Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Column 118 - Schools

I've been writing this column for over three years now, and while it started as a kind of "point-counterpoint" with Jim Clark's column, it quickly became apparent that most of the differences of opinion Jim and I had were on national issues – on most local issues we were pretty close, and so we've each mostly written about what interests us – for Jim that's mostly state stuff, for me mostly Incline, and that's been fine.


I've been dismayed, however, at Jim's recent columns about education in general and Nevada schools in particular. Since Jim generally hews pretty closely to the Republican view of things, I've been even more surprised that his views are even further to the right on the issue so schools than most of the GOP.


In last Friday's column, I think Jim went beyond the bounds of reason. Jim notes that in a report in Education Week magazine, Nevada schools received a grade of D plus, against a national average of C, notably receiving a D minus for "K-12 achievement" and a D plus for "student success, school finances, and student transition into the work force." Call me naïve, but I think those grades are cause for concern for those of us who live in Nevada.


It seems that for Jim and many Republicans, any expenditure on education is too much, and any attempt to finance educational improvement constitutes lamentation and whining by school officials who think "it's all about money." Further, the teacher's union "regularly lies with statistics in order to bludgeon state legislatures and the federal government into throwing more money at the public education monopoly." Strong accusations, presented as fact, but with nothing to back them up.


These same Republicans don't seem to have a problem with corporations lying with statistics in order to get or keep business from the federal government – for example, Blackwater and Halliburton, and I haven't heard any outcry from the right at such obscenity as a $101 million package for the CEO of Countrywide Mortgage, which bears a large part of the responsibility for the recent debacles in the industry. It seems that the current GOP has rewritten Jefferson's famous dictum of "millions for defense, not one cent for tribute" to read "millions for defense contractors, but cut education to the bone.


Jim makes the absurd assertion that "if all the individual state education systems were graded on a curve…Nevada would receive a C plus. Not wonderful but passing." Jim, in business do you grade employee or company performance on a curve? No company I've ever worked with does.


Jim also says that because Nevada students mostly enter the workforce in lower level jobs (is that true? I don't think so), the pressure isn't there for high quality education. Hello? The Education Week report downgraded the state on "student transition into the work force." That means our kids aren't even being educated well enough to enter our work force, much less Massachusetts' or California's.


There are two groups of employed people who serve the public and are expected to live between poverty and the lower middle class while politicians get fat off lobbyists and corporate parasites get rich at the public's expense – the military and educators.


We are spending billions in Iraq, and every attempt to limit spending on that ill-advised GOP adventure has been blocked by the Republicans. Yet these same politicians have repeatedly foiled attempts to pay our military a living wage and to provide decent health care to those injured in the war. By blocking any rational approach to health care, the GOP is effectively subsidizing the medical and pharmaceutical industries as well as the HMOs and health care companies. At the same time, our dimwitted Republican governor is cutting services and particularly cutting education. Yet when those we have hired to educate our children protest at program cutbacks and inadequate funding, they are accused of whining and being in it to "bludgeon state legislatures and the federal government into throwing more money at the public education monopoly." Have you no shame sir, have you not a shred of decency?

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