City Journal Spring 2014

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Spring 2014
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Ben Boychuk
Triggering School Reform in California « Back to Story

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The eduation establishment is missing the big lesson of home schooling: good parents can better manage without schools than schools can manage without good parents.

Likewise, teacher evaluation is not impossible. Ask any adult to name their three best and three worst teachers. Ask a concerned parent to name their children's best and worst teachers. It's intuitive, and the components can be devloped into a struture that is not perfect but far better than no evaluation at all.
Although the experience was not an unalloyed joy, the public school system I attended for 12 years provided, sometimes by accident, information and nourishment to my imagination I would have never gotten otherwise. Needless to say, I never intended to home-school my children. But after almost two months of first grade I took my oldest son out of his school in order to protect him from a dozen threats to his body, mind, and soul. Some of these dangers were created by his fellow students, some by the exigencies of an under-funded school, but most came from the personality disorders of his highly regarded and impeccably certified teacher.
Twelve years later we continue to live in the neighborhood, and we see the results the system has managed in our school-age friends. They are not good. The only improvement is that my son's first grade teacher, having finally been moved to office work, stayed on until she was used as a substitute one day, assaulted a kindergartener, and was fired.
Where we live the kids do not do well in school because their parents have given responsibility for their education entirely over to the system. The parents are full of doubt about their own ability to teach their kids, are happy to let someone else do the dirty work (as they see it), and are glad to punish their children for failing someone else's requirements. They are still more glad to be able to blame those authorities for the kids' inadequate achievements.
Any school, any teacher who, for whatever reason, cannot work with parents to educate and inspire their children---and perhaps to improve the parents' skills at the same time---should not remain in business. Several vital parts of the nation’s cultural foundation are on tilt. Public education is likely the worst of those failures. We will not begin to change this failure until we put responsibility for our children's learning back in the hands of their parents where it belongs---the school infra-structures, the teachers' unions, and the politicians be damned.
I was chastized for using the phrase "Third World values" by someone who asked me what I meant and hadn't I traveled. Third World values in California are Identity fraud, tax fraud, and Welfare fraud,brought to us from Latin America primarily. Of course if Americans commit these crimes they're going to JAIL. Lawlessness is destroying California, and the USA.
Low-performing schools certainly need remedies, but there is no good evidence that parents can provide these. Parents have the interest and enthusiasm to want to reform the schools their children attend, but not necessarily the expertise. One problem is that their time frame is too short. Suppose we were to decide that a good way to improve 7th grade math scores would be to require that every math teacher have a degree in math. It would take years to get the state regulations changed, hire the teachers, and see the results. This would be long after the children of current parents had left the school.

We don’t turn to the parents involved in other public programs to solve their problems. No one asks the parents of inmates to reform the prisons, or those of children in public hospitals to improve these institutions. If the military let the parents of soldiers make major decisions about how to run the army we would have a much less successful program. We respect parents’ input in these matters, but do not give them the authority to run the programs.

Most of the costs of operating public schools are born by the general public; parents contribute only about 30%. That public makes its wishes know through its elected representatives and the bureaucrats they appoint. Like it or not, these people have to be the source of the solutions in educational reform. When public programs have gotten better, like the New York City subways, for example, it was the bureaucrats who got better and found the solutions, not the people who used the trains. In the end, it is you and me, the public, who have to figure out how to reform the schools, not the parents.
You might have mentioned that CA has a "Teacher Trigger" law. That's right. If a majority of teachers in a school want to petition to convert it into a charter, they can do that, while preserving their unionized status. The AP ran a story on Feb 20 about all of the schools in LAUSD that are teeing up to convert to charters, based on teacher petitions. Four high schools have done so already, and numerous other schools are making similar plans. The districts fears that something like a third of their enrollment is at risk. When the central district administration becomes unbearable even for the teachers, they have an out. Parents deserve the same right to trigger a charter petition.
After reading this article can there possibly be anyone out there who still believes that allowing teachers to unionize is a good idea? Or that allowing those unions to make political donations is a good idea? This is a terrific example of the type of institutionalized corruption that is a consequence of allowing public employees to unionize and make political donations. It is insanity, plain and simple - the world turned on its head.

And where is the rest of the media on this? The answer to that is simple - since the traditional media supports Democrats no matter what, you won't hear much about it, and what you will hear will be biased nonsense, and editorializing posing as reporting. So much for journalism.

And finally, there is a sense that Californians are getting what they deserve, for voting for those who have been corrupted by the public employee unions. How many of the parents who signed the petition voted Democrat? What else did they expect?

California is nowhere near hitting bottom, but this story is an indication of where things are going. It is going to be interesting, albeit sad, to watch events over the next few years, as this once great state becomes the first in the country to join the third world.
If I were a Koch family scion, I'd put school choice proposition (tax credits preferred over vouchers) on EVERY California state ballot. It would cost about $2,000,000 a pop (easy for ME to suggest!).

The debate would rage, and we choice supporters would more than likely lose. Yet each debate cycle would help better inform people allied to the Democrat Party that their side puts labor unions before their kids.

Moreover it would cost the unions $20--$40 million to defeat it each time -- money that would otherwise be spent on union candidates or causes.

Oh -- and throw in a "paycheck protection" measure each election to gut the unions -- forcing them to spend millions more to defend the undefendable.
Why should education be exempt from Califonia's expertise in making pigs' ears out out of silk purses? Consistency counts for something, even if it translates into a catastrophy of standard denument. Instead of Buyer Beware,in California it is; Y'all Beware of All. Ain't nobody what ain't up to no good. Got dat?
Every time I try to think Jerry Brown has turned a new leaf, he manages to prove me wrong. The rigged State Board of Education, with its new leader (Superintendent of Public Instruction) who will march in lockstep with the teachers' unions and the school bureaucrats will gut the legislation to be sure that our children are doomed to incompetent teachers and administrators. I think we should go farther, as Florida has tried to do, and give vouchers to parents/kids who are imprisoned in failing schools. Any school that can't meet minimum standards after trying for four years should be shuttered and everyone at the school fired.
If Congress wants to reduce the budget, it could start here,"part of the state’s effort to win a piece of the $4.35 billion in federal funding for Race to the Top" and then work on dismantling the National Education
"Union". How long are the taxpayers going to put up with a system that has been broken for the past thirty years and gets unbelievable increases in its budget each year. With the budget they have at this point, they could afford one teacher per child throughout the US. Our children got better educations from those teachers who taught in one room school houses, with three to four grades per classroom. At least the students could read and write and new how to add, subtract, multiply and divide and could go to the store and knew how much what they bought was going to cost and how much change they should get. They also knew more about the government and Civics as well as having responsibility and manners.
Imagine they only went to school between planting and harvesting time as well.
Wonder what the youth of today will do when we become just another of the Third World countries?