Monthly Archives: October 2014

Trick Or Treat?: The New York “Smart Schools Bond Act”


The master of New York politics, Governor Andrew Cuomo has done it again.  He has added a proposal to the November ballot for voters to vote on that is magical.  On the surface the $2 Billion Dollar bond sounds great for schools, children and parents since it provides ‘free’ money to school districts for technology upgrades and building classrooms for increased UPK students.  Underneath it is the mystery of how the money is supported, why ‘new’ classrooms are needed when decreased enrollment has and is causing schools to close, and why you’d get a loan of more than 5 years for technology that generally becomes obsolete in far less than 5 years?  Other questions include if districts have a choice in taking the money or not; and how and when they can then use it.

Albany seems to see the passage as a mere formality and Governor Cuomo is moving fast forward on organizing and spending the money.  One of the biggest purposes of the bond act is to support Common Core on-line testing that was slated to be already occuring but has had to be delayed…supposedly because schools couldn’t provide enough computer access.  Others would say that the ‘real’ issue was the software development, security and other aspects of the system were not designed properly.

Here are a couple of excerpts from a story on the bond originally written by  published in The Buffalo News on October 18, 2014 in a story titled New York State’s School Bond Act Draws A Muted Reaction:

The Cuomo administration has already floated, and put into the 2014 budget contingent upon the ballot item passing, district-by-district allotments for the funds. The allotments were based, in large part, on the school aid formula – used in the 2013-14 school year – that drives state aid to districts.

For Buffalo, it would mean up to $56 million could flow in the coming years for new computers, wireless Internet upgrades, pre-K classroom space, and high-tech school security measures. Other potential amounts locally include Kenmore-Tonawanda at $5 million, Lackawanna at $2.9 million, West Seneca at $4.2 million, Niagara Falls at $8.9 million. New York City schools would be eligible for $783 million.

The proposal worries some fiscal watchdogs. Some wonder how wise it is to add more borrowing by a state that is second in the nation in debt load. New Yorkers already shell out more than $6 billion a year paying the interest and principal of past state government borrowings….

…What the bond’s potential interest costs might be are difficult to predict, though one fiscal watchdog, E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, estimated the true cost of the $2 billion bond will be at least $500 million in interest.

“It is one of the most poorly conceived and wasteful bond acts in New York State history,” McMahon said.

Besides the school boards and superintendents, other players usually in the education funding fights in Albany are staying on the sidelines. “We haven’t taken a position,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, a left-leaning group that every year pushes for more state school aid, especially for economically ailing districts like Buffalo.

On the right, the state Conservative Party calls the borrowing plan short-sighted that relies on buying technology that will be outdated in five years. That, it says, creates an “irresponsible financial burden … on the very children the bond is supposed to help.”

So it is up to New York State voters.  We suggest you do a bit of reading on the plan and make your own choice if you are a New York State voter this year. It is worth your time!

The Smart Schools Bond Act will appear on the general election ballot State-wide on November 4, 2014. It will read:

“The SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014, as set forth in section one of part B of chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, and to install high-tech smart security features in schools. Shall the SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014 be approved?”

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Monday “Think About It”


Being a parent is rewarding but it certainly is not easy.  It is tough enough helping them learn about death and loss; alcohol and drug abuse but probably one of the most difficult aspects is assisting your child’s learning and understanding about reproduction and their own sexual development.  Part of learning about normal sexual development is an understanding of sexual behavior rules.   There is probably no ‘perfect’ way to do this and discussions can certainly feel odd.

It is also worth noting that perhaps the best discussions will be unplanned and happen based upon a comment or action often during car rides.  Even songs on the radio can initiate the conversation(s).  So how do you prepare and plan?  There are a variety of good resources that help parents understand this process, including online articles such as “When Does Sex Education Begin?,” and “Is Your Child’s Sexual Behavior Normal“, published in Psychology Today.

A recent conversation we had with our 7-year-old was is sex or sexy a bad word?  We didn’t come to a conclusion about good or bad but we did determine that there is a time and place and that it is not acceptable to everyone.

Know that it is not always a comfortable dialogue and lesson but it is necessary.  It is a parents responsibility to help their child through most of their sex education not a schools.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


There are so many things that are awesome about parenting.  There are all the firsts: first smiles, first word, first successful day of potty training, first day of school, etc.  There is the indescribable: the joy; the wonderment of little ones; little giggles and little voices; and the enormous place each child fills in our hearts.  Then there are the things that are the big suck: sleepless nights, sickness, growing pains, and explaining and growing through the loss of loved ones, including pets.

Our children lost their beloved pet this week.  Our oldest felt the loss of her pet the hardest.  Blue Nova is gone.

What you feel at 10 is different than age seven and age three, when it comes to loss.  The small answers and explanations you can give little ones does not necessarily suffice here.  There is a greater sense of fair and unfair.  There are greater questions about why something occurred and what happens after death.  There seems to be greater sorrow.

It will forever be with me, watching our oldest run off like a crying, wounded animal when she was told.  It is painfully etched in mind, hearing her and seeing her cry over her pet.  Her sobs and tears are my greater sorrow.

This is new territory for my husband and I.  This was the first real loss that the children have experienced firsthand.  This precious pet was a pet the children had seen,  loved, and cared for regularly, every single day.  This was a sharp introduction to death and the fragility of life.  It was another first, but not the welcomed kind.  It was up to us to guide them through it.

My mama instincts and the experts say you have to let them grieve and feel their feelings.  You can’t diminish feelings about a pet loss as less than losing a human loved one.  This is very raw and real!

We had a ceremony to say good-bye to our pet.  Our oldest spent time alone with her, hopefully giving her some increased closure.  Now it is letting time heal her wounds.  It is letting her grieve and helping her return back to joy….

 

For some good advice and support through this loss process you might explore articles at Kids Health and Rainbows Bridge.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


essay writing tipWe all know our children should be reading.  Non readers need a nudge and sometimes even an educational intervention to get them reading.  According to the latest studies and thoughts, even your child who is a reader may need a nudge or a parental intervention to read the “right” type of stuff.  In Connie Matthiessen’s article “The Nonfiction Revolution,” at the Greatschool.org website, she discusses current thought and studies that emphasize the far greater need for nonfiction reading among American students.  This is partially being driven by tougher educational standards, such as the Common Core, that have been implanted in 46 of 50 states and by what educators are seeing at the college level.  While students can solve math problems and analyze short stories, they are struggling with reading, analyzing, and writing about complex written material.  They are struggling with comprehending complex text.

This clarion call is thematic of the Common Core Standards initiative.  The standards are a response to what educators see as a paucity of reading and writing curriculum.  With the Common Core and those leading the “nonfiction revolution,” educators are looking for a greater balance between fiction and non-fiction reading and writing in school; an introduction of more complex text and writing in the early grades; and developed aptitude and ability by the college years.  The thought is by equipping students early, greater school and workforce success will follow.

American students are struggling with being college ready.  A 2006 study cited in the article found that only half of high school students who took the ACT exam were ready for college-level reading, with numbers even lower for African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and students from low- income families.  Along these same lines, current statistics find that 20 percent of students who go to four year colleges and 40 percent of student who go to community college have to take remedial courses.  The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP)’s 2011 National Report Card found that only one quarter of US 12th graders write at a proficient level and only three percent write at an advanced level.  Students are showing up to college not college ready and this is contributing to a freshman college dropout rate of 30 percent.  This is staggering!  Not to forget to mention the workforce.  Today’s global economy needs workers who can read, analyze, and incorporate complex text.  This is an additional factor for this push. Educators are recommending schools focus on informational texts earlier and teach the fundamentals of non-fiction writing earlier, as well.

A parent might ask what they can do to promote greater non-fiction reading.  The author has several great ideas that range from allowing them to pursue their passions in nonfiction books and providing them lots of great nonfiction reading material to giving them further reasons to write(letters to grandparents, keeping a journal, etc) and making connections between what they are reading and current events.  Like everything else as a parent, we can help propel them up or maintain a status quo that isn’t working.  I vote for up…but let’s not forget the creativity and independent thinking that good fiction reading and writing can also bring.  Even history is written from an individual’s perspective…a perspective that is human.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Let me create the mood and scene.  The air smells of cinnamon, apple, pumpkin, and crunchy leaves.  The sun light is coming thru the window and the air is crisp and cool.  There is something delicious baking in the oven, again of the pumpkin variety.  You have a hot tea or coffee in your hand.  Your children are sitting nicely at the table, lingering after a meal.  There they are at 10, 7, and 3 or 7 and 5.  You want to freeze frame the moment while you can.

The other scene is of this note.  Two of you are running out the door for dance.  Another child is groaning at the table, doing her homework with your spouse.  The only notable smell is of burnt toast and a bad mood.  Life seems like it is just cruising by you and your family.  You long for some real and enjoyable family time.

Doing a family craft can be a wonderful way to reconnect; slow down; and spend some quality time as a family.  Even if you say you are not a craft person, today’s abundant choices that are offered online have something for everyone’s skill level and interest.  There are numerous fall crafts for small children featured at All Kids Network.  These cute themes and ideas are colorful and great ways to capture small people, with big imaginations.  They are also a wonderful way to build fine motor skills, with the materials that are used.  For an owl loving child, there is a beautiful and whimsical art project, made from many natural elements.  You and your family can enjoy gathering leaves and acorns to construct this adorable, unique hanging owl for your home as described at HGTV Gardens.  There are further craft ideas broken down by theme at DLTK Growing Together.  From scarecrows to sunflowers, there are some fantastic ideas for family crafting here.

As they say when it comes to raising children, the days are long but the years are short.  On those days when you would like to reconnect as a family and are tired of the same activities, consider doing a family craft.  The rewards are numerous and immeasurable.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Domestic violence and the NFL have spent significant time in the news lately.  The disturbing footage that emerged of former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice severely beating his wife Janay, have done little to diminish Americans’ love for football and the big game.  As parents of children who often wish to emulate professional athletes, we are collectively placed in the quandary of watching the game and being a fan, yet taking a decisive stand against such atrocious actions both in the NFL and across our communities.

Please consider these statistics, definitions, and consequences of the domestic violence as reported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States.
  • During one year, this equates to more than 10 million Women and Men.
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have experienced stalking victimization during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
  • In domestic violence homicides, women are six times more likely to be killed when there is a gun in the house.
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically.

 

WHY IT MATTERS

Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Intimate partner violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior which is only a fraction of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, even death. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.

 

As responsible parents and citizens who wish to turn the epidemic tide of domestic violence in this country, we must be aware and enlightened on the matter. In his article, “This Is How You Can Help Stop Domestic Violence,” Chris Korman discusses the recent NFL events and response to domestic violence and practical steps, as outlined by the experts on the issue, that all of us can take to prevent and help someone who might be experiencing domestic violence.  From awareness of what constitutes domestic violence to knowing how to discuss concerns with a loved one, there are excellent tips given on prevention and response. For too long, the NFL and our country have turned a blind eye to the tragedy of domestic violence. It must not take disturbing video footage of a celebrity beating his wife to take real action on this matter! Rather let us use this moment to become aware, prevent, and protect women, men, and children from this terrible scourge….

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