Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Parent Revolt: Oregon School Board Cancels Valentine's Day after Tossing out Thanksgiving, Christmas

A board that wanted to be "welcoming" to all students was not at all welcoming to concerned parents. Typical Leftist hypocrisy

The Bethel School District in Oregon is facing serious pushback after deciding to cancel Valentine's Day and all other holidays this year, resulting in no class celebrations or card exchanges. Instead, the district renamed the day "Buddy Day" and had plans to teach students about kindness and friendship. The school board believes they are being "inclusive" to children who do not celebrate Christian holidays by just canceling or renaming them all. Parents all over the district were incensed and showed up to protest the decision at a recent board meeting.

Busy mom Amanda Loomis made sure she went to voice her opinion. "I am tired of every fun event and holiday being taken away from our kids," she told PJM. Loomis was one of a large crowd of parents who filled the district office and spilled into the hallway to protest the holiday decision. Parents reported feeling unwelcomed by school board members who refused to change venues to accommodate the large crowd even after being notified to expect a large audience. "They tried to dismiss the meeting before anyone was even able to come in to talk," said Loomis. "They literally turned their backs to us and hardly acknowledged anyone. I felt very unwelcome."

One school board member, Debi Farr, posted on Facebook after the meeting that the board felt threatened by the crowd. Parents in attendance heartily dispute that claim.

"I did not see anyone or hear anyone in the crowd being rude at all," Loomis responded. "I thought everyone in the crowd was calm and polite for the amount of people in the small space. Even children were there and they were very well behaved." Video of the event confirms Loomis's account. Rachel Hansen, another district parent, was filming and caught a passionate and sometimes loud but earnest crowd addressing their elected officials.

Hansen was displeased with the response parents received. "I attended the meeting because I'm not happy with the fact that our school board has decided to take away holiday celebrations from the schools. Not only have they made this decision, which I completely disagree with, but they made it without taking into consideration parent concerns," she said. "In fact, it's been a slow and quiet transition the last few years. Halloween costumes weren't allowed after years and years of children wearing them and parading around classrooms." Others also noted that holiday books were being slowly removed from the school library.

Hansen described the meeting as chaotic, "but not because of the parents but because we weren't allowed in the boardroom and because we were too great a number to fit. The board had been given notice that a good number of parents would be attending and we asked for a bigger venue to accommodate, but the board refused," said Hansen. "One of the board members even went so far as to call 911 due to disorderly [conduct] which couldn't have been further from the truth."

In Hansen's estimation, it was the board that behaved badly. "The board reacted with complete and utter disrespect with one board member literally turning his back to the first speaker, refusing to listen. It was disgraceful," she said.

The Bethel School Board's response is a typical government reaction to finding out people don't like something they did. Most boards hate hearing criticism and label it "threatening" so they don't have to continue listening. This is a common tactic used by elected officials to avoid hearing from angry constituents. Some will even go so far as to break state law to avoid hearing from voters. It appears that the Bethel School District may have done just that.

The very first rule of the Oregon Open Meetings Act states clearly that all public meetings are to be open to the public and provide accommodations. If there isn't enough space, the board is responsible for finding space and hearing each citizen's concern. The Bethel board's refusal to provide space, even when warned ahead of the meeting that they needed to, could be a violation of state law. Further, attempting to shut down a meeting before public comment has been made is also a violation of state law.

Thankfully, the board decided to reschedule the meeting for later in the week in a bigger location, but not before attempting to get away with not naming a new date. The crowd refused to let that happen and forced them to name a date and time. Several parents are still concerned they will change the venue without notice.

Contrary to the board's claims of unruliness and disorder, this meeting was a classic example of democracy in action. Board members tend to forget that they work for the people and a strong reminder is often needed to get them back on track. The parents of the Bethel School District are doing what every American should be doing: holding elected officials accountable for their actions. If parents don't stand up against the onslaught of anti-Americanism and the destruction of our traditions and culture we will soon have no traditions left.


Pell Grant reform could mean good paying jobs for middle America

By Natalia Castro

President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan won’t just be looking to refurbish the nation’s bridges and roads but is also aiming at reforming our nation’s educational institutions. To combat some of the most significant problems within our labor force and education system, President Trump has included a provision in his infrastructure plan that could increase access to non-college job training programs without increasing spending.

As the legislative outline for Trump’s infrastructure proposal explains, the American workforce is integral to a properly running country and economy. But with nearly seven million individuals around the country looking for work and six million unfilled jobs, America’s skills gaps are leaving workers behind.

Despite jobs growth and decreasing unemployment, while a disproportionate share of Americans go to college, jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree, called middle-skilled jobs, are not being filled. In states like Iowa, more than half of all available jobs are middle-skilled jobs, which leaves both jobs unfilled and skilled workers unemployed.

In Palm Beach County, Florida jobs for welders and mechanics are going continually unfilled.  Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post notes how strange this phenomenon is in their area, considering top welders can make $70,000 a year or more, and skilled mechanists can earn $65,000.

