"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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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sex Indoctrination for 4 Year Old Swiss Students. Coming Soon to a School Near You?

Will this happen in the United States?

Sex education for kindergartners has already been adopted to a lesser extent in Montana.

Should we expect it to occur in the Common Core standards? Probably. With health clinics operating out of schools and handing out free condoms, nothing seems surprising when it comes to sex and young children. When it does, is there anything you, as a parent can do about it...short of taking your child out of public education?

No. Is there anything that you as a taxpayer can do about eradicating such filth out of your district?


Better wake up, folks. This is the future. We're all about globalization in education. Switzerland the country might as well be the same as Little Switzerland, North Carolina. Just read the documents from the DOE, listen to Arne Duncan, heck, research Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush, Clinton, George Bush and Obama and their views on gloabalization. You don't even need to think this won't be on its way to United States public schools. You KNOW it will be in public school curriculum.

Read this and weep for our children. (Be sure to access the readers' comments. There is more disgusting information) From Pajamas Media:


Brave New World arrives ahead of schedule — sex indoctrination for toddlers

Aldous Huxley’s classic dystopian novel Brave New World envisions a deeply disturbing one-world totalitarian state in which hypersexuality and loveless promiscuity are considered normal — even for children. Twenty-six years after its 1932 publication, Huxley wrote Brave New World Revisited to marvel at how many of his book’s outlandish futurist predictions had already come true — things like in vitro fertilization and psychopharmacology.

But if Huxley were alive today, he’d have to write Brave New World Re-Revisited to account for the new elementary school curriculum in Basel, Switzerland. Because what Huxley predicted would happen by 2540 A.D. has already come true in 2011 — 529 years ahead of schedule.

To prepare yourself for the Basel kindergarten lessons, first read this excerpt from Chapter 3 of Brave New World:

Outside, in the garden, it was playtime. Naked in the warm June sunshine, six or seven hundred little boys and girls were running with shrill yells over the lawns, or playing ball games, or squatting silently in twos and threes among the flowering shrubs.

In a little grassy bay between tall clumps of Mediterranean heather, two children, a little boy of about seven and a little girl who might have been a year older, were playing, very gravely and with all the focussed attention of scientists intent on a labour of discovery, a rudimentary sexual game.

“Charming, charming!” the D.H.C. repeated sentimentally.

“Charming,” the boys politely agreed. But their smile was rather patronizing. They had put aside similar childish amusements too recently to be able to watch them now without a touch of contempt. Charming? but it was just a pair of kids fooling about; that was all. Just kids.

“I always think,” the Director was continuing in the same rather maudlin tone, when he was interrupted by a loud boo-hooing.

From a neighbouring shrubbery emerged a nurse, leading by the hand a small boy, who howled as he went. An anxious-looking little girl trotted at her heels.

“What’s the matter?” asked the Director.

The nurse shrugged her shoulders. “Nothing much,” she answered. “It’s just that this little boy seems rather reluctant to join in the ordinary erotic play. I’d noticed it once or twice before. And now again today. He started yelling just now …”

“Honestly,” put in the anxious-looking little girl, “I didn’t mean to hurt him or anything. Honestly.”

“Of course you didn’t, dear,” said the nurse reassuringly. “And so,” she went on, turning back to the Director, “I’m taking him in to see the Assistant Superintendent of Psychology. Just to see if anything’s at all abnormal.”

“Quite right,” said the Director. “Take him in. You stay here, little girl,” he added, as the nurse moved away with her still howling charge. “What’s your name?”

“Polly Trotsky.”

“And a very good name too,” said the Director. “Run away now and see if you can find some other little boy to play with.”

The child scampered off into the bushes and was lost to sight.

“Exquisite little creature!” said the Director, looking after her. Then, turning to his students, “What I’m going to tell you now,” he said, “may sound incredible. But then, when you’re not accustomed to history, most facts about the past do sound incredible.”

He let out the amazing truth. For a very long period before the time of Our Ford, and even for some generations afterwards, erotic play between children had been regarded as abnormal (there was a roar of laughter); and not only abnormal, actually immoral (no!): and had therefore been rigorously suppressed.

A look of astonished incredulity appeared on the faces of his listeners. Poor little kids not allowed to amuse themselves? They could not believe it.

“Even adolescents,” the D.H.C. was saying, “even adolescents like yourselves …”

“Not possible!”

