Thursday, August 30, 2012

Third Party Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson on Education

While candidates President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are the main candidates in the presidential race, there are some lesser known third party candidates also vying for the presidency. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is running as a Libertarian with running mate Judge Jim Gray of California. When asked via email what his views on education are, here's what the Libertarian candidate had to say:

[My] plan to abolish the Education Department would free states from any restrictions on allowing entrepreneurs to offer any type of school that satisfies parental demand, including ones with unique scientific teachings.
American education is at a crossroads.

We can either choose to continue down the path of higher costs, poorer results, and top down thinking, or challenge the status quo by using what actually works rather than what we wish would work. 

The problem is public education in America is now doing less with more. This is unsustainable for our pocketbooks and, most importantly, unfair to our children. 

Now, imagine an educational system that not only educates students better, but also does it for less money every year. It would give each American child the opportunity to choose an individualized education to realize his or her dreams.

•All parents should have an opportunity to choose which school their children attend. 
• Putting educational funds in the hands of the people who use them gives parents and students a vote as to which schools are best and which need to improve. 
• Our children deserve the chance to succeed educationally, but the same old way of thinking won't cut it. It's time to free individuals and states from burdensome federal mandates and regulations so they can pursue the right educational strategies for their students. 

ALTHOUGH IT MAY SOUND DRASTIC, THERE ARE practical reasons why it should be considered:

• The Department of Education grants each state 11 cents out of every dollar it spends on education. Unfortunately, every dollar of this money comes with 16 cents of strings attached. States that accept federal funding lose five cents for every dollar spent on education to pay for federal mandates and regulations, taking millions of dollars out of the classroom. 

• Schools should have the authority to decide how best to spend educational dollars. Without federal regulations and mandates, schools could choose to purchase new computers, better lab equipment, and maintain after-school sports and music programs even during times of tight budgets.  
• Once citizens and their local representatives have the freedom to decide how their educational funds will be spent, they can consider innovations that will drive student choice, educational competition, and better results.

*For more information on Gary Johnson, see:

Lynn Educational Attainment Data

In the August 27th edition of The Daily Item, there was an article which discussed School Committee member Maria Carrasco's belief that Lynn needs to offer more GED classes. While there was a question of whether offering such classes would be counter-intuitive for a public school system who would like to graduate all students with a diploma, still Lynn may need to consider a way to balance this mission along with the substantial need in the city. Below are figures regarding educational attainment for residents age 25 and older in the city of Lynn as reported by the American Community Survey for 2006 - 2010.

Educational Attainment
Less than 9th grade12.1%
9th - 12th grade, no diploma10.0%
High school graduate (includes GED)35.7%
Some college16.0%
Associate's Degree8.2%
Bachelor's Degree11.2%
Graduate or Professional Degree6.8%

From this we see that 22.1% of people over age 25 do not have a high school diploma while 26.2% of people have an associate's degree or higher. Lynn residents with either a high school degree, GED or some college credits make up 51.7% of the population. With over half of the population only having attained a high school diploma or less, this data indicates that Lynn overall consists of a largely undereducated population particularly when one notes that 88.7% of Massachusetts residents have a high school diploma or greater. Raising educational attainment levels in Lynn both through targeted dropout interventions and increased middle and secondary school guidance within the schools coupled with offering GED classes to people over age 20 or 25 is one potential avenue toward an improved economic situation in the city.

Given that nearly a quarter of Lynn's population age 25 and older do not have a high school diploma, should Lynn offer more GED classes?  Could the public schools' mission be balanced with this idea by only offering classes to people in this age range?


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stolen Content

Someone has been reposting my blog posts exactly as they appear here under his or her own user name (dwi subteki) on a blog called 'Vive Education' ( as if he or she had written them personally. The reposts were not authorized by me nor is the blog associated with 'An Education.'



