A “Shameless self promotion” twofer


by David Safier

I have two columns appearing in two different papers this week. The Weekly asked me to write a Guest Commentary to discuss Al Melvin's SB1239 — his $30 million special interest giveaway to Imagine Learning. And my monthly column in the Explorer came out as well — a takedown of the Republican attitude that some problems simply can't be addressed because they call for "Big Government," and we can't have that.

People who have read my series of posts about Melvin's SB1239 (You can start here and link back to the three earlier posts if you're interested) are familiar with the territory I cover in the Weekly column. Here's an analysis of why it's wrong for Melvin to tell schools what reading approach to use, even if Imagine Learning puts out a good product.

[I]t's absurd for Al Melvin, sitting in his lofty legislative perch, to dictate how schools teach reading to struggling students. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in education, and certainly none that will fit the needs of every child who has difficulty reading. Some struggling readers are ELL students who don't know enough English to speak the language fluently, let alone read it well. Others are English speakers who didn't go to preschool. Others are children with brain-related learning disabilities. Will the Imagine Learning program be right for all of them? I doubt it. Rather than putting $30 million behind one reading program, it makes far more sense to allow each school to look at its student population and decide what approach or variety of approaches, to spend the money on.

The Explorer gave my column a misleading headline that implies it's about Democrats' "bold, visionary plans." The headline I would have chosen is "The Big Shrug," which is how Republicans approach problems they don't want to deal with.

[W]hat have Republicans given us over the past 30 years, beginning with the Reagan administration? The Big Shrug. Our problems are too big to deal with, they say. We’ve just got to live with them. Here’s what The Big Shrug looks like: a conservative lawmaker with shoulders raised, arms out at his sides, palms up, saying, “What’re ya gonna do?”

The conservative approach to climate change? It either doesn't exist or is an uncontrollable force of nature. What’re ya gonna do? And when it comes to gun violence:

You can’t demand that every gun purchase be preceded by a background check to make sure the potential buyer isn’t a felon or mentally ill or someone on the U.S. terrorist watch list. Our hands are tied. We’re just gonna have to watch the next massacre on TV, shake our heads and say, “What a shame.”

I had a couple of terrific company in the Exporer this week. Oracle School Board member Linda Thomas wrote a good column on education, debunking some of the assertions made by conservative columnist Richard Brinkley. And Jo Holt, who ran against Al Melvin in 2012, wrote a column criticizing the conservative notion that cutting taxes for the rich is a cure for our economic woes.