Sunday, October 18, 2009

An educational a**hole

The upstate New York school superintendent who suspended an Eagle Scout for 20 days for keeping a 2-inch utility knife locked in his car is unwilling to speak to the teen's family or bend in his ruling. Lansingburgh Central School District Superintendent George J. Goodwin, 55, said in a written statement that his district "has an established policy of zero tolerance with respect to the possession of weapons of any kind on school property or in school buildings." But nowhere in the school district's rule book, which is published online, is there any mention of a "zero tolerance" policy, leading some to question whether Goodwin, in fact, was compelled to suspend the youth.

Seventeen-year-old Matthew Whalen, a senior at Lansingburgh High School in Troy, N.Y., says he got in trouble over a survival kit he keeps in his car that includes a sleeping bag, water, a ready-to-eat meal and the small pocketknife, which was given to him by his grandfather, a police chief in a nearby town. When Whalen acknowledged he had the knife locked in his car, he was barred from school for a calendar month. Now that he is getting just 90 minutes a day with a tutor instead of 7 hours of instruction in class, he says he is worried that the suspension will mar his academic record and affect his application to attend the U.S. Military Academy.

Whalen was initially suspended for five days by his assistant principal — but then had another 15 tacked on by Goodwin following a hearing to decide his fate. Though Goodwin was not present at the hearing, he told Fox News he listened to a tape of the proceedings, and decided to extend the suspension. Since then, Whalen's family says, Goodwin has refused to speak to Matthew even during daily interactions at the district's head office, where he meets with his tutor...


America's violent schools again

Trevor Varinecz, above, was shot dead in a struggle with police. He was autistic and should have been in a facility better adapted to his needs -- but the Leftist mania for "mainstreaming" of problem kids prevents that. It's a failure that police even needed to be at the school. Carolina Forest High School has nine walk through metal detectors but has numerous buildings and entrances so that is mostly tokenism. The officer was stabbed several times before he fired

A POLICE officer assigned to a South Carolina school shot dead a 16-year-old student after the 11th grader stabbed him, the local school district said. "That is... exactly what is understood to have happened,'' said Teal Britton, a spokeswoman for the Horry County School District, after reports first emerged about the incident at Carolina Forest High School today.

"At 8:20am, 8:25am (local time), an incident occurred that involved an 11th grade student and the school resource officer that was not witnessed by any other student,'' she said. School administrators were on campus at the time and "heard the struggle'' between the officer and the male student, Ms Britton added. "As a result of the incident, both the student and the school resource officer were injured and were transported to Conway Medical Centre, and it was reported... shortly after 11am by the coroner that the student was deceased.''

The officer, whose name was not released, was part of a South Carolina program providing liaison police officers to all state secondary and middle schools "to assist with school safety'', she added.

The high school, which has 1975 students according to its website, was locked down in the wake of the incident, but students were not evacuated and Britton said classes were still being taught. Parents were given the option of picking up their children.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the incident because it involved a police officer. "We have agents still assessing the situation. We hope to release information as confirmed details are gathered,'' said division spokesman Jennifer Timmons.


Schwarzenegger OKs school bill required by US law

California is removing a legal ban on using the results of student achievement tests to evaluate teachers, under a bill signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The bill lifts a barrier that prevented California from applying for $4.5 billion under the federal Race to the Top program. Schwarzenegger says more legislation is needed beyond the bill he signed Sunday. He has called lawmakers back into special session this fall.

California still has to qualify for the federal money in competition with other states. To do so, education officials say the state must approve other reforms, including removing a cap on the number of charter schools, improving poorly performing local schools, and giving the state more authority to intervene in failing schools.


Duncan wrong again on school choice

As grassroots momentum builds to save the Washington, DC school-choice voucher program from the congressional chopping block, U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan continues to dig in his heels in opposition. His comments betray a fundamental misunderstanding of how the education market works and what parents want for their children.

The five-year-old pilot program gives voucher scholarships of up to $7,500 to low-income Washington students to attend the private schools and escape the notoriously bad DC public schools. Approximately 3,000 students have received vouchers since the inception of the program, which has garnered the strong and impassioned support of parents.

“These politicians can’t put themselves in my shoes,” LaTasha Bennet told ABC News. “They can’t understand our struggle to get our children good educations.”

Ms. Bennet was one of more than 1,000 parents who recently rallied outside the U.S. Department of Education to protest the Obama administration’s opposition to the DC scholarship program. Listening to Arne Duncan, one can understand her frustration.

When asked by ABC News for suggestions for parents and children whose vouchers would be cut off, Duncan blithely replied, “I encourage them to come in and look at what's going on with the public schools here in DC.” Earth to Arne: those parents have seen what’s going on in their children’s public schools and they don’t like it, which is why they want vouchers. In a speech earlier this year, Duncan explained why he opposes choice for parents and their children.
“Vouchers usually serve 1 to 2 percent of the children in the community,” claimed Duncan, “I don’t want to save 1 or 2 percent of children and let 98 to 99 percent drown.” “This is why I would argue . . . rather than taking three kids out of there and putting them in a better school and feeling good and sleeping well at night, I want to turn that school around now and do that for those 400, 500, 800, 1,200 kids in that school, and give every child in that school, in that community, something better and do it with a real sense of urgency.”

Duncan’s statement is wrong on so many levels that it is hard to know where to begin. First, it’s disingenuous to fault voucher programs for serving limited populations of students.

Voucher programs in this country have been limited because of the opposition of liberal politicians, teacher unions and other entrenched public education special interests – many of them friends and allies of the Obama administration. If Duncan doesn’t “want to save 1 or 2 percent of children and let 98 to 99 percent drown,” then he should favor a full universal voucher system that gives all parents, not just a few poor parents, the same right to choose the best education option – public or private – for their child.

When asked what he thought about the limited voucher programs in the U.S., Per Unckel, former Swedish minister of education and one of the architects of his country’s much lauded universal voucher program, replied, “That is the problem.”

“The secret of the Swedish voucher program’s success is that it is universal,” he observed, “This is the right of the parents to choose the school that their kids would like to have or the school that is most supportive of the needs of their kids.” “Choice,” he emphasized, “is for everyone, whatever income you have.”

Rather than give all children an immediate escape ticket in the form of a voucher, Duncan wants to turn around poor-performing public schools. Yet it would be delusional in the extreme to believe that President Obama’s massive spending plans will rapidly improve the vast number of poorly performing government-run schools.

In a recent analysis, Andy Smarick of the American Enterprise Institute concluded that most of President Obama’s $100 billion education stimulus package has “not been used to advance reforms as the administration has vigorously urged.” “Instead,” according to Smarick, “they are being used to preserve jobs and programs, in effect protecting the status quo.” And as Ronald Reagan famously observed, status quo is Latin for “the mess we’re in.”

Competition in the education marketplace through a universal voucher system or similar widespread school-choice system will foster more positive change than any dictate from Washington. Parents would have an immediate chance to send their children to competing private schools. New private schools would start up to meet the needs and demands of parents. Public schools would feel immediate pressure to improve or lose their customer base.

All these things have already happened in Sweden. In America, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama are taking away choice, crushing a successful voucher program, and sending children to drown in bad public schools. LaTasha Bennet is right. These politicians can’t put themselves in her shoes.


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