“Barring a little surreptitious auto-erotism and homosexuality—absolutely nothing.”


“In most cases, till they were over twenty years old.”

“Twenty years old?” echoed the students in a chorus of loud disbelief.

“Twenty,” the Director repeated. “I told you that you’d find it incredible.”

“But what happened?” they asked. “What were the results?”

“The results were terrible.”

Science fiction you say? Well, maybe it was science fiction in 1932, but in 2011 it’s reality:

‘Sex box’ to get new name as parents revolt

Officials in Basel have agreed to rename the “sex box” after receiving some 3,000 letters of protest from parents angered by the controversial trove of wooden penises and fabric vaginas set to be used in a new sex education programme for playschool and primary school kids.

Christoph Eymann, Basel education minister and member of the liberal democrat party (LDP), responded to parent’s protests in an interview with SonntagsBlick.

It was no doubt stupid to call it a ’sex box’ – we will change that. But we will stick to our goal: to get across to children that sexuality is something natural. Without forcing anything upon them or taking anything away from their parents,“ he said.

Many parents say they do not understand why sex education needs to be taught to children as young as four.

“There are usually two reasons why sexuality becomes a topic in kindergarten: either the teacher is pregnant or one of the children will soon get a new sister or brother. In such cases, it is correct that the teacher can respond”, Eymann told SonntagsBlick.

Eymann said he understood that one line in the programme, “touching can be enjoyed heartily”, could be misconstrued, but insisted: “It is not about ‘touch me, feel me’. We want to tell the children that there is contact that they may find pleasurable, but some that they should say ’no’ to. Kids can unfortunately can become victims of sexual violence already at playschool age.“

Eymann said he would prefer if sex education was taught to children at home but argued that education officials needed to respond to the realities of today.

We currently live in an oversexualised society. There is uncontrolled distribution of pornographic material that can reach young children. Some primary school children know the TV schedule until 2am. We would like to offer these children firm support, which is often not available in the family. The box is only an aid. I trust the teachers to approach the material with care.”

Despite this, Eymann said he takes critics’ arguments seriously, and has ordered the contents of the box to be examined after finding the cover of previous teaching material tasteless.

Some parents have called for their children to be exempted from sex education. Eymann says he is strictly against exemptions, although he is aware this will not make him many friends:

“Primary school may be the only big audience that our society has. The shared values that it teaches are very important. I would definitely like to keep this. The explanatory lesson can be portrayed in a way that doesn’t offend“, he said.

Critics of public school sex education have been warning of this for decades: Once you start down the slippery slope of teaching kids about the mechanics of sex, it will invariably (in some school districts at least) eventually lead to advocacy for sex. Combine that with the relentless drive to introduce sex ed at lower and lower grades, and you end up with what’s happening in Switzerland: Telling four-year-olds how pleasurable sex is and leading them in classroom activities that are tantamount to public masturbation:

‘Sex box’ for Swiss kindergarteners has genitalia toys: will teach sexuality is pleasurable

Kindergarten children in Basel, Switzerland will be presented this year with fabric models of human genitalia in a “sex box” to teach them that “contacting body parts can be pleasurable.”

The kit for teachers to give sex-education lessons to primary school children uses models and recommends having children massage each other or to rub themselves with warm sand bags, accompanied by soft music….

I can no longer deny what I’ve long merely suspected: That many “progressive” educators use mandatory public school sex education specifically for the purpose of indoctrinating entire generations of children into being promiscuous as early as possible. Why? To cause the breakdown of the nuclear family, to pave the road for a Brave New World.

Yesterday, it only happened in fiction. Today, it happens in Switzerland. Tomorrow — coming to a school near you.

[Here are some more photos of various Sex Box materials, found on this page:]

Friday, August 26, 2011

UCLA Professor has the courage to question the moral appropriateness of a gift.

Last week the New York Times reported that Lynn A. Stout, a top business law professor at UCLA Law School, wrote a letter to the University Chancellor expressing her concern that a $10 million gift to the school from former UCLA graduate and Vice President of the Milken Family Foundation, Lowell Milken, would compromise her and the school's reputation. The hefty donation created the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy. Stout, a specialist in corporate governance and moral behavior, is one of only a very few university staff who have voiced concern about the source of the money.

The problem the University faces is typical. The state has had to make dramatic cuts in education funding so schools must rely more heavily on private and alumni donations in order to continue to operate at their current level. It should be noted that law schools are typically among a state school’s most profitable graduate programs, so there should be less concern about funding than in other state school programs. Still, to turn down such a large donation to their capitol improvement drive would take morals of steel.

