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Thursday, February 14, 2013

For Education reformers, is it all about the children or all about the Benjamins’?

*Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bill Gates and dozens of other in the corporate reform movement always start their speels; this is all about the children. Those poor neglected children who have been through so much at the hands of a public education system either unwilling or unable to change and whose top goal isn’t to educate but to seemingly protect bad teachers.

What you are going to read below is all about the children.

Do you know what the vast amount of these children loving corporate reformers have in common? They have never been teachers. They have never stood in front of groups of children, often hungry, neglected by their parents, the chronic victims of violence, some sick, some depressed, many have never experienced consequences for bad behavior, more than a few once they get past the primary grades are in classes they either don’t want to take or don’t have the aptitude for and attempted to teach. All while at the same time earning just enough money to get by unless they have a sick child, their car needs new tires or heaven forbid another mundane emergency occurs. I imagine none have had to neglect their own children giving them keys to open their empty houses or leaving them in after school programs while they grade papers or lesson plan or take care of other people’s children, like many teachers have and do, either. Nope, Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bill Gates and dozens of others in the corporate reform movement have never done those things. How can it be that if they love the children so much they can’t be bothered to work with any individually? Another similarity is their large non teacher sized bank accounts. The education reform business is very lucrative.

Have you noticed how all their reforms have to do with privatizing education, charter schools and vouchers and punishing teachers, serpentine teacher evaluations, dismissing their education and experience and have very little to do with improving children’s education experiences?

To them poverty is just an excuse not the number one factor in determining how children do in school. To them art and music classes, guidance counselors, social workers and vocational programs can all be cut to pay for their standardized testing agenda.

Have you notice how all their reforms siphon money out of the classroom? Florida pays Pearson about 75 million dollars a year to administer the FCAT, management companies take home hefty payouts from charter schools and Students First, the outfit that manages Florida’s voucher program took home nearly 7 million in fees last year and then used some of that money to lobby for more vouchers which in turn would increase their management fees!

How many art teachers, music teachers, vocational programs, social workers and guidance counselors have we lost because of this and how many more could we have if we returned the money back to our schools? How about mentoring and summer school programs too? You know things that will really make a difference.

I am beginning to think it isn’t all about the children but all about the Benjamins’ instead.

Now don’t get me wrong, teachers are not infallible and where I don’t buy into the epidemic of bad teachers narrative that the corporate reform movement often sells, I understand there are a few teachers that need to be given an opportunity to improve (as well as the help and resources to do so) and if they don’t should be counseled out but isn’t what teachers do what is really all about the children? One of the biggest problems we have in education is how teachers are marginalized, ignored and practically never consulted.

Representative Jenifer Adkins, Fernandina Beach, just told teachers that many of their ideas, specifically the ones for multiple pathways to graduation were off the table. Friends this woman has never taught a day in her life. Gary Chartrand the chair of the state board of education, another education reformer devoid of teaching experience doesn’t think teachers are professionals and should have huge classrooms. He helped bring Teach for America to Jacksonville, which places neophytes without education backgrounds in our most challenging classrooms or what we know to be the opposite of best practices and is on record saying smaller classes don’t make a difference. These are just two of a legion of example that I could use to show how the powers-that-be in the corporate reform movement ignore teachers or marginalize what they do. Though they will all tell you as well that all they do is all about the children.

Here are a few more:

John thrasher tries to put restricts on teachers unions: it is all about the children.

School Board member Ashley smith Juarez says there is no evidence that smaller class sizes make a difference despite the fact she benefitted from them her entire academic career: it is all about the children.

Bill Gates asks why he would pay a more experienced lawn man to cut his yard than a less experienced one when talking about teacher’s salaries: it is all about the children

Jeb Bush manipulates, cherry picks and misstates data: it is about the children.

Michelle Rhee fires a lifelong educator on camera and runs her district with an iron fist: it is all about the children.

The Florida Legislatures rushes to privatize schools by allowing the creation of charter schools that aren’t constrained by local school boards and despite having tremendous advantages, as a group don’t perform better, 15 of Florida’s 31 failing schools last year were charter schools: but it doesn’t matter because it is all about the children.

Rick Scott cuts teacher’s pay by three percent: it is all about the children

Marco Rubio despite evidence that says children who get vouchers don’t do any better than their public school counterparts and the fact that private schools often lack accountability measures, calls for universal vouchers: but you guessed it, it is all about the children.

And how are these things benefitting children again? Maybe I can’t see it because I am a money grubbing teacher living high off my salary that after 12 years is some 14 grand under the national average, content to live on my Cadillac benefits that get worse and more expensive each year as I protect the terrible teacher next door, or is it they are protecting me, to see it. Could somebody who loves children so much that can’t be bothered to spend any time with them and who also thinks it is okay to demonize and marginalize those that do, explain it to me?

Can somebody please explain to me how what they want to do is all about the children but what I and millions of my teacher brothers and sisters do isn’t?

* Yes I know Rhee spent two years in a classroom. During which time she once ate a bee and also duct taped a child’s mouth shut, which was definitely all for the children too. I also know that after she left, she exaggerated her accomplishments.

Inspired by George Wood, writing in the Washington Post,

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