I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, September 17, 2012

Let's Tax Rhee's Dream Team

Michele Rhee's motto: If you're going to improve schools, get together a bunch of people who know nothing about how they are run.
At long last, the education advocacy group begun by former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee has named a new, permanent board of directors.
In addition to Rhee herself, the board members include:
• comedian and school choice advocate Bill Cosby;
• decorated television journalist Connie Chung;
• Jennifer Johnson, an executive vice president and CEO for Franklin Resources, an investment-management organization;
• former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, now the CEO of News Corporation's Education Division;
• Roland Martin, a syndicated journalist, columnist, and CNN analyst;
• Jalen Rose, an ESPN/ABC analyst, philanthropist, and former pro basketball player who helped to found a charter school in Detroit;
• Blair Taylor, the chief community officer for Starbucks coffee and a former CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League.
Jalen Rose? The guy who started the little charter school that couldn't?
The first year was a rough one. 
Students learned, but were not on track to earn the school's goal of a 21 out of 36 score on the ACT college entrance exam by graduation, staff said. Right now, their score on the ACT preparation exam is about a 13. 
This year, nearly everything and everyone on staff is changing. 
After experimenting with a curriculum designed by a Canadian researcher, the staff shelved it. Among the innovations being jettisoned: online lessons called e-labs that were not rigorous enough and not aligned with the new national common core standards, and the unique grading scale of A, B or Incomplete.
I'm sorry - did you say everyone on staff is changing?
Besides the new curriculum, all of the teachers will be new. Some teachers were encouraged to apply elsewhere, while others left for higher pay in other public schools. The rest left because they were deflated, turned off by last year's ineffective structure, English said. Charter schools typically see a 25% annual turnover, compared with 14% in traditional public schools. [emphasis mine]
Because nothing's better for kids at-risk than lots of instability!
The school's small classes were good for kids, but bad for the budget last year. English and math classes had a maximum of 10 students, requiring more of the budget go to staff salaries. 
This year, all classes will have a maximum of 20 students. The change will allow smaller class sizes than in Detroit Public Schools while freeing up money in the $1.6-million state aid budget. That money will provide a more diverse menu and a cash flow cushion, said N. Kendell Walton, the financial consultant to Operation Graduation, the school's nonprofit management company.
Last year, the school had an online curriculum but often could not access lessons because of technical issues with the connections and laptops that broke down after daily wear and tear.
Look, it's really nice that Jalen Rose wants to help kids - but he has as much business starting a school as I do starting an NBA franchise. Why is StudentsFirst pushing an agenda that throws the lives of students like these into chaos by having neophytes found charter schools?

And it's nice that Rose's school is striving for smaller class sizes and longer hours and a caring staff - but why don't all of Detroit's kids have that? Rose ponied up his own money and got lots of corporate donations to help his school out. Why can't we do that for all of our at-risk students?

In fact, why don't all of the wealthy and famous people who populate Rhee's new board and fund her operations call for a new round of tax increases on people like themselves to give our schools the funds they need? Lord knows these people can afford it; they'd still have plenty left over. And money makes a big difference when it comes to helping poor and minority kids.

How about, you rich and famous reformy types? You care so much about kids that you're willing to serve on Rhee's board - how about taking the next step? Time to walk the talk, don't you think?

Uh, we're not really moving in that direction at this time...

No comments: