Thursday, February 28, 2008

Public School Accreditation Follies

Here I go again, citing statistics from the Georgia Department of Education concerning per pupil expenditures, graduation rates, and AYP progress. The context this time is the potential revocation of the Clayton County School District’s SACS accreditation. This story keeps getting bigger and bigger; as the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Secretary of State have all become involved.

But what would losing accreditation mean? I realize that it may cost some students their eligibility for HOPE scholarships and such (through no fault of their own - which would really suck), but does a loss of accreditation mean anything objective insofar as the quality of instruction or academic performance of a school district are concerned. I maintain that it does not.

The reason I can make this claim is quite simple, as the following numbers will reveal:

State of Georgia
FY 2007 per pupil expenditure $8428.05
2006-2007 graduation rate 72.3%
2007 AYP 82.2%

Clayton County School District
FY 2007 per pupil expenditure $7453.37 (11.56% below state average)
2006-2007 graduation rate 71.8% (0.07% (below state average)
2007 AYP 67.8% (17.52% below state average)

Clarke County School District
FY 2007 per pupil expenditure $10,746.94 (27.51% above state average)
2006-2007 graduation rate 58.4% (19.23% below state average)
2007 AYP 57.9% (29.56% below state average)

Thus, the Clayton County School District, which outperforms its Classic City counterpart by a substantial margin and at considerably less cost, may lose its accreditation due entirely to non-academic misteps, while the chronically underperforming Clarke County School District remains in good standing.*

Can someone tell me just what in Hades is wrong with this picture? Such a distorted situation merely brings to mind my earlier comments as to what a meaningless concept public school accreditation really is. I fully understand that accreditation has no demonstrable relation to the academic performance of a given school district’s students – and that is precisely my point.

*You may have heard talk of a Cedar Shoals High School parent filing a formal protest with SACS, but that concerns a specific personnel matter and has nothing to do with student achievement. I know nothing about the specific issue other than what media has told me. For those interested, see here and here.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Huckabee Donation Drive

The Hucakbee for President campaign has a donation drive scheduled for Thursday, 28 February. The purpose of the drive is to fatten the coffers as we head into the GOP primaries slated for Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont next Tuesday.

“Firewall,” meaning a must-win situation, has become a popular term this campaign season. This upcoming group of contests probably amounts to that for Governor Huckabee, as John McCain can virtually assure himself of the Republican nomination with a good showing. Even so, Huckabee has vowed to remain in the campaign until such time as McCain has the nomination mathematically locked up.

Besides which, I think that it is good to have someone through which the party's base can put McCain on notice regarding his leftward tendencies - and having Huckabee draw protest votes may serve McCain well in the end by forcing him back toward the center on a few high-profile issues (or perhaps not).

Regardless, Huckabee is calling on McCain to participate in a “Lincoln-Douglas” style debate prior to next week’s primaries, though the latter has refused. Even if I find McCain’s position annoying, which I do, as a practical matter he is entirely correct to dodge any
tête-à-tête with his nearest rival. McCain occupies the commanding position with regard to delegates and is the presumptive nominee; he has nothing to gain and much to lose by debating Huckabee at this point – so he is not going to do so.

Finally, thanks again to Jamey Loftin for letting us use the “Moose Room” at the Locos Grill and Pub on Barnett Shoals Road to view primary returns on Super (Duper) Tuesday. Check out the picture of Nathan and Avery in the Banner-Herald.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Fat Lady Cometh

Regarding the Huckabee presidential campaign, a couple of weeks ago I noted that “The fat lady has yet to sing and she will not do so for a while, but she is warming up.” Indeed. Our corpulent songstress is waiting in the wings and may make an appearance quite soon - and by that I mean after the primaries coming up in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont on 04 March.

In yesterday’s Washington primary, John McCain leads with 49% of the vote, Huckabee places second with 22%, and (strangely enough) Mitt Romney places third with 20% (the most recent vote counts I saw were incomplete).

In yesterday’s Wisconsin primary, McCain took 55% of the vote, with Huckabee taking 37%, and Ron Paul taking 5%.

Regardless of the particular state involved, the turnout in Republican caucuses and primaries is trending downward due to the fact that McCain’s nomination is all but assured. Even so, McCain continues to rack up delegates out of proportion to his vote totals.

