Posted in Article Medleys, Lead

2018 Medley #11: What’s In Your Water?

STILL POISONING CHILDREN

In a recent blog post, I noted that Governor Snyder of Michigan has declared the Flint Water Crisis over. The state has stopped distributing bottled water.

Unfortunately, the state’s record of truth-telling on the condition of Flint’s water is suspect and the residents aren’t sure they’re safe from poisoning.

The Flint Water Crisis Isn’t Over

But many of the city’s residents don’t much believe the water’s safe. Who can blame them? Because of decisions made by state-appointed emergency managers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, they were forced to use water laced with dangerously high levels of lead, a potent neurotoxin, and contaminated by bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease, which claimed at least 12 lives during the 18 months the city used the Flint River as its municipal water source. Despite the concerns voiced by residents and mounting scientific evidence that a massive problem existed, those same officials repeatedly offered assurances that the water was safe and attacked the credibility of those attempting to reveal the truth.

Gov. Snyder’s termination of the free bottled water program has met intense resistance. Flint mayor Karen Weaver has threatened legal action. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who proved blood lead levels in children dramatically increased after the switch to the river, tweeted that bottled water should continue to be provided until all the city’s lead service lines are replaced. Residents agree, with many expressing concerns that unfiltered tap water can still pose a significant risk.

They are right. Lead testing done by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in February found 28 water samples in elementary schools that registered above the federal lead limit of 15 parts per billion.

A Slow Death for Our Children.

Flint, a city of around a hundred thousand where nearly two-thirds of the citizens are people of color, has a child poverty rate of more than sixty percent. This alone would account for low school achievement given the correlation between poverty and achievement. We know that the stresses of poverty have an impact on brain development. When the effect of lead poisoning is factored in, the conditions for learning become even more at-risk.

Is Flint’s Water Crisis Leading to Lower Test Scores?

“Even the very lowest levels of exposure, we know that lead erodes a child’s IQ, shortens attention span and disrupts their behavior,” Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and the dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told The New Republic. “We know when we do follow-up studies that children exposed when they were kids are more likely to be dyslexic, have behavioral problems and get in trouble with the law. There’s no question about that.”

There’s no scientific proof, as yet, that the lead-in-the-water-crisis has lead to lower achievement, but it certainly hasn’t helped, and the future of the children whose development has been compromised by both poverty and lead-poisoning is in jeopardy.

Michigan governor says Flint water crisis over, educator says fallout just beginning

We have no idea what the future holds for the children impacted by the toxic levels of lead in the water, but don’t limit expectations for these students. I go to work every day and I know that Flint kids are smart and creative and talented, but they may have special needs related to their long-term exposure to toxic levels of lead. We want to lift them up, listen to their frustrations or anxieties and implement restorative justice practices to provide them with the support they need. Educators can check out lesson plans on how we talk about this crisis and how we help our students have this conversation at any grade level.

Educators have developed a web site, Flint Cares, which “provides information on what to look for and links to help students experiencing the emotional and physical effects of lead poisoning,” but will that be enough?

  • Will the state provide enough money to support the education of large numbers of students whose lives have been affected by lead poisoning?
  • Will test scores of students who have been poisoned by lead cause school closures?
  • Will teacher evaluations be lowered for those teachers who choose to work with difficult-to-educate students?
  • Will schools be punished for the low test scores of lead-impacted students?

In other words, will schools and children be punished for the damage done to them by state neglect and mismanagement?

From Eclectablog, as of April 29, 2018. Click for link to Eclectablog.

FUTURE IMPACT

I’ve discussed the relationship of lead exposure to school achievement, but there’s also a correlation of lead poisoning to crime.

Will the State of Michigan take responsibility for an increase in crime as lead-exposed children grow up?

An Updated Lead-Crime Roundup for 2018

The lead-crime hypothesis is pretty simple: lead poisoning degrades the development of childhood brains in ways that increase aggression, reduce impulse control, and impair the executive functions that allow people to understand the consequences of their actions. Because of this, infants who are exposed to high levels of lead are more likely to commit violent crimes later in life. There are three types of research that confirm the connection between lead and crime…

Lead Exposure and Violent Crime in the Early Twentieth Century

In the second half of the nineteenth century, many American cities built water systems using lead or iron service pipes. Municipal water systems generated significant public health improvements, but these improvements may have been partially offset by the damaging effects of lead exposure through lead water pipes. We study the effect of cities’ use of lead pipes on homicide between 1921 and 1936. Lead water pipes exposed entire city populations to much higher doses of lead than have previously been studied in relation to crime. Our estimates suggest that cities’ use of lead service pipes con- siderably increased city-level homicide rates.

