Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday Baby Blogging

Been too long since I've done this. Snapshot Credit to Dina Blankman.

My head on ONN and other education news

Last night I went to the Education Forum sponsored by America Votes and several other organizations, including Progress Ohio, who hosted the event at their HQ. My primary objective was to hear a more organized pitch on state education policy than I've managed to get so far, with a secondary objective of trying to actually meet some of the folks I only know by name. I didn't do so well at either.

Things started out in a promising manner. I met Lorraine Bieber, of the League of Young Voters, I scooped up some literature, I actually recognized a handful of people by sight. The forum started off okay, as well. I'm not sure I'd call it a "smashing success," but then again, I realize that I'm not quite sure what success would be. There were three speakers: Darold Johnson of the OFT, who described why a ballot initiative for a Constitutional Amendment was necessary, and gave a description of the basic outline of the GIRFOF amendment. State Representative Tracy Heard (D-Columbus) explained the current status of Strickland's education budget, and Tom Beck, a teacher at Worthington H.S. (and former officeholder in both the OEA and Worthington Education Association) gave an overview of how NCLB has affected education generally, and how it has succeeded and (mostly) failed in addressing the problems it was written to address.

Q&A was done by handing cards in with written questions, and I was fortunate enough to have moderator Marian Harris (DFA and Statehouse candidate) read mine first. I'll attempt a verbatim recall:

As Tom Beck said, the most glaring problems with our educational system are the inequities that exist among our school districts, and as Rep. Heard said, our goal is to have an 'adequate and equitable' education system, and finally, Darold Johnson explained how there is a current proposal that would guarantee adequate funding...
Is equitable education attainable? Worth pursuing?

Johnson and Heard took on the question in turn. The answers weren't the greatest, and I wasn't sure if Darold Johnson was actually answering the question I asked, but between the two of them, I thought I could distill a fairly consistent response, which can be summarized as:

Creating equality is not going to happen any time soon. There is a basic inequality in that some districts have enough resources to educate their students, and some don't. Ensuring adequate funding solves inequality at that level.

Fair enough. But ultimately, as far as I'm concerned, not good enough.

The young man in charge of collecting signatures and recruiting petitioners and I had a brief chat outside afterwards. He asked me what bloggers thought of the amendment. I said that most were holding off on giving any strong opinions. He wasn't surprised. I then went back in and tried to introduce myself to Karen Gasper, mishandled that, and fled in embarrassment. I'm sorry, Ms. Gasper.

So, to wrap up any newsiness here, the forum was sort of a soft rally in advance of the big signature push, a cause which Progress Ohio is also assisting. The room, although small, was packed. Folks from education, labor, and progressive organizations made up the bulk of the audience. The main messages were that schools need more money, the state should be the source of that money, and that we need to get to work supporting both Strickland's budget in these last days of Senate and Conference Committee deliberations and the GIRFOF amendment.

Oh yeah, if you see the photo at PO or the shots on ONN, I'm sitting in the back row, on the aisle, on the left. They didn't put the National Spelling Bee on TV back in 1985, but getting my scalp on local cable eases that yearly pain a bit.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Minckler for Mayor

I found out last week that there was a new candidate for Mayor of Bexley, but I wasn't told who... My guesses weren't close. The new candidate is Bill Minckler, Director of Technology. Among other newsworthy accomplishments, Mr. Minckler revived the Bexley Technology Commission this year (which, BTW, I originally volunteered for, then withdrew).

They've been getting along fine without me.

For those of you keeping score at home, our current Mayor is David Madison. Mr. Madison has said he might retire, but he hasn't made a firm public statement one way or the other. Our lone announced candidate until this new announcement was Matt Lampke. Mr. Lampke serves on the Bexley City Council, and is a registered Republican. The extent to which that matters or not was discussed here (and here, and here) a few weeks back.

Bill Minckler, for what it's worth, is a registered Democrat according to the Franklin County BOE. He's a longtime resident, as he says on his campaign website:

For 20 years, Bill has lived in Bexley. He currently resides on Bryden Road with his life-partner of 20 years Joe Martin.

They can often been seen together walking their three dogs around the block. For the past 10 years, they've rescued and raised dogs in need of better homes.

The early campaign message focuses on fiscal responsibility and budgetary discipline. I hope to have more as the campaign moves forward.


From George Will today:

Liberals tend, however, to infer unequal opportunities from the fact of unequal outcomes. Hence liberalism's goal of achieving greater equality of condition leads to a larger scope for interventionist government to circumscribe the market's role in allocating wealth and opportunity. Liberalism increasingly seeks to deliver equality in the form of equal dependence of more and more people for more and more things on government.

Hence liberals' hostility to school-choice programs. Hence hostility to private accounts funded by a portion of each individual's Social Security taxes. Hence their fear of Health Savings Accounts (individuals who purchase high-deductible health insurance become eligible for tax-preferred savings accounts from which they pay their routine medical expenses, just as car owners do not buy automobile insurance to cover oil changes). Hence liberals' advocacy of government responsibility for and, inevitably, rationing of health care.

Elsewhere in Today's Dispatch:

While the Novaks and their two oldest children have health coverage, six major insurers have refused to cover 3-year-old Seth because he has Down syndrome, a pre-existing condition.

They tried to enroll their son during an open-enrollment period but were quoted premiums ranging from $1,200 to $1,800 a month just for Seth. Coverage for the rest of the family already costs $444 a month.

"It's really kind of a joke, because insurance companies can say they're offering coverage to uninsurable children, but at a price tag that is not realistic," Mr. Novak said.

"I look at myself as a pretty conservative person. But when you have a child where they won't insure him at all, you're compelled to look at what various states offer."

The Novaks supported insurance expansions in Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed budget. He wants the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover children in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, instead of the current 200 percent.

The House, however, rejected Strickland's proposal to offer a "buy-in option" for children in families with incomes between 300 percent and 500 percent of the poverty level.

Some also say the Senate could create a committee to study the issue. Now, the Senate is talking about a partial restoration of that buy-in for children with pre-existing conditions such as Down syndrome, autism or cystic fibrosis.

Mr. Will's piece deserves a long rant in response, but maybe later. Instead, a brief summary of the juxtaposition - Safety Nets: BAD when abstract people don't need them and should be able to opt-out. GOOD when real live conservatives figure out that real live people making rational choices actually sometimes do suffer greatly in their absence.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Bar Keeps Rising

A long time ago I was an undergraduate creative writing major. I kept a journal. I wrote poems. I wrote short dense pieces in a manner that I ambitiously called writing in negative space. Some people liked my work. Many more did not. The majority of folks in both camps had no idea what I was trying to accomplish. The most frustrating thing about that fact was that I had no idea if I was a misunderstood genius or a pretentious hack. To this day I don't really know where on that continuum I actually fell.

Eventually, my introspection led to a drastic change in my academic focus. What I was attempting to do artistically involved sculpting complex meaning out of words that I hadn't actually put on the page. My question became whether or not there was any realistic basis for assuming that such a thing was even possible. By the time I was a few years into graduate school I was using EEG and Near-InfraRed Spectroscopy to examine how words are represented in the cognitive system, and to what extent these representations could be activated without being explicitly presented.

I don't do that anymore, either. What I hope that this story illustrates is that I'm a big fan of empircal evidence, and that taking my own writing too seriously is a source of apprehension for me.


A lot of blogs are exactly what critics dismiss all blogs as being. Aspiring to be better than that gets you pretty far. As I said in the title, however, the bar keeps rising. People like Jeff Coryell and Jill Zimon and Jerid Kurtz, etc., etc. are not just doing original reporting, the scoops they're getting are making news. In recent weeks I've started actually having conversations (or their virtual equivalents)with politicians, journalists, political pros, and the like. I know what it would take to start the process of moving Blue Bexley up a notch in quality. I also know that I don't really have the spare resources to do it.

So it's midnight, the wife and daughter are asleep, and I'm looking at settling for mediocrity. Don't mind me. Maudlin self-absorption is just my way of celebrating the dramatic strides the left-side Ohio blogs continue to make.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Let's Twist Again

Joe Hallett, who currently holds the title of Senior Editor over at the Dispatch, tossed off a couple of lines dismissing blogs, and us bloggers took the bait and responded. It's been pointed out that his comments were misleading, not well-balanced, uninformed, and unintentionally ironic.

Now, it's true that the only reason I know who Joe Hallett happens to be is that I blog about politics and I link to some of his stories. I don't think I'm exactly an ideologue, but I'll wear that mantle sometimes. I don't think I'm an echo chamber, but at times like this I guess I am commenting and meta-commenting on the same story as my peer blogs. So I guess there are some suggestions I can take to improve upon my role in the political landscape of Ohio. There's at least one suggestion, however, that he didn't make, and I think it's at least as important:

The worst thing I could do to this blog is to start worrying about what Joe Hallett might think about it.