Archive for March 8th, 2010
Trying to obtain more federal aid for its beleaguered public-ed system, the State of California has come out with its list of the 187 “persistently lowest-achieving schools”.
Translation: the worst of the worst in the Golden State.
This comes a week after President Obama announced a national effort to reduce America’s high-school drop-out rate and better prepare kids for professional careers.
That plan includes “interventions” for 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-performing schools over the next five years. Obama’s 2011 budget includes an extra $900 million to support “School Turnaround Grants.”
Here’s a list of which schools made the cut in California, as well the qualifying criteria.
Caution: the list can still be changed by the State Board of Education, which meets Wednesday to discuss it.
In case you’re curious, state and federal officials looked at 3,759 schools (out of a pool of roughly 10,000 schools) they deemed to be low-achieving. Those schools were subdivided into 7 separate groups, with the bottom 5% of each group “winning”, if you will.
The school chosen can apply for federal grants ranging from $50,000 to $2 million per school.
But here’s the catch.
To get the federal aid, the California schools have to carry out one of the following reforms by the start of the next school year:
– Replace the principal, rehire no more than 50% of the staff and change the instructional program.
– Close and reopen as a charter school.
– Close and reassign students to other higher-achieving schools in the district.
– Replace the principal, increase instructional time and make other changes.
So what’s standing in the way?
Try local school officials, who feel rushed. And a powerful public-teachers’ union in Sacramento that’s resistant to reform — even when it’s pushed by a Democratic Administration in Washington.
California’s Republican U.S. Senate primary deserves credit.
Most candidates seeking office in the Golden State try to take voters back to the fabled mid-1960s — free college tuition, new freeways, flowing water. The GOP primary has done that one better: taking us further back to 1950, and memories of an earlier California Senate contest.
A quick history lesson:
The contestants in the fall of 1950 were Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas. Both were incumbent congressmen (Douglas, House Class of ’44; Nixon, House Class of ’46), vying for higher office in what had just become the nation’s second most populous state.
But that’s about all they had in common.
Nixon was younger (37), more intense, and driven in no small part by burning ambition and burning memories of a tough, conservative Quaker upbringing in Yorba Linda.
Douglas, a 49-year-old former Broadway actress, was the more celebrated of the two candidates (Pageant Magazine rated her the nation’s 12th most influential woman). And she was glamorous. Married to actor Melvyn Douglas, she campaigned around California in a helicopter (an idea given to her by Lyndon Johnson, who choppered around Texas in his 1948 Senate race) dubbed the “Helencopter”.
The numbers that year trended in Douglas’ favor (California voter registration, 60 years ago, was roughly 58% Democratic and 37% Republican). But the political climate didn’t. 1950 was a midterm election featuring an unpopular Democratic president (Harry Truman) and a country whipsawed by a hot war in Korea and a cold war with the Soviets.
Not a good fit for a New Deal Democrat like Douglas — the New Deal being very much on display in the form of the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Jimmy Roosevelt (Franklin and Eleanor’s eldest son). In the end, Nixon trounced Douglas, earning 59% of the vote and carrying 53 of California’s 58 counties.
How Nixon did it has long been the stuff of political legend — and analogous to what’s going on in California here and now.
Democrats seeking office in 1950 had to cope with the label “soft of communism”. Sometimes, even Democrats attacked each other on this very topic. For example, in that year’s May Senate primary in Florida, Democrat George Smathers took down fellow Democrat Claude Pepper by dubbing his foe “Red Pepper” and handing out red-covered brochures (The Red Record of Senate Clauder Pepper).
In California, the elbows were just as sharp.
Douglas sought to defuse the issue by launching a pre-emptive attack on Nixon before the fall campaign kicked into high gear, claiming he had voted to deny aid to Korea and cut European aid in half.
His campaign handed out pink flyers — the “Pink Sheet” – linking Douglas to New York Rep. Vito Marcantonio, an American Labor Party member deemed a “fellow traveler” because he opposed restrictions on the Communist Party.
In a radio address, Nixon accused Douglas of being ”a member of a small clique which joins the notorious communist party-liner Vito Marcantonio of New York, in voting time after time against measures that are for the security of this country.”
But here’s what the historians have overlooked over the years.
Guilt by association was a winning tactic against Douglas — in part, because of damage already done to her in the primary by a fellow Democrat: Los Angeles Daily News editor and publisher Manchester Boddy.
