Is There Any Hope Left For American Schools?

With the House passing a bill to limit the federal role in K-to-12 schooling and a unanimous Senate committee doing the same, it might look as if there is finally some progress in fixing the broken over-centralized national educational system.

The bill is the brainchild of education committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, who claims it would “ban the federal government from mandating any sort of education standards, Common Core or otherwise.” If it becomes law, “it would lessen federal control in the education system and help calm heated debates about Common Core standards. Rather than the Feds making the decisions, the bill would allow states to create their own accountability systems and determine how much standardized tests should account for student and faculty evaluations.”

Alexander predicts he has the votes to pass the whole Senate based upon the overwhelming support of his committee, ranging from Elizabeth Warren to Rand Paul. Sen. Patty Murray is the co-sponsor. Of course, that means things have been compromised quite a bit; but it is headway made against federal control. The fact that the progressive Center for American Progress fears that the bill will weaken national standards and allow states to change one-size-fits-all “maintenance of effort” funding standards suggests things are going in the right direction.

Of course, in federal education policy, nothing is that simple. Obama officials are resisting, and so are some conservative representatives who want to allow states to opt-out of federal education controls entirely without any financial penalty. House Education Committee Chairman John Kline says he supports the concept of the conservative amendment and allowed a vote on it, but it failed. The bill passed the House without a single Democrat—who objected to the loss of federal control—and was opposed by two dozen Republicans, who said the bill did not go far enough in limiting control. Kline hopes a conference with the Senate might eliminate the test mandates and work out the other details.

The House bill would make some major changes. While, like the Senate version, it would still require states to hold annual standardized tests in reading and math from third to eighth grades and once again in high school, and publish data on results, it would allow students to opt out of tests without loss of federal funds. It would largely allow states to spend federal money as they pleased and would not require them to meet federal benchmarks for success. States would still be required to intervene in local schools that need improvement, but the type and number of interventions would be up to the states. A new provision called “portability” would allow federal funds to “follow the child” if he or she transferred to a school not covered by current law.

Alexander’s response, in a The Hill newspaper interview, to conservatives who think the bill does not go far enough was, “If you leave No Child Left Behind like it is, you are leaving in place a national school board and a Common Core mandate. From a Republicans or conservative point of view, I would think you would want to move away from that.”

It will be a tough call for conservatives who have been at the forefront of the twin activities that have led to Congressional willingness to consider reform: the movements to limit the national education standards regime called Common Core, and the one in the states promoting charter schools, often at the urging of governors, now overwhelmingly Republican. While touted as originating in the states, Common Core sputtered until President Obama used his Race To The Top legislation to promise to moderate some No Child Left Behind Act burdens and to acquire new financial grants if states adopted Common Core standards. In 2010, Obama ordered that all federal education grants be conditioned on adopting the standards. Even with this pressure, bipartisan majorities in Congress and in many states have now soured on Common Core.

The other grassroots reform of offering charter alternatives to traditional public schooling has become almost mainstream. Today, a majority of students in the overwhelmingly Democratic District of Columbia have escaped failing public schools to enroll in charters. Even Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has supported raising the limit on the number of charter schools, which has been the main teacher association strategy to stifle the idea. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Democratic majority in the New York lower legislative body, and the teachers unions are the last holdouts against reform even in the Empire state. Even President Obama concedes American education is failing. There is a growing understanding that bureaucratization, union self-interest, and method-over-substance do not work.

One of the pioneers of entrepreneurial education and advocates for lifting governmental restrictions on innovation argues the movement must now go further. Bob Luddy, chairman and founder of a $300 million commercial kitchen ventilation company, CaptiveAire, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, created one of the state’s early charter schools, Franklin Academy, in 1998. He started with a handful of students in a single location. Franklin now has 1,650 students at five locations in two K-2 schools, two 3-8 schools, and a $9 million high school. With a 1,500 student waiting list, Franklin has perhaps the largest demand for admission in the country. After making his own charter school a success, Luddy was instrumental in increasing North Carolina’s numerical limit on charters to make similar opportunities available for other parents and their children.

Although less regulated than traditional public schooling, charters are subject to pressure from well-funded education lobbyists interested in limiting charter competition to their union-dominated public school clients. Unfortunately, they have been more successful than not. Frustrated by such charter restrictions, Luddy concluded that true reform must free itself from state bureaucratization. With the knowledge garnered by previously founding a religious private high school called St. Thomas More Academy with 180 students, he launched a classical curriculum private school he called Thales Academy, named for the Greek philosopher. Today Thales Academy boasts 1,700 students and 150 faculty in three K-5 locations and two 6-12 locations in the greater Raleigh area, with an average growth rate of 15 percent per year.

Luddy’s educational philosophy parallels that of his business: keep overhead low and deliver quality to customers. Administrators are few and sports are de-emphasized. As Luddy told the American Spectator, “A lot of people say you shouldn’t talk of education as a business, but the reality is, it is a business.” The weakest elements he sees in current education are rules that limit innovation, weak curricula, and high costs. Private education is the answer to the first, rigorous classical education to the second, and business acumen to the third. Luddy provided all three.

Thales’ test scores are higher than even charter schools. Where the average building cost for a new public school nears $100 million, Thales delivered it for $10 million. Student tuition is $5,300 per year for kindergarten through fifth grade and $6,000 for sixth through 12th grades at Thales, compared to $11,000 for the average local private school and $9,000 (in per pupil cost) for public schooling. Now Luddy wants to take his idea national. “My idea was that parents should have hundreds of choices, whereas currently if they go to the public school system, they have one maybe two. They have precious few choices. Once you open up competition, the choices will be abundant.”

It is a long road from Alexander’s first steps away from centralized administration, content-less curriculum and vanilla character training, and expensive and politicized teacher-oriented rather than student-focused education today to Luddy’s ideal of thousands of private schools offering choice by actually educating America’s youth. But, at last, there is some sense of hope.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Alert: Schools Are Implanting Dangerous Devices In 6th Grade Girls Without Telling Parents

Concern has been high for years among American parents who feel public schools are inappropriately presenting graphic sexual material to students. Many feel such subjects are best broached at home; however, more and more schools are dismissing parental feedback.

Recent reports reveal how far the trend has gone in more than a dozen Seattle-area middle and high schools. Intrauterine devices, implanted contraceptives criticized by some for their potential health risks to women and possible abortifacient properties, are reportedly being placed inside girls as early as their sixth grade year – without parental notification.

CNS News contacted a representative of Take Charge, a Medicaid program serving Washington state, to learn more about the controversial program. The spokesperson confirmed that “a student who does not want their parents to know they are seeking reproductive health services is allowed to apply for Take Charge using their own income, and if they are insured under their parents’ plan, the insurance would not be billed.”

This program has been derided by many critics as a usurpation of parental rights.

“You need parental okay [sic] to get your ears pierced,” one CNS News reader wrote, “but not to get contraception. I’m ashamed to say that I grew up in the Seattle School District. I guess parents don’t seem to count for anything, anymore, as far as some are concerned.”

Those pushing the program, however, continue to sing its praises.

“Because we’re at the school,” explained one health educator participating in the Take Charge partnership, “which is so wonderful, we have access to the students, and they have access to us, pretty much any time.”

CNS News’ Kathleen Brown summed up the situation in her article, saying kids “can’t get a Coca-Cola or a candy bar at 13 Seattle public schools, but they can get a taxpayer-funded intrauterine device … implanted without their parents’ consent.”

Should schools facilitate the implantation of IUDs without parental consent? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Watch: Angry Parents Stand Up To School Board Over Lessons On ‘Gay Marriage'; Room Erupts

The school board in Fairfax County, Va., overwhelmingly passed a measure last week concerning the district’s sexual education curriculum.

WTTG reported last Thursday that the board voted 10-2 to keep part of the Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum for K-10 students. This means students could learn about gender identity and sexual orientation in the seventh grade. Only members Patricia S. Reed and Elizabeth Schultz voted no.

According to an FLE Fact Sheet, parents will have the opportunity to opt their children out.

“Parents, do you want your children in Kindergarten to hear about same-sex marriage under the guise of families?” Andrea Lafferty, a Fairfax County parent and president of the Traditional Values Coalition, asked parents during the public comment portion of the meeting, according to CNS News. “No!” they shouted.

“Parents, do you want your children in fifth grade to hear about Gonorrhea and Syphilis? No! We want opt outs and we want to keep them safe,” she continued. “Do you want gender identity to be introduced to seventh grade? No! We want opt outs to remain.”

WTTG, coming out of the meeting, found some very divided opinions on the matter. “It’s certainly a step in the right direction of respecting more students and understanding the perspective of other students who have different gender identities or different sexual orientations,” said David Aponte. “The fact is not whether you opt out of the curriculum full of lies, it’s that you shouldn’t be using taxpayer money to develop a curriculum of lies in the first place,” said Kathy Healy.

The Washington, D.C., Fox affiliate caught up with Schultz, one of the board members who voted “no” after the meeting. “I am very concerned that we’re watching a legacy of an environment that is setting this board at odds with parents,” Schultz said.

Certainly policymaking done on the fly without consideration of the people on whom the policy has the greatest level of impact –and to do so without a great degree of care and to make sure that we’re representing the people who have elected us to be here — can only yield bad policy.

“Now our time is going to be distracted and taken away from the real work of the board,” Schultz added. “We should be worried about educating 186,000 students and not about all of this peripheral political stuff.”

h/t: The Blaze

Are you concerned with what’s being taught in our schools? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Teacher Who Got Called Out By Student For ‘Disgraceful’ Act Just Got Served Major Justice

Image for representational purposes only.

According to recent reports, an Illinois school board voted unanimously to fire a teacher for stomping on an American flag in front of his class. The incident occurred last month, the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier reported, explaining Jordan Parmenter was placed on leave as soon as administrators learned of his action.

The Martinsville school board met last week to discuss its next steps regarding the teacher’s job. Parmenter reportedly addressed board members during the meeting; however, he told reporters he will not have a statement until he discusses the matter with a union representative.

He acknowledged that a lesson during which he used the flag as a pointer evoked a negative response from one student who found it disrespectful. At that point, Parmenter said he dropped the flag and stepped on it in an effort to express Americans’ right to free expression.

Martinsville High School senior Jonathan Smith confirmed his former teacher’s account, though he still questions why Parmenter thought his actions were justified.

“We can’t figure out why he actually went to the simulations of actually doing it,” he said. “He talked about it being the right to do whatever he wants. That’s why it was there so he could do whatever he wants; but we have no idea why he would actually take it down and basically start all this.”

As controversial as Parmenter’s action has become in the small town of Martinsville, it was not unprecedented. Western Journalism reported in 2013 that a South Carolina public school educator was placed on administrative leave after reportedly holding up a flag, claiming it “doesn’t mean anything,” and stepping on it in front of a class full of students.

h/t: Daily Caller

Should a teacher stomping on the American flag be grounds for his or her dismissal? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Watch: Parents Completely Baffled By This Strange Question On Kindergarten Enrollment Form

When West Hartford, Conn., mother Cara Paiuk began filling out paperwork in anticipation of her son’s first day at Aiken Elementary School, she was surprised by one seemingly irrelevant question.

She recalled the orientation meeting in which she received an enrollment form asking whether her child was born vaginally or via Caesarian section.

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“It isn’t anyone’s business,” she said in an interview with WFSB, adding she was “stunned to see it on this form” and “couldn’t understand the relevance of it.”

Paiuk said she contacted the school’s head nurse in an effort to find out why administrators needed to know such personal information.

“He basically explained in not so many words that, really, they’re looking for any birth trauma that happened,” she said. “But as most of us know, birth trauma can happen by C-section or by vaginal birth, so it still didn’t click with me.”

The district responded by stating that the question has been on the form for years, though Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Nancy DePalma confirmed Paiuk’s concerns will be addressed.

“It gives us pause to look at this,” she said, “and we take it under advisement.”

Paiuk said that the policy needs to be “reviewed and updated,” noting that this incident has caused many local parents to reconsider what information they are willing to divulge upon request.

“Most parents I’ve spoken to are outraged,” she said, “and then they are almost outraged at themselves, like ‘Did I fill that out? Did I not even question it? Am I filling out forms blindly?’”

Following WFSB’s report, it soon became clear that the sentiment extends far beyond those immediately affected.

While some readers felt the question is reasonable, others sided with one Facebook user who concluded it has “nothing to do with her son going to school.”

Are public schools entitled to personal family information? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth