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schools

Andrew Ujifusa at Education Week (“Kansas Ruling Fuels Debate on Adequacy of Funding”) quotes me:

But the union’s solution of significantly higher funding for schools isn’t the obvious or correct one to Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Cato Institute. In a March 10 blog post on the website of the libertarian think tank, Mr. Olson said that Kansas’ finance fight is just one piece of a larger strategy that seeks to “seize control of school funding” through the courts.

In the process, he argued in a subsequent interview, that movement is subverting representative democracy by ignoring what state legislators decide on K-12 funding.

“I see it as a way in which the educational establishment uses litigation to entrench itself against supervision by other branches of government and voters interested in cutting budgets,” Mr. Olson said.

I go on to discuss California’s Serrano v. Priest and its unexpected consequence, voters’ limitation of property taxes through Proposition 13. And this from Ben Wilterdink at American Legislator on the latest ruling:

Kansas has faced this problem before. In 2005 the State Supreme Court ordered Kansas to spend more on education. Kansas lawmakers complied, but now the Court is again ordering more spending. Kansas already spends more than 50 percent of its budget on K-12 education, and if this ruling stands, it will be forced to spend 62 percent of its budget on education. All of this is despite the fact that when measured against regional per-pupil spending, Kansas is funding education quite well.

Earlier here, etc.

Related: Steve Malanga on school finance lawsuits and other “positive-rights” litigation at state supreme courts [City Journal]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on March 11, 2014

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Should parents helping their child’s teacher put on a short class party have to submit to a background check first? Is it child endangerment to leave your toddler in the car for a few minutes on a mild day while you run into a shop? If your child gets hurt falling off a swing, is it potential child neglect not to sue every solvent defendant in sight? Should police have arrested a dad who walked into school at pickup time rather than wait outside for his kids as he was supposed to?

Author Lenore Skenazy has led the charge against the forces of legal and societal overprotectiveness in her book Free-Range Kids and at her popular blog of the same name.  This Thursday, March 6 – rescheduled from a weather-canceled event originally set for last month – she’ll be the Cato Institute’s guest for a lunchtime talk on helicopter parenting and its near relation, helicopter governance; I’ll be moderating and commenting. The event is free and open to the public, but you need to register, which you can do here. You can also watch online live at this link. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)

“Even pictures of food [at schools] have to have the federal government’s stamp of approval.” [Scott Shackford, Reason]

P.S. Speaking of marketing and paternalism, here’s Ann Althouse on the latest horrible Mark Bittman column.

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The proposal by New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., D-Bronx (earlier) is beginning to break out into wider coverage. I’m quoted in this report by Steven Nelson of US News:

Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, blogged about the bill earlier this month and tells U.S. News “people see this not just as bossy, but as sinister.”

“Imagine treating every parent in New York as though they are on probation,” he says.

Olson says the bill would force parents to “show up and be re-educated” and “lectured about the shortcomings of how they are raising their kids and be inoculated with whatever the fad of the year is.”

“If you thought the public reaction to the soda ban was big,” Olson says, “wait until you see the public reaction to telling people the government knows better than they do how to raise their kids.”

Speaking of helicopter governance, if you’re near Washington, D.C. be sure to mark your calendar for next week’s (Mar. 6) talk at Cato by Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids. Details and registration here.

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A bill introduced by three members of the New York Senate would require parents of schoolchildren to attend four workshops aimed at sharpening their “parenting skills,” as a condition for their kids’ advancing to the seventh grade. I’ve got details in a new post at Cato at Liberty (& Patheos’s Terry Firma).

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on February 14, 2014

  • “Attorney parents of ‘mathlete’ lose again in legal battle over right to select son’s algebra teacher” [Martha Neil, ABA Journal, earlier]
  • One reason NYC doesn’t close schools amid brutal winter storms? They’ve got a food program to run [Business Insider; James Panero, NYDN]
  • Should Gov. Deval Patrick, CNN host Piers Morgan apologize to townspeople of Lunenburg, Mass.? [Chuck Ross, The Federalist]
  • Kansas school-finance suit tests whether litigators can end-run elected officials on taxes and spending [WSJ, compare Colorado]
  • Lenore Skenazy (who’ll speak at Cato Mar. 6) on the Wellesley “Sleepwalker” sculpture flap: “Once we equate making people feel bad with actually attacking them, free expression is basically obsolete” [WSJ]
  • “School Found Liable After Child Sneaks Onto Roof And Falls” [Erik Magraken; British Columbia, Canada]
  • National Research Council issues report on Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) [Zachary Schrag first, second, third, fourth posts]
  • Vergara v. California: notwithstanding the hoopla, bringing more lawsuits might actually not be the best way to save American education [Andrew Coulson]

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Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on January 18, 2014

Legislature’s back in session and no citizen’s liberties are safe:

  • SB 65 (Benson) would require gas station dealers to maintain operational video cameras and retain footage for 45 days [Maryland Legislative Watch]
  • HB 20 (GOP Del. Cluster) would require all public schools to hire cops [Gazette, MLW]
  • SB 28 (Frosh) would lower burden of proof for final domestic protective orders from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance of the evidence” [MLW, ABA] One problem with that is that orders already tag family members as presumed abusers in the absence of real evidence, are routinely used as a “tactical leverage device” in divorces, and trip up unwary targets with serious criminal penalties for trying to do things like see their kids;
  • Driving while suspected of gun ownership: what unarmed Florida motorist went through at hands of Maryland law enforcement [Tampa Bay Online] 2014 session in Annapolis can hardly be worse for gun rights than 2013, so it stands to reason it’ll be better [Hendershot's]
  • State begins very aggressive experiment in hospital cost controls: “I am glad there is an experiment, but I’m also glad I live in Virginia.” [Tyler Cowen]
  • Scenes from inside the failed Maryland Obamacare exchange [Baltimore Sun] Lt. Gov.: now’s not the time to audit or investigate the failed launch because that’d just distract us from it [WBAL]
  • Corridors run pink as Montgomery County school cafeterias battle scourge of strawberry milk [Brian Griffiths, Baltimore Sun]
  • Plus: A left-right alliance on surveillance and privacy in the legislature [my new Cato at Liberty post]
  • How did Maryland same-sex marriage advocates win last year against seemingly long odds? [Stephen Richer, Purple Elephant Republicans citing Carrie Evans, Cardozo JLG; thanks to @ToddEberly as well as Carrie and Stephen for kind words]

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National Post via Free-Range Kids:

A Hamilton, Ont., mother has filed a human rights complaint against her daughter’s elementary school, claiming it discriminated against the six-year-old for failing to accommodate her life-threatening allergy to eggs and dairy. The case … seeks to ban milk products and eggs from her daughter’s school.” …

Ms. Glover wants the allergens removed from the school, and school and board staff get human rights training. She wants to “bring to light the fact that children have the right to a barrier free education.”

“Anything short of that is discrimination,” she says.

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After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary a year ago, “the president appeared comparatively restrained next to the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre, who breathlessly demanded ‘an active national database of the mentally ill’ and federally funded ‘armed police officers in every school’ or Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who proposed legislation encouraging governors to call out the National Guard for school shootings.” Fortunately cooler heads have prevailed [Gene Healy, Washington Examiner]

Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on December 27, 2013

  • Following outcry, Ohio lawmaker drops proposal to license homeschool parents [Jason Bedrick/Cato, sequel]
  • In Colorado U. crackdown on professor’s deviance course, university retracts claim that professor needed to clear controversial teaching with institutional review board [Inside Higher Ed, Zachary Schrag and sequel, background on IRBs]
  • The purely fictional, entirely bloodless “assassin” game — which I remember was played in my own high school years ago without anyone worrying — now seems to be controversial in suburban D.C. because School Violence and Think of the Children. [Washington Post; Bedrick, Cato on pretend "arrow" zero-tolerance case]
  • After son’s death, Ontario mom urges schools to let asthmatic kids carry inhalers [CBC, Bedrick]
  • Cathy Young on how the forces of unanimity police discussions of “rape culture” [Minding the Campus]
  • Kansas regents forbid faculty/staff to post social media content contrary to best interest of university [WaPo]
  • Don’t forget to stop home some time: more public schools serving dinner as well as breakfast and lunch [Future of Capitalism]

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Two of my enduring interests — excessive government regulation and the quest for truly scrumptious cinnamon buns — intersect here in a single story from Denmark. [Guardian]:

…scientists have now discovered that too much of the most commonly used type of cinnamon, cassia, can cause liver damage thanks to high levels of coumarin, a natural ingredient found in the spice.

