WHAT WE KNOW
is to preserve our system of free public schools, teacher unions are going to
have to stop accepting the status quo and
making excuses for the poor performance of our students.
Most of us know that contrary to all of the talk about how we are raising
our standards, in most of our schools they continue to decline.
The low scores on the so-called high stakes tests are testimony to the
fact that large numbers of students leave school knowing next to nothing and ill
equipped for any but the most menial of jobs. While
many of our most talented young people spend their days in so-called accelerated
courses with curricula once thought more appropriate to the college level, too
many of them have whizzed right by basic skills and cannot string together three
coherent sentences or know to any degree of certainty if they have received the
correct change in a store. We must face the fact that some of the right-wing
critique of public education, particularly their criticism of the ever inflating
costs of public education, resonates with the American public because it is
true, or at least truer than some of the blather put out by the people who run
the schools and the unions who represent the people who work in them.
If it is true that our freedom is ultimately tied to our being an
enlightened and educated citizenry, we are in terrible trouble.
Excuse number one – We don’t have enough money to meet the
educational needs of our students. While
too many of our school districts do need more financial resources, resources
that many find impossible to raise trough the regressive property tax, the fact
of the matter is too many of them also waste a substantial portion of what they
have, a good piece of the waste mandated by state and federal law.
I’ve written elsewhere about the administrative bloat in school
districts where level upon level of bureaucracy insures that teachers and
educational support staff are over scrutinized and under supervised to the point
where teaching innovation and imagination are increasingly giving way to the
routines of educational programs, particularly in math and English, that are
intended to make teaching thinking-free. We
have program upon program upon program. Can
anyone seriously say that our students know more and are more skilled than they
used to be? With entrepreneurial
aplomb some crafty educators have gone corporate, developing and skillfully
marketing programs for everything from mathematics to values education.
School districts employ large numbers of central office
administrators who then turn around and hire consultants who often come selling
their programmatic wares. Where are
the NEA and AFT to challenge this pentagon-like waste in our schools?
Meanwhile, over forty school districts on
defeated their school budgets last spring.
Pressed by ever-escalating property taxes, citizens were in revolt.
That revolt, I fear, will spread as the middle class in the
is squeezed more and more by a taxation system designed by and for the rich and
an economy that increasingly is either exporting or abolishing the good jobs
that used to support a comfortable middle class life. If
education unions do not become outspoken advocates for economy in our schools,
they will find taxpayers increasingly revolting against them.
Surely some of the budget defeats on
were aided by the local newspaper’s articles on teachers earning over one
hundred thousand dollars a year.
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