Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • Post Newtown, elementary schools reject the traditional lockdown

    In the wake of last year’s fatal shooting of 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many schools are no longer relying solely on the traditional “lockdown” response to an armed intruder and are teaching students and teachers to fight back.

    In the past, most teachers were told to lock classroom doors and hide their students if a gunman entered the school. But over the summer, the federal Department of Education endorsed a more aggressive approach, encouraging teachers to evacuate their kids from the building, barricade doors, and even “incapacitate the shooter,” if possible.

    Now, school districts are implementing drills — alongside fire, tornado and other safety drills — to practice this new response. Children as young as 6 are told over the loudspeaker that a “bad guy” with a gun is in the school, and then they practice what they would do if that really happened.

    Some schools have opted for uber-realistic “active shooter” drills that have angered some parents

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  • Fast food strikes hit NYC: ‘We should get more respect’

    NEW YORK--Thousands of workers walked off fast food and retail jobs in more than 100 cities Thursday, protesting what they call poverty wages that do not allow them to support themselves or their families.

    Reynetta Bennett, a 23-year-old Wendy’s employee, joined a rally of dozens of union members and workers in downtown Brooklyn Thursday. The protesters gathered outside the Wendy’s sliding doors, which were locked, chanting that they wanted to be paid $15 an hour.

    “I just think we should get more respect,” Bennett, who makes $8.15 an hour after seven years at her job, told Yahoo News. “We should get paid a decent wage.”

    Fast food jobs are no longer just for teenagers looking to get a little bit of job experience and pocket change after school. Nearly 70 percent of fast food workers are the primary bread-winners for their families, according to a study from the University of Illinois that was funded by a group pushing for higher wages for the workers. About a quarter of workers are

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  • Would raising teacher pay boost America's low test scores?

    America’s lackluster performance on international math, reading and science tests released Tuesday has rekindled the debate over the status and pay of U.S. teachers.

    American 15 year-olds again had mediocre scores on the tests, which are administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development every three years and compare global problem solving and other education skills. Students in Shanghai, Japan, Korea and Singapore scored the highest on all three tests, followed closely by Switzerland and the Netherlands.

    Despite spending more per pupil than most countries, American students were ranked in the middle of the pack, and scored 26th in the world on the math test, close to Hungary, Russia and the Slovak Republic.

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned Tuesday that the scores on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, showed “stagnation” in the U.S. education system.

    The OECD report, did, however highlight one possible solution: paying teachers better to

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  • Federal gun charges decline despite Obama executive action

    More than a year after the Sandy Hook school shooting, President Obama’s directive to amp up prosecutions of federal gun laws hasn’t made much difference in how many people are charged with gun crimes.

    U.S. attorneys that prosecute such cases charged 11,674 people with breaking federal gun laws in the fiscal year that ended in September, compared to 11,728 people the year before.

    “The federal gun charge numbers are not an accurate reflection of the Department's efforts to investigate and prosecute gun violence,” said Allison Price, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, in a statement. “The fact that we may not prosecute a gun case in federal court does not mean the case is not prosecuted at all.”

    Many gun cases are handled at the state and local level, she added. "Our priorities are to keep our kids safe, help prevent mass shootings, and reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country,” Price said.

    Obama’s directive was one of 23 executive actions on gun violence he released last

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  • 2013: A Landmark Year For Gay Rights

    From twin pro-gay Supreme Court rulings, to the president of the United States referencing "our gay brothers and sisters" in his inaugural address, to the first male pro athlete coming out of the closet, 2013 has been a "banner year" for gay rights.

    In no other year has the battle for same-sex marriage — a centerpiece of the gay rights movement — gained so much momentum. A little over 10 years ago, such unions weren't permitted in any state. The majority of Americans were staunchly against gay marriage, according to Pew polls. Globally, not a single country permitted same-sex marriage until the Netherlands in 2000.

    Years of campaigning started paying off at warp speed, prompting Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign to call 2013 "the gayest year in gay history." A whopping eight states allowed gay marriage this year, doubling the total count in the nation. Among them was Hawaii, where two women kicked off the same-sex marriage debate in 1990 when they applied for a marriage license.

