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Thursday, November 2, 2023

Larry Sand on The Failure of Government-Run Education



If Public Education Were a Business, It Would Be Bankrupt

Published October 31, 2023

There has been, for some time now, optimism about a post-Covid recovery for American public school students, but sadly, there is no good news to be had.

Looking through a long lens, government-run education has been an enterprise rife with failure. The National Commission on Excellence in Education released a report in 1983 titled “A Nation at Risk,” which used dire language, asserting that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.”

The report also stated: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

Well, that war is still on, and it has been a massacre. A Gallup poll from earlier this year revealed that just 26% of Americans have a “great deal/fair amount” of confidence in public schools. To wit….

ACT scores

The average scores on the American College Testing (ACT) exams, which are used for college admission, have fallen the last six years in a row and are the worst since 1991. The average scores for reading, math, and science all fell below benchmark levels that are necessary for students to have a chance at succeeding in their first year of college.

To make things even worse, the education establishment’s “fix” for the problem is to put lipstick on the proverbial pig. According to an ACT research report, while students’ ACT scores have deteriorated, student course grades have increased sharply.

The K-12 proficiency problem

The ACT downturn is hardly surprising if you look at the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results, which show that nationwide, 29% of 8th-graders are proficient in reading, and just 26 % are proficient in math.

In California, the most recent Smarter Balanced test scores released in late October indicate that just 46.7% of students are meeting literacy standards, and a meager 34.6% are proficient in math. The tests are given to all students in grades 3–8 and grade 11.

Big cities, notably, are not faring well. In Los Angeles, proficiency rates are 41.2% in English and a paltry 30.5% in math.

In Chicago, minorities are especially poorly educated, with 11% of Black and 17% of Hispanic students reading at grade level.

But Los Angeles and Chicago schools are exemplary compared to Baltimore, where the latest NAEP scores show that just 10% of 4th-graders and 15% of 8th-graders are proficient in reading. Additionally, at 13 Baltimore high schools, not one student tested proficient on the 2023 state math exam.

Students aren’t showing up 

Additionally, as reported by The 74two out of three students were enrolled in public schools with high or extreme rates of chronic absenteeism during the 2021-22 school year – more than double the rate in 2017-18. Students who miss at least 10% of the school year – for any reason – are considered chronically absent. 

Also, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 35 states and more than two-thirds of school districts are serving fewer students than they did five years before the pandemic shutdowns. Six and a half million more students missed at least 10% or more of school days in the 2021-22 year than in 2017-18, which translates to 14.7 million students being chronically absent.

In Ohio, the student absentee rate has almost tripled in the past six years. Nearly 34%, or 565,651 students, were chronically absent in 2022. In Chicago, a third of the city’s schools are at less than 50% capacity.

Why are students ditching school?

While there are many reasons for the great uptick in absenteeism, the education establishment is the prime factor. Most recently, schools abandoned their mission by hysterically shutting down as a response to Covid, thus alienating many families.

Also, the stress on whacked-out sexuality is certainly a contributor to absent kids. Many parents don’t want to subject their child to the National Education Association Pronoun Guide, which uses silly terms like “ze, zim and zer.”

In Illinois, the Evanston–Skokie school district has adopted a curriculum that teaches pre-K through 3rd-grade students to “break the binary” of gender.

In Oregon, the State Department of Education’s health standards may soon require 6th-grade students to be able to define “sexual and romantic orientations” and “vaginal, oral, and anal sex” if implemented.

The drive to indoctrinate students with BLM, CRT, DEI, and other Marxist-driven drivel has also played a role in the public school exit. In California, the new math framework contends that mathematics should be used to “both understand and impact the world.” It argues that math teachers should hold the political position that “mathematics plays a role in the power structures and privileges that exist within our society and can support action and positive change.”

Rhode Island’s current social studies standards define “how power can be distributed and used to create a more equitable society for communities and individuals based on their intersectional identities.”

In Buffalo, NY, students are told that “all white people” perpetuate systemic racism, and kindergarteners were forced to watch a video of dead black children, warning them about “racist police and state-sanctioned violence,” which might kill them at any time.

All the while, the number of teachers is increasing 

The faux ongoing teacher union mantra about a “nationwide teacher shortage” is holding less water than ever these days. Marguerite Roza is the Director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. She tracks staffing at the nation’s public schools and explains that staffing has been on the upswing since the Great Recession of 2008, as schools added back staff that they had been forced to cut in the economic downturn.

Then came seven consecutive years of strong economic growth beginning in 2013, followed by the pandemic-fueled hiring bonanza. In 2020, the federal government sent more than $200 billion in pandemic recovery funds to schools, which hired additional counselors, interventionists (tutors), and aides and increased their reserves of substitute teachers. While not every school has increased staffing levels, Roza asserts, it’s a widespread national trend. Her organization produced graphs for six states – Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, Washington and Pennsylvania – that release their staffing and student enrollment data publicly. It could be years before complete national data is available.

Roza reports that in the past decade, the population of K-12 students in Massachusetts dropped by 42,000, but the number of school employees grew by 18,000. In Connecticut, public school enrollment fell 7% while staffing rose 8%. Even in states with expanding populations, school staff has been increasing far faster than students. In Texas, for example, there are now 367,000 more students, a 7% increase over the past decade, but the number of education employees has surged by more than 107,000, a 16% jump. Staffing is up 20% in Washington state, while the number of students has risen by less than 3%. 

While the massive hiring has done virtually nothing for students, it has successfully picked the pockets of the country’s already beleaguered taxpayers.

“I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”

Can you imagine if your local market sold inferior food, and was staffed by some wonderful people but the not-so-wonderful ones could not be fired due to union protections? And at the same time, they kept adding employees and sold even more inferior food – would you shop there? Of course not.

In all likelihood, that store would go bankrupt. But when the government runs something, there’s an endless supply of taxpayer money for them to use and abuse.

Ronald Reagan once quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” Those words from 1986 still ring true today, especially in the area of education. We need to get the government out of the ed biz ASAP.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Also from the Heartland Institute:

How Public Schools Cement Power

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

John Cox: In Education, Parents Matter - Not Politicians


From left, Christopher Edwards, Vianka Rosales and Nazanin Soroush peer into a classroom during the first day of school at the San Diego Cooperative Charter Schools on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021 in San Diego, CA.
(Ana Ramirez/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Opinion: America’s political system is failing. For evidence, look no further than our schools.

John Cox, Sept 4, 2023

Politicians from both parties like to sensationalize issues, which has no place in our education system.

Cox is a businessman, 2018 Republican nominee for governor of California and chairman of the Rescue California Education Foundation. He lives in Rancho Santa Fe.

America needs better leadership. Positive, dependable solutions that can be trusted.

Possible? Or just an exercise in futility? Election cycles are here again, featuring partisan polls, platitudes, promises and pandering that increasingly fall on deaf ears. The marketing overload will get heavier, too.

The results are the same. Political parties, politicians, bureaucrats and special interests win. The people lose, except when getting bought with occasional “gifts”: rebates and relief money said to be from government, but paid by taxes from the people, just in time to buy votes. Redistribution in its purest form.

Why does this keep happening? Because the deck is stacked. With lightning speed, assisted by rampant government power grabs during the seasons of COVID-19 and the growth of blatantly biased activist media, many Americans have become numb. Not just apathetic, but resigned to the idea that nothing they do changes much of anything.

America’s education establishment is part of the problem. It’s more clear that many in our next generation have been marinating in radical policy and focusing on trivial social experiments rather than learning to understand our nation’s history, and a government by and for the people.

Education is the key to most ills of society and, frankly, our success as a nation. It’s not only the gateway to opportunity, but a prime element of a better life and the advancement of our nation’s standard of living.

Education is also necessary in order to keep up with worldwide competition, as other nations such as China, South Korea and countries in Europe mobilize to pass us as the leading economy and power in the world. That’s going to seriously affect our future.

There are some bright spots, though. In several states, increasing numbers of parents are asserting their rights and bringing about positive results. In Virginia, such actions brought on a new governor and big legislative changes, with major focus on parental involvement in education. All in a place where political pundits assumed it just “couldn’t be done,” because the state had gone so far left that the right could never win again.

In California, it’s going to take more work. Teachers unions have spent more than $300 million (and counting) over recent years. Not for education and the children, but for political advertising, lobbying and increased union power.

Meanwhile, politicians from both parties like to sensationalize issues, which has no place in our education system. This breeds history-erasing “cancel culture” moves. Today’s rhetoric about “book bans” are a prime example, with some leaders suggesting that keeping a book about sex out of the hands of an 8-year-old is somehow a “ban” while they endorse a drag queen show for an elementary school. And it’s considered controversial to fire ill-performing instructors. In no other service or industry does management put up with bad performers. But in our politically controlled education bureaucracy, evaluation based upon merit doesn’t happen.

During the pandemic, students suffered through endless masking, remote classes and other experiments, impacting overall learning and adding psychological problems. The bonus to power brokers was seeing how people became more fearful, afraid to make a move without the government’s OK.

The citizens are simply chess pieces on the board, there to be used in each “crisis” or election cycle.

This is not how America is supposed to work. Elected officials and special interest are not a royal ruling class. Leaders are the people, not the “pros.”

Meanwhile, new alarm bells ring every day: The debt ceiling (signaling a dangerous national debt load), inflation, migrant surges at our borders, fentanyl, homelessness, crime and national security. We’re at a crisis level, and instead of true debates and long-form discussions of the things that matter most, it’s all about perception, image building and often flat-out lies and character assassination, watered down to 30 seconds or shorter ads.

The current system is not working. It’s beyond time to get money and partisan politics out of our education process. Let’s agree that parents are more important to a child’s education than teacher unions or the politicians they control. It’s time to change this before citizens are left in the dustbin of history for all time.

Let’s build innovative community solutions that dramatically change the balance of power and give it back to the people — before it’s too late.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Andrew Cuomo and the COVID Hospital Ship


Cuomo balked at the Vice Admiral's request.Pacific Press

Top Navy admiral begged Melissa DeRosa to fill Comfort Ship during COVID: emails

A US Navy admiral begged the Cuomo administration to send patients to the nearly-empty hospital ship docked on the Hudson River during the height of the pandemic — but his pleas were met with politics and paranoia, The Post has learned.

With city medical facilities packed with critically ill COVID patients in the spring of 2020 — and just days after the infamous edict by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to send COVID patients to nursing homes, which resulted in thousands of deaths — the Trump administration sent the USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed ship, to relieve hospitals of patients with non-COVID illnesses.

Another federal facility was set up in the Jacob Javits Center in midtown. Both famously sat mostly empty during their time of operation — with city, state and federal officials blaming each other for the issue at the time.

But in a trove of recently unearthed government emails obtained by activist Peter Arbeeny and provided to The Post, a frustrated Vice Admiral Mike Dumont urged the Cuomo administration to act.

“We could use some help from your office,” he wrote in an April 7, 2020 missive to Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa. “The Governor asked us to permit use of USNS COMFORT to treat patients without regard to their COVID status and we have done so. Right now we only have 37 patients aboard the ship. Further, we are treating only 83 patients at the Javits Events Center.

“We have been trying for days to get the Health Evacuation Coordination Center (HECC) to transfer more patients to us but with little success. We are told by NYC officials the HECC falls under the State’s Department of Health,” the email continued. “Our greatest concern is two-fold: helping take the strain off local hospitals, and not wasting high-end capabilities the US military has brought to NYC. We appreciate the help.”

Within minutes, DeRosa circulated the admiral’s message to the state’s top COVID officials, including Michael Kopy, director of New York’s emergency management office and city Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. Michael J. Dowling, the private CEO of Northwell Health, the state’s largest health care provider, was also tagged.

Kopy, speaking for the state, became defensive — and blamed The Comfort for overly onerous regulations.

“[HECC] are following criteria established by the comfort for admission to the comfort as well as criteria for the javits,” he wrote.

DeRosa, sniffing a plot, pivoted to politics, telling the trio to be on guard and accusing Dumont of trying set up Team Cuomo to blame for the empty facilities.

“They are setting this up to say that we are the reason the ship and javitts [sic] are empty –I’m going to loop you guys on the email. we need to make clear in writing that what he has written here is not true,” she told Kopy, Zucker and Dowling.

Dumont, who retired in 2021, told The Post he was disheartened by DeRosa’s reaction, which was relayed to him by The Post.

“It is discouraging to learn they completely misread and misunderstood the request for assistance,” he said. “We had neither the time nor the interest in setting anyone up for blame.

“My request was solely to highlight the low numbers of patients being treated and ask for their help in better utilizing the military medical resources available. There was nothing in the request that was not truthful, and we never claimed anyone was preventing the transfer of patients to treatment sites provided by the US military. How they reached these conclusions is both perplexing and discouraging.”

The flurry of communications between the officials took place just days after Cuomo’s executive order forcing nursing homes to accept COVID positive patients. The March 25 order led to at least 15,000 deaths. Team Cuomo justified the order by noting hospitals had been overfilled.

Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), who reviewed the exchange of emails, said it followed a pattern by top Cuomo aides of “controlling the politics of the moment rather than actually fixing the problem.”

“Everything was a conspiracy to attack the administration and I don’t think that is what the admiral or the US government intended,” Kim said.

The Comfort arrived to much fanfare in New York City on March 30, 2020. New infections were spreading out of control, hospitals were overflowing with patients, and supplies were so short, first responders were reduced to wearing garbage bags.

In the end, however, the red tape proved too much for the ship, which only ever treated 182 patients before departing on April 30.

“This was Trump’s federal government, which constantly played politics with everything related to New York and COVID and so it yes, it should shock no one that we were skeptical of their motives. As is evident from the emails, the red tape the admiral claimed prevented patient inflow did not exist. If his feelings were hurt, we’re sorry about that,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told The Post. DeRosa declined to comment.