Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A Better Reason to Ditch E-rate Subsidies

It seems even Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission can’t think of good reasons why the agency shouldn’t hike everyone’s phone taxes to expand a wasteful federal program that lines the pockets of business cronies in the name of getting poor kids broadband access and laptops at school.

The E-Rate program tax hike, which the commissioners can impose with no act of Congress, has been pending for years as an integral part of President Barack Obama’s push for further embedding technophilia within education. The current proposal will hike this particular tax on everyone’s bills by 16 cents per month, or $1.92 per year. Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said this will “impos[e] a greater burden on families struggling to make ends meet.” Seriously, dude. When a tax increase is less than $2 a year, it’s time to get better arguments than “you’re squeezing the people to death!”

Much better arguments abound. In the first place, E-Rate is a straight-up redistribution scheme. Everyone with a long-distance phone line (which includes cell phones) pays into the E-Rate fund with every phone bill. Only a select few can access this money pot. Criteria for schools and libraries that get E-Rate money include poverty, so E-Rate is essentially a convoluted welfare program.

It’s also a horribly wasteful welfare program that empowers cronyism and price-jacking. Because the people using the money aren’t the ones providing it, companies that provide E-Rate services such as broadband Internet or iPads often jack up their prices, congressional oversight committees have found.

Let’s just assume we want yet another redistributionary welfare program. E-Rate is an especially wasteful one, considering just 42 cents of each dollar skimmed from phone users into E-Rate ever makes it into schools. It’s also an insidious program that grows the size of government, because the cumulative take from each phone user is $30 per year, or approximately $2.50 per month. Like the guys in “Office Space” found, skimming financial odds and ends from hundreds of millions of people every month can make the benefactors very comfortable indeed.

Taxpayers deserve to know the full cost of educating children, in easy-to-understand formats, so they can judge whether it’s appropriate. Byzantine funding streams like E-Rate reduce taxpayer control over their own government’s actions with their own money. If local schools want jingly technology, they should pay for it, and justify the purchase to voters directly, not sneak around with a purloined honey pot.

E-Rate originated as an initiative to get every school connected to the Internet (gee, so glad the Constitution authorizes such things). Now that essentially every school is connected to the Internet, the program hasn’t gone away. Instead, it’s turned into a slush fund for schools’ and consultants’ technology fantasies. This is called entropy, a law of nature that says things always degrade, always tend towards disorder. It’s a process government seems to accelerate. Given that unfailing tendency, this program is only getting worse. It’s time to end this amorphous, wasteful, extralegal, parasitic government blob.


Privately educated pupils can harm society with their 'bullish and charmless' over-confidence, leading headmaster warns

A man who is not happy in his job, it seems

Privately educated pupils can harm society with their 'bullish and charmless' over-confidence, a leading headmaster has admitted.  Andrew Halls, head of fee-paying King’s College School in Wimbledon, warned that an independent education can lead to former pupils 'asphyxiating the society they move in'.

He said that the 'prefect and house' system taught students that influence matters.

Mr Halls told The Times: 'Some independent school children can asphyxiate the society they move in because their confidence is so bullish and charmless.  'There are downsides to overconfidence; people can feel a bit repelled by it.

The comments come after Homeland actor Damian Lewis revealed that going to Eton was the perfect training for his upcoming role as Henry VIII.  The 43-year-old, who has become one of Britain’s biggest acting exports after making his name with roles in Homeland and Band Of Brothers, Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said: ‘I think there is no question that it helps having had the kind of schooling I’ve had to play a king.

‘It’s not such a leap oddly – even though the thought of being a monarch of any nation is mind-boggling and not something I could imagine easily at all.  ‘But, yes, there’s just the sort of court structure, hierarchies and the way they are set up which is something I understand.’

His comments came after he compared his OBE, which he received on Wednesday afternoon, to being made a school prefect, as he felt it put him under pressure to be extremely responsible and to prove himself.  'I remember when I heard I was being awarded it, it was a little bit like "now you've got to prove it",' he said.  'It was a bit like being asked to be a prefect, now I have to be extremely responsible.'

Mr Halls clarified his comments to the MailOnline. He said: 'They (independent schools) obviously do a fantastic job with most kids, who have a real joy taking part in society.

'What I mean to say, is that we as schools have a responsibility to the children to make sure they do not leave with an excessive sense of entitlement. 'It is important that independent schools ensure that students leave with a sense of debt, not to us, but to society.

'Many, not all, have had very fortunate upbringings.  'So many good things, for all of us in the rich west, can make us complacent in the real world.'

He said First World War hero Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse  - was an inspirational example of a privately educated man who gave back to society.  Educated at Magdalene College School in Oxford, Chevasse is one of only three people to be awarded a Victoria Cross twice.

He said: 'He had a fantastic education, but he was not a great charmer or a conformist. He was actually quite a difficult man, stubbornly dedicated to the health, wealth and welfare of his men and an incredibly brave captain who saved hundreds of lives. '

At Kings, Mr Halls said students do not have lessons on a Friday afternoon and instead do activities with 27 local state schools as part of a partnership programme.  He said: 'That to me is what we should be doing more of. We should be out there playing our part in a world which is there to be improved and made healthier.

'I'm not trying to show off about Kings, and I must sound very hypocritical, but that's my job and I have to try and help these fortunate and good men and women feel commitment to improving circumstances. 'And they do have that commitment and love for doing good things.'

He has also warned recently that private schools were in danger of becoming the preserve of wealthy oligarchs as fee hikes price out middle-class families.

He warned that many parents in traditionally well-paid careers as accountancy and law were no longer able to afford a private education for their children.

The most expensive private schools were becoming little more than ‘finishing schools for the children of oligarchs’, he said. Some schools had become so reliant on pupils from overseas they were at risk of suffering a banking-style crash. Fifty private schools in recent years had closed, merged with another school or joined the state system, he said.


Why Did This Teachers Union Ban Coca-Cola?

American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers unions in the United States, passed a resolution last week to ban Coca-Cola from its facilities and events.

The teachers union stated its decision was based on human rights violations, which have been detailed in three books published several years ago.  But why now, and why is this important to a teachers union?

Because AFT is a labor organization, it will stand in solidarity with other labor organizations that have taken a stance against Coca-Cola, AFT spokesman Michael Heenan said.

Coca-Cola said AFT’s claims were based on “outdated and erroneous allegations that we have repeatedly addressed.”

This may be more about the union resenting the beverage company’s practice of subcontracting instead of hiring permanent employees, which is cited in the AFT resolution, said Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.  “Obviously [Coca-Cola was] not using unionized workers,” Sand said.

This was probably to avoid having to deal with the costs associated with unionized employees, he added.

Sand is skeptical of the unions’ ability to ban all Coca-Cola products.  “Look at what else Coca-Cola makes: Minute Maid, Nestea,” he said. “They’re going to have to go after all these products.”


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