Wednesday, October 29, 2008


A teacher friend shared some statistics in the Community Action Plan developed by Building Bright Futures. That's a nonprofit education organization that plans to use grants to fight poverty and support inner-city schools in their efforts to keep at-risk students in school.

The statistics are pretty alarming, and they point to a key fact with next Tuesday's election coming up:

Presidential candidate John McCain is for school choice and other fresh, new ways of meeting the educational needs of low-income students bubbling up from the private sector.

His opponent, Barack Obama, would route all his suggested interventions through the federal government. And that's even though the federal government has a terrible track record on education (Head Start has wasted billions, Title I has wasted billions, the racial achievement gap has widened since the 1960s, etc.). Plus, according to the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the federal government isn't even supposed to be INVOLVED in education.

My teacher friend said that the challenges she faces every day in her inner-city classroom would stun a horse. Now, she's a very sharp person and a very good teacher. If she feels that way, I don't see any way possible that public schools are going to be able to make anything close to improvement for most kids, given how ineffective they appear to be now.

It's obvious there needs to be diversity in our schooling approaches, the same way we have diversity in restaurant choices: big? little? locally-owned? part of a national chain? ethnic specialties? casual or formal? Why shouldn't parents be able to make those same kinds of choices when they decide where to place their child for school? It's a good question.

That makes sense to me, and it shows more and more how the socialistic Learning Community that we're moving toward -- if it remains in place and isn't knocked out by the courts -- would create a whole bunch of McSchools. They would all be on the same too-long school calendar, using the same no-good school curriculum and instructional methods, failing the same at-risk kids. And they would be giving us the same disappointing statistics like these for the $10,000+ per pupil per year that we taxpayers spend . . . because it's the SYSTEM that's the problem, not the kids.

But, anyway . . . you decide. Here are the stats on low-income students in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. This is what we have. Decide for yourself how likely we are to be able to change these stats by staying with the system we now have. Decide whether to vote for more of the same system (Obama), or real change through school choice (McCain):

-- One-third of low-income students cannot read or do math at grade level by mid-elementary school.

-- Half will drop out.

-- Of the 1,131 African-American students who entered kindergarten in a recent year, only 99 will go on to graduate from college, and far fewer than half of those are males.

-- Of 1,045 Latino students entering kindergarten, only 76 will go on to graduate from college.

-- Nearly one in three Omaha Public Schools 9th graders, 29%, are off track for graduation because they have failed core courses.

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Food for thought. Achievement First and KIPP charter schools have proven that "disadvantaged" kids can be quite well educated.And, they usually spend LESS than the top heavy government schools surrounding them.Omah Public schools admits to having 533 central office employees who do not teach. They admit to a per pupil cost of over $10,000 a year. The Platte Institute has carefully calculated that OPS really spends $13,044 per pupil per year and really has up to 925 central office educrats. OPS uses tricks to make itself look better.

The learning community will be a bureaucratic nightmare, costing 1.5 million the first year in administrative costs. It was created for political pandering purposes, not primarily to improve education. And it won't.
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