Monday, March 19, 2012

Reducing poverty and improving schools must work in tandem


Sometimes we prefer to act like we don't know what we already know. Diane Ravitch makes this clear when she points out that cycles of poverty are not created nor can they be eliminated by schools and teachers alone.

If it were true that we now know how to break the cycle of poverty, poverty would be declining. But poverty is growing in the United States; child poverty is more than 20 percent and rising. Among the world's advanced nations, we are number one in child poverty. It's facile to blame schools and teachers, but more realistic to recognize that poverty is a reflection of economic conditions. Schools cannot create jobs, provide homes for the homeless, or change the economy.

She hits the nail on the head when she claims that both systems - reducing poverty and improving our schools - must work in tandem if we are to have any reasonable chance of success. One without the other is destined to fail.

(Wendy) Kopp (Teach for America) dismisses Finland as a model because less than 4 percent of its children are poor. But that's part of the story of their success and should not be waved aside as unimportant.

So when are we going to quit playing the equivalent of political Russian roulette with the futures of our kids and start working together on both problems, equally hard? Start by expanding financial support for public schools, and improving equity of opportunity for districts serving high percentages of poor, low-income, transient and English language learners. That will be the real "high stakes assessment" testing our genuine resolve to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

If you're going to be transparent, at least be honest!

Gov. Snyder signs dues collection bill; teachers union leaders call move 'blatant political retribution'

“It is essential that state public school resources be devoted to the education of our children. This continues the fiscal reforms designed to save schools money and help them operate even more efficiently.” ~ Snyder

This is laughable on several accounts:
  • It costs mere pennies to deduct union dues from teachers' paychecks.
  • Districts will continue to make other deductions at the request of teachers such as donations to United Way and local charitable education foundations.
  • It will likely cost more now to make the changes to our payrolls to stop the dues deduction than to continue them.
But the biggest farce is that Snyder, the state legislature, and our entire federal government cause more wasted education dollars than a simple dues deduction. The mountains of unfunded administrative reporting and regulations created by their minions of bureaucrats and worthless add-ons to their idiotic regulations and personal agenda-based legislation waste more taxpayer dollars every day than dues collection will in the entire lifetime of a public school teacher.

Oh, and here's the real laugher (are you listening Governor?):

“This legislation furthers the goal of good government by promoting greater transparency...,” Snyder said in a release. (emphasis added)

If this is accurate, why don't your cronies in the State House and Senate admit that this bill you just signed was strictly designed as a blow to the teacher unions? Being transparent while simultaneously being dishonest is not what I think you intended by your statement.

While I actually do not have a personal position on whether districts collect dues or not, I do take a position on disingenuous political spin. If you're going to be transparent, be honest.