Diane Ravitch’s blog: Should Public Schools Depend on Charity?

Should Public Schools Depend on Charity?.

This commenter’s post struck a chord with me.

Call me a socialist, but I am totally against any & all fundraising for public schools. We as a nation should provide all our children equally with the highest possible standards we as a nation can afford. Private schools can do their own thing, whatever they can afford. (though it is my understanding that private schools pay teachers less than public schools). I don’t support or contribute in any way to fund raisers for either private or public schools. It sickens me that our children are sent out selling candy & holiday wrapping paper & cans of popcorn to raise money for special programs like art, gym, music in their schools, and that teachers have to help fund raise as well. I want to see education as the highest priority in this nation, and all public schools on equal footing, at least within each state. My higher preference is for the nation to equalize public schooling, so that every public school, no matter where they are located or the average income of their districts or the value of the homes in their districts, provides the same education to all students. Of course we have to retain the freedom for private schools, but privatizing education is a whole different matter. And when non-profit foundations start supporting education, it takes away from the responsibility of the citizenry to do so, and distorts and hides what is really happening to to public education.

Fundraising might work in districts where parents are well-off, hold jobs where these parents can take their child’s brochure to work, etc, but what about those places where kids may not even get breakfast at home? Where family and friends are doing all they can just to scrape by?

Honestly though, if parents were really serious about raising cash for their schools, they’d just write a check to the school rather that go through the charade of selling wrapping paper and over-priced cookies….the cut for the school is pathetic. The ROI sucks.

Further, if you choose to send your child to a private school I assume that means you can afford it. Do not ask me to donate to your child’s private school fundraiser. I already support public education with my tax dollars.

This also means that I don’t want to support your child’s private education with vouchers funded by my tax dollars.   If you don’t think our public schools are good enough for your child and you choose to put your child in private school, don’t go begging  your friends,  family and coworkers to help pay for your child’s private education, and then, when all else fails, insist it is your right to steal my tax dollars to pay your for your kid’s private tuition.  Especially if it means less dollars for public education. But even if it didn’t; even if public education didn’t lose a dime,  private schools do not have to be accountable to taxpayers in the way that public schools must be.

Don’t ask again.

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12 thoughts on “Diane Ravitch’s blog: Should Public Schools Depend on Charity?

  1. And charter schools are in fact private schools that get public money and wouldn’t exist at all if they weren’t licenses to steal from taxpayers. They shouldn’t get a dime of taxpayer money, either. Shut them all down or else cut off the taxpayer money so that they are forced to charge tuition. They operate identical to private schools because that is what they are. They aren’t held to any kind of accountability.

  2. I have mixed feelings . . . as someone with no kids, I resent how some of my tax dollars are being used (vouchers or not). Worse, there is no way I would be elected on a school board, and my opinion (again, not having kids) would be ignored (isn’t it always).

    When people say that as a society (nation) we have a responsibility to provide quality education . . . well, first of all, I made a conscious decision not to have kids. To be brutally honest, I don’t see why I have to provide other people’s kids with anything.

    Oh, yeah . . . the common good of an educated electorate/populous/etc.

    You know what? I don’t see it. I don’t agree with how children are being educated, and, frankly, my (admittedly limited) experience points to us wasting a crapload of money for little benefit. If someone can prove to me how spending more money will improve education, I’ll listen . . . but the latest education millage that passed here . . . that goes to fund teacher’s benefits. Mostly past benefits.

    The argument that will attract better teachers . . . history has not shown that to be the case, and before anyone tells me about teacher’s salaries . . . I have some familiarity with that.

    Convince me education, even public education, is being run as something other than a business, that education of the kids is the primary goal, that politics, greed, and personal agenda don’t play a role in the system, and I am there in spades.

    I have some understanding of how schools work (from crappy ones to the “better” schools) through people who are part of the system (some good, some bad). Not impressed.

    The comment about stealing your tax dollars to pay for a kid’s private education? That applies to me as well . . . only I add public education in the mix. I much rather my money went for infrastructure.

    So, I hear the arguments . . . I still can’t sympathize. I don’t have any kids, and fertile people all around me keep voting to have me contribute along with them into dumping money into a system that is not showing any improvement despite massive amount of money being dumped into it. How do I get off this ride?

