentage of income earned by each quintile.  I was frankly surprised at how much needed to be paid by those in the bottom quintile to pay for their share of the national income.  It was also interesting how the data separated out the top 5% from the other 15% in the top quintile.  It shows that those at the very top are pulling away from the upper middle class and that those below them are frankly not doing quite as well.

Continue reading

Greetings and an Introduction to New Orleans

Editor’s Note: Not Responsible for Tom Duvall

Hello all.  My name is Tom and I will be posting on this blog as long as Nathaniel lets me.  My posts won’t really be as education-y or necessarily as NOLA-y, but they what they lack in those characteristics, they will make up for in length and lack of pageviews.

I wanted to start off with a post about Louisiana, as it does seem appropriate with the name and theme of the blog.  I read All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren two years ago and loved the great description of politics in the passage below:

More money for graft, they always screamed. “Sure,” the Boss had said, lounging easy, “sure there’s some graft, but there’s just enough to make the wheels turn without squeaking. And remember this. There never was a machine rigged up by man didn’t represent some loss of energy. How much energy do you get out of a lump of coal when you run a steam dynamo or a locomotive compared to what there actually is in that lump of coal? Damned little. Well, we do a hell of a lot better than the best dynamo or locomotive ever invented. Sure, I got a bunch of crooks around here, but they’re too lily-livered to get very crooked. I got on my eye on ‘em. And do I deliver the State something. I damned well do.” The theory of historical costs, you might put it. All change costs something. You have to write off the costs against the gain. Maybe in our State change could only come in the terms in which it was taking place, and it was sure due for some change. The theory of the moral neutrality of history, you might put it. Process as process is neither morally good nor morally bad. We may judge results but not process. The morally bad agent may perform the deed which is good. The morally good agent may perform the deed which is bad. Maybe a man has to sell his out to get the power to do good.

The theory of historical costs. The theory of the moral neutrality of history. All that was a high historical view from a chilly pinnacle. Maybe it took a genius to see it. To really see it. Maybe you had to get chained to the high pinnacle with the buzzards pecking at your liver and lights before you could see it. Maybe it took a genius to see it. Maybe it took a hero to act on it.

It’s a quote that says a lot about the political world of old-school Louisiana that is sadly gone, but it can do a lot more work to explain these last two years of politics.  The quote comes when the young formerly idealistic man is judging the world of Willie Stark, trying to come to grips with all of the personal corruption and public good that this man was responsible for.  It’s a tough issue to come to grips with and is one of many I hope to explore in my time on this blog.