Ms. Stout wrote,

“The creation of a Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy will damage my personal and professional reputation, as I have devoted my career to arguing for investor protection and honest and ethical behavior in business,”
In response, a statement from the MFF said,
“Basic fairness requires that individuals be evaluated solely on the basis of their own conduct... the foundation respect(s) the fact that U.C.L.A. understands that in the United States of America, its citizens are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.”

Within the strict confines of the legal system a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but that does not preclude the private citizen or even public administration from scrutinizing future business contracts with people who have, through their past actions, proven themselves less than completely honest. There is a vast difference between what the court can do and what the general public can do. But since the foundation says we should consider a person's conduct, let us look at Lowell Milken.

While it is true that Michael Milken paid the debt to society determine by the legal system for his involvement in the 1980's in illegal activity in the high yield ( junk bond) division of Drexel Burnham Lambert, his brother Lowell, who was Sr. Vice President of DBL at the time, was not tested in court. Charges against him were dropped in a plea bargain by his brother. Lowell was not a trader at that time, so we can reasonably question what role he may have had in the scandal. Some contend that Michael's actions were not illegal at the time, but they do concede that they were in violation of DBL's internal regulations, something his brother should have been aware of or acted upon at the time, given his role within the company. The court of public opinion is still very divided on this issue.

In 2003, Lowell and Michael Milken became the sole owners of Knowledge University, a company they co-founded with Larry Ellison (whom you may recognize as the founder of Oracle whose flagship product was a database produced for the CIA, and is 5th wealthiest person in the world), soon after Michael was released from prison. In the United States, Knowledge Universe is the largest early childhood education company and operates under the KinderCare® Learning Centers, Knowledge Beginnings®, CCLC®, The Grove School®, Champions® and Cambridge Schools™ brand.

What does seem apparent is that Lowell Milken has entered into the latest lucrative field, that of education. He wants to impact children from the moment of birth, by introducing them to KinderCare, to their final job and role in the community through the Law Center which,
"provides expanded studies on business law and policy, clinical experience, additional research opportunities for faculty, along with student fellowships. The knowledge, skills and experience available through the Lowell Milken Institute will help ensure that students are prepared to not only assume leadership roles in the practice of law, but also in the areas of business, government, and philanthropy."
The MFF also stands to make money through government grants that support its TAP program. A 2010 study of the TAP program in Chicago found
"no evidence that the program raised student test scores. Student achievement growth as measured by average math and reading scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) did not differ significantly between TAP and comparable non-TAP schools. We also found that TAP did not have a detectable impact on rates of teacher retention in the school or district during the second year it was rolled out in the district. We did not find statistically significant differences between TAP and non-TAP retention rates for teachers overall or for subgroups defined by teaching assignment and years of service in CPS. The findings of no significant impacts on student achievement or teacher retention are robust to the use of different samples and estimation methods."
After working on the program for 12 years, Milken's Foundation still cannot demonstrate significant progress on its stated goal. Perhaps the 13 school districts that applied for and received TIF (
Teacher Incentive Fund) grants to expand their TAP programs didn't read the report.

It is a statement from Lowell Milken, on his Lowell Milken Center website, that clearly demonstrates that his ideology is in line with those developing RTTT, CCS and even the Gates Foundation,

“Believing that people make the difference in every endeavor, Lowell has directed the Foundation's efforts to focus on developing the valuable resource, “human capital." Over the past three decades, Lowell's work to inspire and produce exceptional educators — the human capital that produces human capital — has been unwavering in its commitment, unending in its endurance and unbending in its goals.”

Our children are not “capital” that can be accounted for on business ledgers, shoved where they are needed, warehoused when not needed, or whose value is depreciated over time. When we reduce people to commodities we degrade the value of the individual and of life itself.

Lowell may have a lifelong dedication to teaching, good education and philanthropy, but not without an eye to making a profit. He is not precluded from doing so in this country, but those who choose to become entangled with him should do so only with eyes wide open. His TAP program is only one example that he may share more than a last name with his brother. While technically not illegal to pedal a product that is paid for by government money, but produces little if any benefit, it is highly morally questionable. Those out there ringing the warning bells about doing business with him should be applauded for their courage to speak out.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Conservative Teacher's Experience with the NEA

Not every teacher is a member or fan of the NEA.

Read how a conservative teacher handled the NEA membership drive at school (from the website conservativeteachersofamerica.com) and an immigrant teacher's response to the NEA's tactics:

Close Encounters of the Union Kind

We received this from one of our members, he would prefer to keep his identity and school district confidential, so we are going to post it for him.

Excitement always surrounds new beginnings. For the NEA, new teachers and the beginning of the school year is probably about as exciting as it comes. After all, the beginning of the school year presents fresh meat for the union pack.

I recently started at a fairly large school district in a middle sized city in the Midwest. I was certainly excited for the beginning of the year meetings, but I can’t say I was that excited about my inevitable encounter with the National Education Association. I figured why not turn this into a positive and go in as an undercover reporter, so to speak.

The NEA offered new teachers a breakfast and a lunch all on the same day. I decided that I would attend both of them, the ability to act like a liberal doesn’t present itself very often. Free food and the chance to waste NEA resources, what self-respecting conservative would turn that down?

For breakfast I had the option of some granola bars, juice, water, a fruit, and the ever important NEA membership form! You have to love the NEAs brutal honesty, it’s not about education, it’s about money. From a small flyer attached to the NEA membership form:

Research shows that over a ten-year period, school districts in [my state] with an NEA majority have experienced salary increases more than 30% higher than districts with an [other state teacher organization] majority. The higher the percentage of NEA members in a district, the higher the bargaining power for not only salary increases, but for benefits and working conditions as well.

Can we think about this a second? America is broke, but the NEA wants me to sign up so they can get me some more cash! Thanks for the breakfast (which really wasn’t much of a breakfast), but no thanks. The most irritating part of this form shoved in my face in the morning is they didn’t even tell me the cost of the membership. I guess it’s just assumed you don’t care and are going to join anyway. Hey, they were offering a free t-shirt on top of the promise of a higher salary down the road. What a deal!

I escaped the first meeting with no confrontation and headed off to my morning sessions. Lunch arrived, and it was time to head back into the lion’s den (snake pit?). While waiting in line for my sandwich, chips, and water I was given another folder with more exciting NEA information. It was apparent that time was waning for the NEA, and potential new members were escaping their grasp. Inside of this folder was another membership form and a little bright yellow piece of paper stapled to it.

Special New Member Incentive

Any new member who joins NEA between August 8 and August 12, 2011 will receive a crisp, new (or old, wrinkled) $10 bill!

Well, at least they have a sense of humor as they bribe you with money. It got better though, as I was eating my lunch our district’s NEA president marched in and told us that anybody that joined would be entered in a chance to win $100. At this point I was beginning to wonder if I could join, get the $10, have a shot at the $100, and then dump the membership in a couple days. As tempting as it was, I talked myself out of that. I did finally find out the monthly cost. I finished my lunch and headed on out. I actually had to come back down to the NEA area because there was some confusion on our meeting schedule. As was attempting to leave an NEA representative made some comment about filling out our forms. I can’t specifically remember what he said, but it was arrogant and presumptuous. At this point a somewhat heated discussion began.

Now the guy I was speaking to appeared to be a nice person, he seemed genuine anyway. Overall the conversation was semi-professional. As you would expect any NEA member to do he brought up the topic of Governor Scott Walker. I was a little annoyed with him and decided to tell him that I had a lot of respect for Governor Walker. He decided to share with me that he thought Governor Walker was “a douche bag.” Yeah, not kidding. Of course he attempted to bring up the Koch brothers, the left’s boogie men. I changed the topic quickly.

The thing that floored me as I continued to talk to him was just how little he knew about his own organization. I told him I was frustrated with the NEAs partnership with the AFL-CIO. He told me I had my facts wrong. I guess he ought to check their own website: NEA pledges to work with new AFL-CIO president. He told me that he was upset with WADC’s involvement in education. That’s been the result of decades of NEAs influence on education. He shared with me that he feels the country needs more personal responsibility. I mean, really, the NEA is an organization that supports the political left. I know of no other group in American society that celebrates and rewards personal irresponsibility more than individuals of this political perspective. After an hour I had about enough of Mr. NEA and decided to head on about my day. We shook hands, wished each other the best, and agreed to disagree.

At the end of the day I can honestly say my opinion has not changed of the NEA. I still think they are one of the biggest problems we have in education. This is why I am a member of the Association of American Educators.

Oh, one other beautiful piece of this story. I am working with another new teacher who is originally from Czechoslovakia. We are working in the same building so we were hanging out together. She was with me most of the day and saw the beginning of the discussion with the NEA representative. The next day we were talking and she said, “You know what that reminded me of? Communism.” Unprompted, unscripted, brutal honesty.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Playing Games in Washington DC

Back in June a local group put on a week long Vacation Liberty School to teach kids in 5th-8th grade principles of freedom, both personal and economic. The lessons were taught both in classroom and with relatively simple hands-on games. Several of the economic games were played with dice and used Jolly Ranchers as a surrogate currency. By playing the games the children quickly saw for themselves how a free market produced better individual results, where wealth was only limited by your aversion to risk. While there were those who clearly had been taught the lesson of saving for a rainy day, there were also some aspiring Donald Trumps in the crowd who accepted certain losses because they understood the potential for higher gains in the long run. The children also recognized the role of government and taxes on their personal wealth, and how quickly the principle of "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" is adopted by those in charge.'

When these kids go back to school this fall, they won't have to take the word of a teacher that capitalism is good, they will have seen it played out for themselves. They will also be able to see the bias in teachers who preach from the blackboard that capitalism is bad.

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak explained that the SNAP
[Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] (i.e. food stamp) program was a stimulus program because the simple act of purchasing food supported jobs throughout the food distribution system,

Mr Vilsak's logic is that of a habitual gambler who only counts his wins. He said,
Every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy in terms of economic activity. If people are able to buy a little more in the grocery store, someone has to stock it, package it, shelve it, process it, ship it. All of those are jobs. It’s the most direct stimulus you can get in the economy during these tough times.”
After reading this, it occurred to me that there is a need to develop a new VLS game for adults. Using similar tools of dice and poker chips, we should be able to develop a game for those in Washington to play that demonstrates the fallacy of Agriculture Secretary's statement. In the game there would be producers who increase the overall quantity of chips, and Recipients (a nicer name than parasites) who must wait for producers to give them chips to spend. Government would be there collecting revenue, from producers only, for both producing and purchasing. As with the SNAP program, Recipient's purchases produce no government revenue nor do they generate government income from producing.

While possibly true, that every SNAP dollar spent generates $1.84 in economic activity, Mr Vilsak conveniently forgot the lost opportunity cost for that dollar going to someone who did not themselves work to contribute anything to the economy. If you or I go to the store, we also generate $1.84 in economic activity but, in addition, we generate economic activity for all our hours at a job.

I realize
these economic princples are probably way too advanced for many in Washington and that is why we need a VLS game to break it down for them. In recognition of the enthusiasm in modern education for manipulatives and making learning fun, maybe we can gin up a few game sets and instructions and send them to DC to play.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Explanation of How Millionaire Teacher and Adminstrator Pensions are Taxpayer Funded in the Kirkwood School District

We reposted information from Taxpayers United of America on the "Top 100 Millionaire Teachers and Administrators in St. Louis County" recently and had a slew of comments. Some accused us of misrepresentation:
Anonymous said...

Do you understand how these pensions ate funded? I'm thinking not. First if all, usually the funding is 50% from the employee and 50% from the employer and these contributions are made while the employee is still working. When the employee is retired, he/she is allowed to access the pension fund. So current retirees made their contributions over a spam of 30 years (that's the average in MO) while still employed by a public school district. So giving the impression, as you do in this piece, that taxpayers are currently footing the bill for these pensions is just false. It's also false to create the impression that taxpayers are funding 100% of these pensions because they are not.

and this one:
Regarding those people who are receiving their pensions from Public School Retirement System aka (PSRS): 1. it is A PRIVATE ENTITY! It is not owned by the State of Missouri. The money that is in it the mutual funds of the teachers!! 2. The teacher/administrator CONTRIBUTES 7.5% of their paycheck to the fund each pay period! 3. The school District matches that amount!! 4. The PSRS is well known in the managed fund community to be one of, if not best managed funds in the US.

and this one:

Anonymous said...

Lots of private companies match employee pension contributions. This is not at all uncommon. They are called 50/50 plans. Both of my parents retired with a 50/50 pension from private industry careers. You are also forgetting that these contributions are made over the length of a career, which, as the first comment said, averages 30 years for a teacher in MO. Do the math and then do your homework. Your claims are ridiculous.

