Public Education in One Picture   10 comments

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10 responses to “Public Education in One Picture

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  1. That is society.

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  2. An image with a powerful message. My whole career as an educator has been in an alternative school, its sad to see the opposition the public funding for increasing the diversity of choices for parents when choosing a school for their children. In Canada the voice of our First Nations Communities is forcing our society to address legitimate voices for diversity that can’t be ignored and won’t go away.

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    • Recognize, of course, that I am not discussing diversity in regards to race, but in regards to giving back the tax dollars stolen from Americans so that they can choose the school of their choice rather than the one assigned to them by the government.

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      • Sometimes the additional push for choice within the dominant culture, it helps to have an alternate culture whose needs should also be addressed in order for people to understand that the needs for diversity is also important with the dominant culture.
        My time teaching in Alberta was example of allowing parents autonomy in designing and running a plurality of schools be it Jewish, Christian, hockey focus, arts based, technology based. Each school would receive full government funding as long as the students met basic literacy standards.
        The school I was teaching in was criticized by the department of education for not being uniquely Christian enough in it’s identity and focus of teaching. In response the groups of three schools developed the idea of ten Biblical through lines that are used to organize our curriculum and shape our teaching. These through lines describe who we want our students to be in God’s story. The Beauty-Creating through line teaches and acknowledges that as people who reflect a creative God, we too practice our own acts of creation, embracing diversity, complexity and creativity just as God does. (https://edmchristian.wordpress.com/tag/christian-education/)

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      • Here in the United States, government and churches are supposed to be separate so that government can’t unduly influence churches, but some Americans worry that … by giving government money to Christian schools, taxpayer money is being spent on the promotion of religion. So, regardless of whether Christian schools do a better job at actual education (and most do outperform public schools on measurable education outcomes), some people here would oppose it simply because they object to the religious aspect of these schools.

        And, that makes sense because I object to taxpayer money being spent on Obamacare when it is used for funding abortions, which I am philosophically opposed to.

        So, what I ant to see is one of two things. Ideally, government would quit taxing people for education. There would be no public schools per se, although local communities could decide to create public schools if they feel this would be best. The community my mom grew up in collected a per student fee from parents to cover their kids’ education. Those families who couldn’t afford it, but wanted to send their kids were covered by a scholarship program. I learned recently that the funding for that came from a combination of voluntary contributions by local churches and a couple of ranchers, one of whom set up an endowment fund that now supports a private school scholarship.That system worked from the 1880s through the 1950s, when the state demanded they start taxing property owners. Educational outcomes started declining at that point, interestingly enough. About 10 years later, the federal government got involved in schools nationwide and outcomes have gone downhill ever since. Government would appear to be the problem since outcomes in private & parochial schools have remained steady even though they receive no government funds.

        So, my second choice would be for the government to return the property taxes to the parents in the form of vouchers that could be used at ANY school the parents choose. I think there would be a wholesale abandonment of the American public school system and probably most American charter schools would close too because they’re just public schools with a thin veneer of choice.

        Your blog looks interesting.

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      • i have always favoured the idea of a voucher system. In Canada we have two government funded school systems which is enshrined in the constitution. At the time of confederation (1867) there was the protestant school system and the catholic school system. The catholic school system has more or less maintained their identity. The protestant school system has gradually eroded in values and principles and is now know as the public school system.
        In my understanding, no school whether they are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or Christian should be used as a tool for indoctrination. The system I have taught in is focused on learning to critique the values and practices of the culture in which we live and at the same time not retreat from participating as active citizens, socially and politically. I see cultural diversity as religiously rooted in the sense that how one views the world and interprets events is formed by one’s religious roots. The cultural expression of those religious roots is much more than the piety the accompanies religious practice or worship.
        Schools the perform a valuable public service should quality for support comparable to what the public schools receive. Unfortunately many public schools fail in their efforts to perform a valuable public service.
        Our provincial education minister repeatedly voices the claim that we have the best school system in the world. The ministry of education thinks they will be believed if they state that often enough.
        Obviously they have not studied some very successful school systems like Finland. There is a country who’s schools performed almost dead last of western countries and 40 years later has a school system that tops any country in the world.
        My experience with government funding as it is received by the public schools makes them non-competitive. As principal of an independent school I was an insult to any officials I would talk to because they saw me as representing a school that snubs the public system – our parents would rather pay $10K a year at our school what on the face of it they could get for free at the public school. In a 10 year period that I was principal of an elementary school everyone of our graduates completed their high school diploma – zero drop out rate because we had given them the study skills and the confidence to carry on.

