The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

The about-face on standardized testing

The House budget debate this week didn't bring many surprises. There were the standard speeches by Democrats about the budget being the best lawmakers could under the circumstances and the standard response by Republicans that the proposal was irresponsible and spends too much.

There was some extended debate on a few amendments, the most interesting of which was Republican Bryan Holloway's proposal to eliminate several standardized tests currently given in public schools. Holloway and many other Republicans railed against standardized testing, the very mechanism of student accountability they fought for not too many years ago.

At one point during the debate in the House Appropriations Committee, Holloway asked why we can't rely on teachers to assess students instead of a standardized test. That's a question educators have been asking since the standardized testing craze began spiraling out of control in the late 1990s.

Most Democrats understandably opposed Holloway's amendment, expressing sympathy for his sentiment, but pointing out that the budget debate is not the place to create new education policy and that testing reforms are underway thanks to the work of a blue ribbon study commission.

The amendment passed anyway, reflecting the widespread frustration with the testing obsession that exploded under No Child left Behind.

Maybe there's hope. Now if we can only get the Republicans to change their minds on charter schools and give up their crusade to privatize public education, we would really be getting somewhere.

Waiting on Washington

One of the most common criticisms made by Republicans in the debate was that the budget was out of balance since it relies on $500 million in federal Medicaid money that has not yet come to North Carolina.

Congressional approval of the additional Medicaid funding for states was expected by Memorial Day, but is now bogged down in partisan wrangling in Washington. Singling North Carolina out for including the money in its money is disingenuous.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that least 30 states have also included the federal Medicaid funding in their budgets. Criticism ought to be directed at the folks in Congress standing in the way of the funding that would save jobs and vital services in North Carolina.

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is one of them, saying dismissively that he didn't think there would be any more money for the states. And he doesn't seem all that worried about it. Thanks for all you do Senator.

Corruption? What corruption?

The folks at the Locke Foundation continue their semantic gymnastics in their desperate attempts to maintain the current campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to buy access and prevents people without access to wealth from seeking public office.

The latest distortions and contortions defy logic more than usual, even for the Locke Foundation. Locker Darren Bakst says that one common argument used by proponents of public financing is that there is an appearance of corruption in the current system.

Gee, why would people question a system where a handful of wealthy special interests provide campaign money for a politician who votes on issues that affect the profits of the special interest?

Well Bakst doesn't, claiming that "there's no evidence of corruption or that this ‘appearance' exists for most people beyond the anti-free speech advocates who see what they want to see."

Nah, there's no evidence of corruption in the current political system.

And nobody's against free speech. People can say anything they want. The problem is too many people's voices are silenced in the political process because they don't have enough money.

From the Fringe

Speaking of the Lockers, Donna Martinez makes another appearance in the From the Fringe this week. She's upset that it looks like no members of the Orange County Commission are opposed to asking voters if they want to raise the local sales tax to pay for pressing county needs.

Martinez asks "will any Orange commissioner have the courage to stand up for Orange taxpayers and oppose the concept of a tax hike? Maybe they believe the county needs more revenue to meet the needs of people they represent. And maybe the commissioners want to let the public decide if they want to raise the tax.

Isn't that what the Right usually wants to do, put everything to a vote of the people?

Charlotte Locker Jeff Taylor is fuming about the House budget and says it might have been smarter to let Jim Black go and putting everyone else in the General Assembly in jail. That's some funny stuff there.

The headline of Taylor's post about the budget is "Bend Over, 2010 General Assembly Edition."

Lovely, and matched only by the headline on the post about the House budget on the Locker's Triad blog, "Bend over, insert rotten egg."

Stay classy over there Lockers.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.