Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say

by Sabrina Tavernise – New York Times -February 9, 2012

WASHINGTON — Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects.

It is a well-known fact that children from affluent families tend to do better in school. Yet the income divide has received far less attention from policy makers and government officials than gaps in student accomplishment by race.

Now, in analyses of long-term data published in recent months, researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period.

“We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race,” said Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. Professor Reardon is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites.

In another study, by researchers from the University of Michigan, the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion — the single most important predictor of success in the work force — has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.

The changes are tectonic, a result of social and economic processes unfolding over many decades. The data from most of these studies end in 2007 and 2008, before the recession’s full impact was felt. Researchers said that based on experiences during past recessions, the recent downturn was likely to have aggravated the trend.

“With income declines more severe in the lower brackets, there’s a good chance the recession may have widened the gap,” Professor Reardon said. In the study he led, researchers analyzed 12 sets of standardized test scores starting in 1960 and ending in 2007. He compared children from families in the 90th percentile of income — the equivalent of around $160,000 in 2008, when the study was conducted — and children from the 10th percentile, $17,500 in 2008. By the end of that period, the achievement gap by income had grown by 40 percent, he said, while the gap between white and black students, regardless of income, had shrunk substantially.

Both studies were first published last fall in a book of research, “Whither Opportunity?” compiled by the Russell Sage Foundation, a research center for social sciences, and the Spencer Foundation, which focuses on education. Their conclusions, while familiar to a small core of social sciences scholars, are now catching the attention of a broader audience, in part becauseincome inequality has been a central theme this election season.

The connection between income inequality among parents and the social mobility of their children has been a focus of President Obama as well as some of the Republican presidential candidates.

One reason for the growing gap in achievement, researchers say, could be that wealthy parents invest more time and money than ever before in their children (in weekend sports, ballet, music lessons, math tutors, and in overall involvement in their children’s schools), while lower-income families, which are now more likely than ever to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources. This has been particularly true as more parents try to position their children for college, which has become ever more essential for success in today’s economy.

A study by Sabino Kornrich, a researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid, and Frank F. Furstenberg, scheduled to appear in the journal Demography this year, found that in 1972, Americans at the upper end of the income spectrum were spending five times as much per child as low-income families. By 2007 that gap had grown to nine to one; spending by upper-income families more than doubled, while spending by low-income families grew by 20 percent.

“The pattern of privileged families today is intensive cultivation,” said Dr. Furstenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

The gap is also growing in college. The University of Michigan study, by Susan M. Dynarski and Martha J. Bailey, looked at two generations of students, those born from 1961 to 1964 and those born from 1979 to 1982. By 1989, about one-third of the high-income students in the first generation had finished college; by 2007, more than half of the second generation had done so. By contrast, only 9 percent of the low-income students in the second generation had completed college by 2007, up only slightly from a 5 percent college completion rate by the first generation in 1989.

James J. Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, argues that parenting matters as much as, if not more than, income in forming a child’s cognitive ability and personality, particularly in the years before children start school.

“Early life conditions and how children are stimulated play a very important role,” he said. “The danger is we will revert back to the mindset of the war on poverty, when poverty was just a matter of income, and giving families more would improve the prospects of their children. If people conclude that, it’s a mistake.”

Meredith Phillips, an associate professor of public policy and sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, used survey data to show that affluent children spend 1,300 more hours than low-income children before age 6 in places other than their homes, their day care centers, or schools (anywhere from museums to shopping malls). By the time high-income children start school, they have spent about 400 hours more than poor children in literacy activities, she found.

Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute whose book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” was published Jan. 31, described income inequality as “more of a symptom than a cause.”

The growing gap between the better educated and the less educated, he argued, has formed a kind of cultural divide that has its roots in natural social forces, like the tendency of educated people to marry other educated people, as well as in the social policies of the 1960s, like welfare and other government programs, which he contended provided incentives for staying single.

“When the economy recovers, you’ll still see all these problems persisting for reasons that have nothing to do with money and everything to do with culture,” he said.

There are no easy answers, in part because the problem is so complex, said Douglas J. Besharov, a fellow at the Atlantic Council. Blaming the problem on the richest of the rich ignores an equally important driver, he said: two-earner household wealth, which has lifted the upper middle class ever further from less educated Americans, who tend to be single parents.

