Follow the Money

From the header of

A friend of mine came back from an education conference held in Florida. It had great points, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to improve schools? When asked for her end assessment, though, she pondered and said one line:

Follow the money.

So I read a post today… a phenomenal post with precisely the tone all educators need to use- passionate, caring, knowledgeable when talking about the current destruction of education.

It is a post that speaks for itself. Here it is: Its About the Money, Stupid by Gene Gordon.

His comment on the bottom has me pondering… we need to get people talking, but not “the choir”– Hmm. Have to think about that… how to, how to…


Oh, yeah– and you might want to read the article, shared by Diane Ravitch, that inspired it all: Selling Schools Out.  There is a quote there, “One study estimated that revenues from the K-12 online learning industry will grow by 43 percent between 2010 and 2015, with revenues reaching $24.4 billion,” that might want you to watch this excellent video… “Which CEO Made $5 Million Stealing Your Kids Lunch Money?”

Have to warn you, though… digesting the post, article, and video might make your blood boil hotter than this dragon’s!

NYT: Enrollment Off in Big Districts, Forcing Lay-Offs

The NYT published a front-page article today, and it had some good quotes. 

First, in the opening paragraph, the article states school closures “have destabilized neighborhoods,” an essential point.  Schools are central to a community, and both the fragmentation caused by charter schools and the regimentation caused by standardized testing erodes the community relationship.  The Times (and author Motoko Rich) also got to a key consequence: school decline “can also affect the depth of a district’s curriculum, jeopardizing programs in foreign languages, music or art.”  

The erosion of art and creativity is of national concern, and it is hard not to place much of that at the feet of standardized testing and, as the NYT points out, charter schools, thanks to Michelle Rhee.

Michelle Rhee’s husband, Kevin Johnson,  was quoted in the article, saying “We have a record-low confidence in our public school.”  Hmm.  Wonder why that might be, Mr. Rhee?  Might it be because of disgusting ads aired by an organization seeking to privatize and profiteer education?  (See Gary Rubinstein’s blog deconstructing the ad.)   The article went on to talk about a mother who removed her child from public ed in Columbus, Ohio, placing her in a charter school, which have not been proven to be more effective than public ed nationally.

I am left with two thoughts:

I hadn’t realized that Michelle Rhee’s husband is mayor of Sacramento nor that he is head of education policy for the United States Conference of Mayors.  That is terrifying.  Public education is under attack from every direction and the message is controlled by people like Rhee/Johnson.  Ed reformers are in politics, on corporate boards, and, more and more, targeting local school board races.  Public ed is simply under attack.

The nation is on a dangerous course, and the NYT points it out:  “The students left behind…are increasing children with disabilities, in poverty, or learning English as a second language,” including that Cleveland’s special ed enrollment rose from 17 to 23 percent in a decade.  Let’s do some cause and effect here… the students left behind will be the most struggling… then Rhee and allies will hold up the charters and the public schools, both drawing vastly different populations, and compare them, maybe with a SuperBowl ad this time. 


New Berlin, Market Dynamics, and EJ Dionne

Today I read an article in the Milwaukee Sentinel that New Berlin, a school district that really altered their relationship with teachers as outlined here in a Blue Cheddar post, is facing a significant turn-over in staff.  Makes sense:  young teachers will try to leave if they can, giving other school districts the advantage of hiring experienced staff, and teachers near retirement will view this as an excellent opportunity to exit.  There is research that says that teacher stability is good for a whole school.  New Berlin may face a rocky road, but they created that road.

I understand that here in WI, one aspect feeding the fire against public servants is that in many communities, teachers are the ones who are financially healthy.  I get that.  That sums up the first community in which I taught.

What I don’t understand, however, is conservative confusion over market dynamics, particularly with the comments on New Berlin’s column.  These next years, many new teachers will opt to apply to Minnesota and Illinois, at least until their unions are destroyed, too.  Wisconsin will lose good teachers.

And I think we will definitely see teaching in general take a hit, with fewer entering the field.  Another article today stated “It’s time to give back what state’s teachers lost: Respect.”   I am not holding my breath.

When I became a teacher, there was good insurance, which I valued and sought as a family-centered person.  That is significantly altered.

When I became a teacher, there was security, which I valued and sought based on personal experience.  That is significantly altered.

And when I became a teacher, there was freedom and creativity, which I need.  That is significantly curtailed.

New Berlin sees  staff leave.  Wisconsin will face competition for good teachers from Minnesota and Illinois.  These are the market forces conservatives love so much.  But my kids have 11 years left in the public ed here in Wisconsin, and more, I hope, at the university level.  What will they endure?

I agree with EJ Dionne when he observes “Conservatives used to care about community” but “today’s conservatism is about low taxes, fewer regulations, less government– and little else.”  My kids’ eduction and my career were wrapped up in community, but it doesn’t matter to most conservatives.  Alas.