Thursday, May 13, 2010

Picking Sides in the Detroit Public Schools' Fight

I commented on this article on Mlive where people in the comments were very quick to defend the education establishment.

About a dozen protesters opposed to the actions of Detroit Public Schools' emergency financial manager Robert Bobb were led away in handcuffs after staging a sit-in inside the state Capitol on Wednesday.

The protest was organized by a group called By Any Means Necessary. More than two dozen protesters came to the Capitol to ask Gov. Jennifer Granholm to get rid of Bobb, her appointee. They also wanted the governor to attend a Detroit school board meeting this month and stop the school closings Bobb has planned in the cash-strapped district.
Robert Bobb is not charged with an easy task; picking up the pieces after an entire generation of educational neglect and fiscal abuse. It should not be surprising, however, that he is not a popular person among those who benefited the most during that lost generation. Commenter jesssed said
seriously study after study proves students learn best with small class sizes. to limit class size you need more teachers, it is that simple. The problem is everyone wants quality education and some of you don't want to pay for it...
And mdewey chimed in
First - education is not a business. Students are not car parts. But thanks for the apples to shotguns analogy - it was funny in a tea party ignoramus sort of way.
Second - The Detroit teachers do not belong to the MEA/NEA. They are AFT. American Federation of Teachers for the acronym challenged. If you're going to throw mud and make unfounded accusations try to at least get within the realm of reality.
Third - If ... ah the heck with it... keep foaming at the mouth, goofball, you make the case for your supposed opposition better than you could ever conceive.
To which I replied:

Actually, education is a business and even more, it is a trillion dollar industry. The point is not that a student is a car part or a widget but rather that an education, whether of good or poor quality, is a product.

In addition to that, we see that money is not a solve all to our educational deficiencies. Numerous studies have borne that out. In Michigan we find that educators are compensated at many thousands more per year than their counterparts in other states--many of which produce higher quality students. In fact, nearly half of our state's budget woes would be solved if Michigan educators were simply compensated at the national average. While more money to the school districts always sounds like a great idea, FOR THE CHILDREN!, the truth is that most of that additional money is simply slathered onto the same teachers and administrators.

It is also not true that small class sizes automatically achieve superior results. Japan, with an educational system much more successful than our own, has class sizes much larger than those in America. This is true through much of the industrialized world.

It has been pointed out (and accurately) that Michigan school districts are forced to educate students that probably do not belong in the classroom. Yet, the teacher's unions support the inclusion of all children, not because it makes their classrooms more effective (the opposite is true) but because it creates a need for teachers' services. The teacher's unions also will stand behind teachers who are proven to be ineffective. Teachers unions are not in the business of educating, they are in the business of representing what they feel is in the best interest of their members. That boils down to job security, better pay and better benefits. Anything else is simply window dressing and far down the list of priorities.

Who is satisfied with the Detroit school system other than those who for years have bellied up to the taxpayer buffet? Hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, lowest test scores in the nation, lowest graduation rates in the country, crumbling schools, graft, dead employees on the payroll, and a school board more interested in protecting the status quo than in providing any substantive improvement.

I don't expect everyone to be a fan of Robert Bobb, nor do I expect the man to operate without any mistakes. However, given the choice between Bobb and the education establishment in Detroit I'll take Robert Bobb any day of the week. His heart is in the right place and he wants to put quality education first.

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