Wednesday, April 22, 2015
S is for Schools
As with the racism piece from last night, this has been written and rewritten. I am very passionate about this topic. Ohio has been a complete clusterfuck for a long time now. I was a single mom who never received child support but decided it was a better idea to send my child to a very expensive private school for high school than to have her continue in the public schools we were in. To contrast, when we moved to Columbus to begin her 3rd grade, I bought our house in this school district because of the schools. It took 5 years to turn to shit. I wanted to go over Common Core and charters in depth but it became longer than my Nazi piece. So I guess we will see what we end up with?
I will ask you to have a quite moment to reflect. Honestly. Take a quiet moment right now and ask yourself something before you start (if you are over 40): What has changed since you were in school? Why is education so bad now?
Back in my day (yes, Grandpa I hear you), the standards were pretty universal. No child was allowed to disrespect the teacher or principal. No child was allowed to get in fights. When either of those things happened, our parents were called in and we knew we were in deep shit. Parents were going to take the side of the school. Period. When a child got a bad report card, that child was going to be in trouble. The parents were going to make sure they learned a lesson about not taking their grades seriously or the parents were going to make sure that the kids found help with whatever class they were struggling in.
Likewise, society demanded that its children were educated. Society demanded that its children grew up and were able to contribute to the betterment of America. That was a very big deal. That used to be a very big part of what it meant to be patriotic. Contributing to the community was not just an expectation, it was an honor. Society demanded that its children were well behaved and respectful. And in turn, that society joined together to pay for those children to be educated. There wasn't a question about whether or not the schools would be funded. It was part of their patriotic duty.
Parents are not what they once were. Society is not what it once was. The fact that we have a Tea Party movment is proof that our society has become selfish. There are so many people nowadays whose answer to anything is, "Its not my problem," followed by some, "me, me, me," diatribe. No fucking wonder the schools aren't funded. I know parents whose children are in the school districts and they aren't willing to vote for their schools. Their answer? "I already pay too much in taxes." Right. Absolutely.
We have many parents who you don't see at parent-teacher conferences. (I am generalizing here not saying these are Tea Party). They are the ones who never go to a school board meeting. They are the ones who defend their kids when they misbehave while not only teaching their children that the teacher does not deserve respect, but that they can be disrespectful and it is acceptable. And they are the ones getting pissed off that their kids have homework and it should all be done at school. And they obviously don't want to be bothered to pay taxes for their educations.
So you don't want to have to invest in educating your children. And now you are pissed off that the schools are failing? Where, exactly, did you think the money was going to come from? What were the schools supposed to do once the community repeatedly decided not to pay for them to operate? Well, here in my school district, when I decided to pull my daughter out for high school, they pulled the parents together of the gifted children and said they were no longer going to offer college prep courses. They would not have any advanced or AP classes. There would not be an SAT/ACT prep course. What kind of a thing is that for a parent of a college bound kid to deal with? We bailed. Plenty of families couldn't afford to make that choice. Although she went to private school, I have never once, before or since, voted against funding the schools. These kids in my community are my responsibility.
This is our society. If parents can't be bothered to consider voting to fund the schools, good luck getting the rest of the voting public in the district to support it.
In Ohio, the public school districts are operating under a rule called "5 of 8, " which allow for each school district to have, 5 of these 8 positions in each school: librarian, counselor, art teacher, nurse, phys-ed teacher, social workers, music teacher and visiting teachers. We are led by a Republican Governor who absolutely hates public schools. Gearing up to his run in 2009 he proudly stated, "I want to break the backs of the teachers unions." I was able to personally witness how sincere he was about that desire last year as I helped my local district in a strike where the Superintendent that Governor Kasich literally appointed to this small suburban school district, ran over the union and educators and refused to even sit at the bargaining table with them. It was quite clear that she had her marching orders. As time went on, it was also clear where they came from. Asshole.
The charter schools have no transparency. At all. The relationships between those sitting on their boards and any vendors or employees are not disclosed. Most importantly, the ownership interests of these private schools receiving public funds are not known. It certainly makes you ask a few questions. If a political party who is known for only doing things in the interest of the wealthy are passionate about bringing charter schools to every district and wiping out public schools, what's in it for them? There could be a lot of things. Who has ownership in the companies who contract to build the new schools? Or provide the books? Or create and maintain software contracts? Or sell and maintain all of the hardware? Absolutely! Call me a conspiracy theorist. But to not ask the question would be a blind commitment to a party who has not earned a benefit of the doubt. Not naming names, but if you wanted to look into anyone in the upper echelons of Ohio government, you would be surprised to see where an immense amount of money has gone into their campaign funds from a company that sells school books in software form to primary schools. I'm an actual nobody with no knowledge of how to research such things and found the information in less than 10 minutes. So ....
Ohio charter schools have been a failure. That is not hyperbole. They have failed. Repeatedly. They have been given chances to offer excuses and make corrections. And are still failing. They have had 15 years to build a solid curriculum and by now, one would expect, they should have been offering exceptional results. This is supposed to be the wave of the future, correct? This is supposed to be what is going to cure America of its lapsed commitment to educating our children. But, no. It turns out that they are literally failing.
Per the Columbus Dispatch, a well known right-leaning newspaper in Columbus, Ohio has hired a non-profit, Fordham, which supports school choice to do a study and their findings, released in December, offered an ugly look at the charter schools here. It then noted that in February, "Fordham also commissioned a separate report that showed, on average, charter-school students got less learning in math and reading than their traditional public-school counterparts did."
It is tragic to me to think that people were so desperate to create an alternative for children rather than correct the issues in the schools we already had. The alternative, which has now had 15 years to flourish, has failed. Miserably. What was the level of the education the children in these experiments received? Where are the children from 10-15 years ago now? They would have been the lab rats who were being taught in an unstructured new environment which was only just building a curriculum and figuring out its means of best offering opportunities for the children. And 15 years later, they are still failing. Those poor kids. They would obviously have been better off if they had been left in the public schools.
Ohio public schools were once funded solely by sales taxes and then in 1971 an income tax was added. If we had a responsible group at the helm with no interest other than budget management coupled with exceeding educational standards things could start turning around. If society continues to point fingers anywhere except at itself, however, unchecked leadership will continue to do whatever they want with the revenues coming in and our children will continue to suffer.