September 22, 2014
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My take on the news
We need to move steadily forward on teacher evaluations
Lonnie Barham

JUDICIAL TRAVESTY: Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter has proven that she is unfit for her job! Instead of taking the high ground and ruling on whether the pension reform bill passed by the General Assembly is constitutional or not, she punted the issue to a team of out-of-state mediators. Is this her way of trying to circumvent her obvious conflict of interest in the case with many of her relatives set to gain or lose from the case's outcome? Even if her intentions are completely unbiased, her legal position seems very precarious. Even if the mediators manage to wrangle an agreement between the state and the unions, there is no way for either party to go forth and implement the agreement without the General Assembly changing the law to reflect the agreement. If the General Assembly simply says, "No, we're not changing it," then the entire mediation process becomes moot and the issue goes back to the courts to determine whether or not the original law is or is not constitutional. Judge Taft-Carter would have better served the citizens of Rhode Island, to include union members and her relatives, had she simply come up with the courage to make a decision. Isn't that what we pay judges for?

TEACHER EVALUATIONS: Is Rhode Island moving too fast in its quest to improve teacher quality as it implements a new teacher evaluation system that relies in part on student progress as measured by standardized tests? No! We need to move steadily forward on it; our children deserve nothing less. That said, we also need to recognize the obstacles our teachers, principals and superintendents have to overcome to achieve success. When this entire group says "let's slow down," we should probably listen. Perhaps the best solution is that announced by the superintendents in East Greenwich and Providence, which, in essence, says to teachers and principals, "We support the new system and are determined to make it work. However, we are considering this a learning year. Do everything in accordance with the rules of the new system, but don't worry about firings. That won't happen as the result of this learning year." Kudos to Education Commissioner Gist for not backing off on implementation and to courageous superintendents for making sure the pace of change is consistent with long-term success.

A RHODE ISLAND FOX IN THE NATIONAL HEN HOUSE: U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has appointed Congressman David Cicilline to the House Budget Committee; he will no longer serve on the House Small Business Committee. He did nothing for R.I. businesses while on the Small Business Committee, except support increased taxes for businesses. Now, he will be in a position to influence our taxes even more. He's already said he will oppose spending cuts designed to ensure entitlement programs’ sustainability. After his dismal record with the Providence budget, why in the world would anyone want him on the committee that controls our national budget?

COMPARATIVELY, OUR UNIONS AREN’T SO BAD: With only 36 percent of Mexican students graduating high school, Mexico's new president is pushing for a constitutional amendment that will give his government control over teacher hiring and educational practices that are now totally controlled by the country's 1.4 million-member teachers' union. The unbelievable current situation in Mexico's education system: The union hires teachers; teachers are hired for life; teacher performance is never evaluated; on retirement, teachers are allowed to give their positions to relatives or sell them to the highest bidder.

FOREIGN POLICY NEGLECT: Now that North Korea has successfully launched a long-range missile, another rogue country has been added to the list of anti-American nations that are rapidly gaining the ability to attack the United States with nuclear weapons. North Korea already possesses nuclear weapons and has now demonstrated it has the rudimentary capability to deliver warheads as far as our west coast. An expert on North Korea, RAND Corporation's Bruce Bennett, said, "American foreign policy toward North Korea had been one of strategic neglect. Those days are over."
President Obama has achieved very little success with any of his foreign policy forays. The violence in Syria continues to escalate with SCUD missiles now being used and maybe chemical weapons soon; Israeli and Palestinian forces remain at each other’s throats; we seem to be losing the strategic support we have always had from Egypt; Iran continues its almost unfettered quest for nuclear arms; and now North Korea has extended its nuclear reach to our shores. Let's hope President Obama has learned something from his first term – that a president can't concentrate almost all of his energy and efforts on one issue (Obamacare) while largely disregarding other looming disasters like our deteriorating economy and the growing threats to our national security.

TOO PRETTY FOR THE WORKPLACE: The Iowa Supreme Court has just upheld a dentist's firing of a 10-year employee because she is too attractive and the dentist (and his wife) feared he might become so enamored of her that it could affect his marriage. She was an outstanding worker, had never flirted with the dentist, and was happily married. It's unbelievable! In Iowa, innocent female employees are now responsible for the uncontrolled sexual urges of their bosses! Unattractive women who have always felt discriminated against because of their looks now have company.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: A participant in the President Obama-House Speaker Boehner "fiscal cliff" negotiations told the Wall Street Journal that at one point an exasperated Boehner told Obama that he had put $800 billion in tax revenue on the table and asked what spending cuts he was getting for it. Obama replied, "You get nothing. I get that for free." Fantasizing that his squeak-by 51 percent of the popular vote gave him a mandate, Obama wants to cut only 25 cents in spending for every dollar raised in taxes; hardly the "balanced approach" he has promised. Boehner is looking for balance with one dollar in spending cuts for every dollar raised in new taxes. It has truly come down to one simple question – can we tax and spend ourselves out of our economic problem, or are significant spending cuts part of the solution? The answer seems elementary.


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