Second Amendment Despair?

That certainly seemed to be on Dave Diephouse’s mind when he read Burton Newman’s The NRA’s Fraud: Fabrication of Second Amendment Rights

How many times does it have to be said?

But should we despair?

Interpretation of Second Amendment is nonetheless social in nature. There is no reason one needs to (or should) accept the understanding of the Second from the gun lobby. There is no reason to think that such extremist interpretations are anything other than social constructions, a product of their time, and if so, then as social constructions they are liable to change. For activists the question is of keeping heart, of hope.

On that score, a couple of items come to mind.

First, there is the matter of demographics. by most surveys, gun owners generally represent a decreasing portion of the American public: white, male, and often financially stable.  This is the same shrinking political base that drives other maximalist positions, such as the Tea Party. The signs of this sectarian turn are all around, not least in the current environment where the gun advocate reject positions he once held.  That’s not principle at work, but politics. And politics can be changed.

Second, there is the electoral problem for the gun crowd, as Ronald Brownstein  pointed out: no matter how fervently held, their positions are a losing hand in when it comes to national elections. Again the turn to a variety of rearguard political actions from the likes of ALEC (most notorioulsy, the Stand Your Ground legislation, but there are others) ought to be seen as the sign of political weakness that it is.

The difficulty with all extremist positions is how they routinely differ from lived reality. That difference from the common life coupled with the desire to win elections, creates its own gravitational pull to the center, and better policies. That said, since this is also the process of a decade or longer, and certainly not the stuff of one or two election cycles.

Did Schmidt Panic?

On political news, in a discussion of the continuing meltdown of the Schmidt switch, MLive commentator ppwiii writes

I think they redistricted him giving him the far s.e. side of GR, the area around Calvin and the far n.e. side. I don’t think either is Dem friendly. I have always suspected he was threatened with a capable GOP opponent in his new District and he panicked, agreeing to follow the bad/stupid advise of Bolger on how to handle the switch.

Redistricting may have been some factor, but its not sufficient. Schmidt was on track to win the seat in November. His strong appeal to conservative centrist voters coupled with a presidential election would have put him on track. Base for the district:
2004 – 47 D
2008 – 55 D
2010 – 46 D

Likely outcome with a the polarized electorate: 49 D, with perhaps 15 percent in play (that would be 6 – 7,000 votes). That’s entirely winnable.

In its configuration, the seat is set up for Shana Shroll (CC-19), since it would become an open seat in the off year (2014). In off-year elections, the R definitely will have the advantage, particularly if the seat is open.

 

Cross posted at Windmillin’

The Principle of Principals

It’s hardly likely that only two percent of principals in Michigan are ineffective, as Dave Murray’s headline would have it.. Educational outcomes alone suggest the number is higher. Instead we are treated to what can best be described as a Lake Woebegone effect, where everyone is above average, or as Muskegon superintendent Jon Felske put it, “playing it safe.”

However, the numbers hide the real story here, namely that of the new role for principals generally. After all, principals have been the missing link when it comes to reform. We have gone off track in reform efforts in part because we keep looking at the year-to-year aspects without considering the larger picture. There are five areas where sound leadership can play an important role:

  1. Continuity. The educational product is multi-year in nature. The principal provides the visible continuity of effort from year to year.
  2. Team work.  Teaching itself is a team effort — one teacher passes along the class to another, the common success of teachers depends on everyone doing their jobs.  Each classroom may be a small kingdom, but each is linked. The principal coaches, helps facilitate the team.
  3. Environment.  We know that school environments themselves can play a crucial role in creating the safe places where students can thrive. Again, the principal is the one who leads the teaching staff, the support team and parents in creating and maintaining that environment.
  4. Connection. The principal is the face of the school with the parents. When Parents (single or intact) have a strong connection with the school, their children do better.
  5. Face Time. And finally, as a matter of gearing, the leadership team in a school can help the building deal with other institutional and community stakeholders; they’re the face.

Leadership is critical for all these tasks. The principal is not simply an administrator — in the best schools in fact, you may even have a split leadership: one for operations (academic leadership, team coaching and the like), and one for the executive functions (i.e. dealing with the community, the stakeholders, the district administration).

If we are to have strong principals, we will need to have better development programs, and at the least, some sort of standard judging template to help them fulfill their critical function. It also turns attention to the role of our graduate programs in educational leadership. This is perhaps an opportunity.

SAFE at Home?

Michigan’s Secretary of State called it SAFE, but for voters in poor neighborhoods, it was anything but.

The other piece of mischief in the bill (SB 751) is the mechanism for cleaning up the inactive files. This deserved a bit more explanation. As the law reads as passed, the Secretary of State sends out a card seeing if a person is at the address. If they don’t get it they are put in the challenged roll; if they don’t vote that November, they are removed from the roll entirely — deregistered. Even if they still live in the neighborhood. Functionally, how this works is that the SoS sends out the cards for the mid-term (gubernatorial) election, nobody’s home, and voila! the voter is removed from the poll book for the upcoming national election.

This seemingly neutral plan is functionally a direct attack on poor voters who often change residence, even if in a neighborhood. Add to it, that  the poor (and many others) do not bother to vote in the mid-term election, and one has the result where a person may think they’re registered and come November in a presidential year find that they are not. Of course, this can be addressed with strong voter registration drives, and here again the package of bills puts the barriers in place to make these drives more cumbersome and so less effective.

These structural measures are where the mischief lies and why it is entirely proper to think of them as stealth measures to cut the involvement of the poor in the electoral process.

The sharp edges are hidden in the text — that’s explained at Windmillin.’

Stop that Churn

David Murray is out at the Education Writers Association convention in Philadelphia, and has been interviewing up a storm. In Friday’s Press, he touches on the shifts in longevity, retention and churn in the American teaching force.

The American teaching force is expanding, becoming younger, more female and less stable, according to University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Ingersoll, who has studied trends over the last 20 years.
Ingersoll pointed to a “greening” of the profession, with fewer people staying on the job longer even as the number of teachers soars.
The number of teachers is approaching 4 million – the largest workforce in the country – and is growing two-and-a-half times as the number of students.
He suspects a movement toward smaller class sizes is one reason, and a mushrooming number of special educations students as another factor.
Women teachers have gone from 66 percent of the force in 1988 to 76 percent in 2008, and the attrition rate for first-year teachers went from 9.8 percent to 13.1 percent during the same time.

It seems obvious, but if you want better teachers you need to have them stay around for awhile. The model that the State is moving towards of high accountability and lowered compensation (see decisions on move to 401 k) implicitly assumes a younger work force with higher churn rates. There’s always more where they came from, would be the assumption. Co-ordinated with that would be an emerging view of teaching as a starter-career — again, that generates churn (and also accounts for the skew to women).

Other studies of the early teacher suggest that it is not until the second or often the third year before the teacher really begins to engage. Add to this the impact of the principal and the corollary of a stable school teaching team, and the picture is etched more starkly: instability undermines educational progress.

The programs that could positively impact retention and teacher development (e.g. teaching as craft, collaborative approaches) come at a price tag that to date our legislature has been unwilling to pick up. Indeed recent tax decisions appear to put present funding further at risk — see the Senate Finance report on impact of PPT revisions.

Making them pay

Melissa Anders recounts the passage of bills to end the personal property tax on businesses in Michigan. Protests Sen John Pappageorge (R-Troy), it’s not as bad as you think.

“I’m not sure everybody heard what we did hear today … Let me just recap here for a minute: 100 percent reimbursement for any voter approved special millage, it goes direct to the community, that takes care of the fire and police,” he said. “Anything over 2 percent of the general fund is reimbursed, there’s 100 percent reimbursement of school bonded debt,

Sen. Pappageorge is certainly optimistic. The Analysis  from the Senate Fiscal Agency suggests that most units of government would see no reimbursement. Then there is what might best be described as a good -intention program for setting up the reimbursement fund. But after the raid on school finances this past session, can any one reasonably think they will follow through?

And if they don’t follow through, the result is dire: a $600 million hit, and in the Senate analysis, an $80million smack to the School Aid fund. Well this certainly puts Michigan on the right path: less money for roads, less money for schools, but more money for owners who can flee the state.

The City Gets Schooled

The City will have a new charter school in the heart of an urban neighborhood. So reports Matt Vande Bunte.

GRAND RAPIDS – An out-of-town developer’s about-face has angered city officials who feel they were lied to about plans for three former school buildings.
Grand Rapids for months has vetted Ojibway Development’s proposal to turn the schools into low-income apartments. After getting city approvals and finalizing a $1.6 million purchase of the schools, the Berkley, Mi., developer now has sold one of the buildings to National Heritage Academies for a charter school that presumably would compete with Grand Rapids Public Schools for students.

Playing fast and loose with the city is probably not the best business practice; from a city side, it would also be of use to know who the supervising institution is, and in particular what sort of partner will they be. Locally, the National Heritage Academy schools benefit from the connection with Grand Valley, allowing for a much more integrated approach in the city; will Bay Mills Community from the UP be another such partner? Well, let’s just say that they got off on the wrong foot.

As to the school itself, the consolidation of GRPS has left a number of neighborhoods without a school. With the closure of Alexander and of Oakdale Christian, the nearest school to Oakdale is Dickinson, a good half mile away. Add to this the efforts families already make to get out to Ridge Park, there is a certain business sense for the school. For the school itself, it will be interesting to see how it competes for students against the other Charters.

Note: a longer form of this post is at Windmillin’.