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      • That’s interesting. In the United States, community schools … supported by the parents and perhaps a few civic-minded others, were the norm for the first century. Most taught what might be called Protestantism. But there were few connections between schools from one community to the next. Pretty much every town had one, but they were independent of one another. When the Catholics started coming to New York (they were a tiny minority until the Irish famine) their kids weren’t particularly welcome and they objected to the religious portion of the curriculum, so they sent their kids to parochial schools that they supported with their tuition and help from the Roman Catholic parishes. At some point, in New York City, a decision was made to force integration. They decided to start collecting taxes from everyone, but the money only went to the “Protestant” schools, which were called “public schools.” This forced the Catholics to pay twice, which was hard and so those schools diminished while the public schools got better. The model spread across the nation, transforming community schools into public schools. But then in the 1960s, the National Education Association (just a trade union for teachers) got involved and started experimenting with new educational models. Doing away with phonics was among the first. Reading was now delayed into the 2nd and 3rd grade now. I remember “new math” which didn’t actually teach math. Outcomes started declining and the solution was always pay teachers more, build new schools, try another experimental program, add more homework, get the parents to come into the classroom (but not ever speak), etc., but outcomes continue to go down. The Catholics parochial schools and the uber-expensive private schools operated outside of this new system, so they continued to produce decently educated students. Starting in the late 70s, Protestant churches began to advocate for the right to open schools. It was quite a struggle to actually make that happen and enrollments remain low because people still have to pay the full taxes for the public schools. Of course, the public schools don’t just teach the 3Rs. They work actively to indoctrinate our children not just to question things like faith or conservative values, but to utterly reject them. And the fear is that voucher programs will come with strings attached that affect what Christian schools can teach. There was a discussion of vouchers in the Alaska Legislature that expired at the end of session in which the hot topic was that Christian schools could receive vouchers only if they agreed not to teach the Bible or any alternative science to evolution. Since that time, every time they’ve brought it up, some legislator is bound to insist that such a restriction is absolutely necessary. My daughter’s school taught that evolution is a theory and that there are other theories, which they spent time discussion all of them. That would disqualify them from receiving an voucher funding.

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      • Before the public schools in Ontario became politicized (around 1990’s) school tax was a locally assessed levy. Only if you were Catholic you could allocate the education portion of your property tax to the Catholic (then called Separate) School or the Public School. If you were not Catholic you could not allocate your property tax money to the Catholic school. Businesses with shareholders could designate a portion of their property taxes to the Catholic schools proportionally according the how many shareholders were Catholic (if the business wanted to go through the bother) else all of the education portion of their property tax went to the Public Schools. A cumbersome system. When it was revised the funds were handed down directly by the provincial ministry of education. Now all Catholic schools get funding equal to the Public school. What the Catholic schools lost in the bargain is the right to hire only Catholic teachers. How does a school system maintain integrity when they have no control over who gets hired. A friend of mine who is Protestant Christian became head of the religion department at his Catholic high school. No one else wanted the job.
        The inequalities continue, especially for parents who want a school for their children which is not Public or Catholic.
        As principal of a Christian school I had Catholic families who choose to pay tuition ($10K annually) rather than send their children to the Catholic school because we offered what the parents felt was a much better education.
        I would heartily endorse the funding model that our western province of Alberta offers. Funding yet maintaining autonomy over curriculum and hiring.
        Appreciate the dialogue.

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      • We can hope that someday those who actually control these things in the United States would understand this, but currently they do not. They want funding to be a fetter to control hiring and curriculum. I’m hoping Betsy DeVos can work to change that, but if vouchers ever happen in this country, I suspect they will result in private schools with a religious emphasis losing their autonomy. The National Education Association will fight to make sure of it.

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