This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight…
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Happy 40th to the Staggers Rail Act, Which Deregulated and Saved the U.S. Rail Industry

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which deregulated American freight rail and saved it from looming oblivion.

At the time of passage, the U.S. economy muddled along amid ongoing malaise, and our rail industry teetered due to decades of overly bureaucratic sclerosis.  Many other domestic U.S. industries had disappeared, and our railroads faced the same fate.  But by passing the Staggers Rail Act, Congress restored a deregulatory approach that in the 1980s allowed other U.S. industries to thrive.  No longer would government determine what services railroads could offer, their rates or their routes, instead restoring greater authority to the railroads themselves based upon cost-efficiency.

Today, U.S. rail flourishes even amid the coronavirus pandemic…[more]

October 13, 2020 • 11:09 PM

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Obama Administration to Schools: It’s Racist to Punish Misbehaving Kids Print
By Troy Senik
Thursday, May 21 2015
In the real world, the Oakland policy amounts to allowing the schools’ most disruptive children to set the tone for everyone else.

There’s no one answer to the question of what ails public education in America. That owes not only to the fact there are a wide array of problems with the way we school our children but also to the fact that the specific nature of those problems varies dramatically depending on where you’re talking about.

The ailments in Phoenix aren’t necessarily the same as those in Philadelphia.  That’s one of the reasons conservatives have so assiduously resisted federal intervention in what are essentially local — and, truth be told, often school-by-school — issues.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s wave that fact aside for a moment. Let’s imagine that the bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Education really do have it within their power to heal our schools simply by issuing edicts from Washington.

Even then it would be just this side of insane to imagine that one of the ways to accomplish that goal would be to tell teachers and administrators that they can’t discipline misbehaving students. Yet that’s precisely what the Obama Administration is doing.

A recent article by Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle pointed to a somewhat puzzling innovation taking place in the Oakland Unified School District:

“Oakland Unified will become one of a handful of California School districts that restrict suspensions to more serious offenses and eliminate the punishment for willful defiance — a broad category of misbehavior that includes minor offenses such as refusing to take a hat off or ignoring teacher requests to stop texting and more severe incidents like swearing at a teacher or storming out of class.”

Now, any parent who’s shepherded a child through their school years probably has at least one horror story of unnecessary or irrational punishments.

It’s not hard to imagine how a suspension for wearing a hat or texting could be disproportionate, although such matters are impossible to judge without context (one more reason that these kinds of decisions should be as decentralized as possible). But swearing at a teacher? Storming out of class? This amounts to unilateral disarmament for educators and administrators.

Moreover, in Oakland it amounts to unilateral disarmament in a war zone. This is not exactly a bucolic school district. As Hoover Institution media fellow Paul Sperry noted in a March piece for the New York Post, Oakland has already been dialing back on the discipline for some time now — and the results speak for themselves:

“'There have been serious threats against teachers,'” Oakland High School science teacher Nancy Caruso told the Christian Science Monitor, and yet the students weren’t expelled. She notes a student who set another student’s hair on fire received a 'restorative' talk in lieu of suspension.”

Why would any educators in their right mind resort to this kind of passivity? Well, it helps when you get a light shove from the federal government. In 2012, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education investigated claims that — because African-American students constituted 32 percent of Oakland Unified’s enrollment, but 63 percent of its suspensions — there was an implicit racial bias permeating the district’s disciplinary procedures. Rather than face sanction, the district began changing those procedures in order to get the investigation dropped.

Oakland is not alone on this front. School districts throughout the country are trying out this approach. And they will all be brought to similar grief.

There is no reason to assume that African-American children should be suspended in exact proportion to their percentage of the student body any more than there is to assume that blonde children should.

If the Department of Education can show that black children who misbehave are punished disproportionately to children of other races who engage in the same behaviors, then they’ll have a point. But as long as they’re being measured against an abstract and unfounded expectation of perfect racial proportionality, this is an exercise in futility.

Children who misbehave should be punished — regardless of race.

In the real world, the Oakland policy amounts to allowing the schools’ most disruptive children to set the tone for everyone else. Oakland Unified was already hemorrhaging students prior to the “reform.” That trend will surely increase as parents begin to understand that they are being asked to send their children off to a lion’s den every day. The result: a downward spiral in which urban schools are even more dominated by troublemakers.

There are a lot of phrases that could describe that outcome. Racial progress isn’t one of them.

Question of the Week   
Which one of the following was the first 20th century presidential candidate to call for a Presidential Debate?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"In nominating Barrett to the Supreme Court, [President Trump] kept his promise by choosing an undaunted originalist -- someone who interprets the Constitution based on the understanding held by its ratifiers.Trump's most profound effect on the Constitution will come when she and the other Trump Justices apply that originalism to the questions of liberty and equality."Read entire article here.…[more]
 
 
—John C. Yoo, Heller Professor Law at U.C. Berkeley School of Law
— John C. Yoo, Heller Professor Law at U.C. Berkeley School of Law
 
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