"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Will we witness the Breaking of the Federal Educational Piggy Bank?

Elections have consequences. This article from Education Week points out the ever changing state of educational funding. Many of the Democrats on education committees were defeated and we may discover the over reaching goals and mandates of Race to the Top or other educational funding will not occur:

Republicans seized control of the U.S. House of Representatives and significantly bolstered their majorities in the Senate in Tuesday’s election, an outcome that will almost certainly mean an end to emergency education aid to states and will heighten pressure for a more limited federal role in K-12 policy.

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the House minority leader who is likely to become the speaker of the House, said in an election-night speech that Republicans will “take a new approach that hasn’t been tried before in Washington—by either party. It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it. Reducing the size of government instead of expanding it.”

Those of us interested in education will be anxious to see if Mr. Boehner's ideas include returning the process of educating students to the states. States SHOULD be able to set their own curriculum and standards, but with adoption of Race to the Top or common core standards, this right has been surrendered. Many taxpayers still do not understand the gravity of the situation of public education.

Some taxpayers in my school district believe our district is locally controlled and we set the agenda. The only agendas our school board control are property expenditures, teacher/administrator salaries and personnel decisions. In fact, these are the only agendas most districts in Missouri control; none can set curriculum, at least in language arts/English and math. This is the sad fact of reality in Missouri that some folks don't understand or realize.

We recently had two controversial bond issues floated in our district; one was for a $33 Million construction project for schools, the other was a $15 Million aquatic center. A group of private citizens paid for an advertisement in our local newspaper, the Webster-Kirkwood Times, in favor of these issues. The last paragraph captured my interest:

"Kirkwood R-7 is a "hold harmless" district. This means our community, not the county, state or federal government pays for our schools. Kirkwood R-7 derives almost 92% of our school funding from our constituents. Legislators and bureaucrats in Clayton, Jefferson City and Washington, DC do not and will not determine the quality of education received by our children. We will decide with our vote the answer to this question and quite frankly we believe local issues such as education are best decided by those who are directly impacted".

I agree with the writers that "local issues such as education are best decided by those who are directly impacted". What these citizens don't realize is that the legislators and bureaucrats in Washington, DC DO and WILL and ARE determining the quality of education received by our children. If you believe expanded classrooms and swimming pools determine the quality of education, you would agree with these citizens' point of view. If you believe the quality of education is determined by curriculum and the autonomy of teaching, you would disagree with that point of view.

I am hoping the new Republican House will agree with me; state of the art buildings, perks, and increased federal spending aren't what children will remember or ultimately need in their public education. These won't help them in their critical thinking skills. Solid curriculum devoid of political correctness and teachers who are allowed to teach content rather than to the test will make the difference in students' lives.

I hope the title of the Education Week piece comes true:

"GOP Gains Could Prompt Funding, Policy Shifts"

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