Friday, January 25, 2013

Let's All Celebrate School Choice Week

It's National School Choice Week and I believe if there is one thing worth celebrating, it's school choice.  Choice means a great deal in education and even more amazing, it means different things to different people.  I think it's important that we celebrate school choice in all it's forms.

Charter schools across this country can celebrate school choice because they have the right to choose if they are public schools or private schools.   An NLRB decision this month declared charter schools private schools making it much harder to unionize.  However, a Supreme Court decision on recess appointments means that decision no longer is in effect.  I think that charters work best as public schools when it comes to tax dollars and private schools when it comes to labor and transparency.

This week we also celebrate the right of charter schools to choose who they want to educate and to get rid of students that they are tired of trying to teach.  I think we all should celebrate this aspect of school choice.

Of course whole states get to join in the party this week.  Take North Carolina for example where parents can choose what race they want their children educated with.  Anybody who saw the movie Remember the Titans saw just how tough integration was in the South, but just imagine how much better that movie would have been as two movie---one about a plucky white football team and another about a scrappy black football team. 

In New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago they are choosing which schools they want to support, which ones they want to continue to neglect, and which ones they want to turn over to private operators.  They way I look for it, if a middle man works in health insurance, why wouldn't it work in education?

Of course, with choice comes foolish choices.  In Seattle some teachers have had the temerity to attempt to choose which assessments to give to their students.   Fortunately, freedom can only go so far.  Have a great school choice week everybody!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Representative Jack Kimble Responds to Karen Lewis

[This article is reprinted with permission from Jack Kimble's personal blog.  He is a Republican Congressman representing California's 54th District and a member of Last Stand for Children First's Board of Directors]

Recently, it came to my attention that Chicago Teachers Union Boss Karen Lewis had made some extremely disturbing comments about labor history.  Here they are, but I warn you they're not for the faint of heart:

”The labor leaders of that time, though, were ready to kill. They were. They were just - off with their heads. They were seriously talking about that.“I don’t think we’re at that point. The key is that they think nothing of killing us. They think nothing about putting us in harm’s way. They think nothing about lethal working conditions.”
As you can see, she's practically calling for workers to rise up and kill everybody making more money them.   No less an authority than Michelle Malkin called Karen Lewis "Chicago thuggery personified."

Still, my complaint isn't that Karen Lewis is inciting violence, but that she was speaking at a labor history conference and acting like labor history was all about violent confrontations between labor and management.   Could anything be further from the truth?   Sure, there were violent trade unionists, but that was mostly from agitators and communists.  I believe a better depiction of labor history in our country comes from this 10 minute video that was made by the National Association of Manufacturers in 1940.

This is the type of employee/ worker relationship that I grew up with.   Workers would help companies and the companies would help their employees.  When employees wanted more money, they simply asked for it and if it wasn't too unreasonable, the employer gave it to them.  Even more, sometimes productivity grew enough the employers could give benefits or shorter work schedules for their workers.  That's the spirit that built America.

My grandfather was a friend to workers and businesses alike.  When there was a strike, some of his buddies and him would head down to the picket line and they could usually be counted on to break up a work action almost immediately.  Workers respected them and if they didn't, they were probably communists anyway.

Please don't be fooled by tearer-downers like Karen Lewis.  I wonder why people like that always want to stir up trouble.  The video talks about man named Manson who had a dream.  I think we need to ask ourselves, do we want to follow Karen Lewis's dream or Manson's?  I for one am following Manson.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Last Stand for Children First Awards State Education Report Cards

Today, Last Stand for Children First was proud to announce it's state report card for education.  Scores were generated by a wide variety of data and sadly, it shows that America's schoolchildren are not being put first and are not getting the education that they deserve.  Another education group released their report cards as well.  Whose scores are more accurate?  It's hard to say, but then again our ratings don't have an inverse relationship to the states' NAEP scores. 

  • Only 2 states received a B-, and there was only 1 C+
  • Only 9 states received a grade of C or C-
  • 22 States received grades of F
It is time that we begin to put our educational house in order.   The fact that very few states are making the grade shows a systemic failure across the American public education system.  We rated states on the following criteria:

  • The Cost of a Roll of Duct Tape - Duct tape is a versatile and effective teaching tool.
  • Teacher salaries - The less money spent on teachers, the more money can get where it's needed to help students achieve.
  • Corporal Punishment - States that allow teachers to inflict corporal punishment are less likely to interfere with a teacher performing behavior modifications like duct taping students' mouths shut.
  • Fraud Prosecutions - States that overreact to fraud are less likely to be great places to open a charter school or a child advocacy organization.

State Grades

Oklahoma 1 9 4 16 30 B-
Mississippi 3 10 1 16 30 B-
Kentucky 2 7 12 16 37 C+
Missouri 11 4 9 16 40 C 
Tennessee 4 15 6 16 41 C
Nebraska 6 2 18 16 42 C
Kansas 8 7 14 16 45 C
West Virginia 17 3 18 7 45 C
Nevada 20 2 18 5 45 C
Arkansas 7 25 2 16 50 C-
Indiana 9 18 10 13 50 C-
Alabama 12 20 3 16 51 C-
Iowa 15 6 18 16 55 D+
Georgia 14 28 7 8 57 D+
Idaho 10 22 11 16 59 D+
Texas 5 32 7 16 60 D+
South Carolina 18 13 13 16 60 D+
Utah 13 17 18 16 64 D 
Colorado 31 16 16 2 65 D
Florida 27 27 12 1 67 D
South Dakota 34 1 18 16 69 D
Ohio 16 29 15 16 70 D
Montana 28 8 18 16 70 D
Louisiana 19 23 5 15 72 D
Arizona 32 11 16 13 72 D
North Carolina 22 12 15 16 75 D-
New Mexico 25 21 13 16 75 D-
North Dakota 30 12 18 16 76 D-
Virginia 24 34 18 7 83 F
Wisconsin 26 26 18 16 86 F
Illinois 23 31 18 15 87 F
Maine 40 19 18 16 93 F
Michigan 21 41 18 14 94 F
Washington 35 36 18 9 98 F
Delaware 38 39 18 3 98 F
Minnesota 36 30 18 16 100 F
Wyoming 29 38 18 16 101 F
Pennsylvania 33 42 18 16 108 F
Vermont 41 33 18 16 108 F
Oregon 37 40 18 16 111 F
New Hampshire 42 35 18 16 111 F
Maryland 44 45 18 4 111 F
Massachusetts 39 46 18 16 119 F
New Jersey 46 48 18 10 122 F
Hawaii 51 38 18 16 123 F
California 45 50 18 12 125 F
Rhode Island 43 49 18 16 126 F
Connecticut 48 44 18 16 126 F
Alaska 47 47 18 16 128 F
District of Columbia 50 44 18 16 128 F
New York 49 48 18 11 136

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 - A Banner Year in Education Reform

It was a banner year for education reform.  We told our story on the big screen in Won't Back Down and the movie broke 25 year old box office records.  It was also a heartwarming story of what can happen when parents band together to turn over public resources to corporations looking to take over a school.  It was easily one of the three most realistic school movies of the year along with Pitch Perfect and Red Dawn, which also demonstrated just how far our school children are falling behind Korea.

2012 was a great year for Michelle Rhee who showed herself as a true champion not only of putting students first, but of respecting second amendment rights as her organization endorsed many of the Michigan state legislators who pushed to allow concealed carry in Michigan schools.   After the Newtown shootings however, she wasted no time in reminding people what's really important saying in a statement, "events like these also strengthen our resolve to do exactly that -- improve schools for children and thereby improve entire communities. The entire StudentsFirst organization -- including the members of our team in Connecticut -- recommit ourselves to that mission today."

Charter schools were in the news as NorthStar High School in Florida shut its doors for financial difficulty and had to let million dollar a year principal Kelly Young go.   Nearly three quarters of NorthStar’s students failed the state reading test; half failed in math, but Young pocketed a salary of at least $824,000 a year.  Still, it couldn't be easy to work for a school that couldn't afford adequate resources.  State governments need to do something about funding for charter schools. 

In Chicago, I wonder how long Juan Rangel and his $260,000+ salary will continue to be able to have school openings like this one, if charters do not receive more tax dollars. 

Speaking of Chicago, Rahm Emnauel showed himself to be a true reformer by standing up to the Chicago Teachers Union and crushing their strike.  Rahm managed to retain the right for principals to demand math and read be taught in school and that teachers work a set day rather than coming and going whenever they feel like it. 

Michigan became a right to work state.  Nothing can turn an economy around faster than an abundance of new $8 an hour jobs and I expect most Michigan residents will be happy to snap up 2 or 3 of these jobs themselves.

Jonathan Alter proved to be the journalist of the year.  Alter was quick to pounce when Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis posted on Diane Ravitch's blog, "Rosenberg’s “false outrage” needs to be checked. That same false outrage should show itself when policies his colleagues support kill and disenfranchise children from schools across this nation. We in Chicago have been the victims of their experiments on our children since the current secretary of Education “ran” CPS."

Jonathan Alter responded, "Chicago Teachers union Pres Karen Lewis says TFA "killing children".

It's not like there are a bunch of school children dying in Chicago now or something.  Sure, there are students being attacked and killed because their schools were shut down without paying attention to gang or neighborhood boundaries.  Sure, the supporters of that policy are the same ones who support TFA, but that doesn't mean that TFA is killing students.  Karen Lewis is way out of line as you can see.

Finally, Diane Ravitch continues to hate children, but that's neither here nor there.

Many great education reformers have moved on to bigger and better things.   Tony Bennet, for instance, has left Indiana and I am sure we'll be hearing great things from him.

Finally, a court ruled Louisiana's great voucher program unconstitutional and students are again being indoctrinated with talk of climate change and gravity.  Small children are being told that The Flintstones is not a documentary and that handling poison snakes is a dangerous thing to do regardless of your faith.  Still, I am sure the voucher bill will be retooled and provide a blueprint for our country in the days to come.