Monday, May 18, 2009

Liz nails it

Today's MUST READ is at the City Paper and is the debut work, for them, of Liz Garrigan formerly of the Nashville Scene. She deserves roses (or the flowers of her choice) for her work this morning. She says it plainly and I dearly hope folks are willing to listen and change their ways. Legislators, especially, need to heed these words.

"Their underdog foes, meanwhile, are not only children — who can’t vote, drive or earn a living — but also poor ones at that. They are kids, many of them who have but one parent, who qualify for free- and reduced-lunches, have no books at home and an unfortunate scarcity of adult role models.

What’s truly dangerous is the teachers’ myopic view, which seems to appraise existing schools, however academically insolvent, as more valuable than successful reform efforts. Essentially, the union is in defensive recoil, desperately afraid of competition, which is precisely the component that helps improve all schools. (Rising tides and all that…)"
She's spot on here. ANY public brick and mortar union run school is, in their minds, far superior to ANY other education choice-- truth be damned. Never mind actual results or parent satisfaction, or taxpayer/voter support. They seem to have the mindset that the Pre-K-12 years of our children's lives belong to them as a right and they will not let go of them. Those now standing in the school house door are enabled in their tyrannical thinking by legislators who either owe them for political favors or are are actually one of their number.

It's got to stop. Charters are only part of the answer but it is THE answer for many of these children. Schools are not a full employment program for adults. They're a means to ensure an educated citizenry. It's time these education choice bigots learned a lesson and the legislature writes an Emancipation Proclamation that will allow more children the choice of using the education option that meet their needs. A successful public school shouldn't need Mafia style protection. A bad system only enables bad teachers and frustrates the good ones and the children suffer.

What's just unconscionable is that many of these same legislators pride themselves on being advocates and friends of the poor and downtrodden. What's that saying? It's how you treat the least of these that reveals your true character?

Take a moment and write/call legislators. This important issue will be voted on this week in the legislature. Make sure they hear from you. Tell them, ala Moses of so long ago..."Let the children go."


N.S. Allen said...

Charter schools are all well and good, and, if easing restrictions on them allows a few more children to get a quality education, that can't do anything but good.

That being said, these kinds of discussions turn my stomach, because interest in "THE answer" always stops at the band-aid level. If teachers' unions are standing in the way of reform, we ought to be asking why. Talking about how those mean, old unions make everything worse isn't going to cut it, because the unions are presumably advancing their members' interests, if only in a very short-sighted way.

Which begs the question: why are the teachers' interests contrary to those of the students?

It isn't enough to say that all workers want the easiest jobs possible, because public school teachers aren’t operating in the free market. They’re state employees, and the conditions in which they work are at least partially controlled by the state. But somehow people avoid asking how the state could bring teachers’ needs in line with those of students.

Mostly, I think, the problem is just that people don’t want to face what we’d really need to do to make public education work. They don’t want to fess up to the fact that actually educating America’s youth would require providing increased social services and entitlements outside of the classroom, breaking up concentrations of poorer students in “failing” schools, and, in short, involving the state in a much greater part of young people’s lives. A simple patchwork of charter schools and a few private school vouchers aren't going to save the countless, at-risk children out there.

Long story short, if people want to accuse teachers of “standing in the school house door,” they need to tell us how we’re going to rescue all the children trapped in the school house - the children those teachers are going to be left responsible for.

Eric said...

I find it interesting that whenever charter schools or vouchers are discussed that the public system teachers and their unions begin to whine about how they would lose all the "good students" if the students had a choice other than the forcible-taxation monopoly of the public system.

However, when the charter schools are formed they always put a filter on their enrollment so that only the "bad" students from the public system are allowed to attend - and many times through a lottery system. Note all of TN's are in large urban centers with 3/4's of them in Memphis. Only students that have been in public schools that are proven dismal failures are allowed to enroll. The very students the public system likes to remind you with righteous indignation that they are taking care of because the private system "can't or won't" are the very first students they get rid of.

Further, these charters are required to operate on less funding (while the state continues to collect the same tax revenue)than the existing public school. They are publicly funded, so their employees are still state employees. Why don't they want to unionize? Why couldn't they? Better yet, how do they get at least equal (if not better) academic results using less taxpayer money with the public system's "worst" students?

Kay Brooks said...

All great questions/comments, Eric. It is to the shame of the system that the students they could not educate are educated.

It's not the children...obviously. It's the system.

It's not the parents...obviously. It's the system.

It's not the money...obviously. It's the system.

Eric said...

Another comment/question:

I've also noticed that if these charter school students happen to NOT perform academically as required (even though they may be improved compared to the failing public system they left)that the public system and their unions will immediately respond with a call to completely dismantle the charter school or use it as anecdotal evidence to dismantle the entire charter system.

For some reason, additional funding never comes to their mind as a solution...not even funding that would put the charter school on even footing with the public school.

I wonder why that is?

Kay Brooks said...

I had hoped to create a YouTube where, yet another clueless but still on the Education Committee member had to be tutored during testimony about the fact that charters have about 3 years or they're in trouble and could lose their charter while regular public schools could go on for 7 or 8 before anything happens.

If folks want accountable schools...charters are a better plan.

din819go said...

Eric -- great questions.

Kay -- very well said.

Sadly the public cannot shut down a failing default er zoned school. But the unions scream loudly when their competition struggles.

The only options available for parents in Davidson County is homeschooling, some private schools or leaving the county.

The academic magnets are failing to maintain high academic standards and expections. I no longer consider them a viable alternative -- maybe a last resort if homeschooling, private schools or leaving the county is not an option.

Sadly the house democrats did not support the charter proposal today...