AirTalk for July 1, 2010

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This morning President Obama called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Although he asked the legislature in May to begin work on a bill this year, he gave no specific timeline in this morning’s speech. He did emphasize, however, that an immigration overhaul is dead in the water without GOP support. Will Republicans in Congress get behind the effort? Reps. Bilbray and Becerra join Larry to debate how—and when—immigration legislation should be tackled.
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Fixing California’s teacher layoff process

Low-performing schools are often staffed by newer teachers, and since layoffs in a school district are based on seniority, those newer teachers are usually the first to go. Under a bill introduced by California State Senator Darrell Steinberg, layoffs at the lowest-performing schools could not exceed the average percentage for their district. Proponents say this requirement would keep low-achieving schools from being adversely affected by layoffs, but teachers unions want to keep seniority rules, and Governor Schwarzenegger and LAUSD want to be able to lay off the least effective teachers. How should districts staff their schools?
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Anthem Blue Cross revives plans to hike rates

California’s largest for-profit health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, announced yesterday a revised plan to increase rates an average of 14 percent and as much as 20 percent for its policyholders. This is two months after the agency discovered numerous mathematical errors in its initial rate plan, which called for an even larger 39 percent increase. Anthem argues that rate hikes are "necessary and unavoidable" while customers are outraged by the seemingly excessive increases, stating Anthem is focused on corporate, rather than patient, welfare. The Department of Insurance, headed by Steve Poizner, will closely review the new plan, but ultimately the department has no authority to block rate increases. Should Anthem Blue Cross be allowed to impose such steep rate hikes, and are they really called for?
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Texas has developed a plan to implement student evaluations in public schools, allocating funding according to student satisfaction. But, students don’t consume education the way they do a hamburger, warns Stanley Fish in The New York Times. Teacher evaluations, he worries, only account for present satisfaction, but cannot possibly predict what a student will find valuable decades after a course’s completion. How much weight should be placed on students’ evaluations of their teachers? Will student-consumers incite snappier, more relevant instruction? Or will thought-provoking pedagogy fail to make the grade?
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