Defenders of the status quo in public education have long claimed the moral high ground with the assertion that public schools promote social justice. That is, public schools — whatever their problems — provide essential assistance for minority and low-income children.
Today, however, empirical evidence shows that minorities and low-income kids are being harmed by our very expensive and extremely ineffective public school monopolies. Thus, the high ground has been captured by education reformers.
Here in the Silver State, African-American and Hispanic children are two grade levels behind white and Asian students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress fourth-grade reading exam. The situation is identical when comparing the disparity between low-income children and higher-income children. Worse still, the average of all Nevada kids is behind the national average, which in turn is below the average for developed nations.
Graduation rates show even larger disparities. A 2001 report by the Manhattan Institute revealed that just 49 percent of African-American and 40 percent of Hispanic students graduated high school in Nevada. That compares to 65 percent of white students.
Read more from "Social Injustice" here.
May 17, 2010
Pennsylvania state Senator Anthony Williams is running for Governor. Not only does he claim to be against raising taxes, but he also favors parental choice by making the public funding follow the student to whatever school his or her parents choose. To Williams, a public education doesn’t mean public school – it means the public helping kids get the best education possible, whether it is from a charter school, virtual school, magnet school, public school, parochial school or private school.
May 14, 2010
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to discuss two dozen education-reform proposals at a meeting of the Legislative Committee on Education. One in particular dealt with the issue of teacher seniority. I suggested prohibiting the use of teacher seniority in determining teacher termination, job transfers and promotions – meaning: no special preferences given to teachers just because they've taught for more years than other teachers.
Nevada, like so many other states, practices “last hired, first fired,” which protects senior teachers over younger, less experienced and cheaper teachers. It is true that teachers continue to improve their skills over the first three to five years, but seniority also protects some older, more expensive but bad teachers from being fired.
Worse still, senior teachers are more likely to teach in higher-income schools. This means lower-income kids are more likely to be exposed to inexperienced teachers. Ironically, because of this system, low-income kids not only have the least experienced teachers, but they end up subsidizing the costs of higher-priced teachers at the schools for the wealthier kids (individual schools are "charged" for the average salary rather than the actual salary). Progressive public education, indeed.
Arizona banned the use of seniority in determining teacher terminations this month. But Nevada’s Legislative Committee on Education didn’t want to discuss the issue further. Meanwhile, civil rights groups in California successfully litigated a case where the judge ruled that firing teachers based on seniority violated low-income children’s right to a public education.
Seniority rules in California naturally resulted in younger teachers being fired instead of the older teachers. Consistent with the data from around the country, the younger teachers were far more likely to teach at the low-income schools. In L.A., a third of the teachers at the low-income schools had been dismissed. At the wealthier schools? Hardly a dent.
Maybe the Nevada ACLU will be brave enough to bring a suit against their friends in the Nevada Department of Education?
We shouldn’t wait around. If the Nevada Legislature truly cares about improving the quality of education – especially for low-income kids – it will eliminate the concept of teacher seniority.
May 6, 2010
Senator James Meeks (D – Chicago) and Rep Kevin Joyce (D – Chicago) couldn’t muster enough votes in the Illinois House to pass a parental choice bill that would have given low-income kids scholarships worth up to $3,700 to attend a private school (the state spends about $11,500 per pupil on the public schools). The program would have made 30,000 low-income kids in Chicago eligible for the program.
Rallying behind their union bosses, a majority of the house voted against the bill, effectively denying low income children a better life.
Naturally, the math challenged opponents of parental choice charge that vouchers take resources out of public schools leaving the students who remain behind with less. But for every student that takes a $3,700 voucher and enrolls in a private school, about $7,800 remains behind to be divided up among the remaining public school students. This means there are more resources per student, not less.
Fortunately for everyone, the unions have lost the moral high ground and that is why 24 Democrats in the Illinois House (and 13 Democrats in the Senate) voted to support parental choice. Senator James Meeks even returned his union campaign contributions in defiance of the purveyors of the status quo.
Meeks and Joyce may have lost the battle, but the unions and the status quo will lose the war.