Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Michigan Legislature Wasting Time on a Non-Issue

While you drive over washboard roads and unsafe bridges, drinking your lead-contaminated water while looking for a job that pays more than $10 an hour, think about the amount of time the Michigan legislature is wasting on a non-issue: teacher pensions.


Also known as MPSERS, the pension system fell into disrepair primarily due to the bad policies put in place by our legislature dating back to the 1990s. These policies, which now include unabated expansion of charters including failed cyber charter experiments, took payers out of the system causing the unfunded liability to stack up. In the meantime, the investments that help keep the fund sound took a hit during the Great Recession.

The legislature and governor already addressed much of the problem when they enacted a hybrid pension system for new public school employees. That system is working and bringing down the unfunded liability. This so-called hybrid plan has $0 in unfunded liability. Even the Governor is on record about leaving the system alone.

But because public school employees are "easy" targets for new senators and representatives being elected out of their gerrymandered districts that favor anti-public school politicians, a few know-nothings in the current legislature are attacking public school kids once again by offering another destructive change that will certainly exacerbate the growing teacher shortage.

And, it will cost taxpayers billions! Over $2.5 billion in the next few years and $25 billion over the next 30 years!


Here's a two-page sheet on what you need to know about the reckless bills being offered in the legislature. Then, you need to contact your state senator and representative to tell them to back off and focus on the real issues concerning Michigan.



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Time for a fresh look at how we fund our public schools | Bridge Magazine

Time for a fresh look at how we fund our public schools | Bridge Magazine by Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan.


-->
The way we fund Michigan’s schools is broken, and we must reexamine our approach to provide a high-quality education to all Michigan public school students. The Collaborative, whose members agree it’s time to change our school funding, is taking the lead in this effort. 

We are bringing together top industry experts to analyze that funding, with the intention to better serve all students, regardless of their location, income, race or other circumstances.   


Policymakers need the best, most complete and accurate information on what it truly costs to educate all students. Our group is supporting a new, comprehensive school-funding adequacy study that will use multiple methodologies. 

The new study will build on the findings of the state-funded Michigan Education Finance Study released last summer and give us a truly comprehensive look at school financing. We have begun the process of hiring a contractor to provide this first-of-its-kind analysis of school financing in Michigan and expect the results by early 2018. Once accurate and comprehensive data are available, the Collaborative will communicate this critical information to Michigan policymakers, stakeholders and the public at large. 

Schools need a plan and a roadmap for success, just like businesses. That journey begins with the best and most reliable data on how to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. A truly comprehensive adequacy study is the first step toward meeting this goal. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

13 Hard Questions That Charter Schools Promoters Don't Want You to Ask

13 Hard Questions That Charter Schools Promoters Don't Want You to Ask | Alternet



"The public is often confused by the Trump/DeVos assault on public schools because they frame it as promoting “choice.” In response, The Network for Public Education prepared a thirteen-point question/answer toolkit to expose the lies and distortions of charter school, voucher, and tax credit advocates. The full toolkit is available online. This report excerpts key items from the toolkit."

Monday, April 17, 2017

75 Years Ago: West Michigan's 126th Infantry Headed for the South Pacific

On April 18, 1942, the 126th (Infantry Regiment of the 32nd "Red Arrow" Division) boarded the S.S. Lurline, a luxury liner that had been converted to transport duty, and four days later sailed for the South Pacific.  Life aboard the ship was no doubt tedious and boring at times.  To help alleviate the conditions of the long trip, there were a number of activities designed to keep the men busy.  Besides pitching in to help with the duties of the ship, a ship-wide essay contest titled What Are We Fighting For? was conducted.  Cash prizes amounting to fifteen dollars and a carton of cigarettes were announced for the winning writers, and an additional five dollars was to be awarded to the company or battery first sergeant where the winning writer belonged.
Prospective contestants are reminded again that the judges don’t give a hang for high-fallutin language or fancy words.  They can get those out of books.  They want every soldier to write how he really feels about the question, in simple, honest words.

SS Lurline before the war
       To accommodate the large contingent aboard the ship, two meals were fed each day in five different shifts.  Simple training was conducted as well.  In one exercise, a number of soldiers wore paper facsimiles of Japanese Army insignia on their collars.  A description of the insignias was provided to every soldier who then made an effort to identify the insignia when they saw it.

         Security was tight aboard the ship, and discipline was severe to anyone breaking regulations.  In one instance, a Private First Class VanEttan of Company G was court-martialled, reduced in rank to private, and sentenced to thirty days at hard labor and forfeiture of $20 pay.  What did he do?  He lit a match on deck, a careless act that could have allowed Japanese subs to spot the Lurline and fire on it.

The regiment crossed the equator on April 30, and the international date line on the seventh of May, reaching Adelaide, Australia, seven days later.  There, the 126th unloaded and moved to Camp Sandy Creek some eighteen miles outside the city.

SS Lurline departing Australia in 1945
In August, the 126th moved nine hundred miles to Brisbane and was billeted at Camp Cable.  The camp was named in honor of Corporal Gerald Cable, the first U.S. soldier killed by the Japanese during World War II.  Cable, a member of Service Company, 126th Infantry, along with approximately twenty other men, were onboard a ship transporting trucks and other equipment from Brisbane to Adelaide when a torpedo hit the ship in the stern.  He had been pulling duty in the ship’s gun crew that took the full force of the attack.


      The regiment continued to train on jungle warfare in preparation for combat against the Japanese in New Guinea


Britten, David G. Lieutenant Colonel (Retired). Courage Without Fear: The Story of the Grand Rapids Guard. Xlibris 2004

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Something no doubt is happening; but it may not be education (Livingstone, 1943)

It seldom ceases to amaze me how often I come across arguments against some of the most damaging features in our education system today, but that were made many decades ago. This would include one of the works by British scholar Sir Richard Livingstone (1880-1960) written and published in the throes of World War II. In two small books, The Future in Education (1941) and Education for a World Adrift (1943), Livingstone took exception to a lack of education and tried to challenge his countrymen to look ahead towards a better system of learning.

In the latter publication, he challenged the growing use of what he calls “examinations” as a driving force that in effect was steering education in the wrong direction. These so-called examinations would be similar to our narrow state-mandated “achievement” tests. The excerpts that follow were his key concerns addressed in a chapter appropriately titled, “Two Dragons in the Road” (italics indicate direct quotations):

“The examination system is both an opiate and a poison. It is an opiate because it lulls us into believing that all is well when most is ill.”

On the surface, the public gets an impression from test scores and graduation rates that “something is clearly happening; the school is doing its job.”

“Something no doubt is happening; but it may not be education; it may be the administration of a poison which paralyses or at least slows down the natural activities of the healthy mind. The healthy human being, finding himself a creature of unknown capacities in an unknown world, wants to learn what the world is like, and what he should be and do in it. To help him in answering these questions is the one and only purpose of education.”

“But that is not the prime aim of the ordinary pupil…for whom the examination becomes much more important than seeing ‘visions of greatness,’ and ‘getting through’ excuses all shortcomings and disguises all omissions.”

He speaks here and throughout about the “external examinations” or those required by the state, not the assessments conducted by the school or teacher as “tests of progress, which are useful and necessary.”

“Examinations are harmless when the examinee is indifferent to their result, but as soon as they matter, they begin to distort his attitude to education and conceal its purpose. The more depends on them, the worse their effect.”

He claims that the child who is behind or may have a learning disability “suffers most, since preparing for the ordeal occupies more of its time and mind.” But also, for even the student who is achieving at a higher level, “examinations become an obsession.”

“It is not only the pupil but -- and this is far more serious -- the teacher, who finds his energies and attention drawn from education to examination needs. No doubt there are schools and teachers which resist the insidious pressure, teach their subject for its interest and for nothing else and burn no incense on the examination altar. But the pressure is hard. Most people judge a school by its examination results. Its reputation, however well-established, is affected by them; and a school with a name to make or competitors to face has an overpowering temptation to commend itself to the world,” by striving towards the highest test results and graduation rates.

“The teacher is tempted to show his competence by securing a big list of awards, the headmaster is tempted to demand them in the interest of the school.”

“Any evils that might follow from the disappearance of examinations are nothing to the harm they do. They are in fact a refined form of the old and now universally condemned system of ‘payment by results:’ … tak(ing) the form of prestige to the school and to the pupil.”

The examination system and its system of awards and punishments “restrict(s) the field of education by causing schools to concentrate on ‘profitable’ subjects….They procure ‘far to frequently mechanical results….Subjects can have meaning only as they are treated as aspects of active and living experience….It is as impossible to examine in the most vital parts of education as to anatomize life on a dissecting table, and therefore the pressure of examinations continually pushes them into the background or out of sight. Further, it tends to restrict education to the subjects of the examination in question…”

“Unfortunately there is a risk of the importance of examinations increasing….And if so, education becomes a savage competitive system. It ceases to be education and (simply) becomes a road to a career.”