WHAT’S IN YOUR WATER?

Lead exposure in the U.S. is widespread.

Chicago’s drinking water is full of lead, report says

Toxic lead has been seeping into Chicago’s drinking water, and the city is dragging its feet to fix the problem, according to an analysis published Thursday by the Chicago Tribune.

Lead was found in 70 percent of the 2,797 homes the Tribune sampled across the city since January of 2016. And three in 10 of those had lead concentrations higher than 5 parts per billion (ppb), the Food and Drug Administration’s upper limit for lead in bottled water.

Unsafe Lead Levels in Tap Water Not Limited to Flint

Unsafe levels of lead have turned up in tap water in city after city — in Durham and Greenville, N.C., in 2006; in Columbia, S.C., in 2005; and last July in Jackson, Miss., where officials waited six months to disclose the contamination — as well as in scores of other places in recent years.

The State of Michigan has yet to take full responsibility for the water crisis in Flint. Chicago is slow to respond to the lead in its water. Do you think that the EPA, under Scott Pruitt will take any action? Do you think Betsy DeVos is going to help?

We’ve known about the damage caused by lead exposure for a long time, yet we’re still slow to clean up lead in our environment. Lead poisoning and its related human damage is preventable…but only if we choose to prevent it.

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Posted in Article Medleys, Charters, FirstAmendment, NAEP, retention, Science, Teaching Career, Testing

2018 Medley #10

Teacher Activism, Retention-in-Grade,
Charters, Testing,
First Amendment, Science

TEACHER ACTIVISM

The 9 states where teachers have it worst

According to CBS teachers have it pretty good, specifically because of pensions,  which they imply make up for low salaries…a debatable proposition at best. Why, if pension programs are so great, did we stop providing them?

In the meantime, Indiana teachers have seen their inflation-adjusted earnings drop by nearly 16 percent since 2000. Have Indiana legislators seen the same drop? What about the CEOs of Indiana’s Fortune 500 companies – Eli Lilly, Anthem, Cummins, Steel Dynamics, Zimmer Biomet Holdings, NiSource, and Simon Property Group? Have they seen the same loss of income? Would you like to hazard a guess?

As a sample, click here for the salaries of Eli Lilly’s executives.

So Indiana is having trouble finding enough teachers. What a surprise.

From CBS News

Pay for Indiana teachers has suffered the biggest inflation-adjusted drop since 1999-2000, according to the Department of Education. They now earn almost 16 percent less.

Average annual pay is about $50,500, slightly lower than the national average.

Indiana is having trouble finding enough qualified teachers to fill its classrooms, with some pointing to pay as a culprit.

“People won’t be as interested in going into a field where they will have to take a huge lifetime pay cut,” said Partelow of the Center for American Progress’. 

Bill Maher Zings Eric And Donald Trump Jr. As He Comes Out Fighting For Teachers

Perennially obnoxious Bill Maher comes up with a commentary in honor of the teachers on strike…

From Bill Maher

We pay such lip-service to kids…they’re the future, our greatest natural resource, we’ll do anything for them. And then we nickel and dime their teachers?

If we really think children are our future, shouldn’t the people who mold their minds make more than the night manager at GameStop?

…Here’s an idea. Don’t give the teachers guns, give them a living wage. 

‘I need a college degree to make this?’ asks Arizona teacher who posted salary online

Arizona teacher Elisabeth Milich reminds us that teachers are underpaid because school systems are underfunded. In what other job would you be forced to buy your own paper clips and tape? Do the CEOs in the article, above, have to buy their own sharpies?

From Elisabeth Milich

I buy every roll of tape I use, every paper clip i use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board, the list could go on.

HOW DOES RETENTION HELP TEST RESULTS

Reforms that work: Worldwide data offer useful hints for US schools

Education “reform” in the United States requires us to use unfounded and even damaging education practices such as retention in grade. Dozens of U.S. states require third graders to pass a test in order to move to fourth grade. Research has found that retention in grade is ineffective in raising student achievement and retention in grade based on a single test is tantamount to educational malpractice.

In Indiana, however, retention of children in third grade is grounds for celebrating. With the lowest achieving third graders removed from the pool, those who did move to fourth grade scored a higher achievement average on the NAEP. High enough to brag about…

Want your students to score higher on standardized tests? Simply remove the low achievers.

From the Editorial Page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The IREAD 3 exam, which third-graders must pass to be promoted to grade 4, went into effect in 2012. As a result, 3 percent of Indiana students were retained that year.

“Those who weren’t held back took the fourth-grade NAEP tests in 2013, and got positive attention for how well they did,” Hinnefeld noted. “Advocates credited Indiana reforms like expanded school choice and limits on teacher collective bargaining. But a more likely explanation is that removing the lowest-performing students gave the 2013 fourth-grade scores a boost.”

CHARTERS AND TESTING

Indiana students’ scores lag after transferring to charter schools, new study shows

Another Educational “reform” popular in Indiana is the expansion of charter schools. When a district’s poverty levels rise too high, resulting in lower achievement on tests, the state moves in and hands the school over to private charter operators.

The only problem is…the charter schools are, as we’ve said so many times before, no better. In fact, a recent study shows that kids lose achievement points after transferring to charter schools.

From Shaina Cavazos at Chalkbeat

“Overall, these results indicate that the promise of charter schools as a vehicle for school improvement should be viewed with some skepticism,” said study co-author Gary R. Pike, a professor of education at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. “Our results suggest that charter school experience for most students does not measure up to expectations, at least for the first two years of enrollment.”

Never one to miss tossing in an excuse for privatization, Chalkbeat uses an excuse despite the fact that “no excuses” is the cry used by “reformers” to declare public schools “failing.”

ISTEP scores during this time, the researchers note, were not the most reliable. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, test glitches and scoring problems invalidated thousands of students’ scores. Also during this time, the academic standards on which the tests were based changed, as did the test itself and the company that administered it.

WHAT FIRST AMENDMENT?

DHS to Track Thousands of Journalists

Where are the people who were marching to protect the Second Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From Ed Brayton

Mr. Orwell, please report to your office immediately.

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”…”

SCIENCE DEFIERS

Gang of Foxes

The science deniers in the current administration are trying to remove the barriers protecting us from poisoned air and water.

From Dan Pfeiffer, former Senior Advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama for Strategy and Communications.

We do sort of gloss over the f-ing insanity of the fact that one of our [political] parties not only doesn’t believe in climate change, but is actively trying to make it worse.

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Posted in Article Medleys, CommonGood, Lead, reading, reform, SchoolFunding, Testing, vouchers, writing

2018 Medley #9

Lead, Trump’s Spelling Problem,
Vouchers, Testing, School Funding,
The Common Good, Bi-partisan Privatizers

STILL POISONING CHILDREN

Less than a month after tests show elevated lead levels in Flint, state stops distributing bottled water

The State of Michigan has declared the Flint Water Crisis over even though some elementary school water tests still show high lead limits.

Long term effects of childhood lead exposure include learning disabilities, speech disorders, lowered IQ, behavioral disorders, and hyperactivity. The city of around 100,000 is more than 50% African-American. 41% of its residents live below the poverty line.

Nestlé, on the other hand, gets all the crystal clear Michigan water it wants.

“Recent water tests at elementary schools in Flint have found an increase in samples showing lead levels above the federal action limit.”

That’s the opening line in an article in The Detroit News less than one month ago. Despite this, the state of Michigan, just days after turning control over the city back to local elected officials, declared the Flint Water Crisis over and announced that it is discontinuing providing bottled water to the city’s residents.

…the decision was announced a mere three days after the Snyder administration announced that it was approving a permit for Nestlé Waters North America to increase its withdrawal of ground water to produce Ice Mountain bottle water from 250 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute — 576,000 gallons per day.

…as of April 11, 2018.

IMPROOV YUR SPELING

Trump would be better at spelling if he read

Stephen Krashen has some advice for our president. Less tweeting. More reading.

The March 26 letter “B-I-A-S” suggested that The Post has reached a “new low” in commenting on President Trump’s spelling errors. I don’t think The Post went deep enough. Mr. Trump’s poor spelling reflects problems far more serious than a failure to proofread. My research on language acquisition shows that poor spelling is often the result of not having a reading habit. Studies also show that those who read a lot know more about history and science. They also have greater empathy for others and understand that the world is complex. Mr. Trump is a perfect example of a nonreader, and his lack of a reading habit has hurt all of us.

VOUCHERS

Cumulative effect: Individual district budgets don’t fully reflect vouchers’ drain

Benjamin Franklin, in a 1780 letter to Richard Price, wrote

When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.

The same is true of religious schools, which is why tax dollars should be reserved for public schools.

98% of schools receiving vouchers in Indiana are parochial schools. The other 2% are non-religious private schools.

The impact of the voucher program is not based on how many vouchers are used in your district. It is based on each year’s voucher program cost to the Tuition Support budget across the state, regardless of the number of vouchers used within the district. For example, Lebanon Schools lost more than $530,000, Plainfield Schools lost more than $770,000, and Carmel Schools lost more than $2,365,000 this year. Currently, there are 23 school districts where no vouchers are used. They are small districts and the voucher program costs them more than $4 million this year combined. Peru Schools is the largest of these districts and it lost more than $321,000.

Here are this year’s losses in Allen County: East Allen County Schools, $1.38 million; Fort Wayne Community Schools, $4.47 million; Northwest Allen County Schools, $1.13 million; and Southwest Allen County Schools, $1.08 million.

To make this complicated issue much simpler, and in honor of Fiona and Pi Day (March 14), think of a loganberry pie. Indiana has baked a smaller pie and expects it to feed a larger number of people. More kids, fewer dollars.

TESTING

The Testing Thermostat

A standardized test is like a home thermostat. A thermostat measures one thing – the temperature in one room. It doesn’t measure the quality of the roof construction, though that may have an impact on the temperature. It doesn’t measure the quality of the kitchen appliances, though that, too, might have an impact on the temperature.

Standardized tests should be used, like thermostats, to measure that for which they were designed. Using tests for measuring other things is a misuse of the test, and, if done for an entire school or state, educational malpractice.

Likewise, we will fail if we try to use the thermostat read-out to evaluate the efficiency of the power generating and delivery capabilities of our electric company, or evaluate the contractor who built the house (in my case, almost a hundred years ago), or evaluate the health and well-being of the people who live in the house– or to jump from there to judging the effectiveness of the doctor who treats the people who live in the house, or the medical school that trained that doctor.

At the end of the day, the thermostat really only measures one thing– the temperature right there, in the place where the thermostat is mounted. To use it to measure any other part of the house, or any other aspect of any other part of the house, or any aspect of the people who live in the other parts of the house– well, that just means we’re moving further and further out on a shaky limb of the Huge Inaccuracy Tree.

In this way, the thermostat is much like the Big Standardized Test– really only good at measuring one small thing, and not a reliable proxy for anything else.

Why the Best Teachers Don’t Give Tests

Alfie Kohn argues against tests…any tests.

Even allowing for variation in the design of the tests and the motives of the testers, however, the bottom line is that these instruments are typically more about measuring the number of facts that have been crammed into students’ short-term memories than they are about assessing understanding. Tests, including those that involve essays, are part of a traditional model of instruction in which information is transmitted to students (by means of lectures and textbooks) so that it can be disgorged later on command. That’s why it’s so disconcerting to find teachers who are proud of their student-centered approach to instruction, who embrace active and interactive forms of learning, yet continue to rely on tests as the primary, or even sole, form of assessment in their classrooms. (Some conflate the two ideas to the point that when they refer to “an assessment,” they never mean anything more than a test.)

SCHOOL FUNDING

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card

Some students cost more to educate than others. That’s why charter schools and private voucher receiving schools work the system to avoid enrolling them.

Even among public schools however, there are some students who need more resources, specialized teachers, or specialized equipment. Those students will cost more to educate.

Students who grow up in high-poverty schools are often among those who are more expensive to educate. They need wraparound services not usually found in wealthier suburban schools. Their schools will need more teaching assistants, transportation options, nurses, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. States which fund schools equally are short-changing their students who grow up in poverty. Equality does not necessarily mean equity.

The majority of states have unfair funding systems with “flat” or “regressive” funding
distribution patterns that ignore the need for additional funding in high-poverty
districts. In 2015, only eleven states had progressive funding systems, down from a high
of twenty-two in 2008.

THE COMMON GOOD

If Not Now, When?

