Friday, August 31, 2007

Academy of Dover is 2015 today

Why wait until 2015? The state of Delaware has yet another educational vision. 2015 promises significant reform and results within 10 years. 8 years from now we should see great results. My daughter will be graduating by then. I want to see significant results now. That is why I am privileged to have my children in the Academy of Dover.

There are a few schools who already meet much of what is being proposed by the experts. The Academy of Dover is one. It offers more instructional time. It has more computers for the children than any district by far. It is accredited which is a rare feat for an elementary school. It is contracted with Innovative schools, which is supported by the same people who proposed 2015.

The Academy of Dover is one of the first schools to have much of its curriculum mapped to the state standards ahead of state mandates. It also is implementing individualized learning plan strategy. Each student will have their own learning program and be taught to compensate for any weaknesses which are discovered during the school year. It was an ambitious plan and it has come to pass. We didn't have to wait. At this school we are in the future.

Under the leadership of New board President; Mrs. Mary Scott who was an administrator for a local school district, the school is rising to level of professionalism and accountability. She is not the only jewel on the new school board. The vice president Dr. Watson is a college professor who teaches biology. The board has people with a diversity of skills including a treasurer who is an expert in state finances. The school also has an attorney who works with an educational institution on the board. In addition, the board has another sharp former public school administrator and to fulfill the state board's "suggestions" a person with a marketing/public relations background. We also have people knowledgeable about buildings and grounds and personnel procedures. The crucible of criticism was unfair, but out of it a stronger school has emerged.

Despite dire predictions of the school running out of money last year, it ended the year in a surplus and will be sound financially again this year. The final tally on student achievement is going to show the school advanced students significantly over their old school. The school is a well ordered and disciplined environment but not a stifling one. The leadership of Mr. Litzi as CAO has been praiseworthy. He showed a smart, steady leadership style befitting his 30 plus years experience in school administration and education. Now we are seeing innovation. The school is freed from the shackles of the previous management firm and is working with the same organization which aids the best charter schools in Delaware.

I would encourage everyone to rediscover the Academy Dover. You may find out that you don't have to wait for 2015 for your children to obtain that quality education.

David Anderson

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Delaware Government: Weighed in the Balances and Found Wanting

Next year term limits mercifully mandate we find new leadership. It is time for a review of our successes and failures so we can map our course for the future.

Unemployment is low. The state is not in any crisis. We have moderate crime and foreclosures and poverty are not worse than average. We have made some gains in education such as in reading. Property taxes are still some of the lowest in the region and we still have no state sales tax. Income taxes are stable. Tourism is stable. We have a healthy rainy day fund. Our bond rating is high. We are continuing some of the positive trends from the last 30 years.

High infant mortality rates are a plague on our state. We don’t even seem to have a handle on the causes. Let alone have a plan of action. We have an exploding prison population—eight highest incarceration rate in the nation. We have several challenges with the deterioration of our cities and towns. Downtown areas are dying. Wilmington is facing crime problems a crisis of confidence. In spite of relatively high education spending and the fact we are 10 years into our reform plan, we have modest results. The drop out rate is too high. We have too high of an illegitimacy rate. A growing population is starting to put pressure on rural infrastructure. Housing costs are such that on an average wage a person cannot afford to rent an average apartment and only 35% of homes for sale are affordable to those making median income. In other words, the local working people are being priced out of the housing market. The mergers of the banking industry have changed the dynamic. We can no longer count on new banking jobs in fact we hope not to lose too many more of the ones we have.

