Saturday, May 12, 2012

Equitable Funding of Public Education

Public education is underfunded because of:
  1. mis-management
  2. mis-use of our military in countries like Afghanistan
  3. warped emphasis on privatized wealth at the expense of the common good
Here are a few examples:
  • In 2001, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook reported that the State of Pennsylvania had taken over the Philadelphia School District. How has that oversight helped students and teachers be more engaged? What stability or efficiencies has state oversight provided? Most importantly, what are examples of effective school district organization? How can we help teachers create effective working conditions so that they and their students can flourish?
  • In 2011, The Washington Post reported that "[t]he U.S. military is on track to spend $113 billion on its operations in Afghanistan this fiscal year, and it is seeking $107 billion for the next." Are there better uses for that money?
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that the outgoing CEO of Sunoco is receiving about $37 million in compensation for liquidating assets. How can we create a sustainable economy that honors labor and fosters a commitment to the social good? Individual excellence is essential, but we are all more effective when we advance social equity along with individual liberty.
If the explanations for inequitable funding of public education are accurate (numbers 1, 2 and 3 above), then what are the solutions?  Below is my list -- what's yours?

Federal solutions:
  • Reauthorize a modified ESEA that acknowledges "college and career readiness" with an emphasize on systemic creation of "school readiness." All children should arrive at school safe, well-fed, well-rested, and curious.
  • Re-visit the 14th Amendment and the Brown v. Board of Ed. decision with consideration of funding inequities that create a "suspect class." All schools should be able to fund education at equal (if not equitable) levels.
State solutions:
  • Ensure teacher representation on state-wide panels that roll-out RTTT.
  • Ensure equitable funding of all school districts akin to NJ's Abbott decisions.
District solutions:
  • Create real equitable choice options so that students can attend schools of interest anywhere in the city -- or across District boundaries.
  • Develop and sustain teacher leadership so that teachers lead the integration of curriculum, instruction, assessment and policy that engages students and teachers.
Union solutions:
  • Integrate the labor frame with professional and social justice frames for an enriched unionism.
  • Cultivate cohorts of teacher leaders who are connected and can advocate for effective working conditions, participate in teacher-led research, and foster democratic learning environments .
Administrative solutions:
  • Provide operational flexibility for principals to build community partnerships, coach teachers, know students, and build the capacity of learning organizations.
  • Require extensive support for nurses, social workers, therapists and counselors so that all students with diverse needs are recognized and supported.
Teacher solutions:
  • View teachers as experts and support the professional development needed so that teachers can effectively lead schools.
  • Create professional learning communities within and between schools and the community so that teachers are facilitating and modeling the collaboration necessary to life-long learning.

Friday, May 4, 2012

How much is a teacher worth?

Today I read the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer and learned that the outgoing CEO of Sunoco is receiving about $37 million in compensation for liquidating assets (i.e. shedding at least 175 jobs). 

Of course we want a robust economy, and I'm sure the SUNOCO CEO has a skill set that is valued by many. But I wonder if her skill set is any more complex than those of teachers who make hundreds of decisions on a daily basis.  These decisions affect the health, engagement and lives of 180,000 children across Philadelphia, and millions more across the US. 

Teachers are valuable.

At the same time, public education has been framed as THE leverage point to enrich our economy.  It has been said that we need college- and career-ready students who can help the US retain its economic prowess.  Yet I thought the purpose of education was to advance democratic equity.

A robust democracy is not at odds with a sustainable economy.

We need teacher leadership to ensure that smart policy influences curriculum, instruction and assessment.  We need effective working conditions so that teachers can flourish.  We need teachers to be seen (and see themselves) as professionals.  We need time to study and inform policy.

I know that all of us won't always agree on policy -- and that is a good thing.  But I'd like to believe that we see teachers as professionals who have the experience that is essential to dynamic education systems.  And if we take care of our teachers, we take care of our students and schools -- and our society.

How much are teacher worth?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week.  Which teachers do you appreciate, and why?

Below is my list of teachers that I appreciateThank you for all that you do.

1 Experienced Teacher -- Josh Block, Science Leadership Academy, Philadelphia School District
Josh has been teaching for about 12 years.  Over the last decade, he has led professional development for colleagues, integrated inquiry-driven history and English curricula, and coached public school students for the Young Philadelphia Playwrights, several of whom have had there work performed by college students at Temple University.  Each year, Josh and his students and participate in the Art in the Open as they explore civic space and urban studies. 

1 Novice/beginning Teacher -- Claire Landau, Independence Charter School
Claire is an exceptional beginning teacher who sets up student-centered classrooms where 1st-graders can explore academic content alongside social/emotional wellness.  She wants her charter school students to be kind and thoughtful, and she is especially adept at helping her students see themselves as part of a community and part of the larger world.  Claire also runs PhilaSoup -- so she is successful with her new job as a teacher AND helping teacher connect with cool academic projects over soup.

1 Teacher Leader -- Anissa Weinraub, West Phila High School, Phila School District

Anissa is a teacher leader who serves on the advisory board for the Philadelphia Student Union.  She is also a moving force behind TAG Philly (Teacher Action Group).  Anissa has facilitated professional development around education and social justice  issues, coordinated the "Inquiry to Action Groups" and co-founded the annual "Education for Liberation Curriculum Summit."
1 College–level teacher -- Carrie R. Lenea, Pitt Business-Center for Health and Care Work
Carrie came out with a cutting-edge report on the importance of teachers' social capital in sustaining education reform: The Missing Link in School Reform. This article can serve as a foundation for ED's RESPECT Project as it emphasizes the importance of teachers' voices in education reform.  Coming from the Pitt School of Business, the report offers a respectable counter-point to a one-sided economic model of education reform.