Illinois signBy John Ruberry

It’s been four months since Illinois operated with a budget.

But the story goes back a year when Land of Lincoln voters tossed out Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn, Rod Blagojevich’s two-time running mate, and chose Republican businessman Bruce Rauner to, as his proclaimed in his campaign slogans, “Bring back Illinois” and “Shake up Springfield.” Rauner has certainly achieved the latter.

But the Chicago Democrats who run the gerrymandered-empowered General Assembly, House speaker Michael Madigan and Senate president John Cullerton, had a trap awaiting Rauner when he arrived in Illinois’ capital city. No, it wasn’t the dilapidated governor’s mansion, but a fiscal 2015 budget that assumed the supermajority of Democrats would make permanent a 2011 “temporary” tax increase pushed through in a lame duck session by Quinn. Yet Rauner and the General Assembly resolved that shortfall that spring, but the two sides are deadlocked over the fiscal 2016 budget.

Meanwhile Illinois lowest credit rating of the 50 states and the worst-funded state pension system. These millstones predate Rauner’s election.

For the first time in three decades Illinois is losing population.

Rauner signWho is willing to compromise? Well, Rauner is. Although he campaigned against a tax hike, Rauner says he will sign a budget that includes one–as long as it the General Assembly agrees to changes to the state’s expensive-to-employers workers’ compensation laws, tort reform, term limits, and taking the decennial legislative redistricting powers out of the hand of the General Assembly. The Democrats oppose all of these items, well, except the tax increase. It is they who are the stubborn ones.

Amazingly, Illinois government continues to function, sort of, as ninety percent of state funding continues, although the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, which also predates Rauner’s inauguration, is growing. But it is business-as-usual for most Illinoisans, including myself, as I no longer have a child in the public school system. Even if I did. I probably notice anything different. However, my license plates are up for renewal, and I won’t receive a reminder in the mail to purchase a new annual sticker because of the budget standoff.

Meanwhile, Saul Alinsky-style demonization attacks on Rauner are stepping up. On Friday Karen Lewis, the hardened leftist who is the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, called Rauner a sociopath in a speech while Madigan and Cullerton mutely sat in the audience.

Rauner has been governor for just nine months. Illinois’ fiscal failings go back nearly thirty years.

Slow and steady wins the race.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Illinois resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Despite massive influxes of cash into public education from President Bush’s No Child Left Behind and his President Obama’s stimulus, test scores of public high school students–the final reckoning of our government education system, have been flat for two decades.

Where has that money gone?

Some of it has been stolen.

Last week Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, pleaded guilty to participating in a kickback scheme involving a firm with whom she once served as a consultant. The woman often referred to as “BBB” was the academic and accountability auditor for Detroit Public Schools from 2009 through 2011. Contracts from that stint are now being investigated.

That’s not the only education racket news from the Motor City from last week. Kenyetta (K.C.) Wilbourn-Snapp, a former Detroit high school principal and Maserati owner, pleaded guilty to bribery and tax evasion charges.

How was she able to afford a Maserati?

Closer to home, the superintendent and her assistant in the high school district where I live are on paid leave while officials investigate lavish travel expenses and expensive tuition reimbursement.

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

What about charter schools?

Three months ago the superintendent of a Texas charter school and her husband were indicted for embezzlement. 

Okay, an incident here and an incident there may not indicate an overwhelming trend, but I’m going to go out on a limb here to predict that the education racket will be the dominant public corruption story within a year or two.

How do I know?

Too much money is being thrown at education. Yep, I meant what I just wrote. And for many edu-crats, stealing some of that largesse while they think no one is looking is too much of a temptation to resist.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Nothing influences the decisions we make today more than our understanding of the past.  This influence extends to all aspects of life, from the spiritual and political to the mundane choices we make everyday.

Generally speaking, history can be divided into just two categories: the personal and the secondhand stories that society passes down.  The history that we personally experience is much more limited, but we understandably give it more weight.  After all, we bore the consequences of that experience, good or bad, so it naturally makes a bigger impact.  Experience is the hardest teacher and all that.

That’s why we tend not to notice the impact of non-personal history lessons.  We don’t feel as connected.  Yet their influence is every bit as important.

Movies are a great example of how much we can be influenced by second-hand stories.  During the two or three hours when we are learning of the characters’ histories and followings their decisions to the conclusion, we make a lot of decisions ourselves.  We decide who is the good guy, and who is the bad.  We decide who to root for.  We decide how we want the movie to end, and how we expect it to end.

What about a movie with a well-executed, unexpected twist?  When it turns out that a key bit of information was withheld, the revelation at the end makes a huge impact.  Think Crying Game, The Usual Suspects, The Others, Frailty, Fight Club, and of course, The Sixth Sense. (Come on, you know you didn’t see it coming.)  the sixth sense

After the conclusion you spend the next hour in amazement, replaying scenes in your mind and trying reconcile the new bit of information with what you had already decided.

That’s just a shadow of the very real impact that real history has on us.

Here’s an interesting real world example of history’s influence.  Ani DiFranco is a music artist with a particular audience.  Both she and her audience’s understanding of the past certainly impacted her decision to cancel a ‘Righteous Retreat,’ which she had accidentally allowed to be held (gasp!) at a plantation site. Serious You Guys.  That is outrageous if you are a member of her audience.  Out-rayyyyy-jus.

(By the way Ms. DiFranco, some of the points you made were fair enough, but it won’t fly with your audienceThe Political Correctness Police give no lenience, not even for one of their own.)

Okay.  Now that we’ve established history’s pervasive impact on individual perspective and decision-making, let’s look at some examples of history that our children learn at school.