    • How do you get off this ride? Move to another country that doesn’t include public education as a shared community value.

      There are a lot of things my tax dollars go toward that I don’t agree with. Cost of doing democracy, ya know?

      I value public education. I am a product of it. Do you mean to say it has done ME no good?

      Our country was brought forth on the premise that an educated populace was a good thing, Your points about education for education’s sake is a good thing. And you know, there will be kids who were like me, who while she hated school, loved to learn. Those kids must be nurtured, even if their parents can’t afford to provide that kind of education.

      I don’t feel that our schools are all that gawd awful, though many would like to believe that. Most schools are great places with dedicated teachers and administrators. This damned emphasis on constant testing, and basing pay for teachers on results of kids “progress” which does not consider the home life of the child, or even their motivation to learn is pathetic and cruel.

      I would venture that no one goes into the teaching profession for the money. I have friends who are public school teachers and (gasp!) union members. Their first thought, always, is the welfare of their kids.

      And yes, the common good. I’m all about that. Public education can be the great equalizer of opportunity, IF schools are equal. Unfortunately, they are not.

      I agree with you about the infrastructure issue. I’d like to see the Feds take up the cause of creating first class schools all over the nation. But, I’m not so crazy about the idea of local school boards calling ALL of the shots either. Most school boards consist of people with no education background, and while I don’t want to diss them, because I know my share of school board people, and believe me, they are a dedicated bunch, I also think that clear national standards are the key.

      There shouldn’t be programs that pit school district against school district for national funding, a la Race to the Top. Punishing a poorly performing school by withdrawing funds is akin to trying to cure an anorexic by taking away even the paltry portion of food she eats. What should happen is full-on “let’s see what’s going on here and work to fix it.” It likely won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, and therein lies the rub in our “instant fix” society.

      Kids take time. Solutions take time.

    • Were you not educated in a public school? Retired and childless people paid taxes for your education. An educated society is a benefit to all; better jobs with higher wages pay more taxes, educated choices in the voting booth, a better life in general for everyone. Your house might never burn down, but you pay for fire stations and firemen because it benefits us all if someone else’s fire is extinguished.

  3. Hmmm . . . If I don’t like it, I should leave?

    Seriously, I pay my taxes, and always have. And I agree public education is a good thing . . . BUT . . . how about this? How about taxation is proportional? I’ll pay a base amount, but people with multiple kids pay a bit more?

    Personally, I am tired of subsidizing other people’s decisions (happens in insurance as well . . . my premium subsidizes people with large families . . . I’ll buy into subsidizing special care, rare diseases, treatment, etc. but I would prefer not to subsidize the premium of people who want lots of kids).

    More important, I have an issue with the system because I have no say in the actual application of it. And before you claim democracy again, remember the voucher system is also a result of democracy in action.

    I’m curious why people bitch about the voucher system, and claim they don’t want THEIR tax dollars going to it, but I can’t make the same argument. I get told to move someplace else. (yes, I am tweaking).

    Or am I misunderstanding how democracy works?

    But that is not even what I bitch about . . . the US is ranked second in the world for expenditures for K-12 education. Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.

    When I look at costs locally, it’s not much better.

    Now look at the rise in costs. The cost of US education has risen linearly for the past 20 or so years, US student performance has not moved significantly in that time (depending on the numbers you look at, the performance has dropped).

    And I agree . . . education is good. Still does not explain to me why I need to support it to the level I do. Especially given that I see education having shifted to a much more “social training” role than actual education. And again . . . looking at the numbers, I don’t see the reason for supporting a system currently dominated by politics and special interests.

    I don’t have an answer.

    But I will repeat my opinion because doing anything else would not be me . . . I don’t like supporting other people’s decisions to go at it like rabbits (especially in the ultra-religious area I live in). Sure, it’s democracy in action . . . so are vouchers.

  4. Hear, hear! A lot of points addressed in the comments, and I don’t think I can take them all on, but let me give you my view from the trenches. First of all, I’m already retired; I spent 23 years teaching various ages, and subjects all the way from deaf infants to Japanese at Reno High and UNR. Toss in a little “regular” special ed and ESL, and that’s a good mix.

