Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The federal government doesn’t belong in the education system

In 2008, America spent about $9,000 per student for their education. With that kind of money, you’d expect American students to be ranked at the top academically, but they’re not.

In fact, an article in the Atlantic states, “only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan.”

For this, many states and elected officials have blamed the lack of competition within the education system. And in response, a movement of school choice is leading to the opening of charter schools around the nation.

Charter schools gives parents more options of where to send their child. Also, they have more freedom from the many regulations of public schools by allowing students and teachers more authority to make decisions.

And now, through a series of bills amending and reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, Congress wants to be more involved in the ever-growing school choice movement.

One of these bills, H.R. 2218, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, reforms and reauthorizes charter school support programs for FY 2012 through FY 2017.

A summary of the bill from the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) states this bill “reauthorizes the Charter School Program’s competitive grants to state educational agencies to support new charter school development and provide technical assistance, but expands the list of eligible applicants for such grants to include governors and a state’s charter school board… and provides financing assistance to charter schools to acquire, construct or renovate facilities.”

Despite the good intentions of this bill, it runs afoul of the basic Constitutional enumeration of powers between the federal and state governments. Constitutionally, the federal government has no role in setting education policy, and any extension of the federal government’s role in any aspect of K-12 education is at best problematic. After all, at a time when the size and scope of the federal government needs to be rolled back, this bill is estimated to cost about $1 billion over the 2012-2016 period, assuming appropriation of the authorized amounts.

“Time and time again we have seen the federal government use tax dollars to gain control over local and state governments,” says ALG’s Wilson. “The fear with this bill, while well intentioned, is that it will take away from the very reason charter schools were started in the first place—independence and freedom from influence.”

In fact, studies show federal government involvement in education does not help students academically. In a Cato Institute report looking at K-12 education subsidies, author Neal McCluskey found:

“The average NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress ] mathematics score rose just two points to 306 in 2008 from 304 in 1973. The average NAEP reading score rose just one point to 286 in 2008 from 285 in 1971. These scores are on a 500-point scale. Other measures show similarly poor achievement, or at least a lack of improvement. For example, the percentage of students who had completed high school within four years of entering ninth grade is 75 percent today, about the same as it was in the mid-1970s.”

Despite increased spending by the Department of Education from $12.5 billion in 1965 to $72.8 billion in 2008, measured in constant 2008 dollars, student improvement has remained stagnant.

If the history of the education system in America proves anything it is that pushing another education bill through Congress and sending states more taxpayer money to encourage a specific agenda will not accomplish the intended results.

Educating America’s youth best belongs in the hands of parents, school districts and local governments. The charter school movement has grown by leaps and bounds by state and local government action. The focus of charter schools is on the students’ academic achievement. Let that focus continue without more involvement from the federal government.


Gov. Jindal To Campaign on Behalf of School Choice Candidates as Part of His Re-Election Effort

Louisiana school board candidates who favor vouchers and oppose tenure are expected to receive a boost from Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is up for re-election this fall, and a new political action committee. Jindal has been an ardent proponent of school choice initiatives, which puts him at odds with the teachers unions.

All eight of the elected seats on the 11 member Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) are open to primary challenges on Oct. 22. The other three seats are appointed by the governor.

Only one incumbent, Linda Johnson, a Plaquemine resident, has announced that she is not running for re-election. Glenny Lee Buquet of Houma, a former BESE president who has served on the board since 1992, recently announced that she would seek another term. Houma had previously indicated that she would step down but reconsidered at the behest of Gov. Jindal. At least six of the elected seats could be highly competitive.

In April, a new statewide group called the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education, which includes teachers unions, local school board officials and local superintendents, came together in an effort to oppose Jindal’s school choice initiatives and to back its own candidates.

The organization includes leaders of the: Louisiana School Boards Association (LSBA); Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS): Louisiana Association of School Executives (LASE): Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE); Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT); Louisiana Retired Teachers Association, (LRTA); founder/board chairman and directors of Research on Reform, Inc.; and the creator of the blog “Louisiana Educator.”

“What we see in the state leadership is simple capitalistic ideology, a kind of `Disaster Capitalism,’ not an emphasis on quality education,” Dr. James Taylor, president of the Louisiana Retired Teachers Association, said in a press release.

Charles Hatfield, a coalition member who works as an analyst with Research on Reforms, Inc., described the Jindal Administration position on education as “market‐driven propaganda, a sort of ‘gain’ game with school performance scores perpetuating a myth to the public.”

Joe Potts, President Emeritus and a member of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, another Coalition member challenged the idea that schools should be run in a more business-like manner. “Why should schools need to be run more like a business, when it is well documented that more than half of all businesses fail?” he asked.

But a new political action committee (PAC) called The Alliance for Better Classrooms (ABC) has also entered the fray. ABC will spend at least $1 million on “reform candidates” who support its policy objectives, Lane Grisby, a Baton Rouge contractor who helped form the PAC, has told members of the press.

The Alliance favors “student-based budgeting,” which gives principals more flexibility in local appropriations, school choice programs and annual teacher evaluations. Gov. Jindal and former Superintendent Paul Pastorek frequently secured 6-5 votes on BESE to advance many of the policy changes that ABC also supports.

The school voucher program known as the Student Scholarships for Education Excellence (SSEE) program has been active for the past four years in New Orleans. Initially, vouchers were limited to the kindergarten through third grade, but they have expanded each year to include a higher-grade level.

Currently 1,697 voucher recipients are enrolled in private schools, less than 5 percent of the 40,000 public school students. But supporters now see an opportunity to expand the use of school vouchers throughout the state given the steady rise in demand for scholarships over the past few years. The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), for example, has asked that lawmakers consider the use of school vouchers in Baton Rouge and Shreveport.

“The status quo will argue that vouchers will hurt the system, but they’re not going to hurt the system if their schools are competitive,” said Chas Roemer, a board member running for re-election. “But if a school is not the school of choice then we need to ask why. We also need to ask why it’s right to send a child to a school that is not working.”

Roemer has been endorsed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), which has also lined up behind some of the new challengers including Kira Orange Jones, executive director of Teach for America in Louisiana, a non-profit group aimed at eliminating inequality in education. Orange Jones will face off against incumbent Louella Givens, a New Orleans lawyer and former teacher, who has consistently voted against reforms favored by Jindal and Pastorek.

LABI and ABC are also looking to unseat Dale Bayard of Lake Charles and favor his opponent Holly Boffy of Lafayette. LABI has endorsed Boffy, who was Louisiana’s 2010 teacher of the year. Boffy is also an outspoken opponent of teacher tenure.


Ban teaching creationism at school, say British academics

The teaching of creationism should be outlawed in school science lessons, a group of leading scientists have said.

And the curriculum should be changed to ensure evolution is taught from when children start school, according to academics including Sir David Attenborough and Professor Richard Dawkins

Those behind the call for ‘evolution not creationism’ say teaching that God created the world is dangerous and must be prevented by law.

Drives by creationist groups at schools mean there is a sense of urgency, they add.

Evolution – the idea that we are shaped by advantageous genes being passed through generations over billions of years – does not feature in the national curriculum until the time of GCSEs.

The discussion of creationism and the theory of intelligent design – a view that evolution is fine-tuned by God – is encouraged but not part of the curriculum.

Prof Dawkins, a geneticist and author of the God Delusion, said last night: ‘We need to stop calling evolution a theory. It is as solidly demonstrated as any fact.’

Jack Valero, of Catholic Voices, said evolution should not be used to suggest God does not exist.

Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said pupils should be taught to respect all views about how life began.


No comments: