From First Things:
The Catholic Church is profoundly blessed to have at its helm a man of immense integrity, charity, and humility, and someone keenly aware of the need to reform and purify the Church. St. Francis, one imagines, would be pleased.
The Washington Post reports the Obama administration has released a detailed state-by-state lists of the impact of sequestration. This list is intended to pressure Congress by scaring constituents and legislators in their home states. Congress, however, should ignore these scare tactics.
As John Boehner explained in an op-ed last week in the WSJ, the federal government is in this situation at the insistence of the president himself.
But President Obama was determined not to face another debt-limit increase before his re-election campaign. Having just blown up one deal, the president scuttled this bipartisan, bicameral agreement. His solution? A sequester.
With the debt limit set to be hit in a matter of hours, Republicans and Democrats in Congress reluctantly accepted the president’s demand for the sequester, and a revised version of the Budget Control Act was passed on a bipartisan basis.
Now President Obama wants to blame Congress for across-the-board cuts which are irresponsible because they don’t differentiate between good, decent, and terrible areas of public spending. House Republicans have passed two plans to replace the sequester with intelligent spending cuts. Democrats have done little but insist on new tax hikes.
Don’t be fooled by the scare tactics. The world will not end if the sequester happens. And its time for President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress to get serious about cutting spending.
Jason Hancock of the KC Star reports that House Democrat Minority Leader Jake Hummel has filed legislation to expand our currently broken Medicaid system.
My takeaway quote:
“We are not going to expand Medicaid as envisioned by Obamacare,” Barnes said. “The bill I’m filing next week will make Missouri’s Medicaid system the most market-based system in the nation. So stay tuned.”
I filed HB 535 this week to protect children from predators by making incest an aggravating factor subjecting perpetrators to increased punishment for these heinous crimes. For example, under current law, a predator convicted of first-degree statutory rape can be sentenced to a punishment that runs concurrently with another conviction. HB 535 places first-degree statutory rape on the same plane as rape, forcible rape, sodomy, and forcible sodomy – all crimes for which sentences must run consecutively. In addition, the bill makes incest committed against a child an aggravating factor subjecting the perpetrator to increased punishment for the crimes of statutory rape, forcible sodomy, statutory sodomy, child molestation, sexual misconduct, and sexual trafficking of a child.
Good news for state employees. The House Committee on Appropriations for General Administration reviewed the budget yesterday for state employee fringe benefits – and it projects no increases for state employee health care premiums or co-pays.
There’s also money in the budget for another cost-of-living increase / raise. It’s not enough necessarily to get us out of the basement, but it’s a another step in the right direction which I support.
Mike Lear of the Missourinet reports on yesterday’s hearing on the Quality Jobs Act: House Committee Looks for Way to Improve Quality Jobs Program. o does David Lieb with the Associated Press:Economist Casts Doubt on Mo. Business Incentives
My short-take: I have sympathy for Prof. Wall’s case that the Quality Jobs Act doesn’t actually add jobs to our state economy. In contrast to proponents who offer (1) anecdotal evidence, (2) make-believe Keynesian REMI models, and (3) charts counting every credit claimed as a “job created as a result of the tax” without regard to whether the tax credit actually caused the job to be created or not, Prof. Wall looked at actual county-by-county data – and found evidence of job growth lacking.
However, I’m no rube. The Quality Jobs Act has powerful bi-partisan defenders. Any effort to simply do away with it would go nowhere fast. And there is a middle ground for reforms to improve the program’s success rate. I’m interested in finding that middle ground. We need more Express Scripts and Monsantos in Missouri – and no more Mamteks. This could mean adding discretion to the program, reducing caps, incentivizing capital investments, providing quicker redemptions with strong clawbacks for those quick redemptions, and/or other options. I’m open to ideas.
Bill Gates opines on how to solve the world’s greatest problems in the WSJ.
Gates argues we need to harness the power of constant measurement and feedback. I agree – whether its education, economic development, or welfare – every area in which government spends money ought to be measured constantly – and not just, as Gates notes, how much is being spent, but, more importantly, whether taxpayers are getting the results intended.
Missouri taxpayers can see an example of this philosophy Monday morning when the House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability holds a hearing on whether the Quality Jobs Act has worked as advertised to create jobs in Missouri.
Gates also notes an experiment in education he has funded in Colorado,which is also worth mentioning:
Another place where measurement is starting to lead to vast improvements is in education.
In October, Melinda and I sat among two dozen 12th-graders at Eagle Valley High School near Vail, Colo. Mary Ann Stavney, a language-arts teacher, was leading a lesson on how to write narrative nonfiction pieces. She engaged her students, walking among them and eliciting great participation. We could see why Mary Ann is a master teacher, a distinction given to the school’s best teachers and an important component of a teacher-evaluation system in Eagle County.
Ms. Stavney’s work as a master teacher is informed by a three-year project our foundation funded to better understand how to build an evaluation and feedback system for educators. Drawing input from 3,000 classroom teachers, the project highlighted several measures that schools should use to assess teacher performance, including test data, student surveys and assessments by trained evaluators. Over the course of a school year, each of Eagle County’s 470 teachers is evaluated three times and is observed in class at least nine times by master teachers, their principal and peers called mentor teachers.
The Eagle County evaluations are used to give a teacher not only a score but also specific feedback on areas to improve and ways to build on their strengths. In addition to one-on-one coaching, mentors and masters lead weekly group meetings in which teachers collaborate to spread their skills. Teachers are eligible for annual salary increases and bonuses based on the classroom observations and student achievement.
The program faces challenges from tightening budgets, but Eagle County so far has been able to keep its evaluation and support system intact—likely one reason why student test scores have improved in Eagle County over the past five years.
I think the most critical change we can make in U.S. K–12 education, with America lagging countries in Asia and Northern Europe when it comes to turning out top students, is to create teacher-feedback systems that are properly funded, high quality and trusted by teachers.