Chris Matthews: Foot in Mouth Disease or a Compliment?

Chris Matthews without his foot in his mouth
Chris Matthews without his foot in his mouth

One of the biggest spins from the State of the Union Address post mortem was the statement made by Chris Matthews who somehow manages to rub everyone the wrong way.  He said that:

NEW YORK (AP) — MSNBC’s Chris Matthews says President Barack Obama has done so much to heal racial divisions that he “forgot he was black” while watching his State of the Union address.
Those four words — “forgot he was black” — so instantly set the Twitter world afire that Matthews came back less than 90 minutes later Wednesday night to explain what he meant.

The MSNBC commentator said it was noteworthy to him that a black president was addressing a room of mostly white people and how it didn’t seem to be an issue. He said he saw it in the context of growing up at a time racial divisions were ever-present.

Says Matthews: “I went in the room tonight, you could feel it wasn’t there tonight and that takes leadership on his part, to get us beyond those divisions.“

So what did Chris Matthews really mean? How do you forget someone is black? Was he complimenting Obama or was he stepping all over himself with awkward words.  This obviously wasn’t just a tingle.  Chris Matthews is famous for being pro-Obama so he obviously isn’t trying to insult him.

Kaine and McDonnell Axe NoVA Schools


For several decades, Virginia has used a  formula called the  local composite index (LCI) to  ensure that very poor localities had the funds to operate their school systems and that all children in Virginia had a shot at an equal education.  Basically the formula directs revenues  from wealthier areas into poorer districts.  Because situations change, the LCI is calculated yearly. 

From Del. Dave Albo’s website:

School funding in the Commonwealth of Virginia is determined by the Local Composite Index, or LCI.  The LCI is a result of a Supreme Court of Virginia ruling which stated that the Virginia Constitution requires all children to receive, to the extent practicable, and equivalent education.  Thus, the Court ruled that some funding formula must be used to direct money to areas that can’t afford to educate children. (The Court did not say what the formula has to be only that some redistribution must occur). Consequently, the purpose of the LCI is to ensure less affluent localities are able to provide for their students. The LCI is a figure that determines how much a school system must pay for its own basic education. (“Basic Education” is a set of minimum standards. For example, math must be taught, but band does not.)  The LCI, has a cap of .8000 (a locality must pay 80% of its own basic education) but has no minimum. Only 27 out of 136 schools are required to pay more than 50% of their basic education (e.g. have above a .5000 LCI).

The LCI is calculated through a complicated formula. The formula attempts to determine which school systems can afford to may more of their own basic education, and which systems cannot afford to pay. In determining who can pay, a formula has been developed which considers a bunch of different variables.

So what’s the problem? The LCI is changed yearly because conditions change. Governor Kaine placed a freeze until 2012 on recalculating LCI. Governor McDonnell is considering upholding this freeze. Northern Virginians are having a fit because it was hit harder than the rest of the state by foreclosures and a deflated housing market. They will lose millions on the old plan:

According to the Dixie Pig blog (Delegate Scott Surovell’s blog) the Northern Virginia School losses from not adjusting the formula this year  are as in the millions.  According to Delegate Surovell:

McDonnell’s office confirmed Friday that he would uphold the freeze implemented by Kaine. The outgoing governor proposed freezing the index until the 2012 fiscal year. He theorized that this would protect 97 school divisions that would lose money if the formula were re-calculated. McDonnell Freezes School Funding Formula, The Virginia Gazette (Jan. 25, 2010).

Yesterday, Governor McDonnell who campaigned on the idea that he was from Mt. Vernon and understood Northern Virginia’s needs confirmed that he is going to affirm this policy decision, not just for one year but at least until 2012.

This decision is a breach of the state’s responsibility to Northern Virginia’s children. Here are the top six affected jurisdictions according to the numbers I was given yesterday.

Fairfax County $61 Million
Loudoun County $34 Million
Prince William County $22 Million
Stafford County $4.5 Million
Fauquier County $4.3 Million
Manassas City $3.1 Million
TOTAL $128 Million





 Northern Virginians are furious as well they should be.  They will have to make up the deficits and jurisdictions are already strapped.  It appears that we have been sold out by 2 governors.  So much for either Kaine or McDonnell being education governors.  And regardless of where he is from, Governor McDonnell obviously does not understand the educational problems of his own county.  According to Del. Surovell in an update, the new total is a $144 million dollar shortfall.  I hope Prince William and City of Manassas are prepared for 40 kids per class.  That number definitely is not considered ‘best practice.’ 

Northern Virginians should contact their delegate and senator immediately to require the  LCI formula to be recalulated as it is supposed to be.  This issue is definitely bipartisan.  Democrats and Republicans all have kids. So do Independents. 

A big thanks to Poor Richard for bringing  the Local Composite Index freeze to my attention and for providing background information.

[Ed. Note:  The LCI is calculated every TWO years rather than one as stated above.]