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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 08, 2017 08:05 am

Tales from parallel universes.The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary is wonderful news for inner-city children:

An opportunity has arisen — belatedly — that may not come again in this generation. That is an opportunity to greatly expand the kinds of schools that have successfully educated, to a high level, inner-city youngsters whom the great bulk of public schools fail to educate to even minimally adequate levels.

No, it isn't. It is terrible news for middle-class kids:

Beyond applying political pressure to Republican members of Congress, the union leaders acknowledged their power to stop DeVos is limited. "There is no magic wand," Eskelsen García said. "There is absolutely nothing that will stop these people from the dangerous agenda they have of profitize, privatize and ... throw a middle-class child into the street saying, ‘Let them eat for-profit vouchers.’"

We got along fine without a Department of Education for a couple of hundred years before Jimmy Carter came along and felt he owed the teachers' unions something for their support. So to tell you the truth, I'd just as soon see it dismantled. But as long as we're going to have one, I'd rather b e one that explores the idea of education choice rather than one that just keeps finding new ways to make local public education officials more and more dependent on Washington. 

"Choice" is one of those things that are hard to separate from ideology. If you're liberal, you tend to think it robs the public school system of money that then goes to greedy and unscrupulous education factories. If you're conservative or libertarian, you tend to think it gives less-well-off parents the same opportunity to get their kids out of failing public schools that more affluent parents have always had.

I obviously lean toward the latter, but I try not to fall into the trap of thinking it's a cure-all or a magic bullet. Whether choice really has a chance to work or not depends on how serious public officials are about tracking the success or failure of kids that go into a voucher system or a charter school. Indiana now has the biggest choice program in the nation, and they're added so much to it so quickly that I'm not sure anybody is even keeping track. Without accountability, the program will be doomed to fail.

But just the idea of choice is appealing. Education dollars do not belong to public educators. They belong to the parents, who should be able to decide what education options are best for their children. Once they decide, the money follows the child. If public educators don't want to lose the child or the money, let them do a better job.

And the public has an increasingly favorable view of choice:

Or maybe it's just a more simple misunderstanding, one rooted in special-interest politics. The Democrats are closely allied with teachers unions, who threatened by any and all changes to the educational status quo. So of course they oppose Betsy DeVos and they will use any club on the ground to beat down her chances. But to the extent that DeVos—and Trump, too, who has been outspoken on the need for more school choice—are in favor of giving more students and more parents more choices when it comes educating their kids, they are on the side of the angels. A recent poll found that 68 percent of Americans favor expanding school choice, including 55 percent of self-described Democrats, 75 percent among Latinos, 75 percent among millennials, and 72 percent among blacks. Contemporary politics may not allow partisans to admit that (or even see it), but for those of us who are neither pro-Trump across the board or always anti-Democratic Party, the conversation surrounding the DeVos nomination is everything that's wrong with Washington.

I'm not a big fan of  Washington imposing things on states, especially when it comes to traditionally local concerns like education. It will be interesting to see what comes out of DOE concerning choice, whether they are mandates, mere suggestions or some kind of carrot-and-stick deal somewhere in between.


Emotions are still raw over the election, with everything from disputes to breakups still ugly: "Sixteen percent said they have stopped talking to a family member or friend because of the election — up marginally from 15 percent. That edged higher, to 22 percent, among those who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Overall, 13 percent of respondents said they had ended a relationship with a family member or close friend over the election, compared to 12 percent in October." That's generally true for the people I know that this is happening to. It's the Hillary supporters, not the Trump voters, who are doing miost of the lashing out.

RIP, "Professor" Irwin Corey, the world's "foremost authority" and comedic master of intellectual doublespeak,d ead at 102. His "Why do I wear tennis shoes" routine (see video clip) is wickedly clever, and I've shamelessly used it a dozen times.

I guess I don't understand why she wasn't terminated immediately: Secret Service spouses circulate petition calling for the firing of the agent who said she wouldn't take a bullet for President Trump. I mean, that's the basic job description isn't it?

Who could have seen this coming? The drug dealer whose sentence was commuted by President Obama is back behind bars after cops caught him with more than two pounds of cocaine following a high-speed chase, according to a report.

There they go again, cramming Islam down our throats. At least that's the way the headline makes it sound: ‘Five Pillars of Islam’ worksheet for sixth-graders angers parents in South Carolina. But the actual course seems pretty reasonable to me. "Alston Middle School in Summerville has a class called 'Survey of Civilization,' which includes lesson plans on different religions, economies, and geographic regions."

Justice has been served: Hamas explosives chief accidentally blows himself up.

Suddenly the Senate cares about decorum and the dignity of its members? In a piece about Elizabeth Warren being silences, I found this amusing bit of history:

Since its founding, the Senate has maintained an evolving list of rules governing civility and decorum in the chamber. As vice president, Thomas Jefferson included 10 rules in his Manual of Parliamentary Practice that dictated how senators were to behave.

"No one is to disturb another in his speech by hissing, coughing, spitting, speaking or whispering to another," reads one passage in the manual, "nor to stand up or interrupt him; nor to pass between the Speaker and the speaking member; nor to go across the chamber, or to walk up and down it, or to take books or papers from the [clerk’s] table, or write there."

Chuck Schumer says Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch "avoided answering questions like the plague." Sounds like he asked some specifics about actual cases instead of broad philosophical questions, which was not appropriate,


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