It took close to two hours to drive to Ann Arbor today, usually a 50-minute jaunt. The roads would be fine, and then they wouldn’t be, and then traffic would back up, and then you’d be cruising along, thinking you could nudge it up a bit, and realize whoa! Black ice!
But then it warmed up, and the trip home was much more reasonable. And the phenomenon I spoke of earlier this week came to pass: It was 15 degrees, and felt really nice out. I left the Parka of Misery unzipped, and took Wendy for a walk afterward. She flatly refused to go out with me early this morning, when it was -1 or so.
By the weekend, it will be well above freezing, and raining — only a 50-degree difference in a week. Michigan weather.
So let’s round up some linkage today, shall we?
What’s the matter with Kansas’ schools? asks an op-ed in the NYT. See if any of this sounds familiar:
Kansas’ current constitutional crisis has its genesis in a series of cuts to school funding that began in 2009. The cuts were accelerated by a $1.1 billion tax break, which benefited mostly upper-income Kansans, proposed by Governor Brownback and enacted in 2012.
Overall, the Legislature slashed public education funding to 16.5 percent below the 2008 level, triggering significant program reductions in schools across the state. Class sizes have increased, teachers and staff members have been laid off, and essential services for at-risk students were eliminated, even as the state implemented higher academic standards for college and career readiness.
Parents filed a lawsuit in the Kansas courts to challenge the cuts. In Gannon v. State of Kansas, a three-judge trial court ruled in January 2013 for the parents, finding that the cuts reduced per-pupil expenditures far below a level “suitable” to educate all children under Kansas’ standards.
…Rather than comply, Governor Brownback appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court. A decision is expected this month.
This is, in rough outline, what happened in Michigan over the last four years — education spending cut (among other trims) to finance a business-tax cut, that is. Per-pupil spending is still far above what it is in Kansas, a jaw-dropping $3,838. A reader comment on the piece explains some nuances:
Governor Brownback is ultra conservative. He wants a strong educational system in Kansas. What he is doing is simply shifting the tax burden from the general fund to local school districts. For years, the wealthy districts have been subsidizing the poorer (more rural with a lower tax valuations) ones. I’ve always been in a poor area, so we have benefitted from our wealthier cousins in Kansas City and Topeka for a long time. That was nice, but now the per student cost is VERY high in some of these areas for the state to fund and the wealthier districts are paying an inordinate amount of money to fund the others. What the new finance formula will do is simply cause a consolidation of more rural school districts, creating a larger tax base to fund the new districts. I think that we will see more distance learning in some of the larger (geographically speaking) districts to reduce transportation costs. Local property taxes will have to be increased to fund those districts. It’s like business. Everything comes at a cost. This is simply a tax shift; not an end to public education in Kansas.
Wasn’t an end to exclusively local funding of education the result of years of reforms in the 1990s? States realized they were sitting ducks for a civil-rights lawsuit, seeing as how their constitutions guaranteed “free and appropriate” education for all citizens (that’s Michigan’s language) and children in wealthier areas were getting far better educations than those in poorer ones. Now feel bad for wealthy districts for “subsidizing” poorer ones, which should just go ahead and consolidate more. Get on the bus, kids! What’s a one-hour commute? You can do your homework.
Let’s lighten the atmosphere a bit, shall we? How about Gwyneth Paltrow’s January cleanse?
“Our winter detox has looser guidelines and restrictions than ones we’ve done in the past but here is what we’re avoiding: dairy, gluten, shellfish, anything processed (including all soy products), nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant), condiments, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and soda.”
Looser guidelines? Just don’t eat anything.
I haven’t read the excerpt from the Roger Ailes book yet, but I suppose I have to. UPDATE: Read it. Highly recommended, especially for you newspaper journos, past and present. It’s about when Ailes bought the small paper serving his exurban community, and proceeded to become the publisher from GUESS WHERE.
And now, on to Thursday.