Potomac Chronicle

Public Universities Have Forgotten Their Mission

I was stunned and saddened to learn six months ago or so that someone I deeply respect had in effect been forced from public office even though everyone seemed to agree that he was doing an outstanding job.

Tom Ross received one of Governing’s first Public Official of the Year awards in 1994, for work he had done on sentencing reform as a superior court judge in North Carolina. He went on in 2010 to become president of the state’s 17-campus university system, earning a reputation as an effective leader during some perilous times. READ MORE

Are Schools Overregulating What Students Eat?

Just by sending a frustrated tweet, a suburban Philadelphia mother set off a tsunami. “Insanity!” the woman fumed. “I have to sign a permission slip so my middle-schooler can eat an Oreo.” She was telling the truth, and her tweet inadvertently launched a national debate over whether a lawsuit-crazed society had finally gone too far.

The cookie in question was actually a Double Stuf Oreo. The permission slip came one day in March from Darlene Porter, a teacher at Welsh Valley Middle School in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The purpose: an experiment on the earth’s tectonic plates. READ MORE

Washington’s Education Stalemate

Fifty years ago, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act expanding the federal role in education was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Six years ago, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, armed with a bucketload of cash from the Obama administration’s economic stimulus program, leveraged that money to jump-start the reform effort called Race to the Top.

Both of those programs remain on the books, but both are imperiled by Washington’s dysfunction. Congress has yet to include Race to the Top, a $4.3 billion program, in the new budget, and it hasn’t reauthorized the Johnson-era education law, which was last authorized in 2002 as No Child Left Behind and was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007. READ MORE

Are States Still 'Labs of Democracy'?

Writing recently in The New York Times, Duke University business professor Aaron Chatterji painted a discouraging picture of the states’ current status as “laboratories of democracy.” He argued that “just when we need their innovative energies, the states are looking less and less likely” to be generating new ideas for federal policy. Has the flame of state creativity somehow gone out?

That would be a tough case to make to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who is proposing a massive remake of federally funded job training, social welfare and health programs. Snyder has set out a “river of opportunity” plan that he hopes will make Michigan first in the nation in training for skilled trades, lift all third-graders to proficiency in reading and launch what he calls “Medicaid expansion done right.” To accomplish his aim, Snyder has created a new department designed to weave together an assortment of federal grant programs and to combine state programs dealing with health, welfare and families. READ MORE

The ‘CEO-Mayors’ Who Care About Cities Instead of Profits

One of the most compelling urban tales I’ve encountered in recent years is about Dan Gilbert, the entrepreneur who decided five years ago to move his company and all its employees from the Detroit suburbs into downtown as the city was sliding into bankruptcy. A risk-taker in business, he was willing to make one huge bet on a historic urban revival.

Gilbert’s company is Rock Ventures, better known for one of its subsidiaries, Quicken Loans. It has been enormously successful, to the point where Gilbert’s net worth has doubled in just the past year to almost $4 billion, according to Forbes. Gilbert is reported to have purchased as many as 40 buildings in the downtown area and moved more than 12,000 of his employees into them while recruiting other companies to fill more. READ MORE