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Public Schools Charge Kids for Basics, Frills
May 26, 2011 6:14 PM   Subscribe

In the wake of ever deeper budget cuts, public schools have begun charging students for basics, such as registering for honors or elective classes.
posted by reenum (100 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
This shit is getting depressing.
posted by Trurl at 6:21 PM on May 26, 2011 [25 favorites]


Perhaps budgets should be redone so that education of our youth is a priority rather than an afterthought.

Some educators, too, argue that fees are good public policy. In a time of fiscal austerity, they say it's not fair to ask taxpayers to fund an all-inclusive education that offers Advanced Placement Art History, junior varsity golf and fourth-year German with little regard for the cost.

No, I think it is quite fair to ask taxpayers to fund all-inclusive education, and of course we should have regard for the cost. These "educators" probably need to quit and find another line of work, like kicking dogs or stabbing cats. You know, something they're suited to do.
posted by King Bee at 6:22 PM on May 26, 2011 [34 favorites]


And what little meritocracy we've accomplished crumbles
posted by Blasdelb at 6:23 PM on May 26, 2011 [29 favorites]


Awesome. The "nickel-and-dime 'em to death" fee model of universities, both public and private is now making its way down the educational ladder to high school. It just turns my stomach to think about the effect this will have on families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Of course, families that are comfortable will end up better off because of this, as their kids will be able to buy their way into better academic credentials and will be even more attractive to the best universities!
posted by deadmessenger at 6:24 PM on May 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


I got charged more for A's than for B's.
I could bribe the teacher for a C or a D.
But the sweet sweet F's were always free.
posted by ...possums at 6:27 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure I have a problem with someone being charged a fee to play golf.

At the elementary school level, many parents will pay $30 per student next year to cover math workbooks and writing journals, which will bring in about $68,000 for the district.

The elementary schools around here post a list in the local department stores with supplies, etc on it.
I've often wondered what happens if you just don't buy them.

The above is sort of the same thing, what are they going to do if I don't buy a "writing journal" which sounds like a notebook with a fancy name?
posted by madajb at 6:30 PM on May 26, 2011


A relative told me last week that her family is now being charged $250/yr for their daughter to use the school bus, since they live within two miles of her (public) elementary school.

For now, kids living two+ miles can still ride for free, but I'm sure it won't be long before that's on the block as well.

In Shrewsbury, MA, too.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:32 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Honest question: the USA has higher per-pupil spending than just about every other country in the world. Where the hell is it all going?
posted by mightygodking at 6:35 PM on May 26, 2011


So universities, especially the Ivy league, will penalize students for the income of their parents so as to balance out the fact that you now strait up buy a GPA with even the last teensiest shred of dignity ripped from the process. Right? RIGHT?!?!? Because we all know that AP classes are already a scam where all the kids who are told better go to in order to cheat together AND get that added bump. Now that the poor are excluded NO ONE could possibly take a GPA seriously any more RIGHT?!?!

I think I'm going to drink a bit more of that champagne than I originally intended...
posted by Blasdelb at 6:36 PM on May 26, 2011


I would like to formally invite these "educators" to visit my school in Brooklyn. They could watch in horror as we give our students notebooks and pens and book bags and sweatshirts, as our students talk about school as a second home. And then we would beat them up.
posted by etc. at 6:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [28 favorites]


The elementary schools around here post a list in the local department stores with supplies, etc on it.
I've often wondered what happens if you just don't buy them.

The above is sort of the same thing, what are they going to do if I don't buy a "writing journal" which sounds like a notebook with a fancy name?


Almost definitely, especially if the issue is economic hardship, the teacher will spend his or her own money to get it for you. Teachers end up spending really high amounts of their own money on supplies that schools and families either can't or won't provide.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:41 PM on May 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


"Honest question: the USA has higher per-pupil spending than just about every other country in the world. Where the hell is it all going?"

You really want to know? It goes to our thoroughly corrupt textbook industry, up the asses of the MBA educated administrators who run it all, to whatever the next greatest thing is that will totally fix all the endemic problems that the last greatest thing didn't, warehousing the pre-teen and teenage refugees of the drug war, metal detectors, taller walls, and gun toting guards.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:41 PM on May 26, 2011 [58 favorites]


My Nuns loved teaching math, why do you think?
posted by Mblue at 6:42 PM on May 26, 2011


Hey, as long as we have billions for defense, right? I mean wars, not defense; voluntarily chosen wars in foreign countries. Anyway, wars, defense: what's the difference?

On a less snarky note, I weep for this country. I just hope that the atmosphere of greed that is causing this profound imbalance will correct itself in my lifetime. I want lots of money spent on education. Not wars, education. I want lots of government intervention in education. The problem is a significant percentage of the country is dead set against education, because that conflicts with their (often theological) ideologies. So in their view, education is something to be broken down.

If we do nothing to stop them, they will succeed.
posted by zardoz at 6:44 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, this is just not OK. It's one thing to "make" students supply their consumables or purchase items for their extracurriculars that cannot be reused for other students in the future. But course fees? A fee to ride the bus? A fee to attend graduation? What?

What the fuck has happened to my country since I was in school? Yeah, many of our books were old (and many were brand new), and we only had so many computers (one per classroom, plus two labs), but I could take any course or any extracurricular or elective and not be charged a dime. Even driver's ed. And this was in the 90s, not a long, long time ago.
posted by wierdo at 6:45 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Honest question: the USA has higher per-pupil spending than just about every other country in the world. Where the hell is it all going?

Special Education


I am a high school teacher and personally feel the whole system is being torn apart - maybe intentionally. The blue has been down this road before.

As I see it, the greater problem is the shifting view of public education as a service to those being taught(and their parents) rather than a benefit to the community. It's only going to get worse as the baby boomers move into retirement and say a big "fuck you" to paying taxes for anything other than medicare.
posted by sciencejock at 6:46 PM on May 26, 2011 [24 favorites]


I seriously doubt the "fuck you, give me yours" crowd will willingly pay taxes for anything.
posted by wierdo at 6:48 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Almost definitely, especially if the issue is economic hardship, the teacher will spend his or her own money to get it for you.

Not so much hardship as the basic belief that crayons ought to be included in basic schooling.
posted by madajb at 6:50 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The above is sort of the same thing, what are they going to do if I don't buy a "writing journal" which sounds like a notebook with a fancy name?

The article mentioned that students with delinquent fees would not be allowed to graduate. So that's what they can do to you.

I was a little conflicted that my kid is starting school in a poorer district, which hands out little packets of educational supplies to encourage kids and parents to read/do numbers over the summer (because so many will be behind otherwise) and gives free breakfast to all the kids because so many qualify anyway. But if I moved him to a "better" district, I might have to deal with this bullshit instead, if I wanted him to be able to do any advanced courses.

America: so full of choices!

I really can't get over the backwardness of a financial penalty for wanting to take a harder, more academically challenging class. Well, until I remember that we live in a country more and more dedicated to removing all the rungs to success that were ever available to anyone but the plutocracy. Then it makes sense.
posted by emjaybee at 6:50 PM on May 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


Crayons should be included in all schooling. I almost once did some graduate school homework in crayon. (At the last moment I decided that was kind of undignified and went with colored pencil instead.)
posted by madcaptenor at 6:52 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, scrolling down on the left, there is a poll that asks the question

What do you think of public school fees for academics and activities?

1) Too high
2) About right
3) Not high enough


Excuse me, Wall Street Journal, but what the fuck? My best answer would be Too High, but doesn't reflect the sentiment that this shouldn't be happening in the first place.

How about an alternative poll:

Should some of the billions spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan instead be funneled into public education?

1) Yes
2) Fuck yes
3) No, that's socialism!

posted by zardoz at 6:53 PM on May 26, 2011 [24 favorites]


"I've often wondered what happens if you just don't buy them."

Teachers pay out of pocket.

"the USA has higher per-pupil spending than just about every other country in the world. Where the hell is it all going?"

Generally per-pupil spending is calculated based on total operational (non-capital) expenditures divided by total number of pupils. In my district, approximately half the operational cost is payroll, of which 85% or so is teachers, and 91% or so is in various unionized salaries.

But one reason it's so very high in the U.S. is truly universal public education. Per-pupil expenditures take a huge jump, if you look back historically, right when it becomes mandatory to educate all comers, including the physically disabled and those with various learning disabilities and mental limitations. Paying $20,000/year for a "one-on-one" aide who helps a child with no ability to control her own muscles and no ability to learn above an 18-month-old's level is rolled into "per-pupil spending." (Here's a graph of growth in federal grants to states for special ed programs.) Moreover, my district provides all special ed services students are legally entitled to even if they attend private school. If your kid is entitled to services and goes to the Lutheran school, your services are provided by and paid for by the public district. (I believe federal school lunch programs are also rolled into per-pupil spending (though I'm not entirely positive).)

Anyway, the U.S. generally has the most inclusive and most extensive (and therefore most expensive) programs for disabled students in the world. That adds up.

(Incidentally, it also can make class size numbers seem artificially low -- you know your kid's classes are all 32 students and, weirdly, the "report card" from the state shows class size averages 22 in his school. Well, they're averaging in the 10-student special ed classes. As well as 10-student 4th-year German classes and things like that. These general metrics aren't as useful as they might at first seem.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:55 PM on May 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


Pretty soon, the only kids who make it all the way through will be the children of the well-to-do. Then they'll be the next to run the school system, and they can come up with even stupider ways to do things. We may finally achieve the laissez-faire market-driven country we've always dreamed about.

Our country is going off the rails.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:56 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


The elementary schools around here post a list in the local department stores with supplies, etc on it.
I've often wondered what happens if you just don't buy them.


I buy them. Because I love it when a kid shows up without paper or pencils, and then spends the whole class period disrupting classmates, because he or she doesn't have the tools to do the work.

I also buy a lot of food - low sugar animal crackers, peanut butter & cheese crackers, peanut butter cereal bars - anything I can find that's low in sugar and relatively high in protein. My kids eat chips and soda for breakfast, if they eat anything at all, and even though my school serves breakfast, it's like donuts and juice-paks. So when they come into my room, they're either zombies or atomically hyperactive and irritable.

My school district is considering changing to a Tues-Fri schedule next year, because if kids don't go to school on Friday, they can't play football. Yep, you heard that right. The teachers are working without a contract, the board denied the step adjustment/raise request, but they're still paying for football. In spite of the fact that football is revenue-neutral or better in *maybe* one school per county, and a money-hemorrhage everywhere else.

Our kids' parents (when they vote), as well as the rest of the community, have gone strongly against every schools levy that's come up, and they voted strongly for the Rick Scott et al legislature. In spite of this, the district will probably decide against the 4-day week, because having no school on Mondays would seriously inconvenience the community. But they'll keep football. And class sizes will soar as teachers get cut to accommodate the cost of these perceived necessities.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:57 PM on May 26, 2011 [24 favorites]


A relative told me last week that her family is now being charged $250/yr for their daughter to use the school bus, since they live within two miles of her (public) elementary school.

For now, kids living two+ miles can still ride for free, but I'm sure it won't be long before that's on the block as well.


They charged my mother, a single person on disability, half price transportation fees for me to get to school here in NYC. The screwed up thing is they don't take household income into account, so students going to private schools were getting fully paid free passes for bus or subway while I was stuck taking two buses (half price students could only take the bus) for over an hour.

They determined I lived within a certain distance from school, not noting that there was no direct route from my home to the school, because of subway tracks and buildings, so the roundabout way was over that distance anyway.

So there I was, waking up at 5:55 every morning to ride the bus for 45-60 minutes, plus walking a good 10 minutes once I got off the bus to school

Often the return bus fare was all the money I had for the day. Sometimes I'd use it to buy a snack and walk the long way home.

The way they fund and determine these rules for funding of public schools or transportation and other elements is appalling. The things in this article even moreso.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:59 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honest question: the USA has higher per-pupil spending than just about every other country in the world. Where the hell is it all going?

Special Education


We should pay for things like special education and paratransit. However, it frustrates me to no end that they're lumped in with the general education and transportation budgets, which many people balk at when presented with the number.

We should still pay for it, but social services should be its own budget item, so that real costs can be noticed and kept under control. Similarly, we should be allowed to occasionally improve the efficiency of social services every now and then, without devolving into hysterics. Somebody recently observed that the costs of our paratransit service could be cut by more than half if we simply called handicap-accessible cabs for every paratransit subscriber. Clearly, the system is tremendously inefficient, and gradually sucking the rest of our transit system down with it, as it derives its funding from the same budget. Any proposals to correct inefficiencies are met with hysterics, and accusations that the government is trying to murder its seniors (no joke).
posted by schmod at 7:01 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


In the school district where I live, they're on the 3rd superintendent in a row that the school board has fired and paid out their contract to the tune of six figures (each). Not to mention the tens of thousands in moving expenses to court "first rate candidates" in highly publicized nationwide searches, and god knows what other perks.

But to hear it from my teabagger neighbors, the reason for school budgets being tight are those damn teacher's unions.

Yeah. I do live in the south, why do you ask?
posted by contessa at 7:03 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Schmod: we can't call cabs for the disabled! People Like That should have to take the bus.

(I'm joking, of course, but the scary thing is that some people probably actually think this.)
posted by madcaptenor at 7:05 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


We homeschooled my son (who tested at slightly than higher intelligence when he was 9--nothing special). Our reason was we felt schools in Georgia and Tennessee exposed him to too conservative an influence from other kids.

And by homeschooled, I mean he surfed the internet at home and played computer games until he was 18. The only time he spent in school was the last 2 months of kindergarten and the first month of 1st grade, as well as about 12 weeks around the time of my second heart attack. The only time he wasn't on a computer is between 8 years and 12 years, he had to read a book of his choice for 2 hours. Also, when he was 12, I spent 45 minutes showing him the basics of algebra that he soon forgot.

3 days after his 18th birthday, he took the California GED. His lowest score of 5 parts was an 88 in science.

Fuck public schools. They are worthless. I strongly urge any parent to strongly consider dropping out of the system. Schools demand so much of parents now that homeschool parents probably put in half as much effort than regular parents.
posted by Ardiril at 7:11 PM on May 26, 2011 [18 favorites]


Great quotes, re-imagined by the GOP:

"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Unless it would raise the top tax rate by 3.6%." -MLK

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, please join us in peace. We seek your counsel, and your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity remember that ye were our countrymen." -Samuel Adams

"Never educate and inform the whole mass of the people... they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." -Thomas Jefferson
posted by notion at 7:17 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


My Nuns loved teaching math, why do you think?

Because zero is infallible.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:20 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


zardoz wrote:
Excuse me, Wall Street Journal, but what the fuck? My best answer would be Too High, but doesn't reflect the sentiment that this shouldn't be happening in the first place.
Time for a quick lesson in the basics of propaganda.

By phrasing the question as they did, the implication is "Why of course fees are OK for schools! The question is simply whether these fees are too much."

It works both when trying to influence the people taking the poll and the people reading the results. When you present results that say something like "25 percent of people said that fees were too low, 25 percent that fees were OK as they were, and 50 percent said that fees were too high", you are again reenforcing the idea that all the respondents thought that fees for public education are just fine, and that the only thing that they're really in disagreement over is the size of the fees.
posted by -1 at 7:21 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


If they want more funding for the students, maybe they should just turn the school into a prison. (Scroll down to the second letter.) Some schools treat kids like inmates anyway.

It works out rather nicely for those at the top, though. Keep 'em poor, keep 'em stupid, keep 'em voting against their own interests. Collect all the money, and you win!

It is appalling. However, we've gone from "justice for all" to "justice for generally those who can afford it". Small surprise that we should be treating education the same way.
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 7:22 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just another step toward the Republican goal of turning the United States into a Dickensian nightmare.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:33 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


What's the usual sentence for 18 years of letting your kid play hooky? Cuz you know judge, Social Security disability just isn't paying for my cardiac meds.
posted by Ardiril at 7:34 PM on May 26, 2011


I'm almost certain we can fix this with tax cuts.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:41 PM on May 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'm ready to see Michael Moore dismantle the public school system. For every teacher; the line One person that works with the Students (remember; Teachers and Students are kinda like, the uhhh; forgotten concept of a school...); there is a giant morass of admin and swamp that grows every year; typically adding nothing to anything except for a budget drain.

Anybody with the qualifications to subsittute for but a few days really should step up to the opportunity to do a first person witness to our public schools. None of this stuff takes article after article after article... and I did RTFA...

The district charging for the cheese on the hamburger; it is a normalcy across the business spectrum in 2000+. Sad, but a spreading normalcy.
posted by buzzman at 7:48 PM on May 26, 2011


See personally I think this is just awesome.

Before long, people will realize their children have absolutely no hope of getting any job better than a sales associate at Best Buy unless they are enrolled in private school. But they can't afford private school because there's no more upward mobility in our society and their "white collar" desk job isn't the promised land they believed it would be.

Maybe people can be cowed into submission because of delusions about their own future capacity for success, but hopefully the more opportunities that are taken away from their children, the more the ensuing outrage will cause people to finally start voting their in own fucking best interest.
posted by jefficator at 7:50 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


We've just moved to a district that doesn't perform as well as I would like on standardized scoring methodologies. Delving in, I realized that because we're a rural area, and because we get a large influx of transient kids seasonally, the schools pretty much ignore the "teach to the test" methods used at the "top performing" schools, and are instead actually teaching to the kids.

It's a novel idea, I know... I'm really hoping that it means my son will be challenged to work to his potential, because the closest private school that still teaches basic science like evolution is 45 minutes away and costs $20,000 a year. So, if it's another year of "fill in the worksheet" bullshit make-busy work, I'm going to have to seriously consider homeschooling.

One of the programs that seems to be going on in Texas, is this weird pay-for-homeschool thing....I can't find the link now, but I'll keep looking. In any case, it's a TAKs certified homeschool program, and if you sign up for it, they somehow get the tax dollars that would have gone to the local school district, and give them to this private company instead. Given the huge, HUGE volume of Christian homeschoolers in this state, who don't send their children for religious reasons, this company stands to make a metric ton of cash, and it's going to devastate tiny little rural districts like ours, who pay massive county taxes but get almost none of it back, because the cities keep it all.

No matter where in the country you are, the state of American education is deplorable. That we can fund tax breaks to GE and Exxon, keep and maintain armies in Mesopotamia, and refuse to raise revenues on the people who have benefited the most from our society, while dooming our children to illiteracy and 3rd world status....it is a tragedy of Roman proportions.
posted by dejah420 at 7:51 PM on May 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


That we can fund tax breaks to GE and Exxon, keep and maintain armies in Mesopotamia, and refuse to raise revenues on the people who have benefited the most from our society, while dooming our children to illiteracy and 3rd world status....it is a tragedy of Roman proportions.

No. It's by design. Kids with no hope and no opportunities don't ask too many questions about why their only chance at a decent pay check is as a foot soldier in Mesopotamia.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:03 PM on May 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Do you know why public education became popular in the United States? It was because rich industrialists needed educated workers for their factories and stuff. And do you know what the elite no longer need? Educated workers for their factories. At least, not in the U.S. There are plenty of factory workers in china, and this are so automated that factory work is mostly just manual labor with most of the complex stuff done by machine. So an educated population is no longer necessary for the future. At least, not the future of the elites.

I love the the republicans going on about cutting the deficit so the "Kids don't have to pay it" and gutting education in order to pull it off. It makes it crystal clear just who's kids they actually care about.
posted by delmoi at 8:07 PM on May 26, 2011 [42 favorites]


but hopefully the more opportunities that are taken away from their children, the more the ensuing outrage will cause people to finally start voting their in own fucking best interest.

Kind of rough on the kids in the meantime, though.
posted by emjaybee at 8:13 PM on May 26, 2011


Don't underestimate the "cost" of textbooks. Textbook publishers are currently completely willing to gouge and mark up any text to obscene levels, using "online supplements" as the prod. I am aware of one computer science textbook from Thomson which they priced at $270. That's obscene, and I wish that more teachers and school districts would be willing to assign real books (with real content) rather than the mangled and bowdlerized crap that passes for textbooks today. It would save money, and the students would get better information.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:17 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Republican versus Democrat is mind-control and every time one falls for that hoodoo you have lost. Chicago public school was *horrible* when I was growing up and it wasn't because of REPUBLICANS. It was because of DEMOCRATS. And by that I mean, it still IS. Yes, Chicago Teachers Union, I am talking about you. The schools were lost years ago because nobody gives a damn about actually educating children. I hate to slam the good teachers I have known, but most of them are worthless, teach our children nothing, expose them to indoctrination and social engineering, and bitch about how little they make. There are millions of people out there that would love to have half their pay and benefits and might actually teach the children something. But the rest of us bear the burden for not giving a damn and pushing the municipalities and unions to provide better service to the children. Its your bed America, and you are sleeping in it.
posted by midnightscout at 8:19 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"but hopefully the more opportunities that are taken away from their children, the more the ensuing outrage will cause people to finally start voting their in own fucking best interest."

The problem with this is that school funding is enormously complex and complicated, and there are good reasons and bad reasons for this. But the outraged people already come to our weekly school board meetings. These are the people who have been educating themselves on the issues. Who are already outraged. Who have no idea how funding works.

"Why are we cutting teachers when we're spending $6 million on something called 'life safety'?"
"We're required by law to resurvey the buildings every 10 years and bring everything up to code*; it's a separate levy into a separate fund and that's the only thing the monies can be used for." *more or less. imagine if your house had to come up to the latest code rules every 10 years. that's the basic idea. some things don't matter or are exempt.

"Why are we spending $17 million on renovating building G when we need teachers?"
"That's a capital development grant from the state and can only be used on buildings and things nailed to the building. Permanent bookshelves = okay. Student desks = not okay. Wall-mounted whiteboard = okay. Rolling whiteboard = not okay. We can hire teachers with it as soon as we start nailing them to the floor."

"Why are we spending money to send teachers to conferences in Big City when we need that money here?"
"Because training is a mandatory component of the Title I funds that we received for this program, and that money CANNOT be spent on anything else."

Meanwhile, we need paper. It'd be good for schools if the US paper lobby started demanding that Title I grants or Title II funds or something had a mandatory component that must be spent on paper.

We need more UNRESTRICTED funding. But God forbid we give schools money to spend on whatever they want, like classroom supplies and teachers and furniture. It all comes with strings.

(Also, supplies/books are such a negligible portion of our budget compared to personnel and building operations -- i.e., heat. I mean, it's direly underfunded like everything else, but the big money isn't really going to books and supplies, as ridiculous as their cost may be.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:25 PM on May 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


(Also, supplies/books are such a negligible portion of our budget compared to personnel and building operations -- i.e., heat. I mean, it's direly underfunded like everything else, but the big money isn't really going to books and supplies, as ridiculous as their cost may be.)

Fair enough. Most of my experience is at the community college level, where these costs are passed directly to the student. It was infuriating to me to discover that an introductory, low-content book was costing students as much as the class they were taking; there are seminal books on the topic which are less than a tenth of the cost.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:38 PM on May 26, 2011


because we're a rural area, and because we get a large influx of transient kids seasonally, the schools pretty much ignore the "teach to the test" methods used at the "top performing" schools, and are instead actually teaching to the kids.

How nice for them. If they keep doing that and not scoring well on standardized metrics, they'll find themselves closed and your kids will be reassigned. Standardized test systems aren't put into place because they work; they're put into place because the governor's brother owns or represents the publishing company.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Standardized test systems aren't put into place because they work; they're put into place because the governor's brother owns or represents the publishing company.Standardized test systems aren't put into place because they work; they're put into place because the governor's brother owns or represents the publishing company.

It was the President's brother...

In 1999, Bush co-founded Ignite! Learning, an educational software corporation. Bush has said he started Austin-based Ignite! Learning because of his learning difficulties in middle school and those of his son, Pierce.[6] The software uses multiple intelligence methods to provide varying types of content to appeal to multiple learning styles.

To fund Ignite!, Bush raised $23 million from U.S. investors, including his parents, as well as businessmen from Taiwan, Japan, Kuwait, the British Virgin Islands and the United Arab Emirates, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Documented investors include Russian billionaire expatriate Boris Berezovsky, Berezovsky's partner Badri Patarkatsishvili, Kuwaiti company head Mohammed Al Saddah, and Chinese computer executive Winston Wong.

In 2002, Neil Bush commended his brother, George, for his efforts on education as President, but he questioned the emphasis on constant testing to keep federal aid coming to public schools: “I share the concerns of many that if our system is driven around assessments, pencil-and-paper tests that test a kid's ability to memorize stuff, I would say that reliance threatens to institutionalize bad teaching practices.”[7]

As of October 2006, over 13 U.S. school districts (out of over 14,000 school districts nation-wide[8]) have used federal funds made available through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 in order to buy Ignite's products at $3,800 apiece.[9]

A December 2003 Style section article in the Washington Post reported that Bush's salary from Ignite! was $180,000 per year.[4]

Bush's relationship with the controversial oligarch Boris Berezovsky, a political enemy of Russian President Vladimir Putin currently under indictment for fraud in Russia and an applicant for asylum in the United Kingdom,[10] has been noted in the media. Berezovsky has been an investor in Bush's Ignite! program since at least 2003.[11] Bush met with Berezovsky in Latvia. The meeting caused tension between that country and Russia due to Berezovsky's fugitive status.[11] Bush has also been seen in Berezovsky's box at an Arsenal's Emirates stadium for a game,[12] which prompted some stateside criticism.[13] There has also been speculation in the English language Moscow Times that the relationship may cause tension in U.S.-Russian bilateral relations, "especially since Putin has taken pains to build a personal relationship with the U.S. president."[14]

posted by 445supermag at 8:52 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I graduated 17 years ago and a lot of this stuff we had to pay for then, books were rented (yes, you had to pay to have textbooks), lab fees were charged, if you were in band, you had fees, sports you paid for, art classes had supply fees, as did other classes. If you lived within a certain distance of the school the bus just wasn't available to you.

We had to pay for our diplomas, buy our caps and gowns, any clubs we were in charged dues, plus you did fundraisers, to keep the clubs going. If you drove you paid for parking in the school lot, lockers had rental fees, the only thing I am seeing that is different is charging for AP classes. That, I have a problem with. I do not have an issue with charging for sports or extracurricular activities. Where else are the funds supposed to come from for the extras? In way too many places sports take money that could be used for actually educating students.

"Anyway, the U.S. generally has the most inclusive and most extensive (and therefore most expensive) programs for disabled students in the world. That adds up."

Ysome searching online though amongst blogs of parents with disabled children and how much is denied their children due to costs, even they are things that are required by law for the schools to provide. Hell, I'd much rather my tax dollars go to educating our disabled students than paying for football. (yes, I am biased against sporting programs in school, even though I played softball(and my parents paid for it, actually) but, USAian culture places entirely too much emphasis on things involving chasing, hitting, or throwing balls.
posted by SuzySmith at 8:53 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


y= you can do...
posted by SuzySmith at 9:00 PM on May 26, 2011


Of course, families that are comfortable will end up better off because of this, as their kids will be able to buy their way into better academic credentials and will be even more attractive to the best universities!

I'm not sure your satirical tone is justified. It seems to me this is quite literally the naked agenda of the wealthy and conservative. No exaggeration. This is it, in a nutshell, clear for anyone to see.
posted by treepour at 9:15 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


treepour: I didn't read that as satirical myself but rather an angry and despairing statement of fact.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:22 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Schmod: we can't call cabs for the disabled! People Like That should have to take the bus.

Well, you've got to get people to the bus, which is mostly what paratransit is for. There are a bunch of minimum guidelines set forth by the federal government regarding when Paratransit may go door to door vs. transferring to an accessible bus or rail line.

Don't get me started on bus politics either. I started typing up a big post about how "bus politics" almost always conflate social justice with transportation demand, which inevitably crafts a solution that satisfies neither demand. Then I realized that we're drifting off topic. However, it's really very similar to the education and paratransit problem.

(And all the way at the bottom of the heap are the folks who have to take the train, which is dangerous and grimy, because their fares went toward propping up the bus and paratransit networks instead of maintaining the train.)
posted by schmod at 9:28 PM on May 26, 2011


"Students have to realize, as our country is realizing, that you can't have everything," Mr. Stepp said. "We all have to make tough choices."

Wow. I mean, I expect the WSJ to have this spin, but it takes some real chutzpah to find educators and education administrators who would cut off their nose to spite their face to parrot a Fox News talking point. I don't have any children. I vote. I pay taxes. I sure as hell want good schools if only because 3rd grade reading levels correlate strongly with crime rates and I don't want to get stabbed on the subway like almost happened to me this weekend. F'ing idiots.

I often wonder what I would be like if I didn't just barely slip my way into high school AP and honors classes at the end of middle school. I got a pretty great public education, but the few times I had reason to visit or sit in on a regular class in high school I nearly died of boredom and exasperation and it was pretty obvious the teachers were similarly checked out.
posted by Skwirl at 9:29 PM on May 26, 2011


Can someone remind me of the charity/organization which sponsors public school teacher's classrooms...where when you pitch in they grant the teacher money to buy their kids supplies?

It's not the right solution to this problem, but at least it feels like doing something.
posted by maxwelton at 9:35 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Disclaimer... it's 12:39 am here, I'm up late trying to figure out how to deal with a Board of Director's meeting for my non-profit that does alternative education for kids that are behavior problems in the public schools. I need to get them more excited about fund raising, because public/state support is disappearing, and I need to get them to figure out why only half of our Board shows up for a monthly meeting... sigh.... And then I found this post...

This really isn't new, each year there's been yet another aspect of "public" education that we've asked kids and families to pay for....this started many years ago.

Truth be told, the stuff they are asking kids to pay for probably isn't that important anyway. What kids need (and, I'm talking about the kids I work with, urban, poverty, single parent, gang involved, drug involved, court involved) is an adult that gives a shit, an adult with an education to work with them 1:1, a place that's safe.

Give me 100 kids, give me 100 volunteers and 5 teacher mentors, and I'll get those kids to graduate, for less than what the public schools pay. We won't have football teams, stadiums, music rooms, AP classes, etc, etc, etc... basic ed with people that care.

Folks, things suck in education. Here in Michigan the Governor is gutting the system, moving money from K-12 education to support universities (which have a 3.8 BILLION $ surplus right now), destroying the unions, demeaning teachers, and using our resources to support his corporate cronies. We really don't care about our kids, our future... And this isn't going to change until we change the faces in our State houses, and in D.C. We can support the corporations, the oil companies, the corn growers, the tobacco industry, and multiple wars, or we can support our kids.

You do have a role, because you have a voice... You're probably preaching to the choir here on the Meta...get out in your community.
posted by tomswift at 9:52 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can someone remind me of the charity/organization which sponsors public school teacher's classrooms...where when you pitch in they grant the teacher money to buy their kids supplies?

It's not the right solution to this problem, but at least it feels like doing something.


Are you referring to Donors Choose?
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:55 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is so fucking depressing. I don't know how this country thinks this kind of model is sustainable, taxing the middle and lower classes to give kickbacks to the GEs of the corporate world, and then charging us fees on top of taxes for basic services.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:19 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


From the article: "We can't afford to get our teeth fixed because it's too expensive," said Joyce Harris, who is 70 and voted against the proposed tax hike. "If we have our taxes go up to pay for little Joey's football, that's not exactly fair."

That's what we're up against. And what makes me so goddamned frustrated is that health care would be cheaper if we had a single-payer system, and then we could get your teeth fixed, Joyce, as well as fucking education Billy to something above remedial institution level.
posted by klangklangston at 10:42 PM on May 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


cmgonzalez, yes, that's it. Thanks.
posted by maxwelton at 10:43 PM on May 26, 2011


Up here in Maine, we have one of the lowest student:teacher ratios in the country. You'd think that would be something to be proud of, right? Because, as everyone and their fucking uncle knows, more one-on-one attention makes better students.

So, last governor's race, they asked the candidates what their opinion was about this. Know what they said? They said that the student-teacher-ratios were too low and that they should be raised to match other states because then we could save more money.

Seriously.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:24 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


All the data you need to make your own aggregate income distribution pie chart (for 2007 anyway). I will bet many will not at all like what they find.

http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/macro/032008/hhinc/new06_000.htm
posted by Ardiril at 11:28 PM on May 26, 2011


This country depresses me.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:49 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


My chart for those who don't want to bother.
posted by Ardiril at 12:03 AM on May 27, 2011


The article mentioned that students with delinquent fees would not be allowed to graduate. So that's what they can do to you.

Hmm, missed that.
I wonder if they mean "graduate" as in "attend graduation" or "graduate" as in "be allowed to take the state mandated test for obtaining a high school diploma".
posted by madajb at 1:01 AM on May 27, 2011


Schools may withhold their diplomas or ban them from commencement, which itself often carries a $30 to $60 "graduation fee."

Both apparently. Though, I think I'd just tell my kid to take the GED and have done with it if it came down to that.
And honestly, the graduation ceremony is just meaningless formality anyway.
posted by madajb at 1:14 AM on May 27, 2011


I buy them. Because I love it when a kid shows up without paper or pencils, and then spends the whole class period disrupting classmates, because he or she doesn't have the tools to do the work.

What a bizarre situation.
I mean, I understand the practical aspect of it, but I'm not sure how you end up in a place where you yourself are paying for the basic necessities for your job.

Honestly what happens when you are out of pencils and you say to your boss you need some more? Do they just say "Ah well, tough luck?" And how does that translate into you going to Staples that night rather than replying "Well, I guess the kids are just going to watch a movie today."
posted by madajb at 1:22 AM on May 27, 2011


you now strait up buy a GPA

Just so people understand the math, here is the GPA formula for my high school, back in 1998:
GPA = Σ creditsclass * gradeclass

For AP classes, the summand was:
creditsclass * (1 + gradeclass)

For community college courses taken during high school:
(1.5 * creditsclass) * (1 + gradeclass)

I remember being quite surprised when my final high school GPA came out to 4.0. I know I had a few Cs in subjects I hated, and a lot of Bs. But two As in community college calculus and physics will offset three Bs in normal high school courses. Without this boost, my GPA would probably have been somewhere around 3.5.

It's easy to make the case that the GPA boost I received was well-earned by my more rigorous course load. I strongly believe this to be true. But if schools begin to charge extra for advanced classes, the situation becomes murky and the economic consideration impossible to ignore.
posted by ryanrs at 1:26 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


In terms of supplies, for years at my kids' elementary, they would give us a list of what was mandatory along with the explanation that supplies would be pooled. So, even if I wanted to get my kids the extra crayons, there was no guarantee that they'd get to keep them. As a result, I got the minimum stuff. Even then, stores wouldn't stock well and would often be out of specific items. Particular kinds of notebooks and crap like that.

Then, one year, they got smart. There was a general supply fee, much lower than the previous years' had been out of my pocket, and they had arranged to get general supplies for everyone. I mean, it was less than half of what I'd been spending. No weird lists including tissues, wipes, dry-erase markers, etc. Just a general, reasonable fee. The principal had negotiated with people to deliver bulk supplies and tax-free at that. Saved me the headache of the shopping trip and saved me a lot of cash I didn't have. My kids had to show up with an empty backpack, so no stigma of who could manage to bring what. It was such a relief.