Speaking of which, though this editorial in The New Republic concerns the need for Democrats to reform their delegate selection process (and perhaps avoid a convention debacle in Denver), they note that the GOP would do well to heed their advice as well.

I cannot help but agree. Some delegate allocation oddities come immediately to mind: McCain edged Huckabee in South Carolina by a narrow margin (33% to 30 % as I recall), but took about 80% of the state’s delegates; in Washington, about half of the state’s delegates were awarded on the basis of caucuses held on 09 February and about half were awarded on the basis of yesterday’s primary; and here in the Peach State, delegates were distributed by a combination of congressional district and statewide results.

And don’t even get me started on “superdelegates.”

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Georgia GOP Announces District Winners

The following is verbatim from yesterday's Georgia Republican Party press release regarding congressional district winners for the state's recent presidential preference primary:

The Georgia Republican Party today announced winners of the February 5th Presidential Preference Primary by Congressional District. The results are below:



1st Congressional District

Senator John McCain

2nd Congressional District

Senator John McCain

3rd Congressional District

Governor Mike Huckabee

4th Congressional District

Governor Mitt Romney

5th Congressional District

Senator John McCain

6th Congressional District

Governor Mitt Romney

7th Congressional District

Governor Mike Huckabee

8th Congressional District

Governor Mike Huckabee

9th Congressional District

Governor Mike Huckabee

10th Congressional District

Governor Mike Huckabee

11th Congressional District

Governor Mike Huckabee

12th Congressional District

Senator John McCain

13th Congressional District

Governor Mike Huckabee

Georgia Republican Party Rules and the Call to Convention allow each Congressional District to elect 3 delegates and 3 alternates to the Republican National Convention at District Conventions on April 19th. Those delegates are bound to the winner of their Congressional District. An additional 30 delegates and 30 alternates are elected at the State Convention on May 16th- 17th in Columbus, Georgia. Statewide delegates are bound to the candidate that received the most votes statewide. In addition to the elected delegates, the State Party Chairman, National Committeeman, and National Committeewoman are automatically delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Georgia Code requires that delegates pledge that they will support the candidate they are bound to “until the candidate is either nominated by such convention or receives less than 35 percent of the votes for nomination by such convention during any balloting, or until the candidate releases the delegates from such pledge. No delegate shall be required to vote for such candidate after two convention nominating ballots have been completed.” (21-2-196) “Any delegate to a national convention whose presidential candidate withdraws after being entitled to delegate votes pursuant to this article shall be an unpledged delegate to the national convention.” (21-2-197).

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Secretaries of State Coming to Athens

Four former Secretaries of State are coming to the Classic Center on Thursday, 27 March, for “The Report of the Secretaries of State: Bipartisan Advice to the Next President,” the sixteenth such symposium on foreign policy issues.

The event is co-hosted by the Southern Center for International Studies and the UGA School of Law’s Dean Rusk Center. Participants include:

Henry Kissinger (Nixon/Ford)
James Baker III (Bush 41)
Warren Christopher (Clinton)
Madeleine Albright (Clinton)

The roundtable discussion will be moderated by Terence Smith of PBS’ The Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

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Sgt. Courtney Gale Benefit

From the Athens-Clarke County Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association:

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department and the Athens Country Club will host a benefit golf tournament for Sergeant Courtney Gale on Monday, March 31.

We will need a number of volunteers to work the event We will also need donations of deserts. We hope to have 128 golfers. The event planning is in the early stages so we do not know exactly how many volunteers will be needed.

If you are willing to help in any way - please contact Mary Hamby, Volunteer Coordinator, at 706-613-3330 X272 or

If you would like to get a four person team together to play that will be okay also. The entry fee will be $75/per person ($300/team). The registration form will be posted at ACCPD and Get Well Courtney within the next day or so.

