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After Supreme Court: “How We Answer Will Define Us For Generations”

Mike Klein

Georgia became the national battleground over charter public schools alternative authorization last month when the state Supreme Court ruled the three-year-old charter schools commission is unconstitutional.  So it was not surprising that there very pointed references to that decision Tuesday when the 2011 National Charters School Conference opened in Atlanta.

“Fifteen thousand students have been left in limbo by a dreadful decision from the Georgia Supreme Court,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President Peter Groff.  “How we answer will define us for generations.”  Groff invoked the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he called for a “next generation of high quality schools fueled by technology.”

Moments earlier, and not entirely in jest, Georgia Charter Schools Association President Tony Roberts welcomed some 4,000 conference goers to “Georgia where anyone can grow up to be a state Supreme Court justice even if you cannot read the state Constitution.”

President Bill Clinton

Charter school educators have come from across the nation to discuss alternative authorization, digital learning applications, crisis message management, how to start and fund schools, learning accountability and literally dozens of other educationally relevant topics.

During a 45-minute address former President Bill Clinton told charter educators to “put our country back in the future business” after accepting the NAPCS inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.  Clinton described the current “food fight” in most contemporary political dialogue.  Click here for additional coverage of the former President’s address.

Tuesday’s opening session included two of the charter schools world genuine superstars, New York City educator Eva Moskowitz and Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker.

“I understood a long time ago that schools and politics are inextricably linked,” said Moskowitz who opened the first Harlem Success Academy five years ago in New York City.  “Our schools are knocking the ball out of the park which now means we are considered a threat, not only to public schools, but to the political establishment.”

Eva Moskowitz, Harlem Success Academy

The Harlem Success Academy story was chronicled in two charter school movement films, “The Lottery” and “Waiting for Superman.”  Moskowitz encountered stiff opposition from the New York City teachers union and also some community groups.  Two years ago the New York Times cited Harlem Success Academy as #1 in math statewide among all 3,500 public schools.  Six more Success Academies have followed in just five years, with plans to open 40 more.

“We are tasked with building a better mousetrap, introducing innovation to a sector that has long resisted it,” Moskowitz said. “I believe we are on the cusp of a golden era in education.  I raise the question, what is possible for our children?  I don’t know but it is our job to find out.  We must innovate every day.  We must resist the temptation to do things the same way they have always been done and we must question our own perception of what is possible.”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is well known for creating a partnership with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who contributed $100 million to improve Newark student success and champion great teachers.  Booker is energy unleashed; his magnetism compels attention.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker

“We are in the most important fight for justice in generations,” Booker said.  “Audacity, audacity, always audacity.  We have underestimated the profound genius, the ability of our children.  We have become comfortable with failure and it is time for a wake-up call.  We are here to disturb the comfortable.  We were not born for mediocrity.  We were born to stand out.”

Booker issued fair warning to underperforming schools:  “We cannot accept mediocrity or failure in the charter movement.  I don’t care how a school came into existence.  I distinguish between schools of excellence, and I distinguish between schools that suck.  If that school happens to be a charter school then that school should either improve or move out of the way and let somebody else do the job.”

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman will speak Wednesday.  Duncan’s address will be by satellite from Washington.  The conference ends Thursday with a rally at the State Capitol, across from the Supreme Court.  Click here to learn more about the 2011 National Charter Schools Conference.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

June 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is That All There Is? Editorial Writers Strike Obama Budget with Sharp Quills

Mike Klein

President Barack Obama insists the White House budget wish list released Monday made hard choices. Tuesday morning editorial pages saw it differently.  Writers gave the Obama budget attempt a lukewarm reception, and that’s being fairly kind.   Mostly they asked, “Is that all there is?”  Here are excerpts from twelve of the nation’s most respected news organizations.

Chicago Tribune Editorial: “The debate over fiscal responsibility in the months ahead will deal only with a slim portion of federal spending. Nobody in power — not Obama, not the Democrats who run the Senate, not the Republicans who run the House — wants to talk much about what it’s going to take to curb the huge projected growth in entitlement spending. Even Obama’s projections say deficits will fall only to $607 billion a year by 2015, but will start rising rapidly again.”  Link

Dallas Morning News Editorial: “Even under the administration’s optimistic future scenarios, the bottom lines are staggering.  A record $1.56 trillion deficit for 2011, with trillion-dollar estimates (give or take a few hundred billion) deep into the decade. An unemployment rate still about 8 percent at the end of 2012.  A tripling or more of the national debt, even without considering the shocking multiplier of unfunded Medicare and Social Security obligations … This starts the conversation. We, too, admit some skepticism that a sharply divided Congress will improve on Obama’s proposals, but the nation had better hope someone finds religion before it’s too late, if it isn’t already.”  Link

