Top 10 Reasons School Choice is No Choice

Succinct

gadflyonthewallblog

LittleKidThumbsDown

On the surface of it, school choice sounds like a great idea.

Parents will get to shop for schools and pick the one that best suits their children.

Oh! Look, Honey! This one has an exceptional music program! That one excels in math and science! The drama program at this one is first in the state!

But that’s not at all what school choice actually is.

In reality, it’s just a scam to make private schools cheaper for rich people, further erode the public school system and allow for-profit corporations to gobble up education dollars meant to help children succeed.

Here’s why:

1) Voucher programs almost never provide students with full tuition.

Voucher programs are all the rage especially among conservatives. Legislation has been proposed throughout the country taking a portion of tax dollars that would normally go to a public school and allowing parents to put it toward tuition…

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“You know what? Drivers at FedEx make $87,000.”

After an extremely tense parent conference, a very dedicated teacher, and colleague of mine told me that nugget of information. This teacher was not joking. This engaging, passionate, veteran, strong, fearless educator was making a statement.

The message in my colleague’s statement is this: teaching is fucking hard. It is akin to manual labor — it is repetitive, mind-numbing, frustrating, and it makes one’s body and mind ache. So why not dump teaching and get paid more in another profession without the same type of stress?

This colleague explained the stress of teaching so well when she told me:

“Teaching is fucking hard with, most days, no immediate, measurable end product. You hope and pray you made a difference. You are criticized and demoralized with little support from those above you. There is a sense of satisfaction in seeing a job completed….of safely taking a load from point A to point B. There is a finish line. Teaching does not always have that end product. We cry and stress over if we are doing enough- if we can do more; how can we make our students see the light? But, generally, there is still not a complete end product. There are very few cathartic moments in teaching anymore. There is very little peace and solitude.”

Although many days are rewarding, most days are work. However, teaching is a profession wrought with many people who confidently believe that they know exactly what the job is all about. After a few beverages, one of my closest friends and I inevitably turn our conversations back to our teaching. She often says: “The issue in education is that everyone has been a student, but not everyone has been a teacher.” Yup. Seeing education from both sides of the desk is so enlightening. When I teach education classes at the college level, I often begin the semester with that quote. After students dissect the words to make meaning for themselves, I tell them that the course will give them a window into the other side of the desk. By studying education, they begin the transition from student to teacher.

Many parents, politicians, tax-payers, and even the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, have never “viewed” the other side the desk. They have never walked even a step in a teacher’s sensible shoes. And yet, many in the above-mentioned groups make generalizations, accusations, and support policies that impact the climate of classrooms across America.

So, how do we change this conversation? How do we help more stakeholders appreciate the challenges of one of the greatest professions? I welcome your ideas, suggestions, and writings. Please respond here on medium, or on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/teachingintrumpsamerica/?notif_t=page_invite_accepted&notif_id=1489113782231644

Bake-sales for Bombers–The Annual Spring Pledge for Public Schools

“It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a bake-sale to buy a bomber.”

The author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things, Robert Fulghum, is credited with this quote. His quote, however utopian, seem apropos for this time of year.

It’s the beginning of spring, otherwise known as the annual public school pledge drive.

News headline

While news headlines scream that Trump is proposing a 10 percent increase in military spending, school districts across the country are gearing up for the annual fight between proposed funding promises and the realities of their actual budgets. Many school districts are compelled to instruct the public on the disparities in public school funding. Here is a recent press release:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Public education is a complex issue. Each and every day there are new proposals and mandates that will not only impact a student’s education but also every community member when it comes time to pay taxes.

Across New York State, school districts are just starting the annual budget process, and the balance between providing students with the best education while being fiscally responsible to taxpayers continues to be a challenge.

That is why the Liverpool Central School District and the North Syracuse Central School District are co-hosting a Community Legislative Forum on Thursday, March 9, at 7 p.m. in the North Syracuse Junior High Auditorium (5353 West Taft Road, North Syracuse). The topic is “How Equitable Funding Promotes School Success.”

New York State’s highest court has ruled that schools must receive enough state aid to provide a sound basic public education. For the past 10 years, New York has ignored that court ruling, depriving Liverpool and North Syracuse students of almost $300 million….

“How Equitable Funding Promotes School Success.”

And that is the rub, New York does not have equitable funding. No school, district, county, or state has parity. Across the United States, we are facing what author Jonathan Kozol coined as savage inequalities. Since, 2008 and the impact of the Great Recession, these inequalities have only increased.

The consequences of inequality include, but are not limited to:

  1. Larger class sizes.
  2. Less hiring of teachers.
  3. Less hiring of teaching assistants — changing the make-up of certain classes to meet student’s needs.
  4. Canceling of pre-K programs (but not in every district, causing some neighboring districts to provide very different educational journeys).
  5. Fewer BOCES programs, including vocational opportunities.
  6. Canceling of GED programs.
  7. Large and distant bus stops.
  8. Fewer sports and music programs.

Less is less.

If we continue to treat public school funding like a charity it will continue to be underfunded and undervalued. If we allow for inequity in the resources of our public institutions we only bolster the argument for privatization. If we continue to have savage inequalities between rural, suburban, and urban schools we are failing our children.

The conversation needs to change.

Please join me in actively promoting a new dialogue about funding, educational opportunities, and school reform. How? Follow this publication on medium.com, make comments, ask questions, click the like icon, write for Teaching in Trump’s America, and spread the word.

I Label My Students

“Today’s lesson is going to begin in a weird way,” I tell my students.

A student snickers: “So today will be nothing new?” I take the comment as a compliment.

“Have you ever played headbands? Today is a version of that game. I will place a sticky note on your forehead. Please do not tell anyone what the note says. Once everyone has been labeled, I want you to walk around the room treating each other only according to the label.”

The colorful labels include phrases like: I’m so popular, I’m a bully, I have no friends, I like to gossip, I love sports, I have tons of school spirit, I am very sassy, I like to joke, etc.

The students giggle, the classroom is loud. I instruct them to take their seats but keep their label stuck to their foreheads. The image of twenty plus adolescents with post-it notes on their heads is hilarious.

After a series of warm-up questions, I go in for the kill. I comment: “You were very gifted at treating each other according to your labels. Why do you think humans label? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this human behavior?”

Of course, this lesson is about the Holocaust. This lesson is about the creation of “other.”

I instruct the students to write in a chart, labeled with five categories: the creation of other, prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination, and persecution. We discuss definitions and I give examples of how the Jews were systematically moved along this continuum until extermination. I point out that Hitler called it the Final Solution.

All day long I bite my tongue. I do not bring current events into the lesson. I keep it historical. The staff has been warned to keep our political opinions to ourselves. I try to keep the current political climate out of my classroom.

But I fail.

A student says: “Mrs. Brown, have you heard about the bomb threats and the cemeteries?” He is, of course, referring to the bomb threats on Jewish Community Centers and the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, one incident which was in neighboring Rochester, NY just last week.

I still refrain from drawing conclusions for my students. I don’t analyze or connect. I simply let the class discuss with one another. The students are thoughtful. They make poignant correlations. Some students are silent, all are engaged. This is the world we, the adults, are showing them. These will be our future voters.

As for me, I will continue to label my students.

Daughters

I cried when the sonogram technician told me what I dreaded, embarrassed by my fear.

In my head, I imagined hearing reactions to the news: “Oh, another girl in the family.”

I internalized their displeasure of increased femaleness.

He said: “You are crying? Why are you crying?”

I explained: “I feel like I am letting you down. I thought you wanted a boy.”

He replied: “You don’t know boys. I like you, why would I not like our daughter?”

I giggled, but I didn’t trust his love.

Men leave daughters. They keep their sons.

Predictably, when I told my mother there would be another girl she was not surprised. She was excited for a second grandchild but forecasted that I was in for a mother/daughter relationship similar to our own.

When I met my first child, I knew her face — it was a mirror. Behind the cesarean drape, I saw her bright alert eyes and the tears of his. I was so excited to meet her.

He never left our sides. My mother marveled at how he cared for her and changed her diaper. The basic meeting of an infant’s needs afforded him praise and the admiration of my female relatives. I was cautiously optimistic that his love would endure. I was semi-confident that he would stay the course.

She cried for two hours every evening for three months. From 5–7 every evening she arched her back and wailed. I walked her, soothed her, yelled back at her, and tried to nurse her until he came home.

He found me reeking of my dried milk, hair pulled back, exhausted and destroyed. I was nasty and short-tempered, and then he asked me a rhetorical question.

“Do I need to wear a t-shirt that says that I am not going anywhere?”

He knew my darkest fear. He recognized my struggle. He, with his gentle blue eyes, was not the abandoning type.

Three years later I told him there was little chance I would get pregnant again. She was difficult to conceive, so “it” was not a problem. Two months later our daughter read a note to him (with my help) that informed him that she would be a big sister in the fall. After a six-hour car trip, a junky transmission, and lots of booze, he reassured me that he was happy for our news.

I adored our daughter, so I thought I was immune to the gender discussion that continued with almost everyone I shared our happy news. Most people were remarkably confident that we would have a boy, even a psychic in California confirmed it. This time a boy would enter the female family. It seemed important to so many like a prophecy fulfilled.

And then I cried again. This time it was in the delivery room.

We named our second daughter after my great grandmother and introduced her to her sister. It was a blissful time.

I remember a relative visiting who asked me if we would keep trying for a boy. I convinced her that I was content. I was. I am.

Daughters

I cried when the sonogram technician told me what I dreaded, embarrassed by my fear.

In my head, I imagined hearing reactions to the news: “Oh, another girl in the family.”

I internalized their displeasure of increased femaleness.

He said: “You are crying? Why are you crying?”

I explained: “I feel like I am letting you down. I thought you wanted a boy.”

He replied: “You don’t know boys. I like you, why would I not like our daughter?”

I giggled, but I didn’t trust his love.

Men leave daughters. They keep their sons.

Predictably, when I told my mother there would be another girl she was not surprised. She was excited for a second grandchild but forecasted that I was in for a mother/daughter relationship similar to our own.

When I met my first child, I knew her face–it was a mirror. Behind the cesarean drape, I saw her bright alert eyes and the tears of his. I was so excited to meet her.

He never left our sides. My mother marveled at how he cared for her and changed her diaper. The basic meeting of an infant’s needs afforded him praise and the admiration of my female relatives. I was cautiously optimistic that his love would endure. I was semi-confident that he would stay the course.

She cried for two hours every evening for three months. From 5-7 every evening she arched her back and wailed. I walked her, soothed her, yelled back at her, and tried to nurse her until he came home.

He found me reeking of my dried milk, hair pulled back, exhausted and destroyed. I was nasty and short-tempered, and then he asked me a rhetorical question.

“Do I need to wear a t-shirt that says that I am not going anywhere?”

He knew my darkest fear. He recognized my struggle. He, with his gentle blue eyes, was not the abandoning type.

Three years later I told him there was little chance I would get pregnant again. She was difficult to conceive, so “it” was not a problem. Two months later our daughter read a note to him (with my help) that informed him that she would be a big sister in the fall. After a six-hour car trip, a junky transmission, and lots of booze, he reassured me that he was happy for our news.

I adored our daughter, so I thought I was immune to the gender discussion that continued with almost everyone I shared our happy news. Most people were remarkably confident that we would have a boy, even a psychic in California confirmed it. This time a boy would enter the female family. It seemed important to so many like a prophecy fulfilled.

And then I cried again. This time it was in the delivery room.

We named our second daughter after my great grandmother and introduced her to her sister. It was a blissful time.

I remember a relative visiting who asked me if we would keep trying for a boy. I convinced her that I was content. I was. I am.

Quit Your Marchin…

janusz-korwin-mikke

Women and men have told me that they did not see the point of the women’s marches in Washington, D.C., across the United States, and in the rest of the world. The evidence of sexism exposed in this video, however, demonstrates why the marches occurred, and gives ammunition to increase resistance.

Do you know which was the place in the Polish theoretical Physics Olympiad, the first place of women, of girls? I can tell you — 800th. Do you know how many women are in the first 100 chess players? I can tell you — not one. Of course women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent, and they must earn less. That is all.

Unfortunately, this alt-right Polish member of the European Parliament is not wrong, his truth gives more explanations to offer to those people who ask why people continue to march.

  1. Women are not performing well in the Polish theoretical Physics Olympiad, or in any other STEM competition.
  2. Women are weaker than men and are victims of sexual and physical abuse.
  3. Women are paid less than men and are in professions that continue to be female dominated and thus undervalued.
  4. Women are smaller than men. Women are smaller in power, in wealth, in position, and in political participation.
  5. Women are less intelligent than men because we have allowed men to dominate for far too long.