NOT Endorsing Governor Good-hair

I got an ‘alert’ in my inbox today from Empower Texans (I’m canceling that subscription, by the way) letting me know I need to vote in the primary tomorrow. I’m probably going to sit this one out, but I haven’t decided yet. I may go get my card stamped Libertarian again; but then again, I may not bother. I’m becoming convinced it’s all a waste of time. More on that later.

In the ‘alert’ they are sure to tell me that they have endorsed candidates for the races, so click on over to the Empower Texans website and they’ll be sure to let you know who to vote for. Just for the fun of it, I clicked on over to peruse the list of suggestions; and sure enough, bottom of the list is an endorsement for Rick Perry. Exactly how does endorsing the sitting governor Empower Texans? a governor who has exceeded his gubernatorial authority time and time again; has created private road systems that put dollars in foreign companies pocket, disenfranchised whole segments of the population with his bible-thumping rhetoric and whose influence over the SBOE has threatened the future of education in the State of Texas?

Around this house we call him Governor Good-hair. That’s the sum total of his positive contribution to this state, in our lowly opinion.

Let’s get past the basic waste of time it is to endorse any sitting politician in this day and age. With re-election rates in the mid-90’s for incumbents, why bother? Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter; why not endorse someone who actually favors Liberty in the Lone Star State? If it has to be a Republican, why not Debra Medina? Why not the Libertarian candidate? As Libertarians, they’ve got to be more ‘liberty’ oriented than any candidate the other parties might run.

I get so fed up with political ads in Texas. “The REAL Conservative Candidate” (you can hear the capitol letters) as if conservatives haven’t run this state, and the federal government for the last 8+ years. If we aren’t happy with what’s going on in the state, maybe we don’t need REAL conservatives. Maybe we need a Democrat. How about the former mayor of Houston, Bill White? Houston is notorious for its hands off approach to development and business. What about Farouk Shami? any man brave enough to run for governor with that name has got to have what it takes to run this state.

How about we pull ANYBODY off the street and endorse him, instead of endorsing Governor Good-hair? They’ve got a better than even chance of doing a better job.

Daylight Saving Time

An oldie that never gets old, Because it happens again every year. The hour that never occurs. Can we stop the insanity, please?

Every time I have to change my clocks (whether it’s to fall back or spring forward) the blood pressure goes up a few points just contemplating Daylight Saving Time.

I’ve tried just ignoring it in the past, and that didn’t work out too well. Missed appointments, extremely early arrivals, whatever. Not really a solution. I’ve tried going to bed earlier in advance of the change, setting the clocks ahead early, also not very effective. You name it, I’ll bet you I’ve tried it. No matter what, this gov’t mandated time change always turns into a nightmare.

I just can’t wrap my head around how this ‘saves’ anything, and why this is a benefit. Farmers hate it. Merchants supposedly benefit, and traffic fatalities are said to be reduced. But these benefits argue more for just changing the hour permanently, rather than a seasonal change.

I can clearly see how DST is a benefit to government worshipers everywhere. I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate the power and authority of government; that even the sun can be commanded by congress. Now that is a showcase of control on a grand scale.

Don’t laugh. I’ve had this argument several times. Inevitably the person who thinks DST is a good idea will exclaim “Do you really want the sun to come up at 5:30 in the morning in the summer?” I’ve got news for you people, it still does come up at 5:30 in the morning, we just call it 6:30.

I have a compromise to offer. Let’s split the difference and call it 6:00; give up this whole notion that we can somehow save daylight by passing laws and changing clocks. My biorhythms (or circadian rhythm) will thank you for it.

What glorious power is given to congress. They can dictate what time the sun comes up, and the sun will listen. Maybe they should tackle that Pi thing, try dictating that it will be 3.2 or something…

Special needs and Government Schools

One of the arguments in favor of government schools that I frequently hear is how the private schools cannot handle the requirements of special needs children, and how only the government funding of schools allows for the proper education of these children.

I happen to know that this is a fabrication. I have watched a close friend engage in the endlessly frustrating task of trying to find a school, any school, which can meet the requirements of educating her special needs child. The charter schools were simply disappointing, because they have so far failed to deliver on their promises of being able to teach her child. At least, with the charter schools, it was a simple matter to find another charter that might do the job better.

The government school (frequently mislabeled as public school) was a complete disaster by comparison. After taking months preparing an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for her son, which she was involved with to such a large extent that she even attended school classes with him in order to help guide his progress; the school decided they couldn’t educate him the first day that they were left alone with him, and called the police to have him arrested (he’s 10) for leaving his classroom.

What the police would have done is anybodies guess, but the crisis was averted by her timely arrival and permanent removal of her son from the only available school system in her area.

Enter Texas SB 1000, which will allow the parents of children with autism to receive vouchers so that they can seek an education for their children outside the restrictions of the government run system. She’s understandably interested in this bill’s passage. So am I, but for different reasons.

I have paid for private school for my children, and found charter schools for them when I could no longer afford private school. The government school system is so lackluster that I wouldn’t subject even normal children to it, much less one whose needs are more demanding than others. I have supported vouchers for Texas in the past, and I will do it again in the future. I think that providing vouchers to children with Autism is an excellent test, a chance to prove how much better an open market can deal with the requirements of educating the children of Texas.

Naturally, the supporters of state schooling are foursquare against this proposal, because they understand the threat that vouchers pose to their ill-performing monopoly. They are so frightened by this that they would do anything to defeat the proposal.

Enter the former mayor of Austin, Kirk Watson. He’s moved up in the world, taking over the designated Democrat representative seat in the State Senate, replacing the drunken Gonzalo Barrientos as the senate representative for the Austin area.

Far from being the friend of business that he has been credited with being, Watson has proven himself to be a pretty predictably average mercantilist or corporatist, handing out favors to large corporations and interest groups while mayor of Austin, and stifling small businesses and individuals with ill-founded proposals, such as the recent toll road proposals.

Watson is, also predictably, against vouchers. I’ll let him speak for himself:

Subject: Autism Services Accessibility
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2007 11:58:46 -0500
From: Senator Kirk Watson

Dear Mr. Steele:

Thank you for your letter regarding your support of Senate Bill 1000, relating to the use of public money for private school tuition for children with autism. I appreciate you sharing your views with me.
I am committed to ensuring that we have an adequate and equitable funding structure for public education. The issue of vouchers has always been a controversial one, and I believe that we must carefully consider the options available for public school funding before we come to any decision regarding alternative education systems. We need to find ways to strengthen public schools and not weaken them by draining them of money and students.
I support providing teachers and teacher’s aides with up-to-date information and training on programs and best practices on educating students with disabilities. I also support keeping parents well-informed on and involved in their child’s education.
To that end, I have filed several bills to improve public school services to children with disabilities.
  • Senate Bill 1490, which requires the Texas Education Agency to update the Guide to the Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) Process to ensure that teachers have current information on the process by which an individualized education program (IEP) is developed for a student in a special education program and the rights and responsibilities of a parent concerning the process;
  • Senate Bill 1491, which permits the Texas Education Commissioner to make grants, consisting primarily of federal funds, to school districts to cover the high cost of educating students with disabilities;
  • Senate Bill 1625, which allows a teacher to be more involved in the development and implementation of a child’s IEP and to request any necessary training to ensure the child’s needs are met; and
  • Senate Bill 1686, which allows parents and teachers to discuss and consider teacher qualifications and the need for teacher training with the ARD committee for their school. This committee reviews the special education programs and personnel for each school and helps establish the individual education program for each student who requires special education.
I appreciate that you took time to contact my office. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance to you in the future.
Kirk Watson

Personally, I don’t think he’s that sincere. If he was sincere, he might have taken the time to remember a few facts before replying to my letter with his standard boilerplate response.

Facts like these:

The public school system already costs (at least) twice as much as private school, where teachers are selected by parents to teach exactly what and how the parents want. “Draining the school of students and funds” in that light yields a net gain to the Texas taxpayer, and a benefit to the children of Texas by allowing them to attend schools of their choice rather than forcing them into a one-size-fits-all, centralized, micro managed, antiquated system.

