Billionaires Aren’t Helping,
DeVos Funds Charters,
Teacher Career Penalty, Praying in Safety
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
Truthfully, neither of these reports tells us anything new (see also Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness: Insights for Policymakers). What they do tell us, however, is that states aren’t investing in early childhood education the way they should…too many tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations (“Corporations are people, my friend.”) to be able to afford any investment in something so lacking in a quick return on investment as early childhood education.
The supermajority in Indiana still hasn’t been able to figure out how to help their friends profit from the state’s pilot program in pre-school…a “pilot” now in its sixth year.
A pair of reports released this week offered supporting arguments for one of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priorities: increasing investment in early childhood education.
Both reports, one by a group of law enforcement officials and another by leading business executives, use data from the Illinois State Department of Education that shows roughly three-fourths of all students entering kindergarten in Illinois lack necessary school readiness skills in at least one of three critical areas – social-emotional development, literacy or math. Only about a quarter of all new kindergarteners demonstrate school readiness in all three categories.
Yes…we’re trying this in Indiana, too. Indiana is nothing if not consistent. We’ll try anything which will spend public dollars on privately run “schools,” especially high-tech corporate run virtual schools. Even virtual schools for pre-schoolers.
Does it even matter to them that the research on screen time shows that too much is detrimental to children?
Ask any early childhood expert about the purpose of pre-school and she will tell you that learning letters, sitting at a computer, and getting a leg up on academics are only a small part of what makes a good pre-school. Physical, social, and emotional development should be part of the curriculum. There should also be room for the child’s creativity to develop…for the child to play, freely, without adult interference. The emphasis should be on PRE-, not school (see Six Principles to Guide Policy).
Any tax money that goes to “virtual pre-schools” is worse than a waste of money.
I wonder if these individuals don’t understand early childhood education. Have they read the research?
Sitting young children in front of screens to learn will likely have bad long-term repercussions. We already know that more screen time doesn’t help older children in school. We also understand that teens are too glued to screens and with social media have become increasingly depressed and anxious.
So there’s little doubt that pushing preschoolers to do their learning on computers is a huge mistake.
VOUCHERS — STILL FAILING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
Another favorite of the privatization crowd is vouchers…a simple plan to divert public tax dollars into private religious schools.
First, they said that vouchers were necessary to help poor children of color “escape” “failing” public schools. Once they learned that vouchers wouldn’t solve the deeper societal problems of poverty they changed the purpose of vouchers to “choice.” Now, Indiana’s voucher system is a private school entitlement for white middle-class families.
Schools that accept vouchers are no better than public schools and they drain tax dollars from the public treasury for the support of religious organizations.
Your tax dollars are going…
- to schools that teach that dinosaurs and humans lived together
- to help the church down the block fix their steeple
…instead of going to support your underfunded neighborhood public school.
New research on a closely watched school voucher program finds that it hurts students’ math test scores — and that those scores don’t bounce back, even years later.
That’s the grim conclusion of the latest study, released Tuesday, looking at Louisiana students who used a voucher to attend a private school. It echoes research out of Indiana, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. showing that vouchers reduce students’ math test scores and keep them down for two years or more.
BILLIONAIRE INTERFERENCE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION: UNDEMOCRATIC
The Gates Familly Foundation dumps millions of dollars into public education trying experiment after experiment using public school students as the guinea pigs. Is this based on Bill Gates’s vast experience as an educator? Is it based on research done by a university’s education department under the leadership of Melinda Gates? No. It’s because they have money. Money, according to the Gates Foundation, gives them the knowledge and the right to turn public education into philanthropist-based education.
Do Bill and Melinda Gates have ulterior motives for spending their dollars on public schools? I can’t answer that. Perhaps their motives are sincere and they really do want to improve public schools. No matter what their motives, however, that’s not how public education should function in a democracy. Our elected representatives on local school boards should determine the curriculum for our schools. If Bill and Melinda Gates and their billionaire peers want to help improve public education they should pay their taxes.
So yes, we should propose raising taxes to more adequately fund public schools, so they don’t have to apply for grants from foundations that will want control over aspects of their core work. Underfunding public education (and the rise of the Billionaire Social Entrepreneur Class) have pushed many public schools into a corner: they need more money to accomplish the things they want to be doing. The things they know will help their students flourish.
Schools can become dependent on grants. Teachers these days are often forced to Donors-Choose even basic supplies. We have abandoned truly adequate public education funding in favor of piecemeal begging and co-opting our principles for much-needed money. Public institutions, from roads, fire-fighting, hospitals and libraries to the military, need public funding. Because we all depend on them.
DEAR CHARTERS, HERE’S MONEY. LOVE BETSY
Betsy DeVos, who purchased her cabinet position from American politicians, has directed her U.S. Education Department to spend millions on charter schools. A charter school advocate said of the gift…
“In many states and cities, it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive…”
Maybe that’s because the local community doesn’t need, want, or isn’t willing to pay for another school.
“The U.S. Department of Education has not, in our opinion, been a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in regard to its management of the Charter Schools Program,” wrote Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant, the Network for Public Education report’s authors.
“If there are any instances of waste, fraud or abuse, the Department will certainly address them, but this so-called study was funded and promoted by those who have a political agenda against charters and its ‘results’ need to be taken with a grain of salt,” Liz Hill, a Department of Education spokesperson, said in an email.
Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said federal grants are a crucial source of funding for start-up schools and that closures of ineffective schools are signs that the charter model is working.
“In many states and cities it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive,” she said. “When you first open a school, unless you come into the work with your own money, you don’t have any way of paying for certain things.”
THE PENALTY FOR CHOOSING TO TEACH
Let’s admit it. Many of America’s teachers make enough money to live on. The average teacher’s salary in Indiana is more than $50,000. When adjusted for local cost of living it’s even higher. Any minimum wage worker in the U.S. would love to have a job at even half that rate, so what are teachers complaining about?
First, that’s just an average, and the average is dropping. One reason it’s dropping is that Indiana no longer allows salary schedules for teachers. If you start your school teaching career at about $38,000 you’ll stay at that salary until your school system can find money to give you a raise. In Indiana, the cost of living has increased faster than the increases in funding by the General Assembly. Since 1999 Indiana adjusted teacher salaries have dropped more than 15%.
Second, while teachers don’t go into education expecting to become rich, they also expect to earn more than minimum wage. How much do teachers make compared to other workers with the same training? According to this article, it’s about 20% less nationwide, even higher in Indiana. Where will we find people to teach in our public school classrooms if we don’t pay them a competitive wage?
A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.
I…want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes.
This isn’t about public education. It’s about the increase in religious and racial violence in the United States.
Jewish baby boomers have grown up in a nation (nearly) free from religious persecution. Many of our grandparents and parents had to leave their homes in Europe to escape pogroms and mass murder. Many faced discrimination when they came to the U.S. in housing and jobs, but over the years, and generations, things improved for us.
Growing up in liberal Jewish America I learned about centuries of discrimination and persecution, yet I was assured that the Jewish people had now found a safe haven in America.
The last six months have brought an abrupt end to the image of America as being a safe-haven for its Jewish citizens. What follows are the thoughts of one mother who mourns the loss of Jewish safety in America.
I know some readers never experienced freedom in America. I know there are people who grew up in an America that enslaved their ancestors, an America that brought their community smallpox and genocide, an America that put their grandmothers in internment camps, that deported their parents. An America that stole from them, hurt them, killed them. They ask me: How can you complain? Why should we care that you once knew freedom and lost it, when we have never been free. To those readers: I stand with you unequivocally. I know you never had the America I once did. I will fight beside you to build an America where all of us had the freedom I once had. None of our children should pray behind armed guards. All of us, all of our kids should be safe, prosperous, and free. I want to hear all of your stories, all the ways America hurt you and took freedom from you. But I also want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes. All of our voices should be heard. All of us deserve a new era of freedom, prosperity, and safety. I hope what we build in the coming years makes us freer than all of our grandmothers’ wildest dreams. I believe we must come together and fight for the America that seemed so close we could taste it just a few years ago. We must fight for all of us, for every American to have lives so free we can’t even begin to imagine them yet. Hope still lives here, somewhere, even if it feels far away today.