Saturday, January 29, 2011

Whoopee! Britain's leather lady to get the boot

A nasty Leftist hater who has pushed up the cost of private schooling

'Quango queen' Dame Suzi Leather has been warned her reign at the Charity Commission will be cut short unless she ends ‘politically motivated’ attacks on Coalition policy. The controversial Labour sympathiser has until the end of the year to drop her vendetta against independent schools and end her public opposition to spending cuts.

Dame Suzi has held 30 public sector posts over the last 15 years and has become one of the most notorious passengers on the quango gravy train. But she has been warned she will be replaced her in the £104,999-a-year three-day a week chair post early unless she falls into line, according to Cabinet Office sources.

The Charity Commission quango, which regulates the affairs of UK charities, is supposed to be politically impartial. But Dame Suzi, 54, has repeatedy angered ministers, using her position at as a platform to attack the £5billion of spending cuts planned for the voluntary sector. She said: ‘If you cut the charities, you are cutting our ability to help each other, you are cutting what structures our neighbourliness. That is what the Big Society is all about.’

Dame Suzi, who has run the commission since 2006, was handed a new three-year contract by the previous government last year. But senior sources say Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude is set to fire her with a notice period if she does not change her attitude by the end of the year. A senior government source said: ‘The appointment is in the gift of the Secretary of State. He can terminate it. We want to see an end to the politically motivated statements.’

The move would delight many Tories for whom Dame Suzi is a byword for quango cronyism.

Her role is also in question because of the way she has used the quango’s powers over rules governing charities to attack independent schools. Dame Suzi, herself publicly educated, has used the rules to threaten independent schools with the loss of their charitable status unless they show they exist for the ‘wider public benefit’. This includes offering free places for children from poorer backgrounds.

The rules are blamed for driving up fees beyond the reach of already struggling parents and critics say they will lead to the closure of some of the best schools in the country. Two small prep schools – one in Derbyshire, the other in Lancashire – failed the ‘public benefit’ test in 2009.

Cabinet Office ministers believe the Charity Commission should allow independent schools to open up their sports pitches to local state schools or provide music lessons for local children. ‘There are many ways to show public benefit and the Charity Commission needs to take a broader view. That’s the second test,’ the source said.

The Independent Schools Council has been granted a judicial review hearing in May to challenge the commission’s implementation of the rules. A spokesman said: ‘We think the way they are interpreting the law is wrong.’ Attorney-General Dominic Grieve has also referred the quango to the Charity Tribunal over its rulings.

Last night a Charity Commission spokesman said: ‘We have always said we expect the majority of independent charitable schools will have no problem demonstrating the public benefit they provide.’


Schools Suffer Under Obama’s Land Grabs

There has not been a leader of this country that didn’t stress the importance of educating America’s youth.

Even Obama, very recently in his State of the Union address, acknowledged, “Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us — as citizens, and as parents — are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.”

It is clear that education in this country has always been a priority.

Troubling and a bit ironic then is the fact that some states are battling with the federal government over revenue sources for education. These states aren’t in a fight to receive any handouts from the federal government; instead they are struggling to keep a revenue source that belongs to them — their land.

It wasn’t always this way. The Founding Fathers designated special territories in each state that were purposed to support schools. A short video by CLASS, Children’s Land Alliance Supporting Schools, explains that states received these lands as they entered statehood and more than 134 million acres of land were granted by Congress to support schools. By 2005, about half of all the states, mainly eastern states, had lost their school lands and funds due to mismanagement, but the remaining states have grown their funds to a total of $35 billion, compared to $210 million in 1905. Only 45 million acres of school trust lands remain in the U.S.

Though each state with a remaining trust fund handles it differently, they are all dependent upon the profits of the land to help support education. Revenues off these lands are accumulated from permits that allow grazing, ranching, farming, mining and hunting and in some cases involve selling the land to a developer for the building of a residential area or mall.

These states have made wise investments over the past century to ensure future generations have a properly funded education, but it hasn’t been easy. Many of these school trust lands are located in prime real estate locations that the federal government labels wilderness areas — areas where the land cannot be touched, taxed or profited from.

“It is a terrible truth that the federal government has more control over the economy and lands of states than elected governors and legislatures do,” says Don Todd, senior research director at Americans for Limited Government (ALG).

The federal government as of late has had a heyday labeling land as wilderness areas. And though the federal government cannot take school trust land per se, they can take all the surrounding land, thus reducing the value of the school trust land.

“When the government takes land and ties it up, that money is not going to educate our children,” says Susan Edwards, School Community Council Member in Utah for Crescent View Middle School and Alta High School. “The federal government is taking money away from our school children.”

If land belonging to the trust fund becomes locked in by land labeled as a wilderness area or land that needs to remain untouched due to an endangered species ruling, it is much harder for schools to generate funds off that land. A farmer or developer would be hesitant to purchase and invest in a parcel of land that is surrounded by federal rules and regulations.

“When the federal government declares their land off limits for productive uses, the in-held school lands cannot support our schools, and Utah’s children statewide suffer,” Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert explains to ALG.

States cannot afford to receive dwindling profits from these land trust funds. These funds are critical for schools as they finance building repairs or new technology. In the state of Utah, trust land funds are used for student’s academic success. The money might be spent to hire more classroom aids, form mentorship programs, build a computer lab or pay teachers who stay after hours to help at-risk children.

Utah’s Gov. Herbert goes on to say, “These issues are not merely rural issues or land issues. They have a direct effect on public education throughout the State of Utah. If wells are not drilled in the Uintah Basin, there will be fewer textbooks, fewer library books, fewer computers, and fewer teachers’ aides in public schools everywhere in Utah, including in the heavily populated Salt Lake Valley. The effects of these harsh restrictive federal measures will be felt by Utah’s public school children for generations, because the school trust is a permanent trust.”

The state of Utah is already at a disadvantage when it comes to funding for its education system. About two-thirds of the state, roughly 70 percent, is owned by the federal government. Though the federal government said much of this land would be sold upon the state achieving statehood and that 5 percent of the proceeds would go directly to fund education, it has yet to happen.

With two-thirds of the land already swallowed by the federal government, Utah’s education revenue comes from the land it has left. Of that land that is left, about only about 7 percent is designated as school trust land, says Cody Stewart, legislative director for Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT). The rest of land is at risk of falling into the hands of the federal government.

Utah State Senator Steve Urquhart stated on his blog, “Wilderness designation shuts down economic activity on federal and state lands. (Loss of royalties, severance tax, income tax, and sales tax). It stops motorized access to those areas, meaning most people stop going there to recreate, hunt, fish, picnic, etc. It stops oil and gas production. It stops timbering. It stops ranching. It stops most any activity that adds money to Utah’s coffers. We could be receiving serious revenues for education off those lands, but wilderness cuts that off.”

Why don’t states negotiate with the federal government and work out a land exchange? Because, Paula Plant, co-director of CLASS explains, “land exchanges are expensive and time intensive.”

She knows of a land exchange near the Colorado River corridor that has been underway for seven years. “If the federal government is going to create this many wilderness areas then it’s hard to find land to exchange,” she says. “You can’t trade land that has an endangered species; you won’t be able to do anything with it.”

Another disadvantage these school trust lands might soon face: “There is a tendency on the part of the legislators to want to use this money on other things, such as highways. There is always a fear of the state or federal government taking over the funds,” says Kirk Sitterud, Emery School District Superintendent, a rural school district in central Utah.

But for now, those Western states that retain their school trust lands hold on to them tightly — they depend on them as will future generations. But that isn’t to say they don’t feel the impact of actions already taken by the federal government.

“Education in the West is hurt, salaries for teachers in the West are hurt, the retirement system for educators in the West is hurt. The West is put at a decided disadvantage and very few people east of Denver comprehend that or understand that,” Utah’s Rep. Rob Bishop told ALG. “This Administration’s policy to lock up lands and refuse to develop them to their potential, hurts kids, it hurts the education in the West, period.”

Taking a trip to Western states like Utah looks as if the federal government puts environmental policies ahead of the education system and the nation’s school children.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that the school should be “the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” This doesn’t appear to be the thinking of the current Administration, and the nation’s school children of today and those of future generations will suffer for it.


Australia: Start the education revolution with basics of English

QUIS MAGISTROS IPSOS DOCEBIT? (Who will teach the teachers?)

Across Australia, schools are reopening for the start of the academic year. This year also heralds the start of the national curriculum, on a limited trial basis.

In May, students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will take the fourth round of national literacy and numeracy testing, known as NAPLAN. When those results are released, parents and others will again make judgments about schools and teachers, reigniting the controversy that has marked this component of Labor's education revolution.

In fairness to the children who attempt the NAPLAN tests, whose schooling is directly affected by every change made by federal and state curriculum authorities, and who are dependent on the teachers appointed to work with them each day, it is important to consider this stage of the revolution from their point of view. What is needed to deliver the promised transparency in educational practices and the improvements in teacher quality?

The NAPLAN tests are designed to provide a snapshot of student progress to inform teaching practices and to evaluate the performance of schools. But at least one test, of language conventions (grammar, spelling and punctuation), is demonstrably inadequate for both purposes.

There are three reasons for this. First, the tests are poorly designed. Second, no national curriculum is in place to which the tests can be clearly linked. Third, and most importantly, the longstanding failure to train teachers in these aspects of English means that not only is there no consensus on how language conventions should be taught, teachers themselves are not confident about their professional competence.

The major drawback of the language tests is that they lack order and coherence. The range of questions does not adequately address the common errors that characterise students' written work, and are most detrimental to fluency. Some items appear to be testing multiple points simultaneously. Other questions are written in ways that rely on native speaker intuition, or common sense and logic, rather than a solid grasp of how English works. The language used to frame the questions is inconsistent, sometimes referring to a part of speech by its appropriate name, and at other times asking simply for the correct "word/s". If students are expected to learn and to use the metalanguage in other subjects such as mathematics, music and geography, why is this not the case in English?

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which administers the tests, is developing a national curriculum that appears to place a strong emphasis on accurate written expression. ACARA's National Curriculum Framing Paper (English) states that: "Attention should be given to grammar across K-12, as part of the 'toolkit' that helps all students access the resources necessary to meet the demands of schooling and of their lives outside of school."

ACARA chairman Barry McGaw says: "We don't want to just nod in the direction of grammar and say it should be taught. We need to say what that means."

But as the Australian Association of Teachers of English points out, agreement is yet to be reached on how to teach grammar. The English Teachers Association of Western Australia claims "English teachers are concerned about their ability to teach grammar". The Queensland Department of Education concedes that: "Many of our teachers are young graduates with limited grammar, who realise that this deficit makes it difficult for them to discuss work with their students."

Students rely on their teachers to model best practice and to be able to identify and to explain all language errors. The sceptic will argue that language is dynamic and that those who insist on correct usage are pedants who place more emphasis on the mechanics than on the message. Our response is that students who master the mechanics of English gain the freedom to concentrate on the sophisticated expression of ideas.

As one teacher commented last year, "Every day we ask the students to produce pieces of written work -- narratives, reports, essays and so on -- and we say that they should edit and proofread their own work, but we don't give them the tools to actually do that, and so many of them just don't know where to start and they give up."

The Australian Primary Principals Association insists that "teaching about language is essential at all stages of schooling and is not confined to the primary school". In secondary schools, any focus on basic literacy skills is normally left to English teachers and literacy co-ordinators.

The sort of courses needed to enable teachers to teach correct English usage have been neglected in recent decades.

A language revolution is required. All teachers must develop the capacity to correct their students' work for language as well as subject content. This will create what the Australian Curriculum describes as "confident communicators who appreciate and use the English language creatively and critically in a range of contexts and for a range of purposes".

Australian educational jurisdictions face a significant, long-term dilemma. As is the case in every profession, there are those who resist change. Some are uncomfortable with the NAPLAN tests and the My School website. However, the new curriculum places a renewed focus on language as a foundation skill, and all teachers in all subjects are now official members of the revolution.


Friday, January 28, 2011

PA High School Defends Plan to Segregate Students by Race & Gender‏

A Lancaster, Pa., high school is defending its decision to segregate students according to race and gender in an attempt to foster higher standards of student achievement.

The plan recently implemented at McCaskey East High School segregates black students from the rest of the school body and then divides them further according to gender, dividing black females and black males. The separation is brief — just six minutes each day and 20 minutes twice a month — but the controversial move is drawing some heated criticism and stirring comparisons to past “separate but equal” racial segregation schemes.

Bill Jimenez, the school’s principal, defended the policy Wednesday, claiming that the school’s experiment was an attempt to improve the performance of black students whose performance was noticeably lagging behind their fellow students. According to Jimenez, research suggests that same-race classes led by strong same-race role models may improve academic results.

“One of the things we said when we did this was, ‘Let’s look at the data, let’s not run from it. Let’s confront it and see what we can do about it,’” he told

The idea originated with Angela Tilghman, a McCaskey East instructional coach who was alarmed at the poor academic performance of the school’s black students. Only about a third of McCaskey’s African-Americans scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year’s PSSAs, compared with 60 percent of white students and 42 percent of all students. Math scores were even worse, with just 27 percent of black pupils scoring proficient or advanced.

Research has shown, Tilghman said, that grouping black students by gender with a strong role model can help boost their academic achievement and self-esteem. She and fellow instructional coach Rhauni Gregory volunteered to mentor the African-American girls, and Michael Mitchell and Willie Thedford each took a homeroom of black males.

No other students were divided by race, Jimanez said, although pupils enrolled in the school’s English language learners program were paired with ELL teachers.

Initially, some McCaskey East students and staff objected to separating out black students. Some juniors asked to go back to their old homerooms. Others complained that the experiment ran counter to the culture of McCaskey, long a melting pot of students and staff from many diverse backgrounds.

Now, mentors are closely watching students’ performance in the segregated classrooms, including grades, test scores and attendance.

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” one math teacher and mentor, Michael Mitchell, remarked, quoting the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mitchell now says he hopes to inspire his black male students during their short daily meetings, noting that some of them were even failing gym class.

“They’re all young. They’re all strong. They’re all athletic. But they’re failing because they chose not to participate,” he said. “That‘s an example of ’conscientious stupidity.’ You can do but you choose not to do. These are the things we need to get away from.”

In the few weeks since the mentors began holding their homeroom meetings, the mentors claim they’ve seen changes in their students. “You notice the level of interaction is different, the way they talk is different,” one mentor pointed out. “One of the simplest things you notice right away is, before, the pants were hanging down; now, they are up. The shirt is tucked in, where before, it was hanging out. That’s tangible.”

The test score results haven’t yet been calculated, but at least one student, junior Mikeos Ango, claims the new set-up has made a difference for him. “It definitely makes you think about stuff more,” he said. “We have great role models as our teachers right now. They’ve been in our shoes before, and so we learn something from them every day.”


School chaplain scheme goes to court

A rare event: Australia's version of the U.S. First Amendment in play. The court is asked to overturn a scheme supported by both sides of politics

A FATHER won the first round in his historic battle yesterday to have government-funded chaplains thrown out of the nation's public schools.

Ron Williams journeyed from Toowoomba to Sydney yesterday for a directions hearing in his challenge and was thrilled to hear that his case could be heard in the High Court over three days in May. "This is a very important moment," a jubilant Mr Williams said yesterday.

The father of six, who has four children attending Queensland public schools, said his main argument was that the funding for chaplains in schools breached Section 116 of the Australian Constitution, which states that the "Commonwealth not legislate in respect of religion". "This is not about getting chaplains out of schools, it's about the government funding them, which I believe is against the Constitution," he said.

If Mr Williams wins his challenge, government funding for chaplains would be removed.

The National School Chaplaincy Program was introduced in 2006 by former prime minister John Howard. The national program won support from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an atheist who, just before the election last year, pledged $222 million to extend the program for four years.

More than 430 schools in NSW get up to $20,000 each a year for their chaplain services, totalling almost $12 million, and more than 2500 school across Australia now have chaplains at a cost of more than $151 million.

The chaplain program is run in Queensland by that state's branch of the Scripture Union. In NSW the program is run by the National School Chaplaincy Association which is based in Western Australia.

A spokesman for the association said yesterday it was not appropriate to comment.

NSW Greens MP John Kaye said yesterday's decision was good news for those who believed in separation of church and state. "The anger felt by many of us at the use of public money will now at least be tested in the court," he said. "There will now be an opportunity to hear in court why this program so deeply contradicts the integrity of the Australian Constitution."


Australia already has substantial school choice but that is being "reviewed" and is at risk of being scaled back

by Kevin Donnelly

Just ask Mark Latham about the impact of the hit list of so-called privileged schools he championed when he was leader of the ALP. No wonder that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, on taking over as leaders, rejected the politics of envy and argued in favour of school choice.

During the 2010 campaign, Prime Minister Gillard was so concerned about the issue that she promised to keep the existing socioeconomic status (SES) funding model for an additional year, until 2013.

Gillard also promised that Catholic and independent schools would not lose money as a result of the Gonski funding review currently underway – established by Gillard when she was Education Minister and due to report in 2011.

Unlike the Liberal Party, the ALP is a late convert to school choice. Such pragmatism is understandable. Across Australia, approximately 34% of students attend non-government schools and the figure rises to over 40% at years 11 and 12.

Parents, especially in marginal seats, are voting with their feet and over the years 1999-2009 enrolments on Catholic and independent schools grew by 21.3% while the growth figure for government schools flatlined at 1.2 per cent.

Given that non-government schools are increasingly popular and that school choice, especially for those parents committed to faith-based schools, is a fundamental human right, one might expect that all would agree that such schools should be properly funded.

One might also expect that the best response to government schools losing market share is to ask why state schools are no longer attractive to increasing numbers of parents and what can be done to strengthen such schools.

Logic and reason are not the hallmarks of the self-serving groups like the Australian Education Union and it should not surprise that the AEU, instead of addressing underlying causes, has mounted the barricades to argue that non-government schools should be starved of funding and subject to increased government regulation and intervention.

The AEU has mounted a campaign, including petitions, dedicated websites, surveys and fact sheets, arguing that non-government schools are over-funded, that such schools only serve the privileged and that Catholic and independent schools promote social instability and reinforce disadvantage.

The reality suggests otherwise. Instead of being over funded non-government schools receive significantly less funding when compared to government schools (the following figures are taken from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Background Note on school funding, dated 17 November 2010).

On average, and excluding capital expenditure, government school students receive $12,639 in funding from state and federal governments, the figure for non-government schools is $6,606. Every student that attends a non-government school saves government, and taxpayers, approximately $6,000.

In terms of total funding non-governments schools raise 43% of their income from private sources with state and federal governments providing the other 57%. Contrary to the impression created by the AEU it is also the case that federal funding is allocated to schools according to a school’s socioeconomic status (SES).

In the words of the Parliamentary Library paper, “Australian Government recurrent per student funding for non-government schools is based on a measure of need”. Wealthier non-government schools only receive 13.7% of the federal funding figure, known as the Average Government School Recurrent Costs (AGSRC), with less privileged schools receiving 70%.

The AEU also argues that non-government schools contribute to social inequality and educational disadvantage. Once again, the evidence suggests otherwise.

Research both here and overseas concludes that Australia has a high degree of social mobility and one of the main reasons is because we have an education system, based on an analysis of the 2007 PISA results, that is high quality/high equity.

In the words of the 2008 OECD report Growing Unequal?: Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries, “Australia is one of the most socially mobile countries in the OECD” and “the educational attainment of parents affects the educational achievements of the child less than in most other countries”.

It’s also the case that while the ALP and the cultural-left condemn low SES students to educational failure, supposedly as disadvantage automatically leads to poor results, the example of non-government school proves otherwise.

Researchers at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) after analysing Year 12 results conclude that non-government schools are more effective, compared to government schools, in getting low SES students to succeed.

In a 2002 ACER report analysing the factors that lead to success at Year 12, the researchers state, “Students who attended non-government schools outperformed students from government schools, even after taking into account socioeconomic background and achievement in literacy and numeracy”.

During the 2010 election campaign Julia Gillard nullified funding as an issue by maintaining the existing SES model until 2013 and promising that “no school will lose a dollar in funding”.

It’s significant that while the ALP’s rhetoric is supportive, the Gillard-led Government refuses to guarantee that funding will be maintained in real terms and that Catholic and independent schools will not suffer, either financially or in terms of their autonomy, as a result of the Gonski review.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cash for Education Clunkers

Michelle Malkin

"We're going to have to out-educate other countries," President Obama urged this week. How? By out-spending them, of course! It's the same old quack cure for America's fat and failing government-run schools monopoly. The one-trick ponies at the White House call their academic improvement agenda "targeted investing" for "winning the future." Truth in advertising: Get ready to fork over more Cash for Education Clunkers.

Our government already spends more per capita on education than any other of the 34 wealthiest countries in the world except for Switzerland, according to recent analysis of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Overall inflation-adjusted K-12 spending has tripled over the past 40 years, the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy points out. Yet American test scores and graduation rates are stagnant. One in 10 high schools is a dropout factory. And our students' performance in one of the most prestigious global math competitions has been so abysmal that the U.S. simply withdrew altogether.

Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget already represents "one of the largest increases" in federal education spending history, and hikes total discretionary spending to nearly $51 billion. Toss in another $35 billion for mandatory Pell grants. And add another $4 billion for the illusory "Race to the Top" charade to improve academic standards.

Then there's the $10 billion for the Education Jobs Fund signed into law last August -- a naked payoff to the public teachers union, which also includes $50 million for the Striving Readers comprehensive literacy development and education program; $82 million for Student Aid Administration; and $10.7 million for the Ready to Teach program.

Oh, and don't forget the $100 billion in federal stimulus funding for school programs and initiatives administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

As he extols the virtues of "innovation" and "accountability," the last thing Obama wants you to think about is the actual results of these profligate federal ed binges:

-- As education analyst Neal McCluskey accurately described the real impact of the $4 billion Race to the Top paperwork theater: "States must say how they would improve lots of things, but they actually have to do very little. It is decades of public schooling -- from the Great Society to No Child Left Behind -- in a nutshell." You need a chainsaw to cut through the bureaucratese of the winning state applications, but the bottom line is that the "race" is "won" only when school reformers get buy-in from the teachers unions -- the most stalwart enemies of introducing choice and competition to the atrophying system.

-- Despite massive multibillion-dollar "investments" in teacher training, America's educators are horrifyingly incompetent at even elementary math. Explaining why American grade-school students can't master simple fractions, one math professor confessed: "Part of the reason the kids don't know it is because the teachers aren't transmitting that." Instead, they've ditched "drill and kill" -- otherwise known as the basics -- for costly educational fads ranging from "Mayan Math" to "Everyday Math" that substitute art, self-esteem and multiculturalism for the fundamentals of computation.