However, following the insecurities generated from the Great Recession and the fueling misconception that a four-year degree is necessary, owing to lower unemployment rates for college-educated individuals, middle-skilled jobs go unfilled. Besides the higher education bubble, other factors to the skills gap include Baby Boomers retiring and regional mismatches.

To make up for this, the Trump administration has called for Pell Grants to be made available for students achieving certifications as part of apprenticeship programs and has expanded Pell Grant eligibility to pay for these more of these short-term programs.

President Trump also calls for changes our post-secondary education system and workforce development policies in order to encourage students to enter technical fields.

As the President’s plan explains, “The Federal Work Study program (FWS) currently is not well-suited or targeted to support students pursuing career and technical education, especially for low-income and low-skilled students seeking to enter or return to the workforce quickly. FWS funds are disproportionately distributed to four-year non-profit and flagship public institutions, leaving out quality two-year programs, many of which have a uniquely strong focus on workplace readiness.”

Agree or disagree with the Pell Grant program, the question the administration is addressing is how to best allocate the funds Congress is already providing. By reforming this program, Trump does not add money to the existing budget but instead reprioritizes funds to more proportionately represent the needs of our economy.

Before announcing this plan, the President met with 70 mayors to discuss needs of cities across the country. Mayor Karen Best of Branson, Missouri explains to the Branson News, “My question was geared towards jobs and workers. Finding the workforce to fill those jobs… The infrastructure bill is going to have to do with workforce, workforce training, workforce management, also making Pell Grants available to trade schools, not just four-year universities and colleges…Being at the White House yesterday gave a name and a face to the community of Branson.”

These holes in the labor force already offer high paying opportunities; the federal government now must remove barriers that discourage students from pursuing two-year degrees. Trump’s plan allows for this to occur, giving a chance to employers and students across the country.


Zoning Out on Free Speech

“The Death of Free-Speech Zones,” reads a recent headline in Inside Higher Education. It’s a demise that anyone who believes in the First Amendment can cheer.

The zones were intended to mollify college students who (rightfully) protested the proliferating rules aimed at restricting their ability to speak up on campus. Want to say what’s on your mind? Just walk over here, to this one specific piece of real estate, and say it. Problem solved! Except it wasn’t.

For one thing, the zones that campus administrators so generously deeded to their students were often ludicrously small (at Pierce College in Los Angeles, for example, it was about 600 square feet, or roughly the size of three parking spaces). Others were located in campus areas that placed students out of the way of most foot traffic.

In some cases, it was worse: You couldn’t simply go to one of these zones and start handing out your literature, or begin speaking. You had to reserve the space beforehand. “At the University of South Dakota, a student needs to reserve a free-speech spot at least five days in advance,” the Inside Higher Education article notes.

But logistical problems were the least of it. Even if the zones were larger, more accessible, and could be used spontaneously, you’re still dealing with a cowardly “solution” that violates the U.S. Constitution. It’s a shame to have to point out the obvious, but these administrators don’t seem to realize that the entire campus is already a free-speech zone. And not because they allow it, but because it’s located in the United States of America.

I call it cowardly, of course, because these zones only cropped up in the wake of the insane assault on free speech that’s been occurring on campuses for some time now. Students raised in politically correct bubbles have arrived on campus blissfully unaware that anyone disagrees with their worldview. So when, say, a speaker shows up to criticize affirmative action, or pro-life students begin handing out flyers on abortion, they can’t handle it.

I don’t mean they offer a counterview. That would be fine, of course. Everyone’s free-speech rights would be honored in that case. No, they form mobs. They yell, shriek and shout down those with whom they disagree. They attack them, both verbally and physically. “Triggered” by the horror of a different point of view, they have a meltdown.

Have administrators reacted to these tantrums by standing up for the Constitution? Used these “teachable moments” to educate their young charges in the process of civilized debate?

Very few, unfortunately. Many tucked tail and surrendered to student demands. They’ve cravenly disinvited speakers and, yes, restricted students to “free-speech zones.”

Fortunately, some brave students and organizations — such as Intercollegiate Studies Institute (where I’m a trustee), Students for Liberty, the Leadership Institute, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — have been challenging these zones in court. And they’ve been succeeding.

“In the last year, state legislatures, including those in Colorado, Tennessee and Utah, have stepped in and banned free-speech areas,” according to Inside Higher Education. “Virginia, Missouri and Arizona also previously outlawed the zones. Florida’s Legislature will consider a bill this session that wouldn’t allow them.”

The zones are hanging on in some locations, so the job isn’t finished. But Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, thinks their days are numbered. “Every public college in America is going to do away with the notion of free-speech zones,” he predicts.

Free speech is hard. The fact that John Adams, of all people, could sign the Alien and Sedition Acts is proof of that. That’s why we should be grateful this key right is enshrined in the Constitution. Even then, as we see throughout our history and right down to the present day, we must fight to maintain it.

Don’t let the bullies win. Let’s all speak up proudly for the right to disagree — and ensure that the U.S. again becomes one giant free-speech zone.


No comments: