Friday, August 25, 2006

Trailing the World

I don't agree with his proposed solution, but Mayor Daley is absolutely right about the problem:

Mayor Daley suggested Thursday that high school be extended for a fifth year to defray college education costs now squeezing working poor and middle-class families.

Unless something is done to loosen the college tuition collar, Daley warned that the “birth rate will go down in the United States and our knowledge-based economy will not grow.”...

“America had better come to grips with this….If we’re a land of opportunity and we want to be a knowledge-based society and we want to compete against India and China, we had better educate our children. These young kids should not be worried about financial assistance — all worried in the [senior] year. Every principal will tell you that. They’re in their offices trying to figure out, ‘Can I get $500? Can I get $1,000, $1,500?’ We have to set our priorities and our priorities should be giving everyone an opportunity to go to college….I hope in 2008 there is a huge national debate on that issue alone.”

While I may have some other differences with the Mayor, I totally respect his passion about this subject. When he came down to Springfield last year, he met with Democratic legislators. The first, and primary, issue that he discussed was this one.

During his talk, he cited Thomas Friedman's must-read book The World is Flat and the concern that we are well down the road to being at a serious competitive disadvantage with foreign countries, whose educational systems and work ethic are outpacing ours.
Having just returned from Taiwan and having witnessed some of the accomplishments that they are making, I am even more concerned than I was a week ago. I hope to relate some of those observations here soon.

With respect to our local education, I am concerned that we are on the path to a crisis. The answer is not to lower standards and increase the time to take tests so that more kids score 'higher'. The answer is not to consider an increase in minimum wage service jobs to be a sign of economic prosperity.

The answer is to demand more of our education system and to realize that the needed changes will not likely yield results in convenient two or four year cycles that coincide with elections, but will require a willingness and the courage to take bold steps in order to accomplish long-term benefits for our future.

The answer is to prepare our youth to compete in a new world economy. To teach them not just proficiency in their own language, but in other languages as well that will make them desirable in a global environment. One step toward that answer may lay in year-round schooling that would provide societal benefits on many levels. I would be interested in hearing what readers think might be other parts of the equation.


At August 25, 2006 at 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that's a good post.

Like it or not, part of the answer has to be a change in how we fund education. I don't even mean more money necessarily, but just the state picking up more of the burden. We are all in this together and Springfield needs to realize it.

To be honest, I'm not sure how to get there, but we need to get there.

At August 25, 2006 at 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous on all counts. Its nice to see you really back at the blog. The issue of how & who funds education in Illinois has been continually debated without an answer in sight. But it can't all be about more money. Some of the most productive & successful schools spend about half the amount per pupil as some of our failing schools. So, if more money doesn't equal success, what does? Is it more time in classrooms, smaller class size, more dedicated parents & teachers, focusing on necessary skill sets. I don't know if a 5th year is the answer, but I'm glad the Mayor is asking these questions.

At September 2, 2006 at 8:59 AM, Anonymous Truthful James said...

John -- we have communicated on this before, and I am pleased that you are in general agreeing with me. The 21st Century global economy affects the United States. Our students reflect our ability to compete in that economy.

We need to mobilize every resource to educate and train our students. This means we must go outside the Public education monopoly. Inside the Box -- based on past performance -- there is no viable solution.

We have tried money. It increases teacher salaries but does not increase their qualifications in the subject matter they teach.

More money dumped in the same funnel will have the same effect.

Competitive Choice has beenm tried and proven elsewhere -- San Francisco, for instance.

Unfortunately for us, the teachers have organized on a closed shop industrial model, much like the old UAW. With jobs fully protected the quality of new vehicles going out the door fell. It was not completely the workers' fault, but they lacked pride in getting it right and were abetted by management. Competition from foreign manufacturers changed all that. We complained that it was because of cheap overseas labor. But when they put out quality product in Indiana, in Ohio, in Kentucky and elsewhere, the old UAW woke up.

Your answer is competition. As in San Francisco, after accounting for special needs students, vest every child equally and let the parent select from a list of accredited schools, including the neighborhood public school, where the child should go and what payment, up to the vested amount should be made.

The ISBE after reforming itself would accredit. All public, private, charter and parochial schools could be accredited -- the latter after scheduling CCD courses outside of normal school hours.

The money would be managed by the present Districts. In fact, it is likely that some chosen schools would have tuition schedules below the vested amount. That money would be retained by the District to better its own offerings.

The requirement for aceditation would mean additional jobs for qualified teachers. The number of administrators would likely be lowered. Pension contributions for the existing teachers would still be managed by the District, even if the the teacher transferred to a school outside the system.

In turn, the local schools would have rooms to rent to accredited schools, and space for the necessary job of remediating the former early school leavers. They sit on the fringes of society unable to either motivate or assist their children in the learning process.

The present system does not work. Additional money fed into a non working system only increases bloat. Let's solve this problem for our children, for the parents, and for the country.

At September 22, 2006 at 2:51 AM, Blogger WWDMD said...

daley comes up with this stuff and no way to pay for it. If he gonna suggest 5 years, then find a way to fund it. He just can't say "leave it up to springfield" He knows without a full court press by the city, it will never get the votes. All it is/was is pre election fluff


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home