Monday, March 12, 2012

The Beautiful, Perky Buffalo Teachers, Courtesy of Taxpayers

Every so often, a story comes along that is so outrageous, all one can do to soothe the rage is to laugh. And shed a tear. That’s the case in Buffalo, New York.

There – for years – teachers in the government education system have enjoyed free plastic surgery procedures, courtesy of taxpayers. Teachers don’t pay a dime and the entire cost is borne by the school district. So a school district that recently announced it is operating with a $42 million deficit paid $5.9 million last year for teachers to get boob jobs, tummy tucks and facelifts.

I’m sure the union just wants its members looking their best for the kids. How thoughtful. But the Buffalo school district has a graduation rate below 50 percent. What a shame there are fewer students to see the gussied-up teaching staff. It makes the $5.9 million the school district spent on plastic surgery last year an even bigger jaw-dropper. Could those dollars have been put into programs designed to keep more kids in school?

There are two reasons this continues to happen: school leaders are too weak to do anything about outrageous expenses written into teachers union collective bargaining agreements. They apparently refuse to take a moral stand and at least give the appearance of trying to end the financial drain. They just continue paying the bill.

They should display some backbone, force a confrontation with the union over this outrageous expense, and force a judge to order the school district to pay for the surgeries. That will help the public better understand how unions siphon millions of crucial dollars from school budgets.

The second reason is known as an evergreen clause, which is a provision in many teachers union contracts which states the terms of an expired contract remain in effect until a new contract is approved. Buffalo’s contract has been expired for 6 years. But fearing concessions – like no more free skin peels – the union drags its feet and won’t agree on a new deal. The deck is stacked against the taxpayers and politicians aren’t doing anything about it.

Remember this example the next time you hear President Obama or other politicians say we need to “invest” more in education. Remember this when your local school board is pleading with you to increase your taxes to avoid layoffs or pay for necessary technology upgrades. This is the sort of outrageous crap your taxes are funding.

On the other hand, as we hear about sagging teacher morale, perhaps schools can give some thought to perking up teachers’ spirit by paying for a little plastic surgery. Since Buffalo Public Schools and many like it are a public works project for adults anyway, why not make the population a little more youthful? Randi Weingarten, what say you?


Brightest British students tempted by £3k university scholarships

The universities concerned, however, appear to be mostly jumped-up technical colleges so very bright students would be ill advised to go there. Bright students should be going to Britain's very good top 20 universities (the "Russell Group") in order to realize their potential

Universities are attempting to “bribe” bright students into applying by offering cash incentives of up to £3,000 a year, it has emerged.

Scholarships worth a maximum of £9,000 for a traditional three-year degree are being made available to candidates who gain the best A-level results this summer, it was revealed.

The awards, which are not means-tested, underline the lengths to which universities are being forced to go in an attempt to recruit and retain top students when tuition fees soar in September.

It follows the introduction of new Government rules that allow universities to take unlimited numbers of sixth-formers gaining at least two As and a B at A-level.

An analysis of prospectuses, shows universities such as Bradford, East Anglia, Liverpool Hope, Northumbria, Worcester, Salford and Surrey all offer bursaries for students who gain AAB grades. Most awards are for around £1,000 a year and some are handed out in the form of tuition fee discounts.

One of the most generous scholarships is being offered by Bedfordshire – the university run by Prof Les Ebdon, the incoming head of the Office for Fair Access – which allows some students to claim as much as £3,000 a year.

It is only open to those who gain AAB grades at A-level and remain on course for at least a 2:1 throughout their degree.

City University in London is also offering an extensive performance-related scholarship programme. Students applying for many engineering degrees can gain £1,000 for AAB grades, £2,000 for three As and £3,000 for an A* and two As.

Experts said universities were keen to increase the number of students with the best A-level results to improve their academic record and boost their position in official league tables, which often give institutions points based on recruits’ average entry grades.

But Deborah Stretfield, a London-based careers adviser, insisted many sixth-formers were “cynical about the advertising toys and targeted bribery” used by some universities.

“The status and ranking of the university is more important to students and parents,” she said. “Some students also point out that they would feel 'overqualified' if they went to a university that was lower in the league table.”

From this September, the cap on tuition fees in England will almost triple to £9,000 a year.

To coincide with the fee rise, ministers are allowing all universities to recruit an unlimited number of AAB students, almost of whom go on to higher education anyway.

It is feared that the move will hit middle and low-ranking universities the hardest as bright students migrate towards courses at leading research institutions.

Speaking last year, Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said many universities were “vulnerable to losing some of their AAB+ students to more selective, more prestigious, institutions”.

"This is likely to give rise to an arms race of 'merit-based' scholarships,” he said. “If one university offers them others will be obliged to do so."

A City University spokesman said: "In setting the level of these scholarships we have been determined to offer the best possible financial package to prospective students and have also taken into account strategically important and vulnerable subject areas and hence the size of the scholarships vary."


Australia: School's in for more four-year-olds, but experts argue that's too young

It should depend on the kid's mental age, not his chronological age

WHEN Eleni Savva had to decide if she would enrol her son in school as a four-year-old, she worried he might struggle. Alexander started prep at Keilor Primary School this year and is smaller than many of his classmates.

But Ms Savva felt Alexander was ready to start school, based on the advice of his kindergarten teachers. By late last year she could see he had developed the independence and social skills that would help him get by in the classroom. "Alexander is a very confident, assertive boy," she said. "He feels confident enough to stand up for himself."

Alexander turns five this month and belongs to a mini-boom of children who have reached school age, according to The Saturday Age Lateral Economics index of wellbeing. It means more parents are facing tough decisions about whether their children are ready to start school. Keilor Primary School enrolled 81 children in prep this year, compared with 65 last year.

Alexander started school a year after his sister Katerina who is seven. Ms Savva and her husband Nick decided their daughter should do a third year of kindergarten so she could better prepare "socially and emotionally" for school.

"From what I could see in her development, she needed at least another eight months of pre-school before she was ready for school." Keilor Primary School principal Sue Seneviratne said kindergarten teachers were best placed to judge when a child was ready to start school. "If the kindergarten is saying they're ready, rarely do they get that wrong," she said. Children should be independent and resilient when they begin prep.

Monash University senior education lecturer David Zyngier said Australian children are too young when they start school. He said seven was a better starting age. "Children are just not ready for regimented schooling. They should be playing and socialising," he said.

Children in countries such as Finland start school at seven and achieve better results, he said. "But they have free, available and professionally staffed childcare."

Ms Savva said starting children in school when they are older would help them become better students in later years. "Our system in Australia doesn't really allow for that, but I think it's a great idea," she said.


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