In Hillsborough County it appears that the 6th grade Social Studies textbook is Holt’s People, Places, and Change.  (It’s actually rather hard to find out what textbooks are used, and I cannot verify whether this book is still in use.)  I have a copy of this textbook, thanks to Amazon.com.  It’s coverage of U.S. history, from colonization through the Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution, is six pages long.

That’s a lot of history in very few pages.  It’s theoretically possible that more in-depth coverage takes place before or after 6th grade.  I doubt it, though.  The 3rd and 4th grade social studies books were chockfull of nothing.  Heck, I remember my own history books and classes being chockfull of nothing, with the exception perhaps of Mr. Bob Guy’s A.P. U.S. History class in 11th grade.

Back to the book.  In those scant six pages, slavery and women’s rights are mentioned twice, so there’s that narrative reenforcement.  Also, George Washington’s contribution to our nation was highlighted.

Would you like to guess which trait the authors would have General Washington remembered for?

Perseverance?  No.  Courage?  No.  Strategical prowess?  Nope.

The correct answer:  Citizenship.

Which doesn’t even make sense.  The text doesn’t even say “good citizenship.”  It just says, “citizenship.”  How, exactly, does the fact that he was a legal member of our nation make George Washington an important historical figure?

Compare that textbook to the one from the Sonlight homeschool curricula, which just happens to be the one I use:  The Landmark History of the American People.  This book’s coverage of U.S. history, from colonization through the Revolution and the ratification of the Constitution, is 80 pages long.  It doesn’t mention slavery and women’s rights even one time in those 80 pages.

Ooh, does the author wants to hide this shameful past?

Nope.  There are whole chapters devoted to these topics, later on in the two volumes.

Do you know what else the Landmark History includes, which People Places and Change does not?  The actual text of the actual documents.  Technically, the U.S. Constitution is on page 95 of People Places and Change, but it’s a tiny illegible sidebar, with the following caption:  “‘We the People’ begins this signed copy of the U.S. Constitution.”

Isn’t it awesome, the way “We the People” reinforces the socialist and communist narrative about the “People’s Party?”

Anyway.  In conclusion.  How much does the “women and slaves weren’t included!” six-page narrative influence the everyday decisions of young people today?  How much would the “George Washington’s perseverance, great courage and good judgment was key for this nation!” 80-page narrative influence that same set of young people?

That’s the part no one can quantify.  Yet, I’m pretty sure it matters.

I’ve been reading these stories about Horace Mann School. It’s not a pleasant tale and I feel bad for those involved.

I can’t help but wonder however, how many of the elite left who read the Times story and beating their breasts over the revelation will be crying for state investigations, changes in state law to investigate both Mann & other schools?

I wonder how many future NYT stories will be written about them and how many on the left will opine about the culture at Horace Mann and how many national stories will be written on the subject?

But most of all, I wonder if the Maureen Dowd’s of the world will demand Horace Mann abolish celibacy at the school and allow faculty to marry?

Actually I don’t wonder at all. I suspect this story after a day or two of breast beating go down the memory hole along with any other one that doesn’t involve someone wearing a Roman Collar.

For reasons I still can’t explain after a night of fast dancing and a fine wedding meal (there is nothing like fast dancing with a fedora) I ended up wide awake at 4 a.m. to be greeted by an e-mail from Barbara Espinosa from the American Freedom blog and host of blog talk radio’s hair on fire Thursday nights or anytime via this link asking the above question concerning this Globe story:

In a move that school officials believe is the first of its kind in the state, Cambridge will close schools for one Muslim holiday each year beginning in the 2011-2012 school year.

The school will either close for Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, depending on which holiday falls within the school year. If both fall within the school calendar, the district will close for only one of the days.

Well I’m sure this isn’t the same as the situation with Wellesley schools segregating their students by sex and praying at a Mosque for a field trip (Still unsure when they will be scheduling their trip to St. Anthony di Padua for mass but I digress). They of course have a significant Muslim population and a ton of absences that day, don’t they?

Cambridge School Superintendent Jeffrey Young said the district does not collect information about the religion of its students. But Young said that there is a significant Muslim population in the city, and that, at least anecdotally, the Muslim population in the schools appears to be growing.

anecdotally? Cambridge is making its decisions in their schools based on anecdotal evidence? There’s gotta be more to it than that. There is:

Marla Erlien, chairwoman of the Cambridge Human Rights Commission, said the discussion about closing Cambridge schools for an Islamic holiday began several years ago when the commission conducted a survey at Rindge and Latin asking students about discrimination, and at a follow-up forum students raised concerns about how Muslims were a “discarded group’’ whose holidays weren’t recognized in the schools.

So Cambridge has a “human rights commission” and it was that commission that has been pushing for this change.

What do I say to this? Several things to several different people:

Soon to be agitating for Halloween off before the Cambridge Human Rights Commission
To Cambridge, hey it’s your city, the people there elect their school committee and their city council, if the taxpayers of Cambridge want to vote in these guys and they to close their schools because the “human rights commission” wants to accommodate followers of the Great Pumpkin it’s on them.

To Barbara’s e-mail? I answered it’s Cambridge if they didn’t do something like this I’d be shocked.

To Democrats: Congratulations, here is another gift for you just prior to election day. I’m sure that Cambridge the symbol of Massachusetts liberalism is happy to give you this gift in the year you need it the most.

and to followers of exotic religions everywhere, if your holy day is not a day off in Cambridge Mass, it’s only because you are agitating loud enough (like maybe one angry letter).