Archive for the ‘Washington’ Category

D.C. Mayor Breaks with Democrats on Hill, Wants School Vouchers

March 13, 2009

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty called for continued federal funding for a program that permits underprivileged children to attend private school, breaking with the congressional leaders of his own Democratic Party who ended the initiative.

By Elizabeth Hillgrove and Kara Rowland
The Washington Times

“Political leaders can debate the merits of vouchers, but we should not disrupt the education of children who are presently enrolled in private schools through the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program,” Mr. Fenty said in his first public comment on the issue.

The remark, in a Wednesday night e-mail to The Washington Times, puts the mayor at odds with Democrats on Capitol Hill, who late last week circulated a document indicating that they have no plans to reconsider the program, which loses its funding next year in the $410 billion omnibus spending package.

“The committee does not anticipate reauthorizing the program,” a Democratic staffer on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said in the document obtained by The Times.

A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and the committee’s ranking member, accused Democrats of being disingenuous when they said during debate on the bill that they were open to reconsidering the program.

“Talk of hearings, assertions that no final decision had been made, were deceptive double-talk,” spokesman Frederick Hill said. “Democrats on the House committee that would have to reauthorize the program had already decided poor D.C. children shouldn’t be in private schools.”

Mr. Fenty now joins President Obama in arguing for allowing children now in the program to stay in it through graduation.

“The president has repeatedly said that school vouchers are not a long-term solution to our educational challenges, but in this instance believes that we should try to find a way to keep from disrupting the students currently enrolled in this program,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Thursday. “He looks forward to working with Congress to find a solution.”

The omnibus package calls for the program, which provides $12.1 million annually for about 1,700 city students, to end after the 2009-10 school year unless Congress and the D.C. Council reauthorize it.

President Bush started the program five years ago, the only federally funded voucher system in the country. It has since been a target for Democrats, who draw support from the teachers unions that oppose it.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/
2009/mar/13/fenty-pushes-for-school-
vouchers/

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Obama’s School Plan

By David Brooks
The New York Times

In his education speech this week, Barack Obama retold a by-now familiar story. When he was a boy, his mother would wake him up at 4:30 to tutor him for a few hours before he went off to school. When young Barry complained about getting up so early, his mother responded: “This is no picnic for me either, Buster.”

That experience was the perfect preparation for reforming American education because it underlines the two traits necessary for academic success: relationships and rigor. The young Obama had a loving relationship with an adult passionate about his future. He also had at least one teacher, his mom, disinclined to put up with any crap.

The reform vision Obama sketched out in his speech flows from that experience. The Obama approach would make it more likely that young Americans grow up in relationships with teaching adults. It would expand nurse visits to disorganized homes. It would improve early education. It would extend the school year. Most important, it would increase merit pay for good teachers (the ones who develop emotional bonds with students) and dismiss bad teachers (the ones who treat students like cattle to be processed).

We’ve spent years working on ways to restructure schools, but what matters most is the relationship between one student and one teacher. You ask a kid who has graduated from high school to list the teachers who mattered in his life, and he will reel off names. You ask a kid who dropped out, and he will not even understand the question. Relationships like that are beyond his experience.

In his speech, Obama actually put more emphasis on the other side of the equation: rigor. In this context, that means testing and accountability.

Thanks in part to No Child Left Behind, we’re a lot better at measuring each student’s progress. Today, tests can tell you which students are on track and which aren’t. They can tell you which teachers are bringing their students’ achievement up by two grades in a single year and which are bringing their students’ levels up by only half a grade. They can tell you which education schools produce good teachers and which do not.

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has data showing that progress on tests between the third and eighth grades powerfully predicts high school graduation rates years later — a clear demonstration of the importance of these assessments.

The problem is that as our ability to get data has improved, the education establishment’s ability to evade the consequences of data has improved, too. Most districts don’t use data to reward good teachers. States have watered down their proficiency standards so parents think their own schools are much better than they are.

As Education Secretary Arne Duncan told me, “We’ve seen a race to the bottom. States are lying to children. They are lying to parents. They’re ignoring failure, and that’s unacceptable. We have to be fierce.”

Obama’s goal is to make sure results have consequences. He praises data sets that “tell us which students had which teachers so we can assess what’s working and what’s not.” He also aims to reward states that use data to make decisions. He will build on a Bush program that gives states money for merit pay so long as they measure teachers based on real results. He will reward states that expand charter schools, which are drivers of innovation, so long as they use data to figure out which charters are working.

