"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sale of the Century

NCLB may be getting an "F" from constituents of Congressman Tierney in Massachusetts who recognize it does nothing to improve education or close the achievement gap, but it's getting a big fat "A" from companies salivating over the prospect of capturing a bigger share of this $780 billion market.

In a public forum on NCLB this week Tierney's constituents aired their grievances:

Some parents said schools are addressing special education needs, but had to send gifted children to read books in the corner while preparing other students for MCAS exams. Other parents said schools did not have adequate funding for arts programs or even for textbooks.

"I feel the impact No Child Left Behind has had is that no child is moving forward," said Meryl Goldsmith, an Amesbury mother.

Paul Jancewicz, speaking as a parent and an Amesbury Middle School teacher, said "too many cooks" are setting education guidelines, but not allocating enough money for programs.

"It's a time of great stress," he said. "We wanted to have a debate club, but we couldn't fund it."
Paul Georges, a Newbury resident and head of Lowell's teaching union, stressed that Massachusetts schools are tops in the nation, but are being undermined in part because some people want to see them become privatized.
As more schools fail to make AYP and face sanctions including takeovers by private companies, people are beginning to see through the smoke and mirrors of this Machiavellian scheme to sell out public schools, teachers and employees to the highest bidder. If not repealed, NCLB is sure to generate a steady stream of new inventory.

According to the latest data from the NEA :

Of the 49 states and the District of Columbia (DC) reporting the number of schools not making AYP for at least one year in the 2005-06 school year, a total of 22,873 schools failed to make AYP, 25.8 percent of all public schools (see accompanying document "Data on Schools/Districts Not Making Adequate Yearly Progress" (PDF, 103kb, 8 pages). This compares to 21,175 schools in those 49 states and DC last school year, an increase of 1,699 schools. Of these 49 states and DC, 21 saw decreases in the number of schools not making AYP (more schools made AYP), while the other 29 saw increases (fewer schools made AYP). This reverses the trend between the 2003-04 school year and the 2004-05 school year when the number of schools making AYP increased.

In an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Iris Salters, president of the Michigan Education Association, says public education is "not for sale."

Unfortunately, boards making decisions to privatize school employees don't place a high value on what's best for kids. They act hastily -- sometimes with little public comment -- to outsource work, usually under the guise of "saving money."

For-profit companies are out to make money and see great potential in the more than $780 billion spent annually on public education in this country. It's nonsensical to think a private company can do more for less; it does less for less -- and students suffer. The district loses money and other employees have to pick up the slack.

We are witnessing an attempted private-sector takeover of the entire system of public education. If left unopposed, we might eventually have a system of public education where nearly all activities would be controlled by private companies, reducing the role of elected school boards to glorified contract administrators.

There is no other public institution charged with the important dual purposes of preparing young people not only for further education and employment, but for citizenship.

Our American democracy depends on public education preparing young people for employment and more education as well as for citizenship -- and we shouldn't outsource those responsibilities to a for-profit company.

Public education is not for sale.

(Could have fooled me.)

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