Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Monday, March 3, 2008

In Brief - March 3rd, 2008

It sometimes seems like education gets short shrift here in Washington State. For all the talk about "the state's paramount duty" to ensure that our childrens do learn, education funding continually comes up woefully short.

For example, consider school libraries. At a time when reading and math have become the highest priority in school curricula, school libraries are losing librarians and can't afford to keep their collections up to date. What is more integral to reading than a library? A librarian in Ridgefield, WA, reports that she serves four schools in her district. Four!

On a weekly basis, that puts her in each school a little more than one day a week.

A Senate bill (SB 6380) that intended to give school districts more money to hire librarians and update library books passed the Senate unanimously this session, but despite powerful support from parents and teachers the bill died in the House. The most recent state revenue forecast dampened enthusiasm for making more investments in our common wealth.

I volunteer in a school library. When I'm there, I hear the excited buzz as the kids come in to enjoy one of their favorite times of the week and then I hear the quiet hush as the students put their noses into the books that the librarian carefully selected for their enjoyment.

If we want our children to read, we have to explain why reading is a critical skill and provide access to books that are intriguing and captivating.

Let's take a look at today's headlines:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Oregon currently has the dubious distinction of spending more on its prison system than any other state. A 1994 initiative mandating minimum prison sentences is partly to blame. Two November ballot measures could increase the incarceration rate and prison spending even further if they pass.
  • Several "Street of Dreams" homes in Snohomish County were destroyed this morning by arsonists. The blazes were apparently set off by individuals associating themselves with Earth Liberation Front, who stupidly believes that the way to save the environment is to start destructive fires (and increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to boot).
  • Two earthquakes of approximately 5.1 and 4.9 magnitude struck about 200 miles off the Oregon coast this morning, near the town of Bandon. The quakes caused no damage.
Across the Nation
  • Congressman Dennis Kucinich is fighting to keep his House seat in Tuesday's Ohio primary election. He is being slammed by his Democratic opponent and some of Cleveland's political leaders for ignoring his home state. Kucinich's Democratic constituents will decide tomorrow whether they want to keep Dennis as their standard bearer.
  • John McCain has a tricky line to walk in satisfying ultra-conservatives, biconceptuals and independents in his presidential race, and his long twenty five record shows inconsistencies with his positions on key issues such as immigration, tax cuts and torture.
  • The falling dollar has allowed the price of crude oil to reach a new high of $103.95 per barrel. Investors are using oil as a hedge against the sinking dollar and their speculation is driving prices higher.
Around the World
  • Dmitri A. Medvedev will become Russia's next president, although he will share the head-of-state duties with his former boss, Vladimir Putin. Putin has pledged to serve as Russia's prime minister and plans to enlarge the duties of his new position. Perhaps he should give Dick Cheney a call.
  • The United Nations Security Council is expected to approve new sanctions against Iran because of suspicions that it is again developing nuclear weapons. All five permanent members and six out of ten non-permanent members support the sanctions.
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