Philanthropy: Not The Answer For Connecticut’s Public Schools

The news is full of the story of the Dalio Philanthropies donating $100 million to the Connecticut public schools. But is private philanthropy the best way to fund public education? I think not.

The Prize by Dale Russakoff documents the disaster it was when Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million, which was matched by another $100 million from other philanthropists, to improve public education in Newark, NJ.  The failure has been attributed to the “parachuting in”  of outside consultants rather than rallying the forces within the school system and to the political football the $200 million became among local officeholders, among them Cory Booker and Chris Christie. Similarly, Bill and Melinda Gates gave over $400 million to design, promote, and implement the Common Core Standards. The Common Core Standards, designed without input from educators,  have greatly reduced the quality of education for students and produced absolutely no increase in student achievement, even by the weak measure of standardized test scores. The results of these well-intentioned philanthropic efforts: NOTHING.

The way to create a state of the art public school system is not found in hand-outs, no matter how generous or how headline-worthy. Instead the way to create a state of the art public school system is:

  • To engage the professionals, the educators, in determining how students best develop as learners and thinkers and then creating curricula to maximize that development.
  •  To provide students in impoverished neighborhoods the same advantages that children in affluent suburbs have: small class size; libraries; guidance counselors, social workers, and special education teachers with reasonable case loads; ongoing professional development for teachers and administrators; adult mentors for students; and clean, well-supplied facilities.
  •  To provide dependable and equitable tax-supported funding from the state and federal governments, funding that can be counted on year after year because it is from the tax base and approved by the voters.

In a democracy, it is the moral responsibility of the citizenry, through their taxes, to fund public education and the moral responsibility of the government to make sure that the allocation of those funds is equitable and the education is of the highest quality for all students.

Philanthropy cannot replace the responsibility of either the citizens or the government. Philanthropy cannot produce the complete and effective K-12 education for all children that a democracy requires.

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Please read the following article from CT Mirror in response to the donation of the Dalio Philanthropies:

        Philanthropy to the rescue? Not in New Haven schools

 

Snow Days For Everyone

I loved snow days when I was teaching high school English. I would make hot chocolate and share it with my kids coming in from playing in the snow. I would catch up on reading and responding to my students’ essays, whittling down the pile. I would start to make a dinner in the mid-afternoon instead of as soon as I arrived home from a busy day in school. There would be sun and snow and a happy mom.

When I became an administrator, except when snow was up the window sills and the school offices were closed, there was a late start to the day, my kids were too old for wanting hot chocolate snacks with their mom, and I got lots of work done in the school empty of teachers and students.

The words “snow day” are an invitation to freedom and the fun of the unexpected. Wherever you are in life, take the invitation offered by these school administrators and enjoy the snow days.

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When The Season Offers Challenges

“There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’ This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, ‘I am the wilderness.’” – Brené Brown

English Teacher Humor

This is the tee shirt I wear in December. Maybe I am desperate for some levity in these grim times in our national life so have a low bar, but this sentence cracks me up. Doesn’t take much.

Questioning As Learning Strategy And Survival Skill

The White House has announced that it is banning the asking of follow-up questions at Presidential news conferences. 

As we educators work to develop our students’ skills in asking questions because we know that asking multi-layered, deep questions is a powerful learning strategy for them and allows them excellent opportunities in critical thinking, the President of the United States prohibits exactly the kind of questions we are teaching our students to form and to shape on their own.

Follow-up questions are at the heart of all innovative endeavors in the workplace and are at the foundation of a functioning democracy. We educators must redouble our efforts with our students because now it is even more important that students learn to question one another and to question what they read than it has been. Questioning is the survival skill of our democracy.

Hey, Talking Heads, Listen Up.

Words matter. You know that as journalists and newscasters.

So please:

1. Do not use the word “caravan”. Say what that group really is. They are women, men, and children seeking political asylum from violence and threats of death

The word “caravan” is defined as group of Middle Easterners crossing through a desert. So when the asylum seekers are called a caravan, not only does it stoke fear of brown people coming from the South of the border but taps into Islamophobia as well.

2. When the President declared in a speech from the White House that the caravan is ” marching” towards us, correct that statement with words and/or photos showing that the asylum seekers are not “marching”. They are holding onto one another, walking or hobbling, and carrying their children for mile after mile. They are unarmed and hungry.

3. When the President goes on to claim that he understands women and speaks for women in this country and then articulates what women fear from the asylum seekers, laugh your heads off. When you stop laughing, show on the screen the list of women accusing him of assault and the list of women he has publicly humiliated with his savage tongue.

And maybe, after a commercial break, show a clip of an Obama or Biden rally where they speak the truth about the asylum seekers. Just for a contrast.