Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Disruption in Schools - Vouchers

Patch.com has a pair of related stories. One is about Dr. Lesky declaring that education is under attack (read it here) based on school funding, vouchers, and charter schools. The other is by Margie Peterson, also on Patch, declaring that vouchers would erode our common denominator (read it here).

In short, both are concerned that if people are given options to send their children to a school other than a public school they will go. Patch reports  "Lesky said that if charter and cyber schools take away the district's best students, then "I'm afraid our schools will be schools to only educate the disabled and the poor."

So what does this mean? The best students can't be poor? Our public schools wouldn't be the choice compared to charter and cyber schools if cost weren't an issue? 

Patch further quotes Dr. Lesky as saying, ""Schools are a melting pot where everyone comes together to learn about each other," he said. "They are going to destroy public education in the state."

I've never viewed the core purpose of school to have students learn about one another.

And from Peterson's opinion piece is this line of thinking, "With vouchers, private schools can cherry pick the best students with the most motivated parents, leaving public schools to educate children with special needs or behavioral problems and to bear the costs associated with that."

Again, if public schools are performing, why leave? And, regardless of vouchers public schools are required to educate children with special needs and behavioral problems.

Peterson notes, "Right now, if taxpayers don’t like what’s being taught in their local school district, they can go to the school board meeting and complain. Will private schools open up their meetings to the public and allow residents to vote on their board members if they accept taxpayers’ dollars?"

I think the context is being responsive to your constituents, and the reality is that private schools operate on a private sector model, perform or pay the consequences. Private schools can't raise taxes, they can't ignore constituents, they have to be responsive to those who support them financially or they will be out of business. If their students can't get accepted to the schools the parents' expect, they are accountable for that. Grade inflation is fine so long as the students are able to get accepted to the colleges they expect to get into. When that fails the onus is on the school. Why the grade and not the acceptance? If the grades aren't delivered, then it falls on the student. We don't find this in public education.

Education as an industry is fearful of the disruption of vouchers. This ought to be an impetus for internal reform. Public education needs to take a page from heavily regulated private industries and streamline, gain efficiencies, and lobby within the system to account for special needs and resource disparities as a result of regulations.

What do you think?

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker


Clem said...

Hopefully, his words will be cold water in the face of the sleepwalkers who have blindly followed this empty suit.

Perhaps public education would not be under attack if Lesky and his ilk had not pushed the envelope and continued taking more and more while delivering less and less.

Clueless arrogance. This is what you get for $140,000 in the world of public education.

From his capital excesses to creating jobs for his cronies, the school district should be better for his exit. Should be, but the smart money is on "Won't be". The next big spender with a correspondence school doctorate is right around the corner.

Vouchers will deprive administrations and their co-conspirator teachers' union of the ability to build their little kingdoms and to tell their employers how things are going to be. They know they will lose when faced with competitive pressure, because competitive pressure is cryptonite to monopolists.

In light of the recent Lesky-supported proposal to limit public comment at NASD board meetings, Peterson's concern- "Will private schools open up their meetings to the public and allow residents to vote on their board members if they accept taxpayers’ dollars?" - is laughable.

You have to give the bureaucrat credit, though. Even as he rides off into the sunset with his $60K for unused sick days (unlike teachers, we don't pay a substitute superintendent when he is out for a day or two, so why in the world do we provide an incentive for him to not miss work?) he will keep pitching "The world will end without us" right up until the minute we prove that it won't.

waynefromnaz said...


Thank you for providing the links to these stories.

I have observed Mr Lesky go on about the expense of busing the private school children (state regulations) and other matters and I can only think of it as scapegoating. These issues are not why public education funding is in such disarray. He might occasionally touch on the real issues, like "no child left behind" or teacher's pensions, but he always comes back with a passion against "schooling elsewhere".

Just a few points.
Right now those who do school elsewhere are struggling to keep their children in these other schools. The bad economy has hit everyone (it has been my observation that plenty of middle class and poor already school elsewhere) - is Nazareth ready to build another school if these children can no longer afford to go to their schools?

Once, after Mr Leskey complained about the busing of children schooled elsewhere, I asked him that very question. Considering that getting their child to school is a big financial & logistical consideration for these parents keeping their children in these schools - isn't busing a few children a bargain compared to building, maintaining, and staffing another new school? He said he didn't expect that many students to leave the private/parochial schools. As if the bad economy was not effecting these families...

One of the rationalizations I hear given for keeping our teachers salaries "competitive" with the wealthier districts has been so as to attract a better caliber of teacher. Have you ever compared public vs parochial teacher salaries? And yet the schools with "under paid" teachers are attracting the better students (according to Lesky) somehow? If "money to teachers = better education" then how do these schools attract students? The arguments given are not even consistent within themselves, let alone with the facts...

NewsOverCoffee said...

teaching salary a great point and you could make the same regarding facilities.

Ironically, with the exception of the HS, they want more students. Enrollment has been down, I believe for three consecutive years.

Buildings that previously housed k-6, now have k-3 and the new MS has roughly 50% of its state approved capacity being utilized.

Maybe they could rent some space to a charter school?

waynefromnaz said...

"Maybe they could rent some space to a charter school?"

Ross, that's exactly to sort of thinking that needs to be applied to these issues!

Yesterday the Education Reform Workshop met at the Center for the Arts. It was outstanding. The information that was presented there should be required reading for all new school board members. I'll let you know when the videos and other materials are made available for the public.