Yesterday I had a chance to spend time with my granddaughter who just started Kindergarten in a rural Vermont school… and I found that fear is part of the hidden curriculum in public schools. When I asked her about her first week of school she told me about her music lesson and then told me that her class spent time in the basement so they could “hide from bad guys”. She explained to me that this basement foray occurred after hearing the teacher explain 9-11, which, according to my kindergartner, was “a bunch of bad guys attacking us”. While I am not certain what was explained to the kindergartners or what the intention of the lesson was, I AM certain what was taken away from the lesson: be afraid… be very afraid!
This morning Diane Ravitch’s blog reported that San Diego schools decided to return the armored vehicle they received from the Pentagon. But my granddaughter’s report helped me understand why a school district might think receiving a grenade launcher, and M-16, or an armored vehicle might seem reasonable. When kids (and parents) are fearful, grenade launchers might protect them from “bad guys”… oh, and as for playing outside after school? Maybe it’s not such a good idea. After all, “bad guys” lurk out there as well.
I learned with dismay that my niece’s school district in OH is going on strike. As a former Superintendent, I always avoided taking sides in labor relations, advocating that both sides seek a settlement instead of a “victory”. While I am not familiar with all the details, there some facts that seem especially problematic:
- The board talked to the press about the offer before the teachers did
- The board offered binding arbitration and the teachers refused
- The board wants “merit pay” to be included as at least an “option” for the teachers to consider
- The teachers want to cap class sizes
- The teachers want to retain their current health benefits while the Board wants to offer a lump sum in lieu of benefits— presumably to get the money they need to provide the additional “merit” compensation
There are some political realities to strikes that are also problematic.
- BOTH SIDES LOSE SUPPORT DURING A STRIKE: To paraphrase Al Shanker: “When the board calls the teachers “greedy, lazy, good-for-nothings” and the teachers call the Board members “hard-headed, heartless, know-nothings” the public believes them both.
- AND…. BOTH SIDES NEED TO KEEP THE EYE ON THE PRIZE: Ultimately, both parties presumably want to pass a HIGHER budget if the board is serious about giving teachers performance pay and the teachers want to cap class size. A long strike with angry exchanges will make budget passage a challenge.
- THE MEDIA LOVE CONFLICT: Facts will take a holiday during the strike and the media will ultimately decide “what the strike is about”… and it will not be a nuanced perspective on the issues, it will be a series of sound bites. A cautionary note: if the editors of the newspaper or the owners of TV and radio stations take the board’s side the public’s support for the teachers could diminish quickly…. and, based on my reading of Diane Ravitch’s reports from OH it seems the OH media have taken the side of fiscally conservative Boards and “reform” politicians against “unions”. Social media may be the best hope for the teachers to “make their case” to voters… but only if the reach extends beyond parents.
- MANY MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC HAVE SEEN THEIR PAY AND BENEFITS DIMINISH: As noted in many previous posts, many middle class voters have lost the benefit packages corporations offered in the past and this has turned many voters against teachers who “traded” higher compensation for better benefits.
- ARBITRATION IS PERCEIVED AS A “FAIR WAY” TO SETTLE LABOR DISPUTES: I trust that the Uniserv representative is ready to explain to voters in my niece’s community why the teachers decided to avoid arbitration as a means of reaching an agreement…. because if it doesn’t the public may be inclined to have sympathy for the Board.
As readers of this blog know, I believe merit pay is a losing proposition (see “Merit Pay: An Agreeable Fantasy” previously published in Education Week for details), especially merit pay that is linked in any way to test scores. Furthermore I believe that having manageable class sizes and a wide array of course offerings and support services is essential for ALL school districts, not just the most affluent ones.
I HOPE this turns out well for the parents, students, and community members in my niece’s community… but fear that both sides may be seeking a “victory” where a “settlement” is needed.
I just read an article in the Deseret News announcing that there is now bi-partisan support for Pre-K funding since the House just passed a “compromise” bill that
“… offers vouchers to low-income families that will allow them to obtain child care from their choice of providers, including faith-based organizations, according to a statement released by the Education & the Workforce Committee.”
Will the Senate OK this compromise?
