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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Fixing Education With Voucher Gimmicks Is A Fool's Errand

Category: Education
Posted: 04/03/17 21:19

by Dave Mindeman

Republicans never seem to get it about vouchers. They cannot understand why progressives aren't on board to give poor kids an opportunity to go to a good private school...a better school which would give them a chance to succeed.

But here are the things they ignore or don't think about.

Those vouchers take money directly away from public schools. Schools that are already strained under a heavy load to educate every child that comes their way.

And when you take that money away, you are going to hurt children with a difficult path to navigate. Children that need a lot of support services. Children that have no place else to go.

Now, there are specialty schools that can help special needs kids. And if our Republican friends would annex them under the public education umbrella, then we really could have improvement in how we educate everybody.

But giving that money selectively to private or religious schools hurts the vulnerable kids in the public sector.

Republicans will say that private schools can give poor kids an opportunity to make up for their obstacles. They can provide a more stable environment. Yes, maybe they can...for some...for a few. But are private school institutions willing to take any child with any obstacle? Won't they pick and choose what they believe they can handle? Won't they avoid the special needs children that require 5 and 6 times the support of others?

And when they make their selections, they are taking away budgeted public money from public school systems. Money that cannot be replaced and forces cutbacks for improvements, for buildings, for services, and the kids who cannot afford to get the kind of support they need anywhere else.

Vouchers is one of those pie in the sky ideas that some GOP think tank cooks up to make everyone think they are thinking about the best needs of the poor. When what they are really doing is forcing a two tier education system - one for those that have the resources to support quality education and one where we don't have enough and we try to absolve ourselves of the real responsibility of educating every single child.

We had an education system that was named "No Child Left Behind". Remember that one? It had some noble ideas, but like everything else in education that gets underfunded and over complicated, it ended up leaving many children behind.

Education doesn't need gimmicks or monetary sleight of hand. It needs full and complete funding. It needs to take in a child and educate him or her with full and complete support - whatever it takes.

When it comes to education issues, we talk on the margins. We make excuses. We pretend that we can find ways to educate everyone without expending the monetary investment that is really needed.

Our kids deserve to get whatever they need. It is their right according to our basic Constitutional doctrines.

Vouchers is not an answer - it is another gimmick doomed to failure.
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Questioning Facts For Profit

Category: Education
Posted: 02/28/17 14:25

by Dave Mindeman

Here's another rational Republican bill from South Dakota.

SB55 would have allowed teachers to essentially teach anything they want as science as long as they used certain language.

Fortunately, this didn't make it out of the education committee. But the idea that it was even proposed leads me to wonder what is wrong with our legislative system. And this is really not new....

Since 2014, at least 60 "academic freedom" bills -- which permit teachers to paint established science as controversial -- have been filed in legislatures all over the country. Louisiana passed one in 2008, and Tennessee did, too, in 2012.

Academic freedom? From what, established scientific fact? This doesn't happen in other countries because they do not let corporations challenge things like this.

From the cigarette companies multi million dollar campaign to pretend cigarettes don't cause cancer...to the oil and gas corporations remake of their pollution driven profit machine....it is an assault on factual information.

And it is fueled by the Republican Party. In a Congress bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists, legislation is not driven by factual information - it is operated on the assumption of profit first.

And President Trump is one of the many results of this insistence on questioning science and facts. He has taken advantage of the question marks that corporations have managed to buy in regards to established science.

Advertising "alternative facts" is the new way to avoid making business clean up or make the workplace safer or prop up a dying market. Buy your way in...destroy the regulatory agencies...it is disgusting how much greed operates in this country.

We are choosing to destroy this planet for a few extra bucks.

Are we really going to allow our education system to be "rigged" into one huge corporate ad buy?

I didn't think it could be possible - now, I'm not so sure.
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ALERT: MN Is Dead Last In Education Support Services

Category: Education
Posted: 03/08/16 02:10

by Dave Mindeman

There is this Republican talking point that comes up every election year. It goes something like this....

We spend too much on education. You can't just keep throwing money at the problem and expect to get better results. It's not working.

MPR put together a study and this is one of the conclusions:

Many schools here and elsewhere have improved their graduation rates in part by following a simple formula of early intervention. They identify students who are at risk of dropping out, then match them with the support they need. But the effort requires staff power, and Minnesota as a whole lags in that support, especially for at-risk students. Schools here spend 2.6 percent of their education dollars on pupil support, a smaller portion than every other state. And it has been that way for a decade, according to an MPR News analysis.

We talk about the embarrassing achievement gap regarding students of color in Minnesota. We have talked and studied and commissioned to just about every possible angle, and still the problem remains unchanged.

We discuss the general needs of more revenue for the schools, but we don't get specific enough on the need for student support services. We need to identify and focus on students that need that extra help....that can help them overcome the barriers that leave them trapped without opportunity.

Here are some of the problems that this study identified....

1. Schools would need to spend $75 million a year more to get back to 2002 levels of student support.

2. To match the national average rate of 5.5 percent, they would have to add about $260 million, doubling what they spend now.

3. Today Minnesota has one of the most severe counselor crunches in the country, particularly in elementary schools.

4. State education officials say it would cost about $7 million to hire the number of high school counselors needed to bring Minnesota's ratio up to the national average.

5. The fastest-growing segment of the future workforce is students of color...the students least likely to earn diplomas.

6. If you're Hispanic, black, Asian-American or Native American, your chances of completing high school are worse in Minnesota than in almost any other state.

These are sobering facts. And Republican assertions that we are just throwing too much money around is just plain wrong. In 2006, Gov. Pawlenty proposed a plan that would require all districts to spend at least 70 percent of their budgets on classroom instruction. A noble undertaking, but in order to do that, support services had to be sacrificed....and we have never recovered. Identifying students at risk is the key to solving that achievement gap....and once they are identified, it is imperative that they have the student support services to help them.

Gov. Dayton has been repeatedly calling for more investment into early education. That is another key to solving this issue. Early learning can reduce the need for support services...it will not solve the problem alone, but it is a key component.

We need to look deeper into the achievement gap. We still need more investments, but they also must be smarter and more targeted investments.

One thing is certain though - do not buy the argument that we are spending too much on Minnesota education. Yes, it is a large portion of our budget, but that goes for almost all other states as well.

This is Minnesota and we expect better. We are better. Remember that during this legislative session.
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