Wednesday, July 29

Back Home Again

ITEM the First: A Brief History of Indiana Economics and Government.
19th Century: State manages to bankrupt itself by building a road to Michigan, in part because accurate surveying and accounting, like irrational numbers, are considered Satanic. Early 20th Century: state run by racist crooks. Mid-20th Century: state run by less overtly racist crooks. 1970-close of Century: state run by wildly popular kindly old Country Doctor, who proceeds to surgically remove Hoosier's right to sue for medical malpractice damages (thus becoming the model for Mitch "The Spork" Daniels, Tax Cutter Shifter), and oversees an operation in which practically every state agency is ensnarled in some degree of financial irregularity, while being regarded as Too Principled to have profited personally, and Too Kindly and Elderly to have been expected to know what was going on, thus setting the stage for the Reagan Years; followed by his river town Chamber of Commerce-booster Lt. Governor, who was mostly occupied in keeping his "colorful" wife from driving on the sidewalk during daylight hours; followed by Evan Bayh. This trio of increasingly dismal fiscal "conservatives", coupled with Indiana's longest-serving Senate Sinecure Dick Lugar, and Dan Quayle as the Wacky Neighbor, oversaw the massive hemorrhaging of Indiana's manufacturing base, followed by its eventually replacement by a more modern Theme Restaurant/ Call Center/ Mobile Communication Device Retail Outlet/Regional Corn Beer Distribution-based economy and the loss of every single military facility in the state. This was accomplished in large part, by referring to everything still standing as "World Class". Or so it seemed.

Now, for the sake of time and praeteritio we're going to skip ahead here without mentioning how the bookkeeping tricks which kept Indiana's property taxes low in her agrarian past were declared Unconstitutional in the late 90s, and how the deadline for reforming the system passed, in 2005, under the watchful eye of Entrepreneur-in-Chief and Lifetime Government Teat-Sucking Achievement Third Runner-Up Mitch "I Believe I Clearly Stated At The Time That Indiana Needed An Inspector General To Investigate Past Administrations" Daniels, and a Republican-controlled state legislature, without them doing anything that might, you know, address it, and how they then became Instant Folk Heroes after the wholly-predictable disaster struck by Capping the Tax and Ignoring the Consequences. But it's a funny thing about Consequences: they tend to turn up whether you ignore them or not. It turned out that, despite enthusiastic Media reception of the sixteen months of Daniels re-election campaign ad spot purchases, which touted Indiana's Relative Economic Miracle compared to Michigan, Kentucky, and parts of Illinois, we had a bit of an economic problem, as in massive unemployment ("Still Lower Than Detroit, Overall!"), which affected the state Budget, despite Daniels diving for cover the minute the elections were over. (Fucker was missing for almost five months; compare Mark Sanford.) Those of you living in states where the ability to read is prized even above the ability to blow interlocking smoke rings may find it difficult to understand, but the major problem this gave the Legislature was not tending the immediate needs of a hard-pressed citizenry, but preserving the artificial Budget surplus Daniels wants to run for President on in 2012. To this end The Spork waited until the last days of the legislative session before torpedoing a looming budget which would have modestly increased spending on our Adequate Schools, At Least Through Eighth Grade, and raided a third of the "rainy day fund" on the grounds that it was, well, fucking raining. The he called a Special Session, which had to pass a budget by the end of June or state government would shut down, resulting in wildlife overrunning our parks, Mothers' milk curdling, and raw sewage being dumped into local streams and rivers. Okay, that last part happens anyway.

Daniels backed up his plan by holding Whites Only rallies in Democratic legislative districts. (N.B., the Whites Only business was not by design. That's just the way it turned out. Don't mean to give the wrong impression.) I have to hand it to the man; if he imagined this would work he deserves the credit. Fact is that the Democrats, another term I'm finding it difficult to utter without making air quotes, who were fighting for that meagre increase in Education, decided to cave on the principle that in a crisis it's always a good idea to fall back on What You Do Best. So the only increase in Education spending over the next two years will come from Federal stimulus money, y'know, the stuff that isn't stimulating anything. The stuff that Daniels tried to claim as his own contribution before someone explained to him what the word Contempt means in a legal sense. He already knew about the personal meaning.

So, now the boards of the various state colleges and universities meet to plan their own budgets, and--Keep ahold a' them reins, Pardner--uniformly raise tuitions across the board. This angers the Governor, and the Senate (i.e. Republican) half of the Legislature, whose Budget committee is apparently now permanently in session, as it hauled in the Presidents of all those Fancy Learnin' Academies yesterday and demanded Answers! Preliminary word has it that the main answer, Because you fucks fucking fucked our fucking budget and the money's gotta come from somewhere was not explained to them in exactly that way.