If so, will Obama sign it?
If the answer to these questions is “Yes”, remember, you read it here first over a year ago when your humble blogger predicted that the only way bi-artisan support for Pre-L was possible was through some form of vouchers…. I concluded that article with this paragraph:
Our country needs earlier educational programs for children born into poverty. It needs programs that are staffed by teachers with a strong background in early childhood education and programs that are coordinated with other publicly funded social services. My fear is that the federal government will promote the practical and politically feasible solution to the need for child care instead of the program needed to close the divide between rich and poor families. Using public funds to support the existing loosely regulated preschools in place would be a missed opportunity…. unless the opportunity to have public schooling be “…this market kind of thing” is more important that the opportunity to have all children begin public schooling with a strong background.
I hope someone in the Senate names this for what it is: a backdoor means of getting vouchers for public education.
The giveaway of tax $$$ to corporations seeking to maximize profits is one of the continuing themes of this blog… and as noted in my comment at the end there is a web site that can be used to see just how much YOUR state gave away: http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/accountable-usa
Thanks to Greg Easterbrook for this lead!
Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:
Nevada is giving more than $1 Billion in tax breaks to woo automaker Tesla to build a huge factory to produce electric batteries.
The deal is controversial but not among Nevada legislators, who expect it to produce economic benefits and 6,500 jobs.
Education also produces economic benefits and jobs, but legislators don’t mind underfunding their schools, increasing class sizes, and short changing the next generation of Nevadans.
The Néw York Times says that Nevada is paying about $200,000 for each job that might be created.
Did Tesla really need the tax break to locate in Nevada?
“Richard Florida, a global research professor at New York University and a frequent critic of development incentives, said the factory would probably have been built in Nevada even without the generous subsidy.
“They had the site picked out; they started on it,” he said in an email. Companies like Tesla “exploit that information asymmetry,”…
View original 59 more words
The Guardian today features a story reporting that 26 school districts in the United States have taken advantage of the Pentagon’s discount prices on machine guns, grenade launchers, M-16s, and mine-proof vehicles. What could go wrong?
Here’s a set of priceless quotes from the article:
The Los Angeles unified school district, the nation’s second-largest at 710 square miles with more than 900,000 students enrolled, said it would remove three grenade launchers it had acquired because they “are not essential life-saving items within the scope, duties and mission” of the district’s police force.
But the district would keep the 60 M16s and a military vehicle known as an MRAP used in Iraq and Afghanistan that was built to withstand mine blasts. (see picture below)
District police Chief Steve Zipperman told the Associated Press that the M16s were used for training and the MRAP, parked off campus, was acquired because the district could not afford to buy armoured vehicles that might be used to protect officers and help students in a school shooting.
“That vehicle is used in very extraordinary circumstances involving a life-saving situation for an armed threat,” Zipperman said. “Quite frankly I hope we never have to deploy it.”
Here are a few more excerpts from the article with my commentary in BOLD RED.
In Texas, Tina Veal-Gooch, executive director of public relations at Texarkana ISD, said the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, led the district to acquire assault rifles and it had no plans to return them. How the possession of assault weapons by police would have helped in the Newtown shootings is left to the reader’s imagination.
In Florida, Rick Stelljes, the chief of Pinellas county schools police, said the county possessed 28 semi-automatic M16 rifles. They had never been used, and he hoped they never would be, but they were “something we need given the current situation we face in our nation. This is about preparing for the worst-case scenario.” What is the “current situation we face in our nation” that warrants a school district having 28 semi-automatic weapons? Is ISIS going to attack Pinellas county schools?
Democratic congressman Adam Schiff said while there was a role for surplus equipment going to local police departments “it’s difficult to see what scenario would require a grenade launcher or a mine-resistant vehicle for a school police department”. He’s at least partially right: there is no reason for schools to have grenade launchers or MRAPs… but I’m not convinced there’s a need for a local police department to have these either.
The militarization of police forces is a by-product of the media’s fear-mongering and the NRA’s successful messaging that the only thing protecting “us” from “bad guys” is a “good guy with a gun”…. or in this case a good guy with a grenade launcher, machine gun, semi-automatic weapon, and MRAP.