The administration also will give money to states like Massachusetts that have rigorous proficiency standards. The goal is to replace the race to the bottom with a race to the top, as states are compelled to raise their standards if they hope to get federal money.

In short, Obama hopes to change incentives so districts do the effective and hard things instead of the easy and mediocre things. The question is whether he has the courage to follow through. Many doubt he does. They point to the way the president has already caved in on the D.C. vouchers case.

Democrats in Congress just killed an experiment that gives 1,700 poor Washington kids school vouchers. They even refused to grandfather in the kids already in the program, so those children will be ripped away from their mentors and friends. The idea was to cause maximum suffering, and 58 Senators voted for it.

Obama has, in fact, been shamefully quiet about this. But in the next weeks he’ll at least try to protect the kids now in the program. And more broadly, there’s reason for hope. Education is close to his heart. He has broken with liberal orthodoxy on school reform more than any other policy. He’s naturally inclined to be data driven. There’s reason to think that this week’s impressive speech will be followed by real and potentially historic action.

Obama, Dems Want It All and Socialism Now

February 9, 2009

The White House has removed the supervision of the Commerce Department  over the census.  The census determines how congressional districts are drawn.  Therefore it makes no sense for one party or for the White House to oversee the census.

Fear Rahm Emanuel.

Expect the USA to add a  51st state: the District of Columbia: with two more Democrats in the Senate.

While the census was being grabbed, the House and Senate continued to stoke up the charcoal for the pork fest.  And President Barack Obama went to Elkhart, Indiana where unemployment exceeds 15% — mostly because they make something that we can only afford in really good (and wasteful) time: RVs.

“We” elected Barack Obama and his Democrat buddies but we do not have to be silent while really foolish re-workings of America are in progress.

Heath Shuler said today the Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid had “failed.”

Failed in honesty and committment to their offices….and oaths….

Most of our liberal Obama-swallowing media isn’t very helpful during all of this: still bashing George W. Bush and not looking seriously into the Obama Administration….

related:
http://michellemalkin.com/2009/02/09/t
he-only-thing-grand-about-the-grand-com
promise-is-the-price-tag/

Pelosi, Reid “Failed;” Honest Democrat Their Worst Nightmare

Census (From Fox News):
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/first100days/2009/0
2/09/gop-sounds-alarm-obama-decision-census-whit
e-house/

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior ... 
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gestures prior to the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, in Washington, January 20, 2009.(Jim Young – UNITED STATES/Reuters)

Barack Obama Essay: Martin Luther King Day

January 19, 2009

On the day of the first inauguration to take place in this city, a small band of citizens gathered to watch Thomas Jefferson assume office. Our young and fragile democracy had barely finished a long and contentious election that tested our founding ideals, and there were those who feared our union might not endure.

It was a perilous moment. But Jefferson announced that while we may differ in opinion, we all share the same principles. “Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind,” he said, urging those assembled to begin anew the work of building a nation.


Barack Obama wrote this essay for The Washington Times

In the more than two centuries since, inaugurations have taken place during times of war and peace, depression and prosperity. Beneath the unfinished dome of the Capitol, a young lawyer from Illinois swore an oath to defend the Constitution a divided nation threatened to tear apart. In an era of unprecedented crisis, an optimistic New Yorker refused to allow us to succumb to fear. In a time of great change, a young man from Massachusetts convinced us to think anew with regard to serving our fellow man.

At each and every moment, the American people have joined with one heart and one mind – not just to commemorate a new president, but to celebrate those common ideals, share our hopes for a brighter future and resolve to advance our bold experiment.

Tomorrow, we’ll gather at a new time of great challenge for the American people. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in turmoil. We have much work to do toward restoring prosperity and renewing the promise of this nation.

And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our Founders displayed. What is also required is that we break free from rigid ideology and small thinking, and together grab hold of this opportunity to bridge partisan divides and deliver change for the American people.

The state of our union and challenges of a new century demand that we move beyond the old debates and stale arguments. We must focus today not on the dogmas of left and right, but on practical answers to the difficult problems of our times.

The impetus for that change will come from the American people, where the ultimate power in our democracy lies.

That is why the events of this week are not simply about the inauguration of another American president – they are a celebration of our democracy. We have made this inauguration the most open and accessible in our history, with the sole purpose of involving more citizens than ever before. And as we gather on a mall, in our neighborhoods and in our homes to begin our new journey together, we remember that our greatest strength has always been found in one another.