The EU has accordingly decreed that coumarin levels must be kept below 50 mg per kg in “traditional” or “seasonal” foodstuffs eaten only occasionally, and 15 mg per kg in everyday “fine baked goods.”

Last month, the Danish food authority ruled that the nation’s famous cinnamon swirls were neither traditional nor seasonal, thus limiting the quantity of cinnamon that bakers are allowed to use, placing the pastry at risk – and sparking a national outcry that could be dubbed the great Danish bake strop.

The president of the Danish Bakers’ Association, Hardy Christensen, said: “We’ve been making bread and cakes with cinnamon for 200 years. Then suddenly the government says these pastries are not traditional? I have been a baker for 43 years and never come across anything like this – it’s crazy. Using lower amounts of the spice will change the distinctive flavour and produce less tasty pastries. Normally, we do as we’re told by the government and say OK, but now it’s time to take a stand. Enough is enough.”

Meanwhile: Anonymous informant shuts down school bus cookie lady in Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, Minn. [MPR, AP]

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#LifeUnderDeBlasio

by Walter Olson on November 6, 2013

Enjoying the genre of #LifeUnderDeBlasio satire tweets from New Yorkers, such as: “I remember when the screens in the back of taxis showed light entertainment, not statistics about iron production.” [@tomgara] “I thought de Blasio gave a good speech but am just not sure how the Five Year Plan for the Park Slope roof gardens will turn out.” [@stuartpstevens] And the one about considering teachers’ union head Randi Weingarten as schools chief.

Wait a minute. That one’s real!

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Ken at Popehat offers some perspective [link fixed now, thanks Hans] on the events at Aledo High School in Texas:

It’s important to point out that the report is from one angry father, not from an entire culture. The systemic issue, if there is one, is the series of laws that requires a formal investigative process no matter how facially ridiculous a complaint. Another systemic issue, if there is one, is the malleability of words like “bullying,” which can be used to pursue any sort of grievance, whether or not it is actually related to the well-being of children.

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Sending fake gunmen into schools as an exercise? Have authorities lost their mind? [Jennifer Abel, Anorak via Brian Doherty]

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It’s being litigated contentiously in a Florida courtroom. After the lad got a D in an Honors algebra class and his family filed extensive protests, the school transferred him to an easier class. That generated a new grievance in turn: “He’s just not being challenged,” the “mathlete”‘s lawyer-father says now. [Orlando Sentinel]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on October 17, 2013

  • Opponents, including U.S. Department of Justice, go after school choice programs in court [Jason Bedrick, more]
  • Study finds bullying programs may have opposite from intended effect. Why, next they’ll tell us D.A.R.E. is a flop at curbing drug use. Oh wait [CBS Dallas]
  • National Association of the Deaf files lawsuit against Maryland, seeking captioning at sporting events [WaPo]
  • “NYC will spend $29 million on salaries, benefits of educators it can’t fire” [NY Daily News] [NY Times]
  • Gotta-cover-yourself incident and accident reports clog the classroom day with paper [Ted Frank, Point of Law]
  • “IRBs and mission creep” [Dave Hoffman, Prawfs, earlier]
  • Boy who drew cartoonish bomb at home suspended, reinstated [Fox Carolina, Free-Range Kids]

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Webster, N.Y.: “The family of a former Webster Thomas hockey player has sued the school district and hockey coach for keeping him at the junior varsity level for four years ‘in spite of his advanced skills.'” [Justin Murphy, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle]

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