Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Anti-Filler

So, believe it or not, but the same guy that brought you this, this, and this, has been working on the following editorial all day. I'm sending it to the local paper, my congressmen, the governor, and Kim Jong Il. And I'm never writing anything serious again. It's painful, boring, and tedious . . . but I think all my anger has dissipated, and now I can go back to writing my normal fare for G:TB

And perhaps this will boost our Readability Level.

And if this makes sense, you can sign a petition to oppose this here.





Last year, Governor Christie cut aid to school budgets by 820 million dollars, yet he promised that he would not touch the money allotted to charter schools. He also promised that there would be more charter schools in New Jersey in 2011. This is illogical on many counts. Diverting money from already strained school budgets in order to open more charter schools, especially in towns with successful schools, will not solve any of New Jersey’s economic problems. It will also weaken the schools we have.

I live and teach in Central New Jersey. Both my town school and the school at which I work are very successful. Both have a high graduation rate, high SAT scores, and a high percentage of students that attend four-year colleges. Neither is a "failing school." These kinds of schools are never mentioned in Governor Christie’s rhetoric. Both schools now succeed despite the fact that budgets were cut because of Governor Christie’s “tool-kit.” My honors English classes are packed with students this year. Children are not getting the attention they deserve. My town's school has been reduced to a skeleton crew of supervisors. Any extra money in either town's school budget would go to excellent use, but in the town I teach in, Hatikvah, a Hebrew Language Charter school, is further draining the budget. My home town's tiny school budget is in similar danger. Tikun Olam, another Hebrew language charter school, has been "fast tracked" for state approval. Trenton has instructed our town to reserve money in its school budget to fund the charter school.

Why are charter schools being opened in successful districts? The citizens of both my town and the town in which I teach pay high property taxes to support good school systems. Now this money is being siphoned into an experiment in free market education. These districts do not need charter schools. This does not benefit the majority of the students. The “fast-tracking” of these schools is a political maneuver against public school teachers and unions. Governor Christie has effectively pointed the finger at the educational system for the State's economic woes, and he is supposedly using charter schools as a tool to balance the budget. This makes no sense. The cause of the recession is not competitive teacher salaries, and the solution is not more State funded schools. New Jersey already gives people a wide variety of choices in schools. People often choose where they live based on the school system.

Governor Christie never mentions this when he attacks New Jersey schools and their budgets. He also never mentions that New Jersey has the highest high school graduation rate in the nation. New Jersey sends an extremely high percentage of students to four-year colleges. Could certain schools use reform? Certainly. But to condemn the entire system-- when it is one of the most successful school systems in the nation-- is egregious. Christie's solution to the public school "crisis" is the free market. He believes more choice will solve the problem. Charter schools will offer this choice. And charter schools will do it on the cheap. Charter schools, though funded by the public, do not have to meet as many standards as public schools.  Apparently, the Governor bases his pro-charter school philosophy on one-sided, anecdotal documentaries like The Cartel, which he heartily endorses. The Cartel cherry picks a few stories of corruption in public schools and then makes a generalization, but making schools more like a business is perilous. A free market, while fine for non-essential items, is volatile and takes time to react to market needs. A free market in mortgage products resulted in our current recession. A free market in electricity resulted in both the economic chaos in California and the Enron scandal. Some things should not be subjected to the caprices of a free market, and our children’s education is one of them.

All I ask is that the Governor put down his remote and do more reading. I suggest that he reads Diane Ravitch's recent analysis of charter schools, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. Ravitch, a former Secretary of Education, is as bi-partisan as they come. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton appointed her, and she has been critical of both conservative and liberal views on education. Her book provides comprehensive data that charter schools generally do not produce better test scores-- more often than not, they produce worse scores-- and she details the logistical nightmare of making students and parents consumers of education, instead of citizens vested in their town’s school. Years ago, Ravitch believed charter schools would improve the educational system. Then she analyzed the data and looked at the consequences. She changed her philosophy. Is our Governor capable of such reflection?

The public school is one of the last places where the local community can participate in democracy: vote on the budget, influence the curriculum, collaborate with the school board. Places with the best educational systems-- from Massachusetts to Finland to Japan-- have a strong respect for public schools. They have community involvement in the curriculum; well paid, well educated, unionized teachers; and ample funding.

We do not need more schools in New Jersey. We need to become involved in the schools we have. We need impassioned participation in our educational system from parents, students, teachers, administrators and politicians. Teaching needs to be an attractive job for our best and brightest. We need to ask tough questions about what we want our children to know. And our public school budgets should not suffer because of our governor’s political agenda. Please do what you can to ensure that your town's public school is properly funded. All of our children deserve it.

36 comments:

zman said...

The free market brought us the Chevy Caprice, which was ugly and poorly made. I don't want my children to suffer from free market Caprices!

T.J. said...

College football ends and this happens...

Igor said...

Dave, I do hope that you have sent that diatribe somewhere beyond the dingy confines of Gheorghe: The Blog, the faux-wood paneled rec room basement of the blogosphere. It's well thought out, it's well articulated, and it's painfully void of innuendoes and scrotum jokes. Hell, you even avoided the usual rash of grammatical errors you commit in defiance of your profession. In the parlance of our middle school banter 'round these parts: what the hell is that vajazzled vajayjay doing in bushy beaver town?

Igor said...

Teej, please hit the apple and compose a rebuttal?

Danimal said...

my first car was a chevy citation. it was tight. the back seat folded down for trunk access where the beer tub was kept. good memories. thanks governor christie!

TR said...

As a person who pays an obscene amount of state income and property taxes to the fine folks in Trenton, I was looking forward to finding a counterpoint to Dave's op-ed and initating some healthy debate, but I have little to argue with.

My lone question to Dave is this: Are you cherry picking examples of charter schools when you reference the Hebrew charter schools? I know families who live in towns with unusual situations (Hoboken, Jersey City) that swear by charter schools. But I will admit that I am not well versed in the debate.

zman said...

I was force-fed a lot of law-n-economics at one point and some hard-core borderline socialism at another, so I see both sides of debates like this. I think the strength of Dave's argument goes something like this:

It's relatively easy for consumers to switch between many types of products - Apple and Dell, Kleenex and Puffs, Science Diet and Iams, etc. Even expensive stuff like cars can be easily swapped if you regret your decision, with relatively little long-term detriment. For instance, if you don't like your A4 because the engine is weak you can easily trade it in (along with some cash) for a 335.

But if you send your kid to the wrong school, your kid is screwed. It may take two or three years to figure out that you chose a bad school, and even if you're able to make a switch your kid will be hard-pressed to make up the lost ground. You just can't replace the education you didn't get, especially when you're young.

Those further to the left than I will also note that the rich/poor divide will exacerbate this problem and stratify kids unfairly. They may be right, but this doesn't resonate too much with those further to the right than I (bootstraps, Protestant work ethic, etc.).

So I think my argument not only leads to the right conclusion (free markets aren't the best way to allocate education resources or to make schools better) and is convincing to everyone. What do I win?

zman said...

Long comments - the new postcount.

T.J. said...

I wish that chick Whitney would comment some more...

Shlara said...

Wow, Dave. Impressive.

Igor is right, we need to find another forum for this post.

I know some people...want me to help?

Mike said...

Unionized teachers are a good thing?

Dave said...

thanks everyone! i thought i get get more insults than anything else. i sent it to the local newspapers and the governor and my congressmen, etc. etc. it was easy enough to send, but i also felt the need for instant g:tb feedback.

zman explained one part of it very well-- i had longer versions with more of that, but people at work-- who are very fired up about this stuff-- helped me to pare it down.

TR said...

"Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie called Patriots quarterback Tom Brady an asshole and said he hates him."

Other things Cromartie hates: tackling, condoms, pulling out.

zman said...

I was at a party in Boston a while ago where a young lady opined, with regard to Tom Brady's baby mama (the one he didn't marry), "You don't tell Tom Brady to pull out." I guess Antonio Cromartie falls into the same category.

TR said...

Is it just me, or does Alex Ovechkin bear a frightening resemblance to Waylon Jennings, circa the 70's.

T.J. said...

DC sports radio is perplexed by Ovie's play this year. I just think he's hurt, rich, pudgy, addicted to vodka and has lazy practice habits...that's all.

T.J. said...

If you don't already love Jimmer Fredette, you really need to get onboard. BYU's Chitwood had 47 last night (6/9 3s, 9/9 FTs). 16 of 28 overall.

TR said...

Showing Ovi's mom cooking and cleaning for him in his DC condo doesn't really help his image. He should have a harem of topless Russian women tending to his household needs, not his parents.

T.J. said...

http://www.reddit.com/tb/f0w1r

Carter said...

Wow a political post! Getting old I see...

I'm not going to claim that I know the ins and outs of the NJ public school system, but I am an avid politico and I admit I really like Chris Christie and have been following him closely.

Its not quite fair to say that he cut school aid by $820 Million. The cuts that Christie made were due to $1 Billion of federal aid that Obama injected into NJ to artificially boost education funding. The previous gov. John Corzine used it all in one year (his reelection year). So Christie was left with a Billion dollar hole to fill. He cut $820 Million, meaning he actually spent $280 Million MORE in state tax funds on education then his predecessor.

Teachers Union leadership rails against Christie for cutting spending. While at the same time refusing to make any compromises or cuts of their own. They were asked to agree to a 1 year pay freeze and pay just 1.5% of their salary for health benefits (for those that currently pay 0%). In a time where the entire private sector is getting hurt and having to make sacrifices, the average teacher in NJ gets automatic 5% annual raises.

If the teachers union accepted the deal it would have saved over $700 Million. So who is to blame? Christe who has to somehow make up this hole created by Obama/Corzine? Or the teachers unions who in this economy refused to make ANY compromises on their contracts that are not even close to what is reasonable in the private sector?

I'm not even going to go into the disaster that is tenure.

Dennis said...

Mark Zuckerberg to the rescue!!!

Dave said...

carter, christie could have made up the 820 million and then some by simply renewing the "millionaire's tax," but apparently his rich constituents matter more to him the public school kids (his kids go to private school).

i have taught for fifteen years and never received a 5% raise. 2%-3%. i don't know where you're getting your information from.

we negotiate with our towns, not ht estate. that's our collective bargaining agreement. my pay WAS frozen for a year and a half because of the recession- that's what happened in my TOWN, where the negotiations are supposed to occur. my wife pays 10 percent of her health care because that's how it was negotiated in her town. christies 1.5 % is in addition to this-- it was essentially illegal but he did it anyway and now it opens us up to having the state do whatever it wants to our salaries, which legally should be collectively bargained with our towns, not mandated from the state.

we MADE compromises on our contracts with our towns. you have no idea how this works and your information is flat out wrong-- but that's the propaganda christie is spreading. it's scary.

you may not like tenure, but otherwise teaching would not be a career. a new principal could come in and hire all his cronies, friends, cousins, etc. you CAN get fired when you have tenure and good schools are VERY careful who they grant tenure to-- my real boss is the upper middle class educated parents of my town. if you want to get intelligent people to teach, you need to offer them some safety, because they're not going to have the chance to cash in when the economy is good-- but they are still punished when the economy is bad-- like i said, my salary was frozen for 1.5 years when i was due for big raises. hopefully you've learned something.

Dave said...

not to mention that the post has very little to do with teacher salaries, it has to do with making education into a free market and siphoning funds from public schools for charter schools.

mayhugh said...

I need some Sesame Street characters rapping, STAT.

Carter said...

Dave - The info I am getting comes directly from Christie's mouth so if you are saying he's just a liar so be it. I would say that the statistics are based on the average NJ teacher so it might not apply to you specifically.

Sure - he could have just taxed the crap out the "rich" to offset the Obama stimulus shortfall. But I dont subscribe to that class warfare argument. Besides as is evidenced by Maryland, Oregon, and New York (who all placed burdensome taxes on the highest earners), when you increase state taxes to undesirable levels the investors, entrepreneurs, and employers will decide they can be more successful and more profitable by in low-tax states. As a result you end up with lower tax revenues.

On tenure, how would a lack of tenure prevent teaching as a career? Sure new principal could come in and fire everyone and rehire all new teachers. A new boss could get hired at my company and clean house too. That doesnt mean my career isnt a viable one. The process to get a tenured teacher fired is akin to a murder trial, with investigations, appeals, etc. and takes years (of paid time) Good teachers should be rewarded bad ones should be fired. Thats the way it works in the real world. You cant argue against performance based pay can you?

I know your post was referring to charter schools funding but you cant address any education funding without addressing the unions.

mayhugh said...

Serioulsy, TJ. Sesame Street characters. Go.

T.J. said...

Mayhugh, Igor and I are dining, but will post what we have chosen to offset this edition of Crossfire soon...

TR said...

60 Minutes had a story a few weeks back on the possible next leg of the recession - municipalities and states going bankrupt. Illinois, Cali, NJ and NY are all in a lot of trouble. But if we have a couple good years in the equity markets, pensions will not be as significantly underfunded and the issues will be less painful.

And one counterpoint to Dave - the state is in a reallyh dangerous place. Past governors (both Democrats and Republicans) kicked the can down the road for a while. Christie is resorting to drastic measures to get the state back to some sort of level footing. Everybody in the state is feeling pain on some level. It's just that the service unions were always untouchable. And as a supply-sider, Christie believes that taxing the upper class will only serve to make upper class folks shield income from taxation.

One conclusion is to think about moving to Texas, which I am (somewhat) seriously considering.

Geoff said...

I'm with Carter on the tenure issue. Its similar to the way in which federal government workers are managed where terminating an employee for even the most egregious misdeeds or incompetence is a practical impossibility. I have first hand experience with this. Its appalling, and the public unions are exclusively the ones to blame.

The charter school issue is a tougher nut to crack. I can see both sides of it. I tend to think the free market approach is almost always the best avenue, but have come to find that there are limits to where that approach is advisable. Taking money away from public schools and reallocating to charter schools seems to only exacerbate an existing problem, while allowing some to benefit and others to suffer further. But at the same time, something must be done to remedy the existing poor performing school issue.

Igor said...

Dammit to hell. I'm in agreement with Geoff. For however long the federal government folks are untouchable, that will be the biggest drain on the economy. I was one. It was pretty out of control.

Geoff said...

The woman who answered my phone at my fed govt job refused to make copies, fax anything or do anything other than answer my phone rudely and routinely screw up taking messages. She spent most days watching movies at her desk with headphones in. She was paid over $90,000 for this job, and received an annual bonus. I tried to get her reprimanded (not even fired, just reprimanded for poor performance) and I was unable to do so. This behavior was commonplace.

Geoff said...

Its become painfully apparent that public sector unions are at the heart of the budgetary problems plaguing most states. There are good people who hold these jobs and who distinguish themselves as exemplary public servants. There are others who are quite the opposite. Regardless of the employees performance or lack thereof, the compensation and benefit system the public unions were successful in establishing is unworkable financially.

Montgomery County Maryland spends 52% of its entire budget on public employee benefits. Chew on that.

zman said...

I used to work in a union shop and I'm not a fan of unions. But I think the point of this editorial is that "letting the market decide" will, in this case, result in detrimental effects to some school kids, and we should avoid that if we can.

Geoff said...

I will agree that taking funding away from high performing schools and giving it to charter schools makes little sense, unless it can be done in a way where the high performing school is able to continue to excel.

Dave said...

as for the tenure debate and linking teaching pay to test scores or some such performance indicator-- i will cite campbell's law-- the more scores are the BASIS of pay or tenure or whatever, the more they will be corrupted and gamed. they tried it with heart surgeons and heart surgeons stopped doing surgery on the highest risk cases-- they didn't want a bad scorecard. teachers won't want to teach at risk kids, etc. if they are graded on test scores. the NJEA is making some reforms in the firing process, but believe me, you can get fired-- i've seen it.

and again, we FELT the pain-- in the negotiations with our contract-- but it's not our fault that whitman drained the pension fund.

the difference between a boss in the business world cleaning house, is he's got to make money with the new employees. there's no good way to measure in teaching, aside from the fact that veteran teachers are often exponentially better than new teachers because teaching is really really HARD at first. it combines the number one fear of most people-- public speaking-- with classroom management of children, differentiated learning, mastery of various subject matter, and the constant need to be entertaining. plus you have to get up really early and grade a lot of papers. teachers generally kind of suck for a few years, but you could still fire everyone every few years and only the kids would suffer. the budget would be balanced.

but again, that's different stuff. my point is more than insane illogic in taking money from good schools in order to finance these niche ideas that a few people get together and push through because the time is right-- the governor hates public schools and the unions . . . so he's opening as many schools as possible to slight us.

my letter is making the rounds and i've gotten many compliments and it is being read at the big meeting tomorrow night, and one of the founders of the new charter school asked for it, so maybe it will sway her and this trainwreck will end.

Marls said...

Jane you ignorant slut. . .