Why are we publishing a thing she says as anything other than standup comedy?
She knows nothing about public schools. She never went to them as a student. She never sent her own children to them. In fact, she only started visiting them in her official role as Secretary of Education!
“I mean, the fact that our PISA scores have continued to deteriorate as compared to the rest of the world and that we’ve seen stagnant at best results with the NAEP scores over the years. I’m not sure we can deteriorate a whole lot.”
Internationally, our test scores have always been in the middle of the pack. And that shouldn’t be surprising.
We provide every child with an education. Many of the countries we’re compared with internationally don’t. That means we’re going to have lower test scores. You’re comparing ALL of our kids with only the best academic achievers in Asia, Scandinavia and other countries.
Add to that the overwhelming child poverty rate in the United States – something completely absent in most of these other nations we’re being measured against. Obviously our poorer kids who get fewer resources than your richer kids won’t do as well on standardized tests. You’re not comparing apples-to-apples. And whenever you make the adjustment for poverty, our students score at the top of the scale!
Betsy, please just stop. The blatant ignorance coming out of your mouth hurts. It’s embarrassing.
But perhaps there is a silver lining here. We’re used to hearing these lies from more credible sources. Before becoming Education Secretary, Arne Duncan and John King had advanced degrees. They ran major metropolitan school systems. DeVos is just rich.
Just this week, Trump unveiled a new government office with sweeping authority to overhaul federal bureaucracy on the business model.
Led by the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, The White House Office of American Innovation will be an autonomous entity enforcing the president’s will. Described as an internal “SWAT team” of strategic consultants, and staffed with former business executives, the office will cut down democratic rule in favor of top-down authoritarianism.
And the excuse is the same one used to deny equity for minorities, the same one used to dismantle protections for the poor and the same one used to unfairly label and close our public schools – we need to run government like a business.
The goal of a business is profit for the few. The goal of government is service to the many.
In a private business only the owner or the board of directors reaps the benefits. But our government is not supposed to be set up that way. It’s not supposed to benefit merely all the president’s men. It’s supposed to benefit all of us – the citizens, the taxpayers, the voters.
We have shifted our concern away from students and parents to investors and corporations. For almost two decades, our education policies have increasingly been to reduce local control – especially at schools serving the poor and minorities – and give that control to private charter school operators. We have removed the duly-elected school boards and replaced them with appointed boards of directors. We have removed or diminished democratic rule and replaced it with an autocracy. And all the while the middle class has cheered.
It was a coup in plain site, and no one but parents, students, teachers and intellectuals spoke up.
When our schools were increasingly segregated by race, class and income, we were told that it was only fair. After all, it was based on choice – the choice of the invisible hand of the free market. When our schools were starved of resources, we were told to do more with less. And when our students struggled to survive malnutrition, increased violence and the indentured servitude of their parents to an economic system that barely allowed them to sustain themselves, we blamed them. And their teachers, because how dare anyone actually try to help these untouchables!
Our kids went to either well resourced public schools with fully elected school boards and shiny new facilities or else we sent our children to pristine private schools that offered the best of everything for a price.
But now the chickens have come home to roost.
Because this same model is being applied to our government.
Now it is us who will lose our voices. It will be our services that are stripped away as an unnecessary cost savings. We will lose our healthcare. We will lose our environment. It will be our democracy suspended to make way for the more efficient means of government – fascism and autocracy.
Who has time to listen to the people? Much easier to just decide what should be done. And we can justify it with our business model. No more voters and representatives. Now we will be businessmen and consumers. Nothing will stand in the way of the corporate class enriching themselves at public expense. They will be merely providing the rest of us with the goods and services of government, the bits that trickle down on our heads like rain or urine.
But when I found out she had taken the GRADE Test, a Pearson assessment not mandated by the state but required by my home district in order the receive state grant funding, I hit the roof.
I know the GRADE test. I’m forced to give a version of it to my own 8th grade students at a nearby district where I work. It stinks.
Ask any classroom teacher and they’ll tell you how useless it is. Giving it is at best a waste of class time. At worst it demoralizes children and teaches them that the right answer is arbitrary – like trying to guess what the teacher is thinking.
I talked candidly to her kindergarten teacher about it. I trust her judgment, so I wanted to know what she thought. And she agreed that these tests were far from necessary. So I set up a meeting with the principal.
The meeting lasted about an hour. Sure, it was a little scary. No one wants to rock the boat. But even he agreed with most of what I had to say. He didn’t feel as strongly about it as I did, but he respected my wishes and that was that.
She loves creating these illustrated books telling the wildest narratives: Colorful superheroes blast bad guys into oblivion. Game show hosts get lost in other dimensions. Even her Mommy and Daddy get in on the action riding Yoshi through Super Mario land.
Often she adds text to these adventures. Her spelling could use some work, but I’m impressed that an 8-year-old even attempts some of these words. Sometimes she writes more in her adventure books than my 8th graders do on their assigned homework.
As you can see, it hasn’t stopped me. But I teach in a high poverty, mostly minority district. My kids’ parents often don’t have the time to come up to the school or even return phone calls. They’re working two or three jobs. They’re struggling just to put food on the table. They don’t have time for standardized tests!
So every test season I sadly watch my students trudge away at their federally mandated bubbles. I see their anxiety, their frustration, their sad, sad faces.
And it breaks my heart.
But then I come home to my daughter’s exuberant creations!
There is only one thing you need to know: we will hold you accountable.
That’s right. We will hold YOU, personally, responsible.
If a terrorist attacks the United States, we will hold YOU accountable.
If a foreign power attacks us, we will hold YOU responsible.
If desperate and frightened Americans lash out at law enforcement or our military, we will hold YOU accountable.
We will not all rally together behind you. We will not close ranks. We will not hide behind the flag and join together to fight whichever enemy you point out.
We have lost too much innocence to believe such fairy tale propaganda anymore. George W. Bush used up the last drop of our bedtime story gullibility. We don’t roll that way anymore. We are cynical and awake.
You will not take advantage of our patriotism. You will not herd us like cattle to follow blindly after you.
So you will be held accountable if things go south. Because you deserve it.
You will be held responsible – not those poor devils who voted for you out of desperation. You will be taken to account – you and the other billionaire kleptomaniacs who gave voters only a choice of plutocracy or plutocracy – a choice of corporate controlled Democrats or corporate owned Republicans, a slow or a quick death.
Do not for one second think that war or violence or terrorism is in your best interest. It isn’t.
This sad excuse for a man actually proposes that guns and tanks are more important than school children. Perhaps his motto should be “Save the guns! Fuck the children!”
No wonder he obsesses about the size of his hands and literally brags about the size of his genitals on the campaign trial. Can you imagine the infinitesimal pecker you would have to possess to need to brandish phallic pistols instead of taking care of the children in your fucking care!?
What a disgrace!
And moreover, he doesn’t even know how to effectively use the armed forces at his disposal.
Against advice from the military, this pustule with a fake weave authorized a disastrous raid in Yemen in early February that left a US Navy SEAL and 14 civilians dead including an 8-year-old American girl, Nawar al-Awlaki.
At least we know where all this military money will be going. It’s cash for his toy chest so Trump can play army with our sons and daughters. Sure, there will be no more public schools, but if your kids survive to adulthood, they can be Trump’s toys soldiers!
Moreover, look at where this overgrown Cheeto is making the cuts. In order to pay for a $1.4 billion increase in charter and voucher schools, the majority of these cuts come at the expense of the nation’s public schools – institutions serving 90% of our students.
I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise. We’re talking about the founder of Trump University – a fake business school that forced this professional liar to settle out of court for millions. Of course he sides with charter and voucher schools! They’re the kind of institutions he knows – scams!
The priority isn’t school children. It’s wealthy investors that can cash in with our tax dollars burdened by little-to-no oversight.
The program serves more than 7.8 million people about three-quarters of which are children and infants.
