Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New York City Schools Spend $6,900 Per Student - on Bus Transportation!

Government schools are an expensive endeavor, especially when union labor and no-bid contracts are involved.

The New York City Department of Education has been catching heat from transportation unions lately over a decision to solicit bids for private transportation services in an effort to curtail runaway costs.

The district has not sought "significant" bids for student transportation services in 33 years. That means it's probably been using the same companies for years, without competitive bids to naturally control rising costs.

And those costs are increased every year because the companies use high-paid union drivers.

In response to the union criticism, the DOE recently issued a "School Bus Bids FAQ" which makes a staggering admission: the city spends $6,900 per student (for a total of $1.1 billion) per year for bus transportation.

In a 180 day school year, that's $38.33 per student a day. At that rate it might be more cost-effective for the school system to distribute vouchers for kids to take taxis.

City officials say New York spends more than twice what Los Angeles (the nation's second-largest city) spends on K-12 student transportation.

They point out that a recently bid contract for pre-kindergarten bus services saved the city $95 million over five years.

The unions are obviously upset because competitive bidding means companies seeking a city transportation contract will naturally want to control their labor costs. Higher wages and expensive benefits for drivers means a higher bid, and a higher bid may fail to secure the contract.

The unions are also upset because the city is removing a provision from its bidding rules that says companies must retain drivers during layoffs based on seniority.

Union officials say less experienced drivers could compromise safety and put students at risk.

The DOE claims the bus unions may strike as a result of losing seniority, leaving 152,000 students - including 54,000 who require special transportation services - without a ride to school.

Such a threat was lodged previously by the Amalgamated Transit Union when the city solicited bids for the pre-K contract.

So instead of allowing the city to save tax money through a bidding process, and allowing the bus contractors to retain the best (not necessarily the most senior) drivers, union officials and supportive politicians are screaming bloody murder.

Former city Comptroller Bill Thompson called the move "misguided" while Public Advocate Bill De Blasio said there was "no legal rationale" for effectively eliminating seniority, according to CBS 2.

Both are rumored to be running for mayor and are currently kissing the ring of Big Labor.

Perhaps there's one potential mayoral candidate out there who understands how stupid it is to waste millions of precious education dollars on an expense that has nothing to do with student learning - all in the name of keeping Big Labor fat and sassy.

A lot of disgusted taxpayers might support such a candidate.


Mentally challenged girl, 15, 'gang raped under her desk during class as teacher did NOTHING'

A mentally challenged 15-year-old New York girl endured a brutal gang rape as she was trapped beneath her by two boys with her teacher only feet away, alleges a lawsuit filed Friday.

The special needs student, identified only by the initials K.J., was allegedly sexually assaulted for 10 minutes as another student  'hit her on the head whenever she tried to escape,' during a science class at Martin De Porres Academy in Elmont, N.Y.

The girl's mother, who filed the suit, alleged that the teacher ignored the assault even as one student danced on the desk while another attempted to sodomize K.J.

Though the girl told a school social worker the next day, school officials failed to report the crime. 

K.J. has an IQ of 60 and was sent to De Porres by city.  She was the only girl in her class of 13 boys.

Her alleged attackers all had known 'violent propensities' and are residents of Casa De La Salle, a home for juvenile delinquents.

K.J.'s mother said she was powerless to get her daughter transferred immediately, and as a result the girl was bullied for months.

In December, school officials put her in a room with one of the boys who had been sexually harassing her and admonished them to 'discuss their issues.'  K.J. left that classroom with a gash over her right eye.

'It's mind-boggling how this could happen,' attorney Madeline Bryer told the New York Post.

The school's executive director Ed Dana sad an internal investigation as conducted as soon as they heard of the abuse and fired the teacher.

'We want the community to know that we hold our teachers to a high standard. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of the children in our care,' Dana said in a statement


British education boss to confirm plans for performance-related pay in schools

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, will announce this week that the Government is pressing ahead with the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers despite unions threatening industrial action over the move.

From this September, schools in England and Wales will rip up the existing staff salary structures so that there are no longer automatic pay rises for all teachers each year.

Instead, individual heads will have almost total freedom to decide pay levels, giving them the power to reward the best performers and prevent the weakest teachers from receiving annual increases.

The National Association of Head Teachers has backed the introduction of more flexibility in setting salary rises, but classroom unions are bitterly opposed to the move and have warned it will lead to "unfairness and discrimination" in staffrooms.

Mr Gove's announcement later this week that he is going ahead with the plans, which were outlined in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, will ramp up tensions with the unions.

The two biggest teaching unions - the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT - are already taking part in joint work-to-rule action as part of a long-running protest over changes to pensions, public sector pay freezes and mounting workloads.

It is likely that a move towards performance-related pay will add to their list of grievances and could lead to an escalation of the action.

The pay reforms are based on proposals from the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), which makes recommendations to the Government on teacher salaries and working conditions.

It comes despite the Government deciding to retain national pay arrangements in the NHS and prison service.

