Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Sub-Prime Education Crisis
Part 1: Set Up For Failure
By Terri Michal

This is Part 1 of a three part series. We will publish Part 2 Friday and Part 3 on Saturday! 

Have you been scratching your head lately, wondering what in the world is going on in education?
In Alabama we have a charter law that allows charter schools to fill their student’s classrooms with employees that are exempt from state teacher certification requirements and an Accountability Act that allows public tax dollars to support private schools.
There are laws that have set up commissions that take power away from elected state and local school boards and place it in the hands of politically appointed persons. Yet, as they weaken local school boards they still refuse to make any policies restricting the amount of testing these local boards implement. THAT, they say, would be ‘overreach’.
We also have a State School Board that thinks it’s A-OK for folks with just a high school diploma, or its equivalent, to teach part time in our public schools.
Until last year’s 1 million dollar allocation, Alabama hadn’t allocated any money for our school’s libraries since 2008.
In 2014 Alabama was ranked number two of all the states that have not returned to pre-2008 spending. We are spending 20% less per student then we did in 2008. Yet, since 2013 we have diverted $54 million dollars from the education trust fund for school vouchers.
We have elected officials and administrators that willfully mislead parents. For example; It took not one, but TWO orders from the Governor to force our state superintendent to tell parents they could legally opt out of state assessments and parents across the state are still being given misinformation by principals and local superintendents.
Now, in the 2016 legislative session, we have the RAISE Act. This is an act that is based on VAM (Value Added Measures) and ‘performance pay’ for our teachers. Both of these things have been proven to be ineffective in raising the quality of education for America’s children because they create a high stakes testing atmosphere, causing teachers to ‘teach to the test’ just to retain their job. RAISE will drastically increase the instructional time lost due to so much testing and test prep.
The RAISE Act also demands yet ANOTHER commission to further weaken our State DOE (Where is our State Superintendent’s voice in all of this anyway?) and suck money away from the Education Trust Fund. Out of the 21 people that will make up this commission less than half come from an educational institution, out of those almost all are Higher Ed. This will leave us with one or two people representing k-12, yet this commission will make decisions that impact our k-12 children greatly!!
We must ask ourselves, what about THEIR children? Where do the children of legislators, board members, CEOs, and millionaires go? What kind of instruction do their children receive? Do they have testing and test prep 1/3 of the year? Do their kindergartners give up recess for test prep? Have they lost Music and Art classes? Do they have 30+ children in their elementary classrooms? Do they have teachers without education certificates?
Why do our children have a different set of rules than theirs?
It’s almost as if we are being set up for failure.
That’s an insane idea though, isn’t it? It’s hard to believe that a small, select group of Americans have the power to amass wealth by making decisions and implementing legislation that will, with high probability, negatively impact millions of other Americans. This idea borders on a conspiracy theory, yet somehow it all seems so familiar…

Terri Rector Michal fighting for schools, equity, and equality in Alabama!

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