-- Among the supposedly cutting-edge programs funded by Obama's federal stimulus program is the $49 million technology initiative for the Detroit Public Schools. The urban school system is overrun by corruption, violence and incompetence. The teachers union sabotaged classroom instruction and denied schoolchildren an education through an apparent illegal work stoppage. Yet, Washington went ahead and forked over a whopping $530 million in federal porkulus funds to reward yet more Detroit government school failure and bail out the reckless-spending boobs who mismanaged the DPS budget and engineered a fiscal crisis. The $49 million technology program distributed some 40,000 new (foreign-made) ASUS netbook computers, plus thousands of printers, scanners and desktop computers to teachers and kids from early childhood through 12th grade.

One teacher was caught late last year trying to pawn his shiny new booty. No doubt, he has company. Nationwide, in both urban and rural school districts, large and small, these technology infusions have turned out to be gesture-driven boondoggles and political payoffs that squander precious educational resources -- with little, if any, measurable academic benefits. Mark Lawson, school board president of one of New York state's first districts to put technology directly in students' hands, told The New York Times in 2007: "After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement -- none. The teachers were telling us when there's a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It's a distraction to the educational process."

That about sums up federal intervention in public schooling: It's a taxpayer-subsidized distraction to the local educational process that throttles true competition, rewards failure and mistakes blind government largesse for achievement.


New education bill will give protection for British teachers falsely accused by pupils

Teachers are to be granted anonymity when pupils make allegations against them, which will only be lifted if a charge is made. The proposals are set out in Michael Gove’s Education Bill, which also gives teachers new powers to search pupils. It will also be made easier for teachers to hand out detentions. They will no longer have to give parents 24 hours’ notice.

And heads will have the final say on expulsions – stopping independent appeals panels from forcing children back into school.

The Education Secretary said the moves are necessary to reverse the ‘out of control’ behaviour which has driven teachers from the profession. Every school day nearly 1,000 children are suspended from school for abuse and assault. Major assaults on staff have reached a five-year high. Last year, 44 teachers were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Unions praised the moves to protect teachers from false allegations but expressed concerns about extended search rights. Dr Mary Bousted, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: ‘Teachers are worried that encouraging them to search pupils and confiscate items such as mobiles, weapons, drugs and cigarettes will damage their relationship with their pupils.

The Bill also sets down measures to free schools of bureaucracy by axing quangos and abolishing unnecessary form filling. Mr Gove said: ‘We’re taking action to restore discipline and reduce bureaucracy.

Teachers will be free to impose the penalties they need to keep order – and free from the red tape which swallows up teaching time. So they can get on with their first duty – raising standards.’

Today’s Bill also includes a clause that could see the middle classes bearing the brunt of the rise in tuition fees to £9,000 a year.


Australia: Class warriors prepare to ambush private schools

Janet Albrechtsen

SO far it's just shots across the bow in what will be this year's political sleeper issue: the Gonski review into federal funding of schools.

Soon enough we will get a barrage of rapid fire from the teachers unions as they do what they always do when it comes to any talk about funding schools: cast aside inconvenient facts, ignore parental choice and wage a misleading war against private education.

Last Sunday, Fairfax's Sun-Herald joined the side of union leaders, trying to shock parents about fee increases at private schools, giving the last word to the Greens to complain about "ever greater amounts of government money flooding into wealthy private schools".

Flooding is extreme imagery at the moment. And quite deliberate. Submissions to the Gonski review are due by March. After that, the teachers unions' carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about the evils of funding private education and the virtues of funding public education will get into full swing.

That's a shame. Funding our schools raises important principles ripe for discussion, recommendation and determination.

As then education minister Julia Gillard said in April last year, when announcing a review of the complicated, hotchpotch approach to funding schools, funding principles "should be based on simplicity, flexibility, stability, equity, value for money, transparency and best practice".

All laudable principles that the review will consider over the course of this year. Alas, Gillard either forgot or deliberately ignored another principle that has long guided funding of schools in Australia. The principle of choice.

To be sure, the threshold issue of choice was settled long ago. Australia has a fine tradition that mixes public and private investment in education. Plenty of parents have followed P.J. O'Rourke's basic observation that when you spend your money on yourself, you spend it much more wisely than when the government spends your money on other people.

The real question, now critical to the Gonski review, is whether we encourage parents to spend their own money on their children's education, whether we merely tolerate it or whether we actively penalise it.

By failing to mention the principle of parental choice to privately educate their children in her discussion paper and draft terms of reference, Gillard seems to fall into the "tolerate choice but don't encourage it" camp.

That, too, is a shame. Logic would suggest that once the state has used taxpayers' money to provide acceptable minimum standards of education to every child, it should then actively encourage parents to lavish as much of their own money on their child's education as they can. But this most basic logic eludes the cheerleaders of public education entirely, most particularly the teachers unions. Many of them actually want to punish parents who spend their own money (over and above their taxes) on their child's education.

That's because unions don't really approve of allowing private choice when it comes to parents spending their money on their child's education. For the time being, their class warfare means they want a funding model that penalises parents who choose to educate their children privately.

And misinformation is at the heart of this campaign. Consider the Australian Education Union's submission to the Gonski review about its terms of reference, in which it demands a "comprehensive, evidence-based analysis of both the state and federal funding mechanisms for non-government schools". On its face, that seems appropriate. The entire funding pie for each sector is relevant to any meaningful review of funding. Except that when unions compare public schools with private schools, they invariably look only at federal funding. And the reason is simple. Although education is a state responsibility and the states and territories provide the largest slice of funding to public schools, the unions don't want you to recall this inconvenient fact.

Instead, critics of private education use misleading figures to suggest government-condoned inequity - the rich taking from the poor in our schools. Take Trevor Cobbold, convener of Save Our Schools, who likes to highlight average total expenditure. In government schools in 2007-08 it was $10,723 a student, compared with $15,147 in independent schools and $10,399 in Catholic schools. It's true that total expenditure in government schools is about $10,500 per student. But now add the relevant facts. State and territory governments provide about 88 per cent of funding to public schools, the federal government provides about 8 per cent and parents the remaining 4 per cent. Almost the reverse funding pie applies to independent schools. State and territory governments provide just 12 per cent of the funding per student, the federal government picks up the tab for 31 per cent and parents, and the school community provides 58 per cent of the funding per student.

In dollar amounts, if you compare state and federal funding to government and non-government schools, as any meaningful review of funding must, students at government schools receive about twice the government funding received by students at non-government schools.

Fair enough. Parents who choose to educate their children privately accept that the bulk of the funding is private: they choose to foot the largest part of the bill to educate their children, with estimated savings to governments of $3.1 billion each year.

Still, teachers unions are committed to first reducing, then obliterating, any public funding to private schools. Their message to parents: if you can pay anything at all towards a private education, you should pay for the lot.

Union leaders may talk about equality of opportunity but their aim is equality of outcome: each Australian student attending the same kind of school, receiving precisely the same kind of cookie-cutter education. Diversity, usually such a fashionable word in the teachers union world, is taboo when it comes to schools and choice. Being an advocate of public education is a fine vocation indeed, except when it means becoming a specialist in dishonest and illogical arguments aimed at bludgeoning the federal government into giving less and less to private schools. No strategem goes unused in their attempt to strangle private education.

Imagine how refreshing it might be to hear an advocate of public education talk about the importance, too, of private schools within our education system. Imagine if this public education advocate recognised the need to encourage - not just tolerate, and certainly not penalise - parents who can afford to privately educate their children, to do just that. Imagine if the Gonski review said just that. And just imagine if the Gillard government agreed.

After all, telling hardworking parents who sacrifice in order to fund their children's education that the more they invest, the more they will be punished by a withdrawal of federal funding is no way to build an education revolution.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don’t hold children captive to failing public schools

Columnist Matthew Tully is bothered by the possibility that motivated parents would be the school patrons most likely to seek out the choices made possible by Gov. Mitch Daniels proposed vouchers, thereby sticking public schools with the not-so-conscientious parents who remained ("Are vouchers the best choice for students?" Jan. 16). So why not go all out with public charter schools before trying vouchers, he suggests.

