A couple days ago, Bluegrass Policy Blog posted about Senator Rand Paul’s intention “to force members to read bills” in Congress. This seems almost so basic that we shouldn’t have to talk about it. I admire the effort but in the end I’m saddened by the fact that we are in a situation where it is common knowledge that our elected representatives often vote without reading the legislation.
Here are some potential solutions:
- Obviously the first idea is to pass legislation requiring all members of Congress to read the legislation before voting. But come on, how could that be enforced? I read very little of what I was supposed to in high school and still got A’s most of the time.
- I’m willing to bet that most legislators check Facebook and Twitter frequently. From what I’ve seen, Twitter has become a necessary tool in promoting one’s political agenda and campaigning for office. Since this is a familiar format, perhaps a change could be made to Congressional rules that would require all legislation to fit within 140 characters?
- I was in New York a while back and was astounded when I saw a poster at a barbershop with cartoon images of 30 different haircut styles, each one numbered. Ordering a haircut by number – that’s completely foreign to me but it may just work for Congress.
Our elected representatives have one job to do. Regardless of what they claim to have on their plate, in reality there is one responsibility that is paramount above all others – to execute the will of the people. Not get re-elected. Not position themselves for post congressional careers. Not network. Not fund raising.
So while the past election cycles saw issues such as whether someone voted for “Obamacare” or where they stand on the “Bush Tax Cuts” take prominence, perhaps we’ll hear this question in future election cycles:
“Candidate X, how many bills that you voted on during your previous term did you read in completion?”
On January 7, 33 Republican governors and governors-elect sent a letter to the White House with a clear message: repeal Obamacare’s Medicaid provisions.
One of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act will expand Medicaid eligibility by 2014 and requires states to maintain eligibility or lose federal funding–which accounts for at least half of every state’s Medicaid budget. In order for states to comply with the required Medicaid expansion, they must consider raising taxes or significantly cutting other programs, most notably education.
Governor Rick Perry of Texas wrote, “The one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare adopted last year does not work in the states and imposes unnecessary financial burdens on already strapped state budgets. Now is the time for the federal government to restore states’ flexibility to craft Medicaid programs tailored to their specific needs.”
Every state’s population is unique, and each needs the flexibility to run its own programs in order to serve the needs of its citizens. The federal government’s continued over-involvement in Medicaid is another example, as Gov. Perry points out, of a one-size-fits-all approach that does nothing to help the very people the program is intended to help.
While Kentucky was absent from the states represented in this letter, the commonwealth is experiencing the same impending challenges to this state program already in crisis.
We told you it was coming. It’s now here.
While the health nannies claim that “local ordinances have set the stage for statewide smoking-ban legislation,” what they really want to do is circumvent local ordinances that don’t go far enough to suit their big-government sensibilities.
“I’ve said all along everyone deserves protection, everywhere,” Ellen Hahn, a nursing professor at the University of Kentucky and director of the Kentucky Tobacco Policy Research Program, told the new Kentucky Health News blog. “I don’t think we’ll ever see local ordinances in every locale in the state. In some ways, it’s got to start some time and we’re on first base. It’s a process.”
Yes, it most certainly is. Chipping away at the constitutionally protected private-property rights of restaurant owners certainly is a process.
Putting the interests of getting big grants from leftist foundations ahead of our right to self-govern and take personal responsibilities for our own health and well-being certainly is a process.
Getting government into the bedrooms and living rooms, and even cars (House Speaker Greg Speaker, D-Prestonsburg, has floated the idea of Kentucky banning smoking in private vehicles) of private citizens is certainly a process.
A poll linked to earlier in this blog entry indicates “a clear majority” support surrendering their individual liberties to Frankfort, to which I am quoted in response:
“Just because a majority of people in some poll say they want more government nanny-ism doesn’t make it the right, or constitutional, action to take. The last time I checked, restaurant and bar owners’ constitutionally protected private property rights are not subject to polling. In fact, the constitution exists for the express purpose of protecting those rights from some popular movement such as that being pushed by Kentucky’s health nannies who want to deny Kentuckians their individual liberty to make their own decisions regarding smoking, eating and other lifestyle choices.”
Besides, while the issue being polled about today might indeed be politically incorrect — as smoking has become — how will the same constitutional illiterates expressing support for a ban in that poll respond when it’s an attempt down the road by a Hahn clone to use government force to deny them some favorite food because it’s too fattening, or some sport because it’s too rough?
Click here for the top-10 reasons why government-imposed smoking bans are unhealthy public policy.
If your answer to the question is “yes,” our freedomkentucky Wiki site has just the answer – a nice informational package on every legislator in Frankfort.
You can find out about a legislator’s educational background, current career, military service, current committee membership and contact information.
Find the “Kentucky Legislators” portal here.
This handy tool allows you to access information on individual legislators by clicking on their name.
Newly added at the bottom of the page is a link in the “See Also” section to short listings of all legislators by name, party affiliation and district served. Just click the “Listing of Kentucky Legislators sorted by name, party affiliation and district” to access that short PDF document.
I have written before about the often overlooked, but most important, finding from a study by a group called CREDO from Stanford University. That organization’s 2009 report shows that by the time students have spent at least three years in charter schools, they notably outperform their traditional public school counterparts.
Now, research from another college group, this time headquartered at Vanderbilt University, points to the same conclusion.
According to the National Center on School Choice at ‘Vandy:’
“…the data show that students who switched from a traditional public school to a charter school and stayed in a charter school for longer than one year experienced greater annual gains in mathematics than if they had stayed in the traditional public school. Compared with findings from previous studies of charter schools, these effect sizes are relatively large in magnitude.”
The ‘Vandy’ group also found charter school students did slightly better in reading, though the difference from public school performance was not statistically significant.
The new findings from Vanderbilt add to those from at least two other major research efforts that indicate any study on charter schools that ignores effects over time probably should be discounted as biased.
The evidence is becoming clear: charter schools need at least two to three years to turn around the impacts of bad teaching on incoming students, and it is simply unreasonable for researchers to ignore that rather common-sense situation.
The Vanderbilt study only looked at a three-year period of data from 2002-03 to 2005-06, so it is possible that even stronger impacts would be evident if the study looked at students who stay in charters for longer periods.
Certainly, stronger impacts over time have been found in other studies such as Stanford University researcher Caroline Hoxby’s examination of charter schools in New York City (See discussion starting on page IV-6) and a study from The Boston Foundation.
Hoxby found that students in the ‘Big Apple’ who spent their elementary school and middle school years in charters continuously moved ahead of their traditional public school counterparts in every grade from grade 3 to grade 8, winding up by the entry to high school with a huge educational advantage.
The Boston Foundation Study included this graph, similar to ones found in Hoxby, that show charter students get further and further ahead each year they stay in charters.
The Boston report says this graph plots the scores of lottery winners [shown by the green line for English Language Arts (ELA) and by the gray line (math)] to lottery losers scores (represented by the constant zero horizontal black colored axis line) over grades in middle and high school charter schools. The report concludes:
“The relatively steep upward slopes of the lines suggest that Charter School impacts increase over the course of school.”
In other words, charter middle schools in Boston provided stronger educations for students, and the amount of that extra education increased as students remained in the charter schools for longer periods of time.
These findings are very important to the current discussion about charter school impacts. Overall, a number of studies have shown mixed results for charter schools, but it is important to note that many of the studies are poorly done, and a number of the negative findings were based on student samples dominated by students with little time in charter schools. In fact, another ‘Vandy’ report says:
“…many of the studies that examine charter schools have weak designs.”
That sounds like me, but Vanderbilt researchers said it.
Thus, the findings of those negative studies may be due to faults within the research methodology rather than under-performance in charter schools.
As the battle over Kentucky’s charter school bill (Senate Bill 3) moves to the Kentucky House, I expect some of those poorly done studies are going to be cited by charter critics. We’ll try to let you know about the problems with those studies if this situation takes place.
But, there is enough evidence now from CREDO, Hoxby, Boston and now Vanderbilt to say that any study on charters that ignores student impacts over time is dubious.