The common good stems from “promote the general welfare.” Government has a responsibility to take care of all the people, not just the wealthy. Public water systems, government maintained roads, highways and bridges, public parks, public libraries, and public schools are benefits for all. Even if you don’t drive the roads provide a way for goods and services to reach your home. Even if you don’t have children the public schools support the growth of the next generation of citizens. The common good, by definition, is good for everyone.

Their value is a strain of individualism that stands in opposition to the common good. Their strategies are: Promote fear and undermine public confidence in government as a vehicle to keep people safe. The goal is the further enrichment of the already privileged.

CORPORATE ED REFORM IS BIPARTISAN

Would Democrats Really Do Better Than Betsy DeVos on Education?

Are the Democrats in Indiana against the Republican privatization agenda because they believe in public schools, or just because they’re the opposition party? If the Democrats ever become the majority will they be able to resist the lure of corporate/privatization campaign dollars?

So THAT’S their game!

CAP is playing the long con here. They are putting forward a bunch of puppy dog and teddy bear proposals to contrast with Trump and DeVos.

These aren’t policies as much as they are advertisements for the Democratic party. It’s the equivalent of saying, “We promise we’ll do good things like THESE if you elect Democrats – despite the fact that we mainly focused on standardization and privatization when we were in power.”

Look. Maybe I’m being too cynical.

Maybe the Democrats really, really are going to do a better job this time, cross their hearts and hope to die, if we give them just one more chance.

But words aren’t nearly enough.

I like many of these policy suggestions. But I just don’t trust the Democrats.

The brand has been tainted for me by the Clinton and Obama administrations – by leadership from the same people who are making these suggestions.

In short – I’ll believe it when I see it.

Former Secretaries of Education Duncan (Obama) and Spellings (G.W.Bush)
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Posted in DeVos, Oklahoma, SchoolFunding

DeVos Doesn’t Understand “what’s right for kids.”

[This post is being republished. The original post had an erroneous quote. I appreciate all the “proofreaders” among readers who keep me focused and offer corrections when I make an error.]

Teachers in Oklahoma (and Kentucky, West Virginia, perhaps Arizona, and maybe your state, next), are up in arms about low pay, poor working conditions, and the general lack of support for public schools. Tax breaks for the wealthy means reduced state revenues and less support for public schools, public school teachers, and public school students.

So teachers have walked out.

Cue Betsy DeVos, the billionaire who never worked a day in her life, who knows nothing about public education (having never experienced it as a student, teacher, or parent), and who bought her job as Secretary of Education by bribing senators with campaign contributions.

Betsy DeVos to Oklahoma teachers: ‘Serve the students’

“I think about the kids,” DeVos said Thursday, according to The Dallas Morning News. She had been touring a middle school and meeting with leaders of an anti-violence initiative in Dallas. “I think we need to stay focused on what’s right for kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served.”

DeVos is conveniently able to compartmentalize adult and child…to keep them separate. If she had any experience with public education, however, she’d understand that separating the needs of children and adults in an educational setting is damn near impossible.

She seems to think, for example, that adults who work in a school work in a vacuum into which the outside world doesn’t reach. She fails to understand that every cut in funding, every increase in testing (and accompanying costs), every job lost, every incident of gun violence, every increase in ICE detentions, every dollar lost to corporate tax breaks, has an impact on our classrooms.

Perhaps she believes, like Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, that teachers are just striking so they can get a better car.

IT’S MORE THAN JUST SALARIES

Most news reporting, while sometimes mentioning the lack of school funding, focuses on teachers salaries, because, in the past, when a group of workers has gone on strike, it’s been for higher wages and better working conditions. Workers have rarely, if ever, gone on strike to improve conditions for their clients.

So it’s hard for selfish, “I’ve got mine, get your own,” anti-common-good, no-more-taxers (on the rich) to understand that there are reasons for the current teacher actions that go beyond teacher salaries.

Teachers across the country have finally had enough of the teacher pay penalty

Teachers are concerned with a range of issues, from books and supplies to safe buildings.

These crumbling textbooks show why Oklahoma teachers are walking out

Scarberry is one of several teachers and parents in Oklahoma who have shared photos and stories via social media of crumbling, outdated textbooks as part of their plea for more education funding. Some are posted on the “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout — The Time Is Now!” Facebook page.

The state of the textbooks go a long way toward explaining why thousands of teachers in Oklahoma left their classrooms and rallied at the state capital on Monday and Tuesday, asking for teacher and support staff raises, as well as better funding for their schools and students.

