Saturday, April 9, 2011

Signing Off . . .

Greetings friends and fans:

The time has come for Indy's Painfully Objective Political Analysis (iPOPA) to ride off into the sunset.

Long-time readers will say, "Yeah, we heard this before! iPOPA closed up shop only to come roaring back." You got me. I got spurred back into action because of my inability to stay silent on "the untold stories."

But this time things are different.

I recently joined the staff of Congressman Andre Carson as district director, and I intend to put all of my time and mental energy into that effort. This is also why you won't see me as commentator for WRTV-6's Friday Rountable or on Fox's Face-Off in the future.

Being a blogger and media commentator has been incredibly rewarding, but nowhere near as much as the work I'm doing now, and I say this only eight days into the job.

I will see you all in the neighborhood!



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Daniels, GOP Need to Answer for White-Wash

My latest missive, which addresses the GOP's dilemma with Charlie White.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Candid Discussion on Education Reform

For those who haven't seen this, I squared off on Fox 59 over education reform last week with Josh Gillespie, Hoosier Access's chief blogger and Dan Burton staffer. You always get edited for TV, but it still captures some of my sentiments.

The part that got edited was me saying that if we wanted to improve education for everyone, and we truly believed teachers were the difference-makers, we'd do whatever it took to get the best teachers in the worst classrooms, which would benefit entire schools instead of giving a fraction of students the opportunity to leave for something "better."

I concede that I am wrenched by this question: who am I as a white professional to tell a single, working-class, African-American mother to keep her child in a crappy school just because she doesn't have the money for private school tuition?

But we have to acknowledge that, in many cases, certain schools and systems thrive, not because their administrators and teachers discovered the mystical formula for educational achievement. It's because the schools are populated with kids whose parents are two-income, high achievers who reinforce the value of educational attainment by modeling it. In short, when people move to Fishers for the schools, it's not because Fishers does it so uniquely; the parents are buying an educational peer group based on social class. In fact, in that kind of school, if you have one or two kids who act up, the peer pressure will likely make those two kids conform to the norm of caring about learning.

In contrast, if you have a classroom with a lot of kids from dysfunctional families, kids who have no help at home because either parents aren't available because of insane work schedules, or they don't have the knowledge or inclination, you're likely to get more classroom disruptions, which makes it harder for the children to learn.

You think I'm wrong? Then why does IPS have the highest-ranked school in the entire state on ISTEP scores, even with its top-heavy administration and its allegedly overly-friendly union contracts? Here's why. Because the Merle Sidener Gifted Academy is a magnet school of talented students, meaning that when you put kids who want to learn under one roof, IPS smokes everybody. The problem is that IPS doesn't have enough of these kids to populate every school. Carmel Clay does.

If somebody in Fishers or Carmel thinks I'm wrong, let's do an experiment. Give me the four best teachers in a given elementary school, and I'll send you sixty students who are tragically below ISTEP levels from a Marion County suburban schools and from IPS. Your designated teachers switch out 15 student in their class for 15 of mine. In six months, let's see if the Marion County students have improved, or if those students are the same or worse while the Fishers students have lost ground.

You might say, "Oh, we'd never get sixty new students into our best school because there are already too many students from the neighborhood," to which I'd respond, "There's your voucher program - take just enough to not tip the dynamics of the class, but not enough to give everybody an equal shot at 'quality' education."

What Republicans want to do with vouchers is reinforce a vicious cycle by taking money out of schools that need it the most because its teachers have the most difficult jobs. Do I think IPS could cut some of its 170-plus administrators with $100,000+ salaries? Absolutely. But I doubt that would be enough to recruit the "great" teachers from other school systems, which is what needs to happen.

If Republicans were serious about reform, they'd try to show us all that charters and voucher systems work by passing a law that says if they get the right to do this, they would guarantee existing funding levels plus annual increases to offset inflation for existing schools. I'd let them do their experiment if it didn't cost existing schools. Then they could say, "Look! We told you we'd outperform you!" They won't do that, of course, because charters have mixed records, and they aren't interested in investing more in education.

Or how about this. You get pro-voucher philanthropists to donate to an endowment for a new charter school, and instead of selecting from a lottery system, you select from the poorest ISTEP performers in Marion county. After a year, if a majority of the students haven't improved by 25%, the endowment is forfeited to IPS's worst school with a restriction that the money can ONLY go to acquire new teachers. Will somebody put their money with their mouth is if the student body isn't self-selecting based on a higher degree of parental involvement (which in most cases means higher achievement anyway)? I bet not.

This whole GOP model is upside down. If I had run the Colts back when they were terrible in the 1980s, would I have said, "Hey, fans! Sorry we're terrible. Take your money and watch the Bengals!" No. I'd have opened up my checkbook and paid big money for a free agent or a 1st-round draft choice known as Peyton Manning (who the Colts got by BEING terrible, by the way), and I'd use the new talent to right the ship.

I haven't heard of anybody in either political party who looked at the ISTEP scores, graduation rates, and drop-out rates in this state without concluding that a lot of our schools are sinking ships. But here lies the difference: Republicans want to get a select few "passengers" to the lifeboats. Democrats are trying to save everybody.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Indiana Senate Republicans Redefine "Shotgun" Offense

Take a look at my latest on Senate Bill 292, which the Indianapolis Colts ownership claims will endanger fans and players by prohibiting the Capital Improvement Board (CIB) from banning firearms at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Great idea, GOP! Nothing spells party like guns, firearms, and fans angry at a bad call!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Evan Bayh Self-Destructs for Big Firm Dollars

Take a look at my take on Evan Bayh's recent career moves in my post for WRTV-6's Capitol Watch Blog.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lacey Seizure Should Prompt Outrage

Jacob Lacey is over it, but we shouldn't be.

The Indianapolis Colts' second-year cover man said he was driving near Avon at noon when police stopped him, handcuffed him, and searched his vehicle. According to Lacey, his vehicle was surrounded by eight squad cars.

Lacey added that one officer told him he fit the description of a crime suspect, but when police found nothing (or when somebody realized they had a Colts player in cuffs without any probable cause), they left without any apology.

Curiously, neither the Avon PD nor the Hendricks County Sheriff's Office have record of it. Sergeant Linda Jackson with IMPD said "she had not heard" that IMPD was involved. (I am following up to find out for sure).

One of three things can be true: (1) Jacob Lacey is a pathological liar who felt the need to concoct a fantastic story just before a critical football game, knowing the distraction it could create for his team; (2) Lacey got the wrong police department (maybe IMPD was wrong or it was the Indiana State Police); or (3) a lot of law enforcement officers are engaged in a cover up in Hendricks County because they all realized they'd walked in it big time.

I'm opting for two or three, and while I applaud Lacey for not wanting to literally make a federal case out of this, somebody needs to investigate this further. But for the fact Lacey has the media's ear, nobody would blink on a story like this, and too many would assume the black person pulled over in the white suburb MUST have done something wrong.

We need to know what crime report police were allegedly responding to in their investigation, and if it comes back as just "black male," it will tell you why we still have two systems of justice in this country.

Sadly, "driving while black" isn't anything new; it's expected, and that's the most distressing part of the this story. The reason Lacy has already moved on? In his words, "it's not my first go-round."

Maybe not, but it should be his last.