The transportation trust fund has been poorly managed under this administration. Money intended for transportation projects has been siphoned off resulting in a huge short fall. The band aid fix offered no reforms; just higher fees we hope won’t be mismanaged.
Livable Delaware hasn’t made us more livable. It imposes a failed land use strategy which pressures us to violate property rights and discourages the revival of our cities and the building of affordable housing. It is causing an explosion of exurbia.
Power infrastructure issues had been kicked down the line and only because of General Assembly leadership are we starting to address it. We still have no strategy for consumer choice and adequate, affordable local power.
We are actually going backward in some respects when it comes to education. We are trying to impose unnecessary regulations on charter schools such as prevailing wage and dozens of other mandates to make them like the schools we are trying to escape. Test scores are stagnant. DOE regulations are forcing schools to waste money which could be in the classroom. School districts are not allowed to build adequately for future growth and are forced to go back to referendum every few years to fund projects which should have been covered under the previous expansion. Alternative schools are under-funded.
We have not reformed sentencing guidelines adequately. Our prisons are understaffed. We have no plan to reform petty criminals before they become career criminals. We are imposing barriers against people reforming their own lives such as regulations barring many ex-cons from hairdressing.
The Economic Development strategy has resulted in one of the slowest growing private job sector in America. The EDO is consumed with its own management soap opera. The milking of the franchise fee is starting to cost us business.

Medicaid reimbursement cuts are almost bankrupting St. Francis and forcing many doctors to stop seeing poor patients. Providers actually lose money on some procedures. Medicines are being denied patients by the program. So much for thinking the state is the solution for the health insurance problem. State health care facilities in the prisons and psychiatric hospital are wanting. The response to inquiries is to stonewall.

Overall, I think this state can do better. The current leadership has no strategy to deal with the coming storm represented by the challenges listed. They have failed in some of the areas they already have the tools with which to work.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Apologetic No More: A defense of Modern Conservatism

There is a movement sweeping the world. It is one based individual dignity, freedom of the marketplace, innovation of ideas, piety, and family. It is about advancing the best of human race, yet it is the most understood movement in the world.

Part of the confusion is due to the fact that conservatism is such a popular label. Racists, sexists, tyrants, and others have tried to claim its banner as their own. To a degree, you have to ask what are you trying to conserve? Such confusion has emerged that someone needs to take up the banner of defining for the people today’s conservative movement. I hope this will inspire someone to do so.

In the past conservatives have been thought of as preferring institutions over the individual. Yet modern conservatism is as much about conserving the18th century liberal values of individualism. We are conservative in the use of government. This is not some reflex reaction. Limited government is a core value because we understand that the degree to which government intrudes into an area is the degree individual sovereignty is compromised. We believe government power not only comes from the consent of the governed, but is the collective expression of individual rights of self defense.

The government is charged with protecting people from the illegitimate use of force. You have a right to your life, liberty, and property. This is regardless of strength, wealth, or influence whether you are pre-born or aged or whether you are in a minority position in society or a majority. The first job of government is to prevent those who would take those rights from you whether a foreign or domestic source. No one even the government can take those rights from you without cause.

Modern conservatives would say the next job of government is providing an infrastructure for the advancement of its people. Patents encourage innovation. Copyrights protect intellectual property (though recent changes are abusing this). Roads and frequency spectrum facilitate commerce. Education facilitates a citizenry which can prosper and govern itself.

Modern conservatism rejects bigotry as inconsistent with individual rights. If all individuals are equal, why would we have government banning some from participating in the marketplace? Why should some not have equal justice in the courts? Modern conservatives know that once you accept the demise of some one’s rights, you sow the seeds of undermining every one’s rights.

Modern conservatives tend to distrust concentrations of power. The movement has expressed this with its anti-monopoly business policies; the rise of the evangelical movement in the Christian Church, which distrusts big religion; the call for deregulation and hands off by government; the effort for school choice, and the get back to family over the village movement.

Modern conservatism recognizes the value of societal institutions. The family, business, the church, the government, and charity/social organizations are vital. Each of these institutions has a role in advancing the human condition and must be protected. Modern conservatives believe today’s liberalism is about government growing beyond its bounds and gobbling up these other institutions. Government is a poor substitute for any of them. History has shown that a society is more than government though it can rarely operate on a large scale without one.

