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« Free Speech Is Expensive at UW Milwaukee | Main | Jane Lawton: A Great Loss of an Extraordinary Public Servant »

November 30, 2007

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Elaine O

How true your concern for the future of our public schools. Moving back to Wisconsin from San Francisco in the mid-90's primarily due to the gutting of public schools as a result of Prop 13, I know first hand the differences between a well-funded school and a financially, struggling school. Circa 1995 - Elementary school SF - 35 kids in the class, no teachers aides or paraprofessionals (only parent volunteers who were few as most parents worked during school hours), no librarian other than a parent volunteer with the majority of the books donated by the parents. Library very small, no computers, etc. No music, no arts, no physical education classes. These 'non-essentials" were built into the regular class time if the teacher could manage it. Middle school- 45 kids per class. The PTO was responsible for raising 35K to fund anything "extra". There was constant soliciting of families to donate and being an urban school, the families economic background was varied. Many just couldn't afford to give. Anyone with the financial resources eventually pulled their kids out of the public system and put their kids in private schools. Mind you these were not cheap either. The private, non relgious, middle school cost about $10,000 a year then. Wisconsin and especially Madison offers quality public schools and are a real bargain. Anytime someone complains about the high Madison tax rate, I remind them how it could be here. Our schools are not perfect and we face a growing gap between our children of color and those with lower economic resources. Multiple efforts need to be continued to bring about improvement. But, the Prop 13 aftermath is far worse than anything we have known here yet. We need to support our public schools in any way we can as quality education is the future of our society.

somewhere in the middle

We seriously need to look at HOW we fund the schools. Putting everything on one huge bill (property taxes) doesn't look good for the average consumer/houseowner etc.

For eg, If you had to pay your credit card bill like property taxes, that wouldn't go over quite well. Our schools are our future and keeping them at a competitve level is vital. If we could get the funding a way that it silence the main critics of property taxes, I see a bright future for the nation in whole.

Right now, the parents and those caring about the future want the best, but many (including some parents) don't want to pay those darned property taxes. Seems like people in general...they want it all for free...

Paul Clark

We seriously need to be able to fire poor teachers.
We seriously need to get the government out of the business of education.
We seriously need not throw more taxpayer money at a problem which no amount of money can fix and no amout of Socialist activism will solve.

www.friedmanfoundation.org

We seriously need to get Unions and Socialist ideology OUT OF THE CLASSROOM.

http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/

Brian

Wisconsin schools aren't all that great. There is a lot of rote memorization going on in this state, the facts forgotten just after the test is taken, their meaning having no connection to the interests or life of the child. I know having interned, student taught, subbed, or taught full time in approximately 20 districts in NE Wisconsin, the Fox Valley, SW Wisconsin and Central Wisconsin. And extensive reading has kept me up to date on what is happening everywhere else.

We need to stop looking just at test scores. They aren't the best measure of learning. And the focus given them by administrators, media, and politicians is distorting what is potentially a wonderful public education system. Obviously, test scores are going to correlate with income. The major function of schools is to perpetuate inequality. Why WOULDN'T the scores track with wealth? Second, schools function so that people can accumulate credentials. Again, the scores are the major way to gather these. (Notice, I didn't say anything about what should be the main function of schools? That would be actual learning, because we want to develop decent, caring, intelligent human beings. But that's down the list for most.)

We should end this numbers fixation. Stop using the business model that Ray Callahan nicely illustrated long ago was the primary way most kids in America have been schooled since the early 1900s. That model is the source of our problems with schools.

What to look for instead of abstract test scores? Have you seen the kids' performances? Exhibitions? Portfolios? Then you haven't seen anything. You haven't seen real, in the flesh demonstrations of what kids really know and can do. The scores are black and white, fuzzy at best snap shots. Better is the full motion color video---the big picture---of a child telling you about their science experiment or reading a poem they wrote, or answering questions from a panel about historical research they have done. (Unfortunately, most schools in Wisconsin either don't do these basic essential measures of assessment and/or accountability or don't have the means to make these accessible to the parents and community. So, how can they even begin to claim to be great or even good schools?)

Thomas J. Mertz

"Some communities like Madison centralize the fundraising for the entire district so that all schools share equitably in the private monies."

Madison does not do this. PTO raised funds are not pooled, individual donations may be targeted to individual schools or purposes, the Foundation for Madison Public Schools' grants are often for a single school and their endowment program is based on matching grants. There is much, much inequity in MMSD fundraising.

mark s

Paul,

If giving every child a chance to pursue the American Dream is socialism, I guess I am a socialist. Choice = wealthy kids getting educated and the poor kids taking the scraps, which will be the worst education available (i.e. whatever nobody else wanted for their children).

I never thought of giving a child the tools to provide for themselves when they grow into adulthood as socialism. I see that as common sense.

buckyblue

Read Naomi Kline's Shock Doctrine, if you want to see how well Friedman's ideas have worked when they have actually been put into practice. Amazing that it takes a bunch of Fascists to implement his ideas.

wis2cal

I went to public school in Middleton. Great school system. Big middle class. Students from farms and cities. Classmates became doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Now I have lived in California for 25 years. Wisconsinites, you seriously do not want to have a school system like California's. I substituted as a teacher one year in 4 districts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Huge economic class differences. It is horrible. Some classrooms have a succession of substitutes without a regular teacher for a whole semester. Most schools have no librarians. Not all students have text books. If only the rich vote and you cater to the rich, you will have the same problem. Hopefully Wisconsin values public education more than this.

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