Monday, August 23, 2010

Parents for Choice in Education hosts luncheon for "education stakeholders"...except for anyone who works at a school

PCE has been sending out email for the last month recruiting a crowd for a luncheon with Jeb Bush and Governor Herbert about public school accountability and Bush's "school grade" project in Florida. They have included a lot of lines like:
As Stakeholders in education, it is imperative that you participate in the discussion on how Utah can and will overcome our unique educational challenges and emerge as a strong leader in a 21st century global economy.
The luncheon would at least be interesting. Whenever Howard Stephenson is full-heartedly behind an education measure, I cast a very cynical eye on the proposal, but I would like to hear how the school grades are measured and who decided on that measurement.

Unfortunately, the luncheon was planned on August 24th, right smack in the middle of the first week of school. Granite, Canyons, and Davis Districts all started classes today; Provo and Nebo Districts start tomorrow (the 24th); and Alpine, Salt Lake, and Jordan Districts all start in the 2 days after that. That means school staff members--teachers, administration, and support staff--are already required to be working at school, often welcoming incoming secondary students a day early.

When PCE talks about inviting stakeholders, they actually mean those ideologically in line with their thinking. (Especially rich ideologues. There are sponsorships available in the emails: Event $5000 Banner $2500 Table $1000.) Teachers and public school employees are regarded as the "enemy" to actually be avoided in education policy debates. It goes along with the rhetoric from many in the legislature. I tuned in to the first hour of Red Meat Radio last Saturday, and Judi Clark from PCE was co-hosting the show with Greg Hughes. I didn't write this down word for word, but Hughes opened up the show saying something close to "We're the good guys. The ones on our side, on the parents side." Then he contrasted his show and PCE to the evil UEA, supposedly not on the parents' side.

The ultra rightwing folks in the legislature and PCE must know teachers in their neighborhoods--the normal people with families and children who far outnumber the legislature's families in their personal stake in the quality of the school system--yet to hear them talk, the union is a bunch of selfish, childless atheists who "control" education and hate students. And I think they actually believe their own false created image which is repeated back to them in their policy echo chambers. They don't comprehend that the general public trusts teachers much more than politicians, but the political apathy of society in general lets them get away with their destructive attitudes.

So to sum, I think you can still attend the luncheon with Jeb Bush tomorrow at the SLC Marriott for 20 bucks if you don't want to pony up the 1000 dollars to be a table sponsor. Check it out, evaluate the information presented, notice who is attending, and listen to the language and underlying assumptions and disdain for teachers and public education in general. These people don't represent us.


Natalie said...

I am so bothered by the fact that Utah's policy makers are ready to buy-in to Florida's voucher plan. The Governor's education committee has been hijacked and PCE is calling the shots.

UtahTeacher said...

Hi Natalie,

Well, the Florida voucher plan was found unconstitutional and thrown out a few years ago. This school grading system is rating school somehow on standardized test scores and the semi-controversial "value added" tests, and then giving every school a grade on an A, B, C, D, F scale. I'm not sure if there are any official sanctions attached to poor grades, or just the public stigma attached to a D or F. Bush's claim, oft repeated by Howard Stephenson, is that this system raised achievement scores for minority students without increased funding. Let's say I'm very skeptical of the data. I need to find some raw stuff and dig into it sometime.

If PCE isn't calling the shots, Senator Stephenson is. Over half of the education bills filed already for 2011 are his, and it looks like he is planning on sticking it to our public schools again. I'll post on this in the next couple days.

Concerned said...

The governor's education committee isn't the only thing PCE has hijacked. They hijacked Utah's charter school association in search of some grassroots "cred" because having Patrick Byrne and the DeVos family bankrolling them looked kind of bad. Now they've got the charter schools (those who remain with the association anyway) marching in lockstep with their plan to sell the legislature on "Backpack Funding," this year , which if you think about it is nothing more than vouchers with lipstick. Withdraw enough funding from public neighborhood schools and they will all go down like a house of cards.

PCE is so anti-teacher, it's disgusting.