Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Public Education Getting Hijacked?

Talking with friends recently I was reminded again that I'm all alone when it comes to following the actions of the state legislators in Nashville. Not surprising when in years past thousands of bills are introduced. Efforts are underway to limit each member to 15 bills seems to hit their goal, with less than 1500 introduced this session.

But awareness of those 1500 is mighty small outside of political junkies such as I. And what I'm seeing is quite perplexing - actions to privatize public education alone should be getting attention statewide but the actions are swaddled in language that defies simple explanations. The rapid changes of recent years are also seldom understood by residents in general despite the massive alterations to how education systems work in the state.

One major change getting pushed is the "voucher" program, which aims to steadily allow education tax funds to get shifted to private schools though these schools ultimately will decide which students to take in.

A stark and plain rebuke of this plan was made recently by Rep. Joe Pitts, which you can see here.

He also speaks plainly in a recent interview:

"If you think about it, we made significant changes to public policy in education in 2010 as a part of our First to the Top agenda proposed by Gov Bredesen – a Democrat, followed by nightmarish changes to the teachers’ environment in 2011 by eliminating collective bargaining, tenure, and removing TEA from their seat at the table, all in the name of “reform.”

"On top of all that we approved virtual schools, unlimited charter schools, put undue pressure on teachers and principals by adopting an assessment tool that is unnecessarily bureaucratic, adopted the Common Core, and are preparing to implement a new assessment called PARRC. Now, we are attacking our teacher preparation programs by looking at putting artificial thresholds on ACT and SAT scores for students who wish to go through their respective College of Education. I’ve said it before; we are giving our education system whiplash with these rapid-fire changes and creating massive confusion. Who can blame more seasoned teachers from deciding to retire instead of continuing in a system that does not appreciate their significant achievement and experience in the classroom and will subject them to the latest reform experiment?

"Perhaps the corporate robber barons of the reform movement need to be asked to leave the room and let the education professionals do their jobs. I have complete faith in our school districts across our state if we can offer our help instead of the cram down policies that have little to no basis in fact or success."