Month: <span>September 2015</span>

When bullies get out of hand


October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a time of particular importance to parents and educators seeking to raise awareness of the cruelty of bullying and its devastating impact on young victims’ lives. Interestingly, the month also falls in the middle of a contentious season in which bullying of a political sort continues to all but paralyze our national Capitol.

With a little luck – and no thanks to bully-in-chief Ted Cruz – the federal government may stay open for another couple of months, providing paychecks to thousands of everyday, working people who perform hundreds of essential public services that most of us take for granted. And, critical federal funds will continue to be available for Head Start and other educational programs for millions of low-income and disabled children throughout the country.

But the reprieve comes at a cost. House Speaker John Boehner was bullied into resigning. A conservative Republican who recognized that government is a process of compromise and accommodation, Boehner finally got tired of butting heads with Cruz and other hard-right ideologues from his own party who seek election not to govern, but to pontificate, pander and destroy.

And, the reprieve is just that, a delaying action that may be lost to a government shutdown by the end of the year, as Cruz and his allies continue to bully their way through Washington.

Cruz has such little disregard for government – and the public education, health care and other critical programs it provide for millions of Americans – it almost makes you wonder why he is running for president, until you are reminded that many bullies have over-sized egos.

In the presidential race, the bully tag has been most prominently attached to billionaire egoist Donald Trump, who wears it with pride as he tries to intimidate everyone on the campaign trail. Cruz, so far, is content to bully Congress.

Unfortunately, it will take more than National Bullying Prevention Month to make either one of them sit down and shut up.




Diane Ravitch on test scores and family wealth


Diane Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education who actually has some insight into what works and doesn’t work in education, puts standardized testing clearly into the doesn’t-work category.

She reemphasized that fact last night at Baylor University in a speech in which she, among other things, noted that standardized tests measure the “family wealth index” of a child, not his or her knowledge or ability to learn.

You can read a fuller account of her speech in the Waco newspaper story linked below.

Low-income children generally turn in lower scores on standardized tests, and Ravitch isn’t the only person of note who knows this. So do teachers, principals and superintendents.

And, so do most legislators, at least those who actually pay attention to test scores. Yet, the majority of Texas lawmakers not only continue to under-fund education, they also under-fund programs, such as health care, that could help improve the educational prospects for thousands of school children.

“The test scores of 15-year-olds indicate nothing about the future performance of our country, nothing at all,” Ravitch said.

Legislative neglect, however, says a lot about the future performance of Texas.

Students speak out on school finance suit


Many lawyers, school administrators and so-called education experts – some genuine and some only claiming to be — have been heard from during the pending lawsuit over Texas’ school funding system, but students have been mostly unheard – until now.

Ten high school students from Houston spent their summer vacations researching and writing a legal brief about how crucial it is to their futures for the state to provide adequate education funding and distribute it fairly among school districts. They have submitted their brief to the Texas Supreme Court, which is considering the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling that found the finance system inadequate, unfair and unconstitutional.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the students used “personal stories and interviews with teachers, administrators and other students to tell the court’s nine justices how their lives and futures could be improved with smaller class sizes, more qualified teachers, improved enrichment programs and enhanced college or career readiness initiatives.”

Their interviewees included the principal of a Houston high school that is about 75 percent Hispanic and almost 100 percent low-income enrollment, where critical programs have had to be cut for budgetary reasons. Statewide, more than 60 percent of public school students are low-income, and hundreds of schools are struggling with similar issues.

“Above all else, students need hope: hope that they can live a better life than their parents, hope that they can really have a chance, hope that they, too, matter,” the students wrote.

And, they pointed out, the improvements and the hope they are seeking will require more money, the same conclusion that state District Judge John Dietz reached after hearing testimony in the lawsuit brought by several hundred school districts.

Let us hope that the Supreme Court justices give weight to what the students have to say. But the justices have competing briefs to read, including one from Gov. Greg Abbott, who wants the high court to reverse the lower court. Abbott wants the court to trust the legislative majority, which slashed education funding by $5.4 billion a few years ago and continues to shortchange schools.

That’s what you call putting political ideology for the next election over hope for the next generation.


An anti-educator gives up


Two down but still too many left to squeeze onto most debate stages. Every working person, including educators, in the United States should be grateful that Scott Walker, who built a political career on bashing working people, has joined Rick Perry in dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Walker’s priorities and suggestions – including the de facto abolition of labor unions and erecting a wall along part of the Canadian border and maybe (I guess) laying mines in the Great Lakes – were outrageous. But he couldn’t out-trump Donald Trump in the outrageous category and had dropped off the radar screen for most Republican primary voters.

In the end, the candidate who carried the water for America’s wealthiest 1 percent wasn’t even hitting 1 percent in voter polls.

Unfortunately, Walker remains the governor of Wisconsin, where he has devastated public employee unions and attacked public education. And his departure from the presidential race isn’t likely to change the absurd tone of a Republican campaign that couldn’t get any worse. Or could it?