Let's be California, only Crooked instead of Insane! Yes, indeed, we're all too aware that sometime in the 1980s an entire end of the US political spectrum convinced itself that a temporal political advantage it enjoyed was permanent, and that it could be successfully based on separating the consequences of every action from the action itself, provided there was enough of an interval to figure out how to blame the Democrat party. How this was supposed to result in Permanent Majority status is not readily explicable without invoking the shade of Charles Ponzi. At any rate, Consequences seem to have accelerated on their own, and the result is that Daniels' "achievements"--selling the Toll Road to a bankrupt company, "privatizing" Family and Social Services to a company which would probably be improved by bankruptcy, and preserving the Surplus just at the moment everything touched by government starts crumbling--have begun to make Gibbering Like a Head Case About The Sacred Right of Hunting Wolves With Bazookas, Which Our Troops Have Died For look like the smarter route to the 2012 Republican Nomination.

ITEM the Second, (Related): The Capital Improvements Board, which operates a sort of Family and Social Services Agency for Owners of Indianapolis Professional Sports Organizations, and which has proved equally competent, got dumped back in the lap of Republican Mayor Gomer Something, and it looks now as if the only fix is...a Tax Increase! which just happens to be the sort of act that got his sorry ass elected two years ago when everybody voted against his opponent. We can't be sure, because he's junketing in Brazil, where he excitedly told local "news" yesterday, by space phone, that he'd be touring a Landfill later that afternoon. But, for some reason, the remaining, now minority, Democrats on the City County Council seem sorta disinclined to vote for any new taxes to help the guy who roasted them the last time they did (one of those Tax and Spend Socialist Giveaways to the troubled Police and Fire Pension Funds, by the way). Couple that with the relative assurance that there'll be some Republicans on the Council who wouldn't vote for a tax unless it raised their own salaries, and it's time for someone to start bailing.

I mean, is there going to be a point where we get to ask Th' fuck can't voters learn that however much these people talk about principle, they have None and Never Ever Will? By the way, one of the money-saving moves by the CIB in light of the $45 million shortfall was to cut out landscaping their World Headquarters; yesterday, to emphasize the sacrifice, the local hairdos showed us tape of a wilted planter. Fiscal responsibility!

ITEM the Third: More Edumacation. At the urging of Indiana's Bonzai Governor, who chafed visibly when he had to deal with the (Republican) appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction, newly elected State Superintendent Tony "No, I Really Do Support Teaching Standards in Biology. Good Lord, We Aren't Kansas" Bennett has announced--in accordance with Daniels Administration protocols, the night before--proposed sweeping changes in teacher and administrator standards which will be heard by the Indiana Professional Standards Board today. Yet another delightfully Forward Looking Daniels Administration proposal, meaning that anyone who asks for time to read the thing first will be branded as a hayseed, it will address the glaring shortage of qualified teachers caused by archaic rules which now force all those qualified people who are dying to teach school to acquire diplomas first. It would allow insterested non-teachers to become employed non-teachers by passing through a curriculum offered by something called the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, a Bush administration-seeded non-profit. I've not had time to learn anything about the ABCTE beyond the fact that the name sounds like one of those self-hypnosis-based Bush-era military operation code names, so I apologize for a medical condition which causes me, anytime I hear the words "Bush" and "Non-profit Educational initiative" in the same paragraph to involuntarily search for my wallet. (Not to mention the fact that, of late, "Bush administration" conjures up the exact same image in my head that "uncontainable forty-year-old underground tire fire" does.) The program is already approved for teacher certification in Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and Oklahoma, which I believe means we in Indiana ought to wait for Alabama and Kansas to get on board if we want to go in reverse order of school performance. But then I'm a backward-thinking hayseed.

Other parts of the proposal would reduce the number of hours a student spends in education classes in favor of "core curriculum" courses, and permit Joe Citizen to become a principal, or superintendent, by proving he has the Right Stuff. Let's let Bennett explain:
For instance, a fourth-grade teacher has to teach fractions, percentages and related concepts, Bennett said. Having an outside concentration in math would help ensure that teachers have mastered that subject.

Now, again, I only sleep with a teacher, and although I recommend it, I don't believe it should replace other standards, but What th' fuck? Apart from music, my fourth-grade teacher taught us every last subject: literature, history, science, social studies, health, and kickball come immediately to mind. I'm not quite sure how six hours of college calculus would have improved that, or, conversely, what six hours of college fractions would entail. Not to mention the fact that we've already changed the law so that incoming teachers must now pass competency tests in their areas of specialization, plus Indiana has always been one of the states which require field certification for secondary teaching positions. So, we're relaxing the standards in an effort to improve the quality of teachers? If Bennett's any indication, maybe we should start by requiring a Logic course.
Principals and superintendents now must take courses in school leadership and Indiana school law.

Relaxing those requirements, Bennett said, would allow a district facing serious financial problems to hire a retired corporate CEO for a year to get the books in order.

Okay. Listen, Tony: you and your party might wanna consider serious measures to make the entire population even stupider. Just my 2¢.


Unknown said...

As if a corporate CEO getting "the books in order" would help students or taxpayers. Getting the books in order seems to only help Goldman Sachs and the executives.

Unknown said...

Lovely. I envy you your entertaining state. Since Ventura left, we have been boringly screwed up.


Joyful Alternative said...

I've passed this on to a friend who thinks teacher certification is a mess in her state. Indiana show make her feel better.

Anonymous said...

Since you said you didn't have time to learn about ABCTE, here you go: