A successful history of—and the threat to—Public Education in the United States

Lloyd Lofthouse has written a brief history of public education, including information about the threats to public education. He starts out by saying:

I’m sure you’ve heard for years—even decades—that the public schools are failing; that teachers are lazy, incompetent and their labor unions are responsible for this so-called failure.
The solution: fire the teachers, close the public schools and get rid of the labor unions. Then turn education over to private sector corporations run by CEOs who only answer to their wealthiest stock holders.

I think you’ll find it an informative read.

Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé

I’m sure you’ve heard for years—even decades—that the public schools are failing; that teachers are lazy, incompetent and their labor unions are responsible for this so-called failure.

The solution: fire the teachers, close the public schools and get rid of the labor unions. Then turn education over to private sector corporations run by CEOs who only answer to their wealthiest stock holders. For instance, Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, the Walton family, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdock and a flock of Hedge Fund billionaires.

Let’s see what you think after we go back to 1779 and walk through 235 years of history to the present. It won’t take long—a few facts and a conclusion.

  • We’ll start with Thomas Jefferson in 1779, because he thought the US should have two education systems: one for the wealthy and one for everyone else.  As Jefferson said, we’ll “rake a few geniuses from…

View original post 1,139 more words

Advertisements

Demographic Analysis of Charter Schools in New Jersey

newjersey-700x700Those reading posts from this blog may have wondered, “Why is he critical of charter schools?”.  There are many reasons why charter schools hurt public education and today I’d like to focus on the fact that they aren’t fair.  As public educators, we always feared that charter schools would skim off the “good” students and leave public schools with those students who require the most assistance.  A recently released report has substantiated that concern.

Authors Mark Weber and Julia Sass Rubin released the report titled “New Jersey Charter Schools: A Data-Driven View, Part 1“. Click on a synopsis of their report HERE.   In the words of co-author Mark Weber:

The data is quite clear: as a sector, charter schools do not educate the same students as their host districts. On average, charters educate proportionately fewer students in economic disadvantage (as measured by eligibility for the federal free lunch program) than do the district schools in their communities.
Charters also educate fewer students with special education needs; further, the students with those needs that charters do educate tend to have less costly disabilities. In addition, the sector enrolls very few students who are English language learners.  (NJ Spotlight, 11/14/14)

Is this what “choice” is all about?  Leave the kids with the most needs in public schools while the charter schools skim off the kids who are less expensive to educate?  If public schools have a disproportionately higher percentage of students in economic disadvantage, special education needs, and English language learners what will their test scores look like compared to the charter school down the block?  If their test scores are lower, then I guess that would prove that public schools are failing and should be “reformed”.

We Got a “C”!

 c-big

Today the newspaper announced the release of a “new report grading public education in Illinois…” (Daily Herald, Nov. 20, 2014).  The report, titled “The State We’re In: 2014”, was published by Advance Illinois.  The report said it looked at 55 metrics and, after comparing the metrics those from the other 49 states, found that Illinois got a grade of “C”.  Using their logic, that means Illinois ranked in the middle of all 50 states overall.  Not bad really, considering the terrible shape our finances are in (of course none of the metrics included the degree to which states fund schools – isn’t Illinois at the bottom there?).

I always look at reports like these from well-funded education think-tanks with jaundiced eyes.  Who is Advance Illinois?  What’s their agenda?  Where’s the money coming from?

Of Advance Illinois’ 18 board members, one is listed as an “Instructional Support Leader” for Chicago Public Schools – the only K-12 educator on the board.  At the end of the report Advance Illinois acknowledges 25 “education experts” for their help – only three appear to be from K-12 public schools.  The Executive Director of Advance Illinois is Robin Steans.  Look at the list of supporters below.  Yep, the Executive Director is the daughter of one of Advance Illinois’ contributors.  Is that a conflict of interest?

How about Advance Illinois’ mission?  In part it says it will be “an independent, objective voice to promote public education in Illinois…”  One of their eight mission statements says, “Students and families should have choices in how to meet their educational needs.”  Is it objective to promote charter schools as a solution?

A look at Advance Illinois’ supporters:

Wonder why support for charter schools is part of Advance Illinois’ mission?  The Gates Foundation has given them almost $2.5 million since 2008.  The Gates Foundation supports charter schools.  The Joyce Foundation recently gave Advance Illinois $1.05 million.  It also recently gave $700K to support the formation of charter schools in Illinois.

The report said that Illinois’ “C” grade was based on the comparison of 55 metrics.  It was only 24.  Seven of the 55 were just facts (i.e. number of schools in Illinois).  Of the remaining 48 metrics, 24 had no data available for Illinois.  So the “C” grade was given with half of the data missing.

I actually like some of the things the report says (i.e. “Illinois is notorious for its inadequate, inequitable method of funding public schools”).  But you have to be careful when reading reports like this from private organizations – you don’t know what their agenda is.  And with well-heeled supporters, there is always an agenda.

Sunny Beach

Peter Greene is the author of the blog Curmudgucation.  He is a teacher who cares about his profession and an eloquent writer.

One of his recent pieces, titled “Nobody Owns the Beach”, hit a chord with me.  In it he points out that the beaches in Hawaii are public resources.  It doesn’t matter how much money you have, you can’t “own the beach” in Hawaii.  Why is it important that nobody owns the beach?  Peter says:

That’s because your government recognizes that certain resources are a public good and need to be maintained as public goods. So even when somebody offers to “manage” that public good for you, just for a cut of the take, that doesn’t happen. Because as soon as a public resource becomes a way of enriching private interests, the public interest in that resource takes a back seat.

At the end of his essay, he beautifully transitions this concept to public schooling.  I would encourage you to read this short, but insightful piece.  Click below to read “Nobody Owns the Beach”

Nobody Owns the Beach

hawaiibeach

Aloha

Thanks for Your Contribution!

I was playing golf this summer and my playing partner Jim asked me how I liked retirement.  I told him it was great, and since Jim was about my age I asked him when he was going to retire.  His response was, “I have to keep working so I can pay for your pension.”

I get this a lot – friends who have heard about Illinois’ pension crisis and somehow think it’s my fault.  They don’t want to hear that 10% of my salary was automatically put into the pension system for the past 35 years.  They don’t want to hear that two-thirds of the pension system’s revenues (2013) came from its investments and member contributions, not the state.

So how much did Jim “pay” for my pension last year?  According to TRS (Teacher Retirement System) 32.4% of its revenues in 2013 came from the State of Illinois.  So that means for every $10,000 of my pension, $3,240 came from the state of Illinois.

Now according to the US Census bureau in 2013 there were approximately 9.9 million people in Illinois over the age of 18 (i.e. taxpayers like Jim).  Dividing the $3,240 that came from Illinois by 9.9 million taxpayers, that means each taxpayer contributed $.0003 per $10,000 of my pension.   According to TRS, last year the average pensioner received just under $50,000, or about $1.6 tenths of a penny per Illinois taxpayer.

So next time Jim complains about having to work to pay for my pension, I’m going to toss him a nickel – that should be more than enough to cover his contributions for the next 15 years.  Maybe now he’ll retire.

Jefferson-Nickel-Unc-Obv

 

“Trade Secrets” in North Carolina Charter-School Chain

According to a November 11, 2014 from Truth-Out.org report, “The North Carolina State Board of Education has issued a warning to a charter-school chain for failing to comply with an agency order to disclose the salaries of school administrators. The schools have been put on “financial probationary status,” which could lead to sanctions if their board does not comply within 10 business days.”

Here in Illinois it’s the law for every public school district to publish each administrator’s salary on the their website.  The refusal of this charter-school chain to divulge basic information about the workings of its schools underscores the problem with these organizations.  They take the public’s money but are not accountable for their educational process.  The charter-schools’ board chairman cited that their private company’s “trade secrets” were at risk if asked to divulge too much about the educational process in their schools.  Public schools are transparent organizations and readily share best-practices in the classroom with others.  If a for-profit charter school wanted to share their best practices, I wonder how much they would charge?

How can the taxpayers in North Carolina be assured that their tax dollars are being spent wisely in this charter-school chain?  More importantly, how do they know if the students in those schools are getting a good education if the process and results are “trade secrets”?

If you would like to read the whole article, click the link below:

North Carolina Tells Charter School Chain It Can’t Keep Administrator Salaries Secret.

Bravo! Colorado High School Students Plan Protest Against State Testing

Diane Ravitch is an educational historian who has written several excellent books about American education. I would highly recommend her blog. In this post, she reports on kids who are sick and tired of being tested – perhaps they want more time to learn!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Chalkbeat in Colorado reports that school authorities are worried about a mass opt-out by high school students in Boulder and in Douglas County and possibly other districts. The students say they have been tested nonstop during their entire school careers, and “enough is enough.” They are right.

This letter just in from a student leader in Colorado, who attends Fairview High School in Boulder, the epicenter of the student revolt. When the students organize and push back, they will change the national climate. Students are the true victims of our nation’s obsession with high-stakes testing and standardized testing. It is they who are losing a real education while their schools are compelled to administer test after test, taking away a month or more of instruction, dropping the arts and other subjects that encourage creativity. When teachers and administrators protest, they can be fired. The students cannot be fired. They are…

View original post 474 more words