Thursday, May 20, 2004


A couple of surly educators took issue with my call for ‘’less dough, more mo’’ in K-12 education directed at low-income and non-English speaking students.

Instead of the Nebraska Supreme Court ruling in the pending “equity lawsuit” that taxpayers should pay more money to districts with a higher percentage of disadvantaged kids, I listed several non-financial management changes we could make in our public schools that will bring needy kids up to academic speed instead of throwing yet more money down an overspending rathole.

But these educators took me to task on StatePaper.com with these three criticisms. Rebutting, then:

1. I used ‘’dated research.’’ Ironically, among my sources on what works for needy pupils was an education textbook from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. It’s ‘’Foundations of Education’’ by Ornstein / Levine (Houghton Mifflin, 658 pp., 1993. If the same information that is imparted to aspiring teachers by our tax-supported schools is ‘’dated’’ and therefore suspect, don’t blame me. Blame the teachers’ colleges!

2. I used ‘’tired slogans.’’ The critic implied that my call for effective methods of teaching reading, more autonomy for principals, and merit pay for inner-city teachers, were all ‘’tired slogans.’’ The critic said the real reason academic performance is so bad in the inner cities and rural areas is because there isn’t enough money to do it right. Now, THERE’S a ‘’tired slogan,’’ considering the BILLIONS we’ve poured into our schools in recent years, the enormous staffs we provide, the laptops we buy for moppets that are fancier than the computer equipment most adults use to make a living. . . . I don’t know about you, but I’m ‘’tired’’ of being dissed like this.

3. The answer is ‘’universal preschool.’’ The critic suggested that if low-income and non-English speaking kids could have free preschool educations provided in the public schools, they’d be up to speed for kindergarten. But the evidence shows that that move would make things WORSE, not better. As shown by standardized test score comparisons around the world, the strength of public education in the United States has been private preschool experiences by children in their own homes, churches and privately-provided preschool settings. That’s because we moosh other countries in the early grades, and then they pass us by high school. It seems the more years kids are in public schools in this country, the more ‘’average’’ they become. Think about it! The worst preschool experiences by FAR have been had by disadvantaged children in the multi-billion dollar government boondoggle and preschool called ‘’Head Start.’’ The folly of government preschool has been well-exposed in articles by Darcy Olsen of the Cato Institute, www.cato.org The only reason educators and especially their unions want universal preschool is to bring more money, power, jobs and control into the public schools. It’s NOT about helping needy kids, and never forget that.

I’d also direct these critics and anybody else who wants to know the real deal on how to help needy kids to these additional sources:

A PDF report on www.pacificresearch.org (’’They Have Overcome: High Poverty, High Performance Schools in California’’) would be a terrific exhibit for the Nebraska Supreme Court; it’s from one of the best education writers in the country, Lance Izumi.

The well-known economist Eric Hanushek of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution is a top source on education economics and also would be a good witness for the State in the “equity lawsuit.” He has a Ph.D. in economics from MIT, has taught at Yale, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Rochester University, and is acknowledged to be THE expert in this field. See his downloadable papers on http://edpro.stanford.edu/eah/down.htm

His lifetime of gathering evidence has substantiated the following conclusions: there is virtually no relationship between additional spending on education and academic achievement . . . virtually no relationship between higher teacher salaries and academic achievement . . . virtually no relationship between teachers with master’s degrees in education and academic achievement . . . and virtually no relationship between smaller class sizes and academic achievement, past the early grades of school.

If the ‘’equity lawsuit’’ now going on in Nebraska courts does grant wads of new cash for the Omaha Public Schools and others who have more low-income and immigrant children to educate, it’d be a gigantic case of throwing money down a rathole.

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