So this human-sized hemorrhoid has money for guns and businessmen but pinches pennies on infant’s baby formula. Make no mistake – children will die because of this. And those who do survive will grow up malnourished. Their brains will not be as fully developed as middle class and wealthy kids. They will not do as well in school, they’ll struggle to even graduate and boost the numbers of our special education population.
“Let’s talk about after-school programs generally: they’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school. Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence that they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better in school.”
(Interior: a public school classroom during an after school staff meeting. Teachers are seated at student desks including Singer, Moss and Aaronow. Williamson, a middle school principal, stands in front of the room flanked by Blake, a motivational speaker brought in by the state. Singer is furiously grading papers. The other teachers are pleasantly chatting about trifles before Blake calls the gathering to attention.)
Let me have your attention for a moment! So you’re talking about what? You’re talking about that kid you failed, some son of a bitch who doesn’t want to pass, some snot-nosed brat you’re trying to remediate and so forth. Let’s talk about something important. Are they all here?
All but one.
Well, I’m going anyway. Let’s talk about something important! (to Singer) Put that colored marker down!
But I’m grading papers…
I said Put that marker down! Markers are for testers only.
Do you think I’m fucking with you? I am not fucking with you. I’m here from downtown. I’m here from the Governor and the Legislature. And I’m here on a mission of mercy. Your name’s Singer?
Yeah. Mister Singer, actually.
You call yourself a teacher, you son of a bitch?
I don’t have to listen to this.
You certainly don’t, Madam. Cause the good news is – you’re fired. The bad news is you’ve got, all you got, just one week to regain your jobs, starting today. Starting with today’s meeting.
What!? The union contract doesn’t allow you to just fire us all without cause.
Union!? There ain’t no more union! This is a Right to Work state now, Bitch. And that means you have the right to work – for less – until I fire your sorry ass.
Oh, have I got your attention now? Good. Cause we’re adding a little something to this month’s merit pay. As you all know, the teacher whose students get the highest test scores gets a bonus. First prize is a thousand bucks. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize is a box of pencils. Third prize is you’re fired. You get the picture? You’re laughing now?
That’s ridiculous. Mrs. Moss teaches the advanced kids. All her students get high test scores.
What? And your kids are in the general track? They don’t get high test scores? Then step it up, Singer! You want to get a paycheck in this district, you’ve got to earn a paycheck. You got test prep manuals. The school board paid good money for them. Get those workbooks so your kids can pass the test!
Workbooks!? That’s not learning?
That’s where you’re wrong. Workbooks are the only learning that counts! Kids take the tests that show whether you’re doing your fucking jobs! You want to keep working here? You want to keep sucking at the public tit? You get those kids to pass the motherfucking tests. And those workbooks do that. They teach kids how to pass the motherfucking tests!
But my kids are all from poor homes. They’re malnourished. They don’t get the same medical care. There are no books in their homes. Many of them suffer from PTSD from abuse or exposure to violence….
And you think they deserve some kind of entitlement? A medal? Fuck them and fuck you! Let me make one thing perfectly clear – If you can’t get your students to pass shit, you ARE shit, hit the bricks, Pal, and beat it cause you are going out!
Are you kidding me right now? You want my students to pass these tests. The tests are unfair. They’re economically and culturally biased. The connection between the tests and learning is weak.
The fucking tests are weak? You’re weak. I’ve been in this business for fifteen weeks.
Fifteen weeks? Try thirty years.
Anyone who’s still a teacher after thirty years should be put to sleep. All you need is a year or two. That’s what I’m doing. Teach for America. Five weeks training, two year commitment, then move on to Washington where you can advise lawmakers on what schools need.
What’s your name?
Fuck you, that’s my name! You know why, Missy? Cause you drove a Hyundai to get to work. I drove an eighty thousand BMW. That’s my name.
I took the bus.
(To Singer) And your name is “you’re wanting.” You can’t play in a man’s game. You can’t teach them. (at a near whisper) And you go home and tell your wife your troubles.
(to everyone again) Because only one thing counts in this life! Get them to score above basic. Get them to demonstrate the minimum skills necessary!
What about what they think and feel?
No one gives a shit about what they think and feel. You hear me, you fucking faggots?
(Blake flips over a blackboard which has two sets of letters on it: ABT, and AITP.)
A-B-T. A- Always, B-be, T-testing. Always be testing! Always be testing!! A-I-T-P. Attention, interest, testing, passing. Attention — do I have your attention? Interest — are you interested? I know you are because it’s fuck or walk. Your kids pass or you hit the bricks! Testing – you will test those students by Christ!! And passing. A-I-T-P; get out there!! You got the students comin’ in; you think they came in to get out of the rain?
Actually, many of my students live in public housing down there by the railroad tracks. You know those slums? Roofs leak in half those units…
And for a lot of kids school is the only structure they get all day. Their parents are out working two to three jobs. They have to take care of themselves and often younger siblings.
And food. Don’t forget food. If it wasn’t for the free breakfast and lunch program, many of my kids wouldn’t eat…
Bullshit. A kid doesn’t walk into this school unless he wants to pass. That’s why they’re here! They want to learn! They’re sitting out there waiting to be told what to do. Are you gonna’ tell ‘em? Are you man enough to tell them?
I’m a woman. Most of us are women.
(to Moss) What’s the problem, Pal?
You think you’re such a hero, you’re so rich. Why are you coming down here and wasting your time on a bunch of bums?
(Blake sits and takes off his gold watch)
You see this watch? You see this watch?
That watch cost more than your SMART Board. (Takes off his shoe) You see this shoe? Italian. It costs more than your entire salary. (slicks back his hair) You see this haircut?
I get it.
Do you? Because I do. I made 26 million dollars last year. How much do you make? You see, Pal, that’s who I am. And you’re nothing. Nice person? I don’t give a shit. Good mother? Fuck you – go home and play with your kids!! (to everyone) You wanna work here? Test!! (to Aaronow) You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can’t take this — how can you take the abuse you get in a classroom?! You don’t like it — leave. I can go out there tomorrow with the materials you got, make myself a thousand dollars in merit pay! Tomorrow! In one class! Can you? Can you? Go and do likewise! A-I-T-P!! Get mad! You sons of bitches! Get mad!!
Oh, I’m mad. I’m mad that a shallow schmuck like you thinks he can come in here and tell us how to do our jobs. School is about so much more than test scores. You can’t reduce it all to a multiple choice assessment. These kids need a broad curriculum, not just reading and math. They need science, art, social studies, foreign language, recess – all the stuff the rich kids get at the $50,000 a year private schools. And all you want to give them are standardized tests!
You know what it takes to teach public school?
(He pulls something out of his briefcase. He’s holding up a hammer and a plastic model of a one-room schoolhouse. He puts the model down on Aaronow’s desk and then smashes it to pieces with the hammer.)
It takes school choice to teach in a public school. It takes charter and voucher schools, schools run like a business – not this mamby, pamby, commie, socialist shit!
Choice? Is that what you call letting private interests suck up public tax dollars without the same transparency and regulations as public schools? You mean schools not run by an elected school board, who meet in private and do almost whatever they please with our tax dollars? You mean schools that can turn away the hardest to teach children – unlike public schools that take everyone?
I’m talking about schools with balls! (He puts the hammer over his crotch,– he puts it away after a pause)
You want a paycheck? Do like the choice schools do — Go and do likewise, folks. The money’s out there, you pick it up, it’s yours. You don’t–I have no sympathy for you. You wanna go into your classes tomorrow and test and get your kids to pass, it’s yours. If not you’re going to be shining my shoes. Bunch of losers sitting around in a bar. (in a mocking weak voice) “Oh yeah, I used to be a teacher, it’s a tough racket.” (he takes out a software package from his briefcase) This is the new Common Core aligned diagnostic system. It’s like the MAP, Study Island, iReady and iStation – only better.
Those programs suck.
This is better. With it, your students will sit behind a computer screen for several hours every day taking stealth assessments.
You mean mini-tests?
No. Not mini-tests. They’ll run through the program and get instruction on every Common Core standard and their answers will show how much they’ve learned.
They’re tests. Standardized tests. Every day.
This is the Pearson leads. And to you, it’s gold. And you don’t get it. Why? Because to give it to you is just throwing it away. (he hands the software to Williamson) It’s for testers. (sneeringly) Not teachers.
I’d wish you good luck but you wouldn’t know what to do with it if you got it. (to Moss as he puts on his watch again) And to answer your question, Pal: why am I here? I came here because the Governor and Legislature are paying me to be here. They’re paying me a lot more than you. But I don’t have to take their money. I can make that tying my shoes. They asked me for a favor. I said, the real favor, follow my advice and fire your fucking ass because a loser is a loser.
(He stares at Moss for a sec, and then picking up his briefcase, he leaves the room with Williamson)
What an asshole.
He may be an asshole but he’s got the state on his side.
This isn’t what I signed up for. This isn’t why I became a teacher.
What did you sign up for?
TO TEACH! Not to be some… some… glorified real estate agent!
It’s funny. We know how crazy all this testing, Common Core, and charter school crap is, but no one wants to hear us.
And now without collective bargaining, we can’t even speak up without fear of being fired.
Fear!? If we don’t push all this teaching to the test nonsense, they’re going to fire us. And if we do, they can replace us with computer programs. We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
Not if people wake up. (Moss and Aaronow scoff) Not if the public takes a stand, if parents and teachers opt their kids out of the tests…
Didn’t you hear the man!? They’re putting the kids on computer programs to test them every day!
Then we fight every day. We protest every day. We get parents together and other concerned citizens and we go to the capital and we fight. Call your representative. Go to your Senator’s office. Stage a sit in. Hold a mock trial. Write a blog parodying a scene from a famous movie. Get public attention. Make some noise.
And you think people will care? You think people will know?
We’ll teach them. We’ll show them. That’s what we do.
First, the ESSA still mandates annual testing. Even without the Obama guidelines, students will still be tested in grades 3-8 and once in high school.
Second, Alexander says the law still requires each state to hold its public schools accountable. Each state must submit a plan detailing how it intends to do that by September of 2017. There is plenty of latitude on exactly how states will do this, but whatever they decide, this new accountability system must be implemented by next school year (2017-2018).
Moreover, he says, states have to identify and provide support to at least the lowest performing 5% of their schools. This must be done by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
They also must use academic and English language proficiency indicators in their accountability systems. Which indicators? Standardized testing? Maybe – maybe not.
Many accountability provisions, such as the requirement that educators measure reading scores, math scores, and graduation rates, are specifically mentioned in the ESSA.
Still, many questions remain.
For instance: if the Department of Education isn’t allowed to tell states what to do, how is it supposed to help them comply with the law?
Alexander cites “Non-regulatory guidance; Dear Colleague letters; Frequently-Asked-Questions documents; Webinars, phone calls, and in-person conferences.”
Alexander stresses that repealing the Obama regulations does not open to door for the Department of Education to mandate a nationwide school voucher plan – unfortunately.
He writes, “A school choice program cannot be unilaterally created by the Department of Education. Only Congress could create a voucher program, and, unfortunately, Congress has rejected doing that.”
This change was less controversial. Eight Democrats joined Republicans in voting to repeal the teacher preparation regulations. By comparison, no Democrats voted to dismantle the accountability rules and one Republican joined them in opposition.
The main point of contention was the requirement that states develop a rating system aimed at evaluating the success of their teacher preparation programs. This would have included how programs’ teachers perform based on a measure of student academic achievement. Though the final version gained some flexibility with how to determine student academic success beyond just test scores, it remained a hot mess.
Any programs that didn’t perform well on the state’s rating system would have lost access to federal grants aimed at supporting teachers who work in high-need certification areas and in low-income schools (or TEACH grants). In effect, it would have pushed for a new generation of teachers dedicated to test prep and Common Core.
I hope I’m wrong, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Perhaps the standardized testing industry has consolidated so much support at the various Republican controlled state legislatures that it no longer needs support in Washington. Perhaps our ridiculously gerrymandered state legislative districts will make any resistance even more difficult. Perhaps a completely toothless Department of Education will embolden the most racist state legislators to dramatically increase segregation and civil rights abuses for the poor and minorities.
But as soon as Trump ascended to the Oval Office, many conservatives gave up their objections to this same kind of federal overreach.
Apparently Obama was wrong to push charters, but Trump is just fine pushing school vouchers. Obama was wrong to require high stakes testing, but Trump is just fine requiring the same thing. Obama was wrong to push Common Core, but all these Republican-controlled state houses that could eliminate Common Core tomorrow are right to leave it in place unchallenged.
This is incredibly hypocritical. Yet it’s not just with this one issue.
We see the same thing with healthcare. What we now call Obamacare was invented by a far right think tank, the Heritage Foundation. It was first implemented by Mitt Romney as Governor of Massachusetts. But as soon as Obama took up essentially the same policy, conservatives put forward hysterical opposition. And now the Trump administration is Hell-bent on repealing Obamacare – a far right solution to healthcare – simply because a black Democrat touched it.
The same thing happens on the left.
Corporate Democrats advocate hard for public tax dollars to be used to fund essentially private schools. That’s what charter schools are – schools run by private interests but labeled public only because that’s where the money comes from. Yet when Republicans advocate giving tax dollars to private schools without the “charter” label, corporate Democrats pretend like it’s the largest ideological divide since the Cold War. It’s not. There is very little difference between charter schools and school vouchers – both are terrible policies that fund essentially private schools with public money, but Democrats pretend like one is the silver bullet to all our education problems and the other is death personified.
It’s disgusting, but it works.
This kind of sophistry fools a lot of voters.
People still think politics is a football game. There are two teams. You pick one and stick with it no matter what.
However, it’s just a con. Both sides are out to screw you over. If there is a difference at all, it’s that Democrats are out to destroy the world at a slower rate. Republicans want to burn it all down right now.
And it’s not like there isn’t a sizable resistance to the plutocracy of both parties.
The Women’s March, the Fight for 15, the struggle against the TPP and the Dakota Access Pipeline – Millions of people have taken to the streets to protest the regressive policies of the Trump and Obama administrations. It’s just that when it comes to voting, we suddenly become either very timid or very apathetic.
Millions of people are already out there doing the hard work of resistance. We need to have the courage of our convictions and unify under a single political banner.
Some hope that this could be a rejuvenated, renewed Democratic party. And it could, but the party elites have done everything they can to stop this from happening. Time and again, they take steps to keep the party powerless yet in their power.
We have to get beyond these silly labels – Republicans and Democrats. We need to base our politics on ideas and what’s really best for everyone. We need to shut out any pundit getting rich off telling us what to think. And we need to find a way to listen to each other again, to see each other as people first and not representations of the other team.
In short, we need to see clearly our common cause and unify.
It’s easier said than done, but the first step is removing our partisan blinders and looking at each other with fresh eyes.
Most of us don’t live at Trump Tower or vacation at Mar-a-Lago. Most of us don’t play golf with the Obamas and Richard Branson. Most of us have the same wants and needs. It’s time we go about satisfying them and to Hell with all the corporate elites!
So I don’t think it’s fair to blame HuffPo for my ideas on school choice. A better title might have been “Top 10 Reasons Singer Doesn’t Get School Choice,” but who the Heck is Singer and why should anyone care!?
Then she gives a quick summary of how my whole piece is just plain wrong: “Steven Singer of The Huffington Post would have you believe that when parents have more choices, they have fewer choices.”
That’s like writing “Steven Singer of Consumer Reports would have you believe buying a used car means you may not be able to get anywhere.”
I stand by that statement. They’re both scams, Mary. The perpetrators of school choice want to convince you to choose a school that gives you fewer choices than public schools do. Just like a used car salesmen may try to convince you to buy a clunker that won’t get you from point A to B.
Claim 1: ‘Voucher programs almost never provide students with full tuition.’
She says I’m wrong because I’m right. She basically admits most vouchers won’t pay the full tuition but that it’s still a help.
Okay. But parents have already paid for a full K-12 public school education that they will not have to supplement at all. That’s a much better value.
But Mary disagrees. Most rich folks aren’t eligible for voucher programs, she says, so the hyper elite academies are off the table.
It’s true that most vouchers are given to poor students, but that’s only temporary. The goal is to increase them to middle and upper class students. It’s the first thing they do after initially limiting vouchers to the poor. And she knows this. She’s read Milton Friedman, the conservative nutjob who thought up this scheme to destroy public schools. “The ideal way would be to abolish the public school system…” he said. How? “Privately conducted schools… can develop exclusively white schools, exclusively colored schools and mixed schools,” Friedman wrote.
What a brave new world you’re defending, Mary!
Claim 2: Choice schools don’t have to accept everyone.
She writes, “Singer would have you believe that charter schools and private schools receiving voucher money are cherry-picking the best students to stoke their egos and stats. This isn’t true, and even if it were, it would still provide more choices.”
Um. Okay. So you admit this could be true but it doesn’t matter. Choice is all that matters. Very telling.
Then she goes on to talk about schools that actually do pick their own students, and she argues that it’s okay.
It’s not, Mary. Schools that accept tax dollars should have to accept all students. Otherwise, you’re just guessing that somewhere out there is a school for all kids, but you’re doing nothing to ensure this is true.
Children and families from places destroyed by vouchers and underfunding of public schools such as Detroit have been complaining of this very thing. They go from school to school never able to find one that meets their needs. It’s not that this is a failure of the system either – this IS the system working properly! This IS school choice – a system that only ensures choice but never quality or excellence. It is predicated on the semi-religious belief that the market will take care of everything.
I’m kind of embarrassed for you. Let’s just move on, shall we?
Claim 4: Choice schools actually give parents less choice than traditional public schools.
Mary says that every parent should have the right to vote with their feet? Why? I’m not sure. Maybe this explains her position:
“Singer writes, “If you don’t like what your public school is doing, you can organize, vote for new leadership or even take a leadership role, yourself.” But seriously, who has time for that? Some people, yes, but not the single mom working two jobs to make ends meet. It’s a lot easier—and a lot faster, which matters in the life of a child—to enroll a child in a different school than to slog through the political process.”
So it’s a lot easier to have fewer options? Mary, you just argued AGAINST choice. You just said choice is too much work. No one has time for choice? Make up your mind.
That is ridiculous. But moreover it’s untrue. Do you really believe parents have the time to go shopping for new schools every week? That single mom doesn’t have time to go to board meetings but she has the time to enter these charter school lotteries and hope her kids get in? And if they don’t, she has time to trudge across town to another school and when it closes suddenly, she has time to start the process all over again? And again? THIS is the time saving process!? When she could actually be building something as part of her community?
Claim 5: Charter schools don’t perform better than traditional public schools.
Claim 6: Charters and vouchers increase segregation.
She basically offers a defense of white parents who want their kids schooled separately from black ones. That’s just choice, baby, and choice is always good.
No, it’s not. We’ve seen that it is better for everyone if children are educated with diverse people. It helps them understand people unlike themselves. It builds a more tolerant and just America.
Claim 8: Funding a variety of schools would be wasteful and expensive.
She says I’m thinking “bureaucratically, considering ‘school systems’ instead of the actual children who are the reason schools exist in the first place.”
Uh, these systems serve children. You need to be able to run them FOR THOSE STUDENTS.
Claim 9: School choice distracts from the real problems: poverty and funding equity.
She agrees that poverty is important. Then she pulls the old “throwing money at problems is a terrible idea” card. Public schools just need to find ways to cut costs. They spend too much. Blah, blah, blah.
She ignores the facts. Public schools spend dramatically different sums on students depending on whether they’re rich or poor. We need equitable school funding. That means spending more on poor children and not complaining about “throwing money” at the problem. No one complains about that at the rich schools where they spend so much more than the poor schools. No one calls it “throwing money” when it’s your own child. That’s “investing in children.” It’s only when it’s THOSE kids that it’s “throwing money” at the problem. It betrays a class conscious prejudice against the poor and – most likely – children of color.
She then goes on to complain about the increase in administrative costs at public schools. This is laughable! Charter schools spend so much more on administrative costs than traditional public schools! A study by Michigan State University and the University of Utah found that charter schools spend on average $774 more per student on administration and $1,140 less on instruction than do traditional public schools.
Do some people support school choice? Yes. Less than 10 percent of America’s students attend these schools. But the overwhelming majority of Americans support public schools.
Mary goes on about all the people applying for vouchers but she ignores a much more pertinent fact. Whenever school vouchers have been put to a referendum, voters have always turned it down. This despite who-knows-how-many-millions of dollars in advertising and propaganda to influence voters to support it!
Kids get their hands on everything. As a parent, it’s exceedingly difficult to put anything down without your children ending up with it. And that’s only with one or two kids! Imagine it with a classroom of 20-30!
Moreover, teachers often have to break up fights between students. Having a gun within reach of angry adolescents bent on doing each other harm is a recipe for disaster.
Unfortunately, children are not strangers to gun violence. According to FBI homicide data, of the 1,448 children who died as a result of gun violence in 2010, 165 of those deaths were at the hands of other children.
In most cases, trained teachers will keep firearms out of reach, but having them present in the classroom increases the chances of tragedy.
This is backed up by social science. The Journal of Pediatrics conducted a study in 2001 where twenty-nine groups of two to three boys, most of whom were around ten-years-old, had to wait for fifteen minutes in a room with a one-way mirror. Two water pistols and a real handgun were partially hidden in various locations throughout the room. If students found the handgun and pulled the trigger, it was rigged to make a firing sound and kickback realistically.
The result: 48 out the 64 boys found the handgun. Of those, 30 handled the gun and 16 pulled the trigger. Approximately half of the boys who found the gun said they thought it was a toy or were unsure if it was real. A full 90% of the boys who handled the gun or pulled the trigger had received some sort of gun safety education previously.
Make no mistake. Having guns within reach of children is an invitation for them to use them.
2) Schools Don’t Want Them
Most schools don’t want this responsibility.
Back in 2012, Michigan Republicans floated a bill to allow guns in schools. Superintendents throughout the state sent letters to Gov. Rick Snyder asking him to veto it (which he did). The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the largest labor unions in the country with more than 1.5 million members, also wrote to Snyder, saying, “We should be doing everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property.”
They know that guns in school will increase problems – not decrease them. Survivors of school shootings certainly aren’t coming forward demanding more guns. We should listen to them.
3) Teachers Will Misuse Them
Teachers are highly trained and have years of experience helping kids learn. They aren’t necessarily knowledgeable with how to safely use, store and operate firearms. Nor would some of them be suited to such training.
Everyone’s known those teachers who are lovably absentminded. Do you want them leaving their gun in an unlocked classroom? Just because you can help a student read and write, doesn’t mean you’re good in a gunfight.
I love teachers. I admire most of the educators in my building. I would not feel safe if they were all armed.
4) Kids Will Be Scared
Having a gun in class does not put people at ease. It does just the opposite. A gun is a threat of future violence. If students completely trust their teacher, they may be comforted, but students rarely feel that level of comfort with every teacher in the building.
Imagine the chilling effect a firearm can have on class discussion, on any sort of disagreement. Some students are victims of abuse at home and don’t fully trust adults. At present, the worst a teacher can do is just fail them. How would these children feel living with the threat of imminent death? In most states, teachers aren’t even allowed to paddle students anymore. Now we’re going to give them the power of life and death!?
How would parents feel? I love my daughter’s teachers, but I must admit I don’t want them strapped.
5) They Won’t Stop School Shootings
Most school shooters don’t pay much attention to whether they will survive their attack. In fact, they plan for just the opposite. The presence of guns will not deter them. It may even attract them.
Sometimes violence is a cry for help. Children act out not to achieve their aim but to be stopped by an adult. Having guns in school may make students feel safer about initiating a shooting because they think they’ll be apprehended.