Modern conservatives value science as a great tool but distrust it as a governor of our values. We believe science should be subject to values. Human cloning, human hybrids, genetic manipulation, human experimentation, and other controversies in science are addressed from how effect human dignity.

This is why modern conservatism so defends attempts at government to redefine marriage and family. This is why it believes business should be about doing business and government should be about governing. When a modern conservative wants to advance charity in the private sector over government entitlements, it is about the most effective expression of compassion.

Modern conservatives want a government which is honest, efficient, fiscally responsible, and limited in scope. Why? Government like any other enterprise works best when it is on purpose. If government is trying to substitute for family, church, charity, and run businesses, it will not be governing. This will cause havoc and universal distress.

When looked at in this light, it is easy to see why this new century will become the conservative century. It is easy to say, “I am proud to be a modern conservative”.

This will have to be continued. I hope this philosophical discussion inspires a vibrant discussion of vision for the next century.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Is it off to Iraq for my unit?

Now that the senator has mentioned it to the press, I can confirm that my unit the 261st Signal Brigade of the Delaware Army National Guard is readying for deployment to Iraq.

What is noteworthy about its membership is that it includes AG Beau Biden who appears to have shunned transfering out. The unit will be locked this month coming (you can go in not out) so he appears to be willing to let what ever happens happen. For those who think I am a partisan (you may be right sometimes), mark this down. I have been impressed with the steadfastness of our Attorney General. He refuses to seek special treatment even though he is in a special circumstance (we have only one AG). I think no matter what happens he will be stronger as a statewide office holder. It takes courage to be willing to go when you are a true believer, but it takes honor and duty when you are not.

GOP pray that Beau doesn’t have to go so we don’t have to run against a war record (just kidding).

If he does get activated around the early primaries, I wonder how will that affect the flagging Biden campaign. Will it energize it in New Hampshire and South Carolina? Are the activists in the Democrat party so anti-war that nothing matters?

Oh, well next year I may be blogging from Iraq. I would like Perry and Jason to tell me then that I should believe them not my own eyes.

May God bless America.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Brookings Liberals tell us surge is working for now.

In Case You Missed It: Perceptions Of Iraq War Are Starting To Shift
From Real Clear Politics
By Michael Barone
Op-EdAugust 6, 2007
PDF Format
It's not often that an opinion article shakes up Washington and changes the way a major issue is viewed. But that happened last week, when The New York Times printed an opinion article by Brookings Institution analysts Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack on the progress of the surge strategy in Iraq. ...
Their bottom line: "There is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008."
That's not what almost all their fellow Democrats in Congress want to hear. Freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda of Kansas, who unseated Republican Jim Ryun last fall, bolted from a hearing room when retired Gen. Jack Keane described positive developments in Iraq. When she came back, she explained: "But let me first just say that the description of Iraq as in some way or another that it's a place that I might take the family for a vacation -- things are going so well -- those kinds of comments will in fact show up in the media and further divide this country, instead of saying, here's the reality of the problem. And people, we have to come together and deal with the reality of this issue." ...
[I]t is also reasonably clear that Boyda's "reality of this issue" -- that our effort in Iraq has definitively and finally failed so clearly that there should be no further discussion -- may no longer be operative. That, instead of accepting defeat and inviting chaos, we may be able to achieve a significant measure of success. ...
Gen. David Petraeus, the author of the Army's new counterinsurgency manual and the commander in Iraq, is scheduled to report on the surge in mid-September. The prospect of an even partially positive report has sent chills up the spines of Democratic leaders in Congress. That, says House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, would be "a real big problem for us."
The Democratic base has been furious that Democrats in Congress haven't pulled the plug on the war already, and Democratic strategists have been anticipating big electoral gains from military defeat. But if the course of the war can change, so can public opinion. A couple of recent polls showed increased support for the decision to go to war and belief that the surge is working. If opinion continues to shift that way, if others come to see things as O'Hanlon and Pollack have, Democrats could find themselves trapped between a base that wants retreat and defeat, and a majority that wants victory.
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