Looked at from another perspective, adding another facet to the already over-burdened bureaucracy in order to deal with special needs children simply adds an even greater expense to a government school system that is already cash strapped and in need of re-organization. Allowing children with special education needs to leave the government school system assures that these children will get the education they need without exacting a greater cost on a system that is already stressed to the breaking point.

Or these:

Four bills introduced with the best intentions at heart, I’m sure. All of which will do exactly what I predict, increase the cost of administrating the schools by adding another facet to the already overly complex state school requirements. They will increase the cost of training teachers to meet every eventuality, rather than allowing them to specialize in the types of children they wish to teach.

Four bills, all of whose goals could be met, simply by allowing the parents to take their children and their money out of the system. Which is what the one bill, SB1000 will do.

Why don’t we do what the parents of children with Autism are asking us to do? Let their children out of the system. It’s the smart thing to do, for so many different reasons.

Central Texas Toll Roads

Roads that have already been paid for by taxes (or are being paid for by tax funded bonds) belong to the taxpayers of Texas. They are our roads, not to be given to a third party at the whim of a governor who has overstepped his authority in this matter. They are our roads, built as freeways, for the use of Central Texans; they are not revenue generators serving the greater goals of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

If the residents of Central Texas wish to alter the method by which roads are paid for, I’m quite certain we are capable of presenting a question to the voters concerning tolling roads in lieu of further taxes. This is not what has happened. Roads that we have already paid for have been given to a for profit foreign company to manage. This is unacceptable.

If the residents of Central Texas wished to sell our roads to a management company to maintain, that would be our business. The sale of said roads would be used to retire bonded debt associated with the roads. This also has not happened.

What has happened is bureaucrats with more perceived authority than actual sense acted to sell-out Central Texas residents in exchange for lucrative deals that profit themselves and their families. This must not be allowed to continue.

AISD: Spending Real Money

This is True #624 Mentioned a newspaper article in the local rag, the Austin American Statesman, concerning Kealing Middle School getting a $9 million facelift. The facelift includes new student lockers, even though the current student lockers have been sitting empty for 10 years. The principal of the school banned their use due to ‘contraband’ and other excuses. The new lockers will cost $60,000, and they will also sit unused.

Citizen appeals to re-allocate the money had fallen on deaf ears. Which doesn’t surprise me, having dealt with AISD and their construction staff several times in the past. Logic isn’t something that they seem to have an abundance of over there.

As an example, my last job…

…The architect I was working for came up in rotation for a couple of schools that were going to be renovated. As I had experience with AISD renovation projects before, I was asked to lead these projects as well. My employer stressed to me that I needed to take the initiative here, that I needed to make sure and handle everything that needed to be done, because “that’s how you keep the AISD project manager happy, making sure that he doesn’t have anything to do”.

Which I found quite interesting, at the time. I happen to know that architects who work for AISD make well above market average for the experience that they require, having applied for some openings at AISD in the past (openings for which, I’m quite certain, my politics excluded me from consideration for) so the concept of doing all the work for a better compensated (twice as much as I was making) government employee, just so he would be happy, didn’t sit well with me.

After all, the whole basis of public schools comes from the concept of Kantian-Fichtian selfless service; i.e. school district employees should be doing their jobs for the good of the community, and not be expecting any compensation in return, much less compensation at a higher rate than their privately employed peers. However, reality works in line with the Objectivist-Capitalist rewards system, and nobody is easier to fleece than a willing, tax-paying public; therefore public servants generally do get paid better than any other group.

So I go out with my employer to visit the sites and discuss project scope with the AISD representatives. As I’m walking through the schools with this Gucci & silk shirt wearing reprobate, I notice the extremely dilapidated condition of several of the portable buildings that the children will be housed in. A good portion of the schools in Texas have entire little shanty towns of these buildings parked behind the brick and glass permanent facilities that front the streets; putting their best face forward, literally. They hide these buildings from view like the eyesores that they are, and I doubt that most parents realise that their children are even in them. As a professional who is tasked with public safety as a part of licensing, I can’t get away from the fact that children are housed in them day in and day out.

