In a recent news release from A+ Illinois we learned that the Gates Foundation gave the "lobbying group" for the teachers' unions and public education monopoly, $500,000. Starting March 1st A+ Illinois will be using this money to encourage you and legislators to increase income taxes and business taxes for the "funding" problem in our public schools. It is not a funding problem it is a spending problem.
Pete Speer sent the following message to Mr. Gates.
Dear Mr. Gates:
I have just learned that the Gates Foundation has provided a $500,000 Grant to A+ Illinois.in its efforts to lobby legislators to increase Illinois school funding.
Regretfully, A+ Illinois does not have the same objectives as has been excellently presented in public speeches by Mr. Gates. Perhaps I have misread what I thought to be his clear train of logic.
The money from the tax increase which A+ Illinois is supporting is for two purposes. Part would go to increase funding for Illinois public schools without requiring reform. Part would go to increase taxes generally.
A small group of us in Illinois follow school funding closely. The State, according to the NEA, in combined state and local funding ranks 11th in the nation. However, it is the quality of the education output which concerns us.
In our view, the box that is Public Education is broken. What is clearly lacking is Education Value -- that which can be provided only by teachers with Subject Matter Mastery, a love of the subject and an affection for their students. The teachers in Illinois by this standard are underqualified. They are rewarded on a grid system of pay with longevity increases and additional increases for additional coursework. Of the graduate degrees held by Illinois High School teachers a large majority are not in the subject matter area they are teaching
Entry into the teaching force is tightly controlled by the Schools of Education who demand, we think unreasonably, multiple semesters of education theory and practice -- even of those who have had teaching experience in the military and wish to provide upon retirement continued public service. The environment is a closed shop, much like the industrial unions of the 1940s.
Union control over local Districts is absolute. It remains the largest source of contributions for a single political party. While Charter Schools are permitted in a limited fashion, only the political muscle of Chicago's Mayor has forced a single Charter School district through. The remainder of the state has not. The teachers unions and the administrators have advised Districts to opt out of the No Child Left Behind program, because of whatever small amount of rigor which it imposed. That would, of course, reveal the shortcomings to the public.
The "standards" agency -- the Illinois State Board of Education -- this last year has dumbed down the standardized tests, normed up the results and lowered the passing grade on subject matter competency for teacher certification. Once again, underqualified performance has been hidden behind inflated test scores...and grades.
Mr. Gates has spoken about the reform of the school system. The website www.wheresthemath.com deals with the math area and has a good short video by a professor in your state.
When the nadir of American car quality was reached in the 1960s, foreign competition entered the market and both amenities and qualities were increased across the board. We believe that this applies, not only to Illinois schools but across the nation. It is time for Competitive Competition in the Education field. The solution is simple, the cost would probably be less than the present cost of public education:
After accounting for special education needs vest the parents, on behalf of each child, with an equal amount of funding now going to Education Fund of each District. Funds would accrue from Federal, State and local resources. Let them choose from any accredited school -- in District or out. This would include the present District, a charter school, any accredited private school , and even a parochial school or a religious school, provided that the school's curriculum did not have religious courses during normal time.
This does two things. It empowers the family -- the building block of the Republic. It involves the parents in school selection and can remotivate them.
We are moving through a period during which early school leavers of the past, who had been ill served both at home and in the school, no longer believe that Education is an economic and a social good. Combined with a continuing program of GED equivalent education as a condition of welfare, Competitive Choice offers a way to form families to rejoin society.
In the case at hand, however, I am saddened to report that your grant will not reform schools, merely maintain the status quo.
Paul D. (Pete) Speer, Jr.