It used to be that the Port Commission of Houston was an example of government working, now it's an example of arrogant, out of touch government involved in questionable activities and wasteful spending. Thanks to Steve Radack, Precinct 5 Commissioner, and Port Board members Elyse Lanier and Janiece Longoria, the public is learning the truth and it's clear that heads need to roll starting with the Port Commission's Chairman, where the buck stops. It's time for reform in this out of control agency who has been taxing and spending and running up bond debt for years without answering to anyone.
The Taj Mahal example of the Port's failure, the new $110 million+ cruise terminal has never even been used! By the way, if Harris County government had that $110 million, the county hiring freeze could be partially lifted and the budget pressure significantly reduced. All without raising taxes.
Lessons Of Joel Klein On Public Education, Former Chancellor Of New York City Schools
After eight years as leader of the troubled New York City school system, Joel Klein in a recent outline in The Atlantic, detailed the obstacles to public school reform.
Here are the highlights according to TCR:
Education Spending: We Spend So Much,
- The forces for reform are scattered and weak while those defending the status quo-unions, politicians, bureaucrats and vendors are well organized and well financed.
- Unions in New York objected to considering a teachers impact on student learning while making a tenure decision.
- Democratic politicians generally do what the teachers union wants, which are happy members and more members.
- We have a teacher centric system that does not create a system that attracts and rewards excellent teachers, but instead treats them as identical where performance doesn't matter.
- We have a system that pays the same for math and phys-ed teachers and that makes little sense.
- Instead of raises for teachers make the most, we need to raise starting salary to help attract and retain better new teachers.
- Almost every pension plan in America that covers teachers has huge unfunded liabilities.
- We won't get to where we need to go unless we rebuild our K-12th system on platform of accountability and attract more top-flight recruits into teaching.
Yet Get So Little Improvement
Friend Phyllis Schlafly recently looked into what all our education spending increases have gotten us. Federally, the answer is not much.
"Education Secretary Arne Duncan threw a cannonball into the education debate in March by admitting that 82% of public schools could be labeled "failing" under NO Child Left Behind specifications. His solution is to stop calling them "failing," extend the target date for student proficiency to 2020 and, of course, to appropriate more money to failed programs.
"We the federal taxpayers have spent roughly $2 trillion on these efforts since 1965. It's reasonable to ask, did we get our money's worth?
"If we look at the class that graduated from the public schools in 2009, we find that we spend over $151,000 per student to bring him from the first to the twelfth grade. That's nearly three times as much (adjusted for inflation) as we spent on the graduating class of 1970.
"Despite that massive spending, overall achievement has stagnated or declined. The gaps between minority and white students are unchanged in science and only slightly narrowed in reading and math.
"We have precious little to show for the $2 trillion in federal education spending over the past half century, and Andrew J. Coulson of CATO has the charts to prove it. It now costs three times as much to provide essentially the same education as we provided in 1970.
"The fact that there is no education improvement even while spending has skyrocketed is a disaster unparallel in any other field. In addition to the waste, this gigantic spending slowed our economic growth by taxing trillions of dollars out of the productive sector of the economy and squandering it on worthless programs.
"Knowing that learning to read is fundamental to education, the public school lobby is yelping about proposed cuts in grants for literacy programs. Yes, literacy should be job number one, but after all these years why do we have to go to the unnecessary expense of passing out money to find a good reading program?
"Instead of wasting more federal money on grant-writers and grant-readers, we should tell local districts to award a bonus to first-grade teachers based on how many kids they actually teach to read."
TCR Comment: Before we keep spending more money on education, maybe we should ensure we get value for our purchases.
Obama's Oil Grab, Are You Kidding Me?
President Obama's decision last week to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is crazy. This decision had to do with Obama's decline in the polls.
Obama has done next to nothing to increase the total supply of oil. The reason oil prices are so high is in part because oil is a commodity and the market looks forward, not backwards.
By the beginning of June, only 15 deep-water permits had been approved. As a result of the gulf drilling ban and lag time in processing permits, gulf oil production is expected to fall significantly, by as much as 20% in 2012 and beyond!
But again, we don't have to guess about this. Obama's green agenda relies on making traditional energy more expensive. The first thing Obama's Interior Secretary did when he took office was to cancel scores of drilling leases. His Energy Secretary once advocated $8.00-a-gallon gasoline. A Harvard study estimated that Obama's cap and trade scheme could result in $7.00-a-gallon gasoline. And Obama himself promised to bankrupt the coal industry.
Here's something else to consider. Do you recall how dismissive the Democrats are whenever we talk about drilling in Alaska? They say the additional million barrels a day won't make any difference. The Wall Street Journal recently notes the irony of the Administration releasing 1.5 million barrels a day for the next 30 days, for the purpose of lowering the price of oil and gas.
FYI, Obama, when sworn in, the national average for a gallon of gasoline was $1.84, today its north of $3.25. The truth is, the reserve is for an international crisis in oil supply, not Obama's political crisis.
The Top 5 Accomplishments and Disappointments in the Texas Legislature for conservatives.
Special Opportunity For TCR Readers
For fans of Red White and Blue, you have a special opportunity to dine (and for those inclined, drink) and engage in stimulating conversation at Dialogues 2011 with co-hosts Gary Polland and David Jones at the JCC of Houston, 5601 South Braeswood on Thursday July 14 at 6:30 p.m. To sign up and obtain tickets for this special limited opportunity go to jcchouston.org or call them at 713-729-3200.
TCR on the Air
Red, White & Blue featuring TCR Editor Gary Polland and liberal commentator David Jones, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and replaying Sundays at 5:00 p.m. on PBS Houston Channel 8 and on the web at www.houstonpbs.org.
7/01/11: Human Trafficking with Linda S. Geffin, Harris County Attorney's Office; Roger Bridgwater, Harris County District Attorney's Office; David Michael Ryan, Attorney at Law with David Michael Ryan & Associates.
7/08/11: Education Review with HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry B. Grier.
7/15/11: Trial Lawyers v. Texans for Tort Reform with 151st Civil Court Judge Mike Engelhart; Invited: J. Steve Mostyn of Mostyn Law Firm and Joseph O. Slovacek, Chairman and General Counsel of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
For a fun feature go to www.houstonpbs.org and under Red White and Blue, you can see commentary about the show and its guests by Gary and David each week. The current show as well as past shows are also available on YouTube.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his thirteenth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last nine years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant. He can be reached at (713) 621-6335.