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A look deeper at public education issues

Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 09:09


Last week, in a controversial column, we focused on the “dry” statistics that prove that our education system is failing at the hands of our large, powerful government bureaucracy. Whether it be the unions of our “educators,” who continuously demand more and more compensation for less and less work, or the masses of students turned out by a system that fails to teach them about even the most elementary facts regarding the three R’s, it is clear that something “isn’t right.” Indeed, it is difficult to envision that anything could fail so stupendously after being funded with hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and with the resources of millions of workers, all holding Bachelors’ degrees or better, except when controlling for government involvement. In today’s column, we will scrap the facts and figures, and focus on the more human element: examples of how our government is truly hurting kids.

In 2008, an economic crisis hits the United States, and the president and Congress act unilaterally to prevent a major financial catastrophe from taking place. They do so by passing a “stimulus” bill, designed to jump-start the economy. Much of these funds go to government-run schools, supposedly to prevent the laying off of teachers and other employees, and to enrich students’ learning environment. Regardless, my own government-run school system, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, was forced to consider layoffs and deep budget cuts at the time — including cutting back the supply of paper available for educational hand-out material. So where did all that “stimulus” money go? According to the Government Accountability Office, my own school system, while facing a massive budget shortfall, used the funds for “a trip to the movie theatre to see movies entitled Ice Age and Terminator for a total of $405.50 and a trip to a water park, Wet and Wild Emerald Point, for $961.23,” among other inappropriate costs totalling $38,400.

Earlier this year, a government school in Merion County, Pennsylvania, issues state-of-the-art laptops to nearly 1,800 students, in an effort to “ensure that all students have 24/7 access to school based resources and the ability to seamlessly work on projects and research at school and at home.” The program was known as the “one-to-one” initiative – evoking the socialist “equality” principals upon which government schools were founded – and apparently came at a minimum of over $2 million dollars according to a handbook explaining the program. However, it was soon discovered that the multi-million dollar price-tag of the initiative came with more than just a new way to do homework. During a routine trip to the vice-principal’s office, a minor student was told that his behavior at home was “improper.” It was soon discovered that school officials were using hidden software to spy on the children at home, via webcams installed on the laptops. The county was later sued for violations of everything from the Computer Fraud Abuse Act of 1986, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 2005, Simon Watts, a government school “teacher” from the Queens section of New York City, New York, is accused of physically punishing students on three separate occasions, and one claim of abuse is substantiated by school officials. Instead of being fired, he is placed in one of New York City schools’ infamous “rubber rooms,” described by one newspaper as “the place where teachers wait to be fired.” Because of rules related to tenure, teachers in New York City cannot be immediately terminated for even the most egregious violations of school policy, or state or federal laws. Instead, they are confined to offices away from children, where they pass the time “playing games… leading exercises… [and] reading newspapers,” all while collecting a paycheck from the school system. After finding himself still gainfully employed after the abuses, and able to once again teach after two trips to the “rubber room,” Watts goes on to do the unthinkable. In April of 2010, he is accused by nearly a dozen elementary school-aged girls of sexual misconduct. Had he not been arrested, school policy would have dictated that he once again be sent back to the “rubber rooms” to await termination.

Thankfully, Republicans this year have a solution: school choice. By allowing children and parents to choose the schools they attend, and by forcing the schools to receive funding per pupil, we can be sure that government-run schools that fail to do their jobs are shut down. One Greensboro candidate, Jeff Hyde, who is running for North Carolina State Senate in district 27 summed it up perfectly: “”give families more choices in education, opening the door to a brighter future for their children.”

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