The School Board Of The Future

New Rochelle New York’s school board cuts the crap and moves to elminate public input at school board meetings:

In her first act as the newly elected senior board President, Merchant waited until the last minute to unveil sweeping changes to board policy that eliminates any guarantees of public input into school board meetings as what can only be seen as a prelude to eliminating entirely any public involvement in school board meetings.

Beset by criticism over an unfolding story of corruption and incompetence on its watch, and infighting among its own members, the New Rochelle Board of Education last night proposed to “solve” that problem by severely curtailing public engagement during school board meetings.

Minneapolis and Saint Paul would never do that.

Would they?

Every Parent A Felon

When I was five years old, I walked to kindergarten every day. It was three blocks each way. For that matter, so did nearly every other five-year-old who lived within three blocks of the place.

The next year? First grade? I and all my friends walked six blocks each way to school.

My parents would probably be arrested today.

That’s the subject of Ross Douthat’s latest.

And besides the usual snickering at the overweening, overprotective helicopter parent run amok, Douthat points out something much more corrosive:

Third is an erosion of community and social trust, which has made ordinary neighborliness seem somehow unnatural or archaic, and given us instead what Gracy Olmstead’s article in The American Conservative dubs the “bad Samaritan” phenomenon — the passer-by who passes the buck to law enforcement as expeditiously as possible. (Technology accentuates this problem: Why speak to a parent when you can just snap a smartphone picture for the cops?)

20 years of watching John Walsh has turned us into a nation of Dwight Schrutes.

Except when child protective services gets involved, nobody walks away laughing.

Bring On The Bursting Of The Bubble

I got this email from one of the socialist parties whose email list I somehow got onto; it’s by one Nicole Troxell, a Sociology professor in Kentucky:

When I was 19 years old, a college professor changed my life. I took his Feminist Political Thought course and realized for the first time that I could be smart and capable. …
When I was 19 years old, a college professor changed my life. I took his Feminist Political Thought course and realized for the first time that I could be smart and capable. I decided I wanted to give students what he had given me. I talked to professors about what it was like to teach college and it seemed perfect. There would be time for artistic and intellectual work, a chance to foster curiosity and critical thinking, building community, freedom to work a flexible schedule mostly from home, good wages and benefits, and opportunities to contribute to research.

In other words, she thought she’d hit the jackpot; getting paid big money to spend very few hours per week teaching an utterly valueless discipline. 

What could go wrong?

No one ever mentioned the word “adjunct” and I didn’t know what it meant until I took my first teaching job at a community college. I thought an adjunct position was probably a trial period for a full-time post that was sure to open soon. I was still full of hope for my career.

Today I have classes that run four, five, six, 12, and 16 weeks long at three to five different schools. I work more hours than a full-time college professor, yet I get paid less than half as much. I work so many hours that I sometimes average less than the minimum wage.

That moment when practicioners of valueless trades almost, but don’t quite, realize that their trade has no value.

I am working hard and not seeing tangible fruits for my labor. I can’t afford health insurance, even under the Obama plan; and I have nothing saved for retirement. I can’t pay my student loans and barely manage to pay basic living expenses. Occasionally I get warm fuzzy compliments from students who become passionate about what they learn from me, but mostly my poor students get a tired, overworked, unenthusiastic teacher who has to try hard to “fake it until I make it.” Why do I keep doing this? Simply because it was my dream to teach college.

Sucks, doesn’t it?  I hit that same wall when I was 29; It was my dream to do major market radio, but I was making $8 an hour with two kids to feed and #3 on the way.  I had to adapt. 

So is “adaptation” in the future for Ms. Troxell? 

Adjuncts are not without hope, however. Thousands are organizing around the country in unions like Service Employees International (SEIU)…Adjuncts can shake things up and galvanize change by urging their local unions to start organizing. Better wages and benefits would take away the incentive for adjunct positions and hopefully encourage universities to employ more full-time teachers.

Er, yeah.  Hopefully. 

Or – more likely – they’d realize, as value-conscious students are, that “women’s studies” and sociology are of no real value to them (beyond, maybe, general requirement survey courses, and even there I’d be pissed at any college that required me to waste any of my hard-earned time on either), and they’ll contract those departments even further, leading non-tenure-track academics to careers in insurance, real estate, and fast food. 

Just saying.

The Revolution Will Be Nitpicked

The New Orleans school district has just shut down its last five “traditional” public schools and converted the district to 100% charter schools.

And the Educational-Industrial Complex is going to go crazy about it.

With the start of the next school year, the Recovery School District will be the first in the country made up completely of public charter schools, a milestone for New Orleans and a grand experiment in urban education for the nation.

