Funding still the key to education reform


Everyone is for it, no one wants to pay for it. Education reform still hits the wall when we ask “who pays?”

The Seattle Times said funding is the key to reform, in an editorial November 19:

THE education panel Washington Learns proposes a bold approach to injecting every level of education with rigor and accountability.

The elephant in the room, however, is education funding. Sidestepping this massive beast threatens the very underpinning of reform efforts. Gov. Christine Gregoire promised a new way of looking at education and investing in it. The smart, holistic proposals from her committee give us the former. Now, where’s the latter?

This is a critical question that won’t wait. The piecemeal approach to education spending — funding a program here, a program there — hasn’t served schools well and would crack under the weighty intentions of Washington Learns.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Kozol was at the University of Alaska in Anchorage a week earlier, and he pulled no punches:

“They say a good teacher can do OK with 40 kids, but they (those teachers) could work wonders with 18 kids,” he said.

Kozol said that today students are viewed with price tags on their heads and that equality in education is not a current reality.

“In the eyes of God, I’m sure all children are equal – but not in the eyes of America,” he said.

Now, there is an interesting indicator to measure whether God is in the schools: Money.

Both articles, in full, below the fold.

From the Seattle Times:

 

Funding is key to education reform

THE education panel Washington Learns proposes a bold approach to injecting every level of education with rigor and accountability.

The elephant in the room, however, is education funding. Sidestepping this massive beast threatens the very underpinning of reform efforts. Gov. Christine Gregoire promised a new way of looking at education and investing in it. The smart, holistic proposals from her committee give us the former. Now, where’s the latter?

This is a critical question that won’t wait. The piecemeal approach to education spending — funding a program here, a program there — hasn’t served schools well and would crack under the weighty intentions of Washington Learns.

Here is what lies in the future for our schools and our children if we enact even a portion of the panel’s ideas:

• State funding for all-day kindergarten, thus eliminating tuition-based classes and the piecemeal offerings that vary from school to school.

• Expanded professional development and a pay scale based on merit.

• More-rigorous high-school course requirements targeting the gaping weaknesses in math and science curricula.

• A 10-year plan for expected increases in enrollment at colleges and universities.

And those very things are what our schools and children won’t receive if a long-term, stable source of funding isn’t developed.

Promises are made to take unblinking looks at education, including funding. But a mere glance at the beast sends the best of education thinkers reeling backwards.

The state has $1.9 billion in reserves. The governor’s budget is expected to include a significant down payment on the expected $1 billion cost of Washington Learn’s proposed reforms.

Good. But even better would be a strong handle on the strengths and weaknesses of the funding system. State spending on education is $7 billion annually. A transparent view of this spending is essential, even while acknowledging that more will be required to get the job done.

Pressure is growing to address the funding issue. Lawsuits are being prepared challenging disparities in state money among districts and over the inadequacy of basic education funding.

The time to tackle the funding beast is now.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

From Northern.Light.Online, at the University of Alaska-Anchorage:

Kozol calls for education reform

By Toben Shelby

November 07, 2006

Dr. Jonathan Kozol received a warm welcome both at an open forum and while delivering a lecture Nov. 1, as he discussed the state of the education system in America, addressing serious issues such as segregation and the No Child Left Behind Act.

Mixing an irreverent, humorous tone with the serious nature of the topic in a style similar to Jon Stewart’s, Kozol was able to keep audience members on the edge of their seats as he gave firsthand accounts and humorous yet frightening anecdotes of problems in our nation’s education system.

“Everything bad I have to say about education applies to every school district in America – except this one,” he said in the opening minutes of his lecture. Kozol was able to draw laughs out of an audience composed mostly of teachers and education students, with guests such as Anchorage School District superintendent Carol Comeau in attendance.

Kozol, a former teacher and Harvard graduate, recently completed his book “Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America,” which investigates how the public school system is hurting students, especially minorities and low-income students.

“(The school system) works very, very well for rich people,” he said at the open forum. The middle class also does well, but “the schools that aren’t doing well are the schools that are most badly cheated of necessary resources, and they are the schools that serve our poorest kids,” Kozol said.

Kozol spoke of a teacher he met with from the South who had been teaching for 15 years and had only taught one white student. Conversely, Kozol said, there are elite schools up north that have only white students. He referred to such places as “postmodern, millennial-apartheid wheat-germ academies,” which he said are very liberal in every way except for race.

Using strong language, Kozol described what is happening in the nation’s schools as cultural genocide, where different ethnic backgrounds are viewed as hindrances that must be smoothed over to conform to government standards of aptitude.

“They prepare teachers as if they are going to be technicians of proficiency instead of warm and glowing human beings, in love with childhood,” Kozol said.

This is especially glaring at the elementary level, where some schools have eliminated recess to allow for more training for benchmark exams.

Later in the evening, Kozol spoke of some of the conditions of poor inner city schools, where there are seven lunch periods to accommodate overcrowded student populations, who dine in the basements of their dilapidated schools.

“Aesthetics count,” he said. “They draw the line of cast and class.”

Kozol also recounted his visit to Freemont High in southcentral Los Angeles, where class sizes ranged from 35 to 45 students each. Kozol said that he’s been in heated discussions with many people, such as Patrick Buchanan on Crossfire, who said that class size isn’t an issue.

“They say a good teacher can do OK with 40 kids, but they (those teachers) could work wonders with 18 kids,” he said.

Kozol said that today students are viewed with price tags on their heads and that equality in education is not a current reality.

“In the eyes of God, I’m sure all children are equal – but not in the eyes of America,” he said.

Throughout the evening, Kozol directed many of his grievances toward the Republicans and President Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, but he was clear that Democrats were not without blame either.

“Democrats lost their guts and capitulated to Bush’s act,” he said.

No Child Left Behind is ineffective in judging what a student has learned, Kozol claimed, drawing applause from the audience. Reports are being returned too late to be of use to teachers, as many results do not come in until late summer or early fall after the tests.

“What are teachers supposed to do, send a postcard?” Kozol said.

Kozol frequently urged teachers to teach students in ways that celebrated learning, life and love, and not to be “drill instructors for the state.” He said that NCLB misses the point of what teaching is really about.

“You won’t find the words love, joy, spontaneity or compassion in NCLB – I’ve looked,” he said.

Despite Kozol’s sometimes-acerbic comments, professor Hilary Seitz, from the College of Education, said Kozol was spot-on in his remarks.

“What he spoke about applied to issues abroad and in Alaska,” she said. “The evening lecture was very powerful; a lot of my students were nodding their heads. I could tell they were proud to be in education.”

The quality-of-education levels for low-income or minority students are very applicable to Alaska, as Seitz said that the educational quality is much better for those who can afford the preschool opportunity.

“Alaska is one of 11 states that do not have state-funded pre-kindergarten,” she said. Appropriate preschool opportunities are something that Kozol believes is vital to proper development and education of children.

Toward the end of the evening, Kozol was asked about the deeper issues of segregation and class struggles that go beyond what happens in education. He said that of course there are larger issues to be considered with segregation, “but I need to carve out a section in which I can hope to see victory.”

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2 Responses to Funding still the key to education reform

  1. edarrell says:

    No, throwing money at a problem never solves it. Spending money wisely becomes an investment, however — ask your brother in law if he believes that investing in a retirement fund is a bad idea, or if he should put no money towards retirement on the assumption that “throwing money at retirement” is a bad idea.

    Money isn’t everything, but happiness won’t buy groceries. Education is one of those peculiar areas of public policy where policy makers and voters say ‘We refuse to pay a dime more until the best teachers are attracted to the job,’ as if holding wages down was a way to attract quality workers. Worse, we don’t institutionalize people when they say that.

    George Steinbrenner would make a better education policy wonk than most conservative legislators, and I suspect Steinbrenner’s a Republican (and I am no lover of the Yankees). Pay what you have to for quality, your money will be well spent.

    Class size has nothing to do with outcome? Yeah, that’s why homeschools typically have 50 or 60 kids per class, why the model of Alexander on one end of the log and the philosopher at the other is so compelling, and why champion figure skaters don’t have personal coaches. It’s why George Bush abolished the Pentagon — he can just talk to the troops in Iraq directly on their cell phones now.

    Your blog is something else. Thanks for coming over.

    Like this

  2. Two Dishes says:

    My conservative brother-in-law throws around his mindless anti-funding bromide: “Well you know (my AM radio show) says throwing money at the problem won’t solve it”. Drives me crazy.

    Equally maddening: NY Post Editorial last year claiming that class-size has nothing to do with educational outcomes. They actually defended the status quo in NYC (my high school, prestiguous Bronx Science, has 35 kids per high school class).

    Like this

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