Sounds good in theory, but not in practice

In response to this post about AL moving towards charters: AEA spews lies in response to “School Choice” March, I received this comment:

“…By the way, the people who decided to send their kids to a private school chose to do that, oftentimes not because the school was “failing”, but because of too many black people. Their choice to abandon public for private is their choice, but they shouldn’t get a voucher for it. Afterall, they are the one’s who turned their back on the local community, rather than fighting for it. As someone in the Dekalb Democratic Party you ought to know that racism is usually a determining factor when kids are sent to private school. The same will happen with charters. The domino affect means fewer good kids in public schools and what’s left will continue to drag society down rather than good people finding a real solution. Really it’s laziness on their part and people like you who just run away from the problems, opening schools that “get away” from the less fortunate, and closing schools they “don’t like anymore”. Seriously, it’s downward spiral once kids start abandoning a school, but you know this. Frankly, it’s astounding your arguments here and that you consider yourself a democrat…”

© Paynich

© Paynich

1. I never mentioned race, you did. So I would have to say it is you who is the racist one against black people because your mind went there.

2. Parents send their children to private or charter schools for a variety of reasons – avoiding an underperforming school, religious or educational style preference, or personal experience just to name a few.  I believed that one major concern with “vouchers”  was that money could be sent to a religious school and that is a conflict of church and state. But it makes sense that the money should follow the child wherever the parents decide is best for them. Educational style differences such as The Met in Providence or even the Waldorf school or Sudbury School here in Atlanta are all reasons why parents may choose another school. Traditional Public schools do not generally offer these alternative, hands on, democratically arranged school curriculum so parents would have to send their children elsewhere.

3. Turned their back on the community? What about principals like here in my feeder pattern who would only allow parental involvement on HER terms and pushed soo many parents away that they created their own charter school practically next door. What about school administrators who don’t fire ineffective teachers and principals, or just move them around? How does that serve the community? When we graduate students who are not equipped to lead successful lives and therefore end up in a life many would not consider positively contributing to society – the schools were a big part of that result. And you are concerned that parents turned their backs?

4. I was talking with a teacher friend of mine who if getting her PhD and currently works running a program to assist with suspended and frequently offending students in schools. She admitted that if she lived in an underperforming school district, that she would send her child to another school, but would still work within the community to make that community school better. That’s a beautiful act to take – however, if you are a single parent, or even a two parent household with multiple jobs/kids, it maybe all you can do to manage relationships at your children’s actual school. It could prove difficult to split time between a school your kids do attend and the neighborhood school.

5. Again, who is the racist one, who doesn’t believe in the capacity of students? You state that when we take the “good kids” out of the poor schools the schools just get worse and will drag society down. The only thing that determines how well a school does are the students and teachers in the school. Has nothing to do with the students who are not there. The money follows the child and that is the same everywhere.

6. Everything you say sounds good in theory. The problem is, when a parent is faced with what they should do with their child in the moment – its going to be what is best, not necessarily what is best for the community. Parents have a responsibility first to their child, not the community. Parents choose other schools not to diminish the community but to do their best to offer their child a quality education. Kids don’t have any time to waste. Every minute that they spend in an underperforming school is a school day the child will never get back. There is more on this posted here: Democrats are cavalier about students.


You believe every lie your union tells you, don’t you?

© Paynich

© Paynich

I’ve been talking about the new right to work law in Michigan and the fall out from it in these two posts:

Teachers Union puts up smoke screen while they deny workers their rights

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

I just can’t believe the lies every time I read an article on this issue.

With the teachers given a 31-day window in August to decide, representatives for the state’s largest public-sector union are imploring them to stay or risk losing their clout in how schools are operated.

“If I don’t stand up and stay in my union, then we don’t have a voice,” said Chandra Madafferi, a high school health teacher and president of a 400-member local in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

Hmmm, OK. Lets read these two posts again:


Unions do what they want, without majority of teacher input

And, how about this one?

MEA attempts to ruin credit of 8,000 teachers

And tell me again what “voice” teachers are giving up by cancelling their union membership and keeping an extra $1,000 for themselves? They didn’t even have a voice to begin with, so how can they give it up?

A significant number of dropouts would deliver a financial blow to labor in a state where it has been historically dominant. Previously, employees in union-covered jobs were required to pay fees for bargaining and other services even if they didn’t want to belong.

“There is a lot at stake,” said Lee Adler, a lawyer who teaches labor issues at Cornell University and represents firefighters’ unions in New York. Public-sector unions, he said, “don’t have a history of being able to do massive recruitment of members who will voluntarily pay dues.”

Ah yes. It’s not actually about giving teachers a voice, it’s about….union dues! What I love the most about the this law is that it doesn’t allow the “collective bargaining fee” that non union members were required to pay previously, which was suspiciously similar to the actual amount of dues for a member.

Bingo – the reason I want teachers to pay the dues independently. If recruitment is much harder with voluntary dues, then maybe the union will actually have to change in ways that will attract teachers for the right reasons. Unions have been spending taxpayer dollars at will for too long!

With contracts covering roughly three-quarters of the 1,100 school workers’ bargaining units expiring, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity bought a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press with a form that teachers could send to their union to drop out. A free-market think tank has mailed reminder postcards about the Aug. 31 deadline.

“We are making sure that every eligible member who wants out of the union has the ability to do so,” said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center, which has worked in the Legislature to limit collective bargaining and promote charter schools.

Union officials charge that the group’s “desperate” campaign is aimed at union busting, not worker freedom.

“This is an organization bent on the destruction of not just this union but frankly of the public education system we all believe in,” said Doug Pratt, the state education association’s director of member and political engagement.

So while some groups are helping to provide information to help union members make their own decision (because remember the union was not educating their members adequately about the 31 day exit period) which actually does equate to worker freedom – MEA says the group is destroying public education as we see it.

I’m sorry first of all, they are simply informing teachers of their rights (something the union fails to do, but claims to protect teachers) which has nothing to do with destroying public education.

You know what is destroying public education? The MEA disenfranchising 8,000 teachers for forcing them to pay dues that the state already decided aren’t required. What has MEA done lately to improve public education. Alot of Nothing!

In Novi, Madafferi, 40, said she’s worried that some younger teachers won’t see the value of union membership. She said she has worked to explain the problem with “freeloading,” or benefiting from union negotiations without paying dues. Members pay up to $640 annually to the state union and $182 to the National Education Association, along with local dues.

As I said in this post, “A free-rider problem? Because workers benefit from the union’s contract negotiations and don’t have to pay. Someone PLEASE enlighten me about how the “collective bargaining fee” is calculated. If you are negotiating on behalf of 100 or 10,000 teachers do you really do more work? Free-rider problem, what a bunch of absolute baloney!”

Novi special education teacher Susan Bank, 60, said she plans to save the money, having gone several years without a raise.

“What am I getting for the over $1,000 in union dues I’m paying?” Bank said. “Now that we have the new law, the rules of the game have changed.”

Labor experts say Michigan unions will have to find other ways to demonstrate their value even though they still have collective bargaining power. In neighboring Wisconsin, more than one-third of teachers dropped their union membership after a 2011 law effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees. But in right-to-work Alabama, nearly 80 percent of teachers voluntarily belong to the union and pay dues, said Adler.

Exactly. Unions in Michigan will have to demonstrate their value, just like any other benefit. The article notes that in right-to-work state Alabama, nearly 80% of teachers voluntarily pay their dues. Maybe MI needs to visit AL. I would say union presence is better in right-to-work states where the organizers actually have to work to get members voluntarily, instead of tax payers handing over cash directly to the union for doing very little work.

Parents rally at Alabama Capitol for school choice

Hundreds of people participate in a National School Choice Week rally as they make their way up the sidewalk along Dexter avenue to the Alabama State Capitol, Wednesday Jan. 28, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Parents and students rallied on the lawn of the Alabama Capitol Wednesday, urging state politicians to provide more publicly funded education options.(AP Photo/Hal Yeager)

Hundreds of people participate in a National School Choice Week rally as they make their way up the sidewalk along Dexter avenue to the Alabama State Capitol, Wednesday Jan. 28, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Parents and students rallied on the lawn of the Alabama Capitol Wednesday, urging state politicians to provide more publicly funded education options.(AP Photo/Hal Yeager)

 In this last post, Alabama Educators Association helping or hurting students? it was noted that only 54% of African American boys are graduating in Alabama.  A  recent study reported:

WalletHub study recently ranked the state’s school systems the third-worst in the nation. Only Mississippi and the District of Columbia were worse.

WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of this year’s best and worst school systems, using a dozen key metrics, including dropout rates, test scores and bullying incident rates to assess the quality of education in each state. It ranked Alabama 49th overall.

In this post, AEA spews lies in response to “School Choice” March, it is clear that the union thinks more money will fix the problem and they support the status quo – 49th in education and 54% graduation rate for African American boys. 

Parents want change, legislators want change, but union leaders don’t. Remember, union leaders represent teachers – not kids, or parents, or communities. And they buy legislators to keep their pockets full. 

Last Wednesday, chanting and carrying signs saying, “School Choice Now,” parents and students rallied on the lawn of the Alabama Capitol on Wednesday urging state politicians to provide more publicly funded education options.

The school choice rally came as Republicans prepare to make a push for charter schools in the upcoming legislative session. House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, speaking during the event, promised to pass the legislation in the session that begins in March.

Hubbard said too many parents are forced each morning to send their children to schools that aren’t the best fit for their children.

“They deserve access to good quality education, whether public or private, no matter where they live, no matter their zip code … no matter their income,” Hubbard said.

Dalphne Wilson of Montgomery said the Accountability Act scholarship lets her send her daughter to a private Catholic school that her son already attended.

Wilson said she thought the teachers at her daughter’s previous public school were doing the best they could, but they were dealing with myriad challenges every day, including unmotivated students.

“Now, she’s surrounded by high expectations,” Wilson said.

We need to work on helping to motivate our students better through school counseling and practices that engage our students at high levels. But until that time comes, parents need options today, right now, to send their children to school that work for them. Every single day a student doesn’t receive the education he/she deserves and needs is a wasted day of education that these kids will never regain. 

The crowd was made up of primarily African-American families. Duncan Kirkwood, director at Alabama Black Alliance for Educational Options, said too often minority students are zoned for schools that have historically underperformed.

“Every child has a different need and parents, even if they don’t have access to money, should have access to options,” said Kirkwood said.

In perhaps a preview of the legislative fights past and future, marchers passed by the Alabama Education Association building where a group waved signs in counter protest. The state teachers’ organization has been at odds for the past four years with the education policies pushed by the new GOP-supermajority. AEA officials said public school funds are too limited in Alabama to be drained off to private schools or new charter schools.

“Parents can choose to send their children to faith-based schools. They can choose to send their children to private schools. We don’t ask the taxpayers to fund that choice,” AEA President Anita Gipson said.

Diverting money from public schools to private hands…you what really strikes me about that? Parents who send their kids to a non public school are still paying their fare share of the taxes to support public schools their kids are not attending. That’s like saying, “Oh, I gave you a defective car? Oh I’m sorry, but you need to finish paying for that car and buy a new one, there is just nothing else I can do if you want to have a car to drive.” While not all charter schools are successful, plenty of them are. Parents clearly want choices. Alabama is about to give it to them. 

AEA spews lies in response to “School Choice” March

Hundreds of people participate in a National School Choice Week rally as they make their way up the sidewalk along Dexter avenue to the Alabama State Capitol, Wednesday Jan. 28, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Parents and students rallied on the lawn of the Alabama Capitol Wednesday, urging state politicians to provide more publicly funded education options.(AP Photo/Hal Yeager)

Hundreds of people participate in a National School Choice Week rally as they make their way up the sidewalk along Dexter avenue to the Alabama State Capitol, Wednesday Jan. 28, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. Parents and students rallied on the lawn of the Alabama Capitol Wednesday, urging state politicians to provide more publicly funded education options.(AP Photo/Hal Yeager)

 The Alabama Education Association (AEA) supports the efforts of all parents everywhere seeking the best possible education for their children, be it in public, private, religious, or home schools. However, AEA must stand against those that seek to divert scarce public education resources into ideas that have been shown not to improve student achievement and, instead, foster fraud and waste of taxpayer funds.

Funds for traditional public school may be scarce, but you have to understand that your traditional public schools have not shown the success students need and changes are necessary. Standing in the way of reform is supporting the status quo – which from this last post, indicates that African American boys are graduating at a rate of 54%. How can the AEA support such a low graduation rate? “Foster fraud and waste taxpayer money”? That sounds like fear mongering – and the only one wasting taxpayer dollars are the schools who are not providing quality education to all students. 

AEA Associate Executive Secretary Dr. Greg Graves said, “Just as with the oral argument before the Alabama Supreme Court on AAA, while public school educators and students went about the tasks of teaching and learning, children were taken out of the classroom to be used as pawns and set decoration by those who seek to dismantle and destroy public education. The numbers from AAA show that it is predominantly being used to subsidize parents who already send their children to private school and those in school systems without a ‘failing school.’ Studies have shown conclusively that students in charter schools perform no better, and often worse, than students in public schools and that charter schools are rife with fraud and abuse of taxpayer funds. Instead of investing in strategies that we know improve teaching and learning, such as smaller class sizes, better training and professional development of teachers, and additional resources for students with challenges, we are only looking at ideas that divert money from public schools into private hands. ”

Ah Dr. Graves – how long have AL public schools been on the current path? They haven’t gotten it right yet and you are asking for more money to continue on the same inadequate path? There are just as many studies that show smaller class sizes at a certain number don’t impact learning. Better training and Professional development of teachers? I think part of that is the role of your Schools of Education to prepare adequate teachers…and how long has it been since a majority of your teachers attended a school of education? I hope that to determine the professional development needs of your teachers you are administering an effective teacher evaluation to pinpoint their exact areas needed of improvement. Diverting money from public schools to private hands…you what really strikes me about that? Parents who send their kids to a non public school are still paying their fare share of the taxes to support public schools their kids are not attending. That’s like saying, “Oh, I gave you a defective car? Oh I’m sorry, but you need to finish paying for that car and buy a new one, there is just nothing else I can do if you want to have a car to drive.” While not all charter schools are successful, plenty of them are. Parents clearly want choices. But remember, Dr. Graves exclusively represents teachers – not parents, not students, not the community. His only job is to look out for teachers. 

Graves added, “Despite the rhetoric from those who are looking to divert public school funding, parents have always had a choice between public schools, private schools, and home schooling. For the last decade under No Child Left Behind, most parents in what are now called “failing schools” also had the choice to transfer to other public schools in the same district. What is being presented as “choice” is nothing but a way to starve public education and make charter and private school operators rich.”

Yes, parents have had the choice between sending their child to the failing school their tax dollars pay for, or shelling out the own extra money to pay for private school. Great options! Oh, so I don’t have to send my child to my failing school, but I am responsible for transportation to and from another school in the district that I choose that is not failing? Why can’t parents have a choice of school, choice of public schools within their own attendance zone? The only people getting rich are union staffers –  nearly 600 staffers at the NEA and AFT are raking in six-figure salaries, and of course, Randi Weingarten makes $557,875



Alabama Educators Association helping or hurting students?

In reading about Alabama’s move towards public charter schools, I’ve come across the same paradigm I see in many other places.

Even Duncan E. Kirkwood, the Alabama state director for BAEO, is surprised by his allies in the legislature. “You would think that the Democrats, the black legislators, would be the ones to lead the charge on this social justice movement for poor people, for black people,” he said. “Our graduation rate for black boys in Alabama is 54 percent.”

Graduation rate for black boys in Alabama is at 54%!?! And Democrats, of all people are opposing strategies that could help these students?

So far, he said, a handful of black Democrats expressed tentative willingness to support a charter bill, compared to dozens of GOP lawmakers who are fully on board.

Mr. Kirkwood said the pro-charter coalition has been in overdrive to convince state residents that charter schools could help improve the grim graduation rates for African-American students, and help empower parents to make schooling choices for their children. They’ve been lobbying legislators, holding town hall meetings, and taking parents and community leaders to visit charters in Georgia and Tennessee.

The group is hoping to outflank the organizing prowess of the statewide teachers’ union, which has helped block previous efforts to pass charter legislation.

Ahh, so “Democrats” strictly speaking aren’t the opposition, its the teachers union. Of course, what else would I expect? But what you have to understand is that education for kids in Alabama doesn’t appear to be good, or doing any better? How can the teachers union in AL stand back and fight reform that can actually help students? This is what I mean when I say unions stand for the status quo. What have the unions been doing to improve education in AL? Because whatever it is, it hasn’t been enough. Standing in the way of reform that can help, is supporting the status quo.

The Alabama Educators Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, doesn’t have collective-bargaining rights, but wields considerable political influence. The AEA has opposed previous charter bills—among other things, it spent millions in the state primary to unseat Republican lawmakers—especially in the face of reductions to the state’s budget for K-12 schools in recent years.”We find it hard to expect children to excel at the same rate of other states when you continue to chip away at the funding source,” said Gregory T. Graves, the AEA’s associate executive secretary. “Charter schools have been shown to resegregate, discriminate, and they have been shown to put financial restraints on the existing public schools.”

And the union doesn’t even have collective bargaining power! Yet they spend their time and money to unseat Republicans (by the way how is that going?) who are chipping away at the school budget. Well, it is hard to advocate for more education funding when you have such sub par results from your students. We’re not against more money, we just need to see results worthy of spending the money needed. I don’t know why this is such a hard concept for unions to understand.


Alabama primed to pass charter legislation giving parents more school choice

Wow! I didn’t know there were states that did not allow public charter schools. An Edweek article produced this list:

Of the eight states that still don’t allow charters, most are heavily Republican, rural, and have been equally resistant to other school-choice efforts, such as taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools. Besides Alabama, Kentucky, and Nebraska, the other holdouts are Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. Among their common traits is their largely rural population, with less demand for new schools.

In this editorial by Dr. John Hill, he talks about Alabama’s movement towards charter schools:

The main driver behind charter schools is to give families educational options beyond the school for which a student is zoned. Aside from the Accountability Act’s passage in 2013, the opportunity for choice has been limited to families who had the resources to either move to another neighborhood or attend a private school.  Families lacking these resources, particularly single-parent households, who desire giving their students better opportunities, have often found themselves trapped in public schools that offer mediocre academic grounding, at best. The introduction of charter schools in Alabama would provide an additional mechanism for choice in our public school system.

I always thought that charters were a great opportunity to try new educational strategies and that traditional public schools can learn a great deal from the experimentation. However, I heard from Howard Fuller recently in Atlanta that those who started the charter movement simply did it to provide an alternative choice for parents – not necessarily to help traditional public schools.

Successful charter schools are hotbeds of learning for students of all backgrounds, including minorities, the poor, and those with special needs.  A growing number of studies suggest that charter schools perform as well as, and often better than, their traditional public school counterparts.  In many cases, the success of charter schools has created so great a demand that admission has to be decided through a random selection process such as a lottery.

I think it is incredulous when charter opponents talk about how awful charters are – when there are long wait lists and forced lotteries to determine which students attend. Clearly they are running from their traditional public schools! But that is never the focus.

Much of the anti-charter messaging is centered on a handful of arguments that are not new and have been used in nearly every state’s public debate over charters.  Any attempt to expand school choice, no matter the vehicle, has been or will be met with scare tactics on issues of funding, control, and cherry-picking students.  It is time for Alabama to move beyond these talking points, as so many other states have, and lay these concerns to rest.

If there is a silver lining to coming late to the charter school game, it is that Alabama does not have to face uncharted obstacles of student selection, teacher accountability, and the myriad of other challenges to starting and operating a new kind of public school.  Rather, we can benefit from the decades of experience other states have gained as they have worked to improve their own charter school programs.

Interesting spin, indicating that since Alabama waited so long to approve charter schools that much of the experimentation will be over and there are clearer paths of success for charters already established.

I’ll be watching the progress in Alabama to see if they approve the bill!