Is 4 years old too young to start kindergarten?

That’s the question facting Michigan legislators. Lori Higgins, education writer for the Detroit Free Press, writes:

It’s an almost annual debate in Lansing, but although previous efforts have failed, the quest this year is gaining steam, largely because of the growing recognition that the kindergarten curriculum has become much more demanding — and because of fears that Michigan kids won’t be able to compete with children from other states.

Legislation that would move the cutoff date to Sept. 1 passed the Senate on May 3; similar legislation is awaiting action in the House. Under the House and Senate bills, the change would be phased in over three years, beginning with moving the cutoff to Nov. 1 in 2013, Oct. 1 in 2014 and Sept. 1 in 2015.

“I believe, in the long run, our children will be better off because of it,” said Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, who sponsored the Senate bills.

Despite the growing support, the change still has opponents, who point out that the schools would lose funding. And some educators say the change isn’t necessary and may end up hurting children who won’t have access to a good preschool program while they wait to enroll in kindergarten.

Read more.

Hey, Crayola: Recycle your markers!

Really. What are we supposed to do with those things? Sign the petition.

Some California elementary school students want Crayola to start a recycling program for used plastic markers, but the company doesn’t want to do it.


From the Associated Press:

About 40 students at Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael, Calif., have been promoting an online petition aimed at nudging Crayola, a subsidiary of Kansas City-based Hallmark, into developing a “take-back” program for used-up markers.

Principal Julie Harris said Wednesday that the student group has been meeting at lunchtime for a couple weeks to discuss the project and monitor the petition’s progress. The petition on had more than 61,000 signatures as of today.

The students plan to present the petition to Crayola, Harris said.

“I don’t think they thought they were going to get there so quickly,” she said. “They were hoping the Crayola company would take notice of it.”

Crayola has, but spokeswoman Stacy Gabrielle said in an email that while the crayon maker encourages “children to share their ideas,” the company has no plans to offer a recycling program for its markers.

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Obama Administration seeks to chill press freedom

What freedoms are Obama trying to take away from us? Well, here’s one, and it’s not made up: The right of the press to aggressively investigate wrongdoing by the government.

This excerpt comes from a must-read article in the Huffington Post by Dan Froomkin and Michael Calderone about the Obama Administration’s repeated attempts to crack down on news leaks by attacking reporters’ privilege to shield their sources. The case in point involves James Risen, the New York Times reporter who reported on a failed U.S. plot against the Iranian government.  Former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling has been accused of leaking the information to Risen, and the Justice Department wants to force Risen to testify in Sterling’s trial. So far, federal judges have been unimpressed with the Administration’s arguments, as they should be.  Let’s hope the Obama administration fails in its attempts. 

What every happened to Hope and Change? On this issue, he’s worse than Bush.

Froomkin  and Calderone write:

While the Obama administration hasn’t prosecuted those responsible for torture during the Bush years, it is taking a strong stand against a former official believed to have supplied information to the media about use of torture and other controversial tactics during the previous administration.

In January, the Justice Department charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou with disclosing classified information to the media; The FBI claims to have evidence linking him to a 2008 New York Times story detailing the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.

In another notable case, the DOJ charged Thomas Drake under the Espionage Act, claiming the former National Security Agency official provided classified information of gross NSA mismanagement to a Baltimore Sun reporter. The government’s case collapsed in 2011 and Drake pleaded guilty only to a misdemeanor.

The crackdown hasn’t gone unnoticed among reporters, with tension recently spilling out into the White House briefing room after the administration praised Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin, journalists who died while covering the bloody conflict in Syria.

Jake Tapper, the senior White House correspondent for ABC News, asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney how public support of those journalists’ work “square[s] with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court.”

“There just seems to be a disconnect here,” Tapper added. “You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don’t want it in the United States.”

In April 2008, then-candidate Obama told the audience at an AP luncheon that he believed a federal judge, and not a sitting administration, should decided if a confidential source should be protected. Obama also supported a federal shield law, but during his first year in office, the White House sent Congress “sweeping revisions” to a proposed bill that “would significantly weaken its protections against forcing reporters to testify,” according to the Times. The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Obama’s current views on the matter. 

Read more.


Hearing delayed in Culver City PTA embezzlement case

Update from the Culver City Patch:

A preliminary hearing for Cheryl Noda, charged with stealing $23,700 in funds  from the El Rincon Elementary School PTA in November 2011, was continued again Monday morning, following a request from her attorney.

Noda was scheduled to appear at the Airport Branch Courthouse at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning. However, the hearing – already held over from May 18 – has now been pushed back till Aug. 2.

Noda was charged April 12 with two counts of grand theft by embezzlement, one count of second-degree commercial burglary and two counts of forgery. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges

Original Post — May 19, 2012:

I don’t think I’ve had three PTA embezzlement stories on the Chain Gang Blog’s front page before. For the record, it stinks. This case comes out of Culver City, California and involves $23,000 in missing funds. The twist in this case: Former El Rincon Elementary School PTA treasurer Cheryl Noda has  been charged with commercial burglary in addtion to the other usual crimes. 

Read it and weep.

Ex-PTA treasurer fears going to jail “may impact my family in a negative way”

Maybe she should have thought about that earlier.

Aleta Taylor, ex-treasurer of Roosevelt Elementary School PTA in Olympia, Washington, has been charged with stealing nearly $15,000 from the PTA over two years. Taylor, 40, was the PTA treasurer 2007-09 and 2010-11. Her husband, Paul Taylor served in that role 2009-10.

From The Olympian:

(Current PTA President Desi) Saylors reported the alleged theft to Olympia police in August 2011. In October 2009, former Roosevelt PTA Vice President Christopher White had raised concerns about Taylor’s “free rein” and “lack of accountability” while managing PTA finances. In September 2010, Saylors, then the Roosevelt PTA’s vice president, “expressed concern” to fellow PTA members that “there had not been a financial review in the past two years.” The Washington Association of PTA’s bylaws require that every PTA in the state conduct a financial review at the end of each fiscal year.

In June 2011, Saylors, who had become Roosevelt PTA president, ordered Taylor to turn over all PTA financial records.

PTA members reviewing the financial records in 2011 noted “unexplained transactions” involving the PTA’s bank account during 2008. An audit conducted by the PTA, with the assistance of Olympia detectives, revealed that Taylor used a PayPal account that was originally set up for a Roosevelt PTA fundraising effort to access Roosevelt PTA funds from its First Citizens Bank account. Police say Taylor used the legitimate Roosevelt PTA PayPal account to deposit funds belonging to the PTA into her own PayPal accounts.

Taylor also is believed to have transferred funds from the PTA’s bank account to pay for purchases not authorized by the PTA.

Taylor admitted to the PTA that she had “taken $1,700 without authorization.” She stated in a letter to the PTA that she could pay $100 a month to pay off that amount.

During an interview with an Olympia detective, Taylor “expressed fear over going to jail and that her involvement in the thefts was going to severely impact her family in a negative way.”

Read more.

Despite the drinking, college education leads to healthier life

From Inside Higher Education:

People with higher degree attainment and their families have healthier lives, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the findings:

  • In 2007-2010 in households where the head of household had less than a high school education, 24 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls were obese. In households where the head had a bachelor’s degree or higher, 11 percent for males aged 2-19 years and 7 percent for females were obese.
  • In 2007-2010, women 25 years of age and over with less than a bachelor’s degree were more likely to be obese (39 percent – 43 percent) than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher (25 percent).
  • In 2010, 31 percent of adults 25-64 years of age with a high school diploma or less education were smokers, compared with 24 percent of adults with some college and 9 percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Between 1996-2006, the gap in life expectancy at age 25 between those with less than a high school education and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 1.9 years for men and 2.8 years for women. On average in 2006, 25-year-old men without a high school diploma had a life expectancy 9.3 years less than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Read more.