It was Boddy who first linked Douglas to Marcantonio (just as Al Gore, and not Republican activists, first tied Willie Horton to Michael Dukakis).
It was Boddy who said Douglas was pink “right down to her underwear”.
And it was Boddy who gave the Democrat the nickname that stuck: “the pink lady”.
S0 what does this have to do current events?
In the Republican Senate primary, frontrunner Tom Campbell, like Helen Douglas, is plagued by a matter of guilt by association — for his ties to a former college professor who aided the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. And Campbell has been accused of being anti-Israel, based on his congressional voting record, with rival Carly Fiorina’s campaign allegedy calling Campbell an anti-Semite, to boot.
Compared to 1950, it’s gender reversal, what with the female candidate doing the attacking this time. And it presents at least two problems for Campbell.
In this day and age, being accused of anti-Israeli, pro-Arabist sentiments is the new “pink” in American politics — “soft on terror” replacing “soft on communism” as this generation’s toxic label.
The second problem: Campbell is deliberate and professorial, trying to counter accusations in a faster-moving world of talk radio, the blogosphere and a never-sleeping news cycle. Listening to last Friday’s debate, and Campbell trying to turn the corner on this controversy, it’s clear that it’s easier to play offense rather than defense — lob accusations rather then fend them off.
Helen Douglas both succeeded and failed at undoing guilt by association in 1950. She survived her party’s primary, but couldn’t win come November.
We’ll find out soon enough if Tom Campbell’s fate is any different.
With March Madness and the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments approaching, a favorite diversion of mine is ESPN’s Bracketology — a constantly updated guessing of which teams are in, which ones are out, and which ones are on the “bubble”.
Maybe some enterprising sort will do the same for the Republican presidential field — start a list of who’s in for 2012, who’s out and who’s on the fence — and, for kicks, maybe pair them off for strengths and weaknesses.
That’s kind of what Fred Barnes has done over at The Weekly Standard. He’s handicapped the field.
As usual, Barnes has an interesting take. It starts with the assumption that Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s primary romp over Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (followed, presumably, by an easy win this fall), puts him in play as a possible contender in 2012. Fred’s reasoning:
“The case for him is pretty simple: Perry is perhaps the most successful governor in the country. Texas has been a job creation machine on his watch. Even in the current recession, Texas has suffered far less than most states. And, by the way, Perry has a tough, tested crew of political advisers who will come in handy if he runs.”
That’s a new wrinkle. But what stands out is Barnes’ interest in two Republicans whose status is less certain — Ohio’s John Kasich and California’s Meg Whitman. Both are running for governor. Both would have to pivot quickly and launch presidential runs (Barnes notes that Woodrow Wilson pulled if off — elected governor of New Jersey in 1910, then President in 1912) if they want to scoop up campaign talent and build organizations in early primary states.
Again, Barnes’ reasoning:
“What if Kasich quickly turned the Ohio economy around, and Whitman’s application of shock therapy to California’s out-of-control government spending and antibusiness climate showed significant signs of working? Again, unlikely. And they have to get elected in the first place, a hard task. But should they win, they’d be governors of big, important states, and at the very least, they’d be Republican stars and touted as future presidential candidates.”
So could Whitman pull this off — head to Sacramento, then head off to Iowa and New Hampshire (the graveyards of previous California guvs)?
If Whitman, in her first six months, brings the kind reform to Sacramento that has eluded California’s past six governors, she shouldn’t run for president. The job should go to her automatically, for she would be a true miracle worker.
Now, for a splash of cold water to the idea of Meg 2012. And that cold water is Mitt Romney, whose new book and heavy media profile make him look every inch the presidential candidate. It’s hard to imagine Whitman jumping into the 2012 field, thus backstabbing her old friend whom she supported in his last presidential run and whose aides populate her gubernatorial campaign.
But a Romney-Whitman ticket? To be continued after November . . .
btw, if you’re wondering how many horses Fred Barnes has at the starting gate, here goes (alphabetically):
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour . . . Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels . . . South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint . . . former House Speaker Newt Gingrich . . . former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee . . . Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal . . . Kasich . . . former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin . . . Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty . . . Texas Rep. Ron Paul . . . Perry . . . Romney . . . Whitman.
And that’s not including Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Senate hopeful Marco Rubio and whoever else emerges between now and next year as a Republican rising star.
That’s 17 names. Now we know why the NCAA limits its field to 64 . . .