So I mention the state of the portables to this Gucci & silk shirt wearing reprobate, this public servant that is nothing of the kind, and suggest that perhaps the renovation money should be used to build additional buildings, rather than be used to do cosmetic upgrades to the existing brick and mortar structures (which housed less than half the children at the schools in question) and the landscaping that is also visible from the fronting street.

His reply? Can’t do that, it would take real money to build new buildings. His exact words; real money. Now, I have to admit that it would have taken more than the million or so dollars that they had set aside for these little cosmetic upgrades that they were doing. However, you spend a million here and a million there, and pretty soon all the real money is spent on things that aren’t important to the big picture. That big picture being the education of Texas’ children.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the pleasure of working on those projects. Actually, I was fired not too long after that walk through. Coincidence? Most likely. All I know is, I’d rather be an unemployed architect than a knee-crawling toady for a public servant that doesn’t know the meaning of the term.

School Choice; the Way of the Future?

In the continuing saga of “The Libertarian Failure that Wasn’t“; I offer further proof that Michael Lind, in his article “The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics“, is engaged in nothing more than a hatchet job.

First, a short quote:

[T]he US public has rejected every element of the libertarian counter-revolution. The first proposal voters rejected was the privatisation of schooling. Because US education policy is dominated by states and cities, this issue was fought at the local level. It turned out that most conservative Republicans as well as Democrats were content with their suburban public schools. Again and again, voucher proposals went down to defeat.

I’ve dealt with the blanket accusation concerning the libertarian counter-revolution here; the subject of vouchers, however, deserves a more thorough rebuttal.

Cato recently released a damning review of the latest negative poll results concerning support for voucher systems. “What the Public Really Thinks of School Choice” reveals the fact that Americans support school vouchers at higher levels than ever in history, depending on how the question is asked. It’s just that the people funding the polls don’t want to ask the right questions.

When asked (in a separate Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation poll) “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose any school, public or private, to attend using public funds?” 60% of Americans favored vouchers. This is one of the highest levels of support that vouchers have ever seen. And yet, when asked (in the more widely publicized PDK poll) “Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?” 36% favor vouchers. The difference in wording purposefully slants the results in the direction that PDK wishes. Why do I say that? Because PDK used different language on their earlier polls, until the results flipped in favor of vouchers. They’ve used the revised wording above ever since.

The group that funds the negative polls, PDK (Phi Delta Kappa) is a gov’t school advocacy group interested in promoting the gov’t monopoly on schooling. And what is being left out are the facts concerning cost, and access to superior schools.

Cost analysis of Washington DC’s voucher system shows that it saves the district millions of dollars and would continue to do so if expanded to cover all the schools in the area.

Voucher programs would immediately provide access to better schools for parents who take an interest in their children’s education. Sites like Great Schools rate your local schools based on performance (or whatever criteria you wish to sort by) providing the information a parent would need to make an informed decision.

[charter schools (the closest thing we have to vouchers in Texas) routinely outperform gov’t schools located in the same areas of the city. Concerned parents should make the effort to find charter schools in their area and make a stand for their children’s education. If you can’t find a charter in your area, and/or you feel you are equipped to teach your own children (as someone quipped when I sent them this entry “Aren’t most parents also conscripted teachers as soon as the infant kids realize they have the power to communicate?” Why, yes they are. Some of us just don’t feel that we are knowledgeable in enough areas to do the job all by ourselves) you might prefer homeschooling as an option. Homeschooled children routinely outperform all other groups on standardized tests]

However, groups like Phi Delta Kappa and the NEA don’t want parents to be able to make those types of informed choices. The official reaction to John Stossel’s “Stupid in America: how lack of choice cheats our kids out of a good education” (his latest broadside on the problems in the US today) outlines the stark truth here; teachers and administrators alike are hostile to any criticism of them or the schools they operate.

It should be painfully clear to anyone who watches the program that the teacher’s answer to your objections is the same one they give your children. “Sit down and shut up. We know what’s best for you”.

Personally, I was released from that kind of prison quite some time ago. I paid my debt to society for being born, graduated high school and was allowed to go on and do something with my life. I wouldn’t willingly sentence my children to similar confinement.

No, Mr. Lind. Those of us who are informed on the subject of schools are not content with the current offering. We are looking for something better, and vouchers might just fit the bill.

