Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Student Loans and Common Sense

Posted by Warren Peterson on June 30, 2012

College is expensive but everyone deserves the opportunity to go to college, right? Total student loan debt in over $1,000,000,000,000, a number now greater than total credit card debt but it’s worth it, right? It must be right otherwise Congress would not have recently extended the Federal student loan rate reductions by large bi-partisan votes, right?

Before you say “Right, right and right” read “Federal Student Aid and the Law of Unintended Consequences” by Professor Richard Vedder in the May/June 2012 issue of “Imprimis” published by Hillsdale College.

To find the article: Click HERE

The student loans are not the only government program where the unintended consequences are ignored and political courage is absent. No surprise, a government "entitlement" spawns its own constituency that politicians can challenge or even reform only at the risk of losing the next election.

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Needed, More Students Like Ian

Posted by Warren Peterson on December 11, 2011

Apparently the liberals missed one. Ian Engelbeck from Skyline High School actually made it all the way to his senior without being brainwashed. No doubt with his clear philosophical base he will be able to resist the onslaught of the Left in college. Read his December 8, 2011 Op Ed in the Seattle Times and see if you agree.

Click Here: Students must take responsibility for education as budget cuts loom

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Elite Schools Admission Bias

Posted by Warren Peterson on July 19, 2010

Thanks to F.C. for noting this article by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat on admission policies of the so-called elite universities. Apparently the “Gray Lady” does allow a little conservative light to enter the public debate.

Read it here: Admission policies of elite universities

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A Bonus for the Seattle Schools Superintendent

Posted by Warren Peterson on November 30, 2009

The Seattle School Board has one employee, the Superintendent. Currently that is Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson. Is she worth $264,000 in base salary plus $28,400 of other compensation plus bonuses? Apparently so since that is the pay package the School Board agreed to give her. As part of her contract she may also earn an annual bonus up to $26,000 if she meets or exceeds specific goals set by the School Board. This year the Board evaluation of her performance resulted in a bonus of $5,280. She earned it. She should keep it.

The Seattle Times thinks otherwise. By their reckoning, she should forgo her bonus as a token recognition of the school system’s budget shortfall. She should set the example in these hard economic times for all highly paid public officials. Actually the Times went beyond that praising Director Haricum Martin-Morris for not accepting the balance of the $50 per meeting stipend allowed for Seattle School Board members. Does the Times expect this of all the Board members regardless of what it costs them to serve? Mr. Martin-Morris works for a company that gives him paid time off to serve on the Board. Not every member is so fortunate.

Should Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson or Director Martin-Morris choose to voluntarily contribute to the Seattle Schools, fine, that is their choice. But the Times is out of line pressuring them to give up what is rightfully and contractually theirs. Charity is personal, public or private by the wishes of the donor, but it should not be coerced.

God loves a cheerful giver.

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Recession, An Education Reform Opportunity

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 25, 2009

Washington State’s budget deficit and the current recession forces the Legislature to examine every department and program for savings including a major cost center, K-12 education. It should provide the impetus to overcome teacher’s unions and the lobbyist for all manner of education sacred cows. The budget is a golden opportunity to adopt reforms that save money and provide more value for the investment.

The Washington Policy Council recently published an education reform program that addresses eight proposed improvements: 1 ) Put the principal in charge. 2 ) Give parents choice among public schools. 3 ) Let teachers teach. 4 ) Double teacher pay. 5 ) Replace the WASL. 6 ) Create no-excuses schools. 7 ) Transparency – put school budgets and teacher qualifications online. 8 ) Make the Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed office. Their recommendations do not necessarily cost more money and are largely common sense reforms. Implementaion, however, would require courage on the part of legislators especially Democrats who would have to face the wrath of one of their major sources of campaign funds, the education lobby. The WPC plan is a must read for every legislator and citizen.

Even liberal groups like the League of Education Voters are beginning to see the light. While they still push for higher Pre K-12 spending, they support high standards, improved math and science programs, accountability and accept some form of performance-based pay. Unfortunately, you have to give your name and address to get a copy of their 2009 Citizen’s Report Card on Washington State Education but it is worth the pain of being on another mailing list.

About four years ago, I published my own list of reforms. I updated it recently adding two more suggestions. (See Education Reform)

If this is the year of “Change”, then education is a great place to start.

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Schools Kiss Off $13.2M Grant

Posted by Warren Peterson on May 9, 2008

In a show of hubris that truly dazzles the mind, seven Washington State high schools, including West Seattle and Franklin in Seattle, rejected, turned down, said “nyet” to a $13,200,000 grant from the National Math and Science Initiative to “add and strengthen Advanced Placement courses in math and science.” The hang up was a provision of the grant that would pay AP teachers an extra $100 per student who passes the national Advance Placement test. The tests are optional but students who pass AP tests frequently qualify for college credit.

So what’s the problem? The education lobby is eternally complaining that teachers are under paid. But let’s not base pay on performance. Every teacher should be paid the same, right? Can you imagine actually paying a teacher a bonus based on how well students do on a test? Apparently, the merit pay issue was the deal breaker for the teacher’s union, the Washington Education Association. Any wonder it is difficult to attract and keep top flight math and science teachers in the profession. Oddly enough, such backward states as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia had no problem with the grants.

In addition to the merit pay bugaboo, I suspect there is other below the surface objections found in the politically correct, left wing population of Washington. I heard several talk radio callers express concern about “teaching to the test.” I never understood this argument. If a test covers the basic things one should learn in a course, why wouldn’t a teacher be expected to teach them? We’re talking high school here. Then there’s the “AP is elitist “ crowd. It attracts too few minorities. It causes the student who can’t or doesn’t qualify for AP to feel badly. It’s an over used cliché, but “Give me a break!” The National Math and Science program has been extremely successful in Texas. The number of students, including minorities, taking and passing AP courses expanded greatly. Oh, but I forgot, George W. Bush is from Texas.

Teachers want to be, and should be, treated as respected professionals. Their union and the liberals who run it make that a steep mountain to climb.

Related post on teacher pay

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Washington State Teacher Pay

Posted by Warren Peterson on December 20, 2007

One of the qualifiers for higher pay per the Washington State teacher salary schedule is additional college credit hours beyond a bachelor degree and/or a graduate degree(s). I know a third grade teacher with a PhD. Is a doctor’s degree really necessary for elementary school? No, but it does increase pay, but at what cost?

First, the teacher has to pay the tuition and dedicate the years to gain the salary driven additional education. Second, the state’s taxpayers have to pay for higher education institutions to provide the courses, professors, buildings and maintenance to serve the approximately 55,000 public school teachers in the state.

If the state provided money for teacher training appropriate for the job (ranging from summer workshops to graduate degrees for science teachers), we could improve teacher pay by saving them the cost of graduate school. By eliminating the fixed link between additional college credits and salary, perhaps we would open enough student slots at our existing four year schools to not need the hugely expensive proposed Everett branch of the University of Washington.

For more on teacher pay reform, see the Op Ed in the Seattle Times, “Reform the way we pay teachers”. It dares to challenge the education union’s time in grade/level of education approach to teacher salaries and is worth reading.

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The new Seattle School Board has its work cut out for them. See the latest.

Posted by Warren Peterson on November 13, 2007

With thanks to www.Orbusmax.com for the alert.

To see political correctness at its best, read the below letter from the Seattle School District to all its teachers and staff. To express your opinion to the current seven member Board, go to

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/contact.xml 

and e-mail Board members. Four new members will be sworn in on November 28th so don’t forget to check back to contact the newbies. By the way, whatever happened to the tradition of taking one day a year to thank God for our blessings; to focus on the positive without having to balance every good with a bad.

November 8, 2007

Dear Seattle Public Schools Staff:

We recognize the amount of work that educators and staff have to do in order to fulfill our mission to successfully educate all students.  It’s never as simple as preparing and delivering a lesson.  Students bring with them a host of complexities including cultural, linguistic and social economic diversity.  In addition they can also bring challenges related to their social, emotional and physical well being.  One of our departments’ goals is to support you by suggesting ways to assist you in removing barriers to learning by promoting respect and honoring the diversity of our students, staff and families. With so many holidays approaching we want to again remind you that Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time for many of our Native students. This website

 http://www.oyate.org/resources/shortthanks.html

offers suggestions on ways to be sensitive of diverse experiences and perspectives and still make the holiday meaningful to all students. 

Here you will discover ways to help you and your students think critically, and find resources where you can learn about Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective.  Eleven myths are identified about Thanksgiving, take a look at #11 and begin your own deconstruction. Myth #11:  Thanksgiving is a happy time Fact:  For many Indian people, “Thanksgiving” is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation.  As currently celebrated in this country, “Thanksgiving” is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship. It is our goal as a District to strive towards being inclusive and aware of the needs of all our students by respecting and honoring the many cultural experiences of our students, staff and families.  This does not mean that schools and staff have to avoid recognizing Thanksgiving, but rather calls upon each of us to be sensitive and mindful of every child in our classroom. We appreciate your willingness to struggle with these complex issues by considering the impact on many of our Native students when teaching about Thanksgiving in traditional ways.  If you have any questions or need assistance planning or preparing for any holiday, please feel free to contact the Department of Equity, Race and Learning Support at 252-0138.

Respectfully,

Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D.Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support

Willard Bill, Jr., Program ManagerHuchoosedah Office of Native American Educ

Janine Tillotson, Consulting TeacherHuchoosedah Office of Native American Educ.  

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