SAWYER SCHOOL CLOSING: We didn't see this coming? The Rhode Island Office of Higher Education, the state agency responsible for monitoring educational institutions above the high school level in R.I., reviewed an audit of the Sawyer School's finances in September and found nothing to indicate the school was in financial trouble. As it turns out, the school owes the IRS almost a million dollars and owes $1.4 million to the U.S. Department of Education. It's hard to believe the school could hide such liabilities from auditors and equally hard to believe the Office of Higher Education would rely solely on an audit report to determine the school's financial stability. The bureaucrats who run the Office of Higher Education apparently never thought to check with the IRS or the U.S. Department of Education before deciding the school was financially stable. It’s just one more Rhode Island failure and one more reason for businesses to avoid locating in our poorly run little state.
THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: While lawmakers at every level of government have been increasing their rhetoric for more restrictive gun laws, John Q. Public has been making a run on gun stores and stocking up on the very firearms the legislators want to ban. Although these lawmakers’ intent is to reduce the number of semi-automatic weapons in America, their actions have had opposite and unintended consequences. The rush to purchase semi-automatics and other guns since the Newtown tragedy has resulted in hundreds of thousands more weapons in American homes – and on the street.
In just one day, the day after President Obama proclaimed he would pursue more restrictive gun laws, a gun store in North Carolina sold a million dollars worth of guns. Wal-Mart and numerous other major distributors of semi-automatics are completely out of stock. Gun manufacturers are rapidly increasing production levels to keep up with the increased demand. The law of unintended consequences has now placed far more guns into American hands.
CHARTER SCHOOLS FOR NON-PROFICIENT STUDENTS: Christopher Ratcliffe, a professor at CCRI and Bryant University, has proposed the creation of charter schools strictly for non-proficient students. Because of behavior issues and the requirement for extensive one-on-one teacher time, such students currently interfere greatly with the education of proficient students in our public schools. We’ve brought this situation upon ourselves through our misguided policy of social promotions. Promoting students into higher grades where the work is more difficult when they have completely failed to master skills taught in the lower grades is the most nonsensical policy imaginable. Yet, we do it every year. Not only does it frustrate the non-proficient students, causing their self-esteem to plummet and behavior problems to increase, it takes a tremendous amount of teacher time away from other students who would otherwise learn much more. Mr. Ratcliffe is right. It’s high time we begin investing resources into charter schools designed to help non-proficient students master grade-level skills so, eventually, they can return to public schools without creating a disruptive environment for the majority of students who are on their way to grade-level proficiency.
THE THREE L's - LATINOS, LABOR AND LIBERALS: Perhaps he coined the label. Regardless, Edward Fitzpatrick, columnist for the Providence Journal, used the "Three L's" label in his commentary piece last Sunday. The label refers to the three groups whose voters hold almost complete political sway in Rhode Island. Perhaps another story in the same edition of the Journal tells us why these three groups hold all the cards in determining which politicians sit in our legislature and pass the myriad of anti-business laws that keep our economy at or near last place among all states. The other story was about how droves of people are leaving Rhode Island, over 24,000 since 2004 who took $1.3 billion in income and close to $200 million in state taxes with them. With our very liberal, labor-oriented, non-business friendly laws, it is very likely those who have left Rhode Island – and continue to leave – are the ones we need to stay; those who would have contributed the most to the rebirth of business, jobs and tax revenue in our state. You can bet those leaving aren't from the Three L's.
BEWARE MAKING CHANGES TO THE FILIBUSTER RULE: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse wants to change the Senate's filibuster rule, the rule that says 60 senators must vote in favor before a bill is passed when the filibuster rule has been invoked. Whitehouse wants a simple majority, 51 of 100 senators, to always rule. At first blush “majority rule” sounds eminently reasonable. A closer look, however, shows that the specter of filibuster is usually the only thing that keeps the majority party from totally disregarding any input from the minority party on issues of tremendous national importance. Most bills are passed in the Senate with simple majorities; the filibuster rule is seldom invoked. When it is, it is invoked for extremely important issues that have the potential to totally divide the American people. In such cases, a “super majority” of at least 60 senators has best protected Americans from the tyranny of a simple majority.
From Voltaire to de Tocqueville to James Madison, we have been warned of the “tyranny of the majority.” That’s why we elect our presidents with Electoral College votes instead of popular votes. That’s why we require ratification by two-thirds of the states for constitutional amendments. If not for the threat of filibuster, the minority party – whether Democrat or Republican – might as well stay home. With the filibuster, the minority party can actually help govern as our constitution intended. The filibuster rule has worked for 200 years. Like other enduring institutions, let’s not change something that has worked so well for so long.