Friday, September 07, 2012

The Machine: The Truth Behind Teachers Unions

America's public education system is failing. We're spending more money on education but not getting better results for our children.

That's because the machine that runs the K-12 education system isn't designed to produce better schools. It's designed to produce more money for unions and more donations for politicians.

For decades, teachers' unions have been among our nation's largest political donors. As Reason Foundation's Lisa Snell has noted, the National Education Association (NEA) alone spent $40 million on the 2010 election cycle. As the country's largest teachers union, the NEA is only one cog in the infernal machine that robs parents of their tax dollars and students of their futures.

Students, teachers, parents, and hardworking Americans are all victims of this political machine--a system that takes money out of taxpayers' wallets and gives it to union bosses, who put it in the pockets of politicians.

Our kids deserve better.

"The Machine" is 4:17 minutes.


Texas inventories children

Officials at Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, apparently view George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four as an instruction manual rather than a cautionary tale.

Over 6,000 students will be required to carry microchipped ID so that the district can track their movements in school and on school buses. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips will be embedded in student IDs. Doors within the two affected schools are presumably now fitted with sensors that track students as they move from class to class, from the cafeteria to the bathroom. The district’s administration is determined to increase student attendance.

The reason? The Texas legislature cut state education funds, and Northside lost $61.4 million in tax dollars last year. Local TV station KENS5 explains the connection between attendance and funding:
The district loses $175,000 a day in state funding because of tardy or absent kids.… The district bean-counters expect to gain more than $250,000 in attendance revenue from the state, and $1.2 million from Medicaid, because the district will be tracking special-needs kids, too.

The $15 replacement fee for lost cards will almost certainly be profitable as well, since children predictably lose things.

The RFID system is a tested revenue raiser, with two other Texas school districts enjoying hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased funding after tagging children. So Northside is willing to spend $525,065 in start-up costs and $136,005 a year for administration in order to keep children from escaping its grasp. If the technology trial is successful, the district will expand the program to all of its 112 schools.

Many parents object. Protests have been held at each of the schools, with Facebook pages and YouTube videos being used to organize the dissent.

Safety concerns

Parents express concern about their children’s privacy and safety. Originally designed to track inventory and animals, RFID technology allows information to be read from a distance by radio waves without the bearer’s knowledge. Since each chip contains a unique ID number, anyone who reads the chip will know the exact location of a specific child. Parents are quite reasonably concerned about the possibility of ill-intentioned people monitoring their children’s every movement. It is notoriously easy to “eavesdrop” on RFID transmissions.

In conjunction with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the consumer privacy group Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) issued a report entitled “Position Paper on the Use of RFID in Schools” (August 21, 2012). The paper warns,
    a student’s location could be monitored from a distance by a jealous girlfriend or boyfriend, stalker, or pedophile. Individuals run this tracking risk any place they carry or wear a school-issued RFID tagged item — even miles from the campus. (PDF)

Depending on the information being collected, a tagged individual may also run an increased risk of identity theft.

Ironically, proponents of chipping children argue for the safety benefits of doing so; in case of a fire, teachers would be able to locate every child. Proponents also counter the privacy concerns of parents, maintaining that the ID contains no personal information, such as a home address. They insist that most RFID systems can operate only over the distance of a few meters. As long as the ID is not worn elsewhere, the monitoring will be limited to school grounds. The operational range of RFID chips, however, depends on a variety of factors, with some chips being readable at 100 meters.

For example, if the ID were to contain an active tag with a battery as opposed to a passive tag (as it reportedly does) the range would be dramatically increased. Moreover, the technology is constantly improving.

Parents must rely on the official account of what information the ID contains and the official promises that no abuse of information will occur. Even if the current assurances are sincere, however, it is not possible to predict what next year’s school bureaucrats will decide to do. The RFID cards establish a framework for abuse.

More here

Proposed charity watchdog chief defends Britain's non-government schools

The Conservatives didn't appoint a  Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) to the job without knowing what they were doing!

Independent schools should not feel under threat over their charitable status, the man set to take over the charity watchdog signalled yesterday.

William Shawcross, the biographer and journalist, defended the work of public schools such as Eton, where he was educated, insisting they provided “considerable public benefit”.

During questioning from MPs, he brushed aside calls for private schools to be stripped of their special status – which brings millions of pounds of tax breaks – insisting that education should in itself be considered a “charitable purpose” as much as the relief of poverty or the promotion of religion.

He also signalled that so-called “chuggers” could face new regulations and insisted that charity law should not be used unfairly against churches.

Mr Shawcross, who has been named as the preferred candidate as chairman of the Charity Commission, was being questioned about his plans for the £50,000-a-year post during a hearing before the Commons Public Administration Select Committee.

Under the leadership of Commission’s previous chair Dame Suzi Leather, private schools fought a sustained campaign to retain their charitable status.

It followed new legislation introduced by Labour saying that organisations must demonstrate “public benefit” to justify their position as charities.

Following a legal challenge, the Commission recently drew up new guidelines saying only that they could retain the privileged position as long as they provided some services to poorer pupils.

During the hearing the Labour MP Paul Flynn told Mr Shawcross it was a “nonsense” that public schools whose fees preclude poorer children from attending provided the necessary public benefit.

But he replied: “Education has always been a charitable purpose.”

He accepted that he had a privileged upbringing but said he was “very lucky” to have gone to Eton.


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