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  • Sandy Hook report: Shooter’s mom wanted to buy him gun for Christmas

    The mother of mass killer Adam Lanza wrote her son a check to buy a pistol as a Christmas present in the days leading up to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, according to an official report out Monday.

    Nancy Lanza — who was killed by her 20-year-old son last December before he killed six women and 20 children at the Connecticut elementary school — told friends a month before the shooting that she was concerned about her son. He had not left the house for three months, and he communicated with her only via email, she said. She was not allowed to enter his room.

    But despite what seemed like mental health warning signs, the police found a check in the Lanza home for a CZ 83 pistol, which Nancy Lanza intended to give to her son over the holidays, according to a report released by a Connecticut state's attorney. The check’s date section read “Christmas Day.”

    “The mother wanted to buy the shooter a CZ 83 pistol for Christmas and had prepared a check for that purchase to give the

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  • Will people who filled out Obamacare applications actually enroll?

    October’s dismal Obamacare enrollment numbers were tempered by a bright spot for the White House: 1 million Americans who took the trouble to fill out an application on the tech-plagued site but have not yet picked a plan.

    A paltry, far-under-target 106,000 people nationwide actually selected a private insurance plan by putting it into their online shopping carts last month. But the Obama administration stressed that 975,000 other Americans who filled out applications online would soon join their ranks. The White House needs 7 million enrolled by the end of March.

    “There's no question that if the website were working as it's supposed to, that number would be much higher of people who've actually enrolled,” Obama said at a press conference last week.

    The president argued that the number of people who filled out fairly lengthy applications shows there is “a real demand for quality, affordable health insurance.”

    But it’s far from clear that the hundreds of thousands of people who went through

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  • Duncan apologizes for ‘white suburban moms’ Common Core controversy

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan was forced to apologize on Monday for an impolitic comment he made over the Common Core, a sweeping effort to standardize national education that’s angered a diverse coalition of parents nationwide.

    The bipartisan effort to create national learning goals for all schools has sparked a growing backlash among parents, some of whom kept their children from attending school on Monday in protest of what they see as federal interference in their kids’ curricula.

    On Friday, Duncan stoked outrage by suggesting “white suburban moms” don’t like the new standards because they force them to realize their kids aren’t as smart as they thought. He made the comment while speaking to a group of state superintendents, acknowledging the backlash to Common Core.

    “It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as

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  • Will states accept Obama’s insurance exchange fix?

    Will states play along with President Barack Obama and his new plan to allow people who like their health insurance plans to stay on them an additional year?

    The proposed fix, which Obama announced Thursday under intense pressure from his own party, was meant to address criticisms that he had lied to the American people when he said “if you like your plan, you can keep it” while campaigning for the health care overhaul. Between 7 million and 12 million people were set to receive cancellation notices because their plans don't meet the minimum standard of coverage required under the new law.

    The uproar forced Obama to backpedal. He’ll now allow health insurance companies to continue to offer plans that do not meet his law’s standards for an additional year, to give people more time to transition to the new federal marketplace.

    But Obama’s fix does not actually guarantee that millions of people will be able to keep their plans. Insurance is regulated at the state level, and state officials

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  • What Obama’s health care announcement means

    On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that health insurance companies are no longer required to kick people off their coverage if it doesn't meet Obamacare’s new standards. The president is offering a one-year “grandfather” extension for the plans.

    The announcement, made under intense pressure from his own party, was made to address criticisms that the president had broken his promise to the American people that “if you like your plan, you can keep it” under his 2010 health care reform law. Between 7 million and 12 million Americans were to be sent cancellation notices for 2014 because their plans did not meet the minimum coverage requirements set up under the law.

    The people who received cancellation notices were expected to go to the federal insurance marketplace and buy coverage there. But the website, HealthCare.gov, has been plagued with difficulties, and some of those covered would owe more in premiums in the marketplace than they did on their older, canceled plans. (The

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