The problem is that critics of independently managed charter schools across the nation are beginning to use the very same argument in a desperate effort to slow their growth. Whether used against vouchers or charters, this argument amounts to saying motivated parents and their children ought to be held captive in failing schools, in hopes that their mere presence eventually will raise performance.

While it is true that some parents follow issues of education quality more closely than do others, it is also the case that most parents want the best for their children, and parents take note of what decisions other families are making. Given a full range of school choices, a lot of parental follow-the-leader will be played, to the benefit of children.

One way to ensure the broadest possible benefit would be to implement a reform recently begun in California and now spreading to other states called the Parent Trigger, whereby a petition signed by at least half the parents in a failing school would result in all families receiving a charter school, voucher or other option.


British schools are lovely and the system isn't broken, say Left-wing teachers. Have they been brainwashed?

By Katharine Birbalsingh

There is something very strange going on. For over a decade all I ever heard from teachers was about how hard the job was, how the children’s behaviour was shocking, the management poor, the system restrictive. Indeed, many left the profession because of it. Others stayed, disillusioned and fed up but soldiered on as best they could. Now, suddenly, at conferences and the like some teachers insist on declaring how happy they are, how lovely our schools are, and how the picture I paint of a “broken system” is one they simply do not recognise.

Have these teachers been probed by aliens?

Charlie Carroll, author of the recently published On the Edge, has written a remarkable account of his journey as a teacher through some of Britain’s toughest schools: thirty-eight to be precise. To quote the back of the book: “I cannot count how many times I have been told to f— off by a pupil.” Charming. Yet the teachers Charlie meets these days (in the papers or on the radio) paint a portrait of calm and dedicated learning in our schools.

Charlie tells me that he too has had the same experience: that before, all over the country, not just in these dreadful schools, but everywhere, he would hear from teachers crying out to be heard. And now that they have their chance… silence! Not a word. What on earth is going on?

Charlie’s book is well worth a read if you can stomach the constant misery of his existence as a supply teacher. Like some kind of educational suicide bomber, Charlie loads up his van and scours the British Isles in search of adventure, or death… one is never quite certain. Nottingham, Manchester, Birmingham, The Peak District (yes, I did say The Peak District), Sheffield, West Yorkshire, London, The West Country, (giving a break to the madness and sees Charlie in a good school), Liverpool, and Middlesbrough all manage to get a look-in on this journey only fit for fantasy television.

Because that’s how shocking it is. Even with my “inner city” experience I didn’t quite realise just how terrible some of our schools are. It made me feel positively wretched, especially in light of my recent escapades, arguing with half of Britain, trying to persuade them that the system is indeed broken. “Just read Charlie Carroll’s book!” is what I want to say, but I know they’ll just laugh and tell me that his experiences aren’t representative of the whole. Too right they aren’t. I have never worked in schools like the ones in his book. It is as if Charlie’s schools jumped straight out of a horror film, only that the true horror is that they are just down the street from where you live.

The book is packed full of all sorts of statistics that you’ll find fascinating if you’re interested in education. And you’ll enjoy the running commentary given by Charlie, telling it as it is, from a real teacher, on the frontline. Here I was thinking I was on the frontline. But, no, I wasn’t. So many of our nation’s children have been left to rot in schools that we have abandoned. But apparently I’m mistaken to claim that our education system is broken.

Charlie Carroll not only taught in them – he found the energy and dedication to write about his experiences. Why? Because he wanted us to know the truth. No doubt, like me, he naively thought that if he could just tell them, and that if he could just let people know what’s happening, someone might do something about it. Little did we realise that great numbers of people would turn a blind eye and deliberately ignore the truth because it is easier to believe the lie.

Charlie Carroll still works as a teacher. His real name remains a secret. Lucky him. He’s still entitled to his life as it was. He wasn’t as foolish as me to get up at the Conservative Party conference and shout the truth out loud. Instead, he has written it in his book, On the Edge. If you want to know just how bad our schools can get, On the Edge is a must-read.


Old-style same-sex schools best?

Rowan Pelling

When I was 11, I waved goodbye to co-education and, armed only with a lacrosse stick, sank blissfully into the oestrogen-plumped world of Walthamstow Hall, an all-girls' school in Sevenoaks. These were the days of A-line skirts, knee socks and vast, regulation knickers that entombed your nether regions. In this safe, bluestocking atmosphere, we struggled through the worst indignities of puberty, free from the jibes of equally pimply boys.

Yes, schoolgirls can be bitchy, but the downsides of the vixen tongue have never diminished, for me, the enormous pluses of female friendship. I retain seven bosom friends from those days. We've been bridesmaids at each others' weddings and act as godparents to assorted offspring. I simply cannot believe I would have carried such a tight raft of female friendship with me – for over 30 years now – if I had been at a co-ed school.

So I was sorry to read that all-female education is on the decline. According to The Good Schools Guide, girls' schools account for only 13 per cent of the leading establishments in their ratings – the lowest proportion since the list started in 1986. I have always been able to see how boys benefit from the civilising effect of having girls in their secondary school classes, but I have never been so sure if girls reap an equal benefit. I remember a friend who joined a public school that had recently taken girls in its sixth form: on her first day an anonymous note was posted under her door. It just read "flat"; it took her time to work out it referred to her chest.

I didn't realise it at the time, but I was lucky my school's science labs and debating forums were ruled by women and that we girls got to play all the best roles in Shakespeare. I wonder if even our horseplay would have been stifled if we had been in mixed classes: the bras left on desks, the wasps freed from jam jars, or the time the whole form crushed into the school's Wendy house. I heard comedian Miranda Hart tell a similar story, about hiding in a cupboard for the entire class before bursting out, and thought how "girls' school" that anecdote was.

In co-ed classes, girls are too worried about male approval to behave with such carefree idiocy. Girls-only schooling raises aspirations and boosts confidence – and it helps women forge unbeatably strong professional and personal relationships with other females. Even now, I can generally tell if a woman's had a single-sex education: alumni often have an air of bright-eyed intrigue about them, as if you and they were still perched on a radiator in the common room, discussing the pros and cons of French kissing. You can take the girl out of St Trinian's, but…


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The College Degree Scam

For more than two decades, colleges and universities across the country have been jacking up tuition at a faster rate than costs have risen on any other major product or service - four times faster than the overall inflation rate and faster even than increases in the price of gasoline or health care (see the chart to the right). The result: After adjusting for financial aid, the amount families pay for college has skyrocketed 439% since 1982.

It is not an accident that I date the Empire's decline to the early 1980s. Even as the cost of college soars, it remains true that there are considerable advantages in having a degree in terms of earnings (above, right). If we look at the BLS unemployment numbers, Table A-4 indicates that in December, 2010, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate for those with a Bachelors degree or higher was only 4.8%. Clearly, there is significant advantage in having a degree if you want a job—any job, good paying or not.

All this leads to the exceedingly happy situation we have today, to wit— To get a job, any job, your chances improve significantly with a college degree

The cost of a college degree has risen 439% in the last 28 years
Obtaining a degree is far beyond the means of most young people
To get a degree, and thus have any hope of getting a job, the large majority of young people must become debt slaves (see my post Student Loans — Gateway To Debt Slavery)
These are the choices for most young people—skip college or become a debt slave. This is the college degree scam. Do you remember the last time Ben Bernanke was interviewed on 60 Minutes? I quoted part this interview in my post The Bernanke Interview — A Tale Of Two Societies.

Pelley — The gap between rich and poor in this country has never been greater. In fact, we have the biggest income disparity gap of any industrialized country in the world. And I wonder where you think that’s taking America.

