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Posts published in May 2013

More on ed reform

carlson CHRIS


In April I listed ten suggested reforms that would assist learning by students from the student perspective. This week I’m offering thoughts on suggested reform actions from the standpoint of teachers and school administrators.

1) Allow teachers to maintain discipline. Teachers are in the classroom to teach, not baby-sit. If a student is being disruptive and a teacher tosses the person from the class the supervisor or principal has to back the teacher up. Zero tolerance for disruptive behavior and no second chances. Teachers should instill in students that public education is a privilege not an entitlement.
2) Significantly decrease the load on teachers that comes from having to fill out too many “process forms.”
3) Provide teachers with more “prep time.”
4) Require teachers to take more pre-teaching college classes in history and the humanities and fewer classes in educational theory or psychology.
5) Since Idaho does not and probably never will pay its teachers a decent salary, mandate that every teacher, including coaches on the teaching faculty take a fully paid sabbatical every fifth year to recharge the batteries. Teaching, done correctly, is very demanding and draining. Burnout can occur frequently. This would at least give Idaho a unique offering with which to attract new teachers. Which leads to the next item;
6) Strengthen teacher recruiting and retention programs.
7) Require teachers to participate with each of their “homeroom” students in a semi-annual review of the student’s Planned Path to the Mastery of Common Core Knowledge.
8) Evaluation of a teacher’s skill and success in teaching should be based on extensive in-class observation and not on test results.
9) Evaluation of teachers should require above the 7th Grade a student evaluation component and allow for but not require parental input.
10) Campuses should be weapon-free environments except for police hired to provide security in their “spare time” or a hired and trained armed security force. Neither teachers nor students should be allowed to carry on a school campus.

Here are my suggestions for public school administrators: (more…)

National shame

rainey BARRETT


Wayne LaPierre is a driven guy. Finishes what he starts. No quitter. He’s single-handedly determined to become the most hated S-O-B in America. With one more NRA national convention under his belt – or maybe one more appearance before a congressional committee – he’ll likely achieve the dream. Trump – the distant second – isn’t even close.

It’s no secret Wayne doesn’t speak for responsible gun owners. Hasn’t for years. His overblown salary is paid for by firearms and ammunition companies – not dues from responsible member shooters. His job is to be the lightening rod keeping public attention and anger off the industry while killing any legitimate effort to craft responsible gun legislation by anyone. Takes a special kind of guy – one willing to subvert personal morality and conscience to the demands of people who don’t give a damn about the rest of us. Or him, either, when he finally leaves the job.

Following daily insights into the gross affairs of last week’s NRA convention, I was struck – make that grossed out – by two items. Not that there weren’t several dozen others to turn responsible stomachs.

First item: the exhibit booth of Zombie Industries which – hang on to your lunch now – sold life-sized targets that bleed when shot. Yep, give it a good “kill” shot and the damned things gush red “blood.” If that’s not gross enough, one on display for conference attendees to try their aim on was – I hate to use the words – a dead ringer for President Obama. I’ve seen the picture in all it’s gory glory and you ain’t gonna see it here.

In a fit of uncharacteristic “conscience,” someone from the NRA asked the Zombie folks to take it down. But only after the media had taken pictures and many folks had literally taken their “best shots.” When the operator of the grizzly exhibit was told the bleeding target looked like Obama, he said “Let’s just say I gave my Republican father one for Christmas.”

Second item: LaPierre’s annual speech and the lies therein. All of it could easily be classified as morally disgusting. But he really hit the lowest note when he got to the Boston Marathon tragedy. While the event itself was gruesome enough to stay with us the rest of our lives, Ol’ Wayne had to take it down further.

“How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago” he asked? “Imagine living in a large metropolitan area where lawful firearms ownership is heavily regulated and discouraged. Imagine waking up to a phone call from the police at 3 a.m. warning a terrorist event is occurring outside and ordering you to stay in your home.” A lie, of course.

Shouts from the crowd of “disgusting” and “outrageous” responded to his crazy premise that some citizen militia was prevented from forming and taking to the streets in the name of justice. Authorities did NOT tell people to stay off the streets. And many did not.

Well, let’s take his crazy premise into reality. Every law enforcement group – every emergency outfit within 100 miles of Boston – was somehow involved in the aftermath of the killer explosions. Media was running rampant with facts, speculation and hearsay. Authorities were asking people to “stay in place.” Not “ordering” but “asking.” (more…)

Jobs evaporating in Indian country

trahant MARK


Wall Street celebrated last week’s jobs report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployment fell to 7.5 percent and that 165,000 new jobs were added in April. The report also revised its numbers from the past couple of months, saying that the job creation was stronger than first glance.

But the same numbers are lousy in Indian Country. If you read the full report there’s a number (and a trend) that is concerning: Government sector employment continues to drop. In the technical language of the BLS, “Employment in ... government, showed little change over the month.” Little change was a minus 11,000 jobs. But if you pull back and look at the longer trend government employment continues to shrink.

A report by The Hamilton Project last year detailed this larger trend.

“Total government (i.e., the sum of state, local, and federal) employment has decreased by over 580,000 jobs since the end of the recession, the largest decrease in any sector since the recovery began in July 2009. State and local governments, faced with tough choices imposed by the confluence of balanced-budget requirements, falling tax revenues, and greater demand for public services, have been forced to lay off teachers, police officers, and other workers,” the report by Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney reported last August. This is the lowest public-sector employment in 30 years.

But go back even further and the trend is even more stark. Between 1950 and 1975 government jobs accounted for 1 in every 4 jobs created “contributing to widespread public belief that government, especially the Federal government, is too large,” said a 1981 BLS report.

There is no national data on the growth of tribal governments just after this time frame, but there should be.

The post-1975 growth of tribal government services is stunning, drive around any reservation and the visible evidence is overwhelming. Tribes created programs, took over the management of Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service, built schools and colleges.

The California Indian Gaming Association reported in 2003, for example, that “tribal government economies have for three years lead the state in job growth, with employment more than doubling since January 2000, when there were 17,200 workers on tribal payrolls.” (more…)

Demographic ripple effects

idaho RANDY
The Idaho

UPDATE: Belatedly, I heard the original source for some of this analysis was a report by StateImpact Idaho, by Emilie Ritter Saunders. So noted.

A piece of demographic analysis reported widely a week ago, about shifting tends in the makeup of Idaho's population, deserves some serious thought well beyond the thumb-tacked issue it highlighted.

That reason, as KTVB-TV's web article said, was that it is “a change that's alarming some jobs experts.” That's not wrong. There's a good reason the shifts in Idaho age groups – the state is losing younger people and attracting what is referred to as a “gray tsunami” - ought to concern those analysts; it really does have an effect on the labor force, which in turn affects business development.

Longer-term trend lines weren't immediately available, and that would have helped nail down the point. But there is some evidence things are moving in this direction; labor analysts found that in March another 1,400 people left the Idaho labor force.

But surely (to reiterate here the point again, albeit that some of the numbers came from the state Department of Labor) there are concerns that range well beyond those of business executives.

The analysis grew in large part out of a look at data from the state Transportation Department records, mainly drivers and other license information, to figure out where adults (and some teenagers) come from to Idaho, and where they go from the state. Historically, those numbers have been interesting, but larger conclusions are difficult to draw. They're not so difficult this time,

The report said that in 2012, net outmigration – people moving away from Idaho as opposed to moving in – was at higher levels, higher than in more than a decade. Bob Fick of the Department of Labor, which also tracks these kind of statistics, said “That's the first time we've had an outmigration from the 80s. … Will we have the labor force to man a recovery?”

The reason for concern is not so much the overall numbers but the age cohorts: People in their 20s were disproportionately moving out, and people above 60 disproportionately were moving in.

One impact, Fick suggested, is a slowing the “goods” (partly, manufacturing) economy, which generates relatively high-wage jobs, and more service jobs – reflecting what younger vs. older consumers tend to buy. That may translate to lower overall wages (Idaho ranks high on the percentage of workers at the minimum wage), and a softer consumer economy.

Let's look at this through a political lens. (more…)

Ain’t gonna happen

rainey BARRETT


When asked if there’s a likelihood Republicans can take the White House in 2016 – or even 2020 – I have two answers. “No” and “I hope not.” Most often, that starts a verbal tennis match – sometimes resulting in my parentage being questioned.

I’ve voted for a lot of Republicans over the years and have absolutely no animosity toward the brand. None. Historically, many fine folk among the elephants – many who’ve served the nation well. But today’s GOP variety pack is less political “health food” and far too many salty “nuts.” Until the recipe is re-mixed to provide a more balanced philosophical diet, they’d be unhealthful and should be avoided in the nation’s – and our – best interests.

The evidence of unfitness to serve is everywhere. But let’s just focus on these stories of Republican political activities in just one 24-hour national news cycle. For the record keepers reading, that would be April 30 – May 1, 2013. You can fact-check anything herein.

Huffington Post Headline: “GOP Census Bill Would Eliminate America’s Economic Indicators.” They’ve introduced a bill to bar the U.S. Census Bureau from conducting nearly all surveys except the decennial population count. That would end government’s ability to provide reliable estimates of employment (or unemployment) and nearly every other Census Bureau tabulation at every level of government, most national businesses, statistical professionals, immigration, economy, academics.. It’d cripple health care, manufacturing, education, law enforcement and nearly everything else..

Washington Post Headline: “Lamar Smith: Science Peer Review Process Would Improve Political Oversight.” The GOP Chairman of the House Science Committee introduced a bill to require political oversight of ALL scientific work done by the National Science Foundation. Every conclusion of every scientific study by the Foundation would have to be reviewed AND APPROVED by politicians before being published. Legitimate scientists would be barred from contradicting any outcome of the political oversight.

Salon.Com Headline: “Republicans Embrace Conspiracy That DHS Is Buying Up Ammo.” Sen. Inhofe and Rep. Lucas introduced bills to stop Department of Homeland Security from “buying up the nation’s supply of ammunition as a way to take over the market and institute gun control.” They have Republican co-signers. Only Republican co-signers.

Huffington Post Headline: “Arizona Silver & Gold Bill Passes State Senate.” Claiming a “lack of confidence in the international monetary system,” the Arizona Senate approved a House-passed measure to make gold and silver legal currency in the state. It should be noted Idaho and Utah Republicans have tried this for many a year. It never goes anywhere but they keep trying. But in Arizona, it got very close to being law. Should the GOP ever be in a national position to pull this off, the resulting calamity around the world can’t be overstated.

Huffington Post Headline: “Pat Toomey: Background Checks Died Because GOP Didn’t Want To Help Obama.” Sen. Toomey (R-PA) tells the world fellow Republicans told him they voted against background checks to weed out unfit purchasers of guns because they “didn’t want to be seen helping the President.” When faced with a simple, greatly watered-down bill to take one small step to help assure national safety – and possibly avoid more mass executions by madmen – nearly all Republicans and four Democrats just couldn’t put national priorities above their own self-interest. (more…)

Spring in bloom

ridenbaugh Northwest

A piece from the Oregon Department of Agriculture on the bright colors of spring in Oregon, and their economic effect.

A sudden burst of warm sunny weather in late April has hastened the bloom of many flowering plants in Oregon that help bring color and cash to the state. With the blossoms come sales of floricultural production, which remains a key sector of Oregon agriculture. A new report shows cut flowers, potted flowering plants, and bedding plants are still important components of the state’s $744 million greenhouse and nursery industry, even though the numbers are down slightly.

“Floriculture is very important to Oregon’s economy,” says Gary McAninch, supervisor of the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Nursery and Christmas Tree Programs. “Of course, it’s a smaller subsection of the nursery industry, but floriculture’s sales and production value would by itself make it a top ten agricultural commodity in Oregon.”

Motorists don’t even have to stop or get off the freeway to see the splendor of Oregon floriculture in the spring.

“All you have to do is travel I-5 to see all the flowers that are blooming,” says McAninch. “The tulips and daffodils are already out, the irises will start blooming soon, and the dahlias will follow. It’s a beautiful time of the year to be driving in the Willamette Valley.”

The US Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has released its annual floriculture survey. Nationally, the 2012 wholesale value of floriculture crops increased one percent to an estimated $4.13 billion, which is the same figure recorded in 2010. California continues to account for about 24 percent of the nation's production followed by Florida, Michigan, Texas, and North Carolina. California and Florida combine to produce about 44 percent of the US floriculture production. Notably, both states saw a slight drop in production value last year despite the overall increase nationally.

Oregon ranks 11th in the nation in value of floriculture, with 213 growers responsible for about $129 million in wholesale value– about a 2 percent decrease from 2011. The number of growers in Oregon has dropped from 250 three years ago. The statistics show bedding and garden plants with a wholesale value of $50 million, potted flowering plants at $18 million, propagative materials, such as bulbs, at $9 million, and cut flowers at $12 million. All categories are down from three years ago with the exception of cut flowers, which has increased in wholesale value about 17 percent since 2010. (more…)

Drought ahead?

drought is figuring that there'll be drought again this summer, and this time it's heading west. Idaho and part of eastern Oregon may be ground central for it.

From today's update email:

As much of the eastern half of the nation has cooler and wetter conditions relative to last summer, the West will bear the brunt of this summer's drought and heat.

"The core of drought and heat will build west of the Continental Divide to California during the first part of the summer, then will expand northward as the season progresses," Pastelok said.

A lack of snowfall this past winter and a lack of rain this summer, could lead to serious water resource problems.

While drought, heat and wildfire issues are expected to be far-reaching in the West as the summer progresses, the heavily populated and major agricultural state of California could be at the center of drought-related issues ranging from water problems to wildfires. Some water for agriculture use was already being cut back to start the spring.

HEW were the toughest parts

Representative Wendy Horman (center) at the Idaho Falls City Club. (photo/Mark Mendiola)


mendiola MARK


For Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, the controversial health insurance exchange, education reform and Medicaid issues tackled by lawmakers this year made the 2013 Idaho legislative session one of the most challenging he has experienced. For Wendy Horman, it was her baptism by fire.

Republicans Hill, a Rexburg District 34 senator, and Horman, an Idaho Falls District 30B representative, gave their takes on the recently concluded session as a veteran and a rookie, respectively, at a recent City Club of Idaho Falls luncheon.

This past session was the 12th for Hill, a CPA who serves on the Local Government & Taxation and State Affairs committees, and the first for Horman, a small business owner who serves on the Education, Judiciary, Rules & Administration and Local Government committees.

Hill said the Legislature’s Joint Finance & Appropriations Committee is the envy of many states because of its efficiency. It was informally decided about 25 years ago as part of an unwritten power sharing rule that if someone sat on JFAC, he or she could not chair a committee or be a member of leadership, he said.

“That spread the opportunities around,“ Hill said. “Being in the Legislature is exciting, and it’s frustrating. It’s rewarding, and it’s stressful. There’s always drama.”

Horman said intensive three-day legal training in ethics and procedures enabled freshmen legislators to “hit the ground running. That was not an accident. There’s a very good correlation. … I’m telling you right now, the freshman class were not ninth graders.”

The magnitude of responsibility as a legislator is almost overwhelming, she said, but 11 years on a Bonneville school board helped prepare her for the task at hand.

Horman said process, policy and people had to align as guiding principles when she was a school board member. As a new legislator, she said she had to add a fourth “P” as a principle -- politics.

“The partisan world is not something you can overlook or you do so at your own peril,” Horman said, adding a “crud filter” must be applied when processing information as a legislator. She said she was an “abject failure” in answering hundreds of messages flooding her e-mail box.

Many of those e-mails addressed gun control. Hill said legislators resisted pressure to impose gun restrictions and called Idaho one of the most Second Amendment-supportive states in the union. (more…)

Common sense on common core

carlson CHRIS


Saw a news item a few weeks ago that could be exhibit A regarding
what educators are calling a Common Core of Knowledge that a student
graduating from any high school in the country should have mastered.

The multi-millionaire superstar of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant,
was telling a reporter about the entire Lakers team having gone to see
Daniel Day Lewis’ exceptional performance in the movie Lincoln.
Asked to characterize his and the team’s reaction to the film, Bryant
said they all thought it was a pretty good movie but were shocked and
surprised by the ending.

Really? These gazillionaire basketball players, most of whom
supposedly are college graduates, none of them including Kobe, knew
that Lincoln had been the first president to be assassinated? That folks is
what developing a Common Core of Knowledge for students to master is
all about.

It is not a plot by the Federal government to usurp local control of
our public schools. It is not a conspiracy to brainwash our students
into becoming liberal leaning robots who will look to Big Brother for
everything. It is not a conspiracy.

It is a long overdue effort by educators at all levels to define a basic
body of knowledge every student should master if they are going to be
awarded a high school degree and proceed out into the labor force to
become a responsible, accountable productive citizen able to function
reasonably well in a society full of those all too ready to exploit the
ignorant and the uninformed.

Put another way, it is just plain common sense for this country to
develop and require the mastery of a common core of knowledge.
Every state’s superintendent of public instruction is participating in
developing some aspect of this effort working with the U.S. Department of Education.

Idaho’s Tom Luna is a practicing member of the LDS Church and is
about as conservative as they come. He is as sensitive and as attuned to
guarding against infringements on “State’s rights” and “local control” as
the most ardent Tea Party type could wish. He has Idaho participating
in a coalition of states developing recommendations in math and the
language arts for what they believe should be the common core.

He still has his common sense about common core. As any reader of my
columns knows, I was highly critical of the proposed Luna Laws and the
top down process he and Governor Otter engaged in to foist their vision
of education reform off on the Idaho electorate. (more…)

He shouldn’t have to do it

rainey BARRETT


A lot of people – especially media types – have been hyper-excited in recent days about the announcement by a professional athlete that he’s a gay man. In fact, national reaction got so heady even the President of the United States called to wish him well. Here – in our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods – the best emotion I could come up with was one of “so what?”

Jason Collins and all play-for-pay athletes are usually judged by the statistical record created during their years in any sport. As they should be. In Collins’ case, the best that can be said is he’s a good, workmanlike guy who holds up his corner on a basketball court as he’s hired to do. Certainly not a star in the manner of a Michael Jordan or Larry Bird. Just a guy who does his job.

At the age of 34, Collins is close to the end of a moderately successful career. In fact, a lot of sports fanatics believe, had he not made his sexual orientation announcement, he’d probably not have been back next year. But now that he’s done so, predictions are media/public pressure on NBA Commissioner Stern will probably result in one or more teams offering him another year or two of playing. For the wrong reasons.

After Collins’ announcement of his homosexuality, I really didn’t have a reaction – just a sense of blah – and “Well, O.K.” I wasn’t sure why until I read a comment from the aged Dr. Ruth Westheimer saying she was “sad.” That I could relate to.

Psychosexual therapist Dr. Ruth has been around for many, many years. At just under five feet tall – with the demeanor and huge smile of a marvelous Jewish grandmother to the nation – she’s been a fixture on late night TV shows for decades and published several books dealing with nearly every possible topic related to sex and our sexuality. I only point out her size, heritage and grandmotherly appearance because those attributes have given her a lot of freedom to say things sexually explicit other professionals would never have gotten away with. Starting in the late 1950′s with Jack Paar, Dr. Ruth has charmed the nation. (more…)