Monday, May 23, 2011

The State and Education

A couple of weeks ago, there was an image circulating on Facebook of a button that read" Those who can ,teach. Those who can't,  pass laws to restrict teachers."As often happens, this got me thinking. Between my wife and I, we have over 50 years experience in the classroom and/or supervision of educators. We both have  Masters Degrees and many additional credit hours of training.. I think this qualifies me to speak with some authority on this subject.

The Ohio General Assembly has taken it on themselves to restructure the state's educational system. The need for reform was obvious to the legislators because even though the average educational level of teachers in any school in the state far outstrips the level of education of  the legislature and even though the teachers had specialized training, they were still not smart enough to agree with the opinions of big money donors who want to privatize and industrialize public education. Clearly, if the most qualified people did not have the correct opinion, the system must be broken.

The notion that we can standardize and quantify education comes from manufacturing. It assumes that if the proper processing is given to all children, they will all come out of school with the same competencies.No Child Left Behind assumes that all children are going to the same place on the same bus at the same time.If this doesn't happen, it is the fault of overpaid teachers.Make no mistake, this is the first assumption. No one ever mentioned that the Captains of Industry who are being encouraged to manage education would never agree to manufacture the simplest widget if they had no control over their raw materials coupled with no control and little knowledge of what the second and third shift was doing. No one would ever agree to these conditions but we expect teachers to do it every day.

The Republican Governors and legislatures of Midwestern States are systematically passing laws to severely restrict the bargaining rights of teachers and other public servants. They may not strike, they may negotiate pay but not benefits( so what goes in one pocket may be arbitrarily taken out of the other) Seniority means nothing. Pay must be merit based with 50% based on those tests that we don't"teach to" wink wink. It has never been shown that students who do well on these tests are more successful in the real world than others. It has certainly never been shown that these tests are valid for assessing teacher performance nor has any other formula to account for student differences been proven. The answer?  Ignore student differences and assume that everyone is capable of learning the same skills at the same rate. Of course this is totally ridiculous but you have to do it to make the math work.

When I went into the classroom, I had a wife and two kids.If I had been the only earner in the family we would have qualified for Food Stamps.The only thing that made it feasible to go into a job with no real career ladder was the assurance that with regular scheduled increases, and professional growth my wages would improve. The Ohio Legislature has removed this incentive for people to enter the field.

Ohio has passed and the Governor has signed SB5 that dictates these and other changes. Currently petitions are being circulated for a voter referendum on this law. Polls show a 60/40 split against the law but it is still an uphill battle to repeal it. I'm not saying our system is perfect. I'm not saying that public employees shouldn't be asked to help out and tighten their belts a little. And finally, far be it from me to suggest that CEO's whose wages are up 27% this year, banks that we bailed out, and Oil Producers who got 4 billion in federal money should kick in a little more.


  1. Dear Legislators and Big Money,

    It's just NOT the teachers that are the problem.

    When I was a kid, we learned even when we had a "bad" teacher. Most of us came to school like little sponges and almost couldn't help learning. (Of course, we learned even more when we had a good teacher.)


    Somebody who worked in the public schools 30 years ago but couldn't be paid enough to work in most of today's public schools.

  2. This is why my daughter is in a charter school, getting an amazing education, although her Civics teacher, a young girl, one of the best teachers my child has ever had, was earning $19,000 a year, so she has left school to go back to college and get a doctorate to get a job that pays. Too bad, we are losing so many good teachers because we don't pay them. I agree that some parents aren't doing much either, I witnessed this at the festival I did Saturday, some of the most obnoxious kids I have ever seen. Now, don't get me started on the CEO's!!! When are we going to start a revolution in this country like everyone else is doing? We sure have enough to be revolted about!


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