“I Hate School!”
That’s what a female senior student shouted at a community meeting of concerned parents and students I attended—desperate for change at their school. “I’ve waited so long for someone to help us!”
No Sense of Urgency
In this global age of information, nothing should alarm American parents and leaders more than the failure of our public schools. Quality education for our children becomes the true international currency and our American schoolchildren lag far behind students in most of the developed world.
Today’s educators can simply pass the students along to the next grade and eventually send them out into the world with nice-looking diplomas that are worth nothing.
A stunning 71% of Black students and 73% of Hispanic students are not proficient in grade-level English! And the numbers are 76% (Black students) and 70% (Latino students) respectively for those unable to do grade-level math.
Reform With No End
A Nation At Risk, published by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, was the rallying document for the modern school reform movement. It warned that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity” and “if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves…We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.”
When was this? It was back in 1983—over three decades ago—during the Reagan Administration. Thirty-three years of public school failure and it is far worse now than the state of public schools then.
Only a third of California voters know that public education is by far the biggest item of the state budget – sucking up half the $100 billion budget. Voters insist more money pour into the schools, not knowing California spends more on schools than the entire operating budgets of each of the 49 other states, including New York. [Current CA Budget: $167 billion]
The Governor’s 2006-07 budget puts total spending on K-12 in CA at $66.2 billion including $40 billion from the state budget, $12 billion in local property taxes, $1 billion from the state lottery, $7.5 billion in federal funds, $1.5 billion in local taxes to service school bonds and a few miscellaneous amounts. With a little over 6 million in K-12 enrollment, that works out to just under $11,000 per kid, a fairly impressive number.
Multiply $11,000 by 30 kids in a classroom for a total of $330,000 per year and subtract the teacher’s salary of $58,000 (CA average). What’s happening to the other $272,000?!
It’s 2016 and what has changed? Nothing! Just far more of America’s children lost to the Blob also known as our public education system.
“Waiting For Superman”
Political leaders in both parties have been talking about “fixing our schools”, “making our schools work”, or whatever popular phrase it at the time. However, the reality has always been at best far short of the rhetoric and more often no improvement at all. LAUSD is a dismal failure.
This is evident not only by test scores from middle schools to high schools, or college/university freshmen failing basic entrance exams; but what follows afterwards. By that I mean entering the “real world” -- the job market. It becomes a vicious cycle: Public schools don’t educate our kids. Colleges and universities spend time teaching kids what they should have learned before in public school classrooms rather than preparing them for higher education. Local businesses are unable to find the highly educated, skilled and qualified workers they need to compete. America suffers.
Let me quote Theodore Sizer, the former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, which received some of the grant money. A few years ago a reporter asked him if he could name a single reform in the last 15 years that had been successful. Sizer replied, “I don’t think there is one.”
The Battle Lines
Vast sums of money and millions of hours that have been spent on a myriad of “top-down” school reform efforts in the past quarter century. However, the significant progress hoped for has yet to be achieved. The dismal quality of education for the majority of black, hispanic and poor children remains unchanged.
What’s the reason? If it’s not money, is it politics? Yes!...and more.
It’s The Public versus The Self-Appointed Experts! Parents and children versus the Education Bureaucracy.
- Parents want teacher-centered, objective standards, high standards, all can learn classroom, and discipline.
- The Education Establishment wants a regime that’s student-centered, with subjective standards or no standards, water-downed and biased curriculum and tests. They are not creating empowerment in our communities. They are creating and maintaining a cycle of dependence and despair.
Our children must be prepared for the world of higher education and work. They are our future!