Denver Post Editorial: “Everyone agrees that something must be done about runaway debt and spending. Or at least that’s what we’d like to think … We are disappointed the Obama administration has decided to double down on the status quo by submitting a 2012 budget plan of $3.73 trillion in spending, or 25 percent of gross domestic product — the highest level since World War II. The budget would add $8.7 trillion of new spending — and $7.2 trillion to the federal debt — over the next 10 years … Obama called the proposal one of “tough choices and sacrifices,” yet it does not confront entitlements and continues to act as if government spending is the way to prosperity.”  Link

Detroit News Editorial: “Obama’s budget, while commendable for containing any amount of spending reductions, falls well short of the recommendations from his own deficit reduction commission, which would cut the deficit by $3.5 trillion over the decade. Getting there would require a good deal of sacrifice, but that’s the only way to make a substantial dent in the deficit … The commission’s plan has never received the serious airing in Congress that it deserves. That’s because it touches the sacred cows of Social Security and Medicare, and kills some cherished tax credits. And even though Obama formed the commission, he hasn’t championed its ideas.”  Link

Investor’s Business Daily Editorial: “Obama seems to be playing a political game of chicken with the Republicans — betting they won’t have the guts to make the cuts that he refuses to make.  And if they do, he’ll blame them for the pain that results.  No doubt that’s why he totally ignored his own “bipartisan” deficit-cutting commission, which in December recommended big spending cuts and entitlement reform to reduce future budget shortfalls. Obviously, Obama took his copy of the report and shredded it.”  Link

Los Angeles Times Editorial: “President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2012 landed with a thud Monday, laying out short- and long-term tax and spending plans that disappointed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle … The proposal was a remarkably tame response to Washington’s fiscal problems, not the bold statement about belt-tightening that the White House had suggested was coming.  Yet the biggest shortcoming is that it all but ignored the most important long-term financial challenge, which is the growing cost of entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid.”  Link

Minneapolis Star-Tribune Editorial: “The flurry of deficit-reduction plans released late last year were supposed to kick off a national adult conversation about the nation’s metastasizing long-term debt problem.  So when is that conversation going to begin?  It certainly didn’t happen on Monday when President Obama released his $3.7 trillion budget request for 2012 … While the president’s plan included some painful cuts that should stabilize the nation’s debt level relative to its economic output, it continued the reckless fiction that the country’s books can be balanced without reforming these expensive entitlement programs: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”  Link

New York Times Editorial: “What Mr. Obama’s budget is most definitely not is a blueprint for dealing with the real long-term problems that feed the budget deficit: rising health care costs, an aging population and a refusal by lawmakers to face the inescapable need to raise taxes at some point. Rather, it defers those critical issues, in hopes, we assume, that both the economy and the political environment will improve in the future … For the most part, Mr. Obama has managed to cut spending while preserving important government duties. That approach is in stark contrast to Congressional Republicans, who are determined to cut spending deeply, no matter the consequences.”  Link

Scripps Howard News Service Editorial: “Congress must shortly confront two critical budget matters. By March 4, it must vote to extend a resolution funding continued federal operations for the year or risk a government shutdown and later this spring to increase the government’s borrowing authority or risk the U.S. defaulting on its debts … The hope is that these issues will force the two parties to come to some kind of grand bargain on tax and entitlement reform to finally solve the problem of recurring deficits. But like some of the president’s economic assumptions, that may be overly optimistic.”  Link

USA Today Editorial: “President Obama likes to talk about those “Sputnik moments” when the nation rises to difficult challenges like the one posed by the Soviet space program in the 1950s. On Monday, he had a chance to turn his federal budget proposal into his own such moment. He whiffed … Obama and his aides boasted that the administration’s spending plan would shave $1.1 trillion off anticipated deficits over 10 years. For a Democratic president to propose cuts in programs with strong Democratic constituencies is a measure of how the national dialogue on spending has shifted. But, as it happens, $1.1 trillion is the projected deficit for 2012 alone. Talk about insufficient.”  Link

Wall Street Journal Editorial: “This was supposed to be the moment we were all waiting for. After three years of historic deficits that have added almost $4.5 trillion to the national debt, President Obama was finally going to get serious about fiscal discipline. Instead, what landed on Congress’s doorstep on Monday was a White House budget that increases deficits above the spending baseline for the next two years. Hosni Mubarak was more in touch with reality last Thursday night.”  Link

Washington Post Column by Dana Wilbanks: “Obama’s budget proposal is a remarkably weak and timid document. He proposes to cut only $1.1 trillion from federal deficits over the next decade – a pittance when you consider that the deficit this year alone is in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion. The president makes no serious attempt at cutting entitlement programs that threaten to drive the government into insolvency … The best explanation the White House has come up with, uttered privately, is that Obama didn’t want to step out too far with politically unpopular cuts before congressional Republicans propose their own.” Link

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.  The opinions are those of news organizations and writers who were quoted and they should not be attributed to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which has no opinion.

February 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment