It’s simple. I agree with more of Obama’s policies than Romney’s. I believe that the extremely rich should be taxed at a higher rate. I believe that abortion should remain safe and legal. I also agree it should be rare, which will be a lot easier with easy access to birth control through our health care plans. We should be building the energy infrastructure of the future now, with emphasis on alternative sources of energy which are currently underused. Government needs to get involved in creating jobs directly since our corporations aren’t and instead are sitting on their fat profits. I believe that women should be compensated equally with men who are doing the same work. I believe that everybody should have access to a fair health care plan.
But here’s why I’ll be holding my nose as I mark my ballot: The Democrats are killing public education. It is dying a slow, agonizing death. I believe it can still be saved, but we are going down the wrong road. Twenty-six years ago I thought I had found my true calling when I entered the Seattle University (read that as “expensive”) teacher certification program. I dedicated my life to teaching at great sacrifice to myself. Now I struggle to do the best I can for my students while feeling like I’m being attacked from every side.
Let’s start with charter schools. Supporters like to call them “public” charter schools, though they are often run by private corporations. Who attends charter schools? Those who are able to enroll, that’s who. Not every student in a predefined attendance area as in traditional public schools. Parents have to make a conscious decision to enroll a child in a charter school. Right there is the main advantage for a charter school. They aren’t getting the students from families that don’t give a damn about education, or those who are too busy working 55 hours a week at three jobs and don’t have the time or energy to help their child with their homework, or are out of the information loop. What’s amazing to me about that is that those schools still manage to fail in all too many cases. And in the meantime, the surrounding traditional public schools have had many of the more capable students sucked out of their classrooms.
Next, teacher evaluation based on high stakes tests. Sounds good on the surface, right. After all, if the kid doesn’t pass the test, the teacher must be lousy, right? Then please explain the student who by all measures is a star with a great future, who fails all sections of said high stakes test. Please explain how it is fair to count the test of the student who has hated school from day one and puts no effort into that test. If a student enters fifth grade reading at a first grade level, how can it be an accurate measure of learning to expect him to read at a fifth grade level by the end of the year? When the parent of a student likes to brag about how successful he is despite doing poorly in school, how much effort is that student likely to put into learning? These scenarios are all real. And the only way I think it is possible for them to all succeed is if someone is cheating.
All the previous example apply to the concept of merit pay as well. And added to all this is the fact that teachers are constantly told how to teach by their administration. They are given little latitude for selection of learning materials, teaching methods, student grouping, scheduling, and much more. Yet we are responsible for the outcome.
In short, the Democratic ed reformers are going about this all wrong. We are going down a road to the end of public education, and my candidate is out front leading the way.