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Schwarzenegger Vetoes Bill to Shave $2 Billion From Budget Gap

March 09, 2010, 4:38 AM EST

By William Selway

March 9 (Bloomberg) — California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill seeking to cut $2 billion from the most-populous U.S. state’s budget, saying the measure passed by the Democrat-led Legislature was “unrealistic.”

The measure sought to trim California’s $20 billion deficit, mostly through reductions in spending on prisons. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said the bill overstated how much could be saved, particularly by deporting illegal aliens now in jail, and urged the Legislature to take other steps to narrow the shortfall in the $87 billion annual budget.

[etc.]

(My Note – this was the part that I found the most interesting -)

California has been among the states hardest hit by the recession, which reduced tax collections. The resulting strains left it with the lowest credit rating among U.S. states led investors to demand higher yields on California bonds than they do for other states.

(And this part -)

In his veto message, the governor urged lawmakers to implement the spending cuts he proposed last month.

“Delaying implementation of the spending reductions I proposed in January will require the Legislature to make even more difficult choices later this year,” he wrote in his letter.

[ . . . ]

(from -)

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-09/schwarzenegger-vetoes-bill-to-shave-2-billion-from-budget-gap.html

If investors are demanding higher yields on California bonds – then they are part of the problem that is pushing the California budget deficit up every other week. Another part of the problem appeared on a CNN story yesterday, describing the $7,000 office cubicles purchased by the state and a small army of trucks purchased that are sitting doing nothing along with other spending choices. Two of the legislators appeared in the story who say they have no oversight over most of the agencies in California and how they spend money (or make choices to cut program funding in order to buy chairs, office furnishings, vehicles, workshops, junkets, seminars, raises for existing employees, etc.) Hmmm . . .

How is that possible?

The other thing that I noticed is this insistence that the California Legislature make the budget cuts and spending reductions demanded by the Republican Party who is using the Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to do it. Between this and the admission by the Legislators on the CNN story about not having the power to stop ridiculous spending choices that are happening in California agencies across the state, I can see how nothing appropriate is getting done.

The other day when I was watching the CSPAN rebroadcast of Professor Mitroff speaking about his book, “Dirty Rotten Strategies”, one of the things he mentioned was about the fiefdoms that existed in General Motors. Apparently the Buick people wouldn’t talk with or work with the Chevy people, the Chevy people wouldn’t work with the Hummer people, etc. and that had a lot to do with the failure of the company as a whole. I’ve seen that happen in government, military, corporate and non-profit structures too, both as an observer and as a systems analyst.

There is a tit for tat mentality that goes with those fiefdoms and an ego-driven insistence that whatever way one is used to doing things be the only way it is approached or accomplished with all sides digging their heels in and standing their ground as if their very lives were at stake. It only grows worse as it goes in that direction with each little kingdom demanding, stalling, stalemating, games playing, maneuvering to get their way, setting up stumbling blocks and barriers, undermining any progress the “other” side makes, delaying, hindering, competing with other teams for attention and priority, back-stabbing, discrediting, and generally working to derail any accomplishments made by anyone beyond themselves even within the same corporate or agency structure.

It is a war zone and although the news and intellectuals call it “politics” as if it is to be expected, the destructive force it has from within literally tears apart the positive potentials of everything it touches whether a government organization or a corporate one. These controlled fiefdoms that engage in the kinds of ego-driven destructive strategies listed are wasting time, undermining resources, tearing apart the opportunities that the organization may have to survive and to thrive, and limiting the success that is possible to everyone, including the organization, agency, corporation, or government.

No amount of leadership fixes this. No amount of great inspiring talk fixes it. No workshops, seminars, leadership conferences or retreats fixes this. And, no amount of telling people they are on the same team, fixes this. It only stops when the organization has been driven into the ground and everyone is forced to leave the playing field as a result of complete and total system failure. That is what happened to GM and that is what is happening in California state government. It is what will happen across many states and at the federal level throughout many agencies which still contain individuals whose concepts differ from the new administrative directors.


It is true that we don’t have any reason to believe some great enemy exists that could defeat us. At this point, any that exist would never have to lift a finger, or raise an army against us, or spend a dime to do it. They can just wait and watch the United States fall over from its own inability to flex and create solutions that work while infighting egos destroy every part of our country and our corporate assets in order to get their way over those who would do anything different. That infighting serves nothing but to stroke the sense of importance among individuals who will have nothing once it is over because by doing it this way, they will have destroyed it all. But I know, just as others are learning – there is no stopping this process to get people to work on the same team against a common enemy which is the real enemy in front of us. That enemy is failure – absolute collective failure.

– cricketdiane

***

(These two articles explain what has happened to school budgets, state budgets and has caused the huge deficits that are occurring. They need to fire the investment account managers that put them into these plays and hire someone who knows what to do when things go negative. I created a board game once that showed the players how to change strategies when the market turned negative by incorporating that change from positive to negative in the course of the game. As a result, the players would have to flex into new strategies of play and then flex again when the market changed to positive in order to end the game winning. It was a fun game.  Apparently our business schools did not prepare investment advisors and stock market brokers who present themselves as expert specialists in what to do when everything changes, especially to the negative side – except maybe to speculate against falling values as a hedge. There was obviously no presentation of what to do in this situation given to them by whatever education they have had. – my note)

***

Auditor General Jack Wagner Calls on General Assembly to Ban Risky ” …

FOXBusiness – Nov 18, 2009
Wagner also recommended that all Pennsylvania school districts, maintained inadequate controls over more than $11.5 million of laptop computers and also

All 10 relatedRelated web pages

Wagner also found that the district was the victim of a variety of deceptive marketing tactics: fees that were characterized as being paid by the investment banks were actually ultimately charged to the district; the agreements resulted in huge hidden profits for the investment banks that were not required to be, and have not been, disclosed to the district; the intermediaries involved in the deals – such as the district’s former financial advisor – had apparent conflicts of interests as a result of representing the interests of counterparties as well as the district; and at least two of the transactions were structured to provide the district with substantial up-front cash payments at the inception of the agreements as an additional inducement, totaling $5.8 million, while failing to disclose to the district that the investment bank was making a huge and immediate profit on the deal that was far in excess of the cash paid to the district. As a result, Wagner recommended that local governments should hire their financial advisers through a competitive selection process and periodically evaluate the quality, cost, and independence of the services provided.

Wagner urged the General Assembly to act on his legislative recommendations immediately. “These toxic products are being peddled to well-meaning but relatively unsophisticated local officials every day throughout the commonwealth,” he said. “The risk of huge losses is compounded by a lack of transparency in the deals and the failure of federal regulators to impose accountability on firms who created and marketed these products in the first place. These dangerous deals work in favor of the gambling houses and not the gamblers, and they must stop now.”

Wagner referred his findings to numerous state, federal, and independent entities. Among the recipients are the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Pennsylvania Securities Commission, State Ethics Commission, U.S. Departments of Justice and the Treasury, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission.

(So, they did the opposite –  and likely still have this legislation in place, where it started in the first place, my note)

In 2003, the General Assembly passed, and the governor signed, Act 23, which amended state law to explicitly permit local governments to enter into “qualified interest rate management agreements” or “QIRMAs,” commonly referred to as interest rate swaps, or just swaps, which are a type of derivative. Swaps were an attractive investment instrument when interest rates on variable-rate bonds and notes were low in comparison to fixed-rate bonds and notes, because they allowed local governments to take advantage of the lower rates while, in theory at least, providing a hedge against large increases in those rates. These exotic financial instruments are neither investments nor debt; they are contracts between a bond issuer (such as a school district) and an investment bank to exchange (“swap”) cash flows during an agreed-upon term based on other securities or indices. When the two sets of cash flows are exchanged, the side that generates the larger payments receives the difference between the sums.

Wagner noted that, while Act 23 was written primarily for the benefit and protection of the financial services industry, the swaps problem is not peculiar to Pennsylvania. The state of Tennessee has banned local governments from using these risky investments, New York State’s attorney general is investigating a possible ban, and the U.S. Congress is considering federal regulations.

(Excerpted from -)

NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact: Steve Halvonik 717 787-1381
Report Text

Auditor General Jack Wagner Calls on General Assembly to Ban Risky “Swap” Contracts by Schools, Local Governments

Urges new efforts to recover millions in taxpayer losses in Bethlehem Area School District and throughout Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG (Nov. 18, 2009) – Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that the General Assembly should ban the use of “swaps,” after a special investigation completed by his department found that the Bethlehem Area School District lost at least $10.2 million of taxpayers’ money in these risky and complex financial instruments. Wagner also recommended that all Pennsylvania school districts, local governments, and municipal authorities stop entering into swap agreements and immediately terminate any active swaps to which they are a party.

“Quite simply, the use of swaps amounts to gambling with public money,” Wagner said. “The fundamental guiding principle in handling public funds is that they should never be exposed to the risk of financial loss. Swaps have no place in public financing and should be banned immediately.”

While the investigation focused on the Bethlehem Area School District, Wagner called his report a “case study” of the use of swaps by all local governments in Pennsylvania. The Department of Community and Economic Development’s records indicate that 626 swap filings were made in Pennsylvania between October 2003 and June 2009, which related to $14.9 billion in debt. The precise number of different swaps and the precise amount of debt cannot be determined because the DCED data may include some double-counting.

During this time period, 107 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts, or 21.4 percent, and 86 other local governments reported to DCED that they entered into swap agreements. At least 13 investment firms, including Citibank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and Morgan Stanley, have entered into swap agreements with Pennsylvania school districts and other local governments.

In 2003, the General Assembly passed, and the governor signed, Act 23, which amended state law to explicitly permit local governments to enter into “qualified interest rate management agreements” or “QIRMAs,” commonly referred to as interest rate swaps, or just swaps, which are a type of derivative. Swaps were an attractive investment instrument when interest rates on variable-rate bonds and notes were low in comparison to fixed-rate bonds and notes, because they allowed local governments to take advantage of the lower rates while, in theory at least, providing a hedge against large increases in those rates. These exotic financial instruments are neither investments nor debt; they are contracts between a bond issuer (such as a school district) and an investment bank to exchange (“swap”) cash flows during an agreed-upon term based on other securities or indices. When the two sets of cash flows are exchanged, the side that generates the larger payments receives the difference between the sums.

Until September 2008, the swap agreements were generally favorable to the Bethlehem Area School District, and it received cash payments from its investment bank counterparties. However, the swaps became unfavorable to the school district after the worldwide collapse of the banking system. The district was forced to pay $12.3 million to investment bank J.P. Morgan in May 2009.

Wagner’s investigation focused on the Bethlehem Area School District’s swap agreements entered into between April 29, 2003 and June 27, 2006. During that period, the district entered into 13 different swaps – the most of any school district in Pennsylvania. The 13 agreements related to $272.9 million in debt for school construction projects.

Wagner reviewed just two of the district’s swaps because those were the only two that had concluded by the time of his investigation. The two swaps cost district taxpayers $10.2 million more than if the district had issued a standard fixed-rate bond or note. Ironically, the swaps cost taxpayers $15.5 million more than if the district had simply paid the interest on the variable-rate note without any swaps at all. The district’s losses were largely due to excessive fees and other charges and the termination payment. “Because the district has many other swaps still in effect, the ultimate financial impact on the taxpayers remains to be seen,” explained Wagner.

Wagner noted that, while Act 23 was written primarily for the benefit and protection of the financial services industry, the swaps problem is not peculiar to Pennsylvania. The state of Tennessee has banned local governments from using these risky investments, New York State’s attorney general is investigating a possible ban, and the U.S. Congress is considering federal regulations.

Wagner also found that the district was the victim of a variety of deceptive marketing tactics: fees that were characterized as being paid by the investment banks were actually ultimately charged to the district; the agreements resulted in huge hidden profits for the investment banks that were not required to be, and have not been, disclosed to the district; the intermediaries involved in the deals – such as the district’s former financial advisor – had apparent conflicts of interests as a result of representing the interests of counterparties as well as the district; and at least two of the transactions were structured to provide the district with substantial up-front cash payments at the inception of the agreements as an additional inducement, totaling $5.8 million, while failing to disclose to the district that the investment bank was making a huge and immediate profit on the deal that was far in excess of the cash paid to the district. As a result, Wagner recommended that local governments should hire their financial advisers through a competitive selection process and periodically evaluate the quality, cost, and independence of the services provided.

Wagner urged the General Assembly to act on his legislative recommendations immediately. “These toxic products are being peddled to well-meaning but relatively unsophisticated local officials every day throughout the commonwealth,” he said. “The risk of huge losses is compounded by a lack of transparency in the deals and the failure of federal regulators to impose accountability on firms who created and marketed these products in the first place. These dangerous deals work in favor of the gambling houses and not the gamblers, and they must stop now.”

Wagner referred his findings to numerous state, federal, and independent entities. Among the recipients are the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Pennsylvania Securities Commission, State Ethics Commission, U.S. Departments of Justice and the Treasury, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission.

“I encourage the law enforcement agencies, in particular, to investigate and prosecute any conflicts of interest involved in these transactions,” Wagner said, “and to pursue all avenues that may be available to recover funds for the taxpayers of this district and elsewhere.”

Wagner conducted his investigation at the request of State Sen. Lisa Boscola, following a series of investigative reports by the media about the Bethlehem Area School District’s use of swaps. This is the second investigation report of the district released by Wagner in as many months. In October, Wagner reported that the district had maintained inadequate controls over more than $11.5 million of laptop computers and also had exercised poor oversight of an internal investigation related to the drug arrest of a former middle-school principal that cost the district $52,726.

Wagner commended the district for its cooperation with the investigation and its positive response to most of the recommendations in the report. He said that he would follow up in the future to determine the status of action on his recommendations by both the district and the General Assembly.

A complete copy of Wagner’s special investigation report is available at http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.

Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the Commonwealth’s elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts more than 5,000 audits per year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department’s Web site at http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.
###

http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/Department/Press/WagnerCallsOnBanRiskySwapContracts.html

**

(from CNN show yesterday – about the California budget choices to buy $7,000 each cubicles, trucks and whatever other expensive goodies they want while cutting education budgets, illegally raising tuitions and undermining mandated budget levels in community services to the poor, elderly, disabled, and disadvantaged people of the state.)

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Homicide in Hollenbeck; California’s Spending Spree; Will Democrats Pass Health Care Reform?; American Missionary Released in Haiti

Aired March 8, 2010 – 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

[ . . . ]

COOPER: Just a desperate situation, still.

Coming up next, a spending spree. Using taxpayers’ millions to buy flat-screen TVs, new cars, even office furniture. All this in a state that’s supposed to be broke. We’re “Keeping Them Honest,” ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: California’s become a poster child for the recession, including a $20 billion budget deficit. So you would think that the state’s Department of Transportation, CalTrans, is pinching pennies, right? Well, instead, it turns out it’s spending a fortune, and you will not believe on what.

“Keeping Them Honest” tonight, here’s Ted Rowlands.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These pricey new desks are part of a $75 million shopping spree at a time when the state of California is in deep financial trouble. The money is about what it could cost to pay 800 teachers, but instead, it went for new office furniture and new vehicles.

Some of the vehicles are sitting unused in a parking lot in Sacramento.

(on camera) Four hundred and thirty-three thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money was sent on furniture here at the state of California’s Air Resources Board, spent on cubicles of 40 employees. After taking a look at the furniture, it seems like an awful lot of money to spend, but nobody here will talk to us about it.

(voice-over) So off to Sacramento and the state capitol to ask the head of the Air Resources Board.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have the CNN News here for Mary Nichols.

ROWLANDS: After an hour of waiting, we get, “Sorry, no interview.”

DEMITRE STANICH, CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD: It’s been a difficult situation for all of us. I can’t go any further than that. ROWLANDS: Difficult why?

STANICH (on camera): Because of the circumstances surrounding this. I’m sorry. That’s all I’ve been allowed to tell you.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): The agencies did have to defend the spending to lawmakers. The vehicles, according to the Transportation Department, were part of a normal fleet turnover system.

As for the desks and other office furniture, the Air Resources Board spent $7,000 per cubicle.

(on camera) A $7,000 cubicle, is that normal in office furniture?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is the state contract provider.

ROWLANDS: So the state contracts, the state workers get a $7,000 desk? State assembly members, Audra Strickland and Hector De La Torre (ph), a Republican and Democrat, are on the oversight committee that brought the spending to light.

AUDRA STRICKLAND (R), CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: It’s an insult to folks having to make tough choices in their own families and in their own small businesses.

ROWLANDS: The problem is what to do about it. It seems government employees are virtually impossible to discipline, let alone fire, and lawmakers don’t even have direct authority over many state agencies. So they’re exasperated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can embarrass them into changing policies.

ROWLANDS: Taxpayer advocate John Coupal says the way governments at every level spend is an embarrassment.

JOHN COUPAL, HOWARD JARVIS TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION: Bureaucrats have this idea that they need to spend it or they will lose it. And first of all, we need to change that mentality. And also, they need to be held to the same standards as the private sector in how they use taxplayer dollars.

ROWLANDS: When California passes a new budget in a few months there’s a good chance jobs will be lost, possibly leaving some of the $7,000-cubicles empty and new cars parked in a lot.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Sacramento.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Unbelievable.

(from)

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1003/08/acd.01.html

***

My Note – this article below from the New York Times means that colleges and universities have been discriminating based on status and financial need against students who did qualify for admission in every other respect. Yes, there has been a caste system in America and since this article describes a handful of colleges and universities who are going to stop using financial need as a discriminating factor against students, it conversely means that the practice is still common across the higher education system in America. What kind of democracy and equality of opportunity is that?

– cricketdiane

**

(from New York Times – 03-08-100

College Acts to Disregard Fiscal Need in Admissions

By JACQUES STEINBERG

As some schools favor applicants who do not require financial aid, Hamilton College has decided to swim against that tide.

Officials Step Up Enforcement of Rights Laws in Education

By SAM DILLON

Education Secretary Arne Duncan plans to say an office “has not been as vigilant as it should have been” on discrimination.

Interactive Graphic: Cuts in California

An interactive feature details the impact of budget cuts in California.

**

College Acts to Disregard Fiscal Need in Admissions

By JACQUES STEINBERG
Published: March 7, 2010

At a time when some colleges are favoring applicants who do not require financial aid, Hamilton College in upstate New York has decided to swim against that tide.

Post a Comment on The Choice Blog

Hamilton, a small liberal arts college in Clinton, N.Y., is announcing that it is adopting a need-blind admissions policy. In doing so, it joins a handful of other colleges and universities — including those of the Ivy League — that pledge to consider applicants regardless of their ability to pay.

“It might be a little risky right now,” Monica Inzer, the dean of admission and financial aid of Hamilton, said in an interview. “It’s not always easy to do the right thing.”

In rescinding a “need-aware” or “need-sensitive” admissions policy — previously some students were admitted partly because they required no financial aid, and others were rejected because they did — Hamilton expects over the next four years to add about $2 million to its annual financial aid budget, which is about $24.6 million this year.

Initially, that additional expense will be borne by six trustees, who have each pledged $500,000 to seed the need-blind effort. The first students to be admitted under the new policy will be this fall’s freshman class. Soon, Ms. Inzer said, the college expects to embark on a capital campaign to raise $40 million as a permanent endowment for need-blind admissions.

