Duncan On Rising Tuition Costs: Students Will ‘Vote With Their Feet’

By , March 31, 2010 9:18 pm

While the White House claims that the president secured a major education reform victory Tuesday by signing into law policy that limits the role of private lenders and increases the funds for Pell Grants, critics contend that it is just an incremental approach. In particular, some education advocates are concerned that skyrocketing tuition costs at higher-education institutions will make any bump in Pell Grants effectively moot.

Asked about these critiques, top aides to the president acknowledged the need for supplemental reforms; though with the jump in grants, they argue, community colleges would be effectively free for many students. But both Education Secretary Arne Duncan and top domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes emphasized in a joint interview with Huffington Post that the ultimate remedy for lowering tuition is to simply make the education system more open and competitive.

“You’re correct, some universities are running up tuition increases far above the rate of inflation,” Duncan said. “But you see other universities doing some really creative things. You see some universities going to three-year programs, basically taking out of their expenses. You see other universities going to no-frills campuses.”

“And so students and parents are very, very smart,” he added. “They're sophisticated. They're going to vote with their feet, they're going to go where they can get a great education but getting the good value along with that. And folks that don't contain cost, I think, frankly are going to lose market share, lose competitive advantage.”

via Duncan On Rising Tuition Costs: Students Will ‘Vote With Their Feet’.

Rethinking Sex Offender Laws for Youths Showing Off Online

By , March 22, 2010 9:22 pm
Sign, Wapello, Iowa. This was put up in reacti...
Image via Wikipedia

In Iowa, Jorge Canal is on the sex offenders registry because, at age 18, he was convicted of distributing obscene materials to a minor after he sent a picture of his penis by cellphone to a 14-year-old female friend who had requested it.

In Florida, Phillip Alpert, then 18, was charged with distributing child pornography and put on the sex offenders registry because after a fight, he sent a photograph of his nude 16-year-old girlfriend by e-mail to dozens of people, including her parents.

In most states, teenagers who send or receive sexually explicit photographs by cellphone or computer — known as “sexting” — have risked felony child pornography charges and being listed on a sex offender registry for decades to come.

But there is growing consensus among lawyers and legislators that the child pornography laws are too blunt an instrument to deal with an adolescent cyberculture in which all kinds of sexual pictures circulate on sites like MySpace and Facebook.

via Rethinking Sex Offender Laws for Youths Showing Off Online – NYTimes.com.

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How Privacy Vanishes Online, a Bit at a Time

By , March 17, 2010 1:40 am

If a stranger came up to you on the street, would you give him your name, Social Security number and e-mail address?

Probably not.

Yet people often dole out all kinds of personal information on the Internet that allows such identifying data to be deduced. Services like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are oceans of personal minutiae — birthday greetings sent and received, school and work gossip, photos of family vacations, and movies watched.

Computer scientists and policy experts say that such seemingly innocuous bits of self-revelation can increasingly be collected and reassembled by computers to help create a picture of a person’s identity, sometimes down to the Social Security number.

“Technology has rendered the conventional definition of personally identifiable information obsolete,” said Maneesha Mithal, associate director of the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy division. “You can find out who an individual is without it.”

via How Privacy Vanishes Online, a Bit at a Time – NYTimes.com.

New York Case Faults Public Defender Programs

By , March 16, 2010 3:14 pm
United States criminal justice system flowchart.
Image via Wikipedia

A class-action suit to be argued next week in New York’s highest court has become a test of a national strategy by civil liberties groups to challenge what they say are failed public defender programs in many states.

Because an estimated 80 percent of felony defendants in large states are too poor to hire their own lawyers, and because the case is being watched around the nation, the case has the potential to alter the shape of the criminal justice system.

Filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the lawsuit is a broad challenge to a patchwork system that has been described by decades of studies and commissions as dysfunctional, underfinanced and “in crisis,” with often poorly trained and poorly supervised lawyers handling huge caseloads. It says indigent clients have been failed by their appointed lawyers all around the state.

via New York Case Faults Public Defender Programs – NYTimes.com.

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Billions wasted on ‘revolving door’ jail system

By , March 16, 2010 10:38 am
Australian Bureau of Statistics
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Criminologists have slated the nature of Australia’s prison system, saying billions of dollars are being poured into jails that fail to reform offenders and improve community safety.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS reveal that almost 60 per cent of people in prison last year had been in jail before.

The bureau also tracked a group of 30,000 inmates released between 1994 and 1997 and found that teenagers had the highest reimprisonment rate, with three out of five returning to jail within 10 years.

Of the entire group 40 per cent were reimprisoned within 10 years, suggesting prisons may foster further criminal behaviour for some offenders.

Experts say the system is outdated and in desperate need of change.

via Billions wasted on ‘revolving door’ jail system – ABC News Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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Law school faculties 40% larger than 10 years ago

By , March 12, 2010 9:46 am

The average law school increased its faculty size by 40 percent over the past 10 years, according to a study by The National Jurist to be released in late March.

This increase in staffing accounts for 48 percent of the tuition increase from 1998 to 2008, the study shows. Tuition increased by 74 percent at private schools and a 102 percent at public institutions from 1998 to 2008.

The increase in staffing does not take into account the increase in support staff, which most law school administrators acknowledge has also increased. But no reliable data is available for that.

Law school observers say the dramatic increases are related to two things — an increased need for specialization and the U.S. News & World Report rankings of law schools.

“Law schools tend to believe that their faculty reputation is driven by scholarship and they are very interested in U.S. News,” said William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University Mauer School of Law. “Lowering your faculty-to-student ratio improves your [U.S. News] ranking and increases time for scholarship.”

Henderson said the typical teaching load has dropped from five courses a few generations ago to three courses today.

“Professors are spending less time in the classroom,” he said. “Now whether that is a smart use of a social resource is another question. It is very expensive to pay for faculty research.”

via Law school faculties 40% larger than 10 years ago | the National Jurist.

Failing schools will drag the economy down with them

By , March 11, 2010 3:16 pm

Any day now, the Obama administration will announce $4.35 billion in extra federal funds for under-performing public schools. That’s fine, but relative to the financial squeeze all the nation’s public schools now face it’s a cruel joke.

The recession has ravaged state and local budgets, most of which aren’t allowed to run deficits. That’s meant major cuts in public schools and universities, and a giant future deficit in the education of our people.

Across America, schools are laying off thousands of teachers. Classrooms that had contained 20 to 25 students are now crammed with 30 or more. School years have been shortened. Some school districts are moving to four-day school weeks. After-school programs have been cancelled; music and art classes, terminated. Even history is being chucked.

Pre-K programs have been shut down. Community colleges are reducing their course offerings and admitting fewer students. Public universities, like the one I teach at, have raised tuitions and fees. That means many qualified students won’t be attending.

Last year the nation committed $700 billion to bail out Wall Street banks, the engines of America’s financial capital, because we were told we’d face economic Armegeddon if we didn’t.

We’ve got our priorities backwards. Our schools are the engines of our human capital, and if we don’t bail out public education we face a bigger economic Armegeddon years from now.

Financial capital moves instantly around the globe to wherever it can earn the best return. Human capital — the skills and insights of our people — is the one resource that’s uniquely American, on which our future living standards uniquely depend.

Starting immediately, the federal government should give states and local governments interest-free loans to make up for all school and university budget shortfalls. The loans can be repaid when the recession is over and local and state tax revenues revive.

via Failing schools will drag the economy down with them – Education – Salon.com.

Slowly, states are lessening limits on marijuana

By , March 9, 2010 10:59 am

LOS ANGELES — James Gray once saw himself as a drug warrior, a former federal prosecutor and county judge who sent people to prison for dealing pot and other drug offenses. Gradually, though, he became convinced that the ban on marijuana was making it more accessible to young people, not less.

“I ask kids all the time, and they’ll tell you it is easier to get marijuana than a six-pack of beer because that is controlled by the government,” he said, noting that drug dealers don’t ask for IDs or honor minimum age requirements.

So Gray — who spent two decades as a superior court judge in Orange County, Calif., and once ran for Congress as a Republican— switched sides in the war on drugs, becoming an advocate for legalizing marijuana.

“Let’s face reality,” he says. “Taxing and regulating marijuana will make it less available to children than it is today.”

via Slowly, states are lessening limits on marijuana – USATODAY.com.

The Death Penalty in Texas: A Change of Heart?

By , March 8, 2010 6:57 am
The death penalty is wrong
Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

Something is afoot in America’s most “law-and-order” state. The number of people sent to death row is declining.

On Sept. 21, 2006, Juan Quintero, an undocumented Mexican national, was arrested after a routine traffic stop in Houston. The arresting officer, Rodney Johnson, frisked and cuffed Quintero, who was driving without a license, before placing him in the back seat of his patrol car. But Johnson missed the gun that Quintero had hidden on him. Moments later, as Johnson sat in the front seat writing up a report, Quintero fired seven times, killing the officer.

Johnson’s murder shocked Houston. But what happened afterwards may have been just as startling. Juries in Harris County (where Houston is located) were once notable for handing down death sentences. They stood out even in Texas, long a pro-death penalty state. During the 1990s the county sent more than a dozen convicted felons a year to death row—a larger number than some states—and currently accounts for more than a third of the inmates on Texas’ death row (106 of 332).

Nevertheless, Quintero received a life sentence following his trial in May 2008. Even his gruesome attack on a police officer did not alter the change of heart that has apparently transformed Houston from what anti-capital punishment advocates once dubbed the “capital of capital punishment” into a death-penalty-free zone.

It has, in fact, been more than two years since any Harris County jury has imposed a death sentence. The Quintero case, says Kristin Houlé, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) was a graphic demonstration that Texas is no longer ”so reliant on the death penalty.”

Statistics bear that out. Last year, the number of new death sentences handed down in Texas dropped to nine, the lowest number since the state revived the death penalty in 1976, and down from nearly 30 in 2003. That’s a remarkable contrast to the peak years in the late 1990s, when as many as 48 people a year would be sent to death row, according to the TCADP’s annual report on the state of Texas’ death penalty.

via The Crime Report » Archive » The Death Penalty in Texas: A Change of Heart?.

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How well do you know your neighbors?

By , March 7, 2010 5:32 pm

“Sex offender registration and notification laws are based on the assumption that sex offenders are more likely to recidivate than other offenders,” according to a recent report by Arkansas Crime Information Center. “The research on the validity of this assertion is very mixed.”

The Center for Sex Offender Management said the idea that sex offenders are more likely to commit new offenses is “one of the biggest myths about sex offenders.”

Dr. Jeffery Walker, a professor of criminology at the University of Arkansas and author of the recent report, said sex offender registry laws are based on “really good political rationales, but if you start looking at the reality, it doesn’t hold a lot of water.

“We typically do things on kind of knee-jerk reactions,” Walker said. “Most of the sex offender laws have some poor child’s name attached to them … there’s this emotional response. They don’t look at the unintended consequences of the laws.”

via gainesvilletimes.com – How well do you know your neighbors?.

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