Archive for March, 2016

A Mother’s Admonition to Her Daughter Regarding the Library: ‘Don’t take books out. It’s so expensive’

March 31, 2016 Comments off

As one who believes that public libraries are designed to provide wide access to books and media of all types— including broadband computers– to as many people as possible– especially those who cannot afford it— I was appalled to read an article by Carol Pogash in today’s NYTimes describing the usurious fines charged by the San Jose library system. The fines lead parents to keep the very children who need access to the library to stay away and, consequently, the digital divide expands:

In San Jose, libraries began charging 50 cents a day for an overdue book, and what Jill Bourne, who become director of libraries in 2013, called “an exorbitant processing fee” of $20 for lost materials. Those high fines have come at a cost.

In impoverished neighborhoods, where few residents have broadband connections or computers, nearly a third of cardholders are barred from borrowing or using library computers. Half of the children and teenagers with library cards in the city owe fines. Around 187,000 accounts, or 39 percent of all cardholders, owe the library money, Ms. Bourne said.

To make a bad situation even worse, in San Jose once the fines exceed $50.00, which can happen fairly quickly if a child takes out a stack of picture books and forgets to return them, a collection agency is sent to collect… and if the parents are fearful that immigration officers might be alerted to their presence if they fall behind in returning library books there is an even greater disincentive to borrow library books.

 And while the article doesn’t say so explicitly, it is evident that the fines are seen as a revenue stream for the libraries… a revenue stream that helps reduce the amount the library needs to collect from taxpayers who don’t want to give “the government” any money.

One library has a good way to address the issue of overdue books. In Queens, where the tab for overdue books borrowed by teens is $1.45 million, Joanne King, the director of communications, said, “We’re very concerned about people not being able to use the library.”

Those who cannot pay money, she said, can pay down their debt with reading time in the library. The program lets children and young adults through age 21 spend time reading in the library to earn financial credit to pay fees.

This requires some paperwork on the part of librarians and results in the loss of revenue, but it reinforces the self-improvement mission of public libraries as envisioned by Andrew Carnegie, who donated funds to establish over 1,000 libraries in our country. Most importantly, it provides a means for all children to have access to the computer technology that is the best means for self-improvement in today’s world.

Ignored, Uninformed and for the GOP, Crazy for Charters: Presidential Candidates Get an F Grade on K-12 Public Education @alternet

March 31, 2016 Comments off

The passage of ESSA guaranteed that public education would be, at best, a marginal issue in this Presidential campaign, which is too bad for Bernie Sanders. I think that if ESSA had not passed the debate over RTTT would have revealed a substantial difference between him and Ms. Clinton and allowed for a substantial change in direction had he been elected. Now, with a bi-partisan bill on public education recently passed whoever gets elected will have a limited impact on public schools because ESSA hands the meaty parts of education policy back to the states.  

Unfortunately ESSA also further guarantees that the standardized testing regimen will remain in place for at least another five years and probably longer. Worse, it empowers State legislatures and State Boards to use the tests in any way they see fit opening the door for more severe punishments to be attached to test results. Finally, ESSA diffuses the arguments against standardized testing by shifting the responsibility for the use of tests and the choice of tests to the State level. This means that those of us who oppose the overemphasis on testing need to attack the issue on 50 fronts… and, unfortunately, those of us who oppose standardized tests do not have access to Foundation funding or hedge funders who seek to privatize public education. 

And worst of all, ESSA allows the US government to sidestep the problem of inequitable funding, which was what the original ESEA legislation hoped to remedy…. and which remains the biggest problem facing our schools today. 

Democrats have mixed messages. Republicans are gung ho for K-12 privatization despite huge flaws.

Source: Ignored, Uninformed and for the GOP, Crazy for Charters: Presidential Candidates Get an F Grade on K-12 Public Education @alternet

Education in Crisis and the Threat of Privatization

March 31, 2016 Comments off

Diane Ravitch summarizes the real crisis in education… and it isn’t bad teaching, government regulation, or “the unions”… it’s our nation’s failure to address the impact of poverty on the lives of too many of our children… 

It has become conventional wisdom that “education is in crisis.” I have been asked about this question by many interviewers. They say something like: “Do you think American education is in crisis? What is the cause of the crisis?” And I answer, “Yes, there is a crisis, but it is not the one you have read about. The crisis in education today is an existential threat to the survival of public education. The threat comes from those who unfairly blame the school for social conditions, and then create a false narrative of failure.

Source: Education in Crisis and the Threat of Privatization