The problem is a puzzle, he said. “No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare.”

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Oakridge Teachers 97% vote of “no confidence” for Superintendent Livezey

Go here for MI Live story on “No Confidence” vote of Superintendent Livezey.

Go here for OEA Letter that accompanied the “No Confidence” vote.

Go here for the Oakridge School Board response to the OEA.

Lakeshore Education Caucus Editorial

It is disappointing that the Oakridge School Board would answer the OEA’s claim of, “He (Mr. Livezey) has created conflict between school employees, the community, and the school board,” with a response as simple as, “Superintendent Livezey spent the entire day on March 29th throughout the district having cordial conversations with staff wishing them a well-deserved spring break. No conflict was evident.” How would the School Board even know this? What, if anything, would this even prove?

While everybody argues about the financial aspects of this contract there are serious communication problems in the Oakridge School District. An air of disrespect emanates from the superintendent’s office towards teachers and building administrators. Four administrators have either left or applied to leave. Contract negotiations are at an absolute standstill. 97% of OSD teachers have voted “no confidence” in the superintendent. Many individuals who have dedicated their career to the parents and students of the Oakridge community feel as though their voice doesn’t matter, that their dedication to Oakridge kids is irrelevant to the Board and to the Superintendent. Teachers, secretaries, and building administrators who serve the Oakridge Community deserve more than a single day of “cordial conversation” from their boss.

For the Board to issue a response that Mr. Livezey walked around the Oakridge School District for a day and did not encounter conflict is trivial and belittles the destructive atmosphere that permeates the district. Difficult times such as these call for inspired leadership. Leadership is about building bridges – not just the day before spring break, but every single day of the week, year after year.

This mess has gone on long enough…its time for the Oakridge Community, for parents and students, to involve themselves in public education and ask some hard questions of their elected School Board representatives. A School Board election is a significant societal process – placing your vote in the hands of a neighbor, who you trust to do all that they can to inform themselves about a community’s most prized possession, the education of their youth, demands accountability. The Oakridge School Board was elected to manage the Oakridge School District. Superintendent Livezey merely advises them. Oakridge parents need to ask those who run the school district why the school district is in such disarray.

…and this contract is not even our most perilous concern.

In the end, all of us; teachers, parents, students, administrators, and School Board members, must turn our sights to Lansing where far greater troubles seek to destroy public education in this state. If Oakridge is to survive as a school district, considering the punitive and partisan legislation coming from Lansing, then we must learn to work together. Lansing’s goal, to privatize public schools if successful will be the end of this school district. We must address that attack with all of our energy.

This can only happen if we  roll up our sleeves,  get past this contract, and join one another in common cause.

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O’Connor’s Fifteen Fixes & the Machine

1 – Low grades may lead to exclusion from extra-curricular activities – getting it wrong!

July7, 2009 Vermont district may keep students with low grades out of extracurricular activities

Grades are usually the basis for athletic and extra-curricular eligibility. This story is a classic 
example of why it is wrong. Grades should have nothing to do with eligibility. Eligibility 
should be based on attendance and behaviour. If a student is attending regularly, trying hard 
and behaving appropriately they should be allowed to participate regardless of their grades.

The above post is pulled word for word from Ken O’Connor’s (Fifteen Fixes) website.  For anybody who has ever coached you know the significance of the relationship between participation and grades.   You know the difference between a privilege and a right.  You know the effort that athletes put into the classroom merely to stay eligible.  You know the significance of how the character portion of athletics when leveraged effectively can shape the direction of your student/athlete for life.   Pull it out of the equation, and the results are disheartening.

As I looked through report cards on Friday, and saw student athletes (and students) with multiple F’s and an increasing number of I’s, I could see grade reports down the road (in adherence to O’Connor’s ideas) that would be littered with I’s.   The impact that this will have on preventing students from being held accountable for their actions has the potential to turn the public school into an “institution of enabling.”  If that should occur, our ultimate role will merely be to transmit information from the state to the student and place a passing stamp on them.  Teachers are more than assembly line workers.  Students are more than a product to be stamped with “achieved this state standard. “  More often than not, our students are capable of high achievement, just not always willing to put forth the effort(the first time around) in order to get there.

