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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dangerous Times for Education

What is happening in our country?

In Wisconsin it has gotten really ugly.  The governor there is determined to make his point and, I guess, show himself to be some kind of GOP superstar.  The teachers have agreed to take big cuts in their health care as the Governor wants.  Not enough. 

If collective bargaining is the problem, Governor, why single out teachers?  Why not police or firefighters or state troopers?  Oh right, they supported your campaign and teachers didn't.  (Luckily some of those groups have come to their senses because if you break one union, then buddy, yours is next.)

Honestly, let's set aside whether we think unions are a good idea or have morphed into self-serving adult groups who are totally selfish.  Let's talk fairness.

It was one thing when teachers were named as the number one reason that some think education in our country is failing (it's not).  It's another thing when teachers' contracts are named as the number one reason for failing state budgets.  Again, like saying poor test scores or failing schools are the fault of teachers, how can one single group of people be solely responsible for failing state budgets? 
David Brooks, in a recent NY Times column called "The New Normal" talks about what slash and burn budget cutting might do.

The first one, as I tried to argue last week, is: Make Everybody Hurt. The sacrifice should be spread widely and fairly. A second austerity principle is this: Trim from the old to invest in the young. We should adjust pension promises and reduce the amount of money spent on health care during the last months of life so we can preserve programs for those who are growing and learning the most. 

But he points out that seniors vote so you can't cut their benefits (and I have an 87 year old mother so I'm aware of what I'm saying).   So what to cut?

Under their budget, financing for early-childhood programs would fall off a cliff. Tens of thousands of kids, maybe hundreds of thousands, would have their slots eliminated midyear. 

Out in the states, the situation is scarcely better. Many governors of both parties are diverting money from schools in thoughtless and self-destructive ways. Hawaii decided to cut the number of days in the school year. Of all the ways to cut education, why on earth would you reduce student time in the classroom? 

And what does Arne Duncan suggest(and please tell me how this would work out at your school):

For example, he says, if we have to increase class sizes, we should put more kids in with the best teachers and then we should pay those teachers more to compensate for the extra load. Most of us parents would rather see our kids in a class of 30 with a great teacher than a class of 25 with an average one. 

We all know what would happen here - massive fighting over who gets the "better" teacher and anguished parents wondering if the smaller class with the "lesser" teacher will be okay or an overcrowded class with the "better" teacher? 

A couple of famous people have weighed in.  Matt Damon, the actor, recently said about President Obama's education reforms:

'He's doubled down on a lot of things, going back to education... the idea that we're testing kids and we're tying teachers salaries to how kids are performing on tests, that kind of mechanized thinking has nothing to do with higher order. We're training them, not teaching them.'

And on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart was interviewing Diane Ravitch, the noted education expert, and turns out that his mom was a teacher.  He said that broadcasters and pundits have NO idea what it is to stand in front of a classroom and if they did for just one day, they might change their minds about teachers. 

6 comments:

Unknown said...

This teacher is angrier every day.

It's clear now that the attacks on teachers that revved up under Obama & Duncan 2 years ago were the PR setup for a systematic campaign to destroy unions and concentrate more wealth in the hands of the oligarchy.

The US spends 60% of its budget on defense. More than the next 18 countries put together, and most of those are our allies. Nearly 1200 bases financed with your tax dollars are spread around the world. Why can't we cut some of that?

People were really excited here about the Boeing tanker deal here. Jobs! Jobs! What would that money do if invested in schools, health care, and kids? Jobs! Jobs!

The MIC pipeline feeds the uber-wealthy. Did you know that the 400 richest people in the US own more than the poorest 150 million?

KG said...

I echo your comments Eleuterio, the wealthy including Gates are after every dollar they can get there hands on. Greed as at an all time high and needs working America to stand up and fight this class war that has been going on for years. America is in trouble as
the top 400 in America prove and it is a moral issue that they have as much as they do. They all use the welfare program we know of as the military industrial complex to fatten there wallets and the rest of us argue about table scraps. The tanker deal is a joke. We need a labor party here and need to tax the rich and treart them like the minority in which they are.

Anonymous said...

"Most of us parents would rather see our kids in a class of 30 with a great teacher than a class of 25 with an average one."

I'm a little confused about how adding 5 kids to the class will turn the average teacher into a great teacher. All these administrators talk as if they are somehow making tremendous changes in the staffing to go along with their initiatives. The reality in the classroom is that your kids will have the same teacher, regardless of class size. Both my 2nd grader & kindergartner have 28 kids in the class (no aides), and it's a big class, especially for the kindergartners. There is absolutely a big difference between 25 six year olds and 30 six year olds.

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...

"self-serving adult groups who are totally selfish"...wait, are we still talking about unions? I thought maybe you changed the subject to Wall Street/insurance companies/Big Oil/lobbyists/charter management organizations/insert_name_here

Name withheld on request

Salander said...

The wealthy of this country have made it very clear that they don't want to pay for education and social programs such as health care for poor children.

We should accept that and stop trying to make them pay. Instead we should charge those who have not pulled themselves up by their bootstraps in this country of wonderful abundance and oportunity.

We should put a tax on prositution and make prostitutes declare their tips as income so we can tax that. Drug dealers should collect sales tax and pass that on to the government. Prisoners should have to reimburse the government for their health care costs.

In this state we could not pass a income tax for the small percentage of very wealthy. In this country tax cuts remain codified under the Obama government. The Tea Party is all for cutting benefits for those who need them.

All this waste of money on greedy teachers and needy children and old people should simply stop. Not another dime!

wseadawg said...

1. We've all seen this coming.
2. The NPR Executive was right.
3. The Answer to all our problems is to close minimum security prisons for the greedy financial criminals and make them serve hard time in general population while being somebody's girlfriend for a couple years. Things would change overnight.

It's about the money, Lebowski!!