Full tuition, room and board and other fees at Hamilton total nearly $50,000. The average financial aid award by the college is about $32,500, with about $28,500 in direct scholarships and the remainder in loans and work-study jobs.

With financial aid and other costs rising, several other colleges — including Reed in Oregon and Carleton in Minnesota — have acknowledged in the last year that some applicants’ ability to pay is being factored into admissions decisions.

Asked how the policy worked previously at Hamilton, Ms. Inzer said that at a certain point late in the admissions process, she would “pull back the curtain” and ask her staff “how much would this class cost?” When the financial aid budget ran out, Ms. Inzer said, some students whom the admissions staff had deemed likely to be admitted would be cut, based on their financial circumstances, and others who were not seeking aid would be put in their place.

All of this, she said, took place before the students had been informed of the committee’s decision. Last year, she said, 3 percent of the decisions were revised on the basis of need; two years ago, she said, the figure was 7 percent.

“In my mind,” she said of the new policy, “this levels the playing field.”

A version of this article appeared in print on March 8, 2010, on page A13 of the New York edition.

// <![CDATA[// Times Reader 2.0: Daily delivery of The Times – straight to your computer. Subscribe for just $3.45 a week.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/education/08hamilton.html?ref=us

Past Coverage

**

Officials Step Up Enforcement of Rights Laws in Education

By SAM DILLON
Published: March 7, 2010

[ etc. – more of article below – and link to read all of it]

The department intends to send letters offering guidance to virtually all of the nation’s 15,000 school districts and several thousand institutions of post-secondary education, officials said.

The letters will focus on 17 areas of civil rights concern, including possible racial discrimination in student assignments and admissions, in the meting out of discipline, and in access to resources, including qualified teachers. Other areas include possible sex and gender bias in athletics programs, as well as sexual harassment and violence. Other letters will remind districts and colleges of their responsibilities under federal law with regard to disabled students.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 8, 2010, on page A11 of the New York edition.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/education/08educ.html?ref=us

**

Officials Step Up Enforcement of Rights Laws in Education

By SAM DILLON
Published: March 7, 2010

Seeking to step up enforcement of civil rights laws, the federal Department of Education says it will be sending letters in coming weeks to thousands of school districts and colleges, outlining their responsibilities on issues of fairness and equal opportunity.

As part of that effort, the department intends to open investigations known as compliance reviews in about 32 school districts nationwide, seeking to verify that students of both sexes and all races are getting equal access to college preparatory curriculums and to advanced placement courses. The department plans to open similar civil rights investigations at half a dozen colleges.

[etc.]

Mr. Duncan plans to say that in the past decade the department’s Office for Civil Rights “has not been as vigilant as it should have been in combating gender and racial discrimination and protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities,” according to a text of the speech distributed to reporters on Sunday.

[ . . . ]

The department enforces civil rights laws in schools and universities by responding to specific complaints from parents, students and others, but also by scrutinizing its own vast bodies of data on the nation’s school and university systems, looking for signs of possible discrimination. A school seen to be expelling Latino students in numbers far out of proportion to their share of the student population, for instance, might become a candidate for compliance review, officials said.

[etc.]

Some civil rights advocates said they had hoped the administration would move more quickly last year to ramp up the activity of the Office for Civil Rights, the department’s second-largest, with 600 employees.

“This whole area has been a dead zone for years, and people were worried that new actions were too slow in coming,” said William L. Taylor, chairman of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, a Washington group that monitors federal policy and practices. “There had been strong hopes that they would move more quickly. This sounds like positive movement, which we’ve all been asking for.”

Russlyn H. Ali, assistant secretary of education for civil rights, said in an interview that the department would begin 38 compliance reviews before the current fiscal year ended on Oct. 1. That number compares with 29 such reviews carried out last year, 42 in 2008, 23 in 2007 and nine in 2006, she said.

