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May 5, 2008 4:12 PM

Private Money and Public Schools, cont'd

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

This story, in today's Times, is infuriating. Here is a donor, the National Math and Science Initiative, which has corporate money and some Bill Gates money. It offers $13 million to a handful of high schools in Washington, including Franklin and West Seattle high schools in Seattle, to set up programs to increase the number of kids taking Advanced Placement courses in math, science and English. And the schools here can't accept the money because of a union problem.

The go-betewen on this thing has been Rep. Bill Fromhold, D-Vancouver. I talked to him today. He said the problem is that the National Math and Science Initiative involves bonus payments to teachers, and that the NMSI people want to pay the bonuses to teachers directly. The union doesn't want that. Probably the union thinks it's individual merit pay, which is essentially what it is. The union was willing to negotiate a deal where NMSI paid the money into a fund, and the fund would disburse the money in some way, and the donors didn't want to do that. "NMSI was absolutely firm on this one piece of direct payment," Fromhold said. And so the money went away--not only for Seattle, but for the Evergreen district in Clark County, and the Spokane and Central Valley districts near Spokane.

It was a lot of money. And this is not the first time this has happened. There was an effort by private investor Stuart Sloan, who made a fortune from QFC, to put his money into T.T. Minor school in Seattle a few years ago. People objected to that. It was inegalitarian, and that was bad. Then there was a woman who had been very successful in high-tech who wanted to set up a science and technology program at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, and pay for it herself. They couldn't reach agreement on that, either, and she went away.So this has happened in Seattle three times now. Not a very encouraging record for a city that thinks of itself as "progressive."

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Posted by Zack

8:52 PM, May 05, 2008

Another way of looking at this is that wealthy donors can't buy school policy.

A more accurate way of looking at this, though, is that, sometimes, schools don't like the strings attached to donations, and sometimes, donors won't donate without strings. How often? Who knows. Three times at least. But out of the hundreds, if not thousands of school donations made over the past "few years," I'm not sure how significant this is at all.

-Zack

Posted by Hank Bradley

7:58 AM, May 06, 2008

Yeah, but 'progressive' is, wink wink, nudge nudge, a march in the direction of rule by self-selecting Politburo cadres, and the voters be damned.

Posted by Liz

8:43 AM, May 06, 2008

The reason standards are so poor, as well as student performance in Wa State is due to a teacher's union that doesn't give a damn. The public school teachers want respect, yet they act as if they are widget turners. You can't have it both ways. Charges of "elitism" or "inegaltarianism" are simply covers for socialist incompentents. When people from China and Indua are performing all of our "brain" work, and Mexicans are doing all the physical work, who is going to pay the teacher salaries? Out of Welfare checks?

Posted by Marc

9:11 AM, May 06, 2008

I don't think this is a situation where wealthy donors can't buy school policy. It's a situation where wealthy donors can't buy union policy. The problem with this seems to be that in this case, school policy and union policy seem to be at loggerheads and it is the kids that are losing out in the process.

Posted by Jeff

11:30 AM, May 06, 2008

A "union problem?" At West Seattle HS, it was teachers who raised the red flags, then elevated the question to the State Union level, which is how such things should work.

Just so that I am clear, you are advocating that the best teachers should have a financial incentive to abandon the highest-needs students? A financial incentive to "teach to the test"? That they should have a financial incentive to herd students into a particular course, regardless of that students own goals? And most significantly, you are arguing that these teachers should be accountable NOT to the parents and taxpayers of Washington State, but to some private Dallas-based think-tank?

I don't get it. If the approach outlined by NMSI is such a good thing, why don't you advocate for the Washington State taxpayers to fund it?

Posted by Beancounter08

12:29 PM, May 06, 2008

Jeff and Zack, you really need to get a clue!!! Of course you don't want to see private donors contribute to our schools, because then teachers WOULD be accountable for performance. And the notion that performance would exclude the neediest students is just the fear mongering that the teachers unions push on all of us.
I think that if there were "strings" attached to these grants, other than what has been stated, it would be known to us all. Certainly as a defense against taking the money, the unions would be clamoring so as to appear reasonable. The only strings noted here was that any incentive pay went directly to teachers that warranted it. Gee, how unreasonable!!!!! Giving teachers an incentive to help students excel in Math and Science.....no wonder teachers and the union are against it. Until accountability is imposed on teachers and their unprogressive union, we will continue to have the same substandard school system not teaching our kids!!!!

Posted by DRW

12:35 PM, May 06, 2008

Sorry Jeff...you have it backwards

You are advocating that the best and worst teachers be rewarded at the same rate. You advocate that teachers teach only the basics. You advocate not challenging the students at all and not helping them reach their goals if those goals are higher than average. And you are advocating that these teachers be answerable ONLY to the union and not to the parents/students who they are supposed to be helping. Especially students with above average intelligence and drive.

I get the feeling that if the legislature wanted to fund a program to give certain teachers in certain fields increased pay...well the WEA would have a fit. Doesn't fit into the "to each according to his need, from each according to his ability" mantra of the unions.

Posted by Liz

1:05 PM, May 06, 2008

Jeff,
Obviously they (teachers) are not so accountable to parents. That is why 40% of school-aged children in Seattle attend private schools.

Posted by J

4:03 PM, May 06, 2008

Nothing new here- negotiating with the Seattle Schools is a unilateral terminal conversation.

You owe- we take. End of negotiation.

Countless innovative efforts, far than those listed above, have gone by the wayside due to the inflexibility of adminstrators and unions. That's why change simply doesn't occur.

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