Category Archives: Money

Already? Really?!

When I woke up today I already had a message on my phone asking for assistance. No, I did not get up late or at noon; it was 8:00 am!

Such is life when you take on leadership roles.

I went to the school today and worked for a little over three hours. I helped two teachers write their syllabi, sent out some examples to teachers, provided a teacher a few more vocabulary lessons, and then worked on my stuff. Sometimes it seems like my work hours aren’t for me but for the benefit of others. Sigh. At times, teachers are no different than the students: they want what they want and they want it now and they don’t care what I’m doing now. I used to have a sign that read “Let me drop everything and work on your problem” and I miss that sign sometimes. 🙂

I did start a presentation for my local school district on the effects of pay freezes on employee take-home pay. Teachers in my state have lost between $13,000 and $26,000 over the last six years because of pay freezes, pay cuts, and shortened work calendars. Yikes! I haven’t finished the presentation, but I did figure out the numbers for it.

Then, I worked on updating my syllabi as well as updating my opening week reading and writing assessments. Nothing exciting here except that I decided to change my syllabi into more of a press release format than the typical outline format. I’m curious how the kids react to it.

Once this was completed I mapped out a draft of a meeting schedule for my department’s collaboration time. Since we’re re-aligning our courses to one another and to the Common Core standards, we need to organize the meetings to allow as many people to collaborate as possible. It’s not exciting but needs to be done.

Lastly, I double checked my certification classes. I didn’t need to do much here except see which if my classes have been counted towards my next certificate. While this doesn’t sound taxing, it is tedious because I have to go through my district’s accounting system to see what I’m credited with here and compare this to what the state has me credited with. I need to figure out how to ensure my National Board status is recorded on the state system.

I’m ready to start reviewing my beginning of the year novels, but my area of the building is closed down while the cleaning crews finish. The guys are behind schedule and doing their best, but with staff cuts the last few years and an ever-increasing duty list, the guys are overworked right now. Looks like I won’t get into my classroom until next week.

I cam home and read five education articles. Nothing really jumped out at me this time. More than anything, it looked like a slow news day with the bulk of the content centered on budget updates and construction progress. I only spent about 30 minutes reading the articles.

Advertisements

Wanted: The Best and Brightest?

My home state, Washington, was often seen as a progressive and enlightened hotbed of education ideas; however, my state is quickly becoming much like the rest of the education world with pseudo-reformers hijacking the conversation and the direction. Even Democrats, who once supported educators, are beginning to move away from protecting and supporting organized labor in general and teachers in particular.

Currently, numerous bad bills are making their way through the political system.

  • One bill that moved out of the Senate and into the House would allow principals to arbitrarily place teachers in a “displaced” category and then fire them.
  • Another bill out of the Senate and into the House would rate schools on an A-F basis, but is solely determined on standardized tests (further strengthening the testing stranglehold on education).
  • One other bill would move everyone’s pension monies (for those under 45 years of age) into 401k plans rather than leave them in the pension system.

Other bad bills are working their way into being potentially wide-sweeping and far-reaching law. Some even attempt to micro-manage how districts use their money–the same money being cut by the state–by requiring some students to have mandatory tutoring or summer school. Another example of this micro-managing is a bill that would force districts to bring back suspended students (even violent ones) into the school setting before their suspensions are up or counseling is completed.

In my state salaries have been frozen or reduced in each of the last three years.

I’m not saying what is happening in my state is different or worse then yours, but what we’re seeing is an education environment with:

  • frozen or lowered salaries,
  • salaries that do not pace or match other fields,
  • more expensive health plans which cover less,
  • potentially riskier retirement plans,
  • eliminated professional development days,
  • more duties and responsibilities, and
  • raised expectations of performance with fewer resources.

But, we want the “best and brightest to choose” education as a pathway. Why would they choose education? When my students ask me if being a teacher is a good job to consider in the future, I hesitate and am not sure how to answer that question. If I had kids of my own, I would not advise them to enter the teaching ranks.

If university graduates really are the “best and brightest,” they would never consider education.

An Education Divide

How does a kindergarten class of 40 sound to you? Or a high school class of 60? Well, in Detroit that can happen now.

