Thursday, November 30, 2006

Failing to Pass the WASL is Indicative of a Larger Failure

I was appalled to see that Queen Christine has stepped in to decree a three-year delay in the requirement that students in our state be required to pass the math portion of the 10th-grade WASL as a requirement to graduate. The goal that every student pass all three portions of the WASL — the “three ‘R’s” if you will — reading, writing and math, was set in 1993. Here we are almost 14 years later, with almost 30,000 high school sophomores in danger of failing to graduate in 2008.

Superintendent Terry Bergeson has openly acknowledged that the expected spike in math scores had not materialized. Additionally, she admitted that nearly half of those sophomores were not even close to passing. While a summer retake would mean a few more students could pass, nearly half of all members of the class of 2008 will still most likely fail. Meanwhile, our questionably elected governor has said she will push for legislation in the next legislative session to postpone the math requirement for three years.

Gregoire’s proposal is to allow students to graduate if they can pass the reading and writing portions of the WASL along with rigorous math classes through their senior years. "This thee-year period will give us time to overhaul our math instruction," she said.

In a phone interview, Bergeson told the Kitsap Sun, "We’ve already got some changes lined up.“ She also said she is confident a rejuvenated math program will pay off for the class of 2011.

What about the classes of 2008, 2009 and 2010?

I am no education expert, but it seems to me if they couldn’t accomplish this in 14 years, another three isn’t going to make much of a difference unless those changes include dumbing down the entire math curriculum to the lowest common denominator. I oppose that.

Bergeson, the former Central Kitsap Schools superintendent, was also quoted as saying, "It was disappointing for everyone. It wasn’t due to a lack of effort among teachers or students. We were just not ready."

What does that mean exactly? And more to the point, after 14 years, WHY are we “just not ready?”

Bergeson added, "It showed us that it wasn’t a matter of motivation. Those same students scored nearly 90 percent in the reading and writing portions, so they were clearly trying. It just became evident that we as a state had not properly prepared them for the math portion."

I am more than a little reluctant to accept that “we as a state” crap. You and I didn't have anything to do with this other than paying our taxes to fund this colossal failure. How about putting the blame where it belongs? And naturally, when we are talking about educational accountability, the Washington Education Association (WEA) — which is always demanding more of our tax dollars and shaming liberal lawmakers to either hand them over or miss out on election campaign funds — is conspicuously silent about its failure to educate our students properly.

More than HALF of the entire state budget is already devoted to education. The theme of just about every Democrat elected in November was that we need to support education even more. To me at least, it’s painfully obvious that we aren’t getting our money’s worth now. So will someone explain to me how throwing even MORE money at the problem is going to solve it?

Bergeson went on to say that if the schools that had failed, it’s not fair to punish students by not letting them graduate. Yeah, that makes sense — let’s send them off to college and/or out into the “real world” without a proper education and pat ourselves on the back for doing the right thing. Sorry, but that just doesn’t fly with me. In my view, Bergeson, the legislature, and the WEA, all deserve a failing grade.

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Reorganization." Yeah, Right...

Local Republicans are supposedly “reorganizing” after their recent election debacle. Perhaps they should throw out everyone in any position of authority in the party and start completely over. The ultra-conservatives and Christian right have ruled the party for far too long, making it difficult — not to mention down right embarrassing — to be a centrist Republican in Kitsap County. There’s absolutely NO room for diversity of opinion, which has chased most moderates over to the Democrats.

The party’s total dysfunctionality is exemplified by its inability to even attract candidates to run for $100,000 a year courthouse positions — jobs like Auditor, Clerk, Treasurer, etc.

Will the Christian right and the other ultra-conservatives who are directly responsible for their party’s pathetic situation willingly step aside so reason and pragmatism can prevail? It’s highly doubtful.

If local Republican moderates want their party back, they’re going to have to take it by force from the people who screwed it up — and will continue to — while the local party becomes even more irrelevant than it already is. Is that even possible?

Am I The Only One?

With the vocal, red herring opposition to “public funding for private enterprise” where NASCAR is concerned, it’s puzzling why the very same people opposing NASCAR for that reason would so strongly support the SEED project.

SEED is specifically meant to attract private enterprise — and is funded 100 percent with the tax dollars its gambling to attempt it.

I want to make it clear that we strongly support SEED and want it to be successful. But doesn’t “NO public funding” for private sector companies mean just that?

Am I the only one who thinks opposing NASCAR over "public funding," while supporting SEED, is just blatantly hypocritical?

Monday, November 13, 2006

An Explanation...

I have had an unexpected number of people contact me personally as well as talk to my wife, about my posting both here and in the paper about my recent health incident.

In spite of the rumors, I did NOT have a heart attack. t wasn't anything even remotely like that.

What happened was actually kind of bizarre, and in the name of simplicity, I'll give you the abbreviated version.

My grandson's day care called and said they thought he was coming down with the chickenpox - something I never had as a child. I called my doctor who told me to go to the Kitsap County Health Department and immediately get a certain kind of vaccination. So I drove right over there and got a shot.

Without going into a lot of detail, what resulted was a severe reaction to that shot. After several days of not feeling well, I ended up with a temperature of 106 and was unable to breathe. My wife called 911 and South Kitsap Fire-Rescue was dispatched. They took me to Harrison, where I spent five days being treated for severe dehydration and a massive kidney infection.

We’re still not sure if I received the wrong vaccination or if the vaccine I received was somehow contaminated. The technicians at Harrison — where I received excellent care by the way — sent a sample off to the CDC in Atlanta just to be sure.

So there you have it. No heart attack — but certainly a freak occurrence. However, it taught me the importance of being certain that all the people in my life who I care about know they are loved.

And once again, I want to extend the sincerest “Thank You” to the folks at Harrison and especially to the people at South Kitsap Fire-Rescue. They saved my life.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Some Post-Election Observations…

Perhaps the most famous post-election quote is, “The people have spoken… The bastards.” I don’t know who said it, but it must be on the lips of a lot of soon to be former Republican officeholders around the country.

However, another truism we may want to also consider is, “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”

This election was a referendum on George Bush and the Iraq war. And it needed to be. I rarely agree with Ted Kennedy, but he was right on the money when he stated in the beginning that Iraq would become George Bush’s Vietnam. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have created a huge mess that is draining our country’s resources, and has cost us the respect of most of the rest of the world, all in the name of stopping terrorism. What they have also accompIished is creating a whole lot more potential terrorists than the world had before. And I know I personally just feel so much safer standing in endless airport security lines taking off my shoes, and I’m glad to no longer be paranoid there might be toothpaste of shampoo in someone’s carry-on luggage.

What Bush has also given us is Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Personally, I find her past record of bi-partisan compromise and cooperation very comforting reassurance that she’ll use all her considerable people skills to work across party lines to make America a better place. Yeah right…

We now have a Democratic-dominated Congress. That will mean more spending on programs of questionable value, and increased taxes to pay for it. At least they’ll have to answer to us in another two years. Let’s see how they manage the war on terror, and what happens in Iraq. Since they now control everything, there will be no Republicans to blame anything on.

The Democratic tide, fueled by America’s anger over the war flowed right down to the smallest of local elections all across the country — and George Bush, in his arrogance, was completely clueless about it. He must have been the only one who didn’t see it coming. You have to wonder how it would have turned out had Bush fired Donald Rumsfeld a week before the election — instead of the day after.

With that in mind, was anyone really surprised at the local outcome? I know I wasn’t. I’m not particularly happy about some of it — or the poor choices we were forced to endure because both political parties don’t believe voters have the intelligence or integrity to elect competent candidates in an open primary — but it is what it is.

Was Jack Hamilton the best candidate to lead us into the future? Hardly. Is 25-year old Josh Brown? Absolutely not. The problem is, because of the primary system, our choices were so poor that we were forced to pick between these two extremists.

The choice of Brown has made Chris Endresen the single most powerful person in Kitsap County, and with her new lap dog in place, look for things to shift decidedly leftward. It’s certainly going to be interesting to watch Brown in action. Because of what I saw of him on the stump, I don’t trust his statement that he’s going to act as a moderate in the Patty Lent mold for even one second. He’ll do whatever Chris Endresen tells him to — and he’ll hop to it like a good little lackey.

Say goodbye to meaningful and timely economic development, non-government jobs, and of course, any semblance of property rights. Say hello to higher taxes, higher housing prices, $10,000 impact fees, increased regulations, surrendering to more heavy-handed state control, even longer permitting times, and the continuing revolving door at DCD.

I really tried hard to like Brown, But sincerely, in my view, with the blatant help of the Kitsap Sun, Brown ran what I thought was a basically dishonest campaign. In candidate forums I personally moderated and participated in as a questioner, I regularly watched Brown talk out of both sides of his mouth on the environment and economic development issues. He told the enviromental community he was absolutely opposed to NASCAR and it wouldn’t happen on his watch. Period. He told the business community he was very open to the economic possibilities NASCAR offered, but thought we could cut a better deal. So which is it?

It will be whatever Endresen says it is.

The Kitsap Sun refused to question Brown’s ethics, his residency, or his qualifications after his duplicity was brought to its attention. I believe our daily newspaper has done our community a major disservice by continually slanting the content of its reporting to heavily favor Brown, and making Hamilton look bad at every opportunity.

In one forum, I asked Josh Brown to detail his qualifications to be county commissioner. He answered that Norm Dicks and the four Democratic mayors in the county had endorsed him. Did I miss something there? Was there a bona fide qualification outlined in that answer?

The bottom line is this: We have handed an unemployed, unqualified, 25-year old an apprenticeship paying $87,243 a year to manage our $307+ million budget and make decisions that will impact our lives, our businesses, and our children’s future — and we’re stuck with him for the next four years. Let’s hope he’s really the quick study he promised — and that promise isn’t as hollow as the opposing ones he’s made to the environmental and business communities.

Welcome to the real world, Josh. You’re not in Berkeley anymore.

Observations On The Fate Of The Initiatives

I-933… I thought in the beginning this would pass by an overwhelming majority due to the frustration of citizens being steamrollered by government where land use and property rights are concerned. But the anti-933 campaign was effective in neutralizing it, and I believe that was a good thing. It simply went too far. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing a modified, less extreme version come around again sometime soon.

The anti-933 folks unfairly and unscrupulously painted developers as the bad guys — because everyone hates those greedy bastards anyway and knows they’re just here to profit from raping the land. Never mind that if wasn’t for developers, most us would be living in tents.

The truth is, Realtors and developers for the most part opposed I-933. The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), a major player in state politics, was lukewarm about it at best, grudgingly contributing a minor amount of money to one of its strategic partners, the Farm Bureau, which sponsored the initiative. I sit on BIAW’s Legislative Policy Committee, and the debate wasn’t even close on 933. Opposition was almost unanimous. The small contribution was a courtesy to a friend rather than a show of support. Realtors opposed it as well.

What’s going to be interesting is seeing how the newly elected Democratic legislature deals with the Growth Management Act. During the campaign Democratic candidates across the board acknowledged it wasn’t working and its flaws were what inspired 933. They all pledged to work on retooling it. Will they? When pigs fly maybe.

I-920… The education establishment was successful in using class warfare to divide and conquer to defeat this measure, calling it, “A tax break for multi-millionaires.” That was a load of crap. Anyone who operates a successful family business knows they have to fear the state’s death tax when it comes to succession planning. Anyone who works for a family business should be concerned as well, because their jobs are on the line. In many cases the business must be sold or liquidated to pay the tax. When that happens, those jobs disappear. Remember, we can’t ALL work for the government.

Personally, I have already instructed my accountant to explore the options for moving our corporation to another state while still being able to do business here. If you own a family business, you may want to think about this as well.

I-937… This is just a bad idea. It sounded great, and I would have supported it had it included hydropower as “renewable” energy. But it didn’t.

The problem is going be that windmills aren’t zoned for the land where the wind actually blows, and the GMA won’t allow for it to be for a variety of reasons. And then there are the NIMBY’s… I can't wait to see the very same environmentalists who supported this, oppose a windmill or solar panel farm when it's proposed next to them.

Meanwhile, our electric utilities are going to be fined for not achieving the mandates called for in this bad law, and the ratepayer — you and I — are going to pay those fines in the form of higher electric rates, while our cheap hydro-power, which powers our aluminum and other industries — and the family wage jobs they generate — are shipped to California. Yeah, passing that was real smart…