published Sunday, March 6th, 2011


about Clay Bennett...

The son of a career army officer, Bennett led a nomadic life, attending ten different schools before graduating in 1980 from the University of North Alabama with degrees in Art and History. After brief stints as a staff artist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Fayetteville (NC) Times, he went on to serve as the editorial cartoonist for the St. Petersburg Times (1981-1994) and The Christian Science Monitor (1997-2007), before joining the staff of the ...

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canarysong said...

You hit the mark perfectly again, Clay!

March 6, 2011 at 12:44 a.m.
acerigger said...

What a sad comment on the politics of our elected officials, who should be trying to strengthen those who educate our future citizens! "take our country back" they cry.Back to what,the dark ignorance that we've almost escaped!

March 6, 2011 at 1:06 a.m.
SeaSmokie59er said...

Teachers deserve a bailout.

March 6, 2011 at 2:08 a.m.
fairmon said...

Capable teachers should be fairly compensated. would a viable solution be legislation requiring an independent validated survey of compensation (wages and EB) for like work in the private sector across the state and adjoining states then paying those in the education system in the mid range of the upper 25 percent? I hope most of those selected for interviews and to be shown by the media are not typical members of the Tennessee teaching profession. It is not evident that the excess administrative cost are addressed.

Public employees means employed by the public through their government. Public employees vote for the office holders that all voters depend on to bargain in good faith with and for them. Public employee unions contribute to and endorse those same office holders. Public employees interact with and often provide services for those holding office. Private sector citizens that pay all government expenses don't have the option of using a competitive provider of those services with a tax "deduction" equal to the cost per taxpayer for the public service. Office holders often receive the same benefits they agree to for public employees. Government provided services are essentially an unregulated monopoly. It appears tenure provides unreasonable protection for incompetence.

Unions in the private sector are no problem for tax payers. The union can drive a private employer to an unprofitable situation with demands for compensation and costly work rules. Those purchasing the companies goods or services have an option of buying from other providers. Private sector monopolies are and should be heavily regulated.

There has to be a better way to fairly reconcile issues with tax payer funded public employees.

March 6, 2011 at 5:51 a.m.
Francis said...

it couldn't be explained any better......the clarity may baffle you libs, but read harp's post anyway. someday it may hit home.

March 6, 2011 at 9:01 a.m.
tderng said...

What better scam can there be than to have what amounts to a union paid employee bargaining for the public? It is no surprise to me that since the public employee unions have lost some of their lackeys,that their opponents across the table are not just laying down for their demands. The public in some states now have someone who is looking out for the taxpayer. This will not have any impact on private industry unions.Public employee unions are just mad because their scam has finally been exposed!

March 6, 2011 at 9:28 a.m.
moon4kat said...

Teachers work hard for the modest pay they get. They also add more value to society than the greedy "banksters" and oily tycoons. Yet, Tea Partiers and other right wing nuts viciously attack the one group of workers who can make a positive difference for the future. Oh, I forgot, they don't want an educated public -- it's a bit harder to bamboozle and manipulate people with an education. I'm not a teacher, but I respect what they do and the dedication I have seen them bring to the classroom day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

March 6, 2011 at 11:38 a.m.
canarysong said...


Perfectly said!

March 6, 2011 at 11:47 a.m.
fairmon said...


I agree that good teachers are a valuable resource. If you read my earlier post where do we disagree? My process would assure teachers and others in public ecucation systems are always in the upper compensation bracket in their metropolitan supply area and adjoining states. That could be accomplished without protest and demonstrations. They could be actively pursuing being as good as they can be in their field.

March 6, 2011 at 12:49 p.m.
BobMKE said...

Here in Wisconin the protesters were yelling, "Tax, Tax, Tax the Rich." Wisconsin is a tax hell and a lot of people with substantial wealth have left the State because of the high taxes, as have many corporations. Many more will leave if the tax burden is increased. You can't tax people who aren't here. Even the liberal FDR predicted this problem 70 years ago and opposed collective bargainng for government workers. Unlike in the private economy, a public union has a natural monopoly over government services. An industrial union will fight for a greater share of corporate profits, but it also knows that a business must make profits or it will move or shut down. The union chiefs for teachers, correction officers, police or firemen know that the Cities/States are not going to close the schools, buses, firehouses, prisons or leave people unprotected.

