Posts Tagged Washington DC

The Tiger Mom Needs to Roar – Mothers and Common Core Standards

By Jennifer Stefano

I know it’s fashionable to criticize and mock the “helicopter mom” or the more modern “tiger moms” as women obsessed with making sure little Blake and baby Rand get into Harvard by 16. You know those women famed for waspishly confronting anyone who stands in the way of their child’s perceived path to success. Hell hath no fury like a mom who wants a national merit scholar – by the 8th birthday.

But I think these crazy broads are misunderstood and I kind of like them – mainly because I am one.

Look – what you’ve read about us “helio-tiger” moms is not all true. Do some of us – and by “some” I mean me – find themselves Googling the phrase “What are the Chinese teaching their four-year-olds about math” when I should be sleeping? Sure. But I like to think us “helio-tigers” just want to make sure we – and not some outside influence – are in charge of our child’s upbringing. Actually I think, in many instances, “helio-tiger” mommy-ing can be a good thing. And not to brag, but chicks like us get things done.

Which is why it so distressing that so many of us are woeful unaware and uninvolved in the actual laws, policies, and mandates that govern our child’s education, and in fact, in many, many instances now in America these laws actually thwart the development of an educated mind. It’s beyond distressing to hear Type A’s like me who were once doctors, lawyers and biz whizzes turned SAHM (that’s the twitter handle for we Stay at Home Moms) say they are “experts” now in their children, but then quickly turn around and say they don’t “understand” or “get into” politics! Please, visualize me right now giving a rather large and highly dramatic shudder.

My fellow helio-tigers moms: you need to wake up, sisters! If you are not engaging in education policy in America, from fighting outrageous mandates and pushing for school choice, you are short changing your children more than denying them violin lessons with Yo-Yo Ma (yes, I Googled that too).

Let me give you one example: Common Core Standards have been handed down by the federal government and been adopted in Pennsylvania. Heard of them? They are about to ruin your child’s hope for a brilliant mind and they are coming to a school near you.

In the wake of No Child Left Behind’s failure, there’s been an endless bellow for national academic standards. The argument being States should not have their own curricula; instead there should be one national standard and curriculum to keep up in a global economy.

In 2009, The Common Core State Standards Initiative was created to do just that. It was a bad policy created under President Bush (the second) that President Obama made worse by bribing states with up to $75 million dollars in grants and “relief” from the awful No Child Left Behind if they adopted Common Core.

Before I even get into the awfulness of Common Core – please know – while “national standards” and “keeping up in a globalized economy” sound great – it never works. Never.

Federal educational mandates are an epic fail for our children. Furthermore, the money and so-called “higher standards” supposedly in Common Core have been proven to have no correlation to student success. The Brookings Institution and National Center for Education Statistics both did studies that failed to find a correlation between high standards and high student achievement.

And isn’t it high achievers we’re looking to create? Don’t you know best about how your children will perform? Shouldn’t we in our town in Pennsylvania be able to have our schools adapt to the needs of our community and our children? Tiger moms, let me ask you, how many of you have taken time to explain your point of view (or, as some accuse us: “raise hell”) to your child’s teacher, the principal, the school board? And how many times have you walked away victorious? Ok. And how many of you have made your way down to Washington D.C., gone to the Department of Education, sat with the bureaucrat in charge of mandates for your child’s education and won? Exactly. And guess which group has more control of over your child’s future? (FYI – it’s not the school board).

Right now, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats and wealthy “big education” lobbyists in D.C. are making educational decisions for your baby and you have zero control over it, ladies. That ought to get you moving.

As a true tiger/helicopter mom – you will be hearing a lot more from me on Common Core and education in general. But my fellow moms, you need to wake up! You might not be interested in politics, but the political world has stake and an interest in our children’s education and very little of it benefits our babies. It’s time to get engaged and involved.

You can learn more by following me, Jennifer Stefano — on twitter @stefanospeaks or go to my organization’s website:

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It’s Debatable: Candidates’ debate performances have defined 2012 race

Presidential debates have a rich history of making – or breaking – candidates. It began with the very first such debate held in 1960 when John Kennedy’s confident, youthful appearance doomed a sweating Richard Nixon to defeat. The latest candidate to feel the sting of a poor debate performance is Rick Santorum.

Pennsylvania’s former U.S. Senator narrowly lost the Michigan primary to Mitt Romney after having held a double digit lead in several polls just two weeks ago. After winning a trifecta of states on February 7th, Santorum surged both nationally and in Michigan. All that stood between Rick Santorum and an embarrassing, perhaps campaign-ending, rout of Mitt Romney was one debate in Arizona.

That debate did not go well for Santorum. True, there was not one “gotcha” moment or a major gaffe, but Santorum allowed himself to be on the defensive, sank into Washington speak, and permitted Romney to paint him as the beltway insider. Meanwhile, the former Massachusetts governor appeared poised and confident, in command and on the attack. Most analysts agree Santorum regained his balance the second half of the debate, but the damage had been done.

Santorum’s poor performance in the Arizona debate followed what was perhaps his best debate performance, the final meeting of the candidates prior to January’s Florida primary. In that debate, it was Santorum who was on the attack, pinning Romney to the mat on Romneycare and emerging as the strongest personality on the stage. That performance helped fuel Santorum’s wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.

There have been 20 debates among the Republican Presidential candidates this year and those forums have played an out-sized role in shaping and defining the race. Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the contest with a huge lead in the polls, but stumbled badly in his first debate performances, even suffering brain freeze while listing the three federal cabinet departments he would eliminate. Since those debates were his first exposure to a wide national audience, they created a bad image of Perry in the minds of voters; it was an image he was unable to overcome.

Conversely, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich owes the fact that he remains in the race to his superb debate performances. In the early debates Gingrich was the adult in the room, talking serious policy and keeping the focus on Barack Obama while the others bickered like children. In the weeks leading up to the South Carolina primary, which he won, Gingrich turned in perhaps his best debate performances greatly enhancing both his stature and his standing in the polls. Again, at the final debate in Arizona, Gingrich appeared the most presidential.

And then there is Mitt Romney. While the others have sprinted and stumbled, he has been the marathon man. Romney has never been the star of a debate, nor has he committed a campaign-defining gaffe. Reflective of his managerial personality, he has simply done what needed to be done – nothing more, nothing less. And it is that consistency throughout the debates that has allowed him to weather periodic surges by the other candidates.

Fortunately for Rick Santorum the primary calendar gave him time to recover from his poor performance in the Arizona debate. He was on the upswing when Michigan voters went to the polls, falling just short of inflicting a humiliating defeat on Romney. Given that Michigan is Romney’s state of birth, and his father was a popular governor there years ago, Romney should have stomped Santorum. That it took a self-inflicted wound by Santorum to give Romney an anemic three percent win illustrates the fact that the former Massachusetts governor still has not closed the deal with the vast majority of Republican primary voters.

The good news for Pennsylvania Republicans is that our state’s presidential primary will actually matter this year. Romney leads in delegates, but needs to end up with more than Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul combined. A treasure trove of delegates is at stake on April 24th, when both Keystone state voters and those in the state of New York go to the polls. It will be a pivotal day. Whether or not the nomination is decided that day is, well, debatable.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

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Practical Conservatism: Toomey Bridges the Partisan Divide

By Lowman S. Henry

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey has been in office for less than a year, but in that short period of time he has emerged as something rare in present day Washington, D.C. – a principled officeholder who is willing to work with the other side of the aisle to arrive at solutions to the serious problems which confront our nation.

This is not easy to do, which is why so few members of congress are even trying. Two successive wave elections have sent to the national legislature groups of representatives who are polar opposites both in terms of party affiliation and ideology. This has gridlocked congress both rhetorically and legislatively.

The danger for any senator or congressman is that the slightest movement away from ideological orthodoxy results in immediate condemnation from their party’s base, seemingly making compromise impossible. But, for those willing to peel back the outer layers of the policy onion there are often obscure and archane details that provide opportunity for agreement and progress.

And so it was that Senator Toomey became the only member of the so-called “super committee” on deficit reduction to actually put on the table a new proposal that remained true to principle, but offered significant movement toward compromise. Unfortunately, no statesman emerged on the other side to reciprocate Toomey’s gesture, although apparently the freshman senator’s plan did cause other members to pause to consider.

The genius of Toomey’s plan was that it would have actually cut tax rates for a majority of taxpayers, while generating additional revenue through the closing of certain loopholes. As a former president of the Club for Growth, Toomey had a “Nixon goes to China” moment in that he is one of the few members of congress who could propose generating more tax revenue without getting totally ground up by conservatives, while giving Democrats some of the additional tax dollars they crave.

In the end, it wasn’t enough for the Democrats on the “super committee,” and even Toomey could go no further. But, given that Toomey was the only member of the committee to actually appear to be reasonable, thoughtful, and creative, it allowed him to emerge intact from what was otherwise a “super committee” train wreck.

In recent weeks Senator Toomey has further solidified his status as a bridge over the great partisan divide by teaming with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to introduce legislation aimed at banning congressional earmarks. The practice of earmarks – allowing members to insert pork barrel spending projects into legislation – has fueled the federal deficit. Ending earmarks is a vital first step toward fiscal restraint by congress, but is often seen as a conservative Republican issue. By joining forces with McCaskill, Toomey has transformed it into a good government issue.

There is no more highly partisan member of the United States Senate than Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). Schumer is an unashamed liberal who is the driving force behind his party’s electoral machine. But, last week Schumer and Toomey introduced a bipartisan plan to remove barriers standing in the way of private firms seeking to go public. Such a material change in corporate structure has resulted in job growth at 90% of the private firms that have gone public.

In announcing the plan Senator Schumer said: “During difficult economic times, it is critical that we give growing innovators the breathing room they need to access public markets. This is a common sense set of reforms that can bridge the partisan divide and have a real impact on job creation.” An argument can be made that if you can bridge the partisan divide between Chuck Schumer and Pat Toomey you have built a very solid structure. The bill stands an excellent chance of becoming law, and will ultimately have a profound positive effect on job creation.

It has often been said that “the devil is in the details.” But what Pat Toomey has demonstrated in recent weeks is that the solution may also be in the details. Both his proposal to the “super committee” and his bill to allow companies easier access to the capital markets show that the way forward is to address the smaller, more technical issues upon which consensus can be built. Eventually, after taking care of enough of the smaller issues, a path will emerge to resolving the larger ones.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is

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