Bernanke — Well, it’s a very bad development. It’s creating two societies. And it’s based very much, I think, on– on educational differences The unemployment rate we’ve been talking about. If you’re a college graduate, unemployment is five percent. If you’re a high school graduate, it’s ten percent or more. It’s a very big difference. It leads to an unequal society and a society– which doesn’t have the cohesion that– that we’d like to see.

The Bernanke failed to mention that college tuition has risen 439% since 1982. He failed to mention that to get that degree which may lead to a job, the average American must put himself in hock to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. And so on.

But then there is alternative #2—skip college. The exorbitant cost of a college degree, including the dubious educational benefits of having it which I described in An Epidemic Of Ignorance, has engendered talk about the benefits of not going to college. In fact, that's the main point of the CNN Money article I quoted at the top.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here, leaving you with these thoughts: only a society that is far beyond the pale would debate the merits of higher learning. Only a society in a hopeless downhill slide would put a college education beyond the reach of most of its young people.

We live in a society that eats its own young. How sick is that?


Antidote to Government's Education Monopoly

Americans are beginning to understand that the government-run assembly-line education system is not working. As I point out in the upcoming "Kids Aren't Cars" film series, thousands, of not millions of kids are being failed by a system that is geared more towards satisfying adults than educating children.

How else can a recent Detroit Public Schools graduate be unable to read her own diploma? How else can tenure - the job security law for unfit teachers - be explained? How else can budget busting pension systems be explained?

When collective bargaining was brought into American schools in the 1960s, it was a revenue stream and power base for Big Labor. Suddenly, union bosses became more interested in building political muscle than educating children.

At that point the battle between unions and school boards became more focusing on salary, benefits, pensions and working conditions for adults, and less about students. Kids are only pawns in the self-serving union game.

As we point out in "Kids Aren't Cars," this has poisoned the education environment. We witness ugly fights in communities during union contract negotiations. Unions lead recall campaigns against school board members who don’t vote the union way. Teachers throw up their hands because the union will take their money by hook or by crook, while showing no interest in their input.

It’s sad to have rural school unions adopt the mantra of blue-collar unions that rely more on muscle than brains. Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis told a story to a radical labor group where she said she is not a "teacher" but an "education worker." It's unfortunate teachers' leaders don't see themselves as professional and conduct themselves accordingly.

There is some hope. The growing school choice movement provides parents a way out of Lewis' schools and into schools that do whatever it takes to make sure kids are prepared for life beyond graduation. It's too bad the same can't be said of Lewis' Chicago Public Schools. And it's too bad they fight like mad to block parents from having options.

National School Choice Week, coming up January 23-29, showcases the success stories and the organizations fighting to empower parents with choices. Unions are terrified of school choice because they know they'll lose their monopoly and they'll be uncompetitive.

As "Kids Aren't Cars" shows, unions have created much of the problem. Will politicians rely on them to be part of the solution?


British schools' secret reports on how parents look as they build database "to fight truancy"

Education chiefs keep database on hair, height and build

Town hall bosses are ­compiling secret ‘Big Brother’ databases on the appearance of school­children’s parents. Education officials say they are keeping the sensitive information in case they ever want to identify a parent for legal action. Forms are being given to staff asking them to comment on height, hair, and build, which involves assumptions on whether a parent should be considered overweight or untidy.

Last night James Welch, legal director of human rights campaign group Liberty, said: ‘Councils should not be making secret notes about innocent parents. What on earth has it got to do with getting kids to school?’ The form is described as a ‘parent identification form’. A whistleblower said it was being circulated by the ‘school attendance improvement service’ at Leicestershire County Council. It has been handed out to truancy officers – who are under instruction to fill it out whenever they come across any parent.

The form is based on the parents’ physical descriptions on the first occasion they are met. Different sections are understood to ask questions on build, height, eye colour, glasses, hair, facial hair, accent, and any marks or scars.

The stated reason for the records is the possibility that if a parent was being prosecuted for their child’s truancy and there was a question over identity, the form could be checked.

But the whistleblower said the scenario the council painted of having to identify a parent in a court case ‘very rarely occurs’. The source said: ‘Not only are the truancy officers being asked to complete this form on every parent they meet – without their knowledge – the info is being held for who knows how long?’

Critics fear the real reason the database is compiled is so the council can make judgments on parents based on their appearance. And they suspect councils across the country could be adopting ­similar tactics.

It is the latest in a series of alarming ‘Big Brother’ schemes launched by schools. Last year, a council admitted spying on a family using anti-terror laws to find out if they were really living in a school catchment area.

In a separate incident, cameras were installed in toilets at a Teesside school to deter vandalism, graffiti and bad behaviour and it emerged that one in three secondary schools was forcing children to swipe fingerprints just to register in class or take out library books.

Last night, Leicestershire County Council said: ‘We do have a form which is used on occasion to describe parents who do not send their child to school, as part of a prosecution process. ‘This helps with identification when warrants for non-attendance of pupils are delivered to parents as part of the court process.’

The whistleblower said drafts of the form, issued to staff for their comments late last year, included sections on whether a person was ‘fat’, ‘bald’, ‘stocky’, had ‘receding’ hair or if they looked ‘untidy’. Staff were asked to make a judgment on a parent’s ethnic origin, and list any ‘marks/scars/ abnormalities’. And under a section titled ­‘features’, one box asked if the ­person looked like a ‘punk’, wore a wig, or if their hair looked ‘untidy’.

The council insisted the form ­currently in circulation is different to the one obtained by the whistleblower, which was never used. But officials did admit they were now keeping details of what ­parents looked like.


Monday, January 24, 2011

For-Profit College Group Sues to Block New Regulations

A trade group has filed suit in federal court to block a series of U.S. Department of Education rules that would increase regulatory scrutiny over segments of higher education.

The lawsuit, filed by the Association of Private Sector Colleges, doesn't include the so-called gainful employment regulation, which could punish programs for graduating students with high debt loads. The Education Department is scheduled to issue that final rule in the first quarter of this year, at which point the rule is likely to face court challenges.

The trade group, known as Apscu, instead focused its lawsuit on rules that would change the way state governments review school programs, restrict incentive compensation for employees and curtail misrepresentation in promotional materials. The three rules are among the 13 whose final versions were issued in late October.

On Friday Apscu asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the rules from going into effect as planned on July 1. The group alleged in the complaint its members are "grievously and irreparably injured" by the three rules and asked the court to find the regulations unlawful. It said the Education Department didn't follow correct procedure in creating the rules and violated its scope of power and the Constitution.

Apscu boasts more than 1,500 member schools including campuses owned by Career Education Corp., Education Management Corp., ITT Educational Services Inc., Washington Post Co.'s Kaplan Higher Education and others.

The group said it sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, asking him to voluntarily withdraw the regulations. Mr. Duncan is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The Education Department confirmed receipt of the letter late Friday.

If not withdrawn within a given time frame, Apscu will ask the court for an injunction "until the substance of our challenges are resolved," said Harris Miller, who heads the trade group.

Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the Education Department, said the agency is "confident that the published regulations will do the best job of protecting students and taxpayers."

Mr. Miller warned the issue of state authorization may be difficult on which to compromise. The rule issued in October will require a school to receive approval from every state in which it has students, using metrics approved by the federal government. That's a daunting task for some schools with nationwide online operations.

Mr. Miller said it's unlikely all states will be able to update their procedures to meet the federal government's requirements by the July 1 deadline, leaving students in those states potentially ineligible for access to federal student aid.

The incentive compensation regulation has been a lightning rod for criticism, as many industry insiders say it's unclear who is restricted from receiving bonuses based on student performance. The rule is intended to ensure that recruiters don't enroll underqualified students to meet bonus targets, but many say they don't know whether the rule would also apply to football coaches who bring in top athletes or even chief executives who improve student retention and graduation rates.

