Find out more →

Get unlimited access. Become a digital member!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Morning news of note

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 6:41 AM

A few other items to mention on a slow Monday morning:

* BLOWING UP THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Republicans have backed off, for now, a plan to game the electoral college system by dividing state electoral college votes by congressional district. But Talking Points Memo reports growing Republican support for moving presidential elections to a system decided by the national vote, previously a one-man, one-vote idea favored primarily by more liberal types. How about that? Representative democracy.

The rigged congressional system, in which Republicans land a majority of House seats despite an overhwelming national vote for the Democratic presidential candidate, was the subject of another analysis over the weekend in the New York Times. Republicans are worst offenders in the gerrymanders.


HAVING the first modern democracy comes with bugs. Normally we would expect more seats in Congress to go to the political party that receives more votes, but the last election confounded expectations. Democrats received 1.4 million more votes for the House of Representatives, yet Republicans won control of the House by a 234 to 201 margin. This is only the second such reversal since World War II.

Using statistical tools that are common in fields like my own, neuroscience, I have found strong evidence that this historic aberration arises from partisan disenfranchisement. Although gerrymandering is usually thought of as a bipartisan offense, the rather asymmetrical results may surprise you.

Through artful drawing of district boundaries, it is possible to put large groups of voters on the losing side of every election. The Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based political group dedicated to electing state officeholders, recently issued a progress report on Redmap, its multiyear plan to influence redistricting. The $30 million strategy consists of two steps for tilting the playing field: take over state legislatures before the decennial Census, then redraw state and Congressional districts to lock in partisan advantages. The plan was highly successful.


* IF ALL SCHOOLS COULD BE CHARTER SCHOOLS...: .... a lot of students wouldn't go to school at all. Reporting from the Washington Post examines the high expulsion rates in Washington, D.C. charter schools, including one of the lauded KIPP schools, which has taken steps this year to lower its expulsion rate.

With KIPP having grown to 125 schools in 20 states and the District, including a few high schools, KIPP principals and teachers are finding it harder to create such a peaceful environment for adolescents. This is particularly true in the District. KIPP’s D.C. schools are considered a model for urban public education. But its small high school, KIPP College Prep, expelled 17 students in the 2011-12 school year for violence, weapons and drugs.

The KIPP statistics came from my colleague Emma Brown’s groundbreaking report on the surprising number of students being expelled from D.C. public charter schools. I wrote a book about KIPP and have been visiting its D.C. schools since 2001, so I asked KIPP D.C. Executive Director Susan Schaeffler and KIPP College Prep Principal Jessica Cunningham what was going on.

As independent schools, charters are allowed to expel students, but regular D.C. public schools except in extreme cases (three expulsions last year) can only do involuntary transfers. When I last checked in 2008, the expulsion rate for all KIPP D.C. schools was 1 percent, nine out of 900 students. Last year, that rate was up slightly to 1.4 percent, 39 out of 2,632 students. But expulsions at the high school last year jumped from seven to 17, about 6 percent of the student body, as the school had four serious fights and a drug incident.

... [KIPP numbers have improved substantially this year, the article notes. But....] ...

Charter school critics have said the expulsion figures in Brown’s report prove charters are keeping their test scores high by kicking out students who don’t do well academically. That is not the case with KIPP, where only students who have endangered other students are forced to leave. But Brown’s article indicates expulsions at other charters are sometimes for tardiness, truancy and dress code violations, which is bad policy.

Brown’s report raised a good question: Why are charters expelling so many students? It also introduced another issue: Why are traditional public schools forced to keep dangerous and disruptive students who make it difficult for other students to learn?

If we knew how to rid such young people of their damaging urges, expulsions would be unnecessary. But we don’t know how to do that consistently. Until we do, serving such students at a school just for them, as some districts do, is the only sensible option. The focus should be on giving the largest number of children a chance to learn, not sparing district leaders from making difficult decisions about students who cannot control themselves.

Sure. Schools that must educate only students willing to learn — with parents committed to that mission —exhibit better performance. The schools that MUST take the leavings? If they fail, it's the fault of the nasty teacher unions. Never mind that approximately two of more than 200 school districts in Arkansas negotiate employment contracts with a union.

Tags: , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • A supremely bad time for traveling — election season

    What a time for a vacation — with some important Supreme Court races headed to the ballot along with a few other interesting election issues, such as a presidential primary.
    • Jan 25, 2016
  • In passing: James Merriweather, newsman

    Facebook bears sad news — the death of James Merriweather, a veteran newspaperman with whom I shared Arkansas Gazette newsroom seats, laughs and not a few beers. He was 64.
    • Jan 25, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Turkish charter operators under scrutiny

    New York Times reports extensively this morning about the establishment of dozens of charter schools nationwide by a close-knit group of Turkish business people and educators.
    • Jun 7, 2011
  • Mother of West Memphis 3 victim asks for reopening of case

    Pam Hobbs, mother of Steve Branch, one of three eight-year-olds killed in the 1993 West Memphis slayings that became the West Memphis 3 case, says new information unearthed in a new documentary, "West of Memphis," has persuaded her to call for the state of Arkansas to reopen the case.
    • Jan 23, 2012
  • Little Rock Airport to be renamed for Bill and Hillary Clinton

    The Little Rock Airport Commission has scheduled a discussion at it meeting Tuesday to rename the airport the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
    • Mar 16, 2012

Most Shared

Most Viewed

  • Social entrepreneur writes about racism and lack of high-speed Internet in Dumas

    Leila Janah, the CEO of a buzzy nonprofit that helps poor people find tech jobs, has a post on Medium about her experience with systemic racism and the lack of access to high-speed broadband in Dumas. The nonprofit she founded and heads as CEO, Samasource, hires low-income people around the world to perform digital tasks for companies like Google, Walmart and Getty Images.
  • UPDATED: A night at the Trump Show

    What I learned at last night's Donald Trump rally.
  • Trump sets record attendance at Barton? Let's go to the tape.

    Prior to the appearance of Donald Trump last night in Little Rock after a nearly two-hour delay, Barton Coliseum general manager Ralph Shoptaw came before the crowd to say that attendance for the Trump event, at 11,500, had broken a record at Barton set all the way back in 1974 during a show by the blues-rock band ZZ Top. Trump would later brag on the turnout from the stage, bumping the number up to 12,000 while saying he'd been setting similar records all over the country.  Photos and video from the event, however, would seem to tell a different story.
  • First count the evidence

  • Charges filed in deer beating caught on video

    Prosecutors in Arkansas County have filed charges against three Georgia men in a case in which, authorities say, one of them was caught on video beating a live whitetail deer with an accounting textbook as the animal lay injured in the backseat of a car.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation