Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stop the slander of inner-city parents

A few years ago I wrote an article for this journal urging school choice. Afterward, I received a number of arguments against it — bad arguments. One of these was what I termed the “incompetent parent argument,” which is the one you often hear from the defenders of the present public school system (that is, from greedy rentseekers who benefit from the system, because they are employed by it). The argument is this: school choice will fail because inner-city parents are too ignorant and indifferent to make wise choices about their kids’ education.

This claim is usually proffered sotto voce, since inner-city parents are often members of ethnic minorities. The argument can be accused of having a racist cast, yet the people who offer it are typically politically correct progressive liberals who love accusing the rest of us of racial insensitivity.

But to return to the argument itself. A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal exhibits the ultimate refutation of this rubbish. It reports the dramatic swelling of a “crime wave” of inner-city parents who lie about their home address on school applications. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) recently had to grant clemency to a poor black mother who had dared — dared!! — to use her father’s home address to get her two daughters into a decent school.

For this act of vicious criminality, she was charged with grand theft. After being incarcerated for nine days, she was convicted on two felony counts. If they had remained on her record they would have ruined her chances of getting a teacher’s certificate and becoming a teacher herself.

The lady is not alone. Not hardly. In several states, desperate parents — you know, the inferior inner-city parents who are genetically incapable of the same love for their children that tenured white teachers can feel — have been arrested for trying to do what she did, and are facing jail time or other punishment. School districts around the country are hiring detectives to follow children and see whether they really live where they say they do. Some districts are even using “address-verification” programs to halt the abominable crime of finding a decent education for your kids. One of these programs,, uses “covert video technology” to find the pernicious perps.

Minority parents must care a lot about choosing good schools for their kids, if so many are risking prison for the chance to do so. And of course, these people are hardly criminals. As the article suggests, we can view them as practicing a form of nonviolent protest to achieve their civil rights, in the honorable tradition of Martin Luther King.

A couple of months ago, more evidence that parents are not indifferent but are in fact committed to finding good schools came to light. It was an internal teachers’ union PowerPoint presentation boasting about how the union (the notorious American Federation of Teachers) thwarted parents’ groups in Connecticut from passing a “parent-trigger law” that would have forced a change in administration of any failing school if the majority of the district’s parents voted for the change. If the parents had been as indifferent as rumored, would the union have gone to such Machiavellian means to screw them?


Rupert Murdoch labels US education system a crime

Rupert is right but he is short on specifics. I wonder what he is up to?

RUPERT Murdoch has labelled the US education system a "crime against our children". He said it needs visionaries of the calibre of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs to reform it.

"We need to tear down an education system designed for the 19th century and replace it with one that's suited for the 21st," said Mr Murdoch at an education conference in San Franscisco. "And we need to approach the education industry the way my friend Steve Jobs approached every industry."

The chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, said high dropout rates and general underachievement in US schools needed to be transformed. "The standards for America's public schools are lower than our standards for American Idol," Mr Murdoch said.

"Most American classrooms haven't changed much since the days of Grover Cleveland. You have a teacher, a piece of chalk, a blackboard - and a room full of kids.

"Put simply, we must approach education the way Steve Jobs approached every industry he touched. "To be willing to blow up what doesn't work or gets in the way.

"And to make our bet that if we can engage a child's imagination, there's no limit to what he or she can learn."

Mr Murdoch said better-trained teachers, technology and a competitive educational marketplace would produce a better system than the one that was suffering from a crisis of imagination and crisis of rising costs.


British private schools escape the Leather Lady

A landmark ruling has freed private schools to decide for themselves how they meet their duty to help the poor to justify their status as charities. The ruling by three senior judges frees independent schools – most of which are classed as charities which allows them to enjoy valuable tax breaks – from interference by the Charity Commission.

It marks an end to a long-running dispute between the Independent Schools Council and the state watchdog, which is headed by Labour supporter Dame Suzi Leather.

Under rules which came into effect in 2006, private schools had to prove their ‘wider public benefit’ to keep their charitable status. Labour ministers said the Commission would push schools to advance the cause of social mobility and offer free places to poorer children.

Yesterday judges at the Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery) Chamber, a division of the High Court, said it was for the schools themselves and not the Commission to decide how they should meet their legal duty to help the poor.

The ISC, which represents half a million pupils in 1,260 schools, had challenged the right of the regulator to ‘micro-manage’, saying its guidelines were ‘prescriptive and interventionist’.

The judges, Mr Justice Warren, Judge Alison McKenna, and Judge Elizabeth Ovey, said schools could help the poor in a number of ways, including sharing their facilities with state schools, instead of just offering free or subsidised places.

They added that some of the guidelines operated by the Charity Commission are ‘erroneous’ and must be changed.

Once a minimal or threshold level of help for the poor has been offered by a school, ‘what the trustees decide to do in the running of a school is for them’, they said.

Under the judgment, they can also offer teachers to state schools, open their playing fields and swimming pools to state school pupils, and invite state pupils to join classes in subjects their own schools do not offer.

ISC general counsel Matthew Burgess added: ‘The ruling takes public benefit decisions away from the Commission and hands them back to school governors, and for that reason we warmly welcome it.’

The Charity Commission said: ‘We accept of course the tribunal’s conclusion that some parts of our guidance do not explain the law clearly enough.’ But it added: ‘It is a matter for individual charitable independent schools to decide for themselves how to meet the public benefit requirement as long as it gives more than a tokenistic benefit to the poor.’


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