In a society where there is less and less structure at home, our duty is to provide not only curricular materials to willing and non-willing subjects, but guidance, advice, structure, and positive modeling,  so that when these kids head out into the world, they have a better chance at real achievement, so that when they are faced with an actual threat of failure; when their boss or their college professor or drill sergeant looks at a substandard effort and responds  – “That’s Not OK.  You Don’t get an “I,” that they will have learned how to regroup and to persevere, and to ultimately succeed.

This cannot happen if temporary failure is not an option in order to achieve long term success.

We need to think long and hard what our function as educators in this world will be, and what we are willing to do in order to defend that role, not only for the sake of our students, but also for the state of  public education and the future of our society.

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Filed under 3 L.E.C. Editorials, Uncategorized

Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor

New York Times – February 9, 2012
Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
WASHINGTON — Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects.

It is a well-known fact that children from affluent families tend to do better in school. Yet the income divide has received far less attention from policy makers and government officials than gaps in student accomplishment by race.

Now, in analyses of long-term data published in recent months, researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period.

“We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race,” said Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. Professor Reardon is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites.

In another study, by researchers from the University of Michigan, the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion — the single most important predictor of success in the work force — has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.

The changes are tectonic, a result of social and economic processes unfolding over many decades. The data from most of these studies end in 2007 and 2008, before the recession’s full impact was felt. Researchers said that based on experiences during past recessions, the recent downturn was likely to have aggravated the trend.

“With income declines more severe in the lower brackets, there’s a good chance the recession may have widened the gap,” Professor Reardon said. In the study he led, researchers analyzed 12 sets of standardized test scores starting in 1960 and ending in 2007. He compared children from families in the 90th percentile of income — the equivalent of around $160,000 in 2008, when the study was conducted — and children from the 10th percentile, $17,500 in 2008. By the end of that period, the achievement gap by income had grown by 40 percent, he said, while the gap between white and black students, regardless of income, had shrunk substantially.

Both studies were first published last fall in a book of research, “Whither Opportunity?” compiled by the Russell Sage Foundation, a research center for social sciences, and the Spencer Foundation, which focuses on education. Their conclusions, while familiar to a small core of social sciences scholars, are now catching the attention of a broader audience, in part because income inequality has been a central theme this election season.

The connection between income inequality among parents and the social mobility of their children has been a focus of President Obama as well as some of the Republican presidential candidates.

One reason for the growing gap in achievement, researchers say, could be that wealthy parents invest more time and money than ever before in their children (in weekend sports, ballet, music lessons, math tutors, and in overall involvement in their children’s schools), while lower-income families, which are now more likely than ever to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources. This has been particularly true as more parents try to position their children for college, which has become ever more essential for success in today’s economy.

A study by Sabino Kornrich, a researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid, and Frank F. Furstenberg, scheduled to appear in the journal Demography this year, found that in 1972, Americans at the upper end of the income spectrum were spending five times as much per child as low-income families. By 2007 that gap had grown to nine to one; spending by upper-income families more than doubled, while spending by low-income families grew by 20 percent.

“The pattern of privileged families today is intensive cultivation,” said Dr. Furstenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

The gap is also growing in college. The University of Michigan study, by Susan M. Dynarski and Martha J. Bailey, looked at two generations of students, those born from 1961 to 1964 and those born from 1979 to 1982. By 1989, about one-third of the high-income students in the first generation had finished college; by 2007, more than half of the second generation had done so. By contrast, only 9 percent of the low-income students in the second generation had completed college by 2007, up only slightly from a 5 percent college completion rate by the first generation in 1989.

James J. Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, argues that parenting matters as much as, if not more than, income in forming a child’s cognitive ability and personality, particularly in the years before children start school.

“Early life conditions and how children are stimulated play a very important role,” he said. “The danger is we will revert back to the mindset of the war on poverty, when poverty was just a matter of income, and giving families more would improve the prospects of their children. If people conclude that, it’s a mistake.”

Meredith Phillips, an associate professor of public policy and sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, used survey data to show that affluent children spend 1,300 more hours than low-income children before age 6 in places other than their homes, their day care centers, or schools (anywhere from museums to shopping malls). By the time high-income children start school, they have spent about 400 hours more than poor children in literacy activities, she found.

Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute whose book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” was published Jan. 31, described income inequality as “more of a symptom than a cause.”

The growing gap between the better educated and the less educated, he argued, has formed a kind of cultural divide that has its roots in natural social forces, like the tendency of educated people to marry other educated people, as well as in the social policies of the 1960s, like welfare and other government programs, which he contended provided incentives for staying single.

“When the economy recovers, you’ll still see all these problems persisting for reasons that have nothing to do with money and everything to do with culture,” he said.

There are no easy answers, in part because the problem is so complex, said Douglas J. Besharov, a fellow at the Atlantic Council. Blaming the problem on the richest of the rich ignores an equally important driver, he said: two-earner household wealth, which has lifted the upper middle class ever further from less educated Americans, who tend to be single parents.

The problem is a puzzle, he said. “No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare.”

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Filed under 2 Education in the News

Thank you and Onward!

To all of you who joined us Wednesday night out in front of Oakridge Middle School and all of you who posted our flyers and our video podcasts this past week in an effort to spread the word…Thank you!

We had a solid turn out of over 100 people. Many Oakridge High School students past and present were in attendance; great job guys, this is your world; shape it! A lot of community members also braved the cold.  We had a majority from Oakridge School Board come; that was a nice surprise.  Quite a few teachers joined the crowd, but still not enough if you consider that the fate of public education is at risk.  Those who have been pounding the street and making your phone calls and sending your emails way to go! Keep it up. We must man the front lines in the battle to save public education. Next time pry your colleagues from their cocoons. We need EVERY TEACHER to fight for Michigan public school students.

We have much to do between now and the 2012 elections if we are going to turn back the tide of public school privatization. Please stay with us on the L.E.C. blog and at Facebook. If you’d like to join us at our two times a month meetings we gladly welcome you aboard.

Most importantly, stay awake. Continue to educate yourself and others as to the injustice of the destructive legislation coming out of Lansing,

Sharpen them pitchforks and soak those torches! We need you to keep to the fight. Stay tuned. See you soon.

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Filed under 2 Education in the News, 3 L.E.C. Editorials

Tonight. January 18. 5:30. For Public Education. PLEASE JOIN US!

Everybody is invited – students, parents, teachers, administrators, board members, laborers, service employees, retirees, grandmas and grandpas and puppies and kittens, business owners and even politicians.  We welcome anybody who believes in the value of the middle class and the merits of public education.

  • Please attach this movie trailer to your Facebook and spread the WORD.
  • Please attach this video invite to your Facebook and spread the WORD.
  • Please Download our Flyer  for the event and spread the WORD.
  • Please learn about  Public School funding and spread the WORD.
  • Please educate yourself  about Lansing’s legislation & spread the WORD.

In this past year the Snyder administration and a Republican Congress has launched a full out assault on Michigan’s middle class and on youth of Michigan.  K-12 Public Education has been cut over $1 billion dollars even as corporate tax cuts were handed out to the Governor’s supporters.  A law to remove caps on charter and cyber schools will reduce an already declining per pupil Foundation grant.  Proposal A continues to fund public schools unequally, providing huge surpluses to wealthy districts on the East side of the state.  The governor has a plan in the works to fund corporate schools with public tax dollars, reminiscent of Italy’s corporate fascism of the 1920′s and 30′s. Meanwhile the teaching profession is being dismantled through anti-teacher legislation, and nobody is left to defend public schools.

It is time to for ALL of us to fight back.

If not now…when?

If not us…who?

Join us for a spirited rally, Wolfies Pizza, and our own “State of the State” answer for Governor Snyder.

Wednesday January 18 – 5:30 PM – Oakridge Middle School. 

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Mrs. Swainston calls on the School Board to “step into the trenches”

In an effort to settle the current contract, Oakridge teachers have been working diligently to build bridges with the Oakridge School Board.   Many have written to the Board encouraging them to work more closely with the OEA and to take a leadership role in the ongoing contract talks.  In an effort to inspire effective communication, the L.E.C. encourages teachers and community members to continue to write to the Board.  Then send us a copy.  The L.E.C. will periodically publish these letters.  Please read them.  Maybe it will help you to understand more clearly the frustration of Oakridge teachers with the inequitable demands of the Superintendent.   Archived letters and email addresses of school board members,  may be found on pages above at  Letters to the Board. 

And don’t forget to join us for the “Rally for Fair Funding” on January 18 @ 5:30 @ Oakridge Middle School.

Sheryl Swainston to the Oakridge School Board on 1/10/12

Dear Oakridge School Board Members:

I hope the new year finds you all healthy, at peace, and rested after what can be a busy holiday season.  You know, I always begin my classes asking my students how they are, and I will never forget the responses I received on Tuesday, January 3rd  after our holiday break.  A young man looked at me, smiled, and said with alarming alacrity:  “I have been sober now for 18 days Mrs. Swainston!  I see things in a different light.  I no longer look forward to smoking pot for my next high.”  He went on to say that he has made a resolution to try to pass all his classes, and he wants to be successful in life.  I want to believe him; God I want to believe him!

Now, move on to the afternoon on the same day.  Another young man shared his favorite Christmas present:  a Christmas card from the University of Michigan coupled with his acceptance letter!

As you can see, my day is quite diverse.  The desks in room 118 are filled with young men and women who come from all walks of life.  Many have parents who support them with a home that provides safety, love, warmth, and an overall sense that education is important.  Unfortunately, many students have drawn another lot in life:  uncertainty, separation, abuse, neglect, and poverty, and for these students, the importance of education is way down on the list of needs.  These students are basically fighting to survive from one day to the next, and their unsuccessful academic lives are a result.

This is where I come in.  Yes, yes, I do believe English is important.  Learning to read critically and learning to write effectively are important skills all of us need to make our way in the world.  But for many of my students, I also need to help with just plain life.  I need to be there for them in so many other ways besides verb tense, pronoun and antecedent agreement, and whether or not Hamlet is insane.  They need to have a sense that I care about them, that I am here if they need me for any reason;  I need to go above and beyond what the state expects for them academically, and believe me I do.  I personally believe it takes a special sort of person who is able to balance academics with the affective, and I have always tried my best.

I attended the last board meeting, and wanted to speak so badly at the end.  We can have the best curriculum in the world, the best teachers available, the most effective administrators, and the brightest board and for those students whose parents and guardians do not support them academically, all of it will make little difference.  There is another component that is absolutely necessary ̶ the parents in this district need to be held accountable.  Parents and guardians are the other essential pieces of what helps to make a student successful.  Google it.  You will find hundreds of academic articles that prove with research and subsequent data that students who have parents who are attentive in their academic lives are successful.

Attending conferences should be mandatory, being aware and educated on the policies (including attendance) of our district should be mandatory; following up with teachers when grades are less than adequate should be mandatory.  These things will make a difference in the academic success of our students here at Oakridge Public Schools.

Thanks for reading my letter.  I look forward to working together to face the problems being generated by Lansing, the nation, and the overall negative feelings toward public education.

Lastly, I invite you all to do two things:  Number one, please visit my classroom.  Come and see for yourself what teachers do on a regular basis.  I believe in order to make the best and most informed decisions concerning Oakridge Public Schools, you must educate yourselves as much as possible—step into the trenches so to speak.   And number two, please attend the rally for fair school funding on January 18th beginning at 5:30 PM in the middle school cafeteria.  Let’s stand together in the fight to protect and adequately yet fairly fund public education.

Sincerely,

Sheryl Swainston

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Ralph and Diane Morse reflect on Oakridge Schools

Go here to catch a conversation with Ralph and Diane, as they express their  love and concern for the Oakridge community and for the future of the Oakridge School District.

Ralph and Diane, both graduates from the Orchard View School District, moved to Oakridge in 1983.  Their ties to the community are strong, and their contributions to Oakridge Schools wide-ranging.  They had three kids graduate from OHS.  Doug in 1999.  Kelly in 2001.  Scott in 2006.  Kelly now teaches Math at the high school.   Diane served as booster (football) president from 1997 to 2010.  Ralph volunteered as assistant baseball coach for the years that each of his sons played for the team.  Ralph and Diane truly care for the welfare of the Oakridge School District.  Their concern for the current situation will interest you.

If you would like to tell your story as it pertains to the Oakridge School District or Michigan Public Schools, please contact us here at the L.E.C.

And don’t forget the Rally for Fair School Funding on January 18 at 5:30 PM out in front of the Oakridge Middle School…go here for more information.

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Filed under 1 HOT STUFF!, Oakridge

Republican Rule in 2011 – A Year of Living Dangerously

For info on the Oakridge School District January 4 Board Meeting go here

I’ve traveled to many third world countries.  They have much in common…a great deal of money is wasted on military adventures, most struggle mightily to institute self rule if they have any at all, many people live on the edge, and each features an education systems that best serves the wealthy.   Morocco, Romania, Turkey, Russia, – the story is pretty much the same.  Young bright students who come from wealthy families are fluent in multiple languages.  They are drilled in math and science.  They attend well-financed private institutions supported by the legacy of their parents’ assets.  Public school students go to overcrowded, poorly financed, understaffed holding tanks. Many kids in third world schools drop out with little but the basics by the time they are sixteen.

2011 was a dangerous year in Michigan for those who trust in public education.  Highly partisan decisions coming from Lansing, with little input from educators, are laying a third world foundation that will further segregate our society between rich and poor.

First of all you have Governor Snyder’s anti-education budget.  By combining K-12 funding with the higher education budget, thus reducing the significance of each, he’s slashed $1 billion dollars from an already underfunded K-12 system.  This will hit the poor, who have suffered for years from institutionalized underfunding, the hardest.  Second is the process by which that money is allocated.  Proposal A does not hand out per pupil funding evenly across the state.   As an example in 2009 a very wealthy Bloomfield Hills School District was awarded $12,324 per student.  Birmingham – $12,366.  Gross Pointe – $10,332.  Oakridge, Mona Shores, Fruitport, Whitehall – all got $7,316.  Even Charter schools ($7,580) were awarded more than most Muskegon County Public School Districts.

The Foundation Grant (per pupil funding) will be further eroded in upcoming years by Congressional removal of caps on Charters and Cyber Schools.  Charter cap removal is law; Cyber cap removal is in process of becoming law.  Each will take with it  public school tax dollars (Foundation Grant) that will further dilute per pupil funding.  Furthermore, neither Charters nor Cyber schools are being legislated additional oversight that will regulate quality.  In fact Republican Senator Phil Pavlov, sponsor of SB 619 that removes limits on cyber schools says, “It’s a great way to catch up on credits if they’ve fallen behind.”  Every public school teacher knows that the E-2020 computer courses used already to “catch up on credits” are a farce.  They provide little rigor and unlimited chances to qualify for an effectively worthless high school diploma.  The final portion of this erosion of the Foundation Grant will take place when religious schools lobby Lansing to link charters to vouchers and grab their own piece of the pie.  By then the Foundation Grant will have been so diluted that state funding will not be enough, even with drastic cuts at the local level, to adequately pay for public schools.  However, religious schools and private charters for the elite, will have had their tuition costs reimbursed through state aid.  A voucher system defeated at the polls will have become a reality through legislation.

Since wealthy public school districts will not be content with sweeping budget cuts, the next step will be tax reform.  There is no way a Grand Haven or Spring Lake or Rockford will allow the collapse of their school system.  They will lobby successfully to change the way tax dollars are allocated in order to supplement the Foundation Grant.  This tax reform will provide these districts that have the means, a way to financially address their individual shortfalls.  Places like Oakridge, Ravenna, and Muskegon that have no further financial base to draw upon, will not be able to plug the holes.  They will be stuck by the state, with perpetual underfunding. The poor will get poorer.

Add to this a Republican agenda that freezes educators out of the reform process and you have the final piece of restructuring.  Governor Snyder’s assembled Grand Council – his name not mine – that is setting parameters for teacher evaluation has invited no teachers onto that panel.  Evaluations and subsequent teacher salaries will be based on arbitrary pre and post tests created by the state.  This process does not encourage creativity or rigor.  It will dumb down standards and discourage collaboration between teachers, unnerved by job security determined by the very tests they have no say in.  If “Right to Work” laws for teachers, which are also on the agenda, are institutionalized, then teacher unions will be neutered and job security for teachers, who challenge the system and their students, will be gone. In an effort to meet budgetary constraints – poor districts will have no recourse but to fire veteran and higher paid teachers.  Experience breeds wisdom.  In a district like Oakridge where I teach, where poverty is growing (72% free and reduced lunch) experience in the classroom is vital.  Budgetary constraints of these low-income districts will not allow for such luxury.  Inexperienced teachers will enter and exit, like Manpower employees, in a revolving door fashion.  The teaching profession will in essence be privatized.  Meanwhile, young, intelligent Michigan college graduates who want to teach will the leave the state.