Would you want your child sitting on one of these broken desks?

…or using these Government and History books circa 19?? and a dozen books doesn’t seem like it’s enough for a whole class, does it?

Teachers know it’s not just about salaries.

  • Teachers want clean, up-to-date textbooks – enough for an entire class.
  • Teachers want to stop spending an average of $500 a year on classroom supplies (that’s a national average, so the actual amount spent in high-poverty schools, and schools without adequate funding, is probably more).
  • Teachers want to work in schools where they – and their students – have clean, working bathrooms.

Teachers are not the only ones affected if schools don’t have supplies, adequate facilities, up to date learning materials, and safe classrooms.

It has an impact on our children…the children who will make up the citizenry of the future…so, by extension, all of us.

On the other hand, perhaps DeVos understands this all too well. Improvements in public education would sabotage her efforts to have all public schools labeled as “failing” which would, in turn, sabotage her dream of nation-wide school privatization.

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Posted in Adams, Article Medleys, Douglass, Franklin, Oklahoma, Public Ed, sexism, Teaching Career, WhyTeachersQuit

2018 Medley #8: Teachers Finally Stand Up

Teachers Stand Up, Speak Out

Why are public schools, and public school educators, such an easy target for abuse in terms of wage stagnation, underfunding, and worker disrespect? Why is it so easy for legislators and policy makers to treat teachers like enemies of the state?

Oklahoma teachers on strike.

WHO ARE THE TEACHERS?

One possible answer to the questions, above, is the relative value given to work done by women in our society.

Three-fourths of American teachers are female, and despite the fact that teaching is a difficult job, needing training and experience, it’s still considered “women’s work” by the patriarchal society at large. In nearly every job, at every level, in every area where both men and women are employed, women earn less – even when men and women are doing the same exact work.

The assumption has been, even among educators, that women who work will (or ought to) have a higher-earning spouse at home, so they don’t need to earn as much. There is rarely an assumption that women are the “bread-winners” of a family or that a woman might need to earn more than their partner of either sex. The tradition of women as teachers leads to teachers being disrespected because women are disrespected.

To the extent that work done by women is denigrated in our society, teachers are denigrated.

To the extent that work done by women is disrespected in our society, teachers are disrespected.

To the extent that work done by women is shortchanged in our society, teachers are shortchanged.

Blogger Jan Resseger has a similar response…

Kentucky: Teachers Stand Up for a Decent State Budget, Their Pensions, and Public Responsibility

Maybe part of our forgetting about teachers comes from gender bias. As we have all noticed in West Virginia last month, and now in Oklahoma and Kentucky, most of these teachers are energetic young women. All the old messages come into play: Teachers do their work because they love our children; the money isn’t so important to them. They’re probably married and have another income to depend on in addition to whatever they can bring in from teaching. These women should be good sports as they do more with less. And the worst: Teaching is really just glorified babysitting.

TEACHER’S MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD

Finally…thankfully…teachers are speaking out in large numbers. They have been taking the brunt of the political, legislative, and social war on public education that has been waged for the last four decades. The war has been fought on several fronts…the most notable being funding. Public school funding has taken a hit from the poor economy as have other areas, but with the recovery, those who control the money have not seen fit to increase funding for schools.

In Indiana, teachers have seen a loss of earning power adjusted for inflation of over 15% in the last 15 years. Add to that, larger classes, media bashing, professional demoralization and fewer benefits which have resulted from the recent recession, tax cuts, and political pandering. Most teachers are doing more with less…and less…and less. Policy makers assume that teachers will pick up the slack, which, of course, they do…at a rate of about $500 per teacher, per year. There are more than 3 and a half million teachers in the United States. In other words, teachers subsidize our public schools by more than $1 billion a year.

Salaries are not keeping up with inflation…funding is not keeping up with inflation…teachers are donating money, as well as time, for their students…it all adds up to…

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Teachers have had it. Why they’re revolting against low pay and inadequate school funding.

…Underpaid and under-resourced teachers have had enough. Tired of struggling to pay their bills and educating students without sufficient resources — or, in some places, heat to keep kids from freezing in the winter — teachers are suddenly rebelling in places not known for union activism.

The protests are coming in states that have seen the country’s deepest funding cuts for public education by Republican legislators, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona…

Arizona teachers rally at the statehouse.

No Wonder Teachers Are Saying Enough Is Enough

Teachers have long been underpaid. Their average salary is a little over $58,000 a year. While that’s just below the national median income, teachers have the kinds of qualifications that should mean they bring home more than the average employee. About half of public-school teachers have a master’s degree, and nearly two-thirds have more than 10 years of job experience. And yet they make 17 percent less than other similarly educated workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Compensation for all college graduates rose over the last two decades, adjusted for inflation, but for teachers it actually declined.

Oklahoma teachers are protesting 10 years of low pay. Here’s what their walkout looked like.

Thousands of teachers returned Tuesday to the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City to protest low teacher pay and years of cuts to school funding, continuing a strike launched Monday.

Nearly 200 of the state’s 550 school districts remained closed, according to a tally on the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout Facebook group. An estimated 30,000 teachers and educators had gathered at the capitol on Monday, joined by hundreds of state employees.

Teachers are demanding that state legislators come up with $3.3 billion over the next three years for school funding, benefits, and pay raises for all public employees. On Monday, lawmakers didn’t give an inch.

That made teachers even angrier.

Kentucky teachers.

And We Will Rise: Day 3 of the Oklahoma Walkout

Don’t try us, Oklahoma legislatures. We work in classrooms of 30-35 children, seven-plus hours a day, with very few supplies, no restroom breaks, kids who are out of hand, kids who are hungry, kids who are angry, kids who have horrible home lives, kids who have broken hearts. And we still get up every school day, ready to work, ready to do everything necessary to help our kids, in conditions that are not suitable for what we need to do with pay that barely pays our bills and feeds our families.

Go ahead, try to reduce us to ashes.

The Phoenix will continue to rise.

TEACHERS ARE QUITTING

While many teachers are taking to the streets, others are leaving. Teachers are moving to other states to seek better conditions for themselves and their own children. They’re looking for places where public schools are publicly supported.

Others are walking away from the profession completely.

The biggest loss, however, is with pre-service teachers. There are fewer and fewer young people choosing teaching as a profession…and with good reason. The pay gap between teachers and other similarly educated professionals is still large.

It’s hard to recruit young people to a career which doesn’t pay well and is regularly insulted and figuratively spat upon by the national media and politicians.

Teacher Exodus, Plummeting Enrollments and Teacher License Deregulation: I don’t feel fine.

As a dean of a school of education I have watched our undergraduate enrollments take a nose dive (55%) in the last 3 years. I meet with prospective students and parents who actively encourage their sons and daughters to avoid becoming a teacher. I know teachers that actively advise their students to avoid teaching. And I have talked to high school students who tell me they’ll never go into teaching. When I ask why, I get this response, “I’ve seen what my teachers go through. They’re not allowed to teach. So many of them are miserable. No thank you.”

PAYING FOR THE COMMON GOOD

The anti-taxers – or more accurately, anti-taxers-of-the-wealthy – have convinced Americans that all taxes are always bad. But that’s not true.

We’re not the highest taxed nation on Earth, contrary to what some political leaders would have you believe. And our businesses and wealthy fellow citizens could pay more than they do, especially after the latest tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

Our taxes pay for the physical infrastructure of our cities and counties which benefit everyone. It pays for roads and their upkeep, water and sewage systems, transportation, libraries, parks, and support for the elderly and needy. Taxes also pay for public schools.

When we refuse to pay taxes, we refuse to pay our membership fee for living in a free society.

When we shortchange public education we shortchange our future. That is something Americans throughout history have understood…

Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania

by Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, 1749

The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of private Families and of Common-wealths. Almost all Governments have therefore made it a principal Object of their Attention, to establish and endow with proper Revenues, such Seminaries of Learning, as might supply the succeeding Age with Men qualified to serve the Publick with Honour to themselves, and to their Country. [emphasis added]

Letter to John Jebb from “The works of John Adams, second President of the United States : with a life of the author, notes and illustrations”

by John Adams, Second President of the United States, 10 September, 1785.

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves. [emphasis added]

Address to the National Convention of Colored Men, Louisville, Ky.

by Frederick Douglass, African American writer and abolitionist, speech at the National Convention of Colored Men, 1883

[T]he fact remains that the whole country is directly interested in the education of every child that lives within its borders. The ignorance of any part of the American people so deeply concerns all the rest that there can be no doubt of the right to pass laws compelling the attendance of every child at school…

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