Think Long Attacks Public Education

Report calls for end to Prop 98

by Brian Leubitz

Robert mentioned the so-called Think Long report that proposes reducing taxes on the highest earners in favor of additional taxes on the middle class.  In case that wasn’t enough to piss off the Left, there is this little treasure in the report: (via SacBee)

We believe such new funding should not be automatically given to a system that is failing to educate millions of Californians. It instead should be tied to improving performance of K-12 schools, as a result of rigorous evaluation of teachers, as well as curbs on automatic teacher tenure and seniority.

So…in case No Child Left Behind didn’t do enough to screw up the schools, we need to tie state school funding in a larger way to a deeply flawed system of test-first, test-last, and test-always that encourages teachers to teach to the test.  The rest of that second sentence is merely rehashing Arnold Schwarzenegger proposals that voters soundly rejected at the polls.

What we have here is nothing really all that different from what California Forward and other similar corporate-leaning centrist organizations are pushing.  And unsuprisingly it isn’t getting great reviews. Here is Dean Vogel, current president of the California Teachers Association:

“The Think Long Committee Report was supposed to be a bipartisan path to rebuilding California’s future, not a dangerous detour that would hurt students and the poor. Educators are alarmed by these recommendations to raise taxes on the poor, lower taxes for corporations, dismantle Proposition 98 – the state’s minimum school funding law – and avoid repaying $10 billion already owed to public schools and students.”

Without getting bogged down in NCLB, what really amazes me is that all these people want to look for causation only at teachers and schools.  When they see a struggling school, they only see “failing teachers.”  They never stop to look around the neighborhoods to see the failing communities. The families torn apart by poverty. Parents who rarely see their children because they are working multiple jobs. Sure, Newt Gingrich has a plan to solve that problem, (let’s create an army of 9 year old janitors!) but no solutions for addressing the inequality in our society seems to be present in the Think Long Report.

If you want to see better performing schools, teachers are merely an easy scapegoat.  Some teachers are truly more gifted than others, and we should encourage teacher quality.  However, that is only one small portion of the underlying problems.  Causation is never an easy, but politicians and billionaires apparently share an interest in preferring easy answers over good, thoughtful policy.

Think Long has said that a repeal to Prop 98 will not be in their tax measure that they intend to bring to the ballot.  However, their posture really goes to more than just Prop 98, it goes to the heart of our system of public education. Their attacks are certainly not the first, nor will they be the last as profit-seekers look to open up public education to corporate style earnings.

6 thoughts on “Think Long Attacks Public Education”

  1. The impact of bad teachers in not a “small portion of the underlying problem.”

    That said who would, in their right mind, argue that parental involvement is important to schooling.

    But that doesn’t mean that we need to really start questioning and evaluating teachers as well. And Principals! If you had any idea how pathetic the principal is in my local district you’d be appaled. It’s her fourth school, as she’s shuffled around.

  2. Instead of thinking long, maybe they should think more broadly instead and–as you say–look at the underlying causes for student performance. The countries with the highest student performance also have the most robust social safety net, and the highest levels of teacher training and pay.  

  3. I still shake my head at how people say our schools are so terrible today. As late as the 1970s we had a 50% high school drop out rate. And people talk lie schools back then (and they had prayer too!) were so much better than the gang training grounds we have today.

    But I thin you’re still missing the elephant.  Yes its communities and poverty – but thats not it. Honestly there are just messed up people. The left’s definition of poor is so broad its comical. The “poor” in America are giving massive credit lines at age 18 and they have dug themselves in a whole. Throw in some bad decision making related to career choice and romance and you can’t pin it on economic factors or policies alone.  In a country of 300 million a good 10-20% are going to make enough bad decisions that they will have screwed them out of all the opportunity in America. And you really cant have an overinvestment in second (third, fourth, etc) chances because people that do things right the first will not only be pissed but disincentivized. ANd then everyone will tend to develop a mentality that they can make up for it later.  I don’t think I need to emphasize the society and and economic cost of that. Just think of your best and worst employee, boss, or co-worker and think if society favored the bad one overwhelmingly more than the good one.

    Yeah, yeah I know it sounds harsh. I know it probably pisses you off more to profess that there is actually a domestic problem that cant be fixed by social engineering or progressive policies.  But seriously thats the case. Statistics alone bear out that there are those that will miss the boat on basic requirements of policy or program and basic live a sad life.

    I think the situation is only compounded and more glaring today than in the past because of greater media generation AND that because of readily available credit people are moving to areas of like incomes.

    As a personal example I went to schools that were of middle & working class incomes.  Today those schools are working class or lower and performing poorly.  I now moved to a more expensive area and meeting the parents at my kid’s school and all have graduate degrees and tend to be in technical fields.

    If you somehow encouraged people to go to poor performing schools and lower income areas instead of grouping in like areas of near same incomes (and so like professions and education levels) then you’ll see performance balance out like it was in the past.  Good luck making that change. I mean I could see some incentive programs that way but can you imagine any politician trying to make that pitch?

  4. Corporate political groups are trying to sneak into the conversation in order to insert private corporations anywhere in government called “public”: public schools, public libraries, public parks, public prisons, public water, public garbage.  After decades of underfunding all governmental functions, they say the system is failing.

    This is their business plan for the future.  So far they have been highly successful, but for those of us who believe we can enjoy lower cost, more inclusive public systems, we need to use our vote to tell them to go away.

  5. Of course, they find allies who want to destroy the independence from political and religious meddling that public education enjoys… and private school customers who don’t want to pay to educate other people’s children… and folks who are simply irritated by the fact that their tax dollars go to educate non-white children.

    California ranks 47th in per-pupil spending. It is not the fault of the teacher’s union that voters have been bamboozled into believing they could have tax cuts and a free lunch too.

    I’ve also had experience with “burned out” teachers lingering on in the classroom thanks to tenure. It’s an ugly situation. But it’s much easier to retire or rehabilitate those cases in a fully-funded system.

    In an under-funded system, the first pink slips go to the youngest teachers with the least seniority. The next pink slips go to the assistant principals and district managers whose job is to deal with the burnouts.

    The job of the union is to promote quality and professionalism in teaching and to insulate teachers from political and religious interference with… not to solve the school district’s budget crisis.

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