Currently, teachers outside London receive an initial salary of œ21,588 and can see their pay rise year-on-year to œ31,552. They can then move onto a higher salary band that is supposed to reward good performance, although most teachers automatically receive the pay increase.

Under the new plans, the STRB is proposing to abolish all pay increases based on length of service and link pay to performance based on appraisals by line managers.

The Government argues that the move will help to improve the quality of teaching in schools.

Responding to the proposals in December, Mr Gove said they would make teaching a more attractive career and a more rewarding job.

"They will give schools greater flexibility to respond to specific conditions and reward their best teachers," he added.   "It is vital that teachers can be paid more without having to leave the classroom. This will be particularly important to schools in the most disadvantaged areas as it will empower them to attract and recruit the best teachers."

However, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, has suggested that the independent pay review body had been "leant on" and claimed its recommendations were "seriously out of step" with those made for other parts of the public sector.  "These proposals place virtually unlimited discretion on teachers' pay in the hands of head teachers at a time when unfairness and discrimination are already rife," she said.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said performance-related pay rises were a "sensible principle" but noted that they would be hard to implement.


Shakespeare and Wordsworth boost the brain, new research reveals
There is no demonstration that any of these changes are permanent

The works of Shakespeare and Wordsworth are “rocket-boosters” to the brain and  better therapy than self-help books, researchers will say this week.

Scientists, psychologists and English academics at Liverpool University have found that reading the works of the Bard and other classical writers has a beneficial effect on the mind, catches the reader's attention and triggers moments of self-reflection

Scientists, psychologists and English academics at Liverpool University have   found that reading the works of the Bard and other classical writers has a   beneficial effect on the mind, catches the reader’s attention and triggers    moments of self-reflection.

Using scanners, they monitored the brain activity of volunteers as they read   works by William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, T.S Eliot and others.

They then “translated” the texts into more “straightforward”, modern language   and again monitored the readers’ brains as they read the words.

Scans showed that the more “challenging” prose and poetry set off far more   electrical activity in the brain than the more pedestrian versions.

Scientists were able to study the brain activity as it responded to each word   and record how it “lit up” as the readers encountered unusual words,   surprising phrases or difficult sentence structure.

This “lighting up” of the mind lasts longer than the initial electrical spark,    shifting the brain to a higher gear, encouraging further reading.

The research also found that reading poetry, in particular, increases activity   in the right hemisphere of the brain, an area concerned with   “autobiographical memory”, helping the reader to reflect on and reappraise    their own experiences in light of what they have read. The academics said   this meant the classics were more useful than self-help books.

Philip Davis, an English professor who has worked on the study with the   university’s magnetic resonance centre, will tell a conference this week:   “Serious literature acts like a rocket-booster to the brain.

"The research shows the power of literature to shift mental pathways, to   create new thoughts, shapes and connections in the young and the staid   alike.”

In the first part of the research, the brain activity of 30 volunteers was   monitored as they read passages from Shakespeare plays, including King Lear,   Othello, Coriolanus and Macbeth, and again as they read the text rewritten   in simpler form.

While reading the plain text, normal levels of electrical activity were   displayed in their brains. When they read Shakespeare, however, the levels   of activity “jumped” because of his use of words which were unfamiliar to   the readers.

In one example, volunteers read a line from King Lear: “A father and a   gracious aged man: him have you madded”. They then read a simpler version:   “A father and a gracious aged man: him you have enraged.”

Shakespeare’s use of the adjective “mad” as a verb sparked a higher level of   brain activity than the straightforward prose.

The study went on to test how long the effect lasted. It found that the “peak”   triggered by the unfamiliar word was sustained onto the following phrases,   suggesting the striking word had hooked the reader, with their mind “primed    for more attention”.

Working with psychologists at the university, the next phase of the research   is looking at the extent to which poetry can provide therapeutic benefit,   using the work of, among others William Wordsworth, Henry Vaughan, John   Donne, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, T.S. Eliot, Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes.

Volunteers brains have been scanned while reading four lines by Wordsworth:   “She lived unknown and few could know, when Lucy ceased to be. But she is in    her grave and oh, the difference to me.”

Four “translated” lines were also provided: “She lived a lonely life in the   country, and nobody seems to know or care, but now she is dead, and I feel   her loss.”

The first version caused a greater degree of brain activity, lighting up not   only the left part of the brain concerned with language, but also the right   hemisphere that relates to autobiographical memory and emotion.

Intense activity is this area of the brain suggests that the poetry triggers   “reappraisal mechanisms” causing the reader to reflect and rethink their own    experiences in light of what they read.

“Poetry is not just a matter of style. It is a matter of deep versions of    experience that add the emotional and biographical to the cognitive,” said    Professor Davis, who will present the findings at the North of England   education conference in Sheffield next week.

“This is the argument for serious language in serious literature for serious   human situations, instead of self-help books or the easy reads that merely   reinforce predictable opinions and conventional self-images.”

Professor Davis hopes to scan the brains of volunteers reading Charles Dickens   to test if revisions the writer made to his prose spark greater brain activity than the original text.


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