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Public Schooling Revolt Begins; Will Last for Years – Part 2

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The second installment of a three part series

By Linda Dobson

Yesterday’s Part 1 of this post covered protest of tuition hikes in Great Britain and parental unrest with the powers-that-be in New York, where the idea that schools should be run like businesses runs rampant.

Today we’ll move to Pittsburgh, PA, where “Parents Continue to Rail Against Laurel Valley School Closing” from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. To wit:

Parents continued to express anger toward Ligonier Valley school board members last night about their decision to close Laurel Valley Middle/High School.

One year ago, a group of opponents presented to the board a petition with more than 300 signatures of parents pledging to send their children to cyber school if the district closed the campus and consolidated.

Although less than half of those parents fulfilled that promise, the district is looking at nearly $1 million in cyber school tuition expenses for the 2010-2011 school year, if the rate of students enrolling doesn’t curb, according to Superintendent Christine Oldham.

The state Department of Education reimburses the district for 30 percent of their cyber school expenses the next year.

According to St. Clair Township resident Mary Raich, the district did not act with fiscal responsibility in shuttering Laurel Valley, because officials knew that the cyber school expense was likely to skyrocket.

School directors cited fiscal responsibility and better educational opportunities countless times as reason for closing the campus.

“You closed a school based on savings, and now you have created a financial disaster,” Raich said.

St. Clair resident Mary Conrad said the district has provided better educational opportunities — by forcing her and her husband to enroll her daughter in cyber school, where she has been excelling.

Several sixth-graders were accepted into Achievement House Cyber Charter School as seventh-graders.

Oldham said 50 percent of those sixth-graders tested at “basic” or “below basic” in state testing the year before.

“I don’t know if (the cyber school’s) assessment tests are at state standards, but those students wouldn’t have made qualified for (adequate yearly progress), so that raises a few questions in my mind,” she said.

$100billsTHE FUTURE: In one corner we have charter schools, backed by some of that privileged 1% of America’s population; in the other corner, public schools backed by some of the largest unions in the country. Fight fair, and may the richest and most politically savvy prevail!

Think your family is off the hook because you’re not in New York or Pittsburgh? Think again.

Education Week just published “Levies’ Rejection Squeezes School Districts,” referring specifically to Ohio and Minnesota. Citizens, record numbers of them jobless or under-employed, recently used their votes to say “enough.”

In both states, districts attempted to pass two types of measures: renewal levies, which would continue taxes due to expire, and new levies, which would result in an increase in taxes for voters. And in both states, renewal levies had a far greater success rate than new levies.

“We saw 76 districts try for some form of operating levies this November. It looked like the renewals passed, but the new levies, even when they were a small amount, mostly failed,” said Greg Abbott, a spokesman for the Minnesota School Boards Association.

Twelve districts in Minnesota attempted to get new levies passed; only two of them succeeded.

Meanwhile, the Ohio School Boards Association found that voters passed only one-fourth of the 96 new levies proposed by districts in that state.

A number of the proposed new levies in both states would have cost owners of $100,000 homes roughly $100 to $150 per year.

Such rejection of levies occur where voters maintain some semblance of the feeling of control, where the taxes are reflected in the annual tax bill. But the money that used to run freely at the state level is also evaporating.

From Rick Hess’ “Straight Up” blog that appears at EducationWeek.com, comes the report that there are “Lean Years Ahead for K-12.”

As John Thomasian, director of the National Governors Association Center, explains, “State budgets have not yet recovered from the Great Recession. In fact, total state revenues probably will not return to pre-recession levels until sometime around 2013.” Thirteen states have already drained their “rainy day” reserve accounts, and another 28 used at least some of these funds to balance their budgets in 2009 and 2010. And, while the worst of the recession may be over, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has cautioned, “This is an anemic recovery…and is likely to remain anemic.”

Hess additionally cites four reasons that state aid for schools isn’t likely to improve anytime soon.

  1. States are still collecting taxes on “bubble valuations.” Once real numbers catch up (both for residential and commercial properties), “we’re looking at a downward pull through 2014. Communities can try to offset this drag by boosting property tax rates, but that may prove a tough sell in this economic climate and with other taxes expected to start inching up.”
  2. Under-funded pensions and health care systems. “The Pew Center on the States reports that at the end of FY 2008, there was a $1 trillion gap between the $2.35 trillion states and local governments had set aside for employees’ retirement benefits and the $3.35 trillion price tag of those promises. This estimate does not take into account the substantial decline in pension coffers during the past two years. Since 2000, the number of states with fully funded pension systems has dropped from over half to just four. These obligations will create pressures on state and district budgets, and will compete with classrooms for limited dollars.”
  3. “…One of the key pieces of this year’s health care reform plan was the decision to add tens of millions of state Medicaid rolls. This will add substantial new obligations and compete for limited funds. By 2013, once those provisions have fully kicked in, for instance, California will be on the hook for $3 billion more a year for Medicaid.”
  4. Stimulus bucks start running out next year. “States used these dollars to plug between 30 and 40 percent of their 2009 and 2010 budget gaps. Stimulus funds propped up K-12 with a direct grant of $77 billion tabbed for 2009 and 2010. As these dollars dry up, it’s going to create downward pressure–and no one is expecting the new Congress to approve further rounds of aid.”
PencilsEven if – and it’s an impossible if – there was enough money to pay for ever-expanding school budgets, it still wouldn’t matter.
Marion Brady, lifelong educator, author and outspoken critic of current schooling affairs, this week shared via Truthout an article titled “DeLegitimizing Public Education” in which he begins, “The quality of American education is going to get worse. Count on it. And contrary to the conventional wisdom, the main reason isn’t going to be the loss of funding accompanying economic hard times.”

Step One: Start with what was once a relatively simple educational system. (For me, it was a one-room school with 16 or so kids ranging in age from about 6 to 15, and a teacher who, it was taken for granted by the community, was a professional who knew what she was doing.)

Step Two: Close the school, build a big one, buy school buses, open a district office, and hire administrators to tell teachers what they can and can’t do.

Step Three: When problems with the new, more complicated system develop, expand the administrative pyramid, with each successive layer of authority knowing less about educating than the layer below it.

Step Four: As problems escalate, expand the bureaucracy, moving decision-making ever higher up the pyramid until state and then federal politicians make all the important calls.

Step Five: Give corporate America – the Gates, Broads, Waltons, etc. – control of the politicians who control the bureaucracy that controls the administrators who control the teachers.

Step Six: Pay no attention as the rich who, enamored of market forces, in love with the idea of privatizing schools, and attracted by the half-trillion dollars a year America spends on education, use the media to destroy confidence in public education.

Step Seven: As a confidence-destroying strategy, zero in on teachers. Say that they hate change and played a major role in the de-industrialization of America and the decline of the American Empire.

Step Eight: As the de-professionalization of teaching and the down-grading of teachers progress, point to the resultant poor school performance as proof of the need for centralized control of education. So, what’s next?

Guess. Give it your best shot. Then please read Marion’s article for his “guess,” which, as things are unfolding, is the only logical conclusion.

LindaSig

End of Part 2 – Stay tuned for the third and last post in this important series


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3 Responses to “Public Schooling Revolt Begins; Will Last for Years – Part 2”

  1. Ben Bennett says:

    In my opinion, Marion's premise begins to fall apart at #5. Up to then we have just been at ever expanding role of federal government (starting with the founding of the DOE) in making those decisions that should be and should have stayed at the one-room schoolhouse level. (Parents gathering together to hire a teacher or two to educate their children based on the rules for employment set out by the parents.)

    Anyway.

    #5, getting the greedy corporations involved spreading around their greedy money so they can sell their greedy stuff to consumers, yadda, yadda, yadda… has been around since the industrial age. Dewey set up the modern public schooling system FOR THE INDUSTRIALISTS! We need an "educated workforce," "Educated Workers," "Training kids for the 20th century work force," "Training for Jobs of the future!" It's all about creating little kids that can work for the next Bill Gates, NOT actually BE the next Bill Gates. It's been like that since the beginning. So that argument doesn't fly.

    #6: The rich are destroying education? Hardly. The same social and market and technology forces that destroyed the buggy whip industry are what's destroying the Government Industrial Education Complex. Chew on this treat: http://www.extremewisdom.com/?p=3098

    Think about it: The Education Delivery System developed during the industrial revolution by government, for government and managed by government is probably a little anachronistic compared to, oh, say, the first IBM Home Computer?

    Now, I would agree that technology companies (greedy though they are) have created some mighty cool things that just happen to do things in our spare time, that replace the old world ways of "schooling" people. Kids learn how to use complicated computers years before the public schools are set up to teach them how to type.

    Public institutional schools are being left behind. It's about time someone finally just say that it's just not worth over a billion dollars a day to keep producing buggy whips.

    As for the rest? I'm sorry, the teacher-as-professional crowd has been making its own nest for decades, and now that people aren't interested in the rotten eggs they're hatching, they get all upset and dejected. If it weren't for COMPULSORY ATTENDANCE laws across the nation, there wouldn't be a single public school in existence that anyone other than the most poor and disinterested would attend. And the latter would only use the schools like people use welfare today: They either use it as a security net, or they use it as an entitlement for generations.

    Maybe public school teachers should take a class. A re-education class of some sort.

    —-

    Oh… have we noticed that this kind of problem isn't a problem among private schools and private school teachers? Yeah… me too.

  2. Mother Mary says:

    I think there are lessons here for all school districts, especially when parents begin to opt for cyber schools instead of brick & mortar.

    good article, Linda.

  3. Wow, Ben, lots of food for thought – I wish every parent in America (and anywhere, for that matter) would read what you've shared. You've thought so much about this problem…everyone should. THANK YOU.

    Mother Mary, a compliment from you is taken to heart and savored…thank you.

    What's happening is so important – it really could be the end of the system. I want to help parents be ready to step in.

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