"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, January 20, 2012

Before It's Too Late

Have you been reading about Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania? They're out of money...teachers (and other employees) are working for free. The state has finally agreed to cough up another month's worth of money...but it won't last past the end of January.

Did you know that the district is in a high poverty area? Did you know that the district has to give away more than $36 million of its budget to the local charter schools? Did you know that the owner of the largest local charter donated $300,000 to the governor's campaign?

This is from Dennis Van Roekel, president of NEA...
Today, about 45 percent of the district's total education budget goes to two charter schools, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The larger of those two schools was founded by Gov. Corbett's top political contributor in his 2010 election, who also has received an undisclosed amount of money to manage the school.
The events at Chester Upland School District are the result of a series of events which are being replicated all over the country. The process goes something like this...
  • Republican governors and legislatures cut public education budgets, increase budgets for charter schools and push for private school vouchers. Less and less money is available to public schools (Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Idaho...etc.).
  • Schools serving high poverty communities, whose scant resources are reduced further by these budget cuts and shifting of taxpayer money, struggle to overcome the effects of poverty. There is a direct correlation between income and achievement and out of school factors are rarely mentioned.
  • The same governors and legislatures hurt teachers by reducing their power to make educational choices, increasing the importance of standardized tests, and using standardized tests for evaluations and merit pay (neither of which has been shown to be effective in increasing student achievement).
  • The lack of resources further exacerbates the low achievement of poor students and their schools are blamed resulting in state takeovers, labels of "failing schools", and imposition of charter schools (which have not been shown to improve student achievement).
  • The Democratic administration in the federal government adds to the problem by encouraging states to adopt test based teacher evaluations and increase the number of charter schools (again, neither of which has been shown to be effective in increasing student achievement).
  • Public schools have less and less money to do the job they need to do. Schools are closed. Teachers are laid off (and in many cases, replaced with lower cost, untrained people. See HERE).
  • As higher and higher standards of achievement are required by No Child Left Behind, and more and more restrictions are placed on schools by Race to the Top, the number of schools "failing" increases.
  • More money gets drained from public schools...taxpayer money goes to privately run companies with no public accountability or oversight.
Eventually the school system can't handle the financial and political stress. The plight of Chester Upland School District is the logical conclusion. It won't be the last public school system to be threatened with destruction. We in the United States are in the process of dismantling our public schools. This is just the beginning.

Tim Slekar, an associate professor of education at Penn State, wrote,
...[It's] a nasty campaign designed to dismantle the American public school system. Corbett is no different than Walker, Christie, Scott, and all the other Republican governors that were elected in 2010. Look deeper into each of these governors' campaign contributions. They all have money from private interests that want the public school system in this country dismantled. Why?

...to cover up the real problem faced by children in American public schools -- poverty. In fact, once you control (compare apples to apples) for poverty, American students score as well as or even better than their international peers.

...The battle between Chester Upland School District and Gov. Corbett is just a glimpse into the strategic dismantling taking place across the entirety of the American public school system.
You might also be interested in...

Chester Upland teacher: Who is going to help our schools?
“My heart bleeds for these kids. Many of these students have seen so much tragedy, loss, and rejection in 16 years than most will see in a lifetime. Now, when faced with the possibility of their schools closing they are hit yet again. In discussions between students regarding the possibility of being sent to other districts, a common response from students is, “They won’t do that; nobody wants us.” Heartbreaking

“What will be done? We cannot pass this on to neighboring districts. Everyone has undergone cuts. Class sizes are up everywhere. Moving kids creates more overcrowding and all associated concerns. Moving kids fixes nothing. Moving kids holds no one accountable. I agree with your assessment - hold everyone accountable and fix this problem.

"This is about the kids. Their education and welfare must be everyone’s goal. Without that, Chester-Upland is just the tip of a very large iceburg. An iceberg that might sink public education.”

The sad story of Chester Upland
Is there a teacher in this country who didn’t wince when they read the story last week of the Chester Upland school district in Pennsylvania. The District is broke, the governor refused help and the union teachers agreed to work for free.

Did I mention that Chester Upland mainly serves poor and working class kids?

I couldn’t bring myself to Tweet or post about it. My emotions went from anger to sadness. From pity to fury.

Of course, the teachers of Chester Upland are heroic.

But it makes you wonder. Is this what they have planned for all of us?


Sign for Whole Child

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