Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Funding for Public Schools- Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine Case Study: Pennsylvania Public Schools

Even though I work overseas, I like to keep a close eye on what is happening with education in the USA. STEM education, keeping our country competitive in the world are all concerns. But funding is a huge issue right now, with public employee benefits and salaries getting decimated in cost-cutting moves by various groups right now. Funding leads to quality teachers which leads to..quality kids. The article above talks about these issues as well as reform measures such as merit pay, vouchers are being looked at. I have been back and forth myself on some of these issues, but the author raises a good point about the actual cost of some of these reform measures including:

The Corbett administration supports funding a voucher system that has been demonstrated not to raise achievement test scores and ends up costing taxpayers more money. Voucher programs are not funded by some magical pot of money. Taxpayers pay for them!
Corbett also wants to develop a grading system for public schools that has the ability to wreak chaos on property values. The governor plans to implement the Keystone exams (exit exams) that national research has shown add nothing to a child's education, and in the state of California is estimated to cost over $500 million dollars a year to administer. Additionally, Corbett wants to create a merit pay system for teachers that will narrow the curriculum, end teacher collaboration and cost taxpayers even more money. As Diane Ravitch recently pointed out, "when the Vanderbilt study of merit pay was published, the U.S. Department of Education immediately released nearly $500 million for -- what else -- more merit-pay programs, and promised that another $500 million would be forthcoming. Data mean nothing when your mind is made up." Therefore, Corbett's plans for public schools will end up costing taxpayers more than the initial $589 million cut.

The point which was most interesting was about merit pay. In a competitive world, it's dog eat dog and teaching has always been and should be non-competitive. It should be collaborative. That is the hallmark of schools in Finland, Singapore, and Canada which consistently have the highest scores around.

If you know that you are being judged according to how your colleagues are performing, and you have a method that consistently keeps your test scores high for your kids, are you going to share it? Doubtful- because then it means you won't get that extra pay because the teacher down the hall now knows the method if you share it with them, and your competition is that much higher. Whose loses out? The kids of course. Good teachers will consistently shine through and share their knowledge. Those that are bad, still won't learn the tricks of the trade, and should and will be washed out of teaching anyway....

More from the article (made some good points about how the public is being "Shocked" into making uninformed decisions...)

In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein pushes the concept of how the public can be manipulated during times of catastrophe or perceived crisis. Lately, it has been argued that the "financial crisis" is being used by market-driven reformers to undermine the public services sector. Specifically, if we look at public education, lawmakers are explicitly telling public schools that they will need to deal with less in the future because of state budget deficits. All of this is done with large support from the citizens because they are "shocked" and believe there is an economic crisis and that any publicly-supported service should be drastically cut to help bring back balanced budgets. Simultaneously, "the shockers" offer rewards in corporate tax cuts and in some cases implement new programs that end up costing the taxpayer more than the proposed cuts....more....

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