Daylight Stressing Time

Every time I have to change the clocks I just fume over the whole subject of Daylight Savings Time. I’ve tried just ignoring it in the past, making a point to show up for things an hour earlier than the time stated, etc., didn’t work out well enough. I’ve tried going to bed earlier in advance of the change, setting the clocks ahead early, you name it. No matter what I try to get past this gov’t mandated time change, it always turns into a nightmare of insomnia and late wake-ups.

I just can’t wrap my head around how this ‘saves’ anything, and why this is a benefit. To anybody. Well, I take that last part back. I can clearly see how this is a benefit to statist types everywhere. I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate the power and authority of gov’t, that even the sun can be commanded by congress. Now that is a showcase of control on a grand scale.

Don’t laugh. I’ve had this argument several times. Inevitably the person who thinks DST is a good idea will exclaim “Do you really want the sun to come up at 5:30 in the morning?” I’ve got news for you people, it still does come up at 5:30 in the morning, we just call it 6:30.

How about we compromise, halve the difference and call it 6:00; give up this whole notion that we can somehow save daylight by passing laws and changing clocks. My biorhythms (or circadian rhythm) will thank you for it.

What glorious power is given to congress. They can dictate what time the sun comes up, and the sun will listen. Maybe they should tackle that Pi thing, try dictating that it will be 3.2 or something.

Texas School Funding

This has been an issue for so long in Texas, it’s reached epic proportions. If it wasn’t so damned expensive, it might even be funny. I hear today that someone (who’s betting against it being the TEA funding this? Anyone?) ran a poll and discovered that a majority of people would be willing to spend more in taxes if it went to schools.

As if for the children hasn’t been the mantra that they’ve asked us to shed blood for time and again in the past. Once again, my name is firmly in the ‘nay’ category. Not just no, but, Hell No.

The government schools are twice as expensive to run as comparable private schools. Giving them more money will not improve the schools, because the increasing number of dollars that we’ve given them (that’s doubled and tripled over time) has not made the government schools function any better.

There is no way to earmark funds for a specific purpose, as should be painfully clear to anyone who remembers that the lottery money, the cigarette settlement money, virtually every new tax scheme proposed in the last 20 years has been “earmarked for education”, only to get dumped into the general fund.

School attendance is mandatory. This makes the government schools into something closer to prisons than they are to places where children learn. The curriculum is set at the state and/or federal level. This turns the schools into an ‘indoctrination center’, where the correct view of this or that event or behavior is sure to be the only one given. The buildings themselves are old and run down from years of neglect by administrators more interested in buying themselves nice lives than they are in seeing facilities modernized, or made less ‘oppressive’.

This leaves the teachers holding the bag, the thankless prison guard who isn’t even trusted with a gun to defend himself with, and is locked in with the inmates on a daily basis. No wonder they want more money.

Here’s a solution you won’t get from the powers that be. Remove the taxing authority from all the school districts. Fire every school district employee who isn’t actively teaching a class. Draft legislation creating vouchers equal to the current outlay per student, payable to each teacher that will be entrusted with the job to teach our children. Give them the authority to hire and fire administration that they choose to employ at their discretion, and out of their pockets.

Give parents the choice to either accept the vouchers, and have their children be tested at the end of the education process; or to do without the vouchers and the testing.

…And then see if the children end up learning more, or less. I’m betting on more.


Having now put two children through school I can honestly say that the public schools do exceptionally well for what they have been tasked with doing. They do a far better job of educating all the children than most of the charter schools do with educating the children of parents interested enough in their children’s learning to take the time to put them in the charter instead of just sending them to the public school.

That is the big difference. If you have the time and the money you can find a school that produces a better education for less money. But the playing field is not level. Public schools have to educate all of the children, even the ones that don’t have parents that care and the ones that have learning disabilities. Charter schools fail in those categories because those are the groups that are hardest to educate and charters aren’t given enough money to educate those kinds of children. So they don’t try, and they aren’t required to do it anyway.

The problem with school remains the straightjacket that they have been confined to for too long. We would do much better if we made schooling something that can be done anywhere and any time. If we understood that children want to learn, they don’t have to be forced to learn.