Meanwhile, Mr. Miller said the two sides could likely come to an easy agreement on the rule governing how schools can be punished for misrepresenting information to the public, and what constitutes a "substantial misrepresentation." According to the lawsuit, the current rule violates the Constitution's due process clause in the way the rule handles penalties for misstatements.


Britain: Bullies, liars and shameless hypocrites are trying to kill our "free" school

Towards the end of last year, I was summoned to appear before the education scrutiny panel of my local council. Why? Because I'm leading a campaign by a group of parents and teachers to set up a free school in West London.

Worried about falling standards in state education, we want to create an outstanding school to which all children in the neighbourhood have access. We call it a grammar school for all.

I hoped I'd be able to cope with the panel's questions. But what I hadn't anticipated was just how far the NUT - the most militant of the teaching unions - would go to try to discredit me.

The union had circulated a document to councillors in which I was accused of sleeping with prostitutes - a false allegation lifted from my former colleague Julie Burchill's autobiography published 13 years ago. I'm a happily married father of four and the council's lawyers had moved to suppress the document on the grounds it was libellous.

But the damage had been done. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised. Unions such as the NUT are controlled by the hard Left and will stop at nothing to protect the state's monopoly over taxpayer-funded education.

Shortly after my appearance, the secretary of the Ealing branch of the NUT, who is also a member of the Socialist Workers Party, organised an event for opponents of our new school. The guest speaker was Bob Crow, leader of the Tube drivers' union and a communist.

The Department for Education has been inundated with applications concerning free schools. Starting a school is a huge undertaking, but thousands of people are so concerned about education that they are willing to do it.

Yes, there are some outstanding state schools, but they tend to be grammar schools, faith schools or comprehensives in middle-class suburbs where only those who can afford the inflated house prices can get in.

Britain once prided itself on being a fair society, where anyone could get on in life if they were prepared to work hard. Not any more. We're at the bottom of international league tables for social mobility, with our schools ranked below those of Poland, Latvia and Estonia.

Thanks to the decimation of grammar schools, it's harder for someone born to working-class parents to enter one of the professions than at any time in the past 45 years. Our class system is stronger than ever. Ironically, the most energetic defenders of the status quo are those who claim to represent the interests of the working class.

There's a primary school near my house that serves one of the most deprived council estates in London. Due to the dedication of its staff, it has been ranked ' outstanding' by schools inspectorate Ofsted and, as a result, had an opportunity to become an academy [charter]. That would have meant being free of the control of local bureaucrats and no longer at the mercy of unions.

Needless to say, the NUT opposed this school's bid for freedom tooth and nail. The headteacher allegedly received threatening emails from a union representative. The school has now shelved its plans.

What makes this sort of apparent bullying particularly galling is that the officers of the NUT don't practise what they preach.

Last week, my group unveiled plans to turn a dilapidated old building in Hammersmith into its school site. Dennis Charman, secretary of the Hammersmith and Fulham NUT, accused us of running down local schools. Charman is the partner of NUT general secretary Christine Blower. What he didn't add is that the couple chose to educate their children outside the borough.

In Wandsworth, parents campaigning for a new secondary school were targeted by the GMB. One activist investigated more than 600 people who had signed a petition supporting the plan and found that 25 had a connection to the banking industry. The union dubbed it a 'bankers' school'.

Labour used to be in favour of education reform, but not any longer. When I told Old Labour warhorse Roy Hattersley that I wanted a school with grammar school standards but a comprehensive intake, he dismissed that concept as 'a contradiction in terms'. I reminded him that the phrase 'grammar schools for all' was Harold Wilson's [former Labour Party PM], not mine.

One of our most vocal opponents in West London has been local Labour MP Andrew Slaughter, who calls our efforts to set up a high-performing secondary school 'ideological nonsense'.

Given that he is the product of Latymer Upper School, one of the best fee-paying schools in London, he knows how useful a rigorous education is. Yet he wants to deny the same educational opportunities to those who aren't as privileged as him.

In many ways the opposition of these champagne socialists is even more irksome than that of the trade unions. At least they have a rational motive. A BBC Panorama programme revealed last year that only 18 teachers had been sacked for incompetence in the last 45 years, so great is the stranglehold of the teaching unions. The unions are opposed to free schools because they want to protect their members' interests.

But why are the standard-bearers of the Left, people who claim to be looking out for the interests of the most vulnerable members of our society, so opposed to improving state education? In the name of equality, they are standing in the way of our best hope of dismantling the class system.

When I embarked on this campaign, I had no idea how nasty the enemies of reform would be. But I take heart from the fact that there are tens of thousands of people behind us. So far, more than 1,600 local parents have expressed an interest in sending their children to our school and expressions of support continue to stream in every day. I'm confident we will prevail - we have to.

Britain's schools are now ranked 23rd in the world. If we want to compete with countries such as China, we need to reform our education system and once again unleash the native talent that made this country great.


Homosexual messages built into school maths lessons for British children as young as FOUR

Young children are to be taught about homosexuality in their maths, geography, science and English lessons, it has emerged. As part of a Government-backed drive to ‘celebrate the gay community’, maths problems could be introduced that involve gay characters.

In geography classes, students will be asked why homosexuals move from the countryside to cities – and words such as ‘outing’ and ‘pride’, will be used in language classes.

The lesson plans are designed to raise awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual issues and, in theory, could be used for children as young as four.

They will also mean youngsters are exposed to images of same-sex couples and books such as And Tango Makes Three, which tells the story of two male penguins raising a chick, which was inspired by events at New York’s Central Park Zoo.

Meanwhile, statistics students may use census data on the number of homosexuals in England.

However critics warn that the drive is an unnecessary use of resources and distracts attention from learning, as British schools tumble down international league tables in maths, English and science. Although the lesson plans are not compulsory, they are backed by the Department for Education and will be available for schools to download from the Schools Out website.

Sue Sanders, from Schools Out, said: ‘All we are attempting to do is remind teachers that LGBT people are part of the population and you can include them in most of your lessons when you are thinking inclusively.’

David Watkins, a teacher who is involved in the scheme, said: ‘When you have a maths problem, why does it have to involve a straight family or a boyfriend and girlfriend? Why not two boys or two girls? ‘It’s not about teaching about gay sex, it is about exposing children to the idea that there are other types of people out there,’ he added.

However, Craig Whittaker, who is a Conservative MP and a member of the education select committee, said: ‘We are too far down the national comparative league tables in core subjects. Teachers should concentrate on those again. ‘This is not about being homophobic, because there are other schemes around the education which support the LGBT agenda.’

John O’Connell, of campaign group the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Parents will wonder if this is a right use of funds and time, particularly when we keep hearing how tight budgets are.’

The plans are funded by a £35,000 grant from education quango the Training And Development Agency For Schools. They will be launched in February at the start of LGBT History Month.

A Department for Education spokesman added: ‘These are optional teaching materials. ‘It is for head and teacher to choose the most appropriate teaching resources to help promote equality and tolerance.’

LGBT History Month started in 2005 and has previously focused more on raising awareness of prominent figures said to be homosexual. A list on its website includes Hadrian the Roman emperor and Michaelangelo the Renaissance painter.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Gender Neutral" Housing

Earlier this year, Ohio University announced a new pilot program for gender-neutral housing, which has become all the rage on college campuses. The program allows people of “all genders” to live together in the dorms.

Some of my older readers might assume this is just a lame attempt by middle-aged administrators to seem cool by allowing male and female students to shack up together. You’d be wrong. These days, gender-neutral housing is mostly a bow to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students who demand their own special dorms. OU’s student newspaper praised the “progressive step,” which is mostly meant “to accommodate those students who identify as transgender.”