Of course, charters started in Minnesota – and have caught on both in Minnesota and nationwide primarily among “underserved communities” – immigrant, Latino and especially African-American students.  44 of students in the District of Columbia attend charter schools.  But in New Orleans – whose city district was among the worst in the nation before Katrina forced an epic reboot – the district embarked on a radical experiment in school choice.

And it’s galling the hell out of the factory schoolmasters.

The creation of the country’s first all-charter school system has improved education for many children in New Orleans, but it also has severed ties to a community institution, the neighborhood school, and amplified concerns about racial equality and loss of parental control.

I’m not sure if it’s because the media have no idea how education really works, or they’re buying into propaganda from the educational-industrial complex – but they always seem to read their chanting points from Big Education handouts.

Facts:

  • Charter schools are in neighborhoods, too.
  • Big city public schools, on the other hand, may be in a neighborhood, but they are inevitably controlled by school boards who are beholden not to parents or neighborhoods, but to the special interests that get the board elected.  You think a parent’s voice is heard at Saint Paul’s school headquarters, locked away in their concrete fortress on Colborne street?
  • Racial equality?  Parents choose their kids schools.  Black, white, integrated - its’ voluntary!
  • Anyone who thinks parents have even the most trivial input, much less control, over big city school systems is too stupid and pathetic to even politely ignore.

More chanting points?   

Critics of the all-charter New Orleans model say it is undemocratic, because leaders of charter schools are not accountable to voters.

Another statement that can only come from the ignorant, the deluded, or the cynical.  Parents at a charter school are 1-2 votes among dozens or hundreds; in the factory system, they’re among tens of thousands or more.

“They don’t answer to anyone,” said Sean Johnson, the dean of students at [one of the ex-public schools], whose father attended the school while growing up in the Black Pearl neighborhood. “The charters have money and want to make more money. They have their own boards, make their own rules, accept who they want and put out who they want to put out.”

And Johnson is lying.  Charters follow the same rules as public schools, and get the same money.

As New Orleans continues to succeed, look for charter opponents – like the DFL – to get more and more desperate.

Hatred Of Choice

Last week in the Strib, an op-ed by Will Stancil – described as “Will Stancil is a researcher at the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota” – declared:

But in the Twin Cities, many of those grade-schoolers are sitting in segregated classrooms. Single-race schools have been making a comeback in Minnesota.

It’s the charter schools that are the problem. Charters are rapidly growing, but still controversial, with their effectiveness hotly debated. Despite that controversy, or perhaps because of it, a disturbing reality about charters is widely overlooked: Many boast student bodies that are entirely composed of members of one race.

Stancil concluded:

We can’t allow new ideas about education to erode civil rights progress…Charter advocates frequently insist on the need to close the equity gap and create opportunity for all students, no matter their race. But their commendable agenda cannot proceed in a segregated organization. As we celebrate Brown’s legacy, we should also remember its lessons: that integration is the grandfather of all equity issues and that racial separation is a root cause of American inequality…Charter schools should not allow themselves to become flagbearers for a divided system reminiscent of an uglier era.

I read it – and marked it down to address this week. 

But Bill Wilson – the first black Saint Paul City Councilman – and education activist Joe Nathan did it first, in the Strib, and did a fine job…

…in part by noting Stancil’s invocation of the “S” word was cheap, inflammatory and wrong (emphasis added):

Some critics don’t seem to understand the huge difference between forcing people, because of their race, to attend a school, and giving new options to people, especially those from low-income families and families of color.

This exposes the great divide in education – between:

  1. the “public” mandate that uses the school system to send society a symbolic message (however good that message may be), and maybe “educate” the kids in the bargain
  2. The “individual choice” model, which empowers families to, y’know, see to their kids’ education.

For many kids, school is hard enough without having to solve all the social problems their parents kicked down the road to them.  And so their families choose – choose! – schools that actually work, on the assumption that it’s better for their kids to compete on a more level intellectual playing field later than to serve as some bureaucrat’s statistical incentive today. 

Read the Wilson/Nathan piece.  Compare it with Stancil’s tone-deaf vapidity.

And then remember which party has always fought against school choice.

Somebody Notify MPR

Twenty years of warnings that one of their janitors was an alleged pedophile weren’t enough to spur the Saint Paul Police…

Yesterday, Ramsey County officials announced they’ve hit [former SPPS janitor Walter] Happel with a smorgasboard of new charges, including first-degree criminal sexual conduct, three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and five counts of surreptitious invasion of privacy.

The new charging documents don’t exactly bathe the St. Paul police or Linwood Monroe in glory, as both allegedly ignored credible warnings Happel was a pedophile.

The allegations now facing Happel are Sandusky-esque — there are too many alleged victims to share each and every one of their stories in one report. But with regard to the 1991 case, after news of the initial charge against Happel broke a couple months ago, Happel’s son, identified as “AH” in charging documents, came forward to tell police his father sexually abused him from the time he was four until he was 14 or 15.

…or Saint Paul Public Schools…

As far as the Linwood Monroe allegations are concerned, yet another charging document says that when a parent (“AB”) talked to a school social worker this past winter to share concerns about Happel brandishing his penis in a school bathroom to their child, the social worker said Happel “had been there forever and wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

“AB later called the school and spoke with a woman about the incident, but she never got a return call from anyone with the school,” the charging document continues. “AB finally reported the incident to the police.”

Yet another charging document says school officials didn’t tell police about a January 17, 2014 incident where Happel allegedly “lightly slapped a student’s behind” and said, “I told you I was going to do that if you sagged your pants,” even though just a week earlier, the school principal received an email from a parent who was concerned about Happel giving candy to two students who didn’t have father figures in their lives.

…into action.

The story – by the City Pages Aaron Rupar – gets worse.  Much worse. 

So – will local journos start poring over the SPPS’ records, looking to elevate incompetence and institutionalism into a cover-up? 

Or are they too exhausted from all the time they’ve spent going after the Archdiocese of Saint Paul?

The STEM Scam

As anyone who’s done hiring for web designers, Java programmers or network techs knows, there’s no shortage of technical workers; wages throughout most of the IT sector have been worse than stagnant for quite some time.

And yet not only do our kids constantly have “Take STEM courses!” beaten into their heads, but the government and business want more tech workers immigrating to the US.

Now, a survey shows there isn’t a shortage:

In looking at the latest government data available, my co-author and I found the following: In 2012, there were more than twice as many people with STEM degrees (immigrants and native-born) as there were STEM jobs — 5.3 million STEM jobs vs. 12.1 million people with STEM degrees. Only one-third of natives who have a STEM degree and have a job work in a STEM occupation. There are 1.5 million native-born Americans with engineering degrees not working as engineers, as well as half a million with technology degrees, 400,000 with math degrees, and 2.6 million with science degrees working outside their field. In addition, there are 1.2 million natives with STEM degrees who are not working.

Meanwhile, less than half of immigrants with STEM degrees work in STEM jobs. In particular, just 23 percent of all immigrants with engineering degrees work as engineers. Of the 700,000 immigrant STEM workers allowed into the country between 2007 and 2012, only one-third got a STEM job, about one-third got a non-STEM job, and about one-third are not working.

But enough about the statisticians – what is the market saying?

Wage trends are one of the best measures of labor demand. If STEM workers were in short supply, wages would be increasing rapidly. But wage data from multiple sources show little growth over the last 12 years. We found that real hourly wages (adjusted for inflation) grew on average just 0.7 percent a year from 2000 to 2012 for STEM workers, and annual wages grew even less — 0.4 percent a year. Wage growth is very modest for almost every category of STEM worker as well

The drive to jam kids – especially girls – into STEM classes is just a long-term plan to drive down tech costs.

Protocols Of The Elders Of Middle School

On the one hand, it’s almost a good thing that a school district, somewhere, is trying to teach some kind of critical thinking.  Kids today seem to get virtually none of it.

On the other hand…:

The Rialto school district in California is under fire over a stunning eighth-grade assignment that asked students to write an argumentative essay about the Holocaust and “whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth.”

Now, this story is only from the mainstream media – the San Bernardino Sun and KTLA TV – so take it with a block of salt. 

But still…

[the assignment] gives students three sources to use to write their essays. One of the sources reportedly alleges the gassings in concentration camps were a “hoax” and there is no evidence Jews actually died in gas chambers.

The source, traced to a webpage on biblebelievers.org.au, states: “With all this money at stake for Israel, it is easy to comprehend why this Holocaust hoax is so secretly guarded. In whatever way you can, please help shatter this profitable myth. It is time we stop sacrificing America’s welfare for the sake of Israel and spend our hard-earned dollars on Americans.”

The other two sources were from About.com and History.com, KTLA-TV reports.

Teaching the youngsters to deny the deniers?  Plausible.

But how much do you want to bet the kids have gotten to eighth grade without really knowing what the Holocaust is?

“…And I’m Here To Help…”

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

College costs too much so students take loans. But there are no jobs so graduates can’t repay the loans. But the federal government made the loans so they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

An alternative is for private investors to offer to pay your college in return for your promise to work for them in the future. Some already are doing this.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) wants national legislation to legitimize the program and add safeguards.

Cripes, you can’t even trust Republicans to keep their greasy mitts to themselves. Look, Marco, you’re a US Senator. The US Government student loan system is busted. You are one of 534 people in the world who can do anything about it. But no, you’ve got your eye on “helping” private investors and students use an alternative arrangement. They wouldn’t need an alternative arrangement in the first place, if you were doing your job and fixing the busted system.

Joe Doakes

The idea – investors “investing” in students in exchange for future earnings – is a fascinating one.

The Fed’s involvement will quickly make it a hopeless mess.

Everyone’s Protected!

Well, we now have a statewide “bullying law”.   Mazel Tov.

Of course, we had a bullying law before.  As noted in this Channel 5 interview with lawyer Christa Groshek,. it was 37 words long, and basically required school districts to have a bullying policy.   Now, it’s 14 pages long.

Everyone Can Be A Victim!:  The law specifies so many different “protected” classes that it’s really not specific at all; in addition to affectional orientation, religion, affectional orientation, race, affectional orientation, gender and affectional orientation, the bill “protects” people from bullying based on academic status, marital status, socioeconomic status, and…

…appearance?

Where was this law when I was a greasy-haired, acne-ridden, athletically-inept 14 year old?  Oh, the fellow students – and not a few teachers – whose lives I could have ruined!

Intent Is In The Eye Of The Beholder:  And it seems to do for “bullying” what sexual harassment laws did for sexual harassment; define “bullying” as “anything that makes anyone upset in any way.

And yes, I know bullying happens, and sometimes it’s incredibly serious, and in extreme circumstances kids kill themselves over it.

But combine this with the law’s anonymous notification provisions – which are necessary in some cases, obviously, but are an open invitation to abuse as well – with the fact that parental recourse is limited to the point of absurdity, and if you know anything about how public schools work these days, the “unintended consequences” will swerve quickly into absurdity.

Or litigation.  Which, given the support the DFL gets from trial lawyers, can not in the least bit be an “unintended” consequence.

Make-Work:  Along those lines; the previous bullying law left the mechanics of the policy to the individual districts.

The new law?  It creates three levels of state bureaucracy above the districts to deal with “bullying”:

A Task Force, a Council and a “Center”.

I asked a gay activist on Twitter – who was clearly happy about the bill being signed into law, although he clearly understood little but Big Gay’s chanting points about the bill or its consequences – why he supported the new law.  ”Because we now have one policy for the whole state” was his main answer.

Liberals never realize – this is a bug, not a feature.

The further you remove policy from its implementation, the worse your policy will get.  It’s true of healthcare, taxes – and in few areas more than education.  It’s why charter schools (as a general model) are succeeding while the larger, urban and centralized-rural public systems are failing.

Parents Last:  Another problem – and this may be the big one – is that if you’re a parent concerned about an accusation against your child, your rights are pretty much nonexistant.

Now, let’s be realistic; your rights are pretty much nonexistent in the public system, especially in the major urban districts, today; as I found out in my own Kafkaesque struggle with Saint Paul’s idiot administration, your “rights” as a parent are pretty much written to fit around the convenience and protection of the sitting Administration.  If you think your child has been wrongly accused, or even just want to find out facts about this episode that is going on your child’s permanent record beyond “your child has been accused, convicted and sentenced; have a nice day”, the “process” is a passive-aggressive, sisyphean ordeal that pretty much requires you be a freaking amateur lawyer.  Or, naturally, hire a professional one.

On the Upside:  On the other hand, I can think of one upside to the new law; it’s excellent preparation for today’s modern university experience; it trains students to check their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door (or before interacting in any way with anyone that might go through that door with them); it’s excellent training for dealing with today’s speech codes.

So there’s that.

The Clinker, As Always:  As I’ve noted in this space before, bullying has tended to go up after these laws are passed.  Now, chalk it up to more-thorough reporting if you’d like – but anyone who expects a statewide policy and bureaucracy to “solve bullying” is in for a major disappointment.

Because setting policy – whether in a 37 word statement or a 14 page bill – is the easy part.  Any idiot can do it, and the DFL majority proved it.

But here’s the bad news.  Ask yourself this; who’s going to be carrying out the policy?

School Administrators.

And while many school administrators mean well (and I’m talking about all of you out there that are friends of mine,  whom I jointly and severally except from the following statement), a disturbing number of them are idiots, or worse.

Bureaucratic “policy” is, at its worst, an excuse for the not-bright, the stupid, the corrupt and the depraved to shrug their shoulders at things that would make any human with a living soul and any common sense leap to their feet in horror.  Anti-violence “policy” routinely sweeps up the non-violent.  Anti-sexual harassment policy, enforced by idiots, has results like this.   “Zero Tolerance for Weapons” “policy” gives us this, and – on a more personal level, this (Part One and Part Two), in the hands of “administrators” who are, notwithstanding their PhDs are too stupid, in a just world, to hold any job at all.  Even something as benign as a “pedagogical model” can be turned into an instrument of, dare I say, bullying - of students and their parents – by teachers and administrators who are focused on “policy” rather than “children”.

Which, increasingly, they – especially adminstrators – are.

Just saying – with today’s generation of toxic administrators, it’s smart to expect the unintended.

This law “solves” a problem that can’t be solved (beyond the extent to which previous law already did), by giving even more power to people who should have much, much less than they already do, from a bureacracy that makes sure they mis-use it with gusto!

Oceania Has Never Bullied Eastasia, Winston

The bill that the Metrocrats chose to call the “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” passed the Senate. 

Let’s look at what’s in a name.  Because the name “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” is intensely misleading – almost to a geometric fault.

There are so many names for this bill that are more appropriate:

The Redundant Feel-Good Act:  Every school district already has a bullying policy.  It’s the law. 

The PC Payoff Act:  This bill - probably soon to be a law – is a chit being paid back to the DFL’s supporters by the party currently in power, creating not only a protected class of students, but a super-di-duper protected class. 

The Full Employment For Bureaucrats Act:  This bill – which creates a huge unfunded mandate on top of all the others foisted on our school systems, to the point where many districts are nothing but mandate delivery systems with occasional spurts of “education” – will create a whole new class of administrators.  And they’ll belong to unions, who donate their dues money to the DFL. 

The Full Employment For Trial Lawyers Act:  The bill makes the entire process of dealing with “bullying” even more legalistic than it already is.  Legalistic means “designed to be controlled, and especially litigated (at an exquisitely expensive hourly rate) by lawyers”. 

The Type-Cast Your Child For Life Act:  Everything related to everything that can be defined as “bullying”, no matter how torturously, will become part of a child’s permanent academic record.  Which will affect childrens’ future chances at higher education, jobs, the military, jobs requiring security clearances and the like, long after the child has grown out of whatever phase they were in when they were bullies (and that’s assume they were rightly and justly accused of “bullying”, since the bill is also…)

“Stasi Had The Right Idea!” Act:   Anonymous informants?  Giving those who accuse others of bullying complete immunity from consequences if it turns out that the accusations were fabricated? 

The “Further Proof That North Dakotans Are Smarter Than Minnesotans” Act:  Other states – including our grown-up neighbor, my home state of North Dakota – address bullying by addressing bullying, passing laws that address actual behavior rather than creating the infrastructure for a network of secret denunciations and…

The Ideology Police Act:  …making all beliefs that don’t toe the PC line, especially personal religious beliefs, however manifested or stated, a form of behavior that needs to be watched and suppressed, overtly or subtly, “for the good of the children”.       

The “Let’s Have More Bullying, Not Less!” Act:  Bullying tends to go up, rather than down, in places with bullying bills.   

The Metrocrat Power Grab Of 2014 Act:  The bill – which does nothing to address bullying of children that isn’t already covered by existing policies – does coalesce more power to indoctrinate, to punish dissent from the state-sanctioned social views, and to extort more from the taxpayer in the bargain.  And it does it during the last session during which the DFL is guaranteed absolute power.                 

Could someone in the legislature please see to this?

De Blasio: The Left’s Id

NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio launched his first salvo in his war on charter schools – which is, essentially, an extended payoff to the unions and the condo pinks that put him in office in the first place (occasional emphasis added by me):

While running for New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio could count on applause for attacking unpopular charter school co-locations, where charters that need space are squeezed into public school buildings alongside other schools.

Instead of extolling the promise of the charters, de Blasio provided a spine-stiffening defense of the “common” school, and his base ate it up: The unions loved it, parents whose kids were not in charters loved it, and many of de Blasio’s fellow Park Slope progressives loved it.

That’s been one of the charter opponents’ most galling tactics; they’ve made charters the subject of a class war, with charters as “the enemy”, notwithstanding that (especially in the city) they are the lifeboat for the underserved minority, and the students that the “common” schools have given up on.

So the new mayor must be feeling whiplash after the outcry that met him as he began to carry out a popular campaign pledge: slow down the charter co-locations and shift more money to traditional public schools. That the charter community opposed the mayor wasn’t a surprise. It was their political strength, organization, and popularity that caught de Blasio off guard.

From the rhetoric, you’d think de Blasio had personally bounced kids out of charter schools across all five boroughs.

Slate goes on to defend De Blasio.

But charter proponents know that it’s a short jump from “slowing down co-location” (in real-estate-starved NYC they put charter schools in the same buildings as public schools) to shutting down schools.  The left hates charters, and the slippery slope is very, very real.

The “Stasi Bill” Vs. “The Bullying Bill”, Part 2

Senator Roger Chamberlain has been leading the push to try to replace Senator Dibble’s “bullying bill”, HF 826, with a bill that addresses bullying rather than serves as a bludgeon of indoctrination.

He wrote a piece on Facebook (among, I’m sure, other places) earlier this week that I think sums things up well.  I’m going to excerpt it below, with a few bits of emphasis added by me:

———-

I need to be blunt. HF 826 will turn our schools into indoctrination camps; it will create a climate of fear. Our children will be stripped of their innocence and humanity; HF 826 looks at children as nothing more than programmable machinery. Parents will lose more control, school districts lose control, and communities will lose control.
Another sad and disturbing fact is some elected officials and lobbyists do not care about the larger issue, the overall harm the bill will cause to children and parents. They will work to cut deals with the bill’s author and when they achieve their specific objective, and then they will walk away. One lobbyist said they will simply live with the results of the session.

What happened to the idea of doing what is right? Unfortunately it’s a fairly rare concept in government.

There is an alternative, senate file 2411 (SF 2411) it is based on North Dakota law, which, in 2011, was endorsed by our Attorney General Lori Swanson. It is short, 4 pages not 20 pages, clarifies the issue but most importantly it protects all kids equally, retains parental rights and local control.

HF 826 is not just another law people will learn to live with, it’s not MNSure, and these are children, your children and not some abstraction. People have no idea the damage this will cause; they have no idea what they are asking for.

———-

If you take action on no other issue this session (and I know this blog’s audience is prone to taking action on political issues), do it for this one.

 

The “Stasi Bill” Versus The “Anti-Bullying Bill”

The DFL’s “bullying bill” is a special interest sop; it creates protected classes against whom bullying is double dog bad.   It’s a type of bill that seems, elsewhere in the country, to have the effect of increasing bullying of the kids they’re intended to protect – not to mention increasing the official “bullying” and censorship of dissent.    It might be better called the “Stasi Bill”.

Of course, the real reason the DFL supports it is that it creates yet another well-paid, unionized bureaucracy to staff with members of the political class.

The GOP, thankfully, is offering an alternative – a bill that offers to-the-point protection of actual victims, rather than a generalized snitching system that can be used as a cudgel against pretty much anyone doing anything:

Republican senators Monday afternoon announced the “Stamp Out Bullying” bill, which is modeled after legislation that’s been successful in other states and receives a top rating from a national anti-bullying group…State Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, a leading critic of Dibble’s bill, said in a news release that he expects the alternative anti-bullying bill to receive bipartisan support. He said his legislation will protect students while allowing school districts to maintain local control.

“This proposal keeps school resources in the classroom where they belong, and doesn’t place an added burden on school districts already struggling with tight budgets. It protects all students, keeps parents informed, and gives school districts a solid framework to develop solutions that work for their communities,” Chamberlain said.

Being realistic?  I’d say the GOP’s best hope is to get Republicans and not-insane DFLers to push either for Chamberlain’s bill, or to amend Dibble’s ‘bill to strip out the objectionable stuff like the Stasi provisions and the protected classes…

…which is the stuff that the Metro DFL wants, which makes them poison pills.

Such is politics in the minority.

Elections have consequences.

Let’s Try A “Thought” Experiment

Find one of your children.

Wait for when it’s super cold out – like, below zero.

Soak them with a super-soaker.  Then force them outside, and don’t let them back in the house, or any cars, or into the neighbors’ houses.

When (hopefully) someone calls the cops, you’ll be thrown into jail for child endangerment.  And you should be.

Because “idiot” wouldn’t describe it – but “evil” pretty much would.

Most of you have no doubt seen this story; a Saint Paul middle school forced a junior high kid to wait outside, in a swimsuit and towel, in -2 weather and -25 wind chill.   There’d been a fire drill while she was in the pool, and the teachers didn’t let her go to her locker, grab a coat, or anything but a towel (emphasis added):

[The girl] asked to wait inside an employee’s car, or at the elementary school across the street. But administrators believed that this would violate official policy, and could get the school in trouble, so they opted to simply let the girl freeze.

Let’s try to go through the “minds” of these hamsters:  Given a choice to “violate policy” and “endanger a child’s health and safety”, the kid got chucked under a bus.

What does it say that a bunch of junior high kids are smarter, and have more moral clarity, than their administrators?

Her fellow classmates, at least, huddled around her to try to keep her warm. And one teacher did eventually lend her a coat.

There should be arrests.  Idiot school administrators should be frog-walked out of their building in handcuffs.   Their mug shots should be splashed all over the TV, so parents can keep their children away.   Licenses should be slowly torn into long, thin strips.

But that’ll never happen.

Charter Schools: Batten Down The Hatches

The DFL – at the behest of the Teachers Union, of which the DFL is a partially-owned subsidiary – hates charter schools.  They provide choice to families who find themselves underserved by the public system.

And if you’re a parent in the inner city, that’s pretty much you; your kids are jammed into public schools that by any rational standard are gross underperformers.  If you’re a minority parent in Minneapolis or Saint Paul, you send your kids to schools with two of the worst minority achievement gaps in the country (while constantly reiterating the PR pap notion that Minnesota’s schools are really, really swell).

And complete DFL control of Minnesota’s government – at least for this session – means charter schools can expect an existential threat in the next four months.

Today’s story on MPR is a bellweather of this threat.

Critics of underperforming charter schools say state law isn’t tough enough. They’re pushing a measure that would flag poor performing charters for closure.

If approved by the Legislature it would pressure charter school authorizers, the organizations that oversee the schools, to close chronically underperforming charters.

Detractors of charter schools – pretty much the DFL, the unions and their various non-profit handmaidens – constantly refer to charter school “performance” and “metrics”.

Unanswered in all of that palaver – whether any public district school could be a success, acadmically, fiscally or in regulatory terms – if they had to follow the same standards charters do.  This is especially true of larger public districts that can bury their most intractably underperforming students in “Alternative Learning Centers” – effectively getting the “off the books” for purposes of assessing academic performance.

And still the public schools languish.

Charter schools are public schools, but they are freed from some of the requirements that traditional schools must follow. By design, that autonomy is intended to allow charters to try innovative approaches like longer school days or creative curriculum.

An eighth of Saint Paul’s parents – and an even greater share in Minneapolis – have opted, via school choice, to leave the city systems; they’ve moved to private, parochial, suburban, and – especially in poor, immigrant and minority communities – charter schools.  75% or more of inner city charter students are from “families of color”, immigrants or other underserved communities.

These news stories – and legislative initiatives – are invariably based on biased research.  Example (with emphasis added):

As the charter system has grown, so have concerns over how the schools perform, academically and financially.

Overall, students at charter schools don’t do as well academically as students in traditional district schools, according to research by Myron Orfield, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity.

“research by Myron Orfield” means “research commissioned by and for the DFL and the unions”.  No more, no less.

“The problem is the vast majority of charters are underperforming and maybe 25, 30 percent of them are just really terrible and they go on from year to year,” said Orfield, one of the biggest critics of charter schools in Minnesota. “They’re considerably worse than the public schools.”

And some numbers can make that impression.  And some charters are, no doubt, not-hackers.

But there are three things to remember about “achievement” comparisons between charter and district schools:

  • It’s A Hard Knock Life:  Charter schools – especially in the city – are frequently a refuge for students and families who’ve been shorted by the public system.  ”Shorted” is a polite, general phrase that means everything from “badly served” to “thoroughly brutalized” by the one-size-fits-all public school system.  Yes, I have a perspective on this.   Of course their academic performance is lower, no matter what charter school they attend.
  • Rigged:  Of course, the studies show that charters schools lag district schools in terms of raw academic performance.  Not only are a large percentage of charter students looking for a second chance (and their grades show it), but charter schools have to own their numbers; public systems have the “Alternative Learning Centers” into which they can shunt the chronic underperformers, to get them off the district’s books.  And that’s with the ones they haven’t given up on altogether; after about age 16, the big districts put very few obstacles in the paths of kids who want to drop out – which also bumps the curve up for the big schools.  The “studies” – including Orfield’s – don’t account for this.  The only meaningful measurement of achievement would follow students’ changes in academic performance – positive or otherwise – after they left the public system (controlled by comparison with kids with similar social, educational and ethnic makeup who stayed in the public system), over a realistic period of time.   
  • Apples To Axles:  I’m going to suggest that if public schools were measured, financially and academically, by the same standards that charter schools have to meet (including the performance of the kids that the district gives up on, the ALC and dropouts – that a much greater share of public schools would risk being shut down.  Especially in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth, Bloomington, Richfield, Robbinsdale/New Hope and the Brooklyns.
Expect this story to be the opening salvo of a DFL assault on, at the very least, the fringes of the charter system.

I Am Going To Start Training Our Nation’s Elite!

For years, now, the highest tiers of our university system have turned out our nation’s “elites”.

And the reason we know they are our “elites” is because they are smart.

And the reason we know they are smart is because they got good grades from an “elite” university.

So I’m going to start an “elite” university. 

You’ll know my university’s students are the best in America – because they’ll all get A+++es on their transcripts.  Which, as we know, is better than an A++, to say nothing of an A+. 

Oh, relax.  It’s not like Harvard does pretty much the same thing.

Sexual Harassment

In re the story about the six year old boy, Hunter Yelton, who was suspended from school and branded a “sexual harasser” for kissing another six year old girl:  the mother is going public saying that it was perfectly legitimate.

And I’ll allow that there are two sides to every story.

But if you bet money that the woman would have a hyphenated last name, and be a part of the educational-industrial complex, you may cash your chips.

(PS:  kids experiment with the idea of “affection” at that age.  They need to be firmly but gently set straight on what is and is not appropriate – not have their age-normal explorations branded a crime.  Some therapist is going to get rich off that poor kid when he’s gotta deal with his relationship issues someday).

As Times Change

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Can you imagine a songwriter today trying to sell these lyrics:

“When some loud bragger tries to put me down and says his school is great,

I tell him “What’s the matter buddy, ain’t you heard of my school? It’s number one in the state.”

So be true to your school, just like you would to your girl . . . “

Even with thumping base loud enough to flex the car windows and rattle the bumper, there’s no way this song would sell.

Kids these days.

Joe Doakes

True, but to be fair, a lot of times these days it’s the parents that’re bailing on their kids schools.

The Policy That Dare Not Say Its Name

I’ll urge you to read this letter to the editor from last Wednesday’s Pioneer Press

I’m going to point to an exerpt or two:

Your recent story on St. Paul Public Schools and race (“Facing the race issue,” Oct. 28) failed to mention the elephant in the room. That elephant is that St. Paul Public Schools currently has a black agenda, thanks to the Pacific Educational Group consulting firm.

The agenda is to place blame on white teachers for low test scores and a high suspension rate among black boys. We never want to address parental involvement, lack of fathers in the homes or education not valued (because this is common sense and may actually help students and families that are struggling).

I shouldn’t quote more under the terms of “fair use”.  You need to read the whole thing.

I’ll await the cries of “the writer is no doubt a white bankster from the Wayzata”. 

Go ahead.  Cry.

OK.  The writer 0 Aaron Benner – is from St. Paul, teaches elementary school in the Saint Paul system, and notes that he is black. 

The SPPS isn’t seeking a solution to the achievement gap.  They are seeking political cover that furthers a political and social agenda.

Teacher Of The Year

Perhaps you’ve heard; Minnesota’s new “Teacher of the Year”, Saint Paul science teacher Megan Hall seems to have answered the question “are today’s public schools nothing but left-wing indoctrination centers” with a rousing “Hell yeah!”

This is from her acceptance speech, with emphasis added by me:

Teachers are persistent and responsible and generous because we believe that every child in America, regardless of circumstances of birth, deserves a decent chance at a good life. [Applause] From where I stand, teachers create equality of opportunity. From where I stand, teaching is a profession that takes a gritty patriotism. And from where I stand, teachers are American democracy’s last line of defense against the tyranny of the 1 percent

Don’t believe me?  Here’s the video

How over the top was it?  Even the City Pages’ Aaron Rupar seemed to feel a little uncomfortable: “Yeah, maybe that would’ve been a good line to save for when you’re having beers with your liberal buddies after the speech”.

For all I know Ms. Hall is a perfectly adequate teacher – and in my experience in the Saint Paul Public Schools, adequate would have been pretty superlative.

But I have to wonder:  if Ms. Hall is protecting the students from “the 1%”, who is going to protect them from the Saint Paul Public Schools?

Because between the child abuse, the brain-dead kommissariat masquerading as a bureaucracy, and the massive horde of intellectually-walking-dead union members Ms. Hall shares a district with?

I’ll take my chance with those gol-durned rich folks, thanks.

But look at it her way; I suppose if I taught for a district with the worst major-market achievement gap in the United States, with a minority graduation rate lower than Miley Cyrus’ neckline, a district that minority parents were decamping from as fast as they can find open spaces in charter schools or suburban schools via open enrollment, I’d look for a scapegoat too.