“It’s An Education Bombshell.” Yup, it sure is. Unbelievable news out of New York City where it is being reported that “80 percent of recent” New York City “high school graduates cannot read.” More:
“Nearly 80 percent of New York City high school graduates need to relearn basic skills before they can enter the City University’s community college system.” (“Officials: 80 Percent Of Recent NYC High School Graduates Cannot Read,” CBSNewYork, 3/7/13)
Over the course of the past week or so, I’ve been on an education kick, posting a couple of entries here on ThinkFY (you can read those here and here) about mounting evidence that we are failing to give today’s children the tools to be successful later in life.
Last Friday, I posted this piece about “revisiting education reform” after the Nation’s Report Card came out and showed that students are falling further behind the rest of the world that is growing all the more competitive in the global economy.
Now we have this story about Florida students performing abysmally on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exam, specifically the writing portion, which was “made more difficult” than years past.
Back in March and April of 2011, I did an eleven-part series on the state of education in America and efforts to reform a failing system (I’ll provide links at the end for anyone interested). I bring this up now because the Nation’s Report Card is out and shows more of the same: an educational complex in shambles with special interests more engrossed with furthering their own causes than championing the learning of today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders.
“About 22 percent of California’s eighth-graders tested on a national science test passed, ranking the Golden State among the worst in the nation, according to figures released Thursday.” (Fermin Leal, “Calif. Students Rank 47th In Science,” The Orange County Register,” 5/10/12)
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) penned an opinion piece for Politico on Monday evening titled, “Updating No Child Left Behind.” In it, Senator Harkin argues the No Child Left Behind legislation needs an overhaul that retains “its commitment to educating all children to high standards, while overhauling elements of the law that have proved ineffective.” Harkin’s measures for reform sound very reasonable, including focusing on “teaching and learning, not testing and sanctioning,” and eliminating “one-size-fits-all approaches” by replacing existing law with “state-designed accountability systems.” Further, Harkin writes, “the bill aims for a federal role that does fewer things – more effectively.” Wow, he almost sounds more like a Republican here than a liberal Democrat.
Few would argue that Harkin, as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, is a central figure in efforts to reform education. And to many, Senator Harkin seems the ideal man for the job.
For the first time tonight, in what appears to be a settled field of Republican candidates for the nomination to run as the party’s standard bearer for President, many issues were debated. One of them was education.
A question was posed to Texas Governor Rick Perry about his record on education and recent budget cuts. Perry acquitted himself well, pointing to the fact that companies continue to come to his state to relocate their businesses because there is a strong, well-educated work force.
That is all well and good, but what struck me was the question itself. The implication was – from the pointed bias – that cutting money for education equates to diminished returns on education. Some may believe that America’s education ills are a matter of money. I suggest that it is not.
This is mindboggling. Lisa Leff of The Associated Press is reporting the California State Senate “has approved legislation that would require California’s public schools to include gay history in social studies lessons.”
Seriously. At a time when America’s youth are falling behind the rest of the world in their studies and children are not being taught the basic fundamental principles, traditions and values of our Republic, California lawmakers want to make sure students are well versed in gay history. This despite a recent study that estimates homosexuals comprise about 2% of the population. 2%! Even if you take the higher end of the spectrum, that 3 to 5% of the population is homosexual, you have to wonder why “gay history” is so important.
Education reform is of vital importance. America’s youth are falling behind the rest of the world in their studies. Children are not being taught the basic fundamental principles, traditions and values of our Republic. These are irrefutable facts that come despite the massive amounts of money we spend to correct the problem.
Real reform must look deep into the root causes of why our country is failing the children and at the same time understand that throwing more and more money at the problem is not the solution. Think about it, if money was the obstacle, we would have solved the problem long ago. After all, that’s what our government does best, spend money. Our government is so good at spending money that it has spent $14.2 trillion that we don’t have and can’t pay back.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has long been a champion for education and the disabled. His signature legislative achievement is the Americans With Disabilities Act. So it is unusual to say the least that the relationship between Harkin and Au Clair School founder Ken Mazik goes back more than 17 years. In December 1993, as Mazik was gearing up to lobby welfare reform, Mazik and his business associates and employees contributed at least $14,000 to Harkin’s campaign committee, “Citizens for Harkin.”
Contributions have flowed into the campaign coffers of Harkin connected campaign and leadership PAC accounts ever since. But the relationship between Harkin and Mazik appears to have taken on more than the ordinary relationship of a donor who supports a politician who in turn is of course, grateful.
When setting course to reform education, specifically to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” as President Barack Obama declared in his State of the Union Address in January, the interests of the children should come first and foremost. The interest of the taxpayers should also weigh heavily.
President Obama’s architect on education reform will likely be Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions. Where do Harkin’s interests lay? Are they with the children, taxpayers, or the country? Or do his interests intersect with those who support him? This of course is no easy question to answer. So let’s take a look at some facts and figures, primarily Harkin’s benefactors.