Monday, August 27, 2012

DEFIANT: Ogden School District Education Revolution Succeeds

The Ogden School District is not new to controversy.  Last year saw a contentious contract dispute as administrators placed performance pay provisions in the new working agreement with teachers.  All the teachers except one agreed to the new contract.  Also, last year we saw Superintendent Zabriskie depart and Superintendent Smith step up to the helm of the district.  At that time, some in the community questioned his ability.

I had my first opportunity to meet Superintendent Smith when he invited to me to tour Dee Elementary school last year.  He was showcasing a new revolutionary approach OSD was taking to improve historically low student performance.  I was completely impressed by what I saw then.  You can read about what I saw during that tour.  At that time, I crossed my fingers and hoped that the risks the district were taking would pay dividends. 

As it turns out, they did, and huge.  Here are the results of the Ogden program:

Keep in mind that, last year, these three schools were ranked among the ten worst schools in the state.  I am proud to say that that onerous distinction now no longer applies.

Also, keep in mind that these amazing results have occurred in just one school year.  The program will be entering its second year this Fall.  The district plans to build on this foundation of success and student performance should continue its upward trajectory.  They are truly taking these schools from worst to first.

Another example of Ogden School District achievement is represented in their student graduation rates:

As you can see, Ogden High School ranks with Bountiful, Weber, and Fremont high schools.  Both Ben Lomond and Ogden High Schools beat their Salt Lake City counterparts (East, West, and Highland HS) despite the fact that they are demographically very similar.  

Ogden School District has made uncomfortable personnel changes, changed patterns in teaching, and adopted practices that are ultra-focused on getting results.  These results have not come easily, but the difference it is making is absolutely worth it. 

I want to thank Superintendent Smith, and members of the school board Joyce Wilson, Don Belnap, Jennifer Zundel, Steven Marker, Jeff Heiner, Shane Story, and Jeff Harris.  Their willingness to move mountains has made Ogden a better place.    

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Immigration: Work vs. Welfare

I recently was invited by Senator Aaron Osmond to present to delegates in his district on the immigration issue.  I cited a speech given my Milton Friedman in my opening remarks.  Here is video of that speech:

Please watch both of these videos.  I think they are very insightful.

The issue at hand on immigration comes down to the incentives that drive it.  Are immigrants coming to the United State for welfare?  Or for work?  The answer has far ranging consequences.

A recent study indicated that 43% of legal immigrants who had been here 20 years or more are currently recieving welfare benefits.  On the face of it, this statistic is disturbing.  After all, aren't immigrants supposed to come to better their lot in life through a strong work ethos and personal merit?  That is what we would all hope.

Here is a .pdf of my presentation to the group this morning:

   Immigration Presentation 2012

This issue is of such importance that it will dictate what kind of world we live in come the year 2040.  Immigrants and their posterity are poised to make huge gains in the share of our population over the next generation.  How we decide to handle the demographic realities will determine whether we live in an opportunity and economically mobile society like America circa 1900 or a caste system of haves and have-nots like Brazil 2010.  If we make no changes to our policies, it is my fear we will become the latter.   

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Despotism 101: Lessons from The Prince

I recently finished reading The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli which was written in the early 1500's.  It is a fascinating instruction manual on how to obtain and maintain political power in a world of feudal totalitarian states.  
For those of you who are ambitious and lust for power, here are the basic rules for aspiring despots to follow:

1.  Don't leave your army in the new territory you conquered.  That just makes the locals mad.  Rather, dispossess a few farmers of their land and give it to colonists from the homeland.  It costs less and the farmers whose land you took are so few and too poor after that to cause any trouble.

2. Good will of the inhabitants of your conquered territory is of the utmost importance.

3.  If you conquer a territory where the inhabitants speak another language than your own, expect trouble.

4.  When you first conquer a territory, make sure you liquidate the existing Prince and all his kin.  You don't need the old Prince or his angry family roaming around causing trouble for you. 

5.  Move to the territory you conquered.  Since you will have eliminated the old Prince, he won't be there anymore and the people will appreciate having their new ruler close by to be able to call upon him. This builds popularity.

6.  Become the protector of your weak territorial neighbors and lift them up.  But not too much.  You still need to keep them under your heel to prevent trouble. 

7.  Deferring war for peace only makes things worse for you.  Go to war.

8.  Never trust the nobles.  They are schemers. 

9.  Conquering Republics is tough business.  You need to (A) destroy it, (B) move and live there, or (C) install a puppet government and leave it alone.  Total destruction is the best and surest option.

10.  Use your officers to do the dirty work of oppressing resistance so you can remain popular.  When the public cries out against your officer's cruelty, quickly execute your officers so you can still look good.  

11.  Never forgive nor forget, your enemies don't.

12.  If you have to wound your enemy, it is better to annihilate him so he cannot someday return the favor. 

13.  If you are popular, still don't count on the people saving you from trouble unless they are constantly dependent upon you and the State for their well being.

14.  Don't use mercenaries to conquer new territory.  They are unfaithful, cowards, and expensive.

15.  Always be on a war footing.

16.  If you must be cruel, do it quickly and all at once so the memory of it fades quickly with the passage of time.

17.  Never, never, never meddle with the property or the women of your subjects.  It is bad form.

18.  It is better to be feared than loved.  But make sure to never be hated.

19.  It's ok for you to be dishonest because everyone else is. That is how you get ahead.  Just make sure you appear to be honest in all things. 

20.  Be good if you want, but know how to be evil if you have to be.

There is much more but these 20 rules should be a good start for you to begin your tyrannical rule over your new kingdom.  Make sure you follow these closely, otherwise your reign will be as short as it is violent. 

Happy Governing! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Interim Session: August 2012

Interim Session was held this last week.  Here are a few items we discussed in our meetings.

Intergenerational Poverty Study

The Department of Workforce Services which is conducting a study came and testified to our committee.  This study is the result of a bill Senator Reid sponsored in the Senate and I sponsored in the House last January.   The purpose is to identify practices that are occurring at the state level that are keeping the children of welfare dependent parents on the welfare roles. 

The report we received is that the final numbers are being calculated and that we should receive a final report in the coming months once all the data is analyzed.  They estimate that the percentage of children staying in a welfare lifestyle is about 30%.  I look forward to the completed report.

Tax Prevention

Last year Senator Bramble sponsored SB129 which I sponsored in the House.  The bill reduced unemployment insurance taxes by about $24 Million by reducing the the maximum rate from 9.4% to 7.4%. 

At committee we heard from Bill Starks, head of the unemployment compensation fund, who is recommending again that we reduce the rate.  However, this time it is proposed we cap a variable portion of the rate at its current level and prevent it from raising a scheduled .1%.   So, this isn't really a "cut" as much as it is preventing a statutorily mandated increase.  It's a small amount but every little bit that government keeps in the hands of the taxpayers helps.


In our Political Subdivisions committee we heard testimony relating to the topic of privatizing government operations.  The folks testifying seemed to find humor in the setting as they said that the Hill has been discussing and researching privatization for over a decade with almost always the same result.  It appears that there are specific and historic "friction" points where compromise and change are shunned and prevent privatization from occurring at city, county, and state levels.  I am sure we will be discussing this some more.