Saturday, July 31, 2010

Obama defends education policies to critics

Challenging civil rights organizations and teachers' unions that have criticized his education policies, President Barack Obama said Thursday that minority students have the most to gain from overhauling the nation's schools.

"We have an obligation to lift up every child in every school in this country, especially those who are starting out furthest behind," Obama told the centennial convention of the National Urban League.

The Urban League has been a vocal critic of Obama's education policies, most notably the $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" program that awards grants to states based on their plans for innovative education reforms. A report released earlier this week by eight civil rights groups, including the Urban League, says federal data shows that just 3 percent of the nation's black students and less than 1 percent of Latino students are affected by the first round of the administration's "Race to the Top" competition.

Obama pushed back Thursday, arguing that minority students are the ones who have been hurt the most by the status quo.

Obama's reforms have also drawn criticism from education advocates, including prominent teachers' unions like the American Federation of Teachers, who have argued that the reforms set unfair standards for teacher performance.

Obama said the goal isn't to fire or admonish teachers, but to create a culture of accountability. He pinned some of the criticism on a resistance to change.

"We get comfortable with the status quo even when the status quo isn't good," he said. "When you try to shake things up, sometimes people aren't happy."

Seeking to ease his strained relationship with the powerful teacher's unions, Obama hailed teachers as "the single most important factor in a classroom," calling for higher pay, better training and additional resources to help teachers succeed.

"Instead of a culture where we're always idolizing sports stars or celebrities, I want us to build a culture where we idolize the people who shape our children's future," Obama said.

The president laid the groundwork for what he called "an honest conversation" about education with comments on several recent developments that were designed as sweeteners for his mostly minority audience.

For instance, he said his goal with his domestic agenda, including the economy, health care and other priorities, is to create "an economy that lifts all Americans _ not just some, but all." That comment earned him significant applause and pleased murmurs in the room.


Why more spending doesn’t produce better schools

A new study from Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute has exposed the fraud continually perpetuated upon the taxpaying public—and visited upon the poor families trapped in criminally failed government schools—that if the state (in this case, California) just had more money it could deliver a good education.
The study concludes that, notwithstanding all the talk of “education budget cuts,” while school spending steadily increased between the 2003-04 and 2008-09 budget years, overall, direct classroom expenditures declined.

Indeed, California spending on education has not been “cut” at all—but, rather, radically increased during the period:
During the five year period, total school spending per capita (not including capital spending) increased by 25.8 percent, which was far greater than the growth in per capita personal income or inflation. During the same period, direct classroom expenditures statewide went from 59 percent of total expenditures to 57.8 percent. These statewide totals reflect a very wide range of variance among individual school districts, whose classroom expenditure ratios ranged from more than 70 percent to less than 45 percent.

Meanwhile, the 2009 National Report Card, produced by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, shows California public school students ranking almost last in the country: the average 4th grader’s math score in California ranked 47th, higher only than those in Mississippi, Alabama and Washington D.C., while the average 8th grader’s score ranked even lower—48th—higher only than those in Mississippi and Washington D.C.

The failed Oakland school district is a case study example of the public school system’s top-loaded cost structure, with 152 students per administrator, versus a statewide average of 250. In a district with a budget of nearly $13,000 annually per student, doesn’t anyone wonder why the Oakland school board is considering placing a $195 per parcel tax on the November ballot to raise $20 million a year to raise teachers and staff salaries?

Unfortunately, it’s very rare for such ballot measures to fail. Time and again, voters are extorted for more and more taxes on themselves in the name of the children. And, time and again, every “budget crisis” is visited only upon students, with class sizes increased while the number of school hours, and arts, sports, and library programs are cut.

Meanwhile, while families across California have tightened their own belts in response to economic hard times:
Certificated supervisors and administrators enjoyed a 28% pay hike per student over the five-year span. Pay for classified supervisors and administrators shot up 44% over that time.

It’s time to learn the lesson once and for all: competitive, private enterprise results in the efficient provision of products and services for consumers—even poor, disenfranchised, politically powerless consumers. Government monopolies produce ever-worse services for which they extort ever-greater payola.


Some hopeless Leftist floundering over education spending in the Australian State of NSW

School maintenance canned so Kristina Keneally can pay for heaters -- but schools typically have high maintenance requirements so this just cannot be done without further public outcry. That dangerous heaters continued to be installed after many warnings is also amazing. There is no doubt about the need for a fix of them

TEACHERS are up in arms over a decision by the NSW Government to defer or drop critical public school maintenance to pay for a minister's promise to replace all unflued heaters.

Last week, education bureaucrats were told funds used to fix broken pipes and holes in fences would be put on hold to cover the new heaters.

The latest embarrassment for the Government comes with Premier Kristina Keneally calling an emergency Cabinet meeting on Tuesday where she has asked all ministers to come up with five new ideas each to fix the state.

The NSW caucus is believed to be not happy with Ms Keneally and Treasurer Eric Roozendaal's performances.

Several ministers are complaining behind the scenes about alleged abusive behaviour by Mr Roozendaal towards other ministers and concern he has too great a role in running the government.

Some senior Labor sources say the Education Minister Verity Firth should resign and concentrate on winning her seat of Balmain after she was publicly humiliated over the heaters issue by Ms Keneally and Mr Roozendaal.

Ms Firth was reprimanded by the Premier and Treasurer after saying on Tuesday the Government was going to replace 50,000 heaters at a $400 million possible cost, without Cabinet approval.

Ms Keneally's handling of the Firth issue caused anger in caucus, with some MPs considering installing John Robertson in the Lower House before the election, possibly even to become leader.

A senior federal source argued the Gillard Government could not announce a major NSW transport project during the election campaign because "no one would believe" any promise involving the State Government.

Powerbroker Graham Richardson said yesterday: "The [Keneally] Government obviously isn't doing enough, you don't get a 25 per cent swing in [the Penrith] by-election, the biggest swing in history, if you are doing enough."

Principals were told this week urgent repairs for problems like broken pipes and holes in fences would be put off.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Verity Firth said some maintenance funding would be "reprioritised", resulting in delays of up to six months.

School asset managers were told on Wednesday afternoon the money would be redirected to pay to replace unflued "low-NOx" gas heaters in 100 schools.


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