Friday, April 18, 2014

"Kansas Teachers Lose Due Process in Firings"

March 10, 2014, vol.43, no.16, pp.4-5

The following is quoted in full from this week's Library Hotline:

Kansas Teachers Lose Due Process in Firings
On April 6, the Kansas State Legislature narrowly passed House Bill 2506, a school finance bill allowing teachers to be terminated without due process. The bill would make it easier to fire teachers and also relax licensing standards for schools hiring teachers in subjects like math and science. The passage of the bill follows the passage of an amendment on April 3 to cease state spending to implement Common Core standards adopted by the Kansas Board of Education in 2010.

Teachers and education activists protested over social media the passage of the bill, and the Moderate Party of Kansas has begun to circulate an online petition to restore due process for teachers.

The bill was in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling in March 2014 ordering the state to address the funding discrepancies between rich and poor schools by July 2014. The school finance reforms have been lobbied by far-right conservatives such as Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and tied to a series of reforms aimed at closing the spending gap between economically diverse schools by allowing the privatization of public schools and their funding, among other changes.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback
The bill has been passed to Gov. Sam Brownback to sign, but he has yet to do so. The Republican governor seeks a second term, and while the Kansas State Legislature is in a firm Republican grip, the powerful Kansas National Education Association— Kansas’s largest teacher’s union—issued a strong message the day after the bill’s passage on April 7, as reported by the New York Times:

“We expect you, Governor Brownback, to VETO this bill as it diminishes teachers’ ability to advocate for their students without fear of retribution,” the group stated.

During the first weekend in April, hundreds of teachers in red T-shirts protested at the capital’s statehouse in Topeka. While Governor Brownback has yet to sign the bill, he issued a formal statement regarding the bill on the Kansas Office of the Governor website on April 6 indicating his support of the bill:

“House Bill 2506 increases funding to Kansas schools by $73 million and includes $78 million of property tax relief. The bill ensures that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently, putting money in the classrooms to help teachers teach and students learn.”

Related articles:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Jennifer Finney Boylan, "A Common Core for All of Us"

In the March 23rd New York Times is an excellent opinion piece by Jennifer Finney Boylan, a professor at Colby College and author of She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders.

I recommend reading the entire article, but here are some key excerpts:
Jennifer Finney BoylanWhat we’re arguing about is what we want from our children’s education, and what, in fact, “getting an education” actually means.
For some parents, the primary desire is for our sons and daughters to wind up, more or less, like ourselves. Education, in this model, means handing down shared values of the community to the next generation. Sometimes it can also mean shielding children from aspects of the culture we do not approve of, or fear.
For others, education means enlightening our children’s minds with the uncensored scientific and artistic truth of the world. If that means making our own sons and daughters strangers to us, then so be it.
My friend Richard Russo...noted that “it is the vain hope of middle-class parents that their children will go off to college and later be returned to them economically viable but otherwise unchanged.”
But, he said, sending “kids off to college is a lot like putting them in the witness protection program. If the person who comes out is easily recognizable as the same person who went in, something has gone terribly, dangerously wrong....”
It occurs to me that what enemies of a Common Core...have come to fear is really loneliness. It’s the sadness that comes when we realize that our children have thoughts that we did not give them; needs and desires we do not understand; wisdom and insight that might surpass our own
Maybe what we need is a common core for families, in which mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, all read the same book, and sit down at the table to talk about it. Having a language in common doesn’t mean we have to agree with one another. It simply means that we — as a family, a college or a country — can engage in a meaningful conversation about the life of the mind.
And so it is.

Blessèd Be,

Jennifer Finney Boylan became a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times in 2013, and has written for the Times opinion pages since 2007 about education, parenthood, gender and more.
She is the author of 13 books, including Stuck in the Middle With You: Parenthood in Three Genders. A professor of English at Colby College, she is the national co-chairwoman of Glaad and serves on the board of trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender and Reproduction.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ring a bell?

In 2005, Alex Robinson published Box Office Poison, his Eisner Award-winning graphic novel about young writers and comic artists in New York City.

Protagonist Sherman Davies struggles to come up with anything publishable while working his frustrating day-job as a bookstore clerk...where the most frequently asked question is, "Do you work here?"

Yeah, so it's not a library, but you will probably recognize it....

The middle guy on the bottom  is Sherman's best friend Ed Valeasquez, teasing him.  The last guy is Robinson spoofing himself.

The last woman is Sherman's colleague Janice.

Can I go home now?

Friday, March 14, 2014

xkcd: Ancient Stars

Ancient Stars, by Randall Munroe
Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Friday, March 7, 2014

FCC Proposes New Set of Net Neutrality Rules

March 10, 2014, vol.43, no.10, pp.1-2

The following is excerpted from this week's Library Hotline:
FCC Proposes New Set of Net Neutrality Rules
In the wake of a January court ruling that struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) standards for ensuring that Internet traffic is delivered without bias— a standard industry watchers refer to as “net neutrality”—the agency has issued a new proposal outlining a set of rules that would ensure Internet users have equal access to the full content of the Internet. Some experts, though, don’t think these new rules will be any more enforceable than the ones that were overturned earlier this year.

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler outlined his proposal in a statement on February 19 [see Fact Sheet]. While the newly minted FCC proposition makes some technical changes to the law, the heart of the agency’s definition of an Open Internet remains largely the same, working to ensure that no providers are blocked or discriminated against, and that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are transparent in telling consumers how they allocate bandwidth on their networks.

Wheeler also noted that the FCC would not challenge the ruling handed down last month from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. That ruling allowed the FCC to continue enforcing transparency in ISP practices and working to ensure broadband access under Section 706 of the Telecommunication Act of1996. The FCC’s new plan is to make rules similar to those that were recently struck down but this time under the authority of Section 706.
“In light of the Court’s finding that the Commission has authority to issue new rules under Section 706 and the ongoing availability of Title II, the Commission will not initiate any further judicial action in connection with the Verizon decision,” Wheeler’s statement read. The current statement is merely a suggestion, with a more formal set of rules expected sometime in late spring.

Just how much success the FCC will have enforcing these new rules under Section 706, though, remains to be seen. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there’s a lot riding on Wheeler and his commissioners ensuring that ISPs can’t discriminate among kinds of traffic.
“We’re really pleased to see that Chairman Wheeler and the FCC are moving forward and revisiting these rules, and we certainly hope they’re successful this time,” said Lynne Bradley, director of ALA’s Office of Government Relations. “This is a go-to- the-mat issue. The American public can’t afford for them not to get this right.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

At Home Downtown: Whispers about downtown Jacksonville and homelessness

As a follow-up to my February 27th post about homelessness, here are excerpts from the March 5th At Home Downtown blog post:

At Home Downtown
There is a whisper out there about finding a champion. Everyone needs a champion. When it comes to downtown, its revitalization and homelessness, there needs to be champion, too. The whisper is is the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce might become this champion.

The qualities of this champion would be to create a culture that believes downtown revitalization and improving the results for our most needy are symbiotically linked and that that these issues can somehow complement each other.
It is important to realize that this is possible and has happened elsewhere:

In Chicago, it was the mayor’s office. The mayor’s office is the champion. Within the mayor’s office is a homelessness tsar.... They have results to back up their effort. Their last point in time count study...counted 1,200 homeless people in Chicago. That’s in a city of 2.7 million people.

In comparison, Jacksonville today has close to 1 million people, or approximately 70% fewer people that Chicago. And yet, we have more than 100% more homeless people. We need a champion to get better results.

In Charlotte, the business community became the champion. First, they visioned out the city they wanted. Charlotte wanted to be the banking capital of the world. Then, they consolidated their homeless service providers outside of their urban core so they could
a) invite more banks to participate in the city’s vision, in their downtown core; and
b) through consolidation, create a better result for their population’s most needy.
 The consolidation offered a way to better diagnose each homeless individual’s needs and then meet those needs more readily with appropriate services.
Let's get to speed, Jacksonville.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

At Home Downtown: Educating Citizens and Leaders about Homelessness

Early in the history of The Surly Librarian, I started writing about public libraries as "the last publicly funded walk-in human service agencies." For example, in "Poor Richard Redux: A Manifesto" (July 2008), I wrote about the mandate of public libraries to escort all people across the digital divide:
The roots of the American public library lie with Benjamin Franklin and his peers, who believed that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" depended upon free and equal access to information. They thought it important that information and the ability to search for, have access to and use it should not be solely the province of those privileged by prosperity or status.
We now have a culture in which only those with the advantage of computer and Internet access and the knowledge of how to use these tools can even get to much of the daily information which is most important for living successfully in American society....
The new jargon refers to those who have grown up in the online world as “digital natives.” Those of us who entered the work world before PCs, but who have had the privilege of learning to use and perhaps of owning them, are “digital immigrants....”
My concern here is for the very large population of immigrant and native residents who are “digital refugees.” Whether or not they know how to use these new technologies, our culture now expects them to join the “wired world” if they want access to the benefits and prosperity America has claimed for its successful citizens.
We didn't know when I wrote this that libraries would soon be flooded with out-of-work people and even homeless families who got kicked off the bus by the so-call Great Recession.

We certainly didn't know that governments were going require all who needed to apply for unemployment benefits or other public services—and now the Affordable Care Act—to do so online.
National Center on Family Homelessness
National Center on Family Homelessness

A broader way of exploring the public library mandate is to look at the questions "Who are our customers?" and "What are our services?" If the core of our mandate is to counterbalance privilege with information, and if public libraries are truly centers of community life, then the folks on the street are among our customers, and being involved in the public discourse about humane response to homelessness is part of our service.

Downtown Vision, Inc., (DVI) is "a nonprofit steward of downtown Jacksonville, has been a thought leader for years on what downtown has (benefits), what it needs (realistic assessment) and how to get there (a list of strategic suggestions)." The 2010 DVI white paper, "Turning the Corner: Rethinking and Remaking Downtown," is well worth studying.

A recent outgrowth of the DVI effort is the new Jacksonville website, At Home Downtown:
At Home is the meeting place for an ongoing conversation on downtown Jacksonville, homelessness, vagrancy and how these issues relate to urban revitalization. At Home will strive to provide candid and insightful conversation about these issues with the purpose of revitalizing downtown Jacksonville and improving results for our most needy. (from About)
One of the website's pages shares Ideas from other communities, another shares information about Collaboration, another Facts (such as homelessness statistics and mental health issues).

The key role of the website is to draw more people into the conversation about homelessness in Jacksonville and beyond.

I encourage your to take a look and join in.