(June 16, 2014)

Did you know that American Public School 4th Graders rank third in the world (behind South Korea and Japan), in math and science achievement tests, but by the time they graduate from high school, they rank almost dead last? (According to John Stoessel).

So why do we read this headline in the Charlotte Sun?: “More scores show slips.” (say that five times fast).

Almost four-in-ten Charlotte County public school students cannot pass Science and Math courses that they had just finished taking. School Superintendent, Doug Whittaker, opines “Our task is to continue to do the best we can with the students we have.” By implication, it’s the dumb students’ fault that they fail. But, he notes brightly that our students are doing much better in History. I’m relieved.

What went wrong? 

First, Usurpation of States Rights. Today we have the Department of Education, a paean to the teachers unions in exchange for their support of Jimmy Carter during the 1976 Presidential campaign. This mammoth bureaucracy, laden with politically correct resolutions, rules, and laws, has contributed hugely to the shocking decline in American (public) Education. Through proposed “Common Core” Legislation, the Federal role in Education would even be increased dramatically. 

Second, Poverty, encouraged by a public welfare system that rewards failure and discourages the family unit (Mom, Dad, Kids, Dog and Cat) likely plays some part in student performance in Charlotte County - but really, 40% ?

Third, Teachers Unions (I belonged to 3) impose upon their members, school boards, and ultimately their students, a guarantee that today's school children will fail. Teacher tenure mandates that ALL teachers be paid according to seniority, We have a shortage of qualified people to teach Science and Math. Why? Because those with Science and Math degrees can get better-paying jobs in the private sector. But you can’t offer higher pay for teachers with degrees in those fields. Does anyone think that a University pays a professor with an MD Degree the same as a Professor of Women’s Issues ? Which of the two do you think worked harder to obtain their degrees ? (If you still are mulling this over, you likely are in the elite Charlotte County 40 % category). So, your child "learns" Math or Science from a teacher whose major may have been English or Physical Education. How many Science and Math teachers in the Charlotte School system possess History or Literature degrees. Also, once a teacher obtains tenure, it's almost impossible to fire them, unless they become an ax-murderer (which actually happened in Miami), regardless of their incompetence. 

In Charlotte County, it costs about $12,000 per year to educate a student. That's around $240,000 per classroom - and the building and furniture is ALREADY PAID FOR ! ! And they have a dropout rate of 30% ! ! In private schools it costs less than one half of that and even though they have larger classes and enroll a lot of inner-city kids, they have a dropout rate around 2%. Why? Because educators in private schools don't see failure as an option. Parents are required to attend parent-teacher conferences and other school-related activities and private school teachers are given year end reviews usually with input from their students. About 10% are not rehired. 

Who pays for this idiocy? The taxpayer, surely. But it's the public school child who must pays for a lifetime. Why don't our political leaders do something about it? Democrats and Republicans alike passed the "No Child Left Behind Act," that provided vouchers for tuition for inner city students to attend private schools. 

What gives here? It's simple: Liberals are beholden to the Teachers' Unions, and many low-income public school kids get thrown under the school bus. So what needs to be done? 

First, have a locksmith change the locks at the Department of Education, and place the education of our children back into State and Local hands. 

Second, pressure (through legislation) school boards and unions to allow for higher pay for Math and Science teachers. 

Third, mandate (through legislation) that teachers be required to take literacy and competency tests annually; They fail, they’re out. 

Fourth, give all kids vouchers to attend the school of their choice. Is it fair for inner city kids to be destined to a life of poverty because the teacher unions can dictate where they must get their education? 

Fifth, there are millions of well-educated retirees, many ex-teachers, here in SW Florida, who would be only too glad to tutor or mentor underachieving students or those with single parents - we just need to ask for their help.

Finally, adopt the revolutionary Sawyer Objective Solutions (S.O.S.) to meld our 19th Century public education system from into the 21st Century. See:

As a former Education Major, I have sympathy for the Teachers’ Unions. When I attended school, teachers were the best-educated people in our society (when only 10% of Americans possessed a college degree), but poorly paid. That's unfair. Without the Unions, they would have stayed that way. In fact, for all the publicity over the power of the Teachers' Unions, teachers' salaries still are nothing to rave over. What is needed is more reasonable dialogue on ALL sides in deciding such matters as compensation, working conditions, teacher competency, and educational solutions - and neither politicians nor U.S. Presidents (party first) will be the final solution. 

And, oh yeah, turn the Department of Education building into a 7 - Eleven.