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April 21st, 2011

K-12 Public Education, How Did It Go Wrong?

By Rob Gettemy

Let me be clear up front.  I am not bashing teachers.  I believe that the majority of teachers care deeply about what they do.  However, let me be equally clear, I am bashing the teachers’ unions and government bureaucrats.

I first became disgusted with the teachers’ union in late August 2002.  As we were approaching the first anniversary of 9-11, the NEA sent out a suggestion to schools that ended any respect I might have had for them.  Their suggestion was that schools should teach on the first anniversary of 9-11 what the United States had done that might have caused these misguided souls to want to create such destruction in the United States the prior year.  While I realize some people honestly in their hearts believe our foreign policy incited the radical Muslims, to suggest that school children should be made to feel guilty about the most generous nation on Earth, instead of properly mourning the innocent victims, was too much for me to accept.  I contacted my school administrators when I saw that, and I am thankful to say that my district seemed almost as appalled at the suggestion as I was.  Thank God the NEA leadership’s philosophy does not actually represent the vast majority of the teachers in this country.

Fast forward to 2011; teachers’ unions are in the news.  Most main-stream media would have you believe that teachers themselves are under attack.  The reality is, of course, that while certainly some teachers are under attack, the real problem is the union.  In Wisconsin, we saw a small subset of teachers openly telling lies to their bosses, bragging about it on TV, skipping school, all the while telling us they were doing it for the children.  Further, we saw the Federal Department of Education take the union’s side instead of the taxpayers’.

Well, let’s take a look at what teachers’ unions and government bureaucrats have done for the children.  In school districts like Newark and Washington DC, they’ve driven the cost per pupil up to unsustainable heights.  They make statements that more money equals greater education.  However, the vast majority of studies show that per pupil spending and educational outcome are not related.  In fact, they might even be inversely related.  How many of you would want your children learning in the most expensive school district in the country, the District of Columbia?  Certainly, our elite politicians don’t send their children to DC public schools.

Thanks to the Eagle Forum for researching through Congressional Budget Office records and the Digest of Education Statistics to provide actual spending and actual test results.  They found that while inflation adjusted education spending per pupil in the United States has increase 375% since 1970, actual test scores in math, reading and science have not moved at all.  In short, we are paying nearly 4 times the inflation adjusted cost to teach our young people than we were 40 years ago with nothing to show for it.  Keep in mind, the federal government had very little role in education in 1970, and now it has a huge bureaucracy which has delivered, wait for it,….absolutely nothing.   Yet those of us who call for the elimination of the Federal Department of Education are called the radicals.

A few other interesting tidbits about bureaucrats and teachers’ unions have been reported in just the last week.  After reading these, who can really say that unions and bureaucrats really care more about our children than their own selfish needs?

On Thursday, it was reported that the California Senate passed a bill mandating that schools teach gay history.  So, while our kids are treading water when it comes to the important academic subjects such as math and science, we now should start teaching about every group that might feel oppressed.  Let’s see, maybe they could teach gay history, Chinese history, Japanese history, Mexican history, Christian history, Jewish history, Muslim history, Native American history, Witch history, Irish history, well, you get the picture.  There are more “oppressed” groups than there are teaching hours in a year.  I suppose if we quit worrying about math and science, we should have time!

Also in California, the Federation of Teachers adopted a resolution to reaffirm their support for a “death-row journalist.”  The “journalist,” Mumia Abu-Jamal, was a former member of the Black Panthers who was found guilty of murdering Philadelphia police officer Daniel J. Faulkner during a routine traffic stop in 1981.  I am sure that they can easily explain how this resolution was for the children.

Right here in the Midwest, a Chicago public school has banned students from bringing their own lunches.  They’ve determined mothers are incapable of making a nutritious meal, and only the school can provide that kind of parenting.  After all, it is probably mere coincidence that the explosion of childhood obesity is happening at the same time that bureaucrats have taken more and more control over what students are allowed to eat.  When I was a fat grade-school kid, I stood out.  I suppose one of the benefits of this government induced obesity problem is that I would feel perfectly normal about my excess weight if I were in school today.

Last but not least, a Seattle school district renamed that evil Easter egg a “Spring Sphere.”  I suppose that if this had been that Chicago school, these poor children would have received plastic Spring Spheres full of carrot sticks.

There is no amount of money that is going to solve our school problems.  Unions and bureaucrats will only ensure these problems get worse because that is how they justify themselves.  If they actually solved the problem, they would be less important.  So, like the Al Sharptons and Jessie Jacksons of the world when it comes to race baiting, and like the liberal welfare state proponents, educational bureaucrats will continue to tell you there is a problem all the while, behind the scenes, they ensure the problem only expands and is never solved.  An actual solution would not be in their best interests.

Let me close by saying how truly grateful I am for the many great educators I and my children have been blessed to have.  Without these great educators, I’d not have the ability to write a column where I get to bash the bureaucrats and union bosses that hamper their efforts.

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About the Author

Rob Gettemy
Rob Gettemy is the founder and owner of 1 Million for Jesus Christ, a Christian apparel company. In addition, Rob teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa and was a candidate for US House, Iowa District 2 in the 2010 Republican primary. Rob attended the 912 rally in Washington DC in 2009 and also attended the 8-28 event in 2010. Rob has been an outspoken critic of liberal policies his entire adult life.

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