Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chicago Public Schools Want to Do the Right Thing

When I was a child, I had the cutest dog in the world named Milton after University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman.  The dog was always happy to see me when I came home from my private tutoring and he always smiled and wagged his tail.  Unfortunately, he also drooled and as a result my cousin took an instant dislike to Milton.  My cousin used to kick the dog and pull his tail until the dog yelped and I cried.  

Finally, when I was 9 and my cousin was 11, I told him that he had better leave my dog alone or he'd be sorry.   He looked down at me and though he was much bigger than I was, he must have seen the determination in my face.  He told me, "Let me kick Milton really hard 10 times.  If you do that, I won't kick him again for 5 years."

Needless to say, I was overjoyed.  When my cousin was done, Milton was in agony for a few days, but afterwards, he didn't have to worry about my cousin teasing him or picking on him.   When I visited my cousin in prison last Summer, I reminded him of the story and we shared a laugh about how I stood up to him and negotiated on behalf a small innocent dog that looked to me to protect him.

The Chicago Public Schools have made an equally generous offer to protect the children of Chicago from the trauma from the turmoil and agony of school closings.   All they ask of us is that we allow them to wait until March 31st to announce the schools that they will close this year--a number they promise will be between 5 and 200.  In exchange, they won't close any schools down for the next 5 years.

Now, these are going to be some very hard kicks.  We're asked to allow them to announce they're closing schools when it's too late for the teachers to work in these schools to easily find employment elsewhere and more importantly, when parents have less options for their students for next year.   They're shutting up community input too.   This will be a bitter pill to swallow, but just think how great it will be to have five years without any school closings after that.  

CPS has proven their case.   Closings might not save money, but they're necessary.  The city has more desks than students and they're going to be opening a lot of brand new charter schools, which will only exacerbate the problem.  If you live in Illinois please contact your state legislators and let them know that you want them to support this deal.  After all, even little Milton survived a few hard kicks.  That reminds me, sometime I'll have to tell you about the deal that Hitler brokered with the Europeans over Czechoslovakia. 

[Last Stand for Children first Board Member and Congressman, Jack Kimble has written his memoirs.  If you like the kind of writing you find on this blog, you may enjoy his book as well.  Check it out at www.profilesincourageousness.com]

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Michelle Rhee's Policies Proven a Rousing Success

I was overjoyed yesterday to see the Washington Post trumpeting a new report by the New Teacher Project trumpeting Michelle Rhee's success as Chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools.  We've always known Ms. Rhee was a force of nature since she first appeared on our radar when she founded the New Teacher Project back in 1997. 

As Chancellor, Mr. Rhee was something of a lightening rod for controversy, but even the Washington Post found the report compelling despite the New Teacher Project currently having a contract with the DC schools, many of the Washington D.C. teachers coming from the New Teacher Project, Michelle Rhee running the project for 10 years, and current Washington school chief Kaya Henderson being a former Vice-President of the New Teacher Poject.   Frankly, that's good enough for me.

In 1954, my grandfather Francis was one of the scientists who contributed to the groundbreaking report entitled “A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers”.  The study was sponsored by the Tobacco Institute and was widely distributed in newspapers nationwide.   It was based on extensive research and questioned research findings implicating smoking as a cause of cancer, promised consumers that their cigarettes were safe, and pledged to support impartial research to investigate allegations that smoking was harmful to human health.  This study was backed up by many more tobacco funded studies that showed smoking was safe.  Unfortunately, people wouldn't listen and cigarettes today are considered unhealthy.  Sure, there is a small chance if you smoke that you will wind up in a cancer ward, but there's a certainly you will wind up in flavor country.

Even now, when Exxon spends $16 million of its own money to prove that global warming and climate change is a hoax, do people think them?  No, they accuse them of trying to stifle science.  Who better to fund the science that proves pollution or tobacco or Michelle Rhee's policies safe than the people most involved with them?

The New Teacher Project report found the 11% of the teachers in high poverty schools receive bonus pay under the new system compared to 42% of the teachers in low poverty schools.   This doesn't surprise me in the least.  We all know that education is the best way out of poverty, so obviously these students receiving a poor education are dooming these families.  Isn't it time to put students first?

Profiles in Courageousness Tackles Education Reform

A new book has just come out this week from Last Stand for Children Board Member and United States Congressman Jack Kimble of California's 54th District.   The book is a combination of the Congressman's life story and a road map for a Republican future.   Now, as you might expect, Kimble does not tread lightly on the sacred cows of education reform.  Here's one excerpt from his book giving his views on education:

In education, I am in agreement on a lot of President Obama's policies, but we are failing our school children.  Nearly 25% of all American high school students in 2008 scored in the bottom quartile of state standardized tests in reading and 10% scored in the bottom tenth in math while at the same time teachers unions continue to provide their membership with $20,000+ retirement packages and a lavish lifestyle that includes automobiles and oftentimes private home ownership. 
Too much of a child's day is taken up with classes like music, art, and social studies, which are not even tested.  These classes have been created by teachers unions trying to create jobs and give teachers prep periods.  All children should focus on reading and math exclusively during the school day.
Our research has shown that the best teachers to motivate inner city youth are white, fresh out of college, and preferably from a privileged background.  We also have found that the easiest way to assure that all student get a quality teacher is to increase class size.
Too often, the voice of the business community has been stifled in discussions of what is best for the children of this country.  It is time for the business community to instead stifle the voices of the less successful and enable us to do for our schools what we have done for our economy. 

This is powerful thinking and represents the cutting edge of the education reform movement.   As you know, like Students First and Stand for Children, we have a bipartisan approach to education reform.  However, Congressman Kimble clearly has higher aspirations than the House of Representatives and we are literally salivating at how pro-education reform a Kimble administration would be.  I think anybody who cares about our children owes it to themselves to read this powerful book from a great man.