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Saturday, July 27, 2013
A break for a do-nothing Congress
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner took the Senate floor Thursday with a stack of letters and emails from federal workers who have been furloughed under a budget sequestration scheme that, in Warner’s words, “was set up so that it would be so stupid, so draconian, so outside the realm of possibility that no rational people would ever let it happen.”
But Congress let those automatic spending cuts happen rather than put aside partisan differences and pass a rational plan to fund the federal government. Warner read one message from a West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran that summed up Washington pretty well.
“I do not see leadership, I do not see accountability and I do not see selfless service that rises above partisan politics,” Warner’s constituent wrote.
Imagine how that letter-writer will feel when Congress begins a month-long recess next week without a plan to fund the federal government beyond Sept. 30. Warner and U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Virginia Beach, told The Virginian-Pilot this week that Congress should forgo its recess until it passes a new spending plan and averts another round of automatic spending cuts.
“We’re about to break for a month when people are getting 20 percent pay cuts,” Warner told the Norfolk newspaper. “People have a right to be angry.”
House Republicans are sending their members home with a 31-page “planning kit” that amounts to a script for town hall meetings, “issue tours” and working the media. The playbook advises members to go to their districts and tell constituents how hard they’re fighting “to hold government accountable to taxpayers.”
It’s about time that voters hold a dysfunctional Congress accountable. They should ignore self-serving platitudes and tell their representatives to get back to work.
Failing to make the grade
Suppose you send your son off to third grade, but don’t see a report card until the end of the school term. And all it contains is one grade. So now you know your son is a “C” student, but you don’t know anything else. You could guess he’s average at everything, and fail to know he’s a whiz at math and behind in reading.
A single-letter grade is not helpful, but it is exactly what the Virginia Department of Education must do in assigning a letter grade — A through F — for every public school in the commonwealth. This latest brainchild is delivered from the same school of thought that public policy should be simple enough to fit on a bumper sticker.
It ignores that Virginia already issues every school a comprehensive report card, available for all to see and easily understand.
But legislators score parental comprehension poorly. As Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, this week told The Virginian-Pilot, letter grades will make schools more accountable to parents who don’t understand terms like “accredited with warning” or “conditionally accredited.”
“Every school system is facing the exact same challenges. When you have a common standard across the school systems, we can tell pretty quickly who has innovative programs that meet students’ needs,” Stolle said.
Of course, that cookie-cutter approach only works if every student comes to school equipped with the same intelligence and abilities and every school has the same resources.
A Salem All Star
Salem is letting loose of Carey Harveycutter in stages. Little wonder. Harveycutter has been manager of the Salem Civic Center for so long, it’s hard to imagine the place running without him. Eventually. In two or three years, when he says his final goodbye. But his footprint in the city is larger than that job alone might suggest.
As director of civic facilities, he oversees Salem Memorial Ballpark and Salem Stadium. And he manages the annual Salem Fair. Then there’s his unofficial job.
Harveycutter has been an ambassador for Salem — bringing NCAA championship events to the city’s venues and ensuring that, whatever the sport, visiting teams enjoy a full measure of Southern hospitality and want to come back.
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