Thursday, August 08, 2013

Time to sue for educational choice

Schooling for failure must stop

States long ago disowned eugenics. Some have made formal apologies. North Carolina last week became the first state to announce it will compensate victims. It set aside $10 million to pay those who are still alive from a group of about 7,600 people sterilized for being deemed mentally or socially unfit from 1929 to 1974. Nationally, about 60,000 people were sterilized from 1907 to the 1970s, many in mental facilities and correctional institutions.

That such a brutal practice continued for so long and in so many states is shocking. Thankfully, that is over, barring a recent report that tubal ligations were performed on dozens of inmates without proper consent in California.

But every state in the nation continues to practice via its public school establishment mental sterilizations that should be just as shocking as once commonly accepted eugenics and are primarily aimed at poor, minority children.

As Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) asked Tuesday at a forum on school choice in Washington, “We got rid of the draft, but why do we still have pupil assignments?”

Those pupil assignments often mean those with the least ability to attend a good school are forced into ones where they can’t learn by design and emerge four years later without basic reading, writing and math skills and the character necessary to find and keep a job and contribute to society.

The schools where these children are assigned are the ones where disruptive and violent students are not kicked out, where dropping out is the norm, where students are promoted to the next grade regardless of ability and where those who want to learn are socially marginalized.

They are the schools like the one that Rachel Jeantel attended. She is the witness in the Trayvon Martin trial who said she cannot read cursive. Increasingly, she is not an anomaly, but the new normal. Watch “Waiting for Superman,” the 2010 documentary that asks the question of how U.S. taxpayers could spend so much for so little, to learn more about how the public school establishment is permanently rigged against students by the teachers unions and their abettors in public office.

Here is some more information:  The U.S. ranks 17th in the world for its educational performance despite spending an average of about $11,000 per pupil. Top-ranked Finland spends $1,000 less per student.  Japan and South Korea, both ranked higher than the U.S., spend significantly less per child. In the nation’s capital, the school system spends almost $19,000 per child and has a 55 percent graduation rate. Not that graduation rates matter when those who reach that threshold can’t read or write. On top of that, the remediation rate for colleges has been skyrocketing in the past decade and tops 50 percent at many two- and four-year institutions, meaning students in those classes must take out loans to pay to learn material that should have been covered in high school.

The good news is that there is a way out of the intellectual trough: school choice. And Washington is one of the leading examples of how it works. The District has a thriving public charter school community whose schools can’t accept a fraction of the number of children who would like to attend. Student performance at those schools keeps rising and is well above the average for math and reading at traditional public schools in the District. And poor students who received an Opportunity Scholarship to attend the school of their choice had a 97 percent graduation rate for the 2012-2013 school year. Over 91 percent of scholarship students who graduated are going on to a two- or four-year college.

Those kinds of results change lives and will also, eventually, change the culture to one that values student performance over the system.

I recommend class action lawsuits against the public school establishment to hasten school choice knowing there is not enough money in the world to compensate generations of students for diminishing their lives along with our communities and economy. But unless the U.S. wants to become an educational Detroit, it’s worth trying.


Actor Matt Damon is a hypocrite

Actor Matt Damon is a strong supporter of America's public schools. Just two years ago, the star spoke passionately about the importance of public schools at a Washington DC "Save our Schools" rally. In fact, the actor is so impressed with public school teachers that he has demanded they receive a pay raise.

That passion and conviction, however, does not apply to Damon's own children, who will not be enrolled into the Los Angeles public school system.

In an interview with the Guardian published Saturday, Damon revealed that he had just moved to Los Angeles from New York, but that he didn't "have a choice" when it came to putting his four daughters into private schools. The multi-millionaire did say that it was "a major moral dilemma" and then made the bizarre excuse that the public schools aren't "progressive" enough.

This would probably mark the first time anyone has ever complained that America's public schools, especially in Los Angeles, aren't left-wing enough.

The Guardian interview is part of the 42-year-old actor's promotional tour for his upcoming sci-fi tentpole [big-budget movie] "Elysium," which opens Friday.

According to early reviews, "Elysium" is a big-budget action film that condemns a future Los Angeles where the super-rich use their wealth and privilege to separate themselves and their families from the city's poor.  [As Oscar Wilde said:  Life imitates Art]


Britain:  Black teacher who tried to claim £1.2million for racial discrimination is jailed for hiding her criminal record when applying for a job at a school

"Diverse" morality

A teacher who claimed £1.2 million after winning a racial discrimination claim has been jailed for two years for hiding her criminal record when applying for a post at a school.

Samantha Burmis, of Bellman Avenue in Gravesend, was sentenced in her absence at Maidstone Crown Court today.

The mother-of-four had denied obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and perverting the course of justice, but was convicted of both charges last month.

She was not able to attend her sentencing as she had taken an overdose of pills and alcohol shortly before she was due to appear and was admitted to Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford.

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC branded the 44-year-old 'devious, manipulative and thoroughly dishonest', adding she was prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to serve her own selfish interests.

Burmis' criminal past dated back to January 1995, when she was jailed for a year at Harrow Crown Court for a £90,000 mortgage fraud.

At her latest trial, Burmis denied she had either served a prison sentence or had a criminal record, but police had her finger prints from when she was originally arrested.

After her release, she studied law at the University of Kent in Canterbury, and later trained to be a teacher at the University of Greenwich.

She then applied for a teaching post at Aylesford School in Maidstone, but crucially failed to reveal her conviction for fraud.

The court heard Burmis made similar applications to Homewood School in Tenterden and Swadelands School in Lenham, Maidstone, again failing to declare her conviction.

At her latest trial, Prosector Ed Connell said: 'The decision by her not to disclose previous convictions was deliberate because she feared if she did disclose them she would jeopardise her chances of being employed by the school.'

She was employed by the school from May 2001 to February 2005, when she was sacked for gross misconduct.

In 2007 she sued Aylesford School for £1.2million for unfair dismissal, claiming racial and sexual discrimination.

Burmis won her case after a 42-day hearing, but during the case it emerged she may have had a criminal conviction, an accusation she flatly denied.

Mr Connell said: 'Having lied on her application form to Aylesford School she was no doubt aware if her previous convictions came to light she would have committed an offence.

'In all likelihood she would have been dismissed from her job and prosecuted for that.

'She knew if her lie about her background was found out before the tribunal concluded her award damages might be significantly reduced,' he added.

'In order to maintain the lie about her background and clear the way for future employment she and her daughter conspired to pervert the course of justice.'

In the end she was awarded damages totaling £28,500, although it is not clear if she ever received the money.

In an attempt to distance herself from her past, during her tribunal she had offered to have her finger prints taken again and hatched a plan for her daughter Nina Burmis to pose as her.

When a fingerprint expert went to Nina's home in 2009, Nina had answered the door with her face covered and handed over her mother's driving licence as proof of identity.

Nina had denied this at the trial, saying: 'I would not pretend to be my mother. That is ridiculous. I would not have given my mother's licence and covered my face.'  She now admits she lied on oath.

The plan unraveled because 24-year-old's prints were already on the police file - Nina had herself been convicted of forging a cheque to pay for a £3,200 breast enlargement, for which she was handed a suspended sentence and unpaid work at Hull Crown Court earlier that year.

She also had previous convictions for shoplifting in 2009, and theft in 2004.

Nina Burmis, of Empire Way, Wembley, was also sentenced today for her part in the scheme.

She was handed 18 months imprisonment suspended for two years with supervision and curfew for four months.


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