Government-run, union-controlled education is as antiquated in 21st Century America as a mimeograph machine and as outdated as the New Deal.
The entire history of this great country is choice -- except in the all-important field of education, wherein one size shall fit all.
Imagine an America restricted to one mobile cell phone provider, one television station, never mind cable or satellite, one car insurance company -- that is the government-monopoly education system.
Confreres, here is change you can believe in. In the previous blog, I engaged in a colloquy with the delusional Matt Logan, who encourages us law and order types to volunteer for school breakfast. I'm game, but think we'd be welcome?
Imagine the Blaska Man grabbing the empty belt loop of a gangsta wannabe and saying, "Time-out, young fella."
The kid would laugh at my time out as they laugh at the teachers' time outs and the squire of Stately Blaska Manor would be brought up on charges of belt-loop grabbing with intent to instill values.
I reprint forthwith a letter from a neighbor who is not a member of the Southwest Area Neighbors for Safety. Diane Harrington is, in fact, an Obama supporter. Other than that, she's pretty neat.
The letter was sent: February 20, 2010, to Madison Schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad, the school board, and city common council.
Dear Board Members, Dr. Nerad, and Madison Alders,
My 11-year-old and I visited John Muir Elementary for basketball practice one recent evening. Their gym has banners noting that for several years they've been named a "School of Excellence."
Ben's school, Orchard Ridge Elementary (ORE), had just been dubbed a "School of Promise."
Which school would YOU rather go to?
But [my son] didn't need a marketing effort to tell him which school was which; he knows some John Muir kids. [My son], too, would like to go to a school where kids are expected to learn and to behave instead of just encouraged to.
Just like those banners, the very idea of your upcoming, $86,000 "branding" effort isn't fooling anyone.
You don't need to improve your image. You need to improve your schools.
Stop condescending to children, to parents and to the public. Skip the silly labels and the PR plans.
Instead, just do your #^%* job. (If you need help filling in that blank, head to Orchard Ridge Elementary or Toki. Plenty of kids - some as young as kindergarten - use several colorful words in the hallways, classrooms, lunchroom and playground without even a second look, much less disciplinary action, from a teacher or principal.)
Create an environment that strives for excellence, not mediocrity. Guide children to go above and beyond, rather than considering your job done once they've met the minimum requirements.
Until then, it's all too obvious that any effort to "cultivate relationships with community partners" is just what you're branding it: marketing. It's just about as meaningless as that "promise" label on ORE or the "honor roll" that my 13-year-old and half the Toki seventh graders are on.
P.S. At my neighborhood association's annual Winter Social earlier tonight, one parent of a soon-to-be-elementary-age child begged me to tell him there was some way to get a voucher so he could avoid sending his daughter to ORE. His family can't afford private school. Another parent told me her soon-to-be-elementary-age kids definitely (whew!) were going to St. Maria Goretti instead of ORE. A friend - even though her son was finishing up at ORE this year - pulled her daughter out after kindergarten (yes, to send her to Goretti), because the atmosphere at ORE is just too destructive and her child wasn't learning anything. These people aren't going to be fooled by a branding effort. And you're only fooling yourselves (and wasting taxpayer money) if you think otherwise.
/s/ Diane Benson Harrington
Well, said, Diane. Wish the teachers at Toki would grab a few ears and frog-march a miscreant past the stunned student body as the Sisters of Notre Dame liked to do during the obligatory morning Mass that preceded our school days.
Can't do that in the public schools? That is the problem, n'est-ce pas?
If you teach one thing, educators, teach discipline. With that tool, a child can master anything.
Students may lose but the teachers always win
Don Severson of Active Citizens for Education points out that the district, however, has agreed with the teachers' union for an average 4.24% in annual increases since 2001.
Madison's annual cost per pupil is the second highest in the state at $13,280 for the school year 2007-08. In 2008 the Madison school board, all elected without opposition, recommended that it be allowed to permanently exceed the revenue cap for operations money by $13 million a year. Permission was granted.
Sure enough, while county and state government employees are taking unpaid furlough days, teachers are spared budgetary pain.
The gift that keeps on giving. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that public employees - such as public school teachers and state and city workers - on average receive hundreds of dollars more per month in retirement than higher-paid employees in the private sector, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.
Most public school teachers and others covered by the state retirement system don't pay what's called the employee contribution -- about half of the 11.2% or more of their salary that's deposited into their pension fund accounts each year. ... nearly all public employees in Wisconsin get it paid for them.
Paddy Mac asks: "So that federal stimulus, in which about $800,000,000,000 that the government didn't have bled out into the void -- that did what? Paid for school districts' already existing overpriced health insurance plans bought from the teachers union, the MacIver Institute finds."
Hey Big Spender
The Wisconsin Education Association Council spent $1.5 million on lobbying last year - nearly twice as much as the second biggest spender, the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance.
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, who are often accused of wielding undue influence in government by Wisconsin's progressive bloggers, only spent about one third of WEAC's total. The result of this effort, according to the State Journal,
...helps explain why the teachers got precisely what they wanted from the Democratic-run Legislature and governor's office in the last state budget: repeal of state limits on teacher compensation.
Where are WEAC shills Ed Garvey and Paul Soglin on this abuse of this public trust?
Just try to fire a bad teacher
As it happens, in Madison, teachers rarely lose their jobs.
Madison Teachers Inc. has 2,700 people in its teacher bargaining unit... over the past five years, eight teachers who had taught more than three years (that is, were beyond their probationary periods) were dismissed or left their job involuntarily.
It is remarkable that...
Following Obama's speech in Madison announcing the $4 billion Race to the Top grant program, Wisconsin lawmakers swiftly lifted a law that prevented student data from being tied to teacher evaluation. But while the new law (Senate Bill 372) will develop a plan that stresses evaluating teacher performance to improve student gains, it prevents student test data from being used to fire or discipline teachers...
...as Lynn Welch writes in the current Isthmus cover story, "What happens to bad teachers."
A role model for Madison
Big Government reports that Central Falls, Rhode Island school Superintendent Frances Gallo recommended firing all 74 Central Falls High School teachers after the local teachers union refused to sign off on long overdue reforms needed to save the chronically failing school, which has been on the state's list of underperforming schools for seven years. Less than half of Central Falls High School's students graduate and only seven percent are proficient in math, state data shows. Gallo offered to pay teachers $30 an hour for some of the additional duties, and expected them to kick in a bit of their own time to improve instruction.
Central Falls Teachers' Union balked, then demanded $90 per hour for the extra work. We believe the situation in Central Falls is a perfect example of the "me first" teachers union mentality plaguing school districts across the country. Affiliates of the nation's two largest teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have long opposed virtually any reforms that bring accountability to the classroom, or affect the union's bottom line.
Diversity, not one size fits all
When MTI union thug John Matthews says: "The state needs to get out of the business of running schools" (as he did in the Isthmus article) he means less accountability, not more competition.
I am convinced that government-run schools are the problem, not the answer. Aside from a few other functions, government should be a mediator of disputes, an arbiter of weights and measures, and defenders of life and property.
Bring competition to education. Let parents choose among the best schools for their children. Let parents -- not teachers unions -- own the process.
Bring on schools run by the Sisters of Notre Dame, Druids, Franciscans, Montessori, Pentecostals, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, Halliburton, or the John Nichols chapter of the Socialist Party of America.
Reduce the public schools system to the "public option" once proposed for national health care. Give each parent the "portability" that Republicans are seeking for health care. Let them take their education voucher to any school that meets their fancy.
Competition is the lifeblood of America. Trust the people to make their own decisions.