    So, at random, in no particular order are some thoughts:

    1) I agree that schools shouldn’t have to have fundraisers. A hoary old joke is “What if schools had unlimited funds, and the army had to hold bake sales to buy a new bomber?” The fact is that schools ARE underfunded, and teachers ARE underpaid. When I heard on the radio yesterday that longshoremen (who, to be fair, are skilled at what they do) are paid $100,000 a year, I almost crapped my pants. After 23 years AND a master’s degree, I never even made $50,000. My first 2 years of teaching (remember, WITH a master’s degree), my son actually qualified for reduced-price lunch — that’s SUPPOSED to be aid for low-income families. We want teachers to be well-educated and dedicated, and yet we pay them poverty-level wages?

    2) A neighbor of mine sneered at the idea that teachers have it easy — they only work 9-3 and have long vacations and summers off. Huh? Those 9-3 hours are when the kids are in school — when do you think the teachers do their prep for class, including making materials, because the school does NOT buy adequate materials? And when do they grade papers, including making decisions that some kids didn’t get it, and it needs to be retaught, and others need other, educational activities to do while you’re reteaching the kids who didn’t get it? And, then, of course, there are the open houses, parent conferences, telephone calls, and other demands on our time that do NOT fit into that “easy” 9-3 schedule. And when teachers aren’t making enough money to live on (primarily beginning teachers), they often take second jobs, in ADDITION to all the overtime crap they don’t get paid for.

    3) The sports teams got the benefit of profits from pop and candy machines on campus. But when I wanted to take my Japanese class to the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco, we had to pay for it on our own, which meant that some kids couldn’t go. That’s where a fundraiser would have been nice, but I just didn’t have the energy to organize one.

    4) All the testing hoo-ha ignores the fact that children are not widgets and you cannot educate them on an assembly line. Nor should you. Take 2 Hispanic children, both of which I have had in my classes. Child A is very talented at academic subjects and has parents who take him to other cities and national parks, and read to him, and talk to him, and make sure he attends school and does his homework. (Obviously, they have the money to do so) Child B was pulled out of school in the 3rd grade in Mexico in order to work in the fields, and arrives here at the age of 14 without even an education in Spanish. And you want me to get Child B onto an equal par with Child A in 3 years? Gimme a break! Ain’t gonna happen. This is no reflection on the kids themselves, but the FACT is they have had different life experiences, and I do NOT have a magic wand. Child A learned to function in English in one year, and was able to graduate high school and go on to college, whereas Child B never passed the proficiency tests — the goal with Child B was to get him fluent in basic English, so that he could hold down a job. What he needed was vocational education in basic English (not complicated English with an instructor who wasn’t willing to run interference with a book that was written on a college level). He was willing to work, and he was a nice kid, but the goal needed to be to get him employable, not to expect him to pass tests meant for native English speaking kids.

    5) OK, some people reproduce like rabbits. And the idea of not only eliminating the child tax credit, but imposing a greater tax on families with more children is an interesting one and worth talking about. But that’s an idea to discuss with organizations like the Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth). The fact is that once they’re born, they’re HERE, and if we are to be anything but a society of anarchists, we have to take care of them. If we excused childless people from paying the percentage of taxes that goes to schools, then we have to excuse other people from paying taxes for things THEY don’t use. I don’t listen to the radio or watch TV — maybe I should be excused from the part of my taxes that go to help fund NPR? Plus that excuse about not paying taxes for schools has been used for many decades by parents who send their children to parochial schools. Except they want their taxes to GO to parochial schools, and then we get into church/state problems.

    I dunno, this has turned into a rant, but it’s obviously something I feel strongly about. I look at affluent people who are no smarter and who work no harder than I did, and I am not amused. And I’m glad I wasn’t teaching at Sandy Hook Elementary, either.

    • Thanks for your reply, Natalie. I was hoping a teacher would chime in here. That comment you made about kids from different backgrounds really is the truth. The fact is, private schools (and charter schools), can pick and choose their students. Not so with public schools. They have to take all comers. That they are able to do as well as they are, with budget cuts and with bureaucrats, parents, politicians, et al, breathing down their necks and dissing them every step of the way is astonishing to me. I can truly say that though some of my teachers were better than others, and some truly excelled, I can only think of one teacher I had (7th grade math) who did not belong in a classroom. So, as is often said to the military, Thank You for your service. Truly.

      • Can I make an incredibly stupid comment? Sure I can!

