Ten home-schooled children enter college by age 12

Ten children home-schooled. Six entered college by age 12; the other four maybe earlier – the 10-year old plans to take her college exams next year. A doctor – one of the youngest in history, an architect at age 15,  an M.S. by age 17, a college senior at 14. It just goes on and on. An amazing family but they say they are just  ‘average folks’.

“[T]he Harding children insist they are not geniuses. Instead, they credit their achievements to home-schooling, as well as a concentrated focus on their passions, which their parents taught them to hone in on from an early age.”

The parents are “convinced that all children have the capacity to learn at the rate theirs have. [They] have written a book to illustrate their teaching method and launched a website detailing their unique approach.”

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The Coming ObamaCare Shock

As ObamaCare is rolled out this year and next, tens of millions of Americans will be shocked. Even Democrats who wrote and/or voted for the unpopular law are worried.

  • Sen. Max Baucus called it a “train wreck.”
  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller described it as “beyond comprehension.”
  • Henry Chao, an official in charge of implementing it, was quoted as saying “I’m pretty nervous . . . Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.”

Insurance premiums will soar for millions of people, even after the government subsidies. Some young adults with individual health insurance will see a 46% increase. Small-group premiums are expected to increase by 13%-23% on average. Some of those may face a 90% increase.

Five million people will see major changes in their policies. Three million will lose their existing insurance. Six million will pay hefty fines. Millions more will see their hours reduced to under 30 hours per week so companies can avoid the insurance mandate and fines.

In total, it appears that there will be 30 million to 40 million people damaged in some fashion by the Affordable Care Act—more than one in 10 Americans. When that reality becomes clearer, the law is going to start losing its friends in the media, who are inclined to support the president and his initiatives. We’ll hear about innocent victims who saw their premiums skyrocket, who were barred from seeing their usual doctor, who had their hours cut or lost their insurance entirely—all thanks to the faceless bureaucracy administering a federal law.

There is no magic in government

Coolidge, in a speech called Have Faith in Massachusetts, expressed a different idea: “Don’t hurry to legislate.” There are natural limitations to what human law can accomplish, and we should not delude ourselves with false expectations. “There is danger of disappointment and disaster,” Coolidge said, unless we understand and appreciate what law can and cannot do. What legislation cannot do, and should not attempt to do, is provide “some short cut to perfection.” As we saw recently during the gun control debate, “When legislation fails, those who look upon it as a sovereign remedy simply cry out for more legislation.”

Invoking the American founders, Coolidge often argued that law “loses its sanctity and authority” when it is “changed and changeable on slight provocation.” In other words, in order to inculcate respect and reverence for the rule of law, reform should be a difficult and arduous task, requiring much time and extensive deliberation. “It is much more important,” Coolidge said, “to kill bad bills than to pass good ones,” because there is no immediate remedy and complete solution in any act of Congress. “There is no magic in government,” he cautioned.

Amen.

US News rankings of public high schools

U.S News recently released its rankings of the best public high schools in the United States. (http://www.usnews.com/education/high-schools/articles/2013/04/23/us-news-releases-2013-best-high-schools-rankings?int=edu:ft&int=ed8556) The highest ranked school, which was in Dallas, TX, scored 100% in college readiness, 4.0 in Math, and 3.7 in Reading.

By contrast, the highest ranked NH high school scored only 38% college ready, 2.3 Math, 3.4 Reading. 44% of the students were rated Not Proficient in Math – and this is ranked the best school in NH. The NH average, though not listed, appears to be about 2.0 in Math, which translates to 63% of high school students NOT proficient.

Perhaps the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) is more difficult than the tests used in other states, but it does seem appalling that a large majority of NH high school students are ranked Not Proficient in math. I hope to have more information in a future column.

Down in Concord

“Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” — Otto von Bismarck

The House and Senate have just over 200 bills left to deal with by the end of June. The House has the easier job with just 89 bills in committee. The Senate has 114 in committee; three of those are the big budget bills.

Almost all of those bills have had public hearings. In the next two weeks there will be some 30 more public hearings. Of the seven hearings in the House, it is hard to find a one that might be interesting to any of us around here. Is there anyone eager to testify about a bill that changes “district court” to “circuit court”?

The Senate hearings are not particularly interesting either. Does a bill “establishing a right of discovery to a carrier’s investigation of claims in workers’ compensation cases” excite anyone?

The Senate does have three bills that probably will interest large numbers of people. On Tuesday, May 7, there is a public hearing on the massive gas tax increase. You may recall that it was initially proposed as an 83% increase in the gas tax. When that news spread around the state, they trimmed it way, way back to a mere 67% increase. They said it would all be used for roads and bridges but their budget spends even LESS on the department of transportation then current law provides. Word from the Senate is that the gas tax is dead on arrival.

The Senate will hold its public hearing on the budget on May 9th in the late afternoon and evening so working stiffs will be able to attend without having to take time away from work.

There is one bill in the House that is consuming thousands of man-hours and might be accepting public input for another week or two. The gambling bill, SB 152, is being considered by a special joint committee of Finance and Ways & Means. They already had their regular public hearing but now they are divided into three subcommittees, each taking more input.

The Regulations subcommittee “will focus on the bidding process, regulations, oversight, accountability and enforcement.” We heard at the public hearing that it will not be possible for the rules and regulations to be written and approved before the bill’s stated deadline for choosing the winning bidder.

The subcommittee on Revenue “will address all issues related to revenue generation and loss, specification of casino size and composition to achieve maximum revenue, and allocation of revenues designated for specific purposes.” Proponents say the casino would be high-end but opponents note that compared to the costs of casinos in other states, the bill does not require the casino developer to spend anywhere near enough money.

The third subcommittee, Community Impact, “will explore impacts on municipalities, counties and the state including job creation, impact on existing businesses, traffic and highway maintenance, public safety and other social costs.” Proponents minimize the social costs. Opponents say that it will cannibalize sales from existing restaurants, hotels, and theaters.

Closer to home, the Sullivan county commissioners will meet Monday, May 6. According to published reports their proposed county budget will increase property taxes by $400,000. The next step in the budget process is for the Executive Finance Committee (EFC) to review and amend the budget proposal, then for the full county delegation to meet, possibly amend, and vote on the budget.

Why do I mention the county budget in a column about state legislative happenings? Most people don’t know it, but our State legislators are also county legislators. The thirteen Reps from the various districts in Sullivan county are the legislative body for county government. The commissioners are the governing body, analogous to town selectmen. They recommend a budget but the State Reps, analogous to a town’s voters, are the ones to approve the budget.

Last year, the commissioners recommended a budget that raised taxes by 2%. The county delegation consisting of 9 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted instead to cut taxes. It will be interesting to see if this year’s delegation, now controlled by Democrats, will go along with a tax increase or whether they will cut taxes. Given that almost every Democrat in the House voted to raise multiple taxes, I would be surprised if they vote to cut taxes in Sullivan county.

Vocational education reduces youth unemployment

Countries with good youth employment provide their students with a practical education. Germany, for example, “has a long tradition of high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships…”

“Employers [in nine countries] are awash with applications—but complain that they cannot find candidates with the right abilities. … Middle-sized firms (between 50 and 500 workers) have an average of 13 entry-level jobs empty.”

“Many countries are now trying to bridge the gap between education and work by upgrading vocational schools, encouraging standard schools to form closer relations with local companies, and embracing apprenticeships.”

Russell Mead asks “College: What’s the Point?“:

“As nearly half of young American college grads work in jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree while struggling to pay off crushing student debt, lawmakers and educators are beginning to ask a critical question: What is college for?

“… as more students graduate without employment prospects, the notion that universities should spend more time on practical training in marketable skills has begun to take hold.”

Vocational schools lead to good jobs

Starting salaries about $45,000, no college tuition, no student debt. That is why more and more kids are deciding to go to vocational schools instead of traditional schools.

“I can make as much money as someone going to college, coming straight out of high school, and I don’t have to pay for college loans or anything like that,” said a student at Pathfinder Regional, a Massachusetts vo-tech school.

Kids used to go to college to avoid working minimum-wage jobs in factories. But nowadays kids are going to vocational school to get high-tech factory jobs working with computer programs and robotics.

A couple of weeks ago I noted a Wall Street Journal report that there were 284,000 college graduates in minimum wage jobs in 2012. That’s not a problem for Pathfinder Regional graduates. Every one of them found a good job.