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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bill, Joel at Aspen Gathering

The teachers that cheered Randi and booed protesters during Bill's introduction/presentation at the recent AFT conference haven't the slightest clue about how the billionaire views the future of public education. Sure, sure - he'll praise teachers and claim to want to work with them, but he'll then turn around and show up at events like Aspen Institute gatherings to push policies that are anti-student, anti-teacher, and anti-public school. Pensions for teachers? Nah. Adequate funding for education? Nope. Lots of charters, temp teachers looking to boost their resume, and layoffs of thousands of career teachers? Yep.

What, exactly, are you cheering for, AFT folks? This man? You've got to be kidding. But you're not, and that's highly concerning. You'll get what you ask for, and what your asking for is a crappy education system, poor working conditions, and no economic/job security.

Getting Schooled in Aspen

Bill Gates attacks "fraudulent" accounting that hides the cost of teacher pensions.

Ever since its inception in 2007, the Aspen Ideas Festival has been a proving ground for thinkers who want to break with liberal orthodoxy on certain subjects. One is education. The event, sponsored by the Aspen Institute, has been a annual refuge for Democrats who would like more choice and competition in K-12.

"The education system is built on the three pillars of mediocrity: lockstep pay, lifetime tenure and seniority," was Joel Klein's assessment at this year's Festival. He ought to know -- he's the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the nation's largest school system.

Mr. Gates said a big part of the problem is "fraudulent" state budgeting systems, which fail accurately to account for the cost of pension promises. A legislator who "says 'yes' doesn't feel any pain at all," he said. Thus the "accounting fraud" that lets politicians treat generous teacher pensions as a free lunch rewards them for spending more on retired teachers than on current students.This year, Mr. Klein also had some backup from a friend (and former rival in the Microsoft antitrust case), Bill Gates, who has devoted much of his time to education since stepping down from full-time work with the company in 2006. Undermining public education, he said, is a system that channels too much money to pensions for retired teachers. He predicts that state and local governments will have to lay off 100,000 active teachers in the next couple of years. "I'm very much against that," said Mr. Gates who noted that many of the teachers who lose their jobs will be younger, more motivated teachers at the bottom of the seniority system.

Mr. Gates hasn't been a big fan of implementing full school choice through a voucher system. But his Gates Foundation has spent some $4 billion in the past few years promoting the creation of smaller neighborhood high schools and charter schools, which are public schools that operate outside of the straitjacket of teacher union contracts. Here's hoping he continues his plain speaking about education and perhaps comes better to appreciate how vouchers might aid his hope of cracking open the existing system.

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