Public Schools not “too big to fail”

Posted by By at 6 April, at 12 : 43 PM Print

The answer to the nation’s failing educational system is – watch for it – fire the teachers and turn public school districts into transportation services for private schools!

Consider this: Pennsylvania law requires each public school district to transport students to private schools as far as 10 miles outside the district borders, including, in some cases, out of state, and including days when the private schools are open and public schools are not.

To help make up the added expense, Gov. Tom Corbett proposes allowing districts to fire teachers they can’t pay for.

School performance, we are told, can be accurately measured by a set of exams administered each year to students in fifth, eighth and eleventh grades. The results are called Annual Yearly Progress, and every year, the acceptable results for AYP increase.

In 2010, 63 percent of a school’s were required to pass the reading exam, and 56 percent had to pass the math test. In 2011, the levels are 72 percent and 67 percent, respectively.

And not only must more kids pass the test each year, but the score required to pass also increases. By 2014, 100 percent of children in every school will be required to write a perfect score.

There is no allowance for socioeconomic background, and special education students are included. No excuses. All kids are capable of learning; it’s the teachers’ fault if they do not.

Gov. Corbett’s solution? Take money from the public schools and give it to private schools. That’s what he proposed when he presented his 2011 budget to the state legislature last month.

He didn’t say it that way, of course. What he said was schools would be funded at their 2008 levels. The part he left out was that while the basic education subsidy would be at the 2008 level, several other state funding streams – including partial reimbursement of charter school tuitions – would be cut off.

He proposed that teachers take a pay freeze. Given the current state of the economy, that’s not an unreasonable request.

And he proposed allowing schools to fire teachers they can’t pay for, which wouldn’t be so difficult to accept if not for the fact that some of the money Corbett does not have to give to public schools he will be giving instead to private schools.

Last year, when it was discovered that expenses at one of the local newly chartered schools was significantly lower than the state-mandated tuition payment, the charter school principal was asked what she would do with the extra money.

Increase teacher pay, she said.

Two years ago, when General Motors claimed to be on the brink of extinction because it had not developed cars people wanted at prices they could afford, we caused their fiscal cup to run over. No one was going to allow GM to join such once-celebrated names as DeSoto and Packard.

But when our public education system seems in trouble, we suddenly see the value of competition in the marketplace.

Suddenly the fault is not unrealistic expectations, or that some kids just are not college material. Not only every child can learn, but can learn the same as every other. And all are capable of proceeding to college.

Teachers, we are told, are to blame for our schools’ abysmal performance, and their unions are the scourge of our wallets. The proper course, according to Good King Corbett, is “school choice.” Take the money from the public schools and give it to commercial enterprises, which promise to lead us from the darkness of illiteracy to the sunshine of epitomous knowledge.

The money shift will likely appear, at first, to work. Those students who are brightest and whose parents are most involved with their offspring’s education and the affairs of their communities are likely to be the ones who aspire toward the top of the earnings food chain – and believe they have a chance of getting there.

We are diligently cultivating an ever-growing underclass of people who live day to day in a survival mode, eager to vote for anyone who promises to elevate them, all the while knowing it’s not going to happen so they stay home on election day.

Meanwhile, we have done a remarkable job of selling our way of life overseas. We have attracted the ire of religious zealots and capitalist moguls. One group calls us decadent and gets us to spend massive amounts of treasure on guns to fend it from our shores. The other sends its best and brightest to our schools; thus, educated they return home to take our place on the economic stage.

One young lady of my acquaintance will go to China next year. She’ll be teaching in a school district with 700 elementary schools, each hiring 700 native English speakers – each teaching future Chinese capitalists the International Business Language.

What’s wrong with that picture, Gov. Corbett?

Readers may contact John Messeder at


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This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at - Email jmesseder

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