- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2009

Howard rating slips

The ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded bonds issued by the District for Howard University from stable to negative. S&P cited Howard’s operating losses at the university and its hospital, and a declining university endowment. Howard has taken steps to cut costs and raise revenue, and 2009 losses are expected to be lower, S&P said.

Affirmative inaction

This is from Peter Kirsanow on nationalreviewonline: “A new Quinnipiac [University] poll on affirmative action indicates that most Americans are prepared to discontinue racial and ethnic preferences in employment, contracting and college admissions. … The poll shows that voters oppose giving preferences for private sector jobs to certain racial groups by a margin of 74 percent to 21 percent. Voters opposed racial preferences for government jobs by a margin of 70 percent to 25 percent.

“Perhaps the most intriguing question posed by the poll was whether the election of Barack Obama made the respondent more likely or less likely to support continuation of ‘affirmative action programs.’ For 80 percent of respondents, the election of Barack Obama didn’t change their views on affirmative action. Among those for whom the election did have an effect:”

• Blacks were six times more likely to support affirmative action than oppose it.

• Hispanics were slightly less than six times more likely to support affirmative action than oppose it.

• Whites were three times more likely to oppose affirmative action than support it.

• Women were near evenly split.

• Men were nearly two times more likely to oppose affirmative action than support it.

• Republicans were nearly six times more likely to oppose affirmative action than support it.

• Independents were two times more likely to oppose affirmative action than support it.

• Democrats were 2 1/2 times more likely to support affirmative action than oppose it.

“Note that the question used the term ‘affirmative action’ as opposed to ‘racial/ethnic preferences.’ Polling data over the years shows that the former term consistently produces more favorable responses than the latter. The latter term, however, more clearly defines the practice as it pertains to public contracting and college admissions. It would be interesting to see what results the question would yield if ‘racial preferences’ were substituted for ‘affirmative action.’ ”

Racing to the top

Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that the department will pledge up to $350 million of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund to help states create assessments attached to the internationally benchmarked common standards being made for public education from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Mr. Duncan spoke at the Governors Education Symposium in Cary, N.C., commending the 46 states and three territories that already agreed to develop common standards to help American students remain competitive in the global marketplace.

“Perhaps for the first time, we have enough money to really make a difference. We have proven strategies for success in schools all across America. This is where reform will play out. It will filter up from classrooms and schools, districts and localities, but then it will arrive on your desks,” Mr. Duncan told the governors. “And when it does, I urge you to remember that the truest measure of a societys worth is whether it offers all of our children the opportunity to go where they want to go, do what they want to do, and fulfill their dreams. This is the promise of education. This is my promise. This is your promise. This is the American promise.”

Each state currently sets its own academic standards.

The Education Department will hold a national competition among states to improve education quality and results statewide for $4 billion of the fund. The grants will focus on four main reform goals: using data to drive instruction; raising standards; turning around historically low-performing schools; and improving teacher and principal quality, as explained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Grants will be awarded in two rounds. The department also released a timeline for the grant-making process:

• By late July, the department will publish a notice of proposed rule making in the Federal Register, inviting public comment for 30 days on the proposed grant application and the criteria for evaluating them.

• October: A notice inviting applications is to be published in the Federal Register.

• December: Phase 1 applications are due.

• March: Phase 1 grants are awarded and winners are announced.

• June: Phase 2 applications are due.

• September: Phase 2 grants are awarded and winners are announced.

Fourth Estate on campus

The Utah State University Press barely escaped the cutting board. Eastern Washington University Press is being phased out. Revenue was down 8 percent at Yale University Press. State University of New York Press announced layoffs in December. Louisiana State University Press overspent its $500,000 budget by $900,000, and the school’s chancellor has said that kind of subsidy cannot continue.

You get the picture about college presses: “They’re all getting hammered,” Peter Givler, director of the American Association of University Presses, told the Associated Press.

University presses face many of the same problems as commercial publishers, including fewer readers, competition from the Internet and higher costs.

Some struggling university presses have explored forming regional consortiums for publishing or distribution, said Al Greco, vice president of the Institute for Publishing Research. He also said university presses may need to recruit personnel from the world of profit-making commercial publishing.