For the first time ever, we’re opening up the entire length of our National Mall for an inauguration. We’ve invited ordinary citizens from across the country, welcomed local schoolchildren and their families to the parade, and worked with local organizations to distribute free inaugural ball tickets to D.C. residents and military families. And we’ll broadcast and webcast the first-ever Neighborhood Inaugural Ball so that all Americans can join us – wherever their neighborhood may be.

We’ve heeded Jefferson’s words by involving Democrats, Republicans and independents in all aspects of this inauguration. Tonight, we will hold a series of dinners to honor leaders whose lifetime of public service has been enhanced by a dedication to bipartisan achievement, including my former opponent, Sen. John McCain.

We will couple the spirit of this inauguration with the celebration of the life of a preacher who once stood and shared his dream for America on the very mall where we’ll gather tomorrow. Martin Luther King lived his life as a servant to others, and today, ordinary citizens all across the country honor that legacy through the more than 10,000 service projects they’ve created on USAservice.org. And I’m asking the American people to answer the call and turn today’s efforts into an ongoing commitment to enrich the lives of Americans in their communities, their cities and their country.

After all, it’s that commitment to one another that’s always led us forward as a people. Because from those first citizens to the millions technology will connect this week, through times of great challenge and great change, we have remembered that fundamental American truth – that what unites us is always more powerful than what divides us.

That is the spirit that has always sustained us. That is the principle that must drive us now. And I am confident that if we come together and summon that great American spirit once again, we will meet the challenges of our time and write the next great chapter in our American story.

Editor’s note: President-elect Barack Obama wrote this essay for The Washington Times in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

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Obama, Biden, Families Emphasize Service on MLK Day

By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer

Now Obama is asking the nation to honor King’s legacy by making a renewed commitment to service. That has long been the goal of the King holiday, even if many see it as a day off.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/inauguration_rdp

Former UK Army Chief Attacks US Failures in Iraq

December 20, 2008

A former head of the British Army has accused the Americans of “appalling” decision making during the Iraq war.

By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Telegraph (UK)
.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, General Sir Mike Jackson, the former chief of the general staff, said that the violence in post-war Iraq was “much exacerbated by the security vacuum created by Washington’s appalling decisions” to disband the Iraqi security forces.

Gen Sir Mike, who was head of the British Army at the time of the war, added that the US policy to “de-Baathify” Iraq doubled the time taken to reach the point where the coalition could consider a withdrawal from the country.

Former Army chief General Sir Mike Jackson attacks US failures in Iraq

Former Army chief General Sir Mike Jackson decribed American decision making as ‘appalling’ Photo: PA

The general also added that Iranian backing for Shia militants, a development which led to hundreds of British casualties, further complicated the post-war environment.

The former defence chief, who said that he believed the campaign had been successful, was also critical of the US and British governments for failing to “understand fully” the complexity of the situation in Iraq and to create a proper reconstruction plan.

The general said that the euphoria which followed the toppling of Saddam was short lived because of various factions inside Iraq began to use violence in pursuit of political objectives.

But he added that the coalition, which suffered from political and military infighting, achieved “tremendous successes” including a referendum on a new Iraqi constitution and the subsequent elections, the creation of a new Iraqi security force and the avoidance of outright civil war.

Of the 136 troops who died in Iraq and the thousands injured, the general said that their deaths and wounds “were not in vain but rather suffered in the noble cause of a better future for Iraq and the region as a whole.”

Bush Kisses Streisand (NOT a Pretty Sight)

December 8, 2008

Barbra Streisand got an awkward kiss on the cheek from the president, and yes, she gave him a smooch back.

Streisand, a vocal critic of President George W. Bush, was a guest Sunday at the White House just before one of Washington’s few A-list events: the Kennedy Center Honors.

By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press Writer

“Art transcends politics this weekend,” the longtime Democrat said beforehand. Still, she said it would have been “lovely” if she could have received the award while President-elect Barack Obama was in office.

The singer and actress was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, along with actor Morgan Freeman, country singer George Jones, dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp and musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who.

The honors recognize individuals who helped define American culture through the performing arts, part of the living memorial to President John F. Kennedy.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081208/ap_on_en_ot/kennedy_center_honors

From left, Kennedy Center Honors producer George Stevens, Jr., ... 
From left, Kennedy Center Honors producer George Stevens, Jr., Kennedy Center President Michael M Kiaser, Kennedy Center Honoree, Roger Daltrey, Barbara Streisand, Morgan Freeman, Pete Townshend, George Jones, Twyla Tharp, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarman pose for a group photo after the State Department Dinner for the Kennedy Center Honors gala Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008 at the State Department in Washington.(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

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