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Defining Activism

ac-tiv-ism - (n.) the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc
          (n.) The use of direct, often confrontational action, such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or support of a cause.

ac-tiv-ist  - (n.) an especially active,  vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause; 
                (adj.) of or pertaining to activism  or activists; advocating or opposing a cause or issue vigorously, especially a political cause

How many real world people or groups of people, particularly in Lynn with all of its issues, would you consider to be true 'activists' as it is officially defined (as opposed to simply a complainer or concerned citizen)?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This Day in History: August 21

-Nat Turner leads black slaves and free blacks in a rebellion, 1852

-Wilt Chamberlain, American basketball player, is born, 1936

-President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs an executive order making Hawaii the 50th state in the union, 1959

-The Ruby Ridge standoff occurs in Idaho, 1992

-Holiday: Youth Day/King Mohammad VI's birthday (Morocco)

Monday, August 20, 2012

From the Comment Section: The Daily Item

The Daily Item seems to have a never ending supply of interesting comments to highlight here. On the August 16th article 'Lynn's plan for a new middle school advances,' a discussion in the comment section ensued about the lack of attention directed at Pickering Middle School which, like Marshall, is also falling apart structurally. One commenter remarked rebuilding Marshall was not fair while his/her children, "who live in the ward that pays the majority of the city's taxes [Ward One] will have to sit in the windowless basement rooms of the moldy Pickering Middle School." This sparked debate about some who continue to note the amount of taxes that the residents of Ward One pay compared to the rest of the city with the particular belief that this entitles them to more services or benefits. Some noted that other areas of the city are more densely populated than Ward One and may in fact contribute more in property tax; others were not buying this as some of these areas largely consist of renters as opposed to homeowners. User 'reggiecleveland' remarked:

The landlords pass their tax expense to the tenants, who are on sec 8, which gets paid by the working class, which is all of Ward 1. So they get to pay for the schools twice.

Just an FYI 'reggiecleveland' - not all renters in the city of Lynn are on Section 8 or other forms of assistance. Furthermore, there are multi-family units in Ward One which may very well be occupied by some Section 8 recipients.

This commentary is not all that surprising given some of the negative sentiment some Lynners have expressed toward renters who, apparently in their opinion, do not contribute as much to their communities as homeowners. See:

 Is this a common opinion among home owning Lynners? Do renters contribute less to the city?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem

In today's edition of the Daily Item, there was an editorial written in support of Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy's decision to spend nearly $20,000 on a TV promo for the city. While some news reports have questioned the Mayor's decision (see here and here), the writer of this editorial believes that there are plenty of good things to showcase about Lynn and that the funding allocated for the ad will be money well spent.

Though the decision to spend that amount of money on an ad is debatable, there is one statement in the editorial I agree with:

It’s 2012 — high time for critics within city limits to become part of the solution, to tell or show someone who is not aware about Lynn what’s great about it. It’s time for all to work to shed the unflattering ditty that has been attached to the city for too long.

It seems that some of Lynn's biggest detractors live within the city's boundaries and too often resort to complaining (most notably under anonymous names on online forums) without ever taking any sort of positive action. At last week's school department budget hearing, there were just 6 speakers (a record high compared to previous years) and approximately 20 people in the room. Other types of public hearings as well as school committee and city council meetings in the city tend to see the same kind of turnout. Voter participation in the 2011 local election was just 23% overall and as low as 12% in a few ward precincts. In the face of all of the negative criticism about the schools or the crime or the untidy streets from a sizeable proportion of Lynn residents, where are all the people speaking out about issues that concern them in the appropriate venues? It is important imperative that more residents become involved in whatever manner they choose - whether it be through a community organization, with the school system, voter participation, city cleanliness, mentoring or some other Lynn-related cause in order to affect the kind of tangible change Lynners are seeking. While it is the city officials' jobs to manage the city, it is all of our responsibility to make Lynn the city that it could and should be.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

10th Essex District State Rep Election Q & A: Gardy Jean-Francois

Despite a campaign setback that resulted in his name being taken off the ballot, Gardy Jean-Francois has decided to continue his bid as the Democratic candidate for the 10th Essex District State Rep against incumbent Robert Fennell via a sticker or write-in campaign. See below for his answers to a few questions posed about his candidacy.

Why are you running for 10th Essex District State Rep? In the face of your recent election setback, why are you continuing on with a sticker campaign?

I am running to be the state Representative for the 10th Essex District for the following reasons: first and foremost, I love the community and I firmly believe that we have so much potential in the City of Lynn but we are lacking of leadership. I want to bring your pain, frustration, and your anger to the State House and address them appropriately. I want to be a strong voice for the 10th Essex District and bring common-sense solutions to local issues. I want to bring government back to the people and most importantly a fresh start to our district.

What are the top 3 issues that you would address if elected?

I am also running for office because  I want to respond to the constituents needs not special interests by establishing a local office within the district and I am committed to bring resources to address issues such as: EDUCATION, PUBLIC SAFETY, and ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. I am on a mission to accomplish that vision.

What qualities or qualifications differentiates you from your Democratic opponent?

I have the ability to communicate in 4 different languages. I know the majority of the residents of the district. I know their names and and their faces and most importantly they know my name and my face. I am highly engaged in the community, I am accessible and fully aware of the problems we are facing as a community.

I am ready to fight for resources to address the overcrowded class sizes in our school.

To provide more funding for early childhood education.

To expand kindergarten hours.

To provide more funding to build new schools and renovate existing buildings

To improve our education system.

To provide incentives to businesses in order to create business expansion, creation and extension.

To reduce the commercial tax in our city which is the highest in the
North shore.

To fight crimes, gangs and and drugs in the city.

Massachusetts' unemployment rate is 6.3%. Lynn's unemployment rate is 17%.  As your State Representative I will aggressively work with my colleagues on both sides of the House for incentives to create jobs in our district. The 10th Essex District deserves effective government and a Representative who really cares about the district. It is time for a change. The incumbent had 18 years to make the district a better place to live, work and raise your children but never did. The residents of the district will do a lot better under a new leadership.

Anything else you would like to add?

On Thursday September 6, 2012, I am respectfully asking the voters of the 10th Essex District to voice your choices by either writing my name or using the stickers to vote for a better future for the 10th Essex District.

Please visit our website for more information and please do not hesitate to contact us via email at ELECTGARDY@GMAIL.COM to request your stickers or you can also call us at 781- 354 - 2402 for comments or suggestions.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

From the Comment Section: The Daily Item

In the August 7th edition, of The Daily Item there was an article entitled "Mayor: Cable TV spot touting Lynn to air nationally." In it, the article describes how the Discovery Channel and Cable News Network will broadcast promotions featuring Lynn this fall and will describe how Lynn "has evolved into a great place to live, work and play.” The TV advertisement were paid for with $19,800 in taxpayer funds. As of early August 8th, there were already 43, mostly negative, comments on the story with many noting the amount of money spent on this advertisement when there are perhaps more important things on which the city could potentially be spending its funds. Below is just one example from user Thomas61:

So she is just going to go on national TV and lie about what Lynn has to offer? I wonder is she going to be truthful about the smelly beach, the woods where dog owners let their dogs lose to crap all over and jeopardize people's safety because the owner has deemed their dog friendly, the opposition to any development, the stabbings and shootings that plague downtown even during the day or the many other wonderful things Lynn has to offer? So just more people getting deceived to waste their time and their hard earned vacation? I just believe she is more interested in getting her face on national TV. We need a Mayor not a celebrity perhaps she should change her profession. Funny we can't rid the city of rats because it costs too much yet we have enough for this bull .

Is nearly $20,000 too much to spend on promotional TV spots for the city? Given that they are advertisements, will the promos give a true sense of the current state of Lynn or will viewers be deceived even in the slightest bit?

Friday, August 3, 2012

FY13 Budget Public Hearing Recap

On August 2, 2012, the Lynn School Committee held a public hearing regarding the FY13 budget. During the hearing six people spoke against the budget while none spoke in favor. The hearing lasted approximately 30 minutes. Here is a recap of the concerns raised by those who spoke against the budget as drafted.

Stanley Wotring (Maple Street) questioned the practice of posting a budget online and later making changes to the budget this time in the form of the superintendent and principal raises without ever reflecting these changes in the online format. He also asked about where the additional sources of funding for these raises were specifically coming from particularly when there seemed to be have been a finite amount of money allocated to the school department from the city budget. Wotring ended by calling the budget "bogus" as the budget voted on during a previous school committee meeting was not the budget that was going to go into effect once the votes were taken after the public hearing and hoped that members of the school committee could sleep well after the budget hearing.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy noted that the school committee did not actually pass the budget during a previous SC meeting, but voted to post a working document that demonstrated examples of the expenditures for each line item. The mayor stated that any changes to the draft budget would be voted upon in an open session.

Jesse Jaeger (Williams Place) provided the school committee with charts and graphs showing the per-pupil spending at the elementary school level and noted some trends in this area based on the teacher/student ratio, the percentage of minority students and the percentage of low income (free lunch) students. The information provided by Jaeger seemed to indicate that some of the Lynn elementary schools with the highest percentages of low income and minority students had the lowest per-pupil expenditures. Additionally, Jaeger raised a point about energy costs - specifically that the schools seemed to be spending double the amount in energy costs since 2010. Finally, he suggested itemizing all Title I money allocations and putting this information online for the public.

Victor Lopez (Western Avenue) is the parents of two children in the 2nd and 3rd grades at Cobbet Elementary. Lopez was concerned about the infrastructure of his children's school. He gave the particular example of his brother going to visit the school and seeing children playing around a pipe with exposed fiber glass insulation as tall as the children. He asked that funding to be put toward necessary things like school repairs.

Charlie Lopez (Western Avenue) also has children at Cobbet Elementary and was concerned as well about the health implications of children playing around exposed fiber glass given his own background in plumbing. He stated that he has seen new schools in cities like Revere and Everett and believes Lynn schools to be in terrible physical shape comparatively.  Lopez wants to transfer his children but feels confined due his interpretation of the student assignment policy, mainly that one's children must attend the school to which they are assigned. Mayor Flanagan Kennedy told Mr. Lopez that there is an appeals process to the student assignment policy and suggested he speak with Dave Hegan from the school department.

Natasha Megie-Maddrey (Beacon Hill Avenue) also has three children at Cobbet and was president of the PTO. She was concerned about the fact that Cobbet has had no library for three years. She also suggested putting funding toward before and after school care for parents whose work schedules may call for this type of service. Megie-Maddrey went on to question why schools that are Level 4, or failing as determined by the state, receive more money than other schools and whether this was the type of message that we should be sending to our children, i.e. that despite doing poorly, you will be rewarded financially. She also asked about play equipment for children in the schools and having more parent say/involvement in the allocation of Title I monies, but also that the SC be open to parent voices.

Tarik Maddrey (Beacon Hill Avenue) raised a point about insulation in the context of being told by his daughter, who attends Cobbet, that she and her classmates had to wear coats in the classroom during the winter months. He went on to question priorities in spending as the school department, he believed, spent $16,000 on renovations to the Principal's office at Cobbet but the heating issue, along with the other issues raised by his wife, had not yet been fully addressed.

This marked the end of the public hearing. After some discussion, the school committee passed the FY13 budget by a vote of 6-1 with Donna Coppola being the lone vote against.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lynn Public Schools Awarded $200,000 in Hardscrabble Grant Funding

The Lynn Public Schools were awarded $200,000 in Hardscrabble Grants from the Essex County Community Foundation. The Hardscrabble Education Grant Fund supports projects which benefit Essex County students in the public school districts of Beverly, Lynn, Marblehead, Nahant, Salem, and Swampscott; only public elementary, middle, or high schools operating within the constraints of local district rules are eligible for consideration and proposals must be submitted by a teacher, principal, or other professional staff at the school. 

To see the full breakdown of which schools received what, see:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

This Day in History: August 1

-The Acts of Union 1800 is passed in which merges the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 1800

-Slavery is abolished in the British Empire as the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 comes into full effect, 1834

-Colorado is admitted as the 38th U.S. state, 1876

-Germany declares war on Russia leading to the start of World War I, 1914

-Islamabad is declared the federal capital of the government of Pakistan, 1960

- Vigdís Finnbogadóttir is elected President of Iceland and becomes the world's first democratically elected female head of state, 1980

-MTV begins broadcasting in the United States and airs its first video, "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles, 1981