Restructure Public Education
Education is the backbone of our Republic and powers our economic growth. Drastic restructuring is required immediately to overcome the education deficits we’re currently facing. International student assessment ranked our students 23rd in science, 17th in reading and 31st in math. Our students are inadequately prepared and the drop-out rate is around 40 percent. Foreign students aren’t more intelligent than ours; they just work longer and harder.
Our six hour school day and 180 day year will not compete in a global economy whose students have higher academic standards. Their teachers are better prepared, spend 30-50 percent more time in class, and have a parent culture that expects more from their children. Teacher and administrator preparation must be more rigorous and employment more selective, requiring degrees in content courses like math, history and science. Eliminate the 12th grade but enroll students in either a community college or voc tech school.
School board members should meet stringent requirements along with term limits. Compensation and benefits should be comparable to similar positions in the private sector and awarded on performance, degree and skill. Eliminate tenure. Explore time, effort and expense of extracurricular activities relative to value produced and received. Require more emphasis on basics and core values of respect, responsibility, honesty, self discipline and citizenship. Implement a parent involvement plan that encourages school district appraisals with external evaluators to determine the school district’s effectiveness.
Experts agree we need to transform education to regain U.S. competitiveness. Actions taken to date have failed. Our destiny will hinge on restructuring education.
Regarding the NRC’s Vermont Yankee rating
Jim DeVincentis, a self-identified “professional engineer” from Vernon, Vermont, recently expressed in these pages how “nice” it was to read Nuclear Regulatory Commission administrator Bill Dean’s “informed, balanced, experienced voice of reason” in announcing that Vermont Yankee “had once again earned the commission’s highest safety rating of green.” Administrator Dean notes in his review that there are “no immediate safety concerns at Vermont Yankee, as well as all other U.S. nuclear power plants following the March events . . . in Japan.”
“Immediate,” of course, is a relative term in the realm of nuclear power plant safety. There were no “immediate” concerns at the Fukushima Daiichi facility on the morning of March 11, 2011. This February the NRC itself rejected a request by Entergy Corporation, Vermont Yankee’s owner, to exempt its Indian Point plant in New York from over 100 critical fire safety regulations. No immediate concerns there, I suppose, the plant’s still running. Probably because the Brown’s Ferry plant in Alabama, site of the near-catastrophic fire in 1975 which instigated the writing of those fire safety regulations in the first place, is still not in compliance with them almost forty years later, earning it an ongoing “red” safety rating, though not red enough to prevent the NRC from extending yet again the deadline for compliance until next year. Since it’s still running, it certainly wouldn’t be fair to shut down Indian Point for non-compliance with the same regulations.
But just this week the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with a coalition of state attorneys general from New York, Vermont, and elsewhere, that the NRC violated federal law when it failed to conduct necessary studies before finding that there would be no significant safety or environmental impacts from the storage of nuclear waste at the more than 100 nuclear reactor sites in this country for at least sixty years after each reactor is permanently shut down. In fact, the court found that this waste “poses a dangerous, long-term health and environmental risk.” The court further found in violation of federal law the NRC’s contention with “reasonable assurance” that a safe storage facility for the nation’s nuclear waste would be available “when necessary”. The NRC “apparently has no long-term plan other than hoping for a geologic repository,” the court noted.
Not only has the NRC failed to act on the public’s behalf in assessing the risk associated with the continued operation of these plants, it has actively downplayed those risks. Mr. DeVincentis’s happy acceptance of the determination by the NRC’s “nuclear experts, watchdogs and independent safety inspectors” that Vermont Yankee is “safe” is misplaced, they have already proven their unreliability at best. He should instead be asking why the NRC continues to act in the interests of an industry churning out the most toxic substances known to man, rather than, as is its “commission,” in the interests of the citizens who must live in the shadow of these plants. Indeed, we all live in the shadow of these plants. The imperative to close them down is as immediate as the prospects of another accident like Chernobyl or Fukushima, or worse, which, unfortunately, are inevitable. It is time to close down Vermont Yankee while we still have the chance to do it in a safe and orderly fashion.
Tuesday June 19: David Coats will speak as part of the Sheraton Economic Series at 7pm Sheraton University Amphitheatre on the subject of Vermont’s unfunded liabilities.
Thursday June 28: Navigating Vermont’s Path to Health Care Reform 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM Hilton 60 Battery St. Burlington. To register visit: http://mvpburlington.eventbrite.com.
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