Friday, October 12, 2012

Richmond Public Schools and  Massive Hotel Costs

As a part of EAGnews’ continuing school spending series, we revealed that the Richmond, Virginia school district spent a whopping $448,997 on hotels and $135,761 on a California-based travel agency in 2010-11.

The title of the series is “Where Your School Dollars Go…” and the educrats running the show in Richmond can’t seem to come up with a straight answer for that question. Maybe that’s why government schools never seem to have enough money.

CBS 6 reporter Sandra Jones broke the exclusive story Friday. At that time, district spokesperson Felicia Cosby told CBS 6:

“The information reported by EAG is not accurate. The organization requested a check registry which lists payments to vendors including pass-thru activities from state-operated and other programs…for which we are the fiscal agent, including the Math, Science and Innovation Center and the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School. Therefore, the list does not correlate to the district’s spending activity.”

But five days later, Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:

“Cosby said school system finance officials were working to match payments to accounts but that the process ‘would be time consuming.’ She did not have a timeframe for when that process would be complete.”

She also said our report lacked “context.” In what context is it appropriate for a school district – or any public entity, for that matter - to spend over $600,000 on expensive hotels and resorts?

After paying $198 dollars to obtain the initial spending information, we sought answers on our own for the questionable spending. But the school district wanted to charge us another $62 for explanations regarding the spending we uncovered. So we let the dollar figures speak for themselves and left school officials to deal with the local media.

School board member Kim B. Gray raised an excellent point when she was asked about the spending and said she was amazed it would take any time at all for officials to track the reasons for the expenditures.

"In the computer and information age, it should already be there. Congress has a search engine for every travel expense. If Congress can do it, with billions of dollars at stake, the school division certainly can," she told the Times-Dispatch.

We have allowed government schools to operate like this for years. They jet staff off to four- and five-star resorts because “a grant” is paying for it, but in the next breath lay off teachers and cut student programming. It is a culture of out-of-control spending with little accountability that has created this situation.

This developing story should put other districts on notice: we’re watching, we’re digging and we’re going to expose the spending problem plaguing government schools.


Philadelphia Teacher Turned Citizen Mission into a Joke

The mission statement of Philadelphia's Charles Carroll High School, displayed prominently on its website, offers a hopeful vision of an educational institution:

“Providing all students with the academic, technological & social skills needed to be productive & contributing citizens in our society.”

This week, the specific mention of “social skills” and citizenship likely sounds like mockery to Charles Carroll sophomore Samantha Pawlucy and her family.

In an episode that has prompted national attention, Samantha was the victim of intimidation by her geometry teacher, Lynette Gaymon, who claims to have been “joking” when she ridiculed the girl for wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt during the school's Sept. 28 dress-down day.

Suffice to say this isn’t the sort of interaction with a teacher that encourages students toward more competent social skills and productive citizenship.

The incident is unfolding as you might expect, given the divisiveness of our political climate — and given that it’s Philadelphia. After keeping their daughter home to allow her time to recover from the embarrassing encounter, her parents met with Ms. Gaymon and school administrators.

The teacher issued an apology, but Richard Pawlucy, Samantha’s father, said Ms. Gaymon’s apology didn’t ring sincere.

She maintained that she was only making a joke and said she was sorry that Samantha didn’t pick up on it. She wasn’t serious, she claimed, when she told the student to change into another shirt, or when she asked the girl whether her parents were Republicans, or when she declared that the school was “Democratic.”

Of course, she was just yukking it up when she told Samantha — in front of the entire class — that wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt was akin to wearing a Ku Klux Klan T-shirt.

The punch line to this teacher’s stand-up comedy routine? “Get out of the classroom.”  Head smack! Now I get it.

In a world of racial “dog whistles” that telegraph accusations of racism to those with sensitive ears, the KKK comment was more like a Jumbo-tron flashing the charge, “Your T-shirt tells me you’re a racist.” It was a powerfully intimidating comment from a black teacher to a white student.

Samantha returned to class Tuesday with the support of a Republican rally in front of Charles Carroll before the school day began. She read aloud the First Amendment to the Constitution and led the flag-waving crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. While fellow students have rallied around her teacher, Samantha is standing up for her right to free speech.

What is unconscionable is that it is even necessary that she take such a stand in an American public school, where the free exchange of ideas and opinions could, and should, feed young peoples’ interest in our political system.

Sadly, the Lynette Gaymons are increasingly the rule that proves the exception. Although college professors long have been guilty of using the power of the classroom to strong-arm their students into intellectual submission, a growing number of high school teachers — especially those teaching in urban classrooms — serve as foot soldiers in the army of the left.

It’s no wonder, really. Progressives have controlled our schools for some 80 years. Upon graduating and becoming certified to teach, the first thing an educator must do to get a job in a public school is to join a teachers union, whose mission isn’t to improve American education but rather to advance its leftist political agenda.

The system is set up to feed people with Ms. Gaymon’s biased worldview directly into our nation’s classrooms, where indoctrination is the order of the day. “Subtlety of messaging” obviously is not among the lessons Ms. Gaymon learned in her methods classes.

In my experience, a teenager who is politically engaged enough to choose a presidential candidate, wear a T-shirt and fight for her right to free speech generally is more informed than most adults who are eligible to vote.

Samantha clearly is an example of the sort of student who exemplifies her school’s mission, despite a teacher who proves it sometimes fails dismally


Thousands more British graduates forced to accept menial jobs as bosses demand degrees for low-skilled work

Tens of thousands of graduates are accepting menial jobs as rising numbers of bosses demand degrees for low-skilled work, a report has found.

The expansion of higher education has led to employers requiring degrees for jobs that would once have been snapped up by those with few qualifications, according to the Higher Education Careers Services Unit.

Researchers tracked graduates who left university last summer and analysed how many were in graduate and non-graduate roles six months on.

They found a six per cent increase in the numbers taking non-graduate jobs, from 57,910 last year to 61,395. Roles included classroom assistants and junior clerical workers.

However the numbers finding graduate jobs - which range from senior management to graphic designers - only rose 4.2 per cent, from 100,265 to 104,455.

The report said the increase in graduates in lower-skilled roles was partly down to the gradual rise in the overall numbers being churned out by universities.

This was leading to 'credentialism', where employers over-emphasise the importance of degrees.

However the report said it was still better to be a graduate than not.  'Graduates earn more over time than non-graduates, and are less likely to be unemployed the longer they have been out of education,' said the report, titled What Graduates Do.

'Although graduates may begin in non-graduate level employment six months after graduation, they move up the ladder relatively quickly, often within months.'

The report found that the overall employment rate for recent graduates dipped slightly compared with last year, with 61.8 per cent in work agains 62.2 per cent of the class of 2010.  The unemployment rate rose slightly, from 8.5 per cent to 8.6 per cent, while most of the rest were in further study.

More graduates were classed as being self-employed.

Salaries remained consistent, with the average salary for graduates employed full-time recorded as £19,935.

The figures show a revival in the engineering and IT job markets but the continuing impact of public sector cuts.

Fewer graduates went into admin jobs in health and education and there are also fewer front-line jobs such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, medical radiographers, secondary and primary school teachers, probation officers and social workers.

Charlie Ball, deputy research director at HECSU, said: 'When graduates from 2011 left university, the labour market was difficult, as the UK economy struggled with negative growth and a dip back into recession.

'In spite of this and the trouble in the Eurozone, over 166,000 of last year’s graduates were known to be working in the UK six months after leaving university - nearly 8,000 more than the previous year.

'Many of the jobs created during the recession have been with smaller firms and therefore, when looking for vacancies, graduates should not just focus on large organisations but widen their search, taking advantage of local information, careers services and informal contacts.

'The figures show that even in difficult times, graduates can and do get jobs. Students need to prepare for a difficult jobs market, but there are opportunities out there, so don’t give up hope.'


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