It is also completely false to claim that teachers in MO are overpaid or retire with extravagant pensions. Currently, MO ranks 47th out of 50 states in teacher pay. That means teachers in 46 states earn more than they do in MO. The average teacher salary is $40K in MO. If you think that is a decent salary for a professional with a masters degree, you aren't playing with a full deck.

Teachers in MO also do NOT DRAW SOCIAL SECURITY. So their pension, which averages less than 40% of their salary when they retire is their ONLY INCOME for the rest of their life. Do the math - this means that the average teacher in MO retires with a pension that amounts to $16K a year. That is called poverty level, hardly extravagant.

This is one of the most dishonest blog items I have ever read. A few top level admins receiving good pensions (half of which which they funded themselves) is hardly a scandal worth getting your panties in a knot over. Good grief.

As for who benefits from the taxpayer money - THE CHILDREN DO. They get an education. How much is that worth to you? Obviously not much in MO. You should be ashamed that this state pays its teachers so little rather than posting false information about pensions.

I was contacted by a taxpayer who wishes to remain anonymous with a response to those above comments. As the taxpayer gave quite a bit information on teacher pensions in this taxpayer's district, I am printing the response on the blog, rather than in the comment section. Perhaps it would be a good idea to go to your school district to determine how pensions and retirements are structured in your own district. You can access the retirement and pension information for Springfield, Jefferson City and Kansas City from Taxpayers United of America here.

Here is the taxpayer's response to the above comments:

With all the back and forth readers’ comments I’ve read regarding the “Top 100 Millionaire Teachers and Administrators” posted Tuesday, August 16th, I requested to write a post to address comments made that relay false information. Having spent the last four years asking questions of my own school district’s financial officers as well as those of other districts, calling people at DESE, county assessors’ office, etc., I believe I possess a solid base of facts and understanding of how the public education system works monetarily, at least in my own district (Kirkwood). The retirement system teachers and administrators enjoy is just one aspect of that whole, but a critically important one.

One of the first comments made was that the blog was creating a false impression that taxpayers foot the bill for teachers’ pensions. I agree with the respondent who challenged this with by stating that since school districts are 100% funded by taxpayers, ergo, taxpayers DO fund teachers’ pensions. In Kirkwood, 4.5% raises were given to teachers and administrators over a 4 year period (’07-’10). Three of these years have seen our economy absolutely TANKING for the private sector. When questioning the rationale of these high raises, especially in these economic times, Board members told us that the 4.5% increase “doesn’t all go into the teachers’ pockets, since we’re offsetting the state mandated increase they must contribute to their pension fund.” Same thing for increased premiums for their health insurance…those additional costs to the employee were ADDED to the merit portion of the raise so that the teachers’ take-home pay wasn’t decreased.

Question: When does someone in the private sector receive a raise that the employer INCREASES above and beyond one’s merit increase, to help offset increasing medical premiums or to help Joe Blow employee afford putting more aside in his 401K for retirement? It just doesn’t work that way in the private sector. But since the state MANDATES the amount teachers must contribute, I presume school boards feel they must offset this amount when raises are handed out. At the end of the day, larger raises and salaries to teachers and administrators mean having to ask taxpayers for tax increases more frequently and in larger amounts. So yes, taxpayers DO fund teachers’ salaries, and thus, the contributions they make to their retirement accounts.

Teachers and administrators have a formula which is used to calculate what they will get when they retire. That amount is taken by averaging the last 3 years of a teacher’s salary before retirement, and applying a percentage to it. Many teachers bump up their last three years’ salary by taking on “extra duty” contracts to increase their overall pay during these last 3 critical years when the math is being done. Then, upon retirement, which can be at an extremely early age (53 in the case of a couple of my teacher friends) the teacher gets roughly 2/3 of the average of the last 3 years’ salary FOR LIFE. So the comment made that teachers’ pensions average only 40% of what their salary was is not accurate. It IS true teachers do not participate in Social Security, however.

I agree that the PSRS is probably very well managed in terms of returns. I just want to know how it can be that such HUGE retirements are GUARANTEED to teachers for life? Isn’t the PSRS investing in the same mutual funds and stocks that all the other retirement funds do? Why don’t we in the private sector see similar retirement returns? The reason the teachers’ retirements are so huge is because UNIONS negotiated with the state to set the amounts of the teachers’ retirement plan, how the formula is applied, which in turn dictates how much teachers will receive upon retirement.

The comment made about 50/50 contributions between employee and employer being quite common in the private sector is correct…..but with one exception. Private employers typically CAP the amount of their 50% side of the contribution into a 401K. For example, I might only receive a 50% contribution to my 401K from my employer on the FIRST 6% of what is put in. It isn’t on the entire contribution made, unlike the teachers.

The system is imbalanced. Comparing the public teacher and administrator pension system to social security, a Social Security recipient must wait till at least age 62 to draw funds from SSI. A private sector worker also contributes to SSI throughout their entire career, just as the teachers do. If that worker happens to be a fairly high wage earner, he will probably see about $1500 a month from SSI, or around $18,000 a year. However, if he continues to work at a second job or career AFTER starting to draw SSI, the amount of SSI will be reduced significantly if his earnings go over a certain threshold. Teachers and administrators, on the other hand, can take a second career (fairly easy to do when you retire at age 53) and their pension is not reduced one iota based on the earnings they receive in that second career.

Is this a sweetheart deal for teachers and administrators? You bet! But it is the right of taxpayers to ask for fairness and some semblance of balance when THEY ultimately are the ones footing the bill! The old tired accusation of not caring about kids is ridiculous. Just because some have started minding the “school store” doesn’t mean we’re old crabs who don’t care about the education of kids. We just want to know, in this case, how do bloated pensions really do help students? If anything, they put the kids’ education more at risk in the long run, because at some point, taxpayers just won’t have any more to give, and will just say “no” to tax increase requests. Because these increases are for educational expenses, and admittedly a critical issue, we’re not allowed to ask any questions or make observations based on facts? Sorry, folks, the days of the blank checkbook are gone.

If the teachers were on the receiving end of this treatment, and main street private sector employees were getting the fat retirement checks on the backs of the teachers, you can bet there would be a cry to the heavens about how unfair the system is. But in the reverse, don’t dare question the sacred cow of educational spending.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Should Public Schools Focus on One Culture, Philosophy or Interest?

The comment section is abuzz in the St. Louis Dispatch article "New City School Blends Learning with African Cultural Flavor" regarding the opening of a school with a cultural focus:

Pamoja Preparatory Academy @ Cole opened Monday as an African-centered school - a place where reading, math, and science are taught alongside African values, customs and culture. Among those values are self-control, respect toward elders and giving back to community.

The school is the first with an African focus in the St. Louis public school system, a district where about 80 percent of the students are black. It's also one of more than a dozen public schools in the city - traditional and charter - that are focused on a particular philosophy or emphasis.

There are two schools of thought referenced in the article and they run through the readers' comments section as well:

The comments in favor of cultural-centered schools can be summed up this way:

Advocates of specialized schools in urban areas argue that they are an effective way of keeping school-age children in the central city. Magnet schools and often charter schools offer a specialized focus - such as performing arts, foreign language or classical education - to engage children who otherwise may lose interest at more traditional schools.

The comments against this type of education follow this argument:

But others contend that the African-centered approach is too narrowly focused on one racial group.

"I have never had a high regard for any form of ethnic, racial or religious-themed schools," said Diane Ravitch, a prominent education historian and author at New York University. "The purpose of public education is to develop American citizens who are prepared to make their way in the world and to collaborate with others to improve our democracy."

One reader tied the issues together early in the comments section that others are continuing to debate hours later:

PhoenixRising said on: August 21, 2011, 8:01 am
This is a tough topic. On one hand, I think it's fine to have pride about your roots--for example, no one would begrudge an Irishman his chance to feel pride on St. Patty's Day. Black children should understand that the history of their people began much before slavery, just like white Americans trace their ancestry back to Europe. However, why does this school have to call its mission qualities specifically black qualities? Togetherness, ingenuity, kindness, motivation; these are qualities that any decent human being should have. I think Grant had it right saying the kids need to move beyond their skin color as a definition because it's hindering. Understand your roots, but don't let them define you. And I don't think the problem is teachers not knowing how to teach black students- you could say the opposite, that the culture these children grow up in is not conducive to education. This applies to both rural and urban kids.

What do you think? Should taxpayer dollars be used for schools focusing on just one particular philosophy or interest? How would a cultural focus be defined...as a philosophy or an interest? If schools do focus on a philosophy or interest, will that make students Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) ready in a global society if those philosophies or interests are not centered in those STEM areas?

(Here's a bit of information about Cole Elementary--now renamed Pamoja Preparatory Academy--from 2009).

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