Equity in Failure should not be a Washoe County School District Goal

February 27, 2021

By Gary Smith

The Washoe County School Board is advocating mandatory systemic racism training. Although the curriculum and the concept have not yet been approved (they were sent back to staff and public for input), there are questions as to the cost in time and money this project would require.

Indeed, many people question the priorities of a district whose students are scoring well below average on ACT scores, the score needed for college admission. Currently, the average test score of a Washoe County School District (WCSD) student is at 18.2 points, almost three points below the needed 21 points for most institutions.

Nevada ACT scores are the worst in the nation. And Washoe County ACT scores, although not the very worst in the state at 18.2 place us tied for last with Mississippi.

In addition, according to the state’s Five-Star School rating, 40 of Washoe County’s 109 schools rank below average and of those 40 schools, 11 are considered One-Star failures. 31 rank as average. Only 38 rate above average.

With these dismal statistics on student test scores, why isn’t there a comprehensive plan in place to improve these scores?

While much time as been spent proposing a brand new anti-racist program, none has been spent on a strategy or plan to lift our students out of the low ACT or Five-Star  scores. The topic is never on the agenda at Board meetings and nowhere is there a written proposal that addresses this. WCSD has 14 committees including a school naming committee but no committee on school success or quality of education.

Instead of creating a task force to address low student scores, the district’s board is pushing to create an “Equitable Access Task Force” aligned with an Equity and Diversity Project. Course work for these anti-racism” initiatives is not currently known but concerns are that these initiatives may include the controversial 1619 Project which frames the history of our country in terms of slavery or perhaps the Critical Race Theory; rooted in Marxism. Also troubling is that the proposed anti-racism training ignores religious persecution as well as Latinos, Jewish, and Asian groups.

The district’s goal is to begin teaching this new curriculum beginning in kindergarten and through 5th grade.

Parents need to speak up and begin holding the district accountable for giving our young students the education and skills they need to succeed in the real world.

Let’s start with the 3Rs and let parents teach their children the morals and values they believe in.

We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April

Covid cases have dropped 77% in six weeks. Experts should level with the public about the good news.

WSJ

ILLUSTRATION: MARTIN KOZLOWSKI

Amid the dire Covid warnings, one crucial fact has been largely ignored: Cases are down 77% over the past six weeks. If a medication slashed cases by 77%, we’d call it a miracle pill. Why is the number of cases plummeting much faster than experts predicted?

In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing. Testing has been capturing only from 10% to 25% of infections, depending on when during the pandemic someone got the virus. Applying a time-weighted case capture average of 1 in 6.5 to the cumulative 28 million confirmed cases would mean about 55% of Americans have natural

Now add people getting vaccinated. As of this week, 15% of Americans have received the vaccine, and the figure is rising fast. Former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb estimates 250 million doses will have been delivered to some 150 million people by the end of March.

There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected. At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.

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Antibody studies almost certainly underestimate natural immunity. Antibody testing doesn’t capture antigen-specific T-cells, which develop “memory” once they are activated by the virus. Survivors of the 1918 Spanish flu were found in 2008—90 years later—to have memory cells still able to produce neutralizing antibodies.

Researchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute found that the percentage of people mounting a T-cell response after mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 infection consistently exceeded the percentage with detectable antibodies. T-cell immunity was even present in people who were exposed to infected family members but never developed symptoms. A group of U.K. scientists in September pointed out that the medical community may be under-appreciating the prevalence of immunity from activated T-cells.

Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. would also suggest much broader immunity than recognized. About 1 in 600 Americans has died of Covid-19, which translates to a population fatality rate of about 0.15%. The Covid-19 infection fatality rate is about 0.23%. These numbers indicate that roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population has had the infection.

In my own conversations with medical experts, I have noticed that they too often dismiss natural immunity, arguing that we don’t have data. The data certainly doesn’t fit the classic randomized-controlled-trial model of the old-guard medical establishment. There’s no control group. But the observational data is compelling.

I have argued for months that we could save more American lives if those with prior Covid-19 infection forgo vaccines until all vulnerable seniors get their first dose. Several studies demonstrate that natural immunity should protect those who had Covid-19 until more vaccines are available. Half my friends in the medical community told me: Good idea. The other half said there isn’t enough data on natural immunity, despite the fact that reinfections have occurred in less than 1% of people—and when they do occur, the cases are mild.

But the consistent and rapid decline in daily cases since Jan. 8 can be explained only by natural immunity. Behavior didn’t suddenly improve over the holidays; Americans traveled more over Christmas than they had since March. Vaccines also don’t explain the steep decline in January. Vaccination rates were low and they take weeks to kick in.

My prediction that Covid-19 will be mostly gone by April is based on laboratory data, mathematical data, published literature and conversations with experts. But it’s also based on direct observation of how hard testing has been to get, especially for the poor. If you live in a wealthy community where worried people are vigilant about getting tested, you might think that most infections are captured by testing. But if you have seen the many barriers to testing for low-income Americans, you might think that very few infections have been captured at testing centers. Keep in mind that most infections are asymptomatic, which still triggers natural immunity.

Many experts, along with politicians and journalists, are afraid to talk about herd immunity. The term has political overtones because some suggested the U.S. simply let Covid rip to achieve herd immunity. That was a reckless idea. But herd immunity is the inevitable result of viral spread and vaccination. When the chain of virus transmission has been broken in multiple places, it’s harder for it to spread—and that includes the new strains.

Herd immunity has been well-documented in the Brazilian city of Manaus, where researchers in the Lancet reported the prevalence of prior Covid-19 infection to be 76%, resulting in a significant slowing of the infection. Doctors are watching a new strain that threatens to evade prior immunity. But countries where new variants have emerged, such as the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, are also seeing significant declines in daily new cases. The risk of new variants mutating around the prior vaccinated or natural immunity should be a reminder that Covid-19 will persist for decades after the pandemic is over. It should also instill a sense of urgency to develop, authorize and administer a vaccine targeted to new variants.

Some medical experts privately agreed with my prediction that there may be very little Covid-19 by April but suggested that I not to talk publicly about herd immunity because people might become complacent and fail to take precautions or might decline the vaccine. But scientists shouldn’t try to manipulate the public by hiding the truth. As we encourage everyone to get a vaccine, we also need to reopen schools and society to limit the damage of closures and prolonged isolation. Contingency planning for an open economy by April can deliver hope to those in despair and to those who have made large personal sacrifices.

Dr. Makary is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, chief medical adviser to Sesame Care, and author of

“The Price We Pay.”

The Future of the GOP

Guest Writer – Anonymous February 20, 2021

 

For better or for worse, regardless of age, we are all affected by the influences of social media. No more so than younger generations (i.e, Gen Z) who will shape the future of politics. Younger generations use social media as their only political news source. Apps like Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, all largely left-leaning platforms, are used as a source of information and news. This news is usually biased, filled with misinformation The goal is to degrade the Republican party. Rather than do more research, many individuals believe what they have read to be true. If this continues, the future of the GOP will be bleak.

When using social media many seem to be unaware that they are only receiving half of the information needed to come to an accurate conclusion. Although many young people believe what they read on social media, they need to learn to question it and learn how to properly do their own research. Luckily, I learned this myself when I was in high school.

I was 17 when I had my first introduction into the world of politics. I was taking an advanced placement government class in high school and I found myself wanting to learn more every day. I left every class period with more questions than I had walked in with. Since the 2016 election was only a few months away, we had many discussions about Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know anything about either candidate, but this may have worked in my favor. Every time we discussed these two candidates, there was a clear bias in who my classmates believed was the better candidate. They appeared to be angry when they would discuss the Republican candidate and greatly questioned his character and integrity. I decided to do my own research rather than take my classmates’ words as facts. I was raised by two conservative parents, but I did not pay attention to this until my senior year of high school. I would come home and ask them questions about what we discussed in class and what they believed. I was shocked to find out how drastically different their views were compared to my classmates. They did not pressure me to believe what they had said but rather to come to my own conclusions through research. After reading a great amount about both candidates, I decided to vote differently than my classmates.

Fear of going against the narrative is what is stopping many who do believe differently, from voicing their opinion. This seems especially true for Republicans. After the 2016 election, it was shocking to see the behavior being displayed on social media, and this has only escalated since. Many are proud to attack those with differing opinions because they believe it is justified. This continues to silence many conservatives because they don’t want to be the target of “cancel culture”. Rather than listen to these hurtful comments, I encourage everyone to speak up and be heard. It can be extremely difficult to go against others’ beliefs, but no voice should be silenced because others decide to shout.

 

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Income and Taxes in America

By Ron Knecht – February 23, 2021

“The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”  A glib trope a liberal-statist law school classmate used as an obvious and key claim in advanced constitutional law in 1995.  My oral response objection was so loud and immediate the professor admonished me.

But official numbers at that time supported my objection.  And sound theory shows that, in a true market economy, it’s the right result when it happens.

We’ve all heard numerous similar tropes from Democrats, liberals, progressives, the politically correct and populists nearly every day.  These claims are so glib, well known and often generally accepted that the Dems, et al. usually don’t bother to back them with research, data and analysis.  And Republicans, conservatives and even many limited-government empiricists often don’t even bother to contest them.

More: The rich are paying lower taxes than they used to, especially since the Trump tax cuts.

And: The rich aren’t paying their fair share, so we need to increase their taxes so they do.

Etc.

Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service publishes the actual numbers and facts with which we can determine the validity of these claims each year.  So, let’s explore the latest annual report, released last month and covering tax year 2018.

The poor get poorer?  The Tax Foundation’s (TF) digest of the IRS’s data states: “Tax year 2018 was the first under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).  The number of returns filed and the amount of income reported grew in 2018 yet average tax rates fell across every income group and total income taxes paid decreased $65 billion.”

So, a tax cut preceded not just increased incomes for the poor and all income classes, but also income for all taxpayers as a group.  Score one for the key supply-side claim our tax rates are so high they damage the overall economy.

What about the really rich?  Per TF: “The share of reported income earned by the top 1 percent of taxpayers fell slightly, to 20.9 percent in 2018 from 21 percent in 2017.”  But remarkably, “Their share of federal income taxes rose by 1.6 percentage points to 40.1 percent.”

Moreover, “Since 2001, the share of federal income taxes paid by the top 1 percent increased from 33.2 percent to a new high of 40.1 percent in 2018.” … In 2001, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97.1 percent of all individual income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 2.9 percent.”

That is, the long-term trend shows the income tax has become greatly more progressive.  And that trend continued with the Trump tax cuts.

But wait, there’s more!  “The top 1 percent paid a greater share of the individual income taxes (40.1 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (28.6 percent).”  And, “The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid a 25.4 percent average individual income tax rate, which is more than seven times higher than the taxpayers in the bottom 50 percent (3.4 percent).”

Let’s hope our current legislature will consider these important statistics as they decide on tax bills to increase taxes that are currently on the table waiting to be voted on.

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