We will appreciate any assistance you are willing to provide. Further details will be sent when they are finalized.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Huckabee Down (and all but out)

Mike Huckabee did well in the GOP caucuses held last Saturday, winning in Kansas and Louisiana, and almost pulling off a victory in Washington. He did not fare so well in Tuesday’s “Potomac primaries,” losing the District of Columbia and Maryland handily, but doing surprisingly well in Virginia. Here are the percentage breakdowns by state:

District of Columbia: McCain 67.73%, Huckabee 16.57%

Kansas: Huckabee 59.58%, McCain 23.61%

Louisiana: Huckabee 43.18%, McCain 41.91%

Maryland: McCain 54.98%, Huckabee 29.26%

Virginia: McCain 50.04%, Huckabee 40.78%

Washington: McCain 29.52%, Huckabee 27.46% (87% of precincts)

With the delegates McCain pickup up over the past week, his nomination, barring something entirely unforeseen, is all but assured. Be that as it may, for a sampling of news and commentary concerning Huckabee, see:

Paul Weyrich Endorses Huckabee” by Joy Lin of CBS News

Huckabee Disputes Vote Count” by Janet I. Tu of the Seattle Times

Huckabee Seeks His Miracle” by Michael Scherer of TIME

Where Huckabee Goes from Here” by Byron York of National Review Online

Finally, here is James Taranto’s BOTWT bye-ku for Mitt Romney:
The data are in

After long consultation
The candidate's out

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Monday, February 11, 2008

CCSD - FY '07 Per Pupil Expenditures

Taking a brief respite from presidential politics, I recently checked the Department of Education’s web site and found that the expenditure figures for fiscal year 2007 are now available.

Let’s cut right to the chase. Per pupil expenditures for the Clarke County School District last year amounted to a staggering $10,746.94, which is 27.51% above the state average of $8428.05. The breakdown per the DOE's seven administrative categories is:

Instruction $6888.66 (19.84% above the state average of $5748.09)

Pupil Services $335.76 (27.82% above the state average of $262.68)

Staff Services $743.69 (67.99% above the state average of $442.70)

General Administration $478.47 (24.52% above the state average of $384.25)

School Administration $584.99 (12.73% above the state average of $518.92)

Transportation $733.08 (74.39% above the state average of $420.38)

Maintenance & Operations $982.30 (50.88% above the state average of $651.03)

The above percentage calculations are mine. Similarly, by my reckoning this level of per pupil expenditure puts the Clarke County School District in the 95th percentile (170 out of 178) of those school systems covered by the Department of Education’s statistics (there are 180 school systems in the state; for whatever reason Hancock County and Gainesville City school systems are not included).

Of the eight school systems that spent more per pupil than did the Clarke County School District, seven have much smaller student populations. That means that they have to spread fixed capital and administrative cost over fewer students, thereby forcing their per pupil expenditures up. They are:

Quitman County $15,269.76 (258 pupils)

Clay County $13,875.98 (327 pupils)

Talbot County $13,837.70 (655 pupils)

Decatur City $13,744.31 (2400 pupils)

Taliaferro County $12,807.91 (244 pupils)

Atlanta City $12,761.65 (50,031 pupils)

Baker County $11,444.84 (426 pupils)

Wheeler County $11,155.05 (1014 pupils)

Clarke County $10,746.94 (11,415 pupils)

So just what do we get for this high level of per pupil expenditures?

In 2007, only 11 of 19 public schools, or 57.9% met
AYP standards (11 of 13 elementary schools, 0 of 4 middle schools, and 0 of 2 high schools; the Classic City Learning Center is not included in the statistics as it has too few students). The state average is 82.2%

Graduation rates for the 2006-2007 school year were
58.1% at Cedar Shoals High School and 63.6% at Clarke Central High School, compared to a state average of 72.3%.

Thus, I think that the current argument over QBE funding completely misses the point. Here in Clarke County, we have a case study showing how increased funding does not, in and of itself, lead to increased academic performance. Many advocates of increased school funding take it as a tautology that more money will equate to increased academic performance; empirical evidence suggests otherwise.

The QBE debate merely concerns the source of funds, not their effect – I and do not think for a minute that the Clarke County Board of Education would reduce its millage rate, currently at the constitutionally imposed limit of 20 mills, if the state threw more money its way.

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Friday, February 8, 2008


A scant five weeks ago, Dawg fans were reveling in Georgia’s Sugar Bowl victory over Hawaii, the Iowa caucuses loomed on the political horizon, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was considered the national frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. How things have changed.

Giuliani, whose “Sunshine State” strategy backfired, did not even make it to Super (Duper) Tuesday. Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson, regarded by many as the GOP’s best choice - right up until he entered the race, that is – is but a memory. Even Mitt Romney, despite some successes in early primaries and caucuses, has “suspended” his campaign.

Thus, the Republican contest is down to John McCain, given up for dead as recently as a month ago, and Mike Huckabee, a candidate previously unknown on the national stage and with hardly any money (and, of course, Ron Paul, who has not a snowball’s chance in Hades – which is not to say that his candidacy is without value – but he is irrelevant to the nomination process).

By my calculation, even after his Super (Duper) Tuesday successes, John McCain’s 724 delegates amount to only about 60% of the 1191 needed to win the Republican presidential nomination. Romney’s 281 delegates place him second. Huckabee occupies third place with 196 delegates.

McCain’s situation, and perhaps that of Huckabee, could improve dramatically within the next week, though, as the pachyderms hold three caucuses and three primaries with a total of 245 delegates at stake.

Saturday, 09 February:
Kansas (closed caucuses, 39 delegates)
Louisiana (closed caucuses, 47 delegates)
Washington (open caucuses, 40 delegates)

Tuesday,12 February:
District of Columbia (closed primary, 19 delegates, winner-takes-all)
Maryland (closed primary, 37 delegates)
Virginia (open primary, 63 delegates, winner-takes-all)

The fat lady has yet to sing and she will not do so for a while, but she is warming up.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Athens Area GOP Wrap

At the state level, we all know that Mike Huckabee placed first in the Georgia's hotly contested GOP primary, garnering 34.0% of the vote compared to John McCain’s 31.5% and Mitt Romney’s 30.2%.

Unsurprisingly, here in self-consciously “progressive” Athens-Clarke County (as a measure of that leftward tilt, Barack Obama got almost as many votes by himself as the nine Republicans and the seven other Democrats combined), the GOP breakdown was a bit different (
there appear to have been 7 “undervotes” on the Republican side):

John McCain 2437 (34.89%)
Mitt Romney 2176 (31.16%)
Mike Huckabee 1847 (26.45%)
Ron Paul 412
Rudy Giuliani 57
Fred Thompson 27
Alan Keyes 12
Duncan Hunter 7
Tom Tancredo 2

Voter turnout in Athens-Clarke County ranged from a low of 32.4% in precinct 4A to a high of 61.5% in precinct 1D. The overall turnout was 49.3%.

The Athens MSA consists of Clarke, Madison, Oconee, and Oglethorpe Counties, while Jackson County is in the “non-metropolitan” area of north Georgia. The order of finish in those neighboring counties was:

Jackson County – Huckabee, McCain, Romney
Madison County – Huckabee, McCain, Romney
Oconee County – McCain, Huckabee, Romney
Oglethorpe County – Huckabee, McCain, Romney

Thanks to all of those folks who came out to the “Moose Room” to view primary returns. We had a good time dissecting primaries, discussing policy, and speculating as to what the future may hold.

Finally, I had a few quotes in this article from last Sunday about the youth vote and local campaign efforts.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Huckabee Primary Watch Party

We have the “Moose Room” at the Locos Grill and Pub on the eastside of Athens as a location to watch Super (Duper) Tuesday primary returns. The address is 1985 Barnett Shoals Road (in the same strip as DePalma’s and Peking, across from the new Publix).

Since polls on the east coast close at 7:00 p.m., plan to show up beginning about 6:45 p.m. or so. The Moose Room has two TVs and WiFi, so we can keep up with several news outlets simultaneously. Locos founder Jamey Loftin has graciously offered to let us use the room free of charge, so come hungry (and thirsty) so as to give him some business.

From a conversation I had with Blake Aued last week, we can anticipate some press coverage from the Banner-Herald.

I apologize for the late notice, but try to come out if you can and show your support for Governor Huckabee.

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Remember the Maine (caucuses)

Falling as they did between the recent high-profile Florida contest and Super (Duper) Tuesday, the Maine Republican caucuses did not generate much press, though I did mention them here.

Unsurprisingly, Mitt Romney placed first in the caucuses, followed by John McCain, Ron Paul, and Mike Huckabee. Though the Maine caucuses are non-binding, presumptive nominee McCain should not pop the corks just yet; the Associated Press projects that Romney will take all 18 of the state’s pledged delegates, as chosen later at the state Republican convention, by virtue of the former Massachusetts’ governor’s convincing win yesterday.

For local coverage of the caucuses see the Bangor Daily News and the Portsmouth Herald

Democrats in the Pine Tree State caucus next Sunday,10 February.

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