My idea for improving education

The Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Educational Excellence made 40 recommendations on June 30. Of those recommendations, some included expanding the four-year-old Kindergarten program, recruiting more minority teachers, increasing state-funded grants for smaller class sizes, repealing the qualified economic offer law (QEO, which caps teachers’ salaries), and increasing the state sales tax while reducing the property tax to generate $1.44 billion in additional revenue, among other things. But out of 40 recommendations, not one mentions looking for efficiencies in the current system. You mean to tell me that out of everything the schools offer, there is not one area that costs too much or that is a frivolous cost to the taxpayers?

I have an excellent idea of something to consider. You know my position on computers in the classroom (if not, click here for my soapbox). I mean, there are schools that teach six-year-olds how to type… yet the students still haven’t learned their basic alphabet or how to construct sentences! Anyone who works with computers knows that technology moves very fast, and the technology used in the schools at the first grade level will be obsolete in a year or so. In the meantime, schools are having difficulty keeping up with the latest technology because it is still expensive. In my opinion, it’s an expense that we can forego if it means that children learn how to use their minds and creativity to solve problems… computers are still “garbage in, garbage out,” so they’re only as effective as their users. Not all children will use computers in the future, since some of them could become laborers. Also, many of them will learn how to use them either in college or on the job… that’s how I learned, and I’m considered an expert in my office (or at least people ask me questions regularly).

In the meantime, other state programs and agencies are required to cut budgets and positions. The State Patrol had to cut over nine percent of its troopers… that’s 36 out of 399. Other state employees were laid off or have been told that they will be laid off soon. Yet the Task Force on Educational Excellence came up with this recommendation that commits the state to spend more money.

I especially would like to call into question the sales tax increase… everybody will pay more in aggregated taxes if that option is exercised (that is, passes in a state budget or other legislation). It’s a tax increase, even if it means a cut in property taxes, because more people are paying it. I’m not against paying for government services, but this is a mechanism that takes a general tax and reallocates it for a specific purpose. In the 2003-05 state biennial budget, the Transportation Fund (a dedicated fund for funding transportation, Motor Vehicles, and State Patrol) “loaned” money to education. As a tax-paying citizen, I do not approve these recommendations. Click here to visit the Task Force’s web site.

In other goings-on in my life, I saw Michael Moore’s film, “Fahrenheit 9/11” last night, and I have to admit that I had some mixed emotions. I’m no fan of the current administration and its actions, but this film revealed some observations that many seemed to have forgotten. There was some poking fun at and a little bantering (which you would expect from Moore), and I wasn’t very impressed with the smugness that Moore presents. But it was somewhat sobering and certainly worth learning one viewpoint of the entire controversy. It certainly wasn’t Spiderman, so I may see that this weekend… just as a pick-me-up.

One part that really caught my attention was the discussion of the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act (Patriot Act). Moore states that nobody read this legislation, and that it was overwhelmingly passed in both houses of Congress within two or three days of its introduction. The truth he failed to mention was that there was opposition from Wisconsin’s own Senator Russ Feingold, who noticed inherent problems with the legislation and testified against passage. Moore also fails to mention that other congressional members have realized that there are flaws in the act and have introduced legislation to modify it. If you haven’t read or heard of it, the Patriot Act basically gives federal law enforcement agencies broad authority to conduct wiretaps and scans of anything that might be considered detrimental to the security of the nation. In fact, by my writing this, I could become a listed person for suspicious activity (as harmless and law-abiding as I am, and I even pay taxes on my online purchases). In case I am suddenly being watched, though, let me just state that I neither condone nor condemn the Patriot Act, and that I am merely stating an observation. Also note that federal law enforcement agencies have not used this authority beyond its intent, which is to stop terrorism. I’m certainly all for stopping terrorism and bringing these enemies to justice. Click here to visit the Library of Congress’ site that has the links to the act’s language. If you’re having trouble finding it, visit http://thomas.loc.gov and look up Public Law 107-56.

I also learned that last night was the last live-recorded show for co-host Patrick Norton on TechTV’s The ScreenSavers. While the show is moving to Los Angeles, Norton has chosen (under no duress from the producers or network executives) to remain in San Francisco. I wish all the best to him, his soon-to-be wife, and his future endeavors. In the meantime, you can still see previously-recorded (and not yet aired) episodes of The ScreenSavers all summer, and the new live shows will be aired starting in September with host Kevin Rose and a yet-to-be-determined co-host. Both Kevin and Sarah Lane have agreed to continue their work on the show.

Finally (not to sound long-winded), I’m going to divest some time in learning how to create a cascading style sheet. You won’t see it on this site, but the next site will have it. I’m still working on a layout for the new site (well, on and off), but I’ve come up with some ideas and organization. I may even add a breadcrumb to it, if I can figure out how to do so.

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