In the end, a large portion of those students, without  quality educational access, will perpetuate the generational poverty that they were born into.  Those with means will make sure that their kids receive the superior educational opportunities necessary to continue the legacy of their parents.  This is the road that one year of Republican rule in Lansing has set Michigan public schools upon.

Any parent or grandparent who cares about the education of their kids, particularly if you are a member of the working poor or middle class should be outraged.  You must challenge this third world agenda.  A lot of the legislation is already passed.  Some of it is still on the docket.  Senate Bill 619 calling for a removal of the cap on cyber schools is not yet law.  Call your representatives.  Tell them to vote “No.”  Teachers have yet to be officially labeled a “Right to Work” profession even though  House and Senate bills call  for such action.  Tell your Representatives you want the best (not the cheapest) teachers for your children, and that you want them in the classroom (not on the computer) – vote “No’ on “Right to Work.”

And then hold these Lansing politicians who know nothing about Education, and less about your individual community, accountable for their actions.  Tell them that you don’t want to live in a third world country.  Make it clear to them that the young people of Michigan, the future of this state, are more important than ugly partisan politics driven by an agenda that longs foremost to make the rich more rich.

For anybody who thinks, “It doesn’t matter who gets elected – they are all the same,” the Michigan midterm elections of 2010 should be a wake up call.

Bob Wood

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Filed under 2 Education in the News, 3 L.E.C. Editorials, Uncategorized

January 4 Oakridge School Board Meeting

A video update from Kelly and Jeff on the January 4 School Board Meeting.

The OEA Crisis Committee plan for the January 4 OSD School Board Meeting is as follows:

1 – Don’t go.  We recommend that you don’t go.  Rest up for 2012.
2 – Email the Board.  It is important that between now and then that we email School Board Members. Please remind them to push the Superintendent to bargain in good faith. Remind them also that we are awaiting their replies to the comments we provided them at the December 7 rally.  Let them know that we, like they, have the best interest of Oakridge kids foremost in mind.   Encourage your friends to e-mail.  It is vital that the Oakridge School Board know that we (as Oakridge teachers) are ultimately concerned about the welfare of our students; and that other community members and ex-students have equally strong feelings about the direction of the School District.  The Board also needs to know that we do not intend to just drift away.  So write to them!  Short, long, in purple crayon or via the Internet, whatever it takes to make your voice heard.  Be honest.  Be passionate.  Be yourself.   Actually best bet email it  – send me a copy – I will post it right here along with the others.

Posting these letters is the best way to make the Oakridge community aware of the good faith requests that we are making to the Board of Education.  If we don’t publicize our letters…nobody but the Board knows about them.  We need to continually remind the community  and the Board that our actions are in the best interest of Oakridge students.   They say, “Democracy dies behind closed doors.”  Lets swing them doors wide open.
3 – Prepared Statement. Representatives of the Crisis Committee will attend the January 4 meeting and read a prepared statement that will be posted here by Christmas.

…and then mark your calendar for Wednesday January 18.  On that night in Lansing Governor Snyder will give the “State of the State” Address.  Citizens around Michigan who are aware of the negative impact of the Republican agenda on the middle class and poor are planning to be there to protest.  We will join that protest and rally for Public Education at 6:00 at the Oakridge School District School Board Meeting.  Please check Facebook and here at the L.E.C. website for updates.

And check out our trailer for the event.  Please post it on your Facebook to help publicize the event.

This is a long haul fight guys.  The future of public education in the state of Michigan is at stake.  With the cap on Charter Schools removed, funding for public schools will take another hit.  Legislation reducing the role of teachers in the classroom shows no signs of slowing down.  In response we need to do what we do best – educate ourselves and the public as to the dire circumstances of public education in this state.

A crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind… (old Chinese proverb)

Oakridge School Board members – email addresses:

  • Steve Roomsburg – SRoomsburg355@yahoo.com
  • Trisha Lowry – tal024@comcast.net
  • Brent Hartman – hartman4oakridge@aol.com
  • Craig Scott – cascott5925@comcast.net
  • Mary Ann Brodeur – maryann.brodeur@orchardview.org
  • Pam Bryant – pcbryant@comcast.net
  • Steve Crain – stevecrain44@yahoo.com

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Filed under 1 HOT STUFF!, Oakridge, Uncategorized