I’ve never met any teacher who said bigger classes will make my job easier or help students learn more. However, I have often heard from those in power that class size really matters (and then the unspoken “for my kids”). Public schools are allowed to have bloated class sizes and inadequate resources, but the social elite ensure this never happens to their kids.

And still, none of this really gets to solving the real problem: poverty. Students in poverty are disproportionately at risk over all other students.

Raising expectations with new standards or additional required credits does not solve Johnny’s problems at home where his father left and his mother isn’t home much as she works so much. Higher expectations and new learning targets don’t help Cindy get the breakfast she misses every morning or the hits she takes each night from her step-father.

America’s students in schools with less than 10% poverty are among the world’s best while schools with more than 75% struggle mightily:

Poverty rates make a huge difference in student achievement. Few people are aware, for example, that in 2009 U.S. schools with fewer than 10 percent of student in poverty ranked first among all nations on the Programme for International Achievement tests in reading, while those serving more than 75 percent of students in poverty scored alongside nations like Serbia, ranking about fiftieth.

I only wish America’s policies matched the research and allowed this nation to solve the truest indicator of future success or failure: poverty.

Bought and Paid For Charter Schools

How do you get charter schools on the ballot in a state that has previously rejected them three times by popular vote? You buy the signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.

Here are the amounts of money given to the charter school movement in Washington State:

  • $1,000,000 (Bill Gates, Microsoft)
  • $600,000 (Alice Walton, Wal-Mart)
  • $500,000 (Jeff Bezos family, Amazon)
  • $450,000 (Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist)

Now that’s $2.55 million dollars from essentially four people (granted, Jeff Bezos got $50,000 from his parents). When popular opinion is not with you, buy the signatures as the leaders of the signature gatherers did in Washington State.

The signature gatherers were often paid on average between $1 and $2 per signature gathered. One gatherer claimed to have gathered over 9,000 signatures!

When I asked a gatherer at my local Safeway why I should sign up, she told me that it would save our schools. When I asked “how,” she didn’t know. Sad.

How about those donors take the $3.3 million dollars given to this initiative and instead hire 550 new teachers to lower class size and target the neediest of students?

A War Has Started

Have you seen the video where Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, expresses his strategy to destroy collective bargaining for public employees? Here it is:

The way to destroy unions is to eliminate collective bargaining, which will benefit corporations (who generally support only one side of the aisle). And, it only makes sense. If your interests are to make corporations more powerful and profitable, then paying workers less and reducing their opportunities to vote is a viable strategy.

Get active in your locals to campaign ahead of time. Don’t wait until after a bad election to get active. You might become Ohio or Wisconsin or Idaho.

Extortion from Duncan and Obama?

Recently, Secretary of Education Duncan continued his push for the Obama Administration’s education policies as he provided an escape from the faulty and unrealistic mandates of the No Child Left Behind law. However, instead of simply admitting that NCLB does not work, needs an overhaul, and is being repealed, a press release was presented which says that states can be excused from NCLB if they sign onto other requirements. Here is part of that press release:

The administration’s proposal for fixing NCLB calls for college- and career-ready standards, more great teachers and principals, robust use of data, and a more flexible and targeted accountability system based on measuring annual student growth. Barnes and Duncan will note that the final details on the ESEA flexibility package will reflect similar goals. The specifics of the package will be made public in September.

Sounds like value-added scores or evaluations based on standardized test scores and Common Core standards being adopted, the same ideas in Race to the Trough Top.

Is this just a choice of the lesser of two evils? Escape from a bad law by agreeing to bad legislation? Essentially, Duncan seems to be telling the states that NCLB doesn’t work and the states can be excused from it if they agree to potentially worse (and unproven) legislation.

The federal level is not the place to solve local education decisions. Duncan even admits that the best decisions for schools comes from the local level:

There is no magic bullet for fixing education and the best ideas will always come from the local level—from the hardworking men and women in our schools doing the hard work every day to educate our children.

This offer from Duncan’s office and the Obama Administration appears at best to be an administration trying to push its education agenda onto states and at worst to be an open extortion of suffering states.

Reject this offer. Force the government to fix NCLB. Make the administration do what it promised.