I'd always somehow been able to manage, but this seemed so much smarter. If everyone was required to bring the same stuff anyway, why not just buy it in bulk? Those who could chip in extra to help out the more challenged families did. I know I did, just because it spared me the hellacious trip to walmart after the list was finally published something like two days before classes started. That little bit of extra to help out some other family was totally worth it and still saved me and the teachers money.

Paper, pencils, and crayons shouldn't be anything kids do without.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:44 AM on May 27, 2011


I just remembered another little wrinkle in my high school AP curriculum. In high school, I remember I took AP English and AP U.S. History even though I didn't particularly enjoy either subject. Afterwards I didn't even bother taking the AP English test.

I took these classes to avoid the disruptive students in the normal English and social studies classrooms. The AP classes were populated almost entirely by students from the wealth neighborhoods who went to very good elementary and middle schools. Only the very brightest students from the poorer neighborhoods got into the AP classes.

It was nice to learn with smart, motivated peers. Top students in these classes often competed with each other on test scores and class ranking. Many teachers facilitated this by publicly posting semi-anonymized grade sheets. It was a world apart from the normal classes, which were inevitably morasses of dumbed-down materials and behavioral problems.

So I guess the economic privilege was strongly present even if we didn't have an explicit cover charge.
posted by ryanrs at 1:46 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


For then—laugh not, but listen to this strange tale of mine -
All folk that are in England shall be better lodged than swine.
Then a man shall work and bethink him, and rejoice in the deeds of his
hand,
Nor yet come home in the even too faint and weary to stand.
Men in that time a-coming shall work and have no fear
For to-morrow's lack of earning and the hunger-wolf anear.
I tell you this for a wonder, that no man then shall be glad
Of his fellow's fall and mishap to snatch at the work he had.
For that which the worker winneth shall then be his indeed,
Nor shall half be reaped for nothing by him that sowed no seed.


William Morris, "The Day is Coming" from "Chants for Socialists".

Not sure why this thread, like so many others here recently, made me think of this. But it did.
posted by lucien_reeve at 2:58 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Education is a trendy new investment opportunity. Little-by-little, the private sector has found ways to convince policy makers that they can "add value" to education. The irony is that they can. Why? Because we have a completely dysfunctional public education sector that is entirely based on management techniques that were *consciously* adopted in the early part of the 20th century. These management techniques were great for turning out production workers, but they suck at turning out knowledge workers. So, we are going to have to learn to manage schools, and learning better.

Public education in America is not going to go away, but it is going to change - and change in very large ways. It's not going to be a pretty transformation, because there are so many human and policy-related interests that reside within the American public education monolith.

As an aside, having seen a lot of this very up close over years - it has always galled me that public education is largely ruled by National, State, and Local policy makers. We all know about teh State and National policy makers - they're mostly political appointees and numb bureaucrats (with some few exceptions). The policy level that especially interests me is the local Board of Education.

Local Boards of Education have got to be one of the most ridiculous ideas in the history of education. What other profession (teachers, in this case) have elected officials - most of whom know not a damn thing about teaching and learning - telling the professionals (i.e. teachers) what to do? Aside from all the top-down unfunded mandates from State and Federal policy makers, we've got these dunderhead elected bodies of know-nothings weighing in all over the place on how schools should be run - micromanaging the living breath out of the process. Just stupid!

California, for instance, has 1000 school districts. Every district has a local board of education; every district has a district superintendent. How many times have I seen any one Superintendent working to create inter-district efficiencies of substance? Not once.

How many times have I seen ignorant (but self-congratulatory with their directive powers) school boards create massive dissension among teachers and within communities.

I don't have the answer for getting out of this mess, but it has to change. Along with that change we'd better start looking at what other nations who are presently eating our educatoinal lunch are doing.

As for making kids and parents pay for new stuff: that doesn't surprise me. There is massive fiscal waste in the system, in addition to the egregious "playing with education" that policy makers use to get elected. It's a wonder that the whole thing hasn't come crashing down, already.

Last, I'm saving a special load of vitriol for anyone who has let urban schools and other poor schools decay. If there is anything that's unAmercan, that's it. How anyone can consciously sit by and watch kids get their futures wasted is beyond me. It's a damn shame, and borders on criminal.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:37 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Students have to realize, as our country is realizing, that you can't have everything," Mr. Stepp said. "We all have to make tough choices."

Stepp was one of the superintendents who refused to air Obama's speech to schoolchildren in his schools.

I wonder just how much Randy Stepp is making in salary, benefits, and perks?
posted by orthogonality at 3:37 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Local Boards of Education have got to be one of the most ridiculous ideas in the history of education. What other profession (teachers, in this case) have elected officials - most of whom know not a damn thing about teaching and learning - telling the professionals (i.e. teachers) what to do? Aside from all the top-down unfunded mandates from State and Federal policy makers, we've got these dunderhead elected bodies of know-nothings weighing in all over the place on how schools should be run - micromanaging the living breath out of the process. Just stupid!"

It's hard for me not to just respond "fuck you" because this irritates me so much, but I'm going to try.

School Boards are, in general, not permitted to micromanage. The proper purview of a school board is policy, strategic direction, finances, and student disciplinary issues. We're legally limited in the actions we can take. Here, we don't EVER tell our teachers "what to do." We say, "We want algebra and pre-algebra in fifth grade," and trust our professional educators to figure out how to do that. We say, "We need standardized test scores to rise" or "We need to cut $3 million from the budget" and the professionals bring us the plan.

Just to cope with what we're SUPPOSED to be doing, I read at least THREE HUNDRED PAGES of material every week. I sit through six-hour regular meetings, plus tons of committee meetings, parent meetings, community meetings, school presentations, science fairs, and whatnot. I don't have TIME to micromanage. I've had five books sent to me since January on education policy or practice from the teachers' union, our superintendent, or other local groups (a juvenile justice program we work closely with, f'ex) to help me learn more about the education policy or practice preferences of those groups. I have read them all. (Okay, I haven't finished the one I got this past Monday yet. I have to finish my book club book first.)

I am a district parent, a district taxpayer, and I teach at the local community college. Not only do I know what's going on in my district, and not only do I pay for it, but, yes, I have a background in education and I deal with many of the same issues our teachers do. Another Board member is an early childhood education expert with a Head Start program. Another is a social worker with extensive experience with schools. Another was a 26-year district employee before she retired. (The remaining three are a pastor, an attorney with a child in the district, and a Fortune 500 executive with grandchildren in the district, and frankly their experience is quite valuable as we spend a lot of time on contracts and lawsuits.) We are responsible for more than half of the property taxes that district property owners are charged, and that is a responsibility that rightly should be local -- why should the state control local funds? They suck enough at controlling state funds. We are responsible for the disciplinary hearings -- why should the state be doing that? Those are OUR children, the state doesn't know them from Adam. (And that's a function that's quasi-judicial and governed by various constitutional guarantees and a variety of rules relating to that; I don't think it's legally possible to bring it entirely "in house" to the educators.)

When you are doing 300 pages a week of reading and devoting 20 hours of your week, every week, on top of everything else you already do, without pay*, to discharging your school board duties, you can call me a dunderheaded know-nothing. You obviously don't even know how school boards WORK or what their duties are (let alone the sorts of people who run for them -- teachers run for them a LOT; many districts in my state are around half teachers and retired superintendents and so on). But you know what? If you think the system is broken, there is a really easy solution to improve it and fight the micromanagement and struggle to improve your schools and keep the focus where it belongs, on the teaching and learning and the children: YOU CAN RUN FOR SCHOOL BOARD.

*I believe California pays some of its school boards. In my state, that's forbidden by law.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:37 AM on May 27, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'm surprised my local school hasn't started doing this. I graduated in 2004 and everything was fine back then, since then its gone down hill fast. I'm still friends with one of my teachers, he has a masters in Engineering from WPI and taught physics and all higher level math classes. He was one of the teachers that everybody liked and who made learning fun and interesting for everybody (we had 3 weeks of physics watching action movies and then doing the psychics of all the explosions, car crashes, gun fights to show if what happened in the movie really happened.) Two years after I graduated he go laid off and was replaced with a teacher who was a bit of an idiot and a little creepy. The next summer the superintendent held a meeting at the end of the year and told the teachers that two teachers needed to resign or he would cut all teachers salaries 10%. So he ended up cutting all teachers salaries by 10% for the next year. What did he do with the money he saved? He gave himself a 5% raise, hired his daughter to be principal and his son in law to be head of maintenance. Hes finally "retiring" at the end of this school year but hes going to stay on as a "superintendent on call" for $25,000 a year. Even though his replacement has handled bigger schools and multiple schools at once.
posted by lilkeith07 at 5:08 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just to bring a tiny bit of perspective to this discussion...

I graduated in 1975 at the height of California's golden tax surplus (3 years later Prop 13 was passed.) We had the best school system in the US. However:

My high school was 6 miles away. I had to buy a bus pass which cost $5.00 a week. Often I walked to school because I could pocket that money.

One of my classes was Vocal Ensemble. We toured and performed as part of the class. We had to raise money for all of our activities and had to provide our own costumes.

We had to pay for a certain amount of equipment for Chemistry lab.

When we were tested, we had to buy and bring our own blue books. During the normal day, we had to bring our own pencils, paper, and folders from Junior High and on.

AP classes had not been invented yet. I had two periods of Advanced Classes but they did not apply as college credit.

We had to pay for our own cap and gowns.

I realize that today's families are paying quite a bit more than they have been asked to in the past, and I hope that we can reverse this trend of tax cuts. I just wanted to point out that in High School, at least, there have always been some costs borne by the students.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:17 AM on May 27, 2011


I like how even this thread had people blame military spending and the super-rich for the problems of a local school funded almost entirely by local property tax.

Around here in CT, a lot of the blame goes to the elderly and the apathetic. The elderly for voting down the school budget every chance they get, and the apathetic for not voting at all in the school budget elections. They vote it down so consistently that they usually end up going with option #2, where they just use last year's budgeted total, but have to cut student-facing programs in order to accommodate the mandatory COL adjustments in the teacher contracts and the increases in health care premiums.
posted by smackfu at 5:51 AM on May 27, 2011


Given the huge, HUGE volume of Christian homeschoolers in this state, who don't send their children for religious reasons, this company stands to make a metric ton of cash, and it's going to devastate tiny little rural districts like ours, who pay massive county taxes but get almost none of it back, because the cities keep it all.

I'll make you a deal. Let's make it so that your tax dollars never leave your county. We only spend in the cities what we take from the taxpayers in those cities, and we only spend in your county what we tax in that county? That sounds fair, right?

do the words "sucker bet" mean anything to you?

Because, in fact, rural areas take in far more in government service money than the cities. Illinois gives far more tax revenue to the US than the US spends in Illinois. Cook County gives more to the state than the state spends in the county. Chicago gives more to Cook County than is spent in the City, though at least here, it's close.

Why do you think taxes in cities are higher? It's because we have to pay for our government services and yours.
posted by eriko at 5:56 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder just how much Randy Stepp is making in salary, benefits, and perks?

I think that this is a really interesting point in that I think that, as I believe for teachers, really good administrators deserve good salaries because they are hardworking professionals and it's a way to indicate respect and appreciation and because GOOD administrators really, really earn them. I also think that they only deserve these salaries if they are willing to fight for their schools and their students and teachers (and other staff). This does mean an ability to compromise, but it does NOT mean compromising on essential school programs and requirements. Yes, we all have to make tough choices, but that means it's all the more important that we make them correctly.

It also makes me sad that when he says "Students have to realize, as our country is realizing, that you can't have everything,"and "We all have to make tough choices" that it seems like in this case the students (who are minors and, incidentally, can't vote) are the ones who have to learn this lesson for everyone else.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:05 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was the President's brother...

yes, but in florida, also the governor's brother (Jeb! - Dubya - Neil)
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:00 AM on May 27, 2011


I often wonder what I would be like if I didn't just barely slip my way into high school AP and honors classes at the end of middle school. I got a pretty great public education, but the few times I had reason to visit or sit in on a regular class in high school I nearly died of boredom and exasperation and it was pretty obvious the teachers were similarly checked out.
posted by Skwirl at 12:29 AM on May 27 [+] [!] No other comments.


yeah, I wonder too. I teach reading, and in each of my classes, I had 2 or 3 really motivated kids who just came in, sat down and did their work. They got As & Bs without any help from me, and pretty much in spite of the class itself. They definitely had cognitive and comprehension needs that weren't being met in my class because I was too busy tending to the behavior problem kids.

The behavior kids could be split into 2 groups, generally: those who cut up because their comprehension was so poor that they were overcome with embarrassment and frustration, and those who were placed in my class solely because they didn't score a 3 on the reading FCAT, and who didn't *need* a reading class, and cut up because they were bored silly.

I tried to give the under-placed, bored kids some interesting additional assignments, and tried to allot some time for one-on-one remediation with the really struggling kids, but in a class of 20, that's tough to do. Somebody invariably gets *left behind*.

I don't "check out," but there are some days that I just herd cats.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:15 AM on May 27, 2011


Ardiril wrote: All the data you need to make your own aggregate income distribution pie chart (for 2007 anyway). I will bet many will not at all like what they find.

Of course you can make it look like that when you ignore that about half of US income earners fall into the under $40,000 category. Way to mislead with the numbers! It's like having our very own Wall Street Journal!
posted by wierdo at 7:17 AM on May 27, 2011


Some time ago, I asked one of my kids' principals about getting more interesting classwork -- excuse me, "differentiated instructiton" -- instead of their teachers having them read alone, or help other kids when they finished their work early. I half-seriously asked whether getting them an IEP would help, but she sighed and said that what they call "high-end learners" [what?! kids all tricked out with gold trim and heated seats?] in my state were deliberately being left out when education laws were interpreted. She didn't like it (to her credit), and it made my blood boil.

And while I am upset that a disproportionate portion of my town's total budget goes to teacher salaries & benefits [our state pension system is b0rked], I also can't believe that teachers buy their own supplies and I am asked to bring in paper towels, wipes, hand sanitizer, and other consumables.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:22 AM on May 27, 2011


Some time ago, I asked one of my kids' principals about getting more interesting classwork -- excuse me, "differentiated instructiton" -- instead of their teachers having them read alone, or help other kids when they finished their work early.

why not ask their teacher? I just print them something from NewYorker or other online long-form and give them a (extra credit) reading/writing/analysis assignment from that.

But also, consider this: if the teacher has an actual plan for *how* they want your kid to help other kids, that should improve your own child's metacognition. If your kid is using strategies to help another kid learn strategies, both kids profit.

also also - where on earth do you live that they're spending too much on teachers? who then don't do a good job with their students? and finally - have you considered volunteering in the classroom?
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:35 AM on May 27, 2011


We have kids who want to learn. We have teachers who want to teach them.

What we don't have is anyone else who is willing to take the matter seriously.
posted by Legomancer at 7:37 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you think Republicans are going to have any sense of shame about stuff like this, you're wrong. This isn't a side effect of cutting revenue, which is to say never ending tax cuts, this is the goal of cutting revenue. That want institutions like public education to collapse. That's what they mean when they say "starve the beast."
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:26 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


What other profession (teachers, in this case) have elected officials - most of whom know not a damn thing about teaching and learning - telling the professionals (i.e. teachers) what to do?

Anyone who works for the government?
I mean, none of the people on my city council are trained in city planning, but they're definitely deciding how it should be done.
posted by madajb at 8:30 AM on May 27, 2011


eriko: "Why do you think taxes in cities are higher? It's because we have to pay for our government services and yours."

That may be how it is up where you are, but that's not how it is down here. My school taxes are exactly the same square foot rate as the people in Plano, which is not rural, and is in fact quite wealthy. Plano schools significantly better funded than our schools are, even though we're in the same county. Plano shaved the rural areas out of their ISD and said they wanted nothing to do with all those brown people that showed up seasonally. Plano has better roads, stop lights, a well funded police and fire department. The rural areas around Plano? Not so much. Roads aren't well maintained, the schools are suffering, police and fire departments are underfunded...the vast majority of my tax bill goes to the county, not to my city or my ISD. The county doesn't do a lot out here for that 8 grand, I can tell you what.
posted by dejah420 at 9:43 AM on May 27, 2011


So if there are lower services, why aren't there lower property taxes?
posted by smackfu at 11:16 AM on May 27, 2011


.the vast majority of my tax bill goes to the county, not to my city or my ISD.

I mean, at the end of the day, it seems like your gripe is with whoever is doing this right here.
posted by smackfu at 11:17 AM on May 27, 2011


Give me 100 kids, give me 100 volunteers and 5 teacher mentors, and I'll get those kids to graduate, for less than what the public schools pay.

I'll bet you could, given that your business model involves having 100 out of 105 teachers work for free.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Both my parents were teachers. So were my maternal grandparents. Dad is now an elementary school principal in Michigan, and my stepmom teaches in the same district. They do OK but there isn't a lot of money in the game.

Part of the problem is the workload - yes, teacher salaries go up, but they work their assess off for it. In addition to his normal work my dad also runs the outdoor ed program for the three elementary schools in town (excuse me, two elementary - they are shutting one down due to funding issues). He does a great job at it but it is a TON of work. How many elementary school admins do you know who also muck out animal stalls, arrange field plantings and harvests with local farmers so that kids have pumpkins to pick in the fall, and spend late winter/early spring evenings and weekends collecting and boiling down maple sap into syrup? For no extra pay that I ever heard of. Even an average teacher though has a huge workload - they have to grade the assignments, do conferences, attend seminars to keep up to date. And also field calls from parents, and extracurricular stuff like sports practices and activities on weekends, field trips, and so on. They are on the clock a lot more than 40 hrs per week, but they aren't paid more as a result.

The second problem - and probably the biggest one facing schools - is that everyone wants good education for their kids but no one wants to pay for it. Millage increases to actually fund the schools are doomed to failure in almost every local election. Combination of anger from people who have no kids, the usual "I got mine, screw you" anti-tax sentiment in the US, and the shitty economy where everyone is counting each dime.

Education isn't free. But not making it affordable to all is costing us a lot more than we think.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:12 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you are doing 300 pages a week of reading and devoting 20 hours of your week, every week, on top of everything else you already do, without pay*, to discharging your school board duties, you can call me a dunderheaded know-nothing. You obviously don't even know how school boards WORK or what their duties are (let alone the sorts of people who run for them -- teachers run for them a LOT; many districts in my state are around half teachers and retired superintendents and so on). But you know what? If you think the system is broken, there is a really easy solution to improve it and fight the micromanagement and struggle to improve your schools and keep the focus where it belongs, on the teaching and learning and the children: YOU CAN RUN FOR SCHOOL BOARD.

Guess what, I almost did - instead, I ran for another elected position. Maybe I overdid it with the "dunderhead" comment. Sorry about that; it may not hold as a universal descriptor, but in my long experience in the world of education, it's more often true than not.

That said, District Superintendents work at the pleasure of School Boards; who sets policy for running the schools? You guessed it, District Superintendents.

Also, about all the hard work that School Board members undertake, I am very, very familiar with that. Nevertheless, School Boards DO make policy and are a part and parcel of the outmoded, early 20th century management structure that plagues education in the 21st century.

That's just the way it is; we may disagree. Last, that many of the school boards in your state have retired superintendents on them says it all. District Sups are among the most unimaginative bureaucrats that we have in education, today. They are political operatives that live on hefty salaries; they are part of the problem.

School Boards? They are a ridiculous, inefficient artifact of early 20th century education, and a general insult to the students and teachers that they largely help *constrain*. How many school board members will agree with what I just said? Very few. Thus, the problem!

I don't care how well-meaning school board members are; it's absolutely absurd to have elected officials without serious **in classroom** experience (not hapless former school administrators, and the occasional teacher with a design on a political career) on any board that is hiring and firing superintendents and making other, local policy decisions.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:50 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


sciencejock: "Honest question: the USA has higher per-pupil spending than just about every other country in the world. Where the hell is it all going?

Special Education
"

So what happens to children with disabilities in Germany, Spain, England, Israel, and so on?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:27 PM on May 27, 2011


Why education sucks.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:06 PM on May 27, 2011


"So what happens to children with disabilities in Germany, Spain, England, Israel, and so on?"

If I recall correctly, their education comes out of a separate social services budget, rather than the general education fund.
posted by klangklangston at 4:20 PM on May 27, 2011


One of several reasons I decided to not have kids was because I knew I couldn't afford it. That was before this shit started happening.
posted by deborah at 4:42 PM on May 27, 2011


> If I recall correctly, their education comes out of a separate social services budget, rather than the general education fund

If that's the case, then it's not necessarily accurate to say the US spends more per capita.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:20 PM on May 27, 2011


yeah, special education is cut up a whole different way than it used to be. It is way more difficult now to put a kid into special ed than it used to be, given that special ed was basically a punt for suburban white teachers to get rid of rambunctious kids of color that they couldn't figure out.

THe problem with special ed, no matter how well its funded, is that you spend time outside your classroom, away from your peers, not learning the same stuff as your peers. So every year you spend in spec ed, you end up farther and farther behind, academically and socially.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:48 PM on May 28, 2011


Special education is a service, not a place, as the saying goes. In theory a special ed student could (and usually should) be right there in the mainstream classroom.

Students in gifted programs are in special ed, too.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:12 PM on May 29, 2011


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