Friday, May 06, 2005

Vouchers, Smouchers!

Vouchers, Smouchers!

This was written in response to a post that public school teachers were bad for sending their kids to private schools, and that the public schools were failing the Blacks, and that voucher schools would do better for them. Private schools and voucher schools are NOT EQUAL. This is the false premise that blows the argument.

A public voucher school only gets the same amount of money from the state to operate that a regular public school gets. Charter schools are sometimes seen as voucher schools. They have smaller class sizes because the staff, for whatever reason, is willing to get by on less income.

Charter schools also have typically much more parental support, as parents are often the founders. Every adult body in a classroom affects the tone of the classroom, as does reducing class size. The smaller the class size (12 -18 is optimum, based on expensive private school experience) the greater the progress of the students. Extra hours in an over-crowded, unmanagable classroom can actually be detrimental to a child's education.

As for public school teachers sending their kids to private schools, you need to consider the following: Teachers so value education that they are willing to pay WAY MORE than what the state would offer as a voucher. Teachers want their kids to get the best education, not just a $5,000/year one. Good private schools typically run between $10,000 and $30,000/year. Are you in favor of doubling or six folding the portion of what you pay in taxes for public education ?

The "average" private school is a Catholic school, with low tuition. These are NOT the schools that teachers typically chose for their kids. There are many, many, Catholic schools, so the "average" cost of a private school education is lower than the numbers I cited. The Catholic church also had the foresight to buy up real estate and has long since paid for the buildings, so their costs are lower. And, Catholic schools (and all private schools) can KICK OUT the trouble makers, unlike public schools, such as voucher/charter schools. A new private/voucher/charter school must pay for the buildings and furnishings at the current fair market value, something even the regular public schools are able to avoid to some degree. A school district with a half a billion $$$ /year budget (60,000 students) can get discounts on lots of items not available to a new school, and has entire staffs looking for foundation and governmental freebies.

As far as the public schools failing the blacks, maybe you should go to a Hunter's Point school in San Francisco called Gloria R. Davis. It sits smack on the line between BigBlock and WestMob, the two main gangs which seem to do in 20 to 30 or so on each side each year. I was the librarian there for one year. There were effigy shrines to the dead, usually a tree dressed up like the deceased, complete with a "T" shirt with a bullet hole or two. These were decorated with balloons, "we miss you" messages, and , as a nice final touch, a circle of empty liquor bottles around the shoes....

The kids seemed to be divided into several groups, plus the minority Samoans, who just tried to stay out of sight, out of mind. About 30% were doing their best to get the heck out of there, the ghetto called Hunter's Point, by studying everything and anything, regardless of conditions. Another 20% were sort of following their lead. 25% were there to party, 10% were sullen and didn't care. 5% were seriously neurotic or borderline psycho, and about 10% were there to destroy anything and everything that anyone, adult or child, was trying to do.

That last 10% are ChrisRock/Terminator/Hanibal wannabees, and they are very good at it. Since most of their parents have gone through the system, the kids have top notch tutors who know how to scam the system very well. Thus, in each classroom of 30 kids, you've got 3 who are there to make your life miserable, day in and day out. At first I thought it was racism. No, the young, talented, black staff, male and female, had the same problems, as the young whites & Hispanics. One PE teacher and one music teacher, both older white females, did fairly well, as did an older Filipino woman, and one older black guy. But we all struggled.

I have no doubt that given a charter/voucher school, with lower salaries, you'd have exactly the same disaster scenario. But you'd be less likely to get talented staff in the first place. Why is it that more money gets and keeps the best superintendents (San Francisco's Ackerman gets over $300,000 year) but the same logic isn't supposed to work for teachers, who go a full year and 1/2 to college beyond a B.A. or B.S. ????????

So, try teaching in a ghetto school yourself, it's a real fun job. Please keep in mind that educating children is not like torquing bolts onto the wheels of tractors in a factory, at $ .50/bolt. Many people like to think it is, but it is not. Bolts are made from standardized grades of ore, producing uniform steels with uniform properties.

Children, however, come from very differing ores, with so many different characteristic that it is beyond valid statistical tracking, unless you do a lot of prohibitively expensive and time consuming testing for academics and psychological profiling, including home visits. Just what sort of home is it, BTW, when the parents themselves attended such a school, and wound up as parents, often before age 18 ? Typically the dad's incarcerated, the mom's on drugs and/or barely working, and grandma's finally gotten the hang of being the parent. Is it their fault, or society's, I'll leave that one for later.

The talented teacher is the one who can size up a child, and decide just how much "torquing" and at what rate will result in maximal learning, without our "bolt" either breaking, exploding, or being totally bored.

Measuring this ability to size up and teach accordingly is likewise nearly impossible, which is why teachers reject most forms of evaluation, and merit pay. Somebody's bound to get screwed unjustly, and teachers are conservative, and are willing to settle for less cash, and know in their hearts they've done their best, and that they are "professionals." BTW when society pays the public schools what teachers pay for their private schools, then teachers will put their kids back in public schools, but not until then. In the meantime, the typical double professional income household of a teacher will just have to pay the extra price, just like the Republicans who moan about, "high teachers' salaries," to send their kids to private schools.

Douglas Keachie

PS, teachers in a big enough system can make sure their kids are prepared, and follow procedures needed to get their kids into the very best public schools. This is what we did with my younger daughter, we moved to the "correct neighborhood" in San Francisco for her kindergarten, and now she's headed for medical school. There's always more than one way to skin a cat.


ptjew said...

Hey check out my blog.

This is way too much to read. I think your on the right track. And I like your posts to that Margolis website. lol keep of the crystal meth and ecstasy lol.

the end said...

Yeah, I do agree that it is far too long to read. Nevertheless, keep up with ur future blog entries! Write more personalised blogs like the daily happenings in ur daily life or something that u were upset or joyful about. Hope this helps u in ur blog writing.
By the way, r u into the educational system ? I saw ur profile & realised that ur occupation is a retired teacher. Which means u should be very experienced in lecturing naughty children like me ...hahaha

the end said...

i have a new blog ! Do gimme ur email addy for my new blog addy ! :)