Education Built on the Backs of Our Children

A man walks into a doctor’s office.  He sits down nervously in a chair and waits for the doctor to join him.  While he waits, he looks around the room at the accolades that the doctor has received.  His eyes finally land on the prominently framed Harvard Medical School Diploma.  Still a little nervous, but feeling a little more at ease, he smiles as the doctor walks in the room.  The doctor sits down and promptly describes the procedure that the man is having.  Once the doctor is done he asks, “Do you have any questions?”

Nervously the man asks, “How many times have you performed this procedure?”

The doctor replies back simply, “None.”

The man shifts uncomfortable in his chair and then says, “Well I guess someone always has to be the first, but you have assisted in this procedure in the past, right?”

The doctor shakes his head no.

“Observed?”

“No, but I have studied for many years and I understand the concepts of the operation.”

The man rises from his chair and slowly begins to back out of the room.  As he leaves he says to the doctor, “You can have all the fine training and be first in your class and understand the concepts, but if you have never even held a scalpel in your hand what makes you so sure you know how to make the first cut?”

No Child Left Behind, Common Core, in theory were good ideas for education, but the practicality of them not so much.  Part of the problem being that the lawmakers who pushed for these initiatives may or may not have studied education.  And even if they did study education never even stepped foot into a classroom, but are now passing legislation on something they have never even practiced.  Anyone who knows me personally already knows how upset I was over the confirmation of Betsey DeVos.  I value education greatly, but unfortunately took it for granted most of my life.  It wasn’t until this past year in which I really realized how lucky I was for the education I was given.

quote-Malala-Yousafzai-let-us-remember-one-book-one-pen-252607Somehow in the last decade the education battle has become more of a political charade than about the core principles.  Instead of looking at the foundation and really delving into the issues, politicians have used it as leverage for political gain.  Betsey DeVos is the most recent example of this.   If we put our political stance and agendas aside and really looked into what the proposed changes in our education system would do to our children, I have a hard time believing that the majority would agree with it.

One of the things that I find so interesting about the proposed initiative by Betsey DeVos is the voucher system.  Where in theory it sounds like a really great idea, I also think in theory having chocolate three times a day is a good idea until I get a stomach ache.  Here’s one of the things I cannot wrap my brain around.  We have a standard for education right now, a base line if you will, public schools.  Every child in the 50 states has the right to an education from Kindergarten (depending on your state it isn’t an actual requirement) or first grade through 12th grade.  Anything above and beyond that is the sole responsibility of the parent.  For example, both my children did preschool.  Where it isn’t necessary and its superfluous to the requirements needed to start school, I enrolled my children.  No one else helped foot the bill for it.   It was my decision to do it and I paid for it.  Whereas I think private education is a fine avenue if that is your choice, it shouldn’t be paid on the back of the taxpayer’s dollar if you decide to do that.  I understand that private education offers many times valuable structure and morals that many parents feel is lacking the public school system, but again that is above the standard that has been set and it shouldn’t be paid by the general public.

If you look at two districts that already have the voucher system in place, Milwaukee and Cleveland it is indisputable that the vouchers end up costing taxpayers more – for administration and to pay the costs of students not formerly served in public schools.

Milwaukee

By 1998-99, about 6,000 Milwaukee students received vouchers worth about $5,000 each for a total cost of about $29 million. This created a net loss of $22 million to the public schools. (“Tax Funding for Private School Alternatives: The Financial Impact on Milwaukee Public Schools and Taxpayers,” Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, 1998)

Cleveland

For 2000-02, 3,900 Cleveland students received vouchers worth about $2,250 each at a cost of about $9 million. Additional transportation and administrative costs bring the total up to more than $10 million

Green Bay Public Schools flirted with the idea of adopting a voucher system and through their analysis of the fiscal effect of private school voucher expansion they found the following figures to be true: If a voucher program came to GBAPS with 200 new voucher students, district taxpayers would pay an additional $1,231,080 in property taxes. With 500 voucher students, district taxpayers would pay an additional $3,131,972 in property taxes. As the number of private school voucher students increases, so will the additional property taxes for GBAPS taxpayers. Private school voucher expansion means property taxes will rise.

I find it interesting that a lot of the constituents who are proponents of the voucher system, are also the same people who want to cut down on other public services.  For example, without getting into a debate about Welfare, many of the voucher proponents seek to restrict and limit social welfare spending.  I have to agree, I do not want the benefits of Welfare to go to those who aren’t truly in need of it or are abusing it.  However, why are we so quick to crack the whip on that, but want to exceed the spending on education for those who want to send their children to private school?  If that isn’t excessive spending I do not know what is.

For those of you who don’t know exactly what the bill spells out, please see below.  This has been taken verbatim from Congress.gov

“Choices in Education Act of 2017

This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states.

The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies (LEAs) based on the number of eligible children within each LEA’s geographical area. From these amounts, each LEA shall: (1) distribute a portion of funds to parents who elect to enroll their child in a private school or to home-school their child, and (2) do so in a manner that ensures that such payments will be used for appropriate educational expenses.

To be eligible to receive a block grant, a state must: (1) comply with education voucher program requirements, and (2) make it lawful for parents of an eligible child to elect to enroll their child in any public or private elementary or secondary school in the state or to home-school their child.

No Hungry Kids Act

The bill repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs. (In general, the rule requires schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat in school meals; and meet children’s nutritional needs within their caloric requirements.)”

The No Hungry Kids Act suffers the price.  Where it is true that the bill does not repeal the no free lunch for kids who qualify, it does significantly impact the quality of the food that all of our kids would be getting if they bought or received a free lunch.  I have heard people comment, “that beggars can’t be choosers,” however that apathetic remark just shows how poorly we are looking at the bigger picture.  Where I might be able to provide quality meals for my family, others are just scraping by.  Now the one meal that they could count on that was good for their children might no longer be viable.

Henry Steele CommagerI just finished reading, “I am Malala.”  For those of you who don’t know who she is, she is a remarkable young woman who is mainly known for her human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley in Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. October 9, 2012 Malala was injured after a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her.  Malala at 17 years old became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.  Where I am in no means comparing our fight for better education with the plight that Malala and many other women around the world go through each day just to go to school, I feel it is important to remember that without change, progress can never be made.  Growth does not happen without change.

 

“School Vouchers”, http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/school-choice-vouchers.aspx, March 11, 2017.

Pons, Michael, “School Vouchers: The Emerging Track Record” http://www.nea.org/home/16970.htm, March 11, 2017.

 

 

 

Advertisements

It’s Ok Not to Go to College

So what I am about to say I think is going to anger some of you, but as my kids get older, if appropriate I might say to them, “It’s ok, you don’t have to go to college.”

I want my kids when they become adults to be happy, successful, and do something they enjoy.  With that being said, college might not be the answer.  As I have mentioned many times in the past I value education. However, I do realize not everyone fits in the same box or mold.  Some career choices a four year degree would not be helpful.  For instance, to become a beautician a BS or BA degree would not be beneficial.

Then there is the other side of it. In today’s high pressure for children to succeed we have forgotten one important thing, not all kids are built for college.  In recent years we have begun to put unrealistic expectations on our children.  Not only does not every profession require a college education, but not every child is built for it.  Today’s standard for education is quite frankly unattainable for some.  In some ways I feel as though we are setting up our children to fail.  To make every child feel like he must go to college when maybe that is an unrealistic road for him to take is not right.  I think it’s very important to push our kids to try hard, however we have lost sight on the fact that not all kid’s definition of success means college.  In doing this, we have set our children up for failure and disappointment instead of finding an appropriate avenue for them that they can achieve at.  Furthermore, we have created a feeling that may reside in our children if they do not go to college it is shameful

I read an article recently that said the freshman college dropout/flunk out rate in the last 10 years has gone up 30%.  Part of it I believe  has to do with social promotion (which is a discussion for another day) but the other part has to do with the fact that nowadays it’s assumed that everyone goes to college whether equipped for it or not. As parents I think part of our job is to help our kids focus on an attainable goal for them. Just as not every kid likes the color red, or likes chocolate cake, not every kid is meant to be a doctor. That in part is what makes the world go around. Our differences are how we learn new things and develop new ideas. If we were all meant to do the same thing then not only would this world be a very boring place but there would be no individual. We need to embrace these differences and help our children achieve what is best for them.

Ode to Teachers – Happy Teacher Appreciation Day

It started similarly for all of us. We were five or six years old, a brand new box of crayons, and 20 or so new faces among us. This was the beginning of our school years. We learned how to spell our names and add 1 +1 and began making new friends.   Through the years our skills increased and we learned to read and write and multiple and divide. But as things became more difficult at times we had to stay after for extra help. We got involved with band, chorus, theater, and sports. We did it all not really thinking about the people that made this all possible. The Teachers.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and specifically today is Teacher Appreciation Day. All too often these committed and dedicated people are forgotten or even at times ridiculed. These people give so much of their time to our children and most of time all we do is complain instead of praise these giving people.

What parents and the general public forget is that for many teachers their day begins prior to the first bell and are still at schools hours after the last bell either grading papers, overseeing clubs and sports, or talking to a student who just needed an ear to listen. We all too often forget these teachers on the weekends are preparing for the week, creating lessons, and grading papers. It’s the teachers who guide and help the students plan the perfect prom and schedule the eventful class trips. It’s the teachers who chaperon the dances and coach the baseball games, and yet somehow in the last several years these hardworking people have come under fire.

Everyone has an opinion on how the world of education should be run, how teacher’s lessons should be structured, what should go on in a classroom, and how every student should reach a certain score. The problem is that many people who are creating these rules and having these opinions, have never spent quality time teaching. It’s quite easy to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do, how things should or shouldn’t be, but until you actually do this job all the philosophies of teaching don’t mean that much.   It would be like taking some classes in medical school, never performing a surgery, and then suggesting to surgeon how they should perform in their job.

Whether you have a child in school right now, or maybe you yourself are in school, take the time to say thank you. It goes unnoticed quite frequently how much time and effort these people put into what they do. To all the teachers out there, thank you for everything you do. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you.

 

Why are we not letting our kids be kids?

I was talking to a woman today while waiting on the deli line at the grocery store and we began talking about our children.  I mentioned that Liam was in preschool.  Our conversation evolved from that and at one point I mentioned how excited I am to take our children to Sesame Place this summer.  It was at that point the woman looked at me in horror.  My first reaction was maybe I am misreading this and then she simply stated, “Anna is spending the summer in enrichment classes.”  Our conversation ended there.

Let me take a moment to give you a small background on me.  I am a daughter of a teacher, a sister of a teacher, and a wife of a teacher.  I graduated college with a BA in Media Studies and English.  I value education.  I think education is very important and should not be an entitlement but there for everyone.  With that said is there not a time where we can let our kids just be kids?  Shouldn’t they have the chance to use their imaginations?  How about play in the mud and dare I say get dirty?  I fear that we are creating a future where our children are not going to know how to play.  That might not seem like such a travesty but without playing we do not expand our imaginations.  And an imagination can create and think up some miraculous things.

As I stated above I am surrounded by teachers and although I am not one I do think I have some understanding of the pressure and rigor that our teachers and students are put through.  Putting the new common core standards aside I feel as though we are creating a generation of test anxiety children who truly believe that anything less than an A is unacceptable and anything less than a B is failing.  Why are we doing this to them?  Is it because we wished we had done better in school?  Or is that we hope for more opportunities for our children?  Even if it is the latter at what cost is it worth it?

Every night my husband and I read to our children.  Every game is a counting, color, shapes, etc learning experience however we also have time to just play.  To pretend, to dream, to make believe.  We cannot lose sight on these important aspects because we are not raising robots we are raising children that I would have to believe we want to be happy.  There is a time and place for everyhing but just remember there is also time to be silly and free.