“But the big difference is not in the number of the reviews we intend to carry out, but in their complexity and depth,” Ms. Ali said. “Most of the reviews in the recent past have looked at procedures.”

[ . . . ]

The compliance reviews typically involve visits to the school district or university by federal officials based in one or more of the department’s 12 regional offices.

The department intends to send letters offering guidance to virtually all of the nation’s 15,000 school districts and several thousand institutions of post-secondary education, officials said.

The letters will focus on 17 areas of civil rights concern, including possible racial discrimination in student assignments and admissions, in the meting out of discipline, and in access to resources, including qualified teachers. Other areas include possible sex and gender bias in athletics programs, as well as sexual harassment and violence. Other letters will remind districts and colleges of their responsibilities under federal law with regard to disabled students.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 8, 2010, on page A11 of the New York edition.

// <![CDATA[//

// <![CDATA[// Past Coverage

(from)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/education/08educ.html?ref=us

**

Man could face 6 months for lawn violation

Published: March. 3, 2010 at 5:44 PM

ORANGE, Calif., March 3 (UPI) — A California man pleaded not guilty to charges of violating an Orange city law by removing his front yard to save water.

The charges against Quan Ha, 36, who could face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for the misdemeanor charge, allege a violation of Orange city law by keeping less than 40 percent of his yard landscaped, The Orange County Register reported Wednesday.

Ha said he and his wife, Angelina, removed the lawn in 2008 to take their monthly water bill down from $180 every two months to $48 every two months. He said they put down wood chips and started installing drought-resistant plants after city officials warned them about the code, but officials said wood chips do not qualify as landscaping and took Ha to court.

A pre-trial hearing was set for March 16.

Assistant City Attorney Wayne Winthers said he has seen pictures of the current state of the yard, which has received several plant donations since Ha’s story first appeared in the Register, and Code Enforcement officers will make a fresh visit to the property.

“We’ll have to see,” Winthers said. “My hope is that it’s enough and we can resolve this.”

http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2010/03/03/Man-could-face-6-months-for-lawn-violation/UPI-79441267656286/

**

Prop bomb lands student in jail

Published: March. 8, 2010 at 2:31 PM

OCALA, Fla., March 8 (UPI) — Police in Florida said a student was arrested and charged with possessing a fake bomb he created for a class project.

Ocala police said they received a call about an object in a pickup truck at Hollywood 16 Theaters resembling sticks of dynamite taped together with wires and a timer attached, the Orlando Sentinel reported Monday.

Sgt. Andy Scroble said Matthew Pye, 19, and a friend who was later released were detained when officers arrived to find the two men climbing into the truck.

Scroble said Pye told officers the object was a fake bomb created for a class project and police confirmed the information with the University of Central Florida student’s instructor.

A bomb squad officer confirmed the object was not a real bomb and Pye was arrested and charged with a second-degree felony count of manufacture, possession and display of a hoax weapon of mass destruction.

A university spokeswoman said Pye is a theater student who created the fake bomb as a prop-making project for a class.

http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2010/03/08/Prop-bomb-lands-student-in-jail/UPI-67391268076705/

***

International women’s day: Which nation has smallest pay gap for women?

csmonitor Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:17:00 AM CET | info

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Other categories: GenderEquality;

Several European nations boast smaller pay gaps than the United States, says a new study released on International Women’s Day….

More articles…

***

My Note –

That says several European nations boast smaller pay gaps than the United States, and even with President Obama signing into law the equal rights to equal pay – there continue to be excuses that cover paying women from one third to one half of what men make in the same job, same position, same requirements. This will change when the attitudes about the value of women and the skills of women change. So long as the perceived value is less, those choosing the rates of pay will continue discriminating against women for no other reason than because they are not male and pay less for a perceived lower value employee, even among female executive employees. The perception of men as the “bread winner” still persists despite the fact that the last time it was an accurate description of the labor force was in 1950 something. It certainly has not fit the last twenty years in any way. shape or form.

– cricketdiane, 03-09-10

***

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