The idea that college life is so tough for gay and transgendered students that they need separate housing is preposterous. Far from being uniquely oppressed, the LGBT contingent is often the most catered-to of any group on campus. Administrators go to great lengths to satisfy these students while simultaneously nurturing a victimhood complex.

The Weekly Standard’s Heather MacDonald wrote about this phenomenon two years ago in an article titled “Victimology 101 at Yale.” Two months after announcing serious budget cuts to compensate for a 25% decrease in its endowment, Yale rolled out a brand-new Office of LGBTQ Resources.

The LGBT community had accused Yale of creating an “alien, hostile environment”—despite the fact that Yale had pioneered the field of gay studies, issued the Pink Book (“an official reference guide to courses geared towards lesbian and gay concerns”), and hired a special deans’ assistant for LGBT issues. The students were in a huff about not having their own office space.

“The fact that we don't actually have a physical space says lots about Yale's stance towards LGBT life on the ground at a metaphorical level,” one student whined to the school paper. The school responded by securing this “physical space” as soon as possible.

After they demanded—and got—their own office in the midst of budget cuts, these self-absorbed students moved on to their next complaint: the lack of gender-neutral housing. Yale quickly formed a committee to implement it. They conceded that this was mainly a concession to transgender students, although, according to MacDonald, “there is no suggestion in any of the news coverage that Yale has tried to determine how many transgender students are actually enrolled at Yale.”

This is the same Yale that refused to allow five Orthodox Jews to live off-campus in 1998. Unlike the LGBT contingent, the Jewish students didn’t ask the school to set aside special dorms or overhaul housing policies just for them. They simply asked to be exempt from the housing requirement because the dorm atmosphere (which includes co-ed bathrooms) conflicted with their religious lifestyle.

Yale said no. They called the residency requirement “a central part of Yale’s education,” and sent the implicit message: “If our student housing makes you uncomfortable, don’t come here.” But when LGBT students demanded special accommodations, Yale dropped everything to form a committee that could give them exactly what they wanted.

Although I don’t support self-segregation among college students—whether they’re gay or religious—this does show where administrators’ priorities lie. If you’re a student looking for a dorm atmosphere that suits your “personal values” and makes you feel comfortable at all times, you’d best be a member of a group with liberal victimhood status.


British photography phobia again

Schoolgirl threatened with arrest for filming teachers end-of-term show

A schoolgirl who filmed her teachers performing an “embarrassing” end-of-term show had her iPod confiscated and was threatened with prosecution. Jessica Cocks, 13, had the device taken away by teachers and was told that police were investigating whether she had committed a crime.

The pupil had secretly filmed an X Factor-style show which teachers put on as a treat at the end of the autumn term. She captured several minutes’ footage of staff attempting to sing and dance, which pupils had paid 50p to watch. She was spotted filming by one of the teachers and told that her iPod Touch would be confiscated until the start of the new term.

On learning of the incident, Jessica’s mother, Sharon, went to see Mark Parry, the head teacher at St Peter’s Church of England School in Exeter. He told her that the device could not be returned because police were investigating whether her daughter had committed a crime by filming staff. He refused to reveal why he thought it could be a police matter.

Mrs Cocks said Jessica spent the Christmas holidays terrified about the prospect of prosecution. But when Mrs Cocks and her husband Graham, 52, a taxi driver, contacted Devon and Cornwall Police they were told that the incident was not a police matter and no crime had been reported at the school.

Yesterday, Mrs Cocks, 47, said: “I’m very angry about the inappropriate way my child was disciplined. I have no idea why they did it, perhaps they were embarrassed by their performance in the show. “To threaten a child with police action when they have committed no crime is a disgrace. She was so worried it ruined her Christmas. “I know she needed to be punished, but I would have preferred if she had been excluded.’’

Jessica had the phone confiscated during the show on Dec 19 and was allowed to collect it on Jan 4. Footage from the performance, which was not deleted from the device, shows six teachers taking to the stage to sing and dance.

The family is seeking an apology from the school. A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed that no complaint had been made by the school in relation to the incident. The school declined to comment.


Australia: A refuge from NSW government schools getting ever more expensive

The state's richest schools are more out of reach than ever to ordinary families. In the 10 years since the Howard government introduced a funding system to make private schools more affordable, the most expensive schools' fees have risen by about 100 per cent - against inflation of 37 per cent.

At Trinity Grammar, a private school for boys in primary and high school, year 12 fees have increased from $10,020 in 2001 to $25,330 this year - a rise of 153 per cent.

Scots College, at Bellevue Hill, will charge as much as $28,296 for year 12 day students this year. Scots' headmaster Ian Lambert said this was all-inclusive, unlike schools that charged for additional expenses.

The Howard government made assurances that its socio-economic status funding model, introduced in 2001, would keep a lid on fee rises. The model aims to allocate funding to schools based on the socio-economic status of the families of their students. But it uses census data to measure the average wealth of families in the areas where they live.

This has drawn criticism of the funding for schools such as Kings, which draws some of its students from wealthy farming families, even if they live in relatively poor areas.

Under its "no losers" policy, the Howard government refused to cut funding to schools, even if they were entitled to less under the new funding arrangement. This has meant that more than half the schools funded under the system have received more than their strict entitlement.

The Rudd and Gillard governments have maintained the $27 billion four-year funding arrangement, despite a federal Department of Education review finding it delivered $2.7 billion in overpayments. The inflated payments will grow to at least $3 billion by the end of 2016 if the current system continues.

The Gillard government has commissioned a panel of eminent Australians, headed by Sydney businessman David Gonski, to review schools funding. Mr Gonski told a recent meeting of the Australian Education Union that the charge for his panel was to address disadvantage. He said a direct measure of parents' income or occupation might be a more effective measure for funding needs than census data.

"The panel believes that the focus on equity should be ensuring that differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possession," he said. The funding system should be "transparent, fair, equitable and financially sustainable".

Of NSW's 20 most expensive schools, the 17 that provided full details lifted fees by an average of 102 per cent between 2001 and 2011. Cranbrook, at Bellevue Hill, managed a surplus $8.4 million while receiving a Commonwealth subsidy of $3.5 million. Malek Fahd Islamic school, at Greenacre, got one of the biggest subsidies - $15.46 million.

The Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation, which oversees 16 schools including Roseville College, received $88 million in government revenue in 2009, when it also posted a $20.7 million surplus. In 2004 the corporation received $45.4 million and posted a $13.95 million surplus. Laurie Scandrett, chief executive of the corporation, said enrolments had increased by 28 per cent between 2004 to 2009.

Funding for independent schools is tied to the average recurrent cost of funding government secondary schools, which rose by 24 per cent between 2004 and 2009. "Multiply these together and that will explain the increase in the government revenue," Dr Scandrett said.

In 2009, he said, parents had paid $85 million in addition to the $88 million in government subsidies.

Some of the "accounting surplus" included capital grants, such as those awarded under the Building the Education Revolution. Of the $20.7 million surplus, $12 million was used to pay loans on school land and buildings; the rest went to capital works. "Any surplus earnings, after day-to-day operating expenses are deducted, are retained for SASC's self-preservation, expansion and future plans," he said.

The chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said education costs had increased by about 8 per cent last year and on average about 6 per cent a year since 2001.

"Independent school fees have to take into account both recurrent and capital costs, so it is not surprising that fees have had to increase at or above these average figures over the years," Dr Newcombe said.

Trevor Cobold, from Save Our Schools, a public school advocacy group, said the wealthiest schools had become more exclusive. "The fee increase is more than double the cost increases in private schools. The wage price index for private education and training increased by only 44 per cent between 2001 and 2010 …

The school funding review has to put a stop to this appalling waste of taxpayer funds."

A Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: "There are grave concerns that Julia Gillard's schools funding review panel will not understand the frustration felt by public sector teachers and parents after 11 years of watching ever greater amounts of government money flooding into wealthy private schools."