Sunday, March 21, 2010

President Obama Needs to be Out in Front More Often

March 21, 2010 might well become an historic day, itself, since it marked the passage of the historic health care reform bill - HR 3590. Even the president's critics might agree that the enactment of the bill, which brings comprehensive health care to all Americans, was a big victory for President Barack Obama. The bill's supporters claim that the reforms the legislation will bring puts the bill on par with the historic bills that created Medicare and Medicaid.

HR 3590 could not have been passed without the intervention and direct action of Obama, himself. Two months ago, health care reform seemed all but dead, but it was resurrected as Obama directly campaigned for the bill. As he spoke in support of the bill in location after location across the country, the American people saw the style and oratory that got Obama elected as the nation's president. In canceling his planned trip to Indonesia and Australia days before he was set to depart, Obama, obviously, realized that he could not be on the sidelines and get the bill passed.

Obama the President might have to become Obama the campaigner more often if he is to get passed the other major legislation he promised the country. His administration is already being pressured to enact sweeping immigration reform legislation as well as legislation that will bring sweeping financial reforms. Just as the health care reform bill faced considerable opposition, these other two areas might also demand that Obama become visibly active on the campaign trail once again, if the reforms the nation voted for him to make are to become a reality. Having Obama, himself, in the forefront of proposed legislation allows him to give more than lip service to the reforms he promised. Being out in front not only allows him to actively walk his talk but, as we saw with the health care reform bill, it also gives the proposed legislation his administration wants to enact important and needed support.

See other articles about HR3590 on the homepage of the East Palo Alto Today website at

Thursday, March 4, 2010

California's Students Might End Up As Winners Anyway

The State of California lost its bid to become a finalist in the federal Race to the Top competition. Thus far the applications of 15 states and the District of Columbia were chosen to go on to the next round of the competition to receive a portion of the $4.35 billion the Obama administration set aside as education stimulus funding designed to assist students in low performing school districts.  In order to receive the money at the end of the competition, the winning states must show that they have enacted tough measures with respect to testing standards, data collection and teacher training programs that will improve the achievement levels of low performing students.

Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications this past January to enter the competition. It is expected of the 16 selected this week, less than six states will be chosen next month to go on to the final round of the competition. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that most of finalists will go home losers, since so few will end up with any grant money.

But, as of right now, we tend to agree with California Senator Gloria Romero, Chair of the Senate Education Committee who said, "...this is not just about the money -- it is about a vision for public education that is best for our children... we made Herculean strides to even be able to compete and I am proud that we did not abdicate on this responsibility."

Currently, California ranks 48th among the nation’s states when it comes to student test scores.  With this kind of ranking, it is obvious that the state’s public education system is overdue for some needed reforms. In the long term, the fact that California is no longer in the running might be immaterial. What is most important is the fact that the state’s legislators finally joined ranks and passed needed educational reforms as they strove to be a part of the Race to The Top competition. If any of these reforms lead to improvements in the state’s public education system, then California’s 6.3 million children may, indeed, end up as winners after the competition is long over.


California Assembly member Ira Ruskin and State Senator Joe Simitian talk about the reforms the California State Legislature passed and the state’s governor signed into law on January 7, 2010, on the current edition of Talking with Henrietta. You can see a video excerpt from their discussion here. In this excerpt, they talk about the impact of the state's finances on both the higher education system as well as the state's public education system.

To read California's application to the Race to the Top competition, go here.