        . . . might I suggest the very idea everyone has equal interest in studies is a tad off the mark? Some people have little aptitude for studying, and would benefit more from learning a trade. A high school diploma is no guarantee of higher paying job (nor is a college one, for that matter).

        And before I’m told it benefits society to have educated kids, ask around . . . ask adults how they are in math. Ask them about history, government, biology, or, FSM forbid, science. It’s depressing to me to hear the answer, and know I helped pay to teach these people. You know what I hear most when I bring up math? “I don’t do math” . . . and I’m talking basic math, nothing advanced. These are adults. In today’s world. They vote, but don’t do math.

        People are different . . . and, hey!! I have an anecdote. My own brother struggled to high school, and did not do well . . . but he is smart. He can reason, is self-reliant, and is an excellent mechanic. He could have used an education focusing more on his vocational aptitude rather than end up with a diploma that shows “he can’t learn past barely passing”. Sure, he needed to learn the basics, and guess what? He did.

        I have a couple of more anecdotes, but it’s getting late, and I already spent more time on this than I wanted.

  5. OK, I could, I suppose, start quoting teachers I know (three), people who have worked in school administrations (1), and parents who work/volunteer at their schools (a number of them).

    Experiences differ. And I am familiar with the extra work teachers put in (sister-in-law), but also with how that varies. None of the ones I know worked during the off months.

    Here are the average salaries (http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/). Keep in mind those are averages, and just salaries, not other benefits. Some of the differences are due to cost of living, some probably because of other factors.

    That’s an argument we could get into, but won’t. There is no way to address the worth of a large group of diverse individuals in diverse situations. I can quote all sorts of numbers in industries I am familiar with, and depending what I want to pick and choose can make the point for them to be overpaid or underpaid.

    In this discussion, ultimately it comes down to one thing, and one thing only. The performance of the kids. What have they learned, and how prepared are they to function as independent individuals. I have met some that are extraordinary, many that are average, and too many that did not impress me in the least.

    But my experience with kids is limited . . . so I rely on studies. When I do, I am not impressed at all. Are there truly inspirational stories, amazing kids, etc. etc?

    Sure!

    Are there great teachers, dedicated to what is best for the kids, committed to providing each and every student the best opportunity to learn?

    Sure!

    Are either or both the norm? I don’t know, but the numbers do not suggest so.

    Finland has a very successful way of teaching their kids. It’s nothing like what we have, nor are any of their things even proposed for here . . . they are ranked very high in education, their kids performing equally well across socio-economic levels, and regardless of the schools they attend. Their teachers make less than ours (comparatively speaking). And it’s very tough, from what I read, to become a teacher there.

    I look at what we have, and I literally have no hope. Perhaps some can point me to what is even being discussed, let alone proposed, that will significantly improve the status quo. All I hear is “more money” . . . with no supporting evidence or history justifying the approach.

    We’re not going to solve anything here, but I will say this . . . it’s never as easy or simple as one or the other side makes it out to be. For some parents, vouchers make sense, and are indeed a way to ensure the safety and education of their kids.

    It makes it sound elitist to say they want a “private education”. Some parents are not choosing prestigious schools . . . just schools without bars in the windows.

    With that, I can speak from experience. My parents sent me to a catholic school (De La Salle, in Chicago). The alternative was a public school in a very rough neighborhood. They paid the tuition although the money was tight. It was not a matter of me getting a christian education (by then it was pretty clear I was past that), or a “private” education . It was a matter of getting an education, period.

    Saying it was “their choice” does not change the underlying reason for that choice.

    (Note: on the other hand, I might now be ahighly successful underworld figure where it not for their choice. After all, I’m fairly smart, resourceful, and some say ruthless . . . damn that education!!! . . . I could have been somebody, instead of an engineer, which is what I am)

    So now what? We can trade anecdotes, sure. Perhaps the discussions should not be what is the “right” way, but what is the best way to educate, and realize that it can vary from one area to the next, even from one school to the next.

    I’m not hearing any of that. I’m hearing different sides “knowing” their way is best because it works for them.

    As for “once they’re born, they’re HERE” . . . unless you chance the reward system, don’t expect the first part to change. But know also that I speak with a large amount of resignation (and tongue-in-cheek) when I say that . . . I know nothing will change in that regard.

    . . . another reason I have little hope for the future.

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