This monopoly of power, in turn, gives public unions great power over elected officials they help support for their elections. (400 million for the 2010 elections) The politicians are suppose to represent the taxpayers during the collective bargaining. What is really happening is union representatives sit on both sides of the bargaining table, so then who is representing the taxpayers? Public unions depend entirely on tax revenues to fund their pay and benefits. They will do everything in their power to elect politicians who favor higher taxes and more government spending. The union chiefs do not want their six figure incomes touched in any way. The people in a union should have the opportunity to decide if they want to pay union dues or not. Wisconsin and other States are broke and can't afford what the unions demand anymore. It is what it is. What cannot go on forever, won't.

March 6, 2011 at 12:54 p.m.
Francis said...

moon4kat....."bamboozled and manipulated" is right.....but .public education is one of the reasons why people in this country are "bamboozled and manipulated" else would you explain the election of obama and the general ignorance of how our economy and government work? so much of what goes on in public schools has nothing to with reading, writing, math, history or science. the public schools are top heavy with fat, lazy administrators and teachers who don't do a good job and like to be referred to as educaTORS. the fact is the nea is about guarantees and a liberal social agenda. many, many teachers do a good job, but unfortunately the majority don't. bad ones should be fired just like anyone else in any other profession who's stinkin' up the place. not only that, teachers in public schools are saddled with stupid regulations and political decisions that have nothing to do with teaching. teaching is a brutally hard job , if it's done well. to have that many people want to teach in public schools tells me that they're in it for guarantees, ...and being a member of a union that has thuggish leadership.

March 6, 2011 at 1:04 p.m.
dude_abides said...

This is union busting, pure and simple. Just like gerrymandering, it is a political tool. Every neocon is watching with bated breath to see if this crooked kite flies. Divide and conquer with wedge issues, union busting, starving "the beast", etc. Boring if it weren't so sinister. You all sound like a bunch of Ollie Norths to me, running around falling on swords for the king. The only thing that ever really trickles down is the poison Koolaid, boys.

March 6, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.
OllieH said...

All I hear from either side in this debate is how we need to attract the best and brightest to the field of teaching. So, the question is, how can we best achieve that goal?

Apparently, some seem to think that teaching will become the career of choice if we:

1) castigate those currently in the profession

2) have a teacher's professional fate riding on the standardized test score of your students

3) take away any job security by changing the teacher tenure system

4) weaken their rights to collective bargaining, and

5) just for good measure, make teachers pay more into their health care and pensions

So, tell me, exactly how does the sum of that equation add up something that would entice our brightest stars into a career in public education?

If you really want to see proof that our education system is failing, just look at the Tennessee electorate. If the voters of this state think the solution to any problem can be found in the bunch of idiots we send to Nashville and Washington DC, then education in this state is woefully insufficient.

March 6, 2011 at 1:46 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Harp3339 said: "It is not evident that the excess administrative cost are addressed. . . Public employee unions contribute to and endorse those same office holders . . . Government provided services are essentially an unregulated monopoly."

Your perspective always appears to be one sided on these things, Harp3339. Almost every problem that you’ve identified can occur in either sector – you just opt not to identify the problems that can and do occur when our government contracts with the private sector to provide much needed services to the public – the kind of problems where the U.S. military and the U.S. taxpayers end up paying $45 for a six pack of Coca-cola.

You suggest the administrative costs within the public system are not examined to see if they are excessive, but seem to accept it when the problem has been identified in the private sector – most notably in the healthcare insurance industry. You express a concern about the potential for a conflict of interest between unions and office holders, but ignore the potential for the same kind of scenario between private corporations, their lobbyists and public office holders. You talk about the need for “competitive providers,” but never seem to complain about the number of “no bid” contracts given to monopolies controlled by private corporations like Halliburton.

In the end, you fail to acknowledge the most challenging factor that exists in our attempt to provide a public educational system for our Nation's children. Our public schools and our public school teachers face the challenge of teaching to all of our Nation’s children, which often includes children with learning disabilities, developmental disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders, and physical disabilities. I don't know of any private schools that have taken on this kind of challenge. In fact, it appears to be just the opposite – most private schools pick and choose among a select few who meet their specific criterion.

March 6, 2011 at 2:54 p.m.
Francis said...

mountainlaurel..a lot more would go to private schools if the democrats and the union weren't standing in the way of school vouchers...a lot more.....

you just can't stop bring up halliburton...can you...still trying to demonize them and bring them into a discussion that has nothing to with must be paid by the democrat party.

halliburton, koch brothers, bush/ if the average person trying to make a living in an economy most screwed by democrats consider those bad words....sorry , it ain't working...

March 6, 2011 at 3:10 p.m.
Hoppergrasser said...


That is excellent!¡! Right On.

March 6, 2011 at 3:12 p.m.
hambone said...

harp3339 says, "it appears tenure provides unreasonable protection for incompetence"

At present it takes 3 years to reach tenure in Tennessee.

Are you saying that some teachers are ok for 3 years but after that they magically become incompetant?

March 6, 2011 at 3:28 p.m.
blackwater48 said...


The main purpose of private school vouchers is to have tax payers foot the bill for rich kid's tuition.

I understand why some of you right wing mutton heads want to believe school vouchers will solve our educational problems, make every student smarter, and cost taxpayers less.

But it's just another Republican canard that looks good on a bumper sticker.

Providing tax paid vouchers for all students is ludicrous. Some kids in public schools may qualify, but private schools can turn away any student they want. Plus, there aren't enough private schools, not enough desks, and not enough teachers.

If there's something wrong with public schools fix it. Teacher Unions, by the way, bargain for more than just higher wages and better benefits. They also negotiate for smaller class size, better facilities, and expanded curriculum.

Are you people really that stupid? Seriously? I guess if you believe vouchers are an educational panacea, you probably still believe that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires will balance the budget.

Even when facts punch you right in the face you smile, spit out a few teeth, and ask for more.

(Tea) party on boys.

March 6, 2011 at 4:15 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

I have to agree with Blackwater. I teach in private school, and no tax voucher comes close to what it costs to send kids to the better private schools. The cheaper ones are simply that: cheap. Plus, private schools screen kids, accepting only the ones that can succeed in the school's particular program. Add school vouchers, and you just supplement middle class and wealthy students whose parents can pony up the balance.

Take a long look at the better private schools: what do they have the public schools don't? If you can identify what makes private schools and the really successful charter schools like KIPP do well, then you are part of the way towards addressing the issues in public schools. Most good private schools are small, where kids get individual attention, where the whole child is addressed, where families are brought in to work together with teachers, where the child is followed throughout their career. Teachers wear more hats, work longer hours, have control over their curriculum and assessment methods, and administration size is limited. Principals/heads know their faculty and their families. Parents are expected to participate, and sign contracts in which they agree to uphold the school's policies. Parents accept the authority of the teachers when dealing with discipline, and support the school in its decisions. Kids that disrupt class are removed, and the class moves on while the student's issues are dealt with. Students with emotional, psychological or cognitive difficulties beyond what the school can handle are advised to go elsewhere. In the private school world there is an "elsewhere"; specialized schools costing upwards to $80k/year, but choices are limited in public schools because schools that cater to students with these needs cost WAY more, and no one wants to spend tax dollars on these kids.

The problems with public education are multidimensional and complex. Those of us "armchair" renovators really have no idea what it means to be an educator and to work with kids, and what schools need. Yes there are poor teachers, yes there is too much administration, yes, one size does not fit all, implying that the national approach is incorrect. Certainly our politicians don't really get it.

March 6, 2011 at 4:40 p.m.
fairmon said...


I do think many government functions should be contracted. A contract by the government that would allow excessive charges like your example of cokes illustrates how poorly government manages anything. Who wrote the contract, who approved it and who monitors it. I have never indicated Haliburton or anyone else should be given a no bid contract. The easiest contract to write is a cost plus which is often favored by the government. These invite abuse and laxness on the part of the contractor.

The same collusion can occur in the private sector but tax payers do have an option of getting goods or service from a different source and the corrupt company will go the same route as GM but no bail out.

I have not suggested less funding for education in fact more may be appropriate. I did suggest a better process for determining fair compensation. I think fewer students per teacher would be a good move and less overhead and administrative cost would enable that.

I agree there is too much overhead in health care and many other service providers such as insurance companies. However the fact it exist elsewhere doesn't justify it in other endeavors. Two wrongs don't equal right. There is no valid comparison of public employee unions and private sector unions. In the private sector a tax payer can decide the product is too expensive and not buy it. Competition has a controlling effect in the private sector. Again, monopolies must be tightly regulated with cost and profits limited. Who do public employees compete with? Are public employees not similar to a monopoly? In the public sector tax money is confiscated to fund any agreement legislatures desire to make and they will not go out of business. Apparently you don't agree with my process for assuring teachers are fairly compensated and you prefer marching protesting and name calling so we simply don't agree on the process.

I am aware of the various teaching challenges such as behavioral disorders, handicapped, and other challenged students. However, take a look at the HCDE org. chart and check out the number of administrators compared to the number of teachers in these challenging environments. It appears those that can teach and those that can't often become administrators.

March 6, 2011 at 5:40 p.m.
fairmon said...


Three years for tenure is not a lot. A qualified and competent teacher won't need tenure.

March 6, 2011 at 5:44 p.m.
emrsmbgns said...

Raise taxes!! The answer to All of the U.S.A. problems. If you believe that then you have been taught by a great union teacher. Do not forget that the American dream is to work hard to give all your money to the government so they can give you what you need. The take away message is work for the government kids, you tell yourself your the most valued member of society. No matter what kind of results you achieve your never held responsible and your under paid at others expense.

March 6, 2011 at 5:51 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Ikeithlu, thank you for stating the problem in a much more eloquent way than I could have. I am a public school teacher in Hamilton County. I love my students and I love my job, but it is disheartening to hear people who haven't been in a public school in any meaningful way for a very long time talk as though they are experts in school reform.

Many of you may be attending a graduation ceremony in May. If/when you do, listen to what is said to the graduates. Count the number of times you hear mention of the graduates' hard work and determination. Listen to how many friends and distant relatives pat the proud parents/guardians on the back and congratulate them for pushing their child to that important milestone. Finally, note the number of times someone gives ALL the credit for this special day to the 30 or so teachers who have educated that student since kindergarten. I'm guessing you won't hear that last one. Why is that? Could it be because academic success is not possible without hard work on the behalf of students and constant support on the part of parents and guardians? I certainly think so. Then look at the children who don't make it to graduation. For some reason, most people like to point their fingers at teachers alone.

Of course parents have no responsibility in the matter. Never mind the number of parents who allow their children to drop out. Forget the ones who don't ensure their children come to school well-rested, fed, prepared, and ready to learn. If a child shows up for the first day of kindergarten not knowing their colors, shapes, or how to spell their own name, that's just to bad for the teacher. If a child has no help with homework, is never encouraged to pick up, or even given access to, a book over the summer, then that is the teacher's fault. Those kids whose parents don't help them to practice their times tables can certainly not be held responsible for their child's poor math scores. The teacher should figure out a way for students to learn multiplication without having to do any outside practice. And of course, those parents who never show up for conferences, don't make their kids go to school, and do nothing but make up excuses for why their child should be the exception to every rule have no part in their child's failure.

And forget about the kids. Why should they have any responsibility for their learning? If they would rather spend an evening on Facebook, on the phone, or with their video games, so what? If they don't feel like doing their homework or studying for a test, clearly that is the teacher's fault for not making it interesting enough, right? If they goof off in class, distract other students, refuse to do work, or threaten their teachers, the teacher should just find a way to deal with that without issuing a detention or sending them to the principal's office, or calling home - those things could make the school look bad.

March 6, 2011 at 5:59 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...

Forget administrators or politicians. Sure, they make the rules, choose the curriculum, and set the standards, but why should that make them accountable for the outcome. Tennessee teachers are to be evaluated by a test they don't see - before or after, from which they don't get reliable feedback, and (until this year) for which their students could refuse to take and face no consequences. If the policies they cram down the throats of teachers and students fail, they can just say the teacher's didn't do what was expected.

Are there bad teachers? Certainly. I would love to see them go just as much as everyone else. Unfortunately, friendships and family ties have far more to do with keeping bad teachers in place than tenure. Unethical administrators can manipulate class rosters so that poor teachers get the best students, ensuring acceptable test scores. Evaluations can be influenced by personal feelings. Until we come up with a viable, unbiased system for teacher evaluations, I don't think that anything is going to change.

So please, continue to criticize and hold me and my fellow quality teachers entirely responsible for failing students - but the next time someone you love graduates from a Hamilton County school, don't forget to remind yourself that neither they, nor their parents, nor the school board policies, nor the state and national departments of education had a darn thing to do with it. If we are entirely responsible for every failure, then we are entirely responsible for every success. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

P.S. I apologize for the mini-novel. I'm passionate about my profession and finding real reforms that are going to help our kids.

March 6, 2011 at 5:59 p.m.
EaTn said...

As a purchasing manager for several years, negotiations was a vital part of the business. Obtaining competitive bids was important, but most important was a continual relationship with quality suppliers. Negotiations with these quality suppliers was a means for both sides to continue winners.

The problem with our school system is that they've not learned how to identify quality teachers, and most importantly, they've not learned how to effectively negotiate a win-win deal with the union that represents these teachers. Trying to short circuit the negotiation process is a sign of failure on their part.

March 6, 2011 at 6:09 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

What a wonderful view into the life of a public school teacher, AA! I have said for years that my job in private school spoils me so-I would not last a week in public school. My youngest son spent a year in Americorps (City year; you know, the program that is being cut!) in New Orleans working in recovery schools after Katrina. I asked him what would make the biggest difference: he didn't hesitate. "Encourage and educate families to READ to children. When a child reaches five without the stimulation (letters, numbers, colors, shapes, animals, etc) they rarely catch up. These are the kids my school NEVER sees.

I think that Americans believe that they "know" what it takes to teach, because all Americans have been students. As cushy as my job is, I work hard, long, long hours with my kids; afternoons, nights, weekends, all my breaks are spent developing better ways to reach them and to convey my subject effectively. And I have all the advantages: small classes of students who are pushed by their parents, who have had many advantages already in life, who are well nourished, bright and capable; I have an adequate budget and an excellent facility, and I have TOTAL control of my curriculum. Take away all of that, and I would fail miserably. Yet these are what public school teachers often lack, and yet are expected to be successful. Unfathomable.

March 6, 2011 at 6:14 p.m.
hambone said...

harp3339, Granting tenure is the only thing a school system has to offer teachers in order to retain them.

March 6, 2011 at 8:02 p.m.
srlaymon said...

Where is this great power that unionized public employees hold? Most starting salaries for police officers, teachers, etc. are barely above poverty levels. As a teacher and mother of 3 my children have been eligible for reduced lunch due to yes, my low pay, and I have a Master's degree. As to tenure, it is the system that is broken not tenure itself. Teachers are evaluated by professors, veteran teachers, and principals for nearly 7 years (4 years of college, 3 years on the job) before receiving tenure. If they are "bad" teachers why isn't it noticed at some point during that time. Additionally, teachers are subsequently evaluated every 5 years. If they are "bad" teachers why doesn't the system remove them? Tenure does not guarantee a job, just the right to a fair hearing before dismissal. AlmostAmanda I am with you!

March 6, 2011 at 8:08 p.m.
AndrewLohr said...

Was slavery a good system? Even if, just maybe, there were some good masters and some satisfied slaves? No, it was a bad system.

So we have a tax-paid school system, with lots of good people, some successful students, and huge amounts of money, and less than great results. Hmmm. Maybe a quite different system would work better?

Empower parents to move children AND the dollars that pay for their education to whatever education they prefer for their children. Let parents judge how the schools are doing, as customers in the business judge anything else and choose whatever features matter to them. A feature most taxpayers want, and most schools have to deny, is prayer.

Teachers are supposed to be in the teaching business. They're supposed to help students learn. I read that one helpful reform would be getting rid of the worst 10% or so of teachers. We gotta find out how much each teacher is actually getting across to his/her students.

If there's a TV in the house, make students in the house pay full price for school? They're not studying while they're watching.

March 6, 2011 at 8:25 p.m.
AlmostAmanda said...


There has been a lot of misinformation about prayer in schools. Students are allowed to pray as they wish in public schools as long as they do not disrupt instruction (meaning no audible prayer in the middle of class) or harass other students into participating. I can tell you for a fact that numerous students in my school choose to pray during the daily moment of silence, when they sit down at the cafeteria (some sit together and hold hands while praying), and almost all of them say a little prayer before one of my tests!

The only prohibition is against school employees who are not allowed to encourage or prohibit students from praying independently. We can, however, participate in FCA activities and Gather Around the Flag Pole.

March 6, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

"If there's a TV in the house, make students in the house pay full price for school? They're not studying while they're watching."

So, Andrew, you are for government looking into your house to see if you watch TV?

"Teachers are supposed to be in the teaching business. They're supposed to help students learn. "

So leave the religious instruction to the families and churches, please.

March 6, 2011 at 8:40 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

AlmostAmanda said:

"Then look at the children who don't make it to graduation."

I object to that statement...profoundly. I will explain why.

Seven years ago, I took in four grandchildren to raise. I have several college degrees and highly value education. I set the rules for them as follows:

-Bedtime was 9 matter your age. Dinner was at 6 pm.

-I expected report cards to be handed to me on the day issued.

-I contacted their teachers with email and phone information.

-If I found out that an assignment was not turned it, it was completed and handed in even if it was too late for the grade.

-If my child did something against school rules, i.e., skipping class, etc. and I found out then I turned them in.

-They were rewarded for excellence and punished for failure.

Now, this probably seems pretty hard ass today but I think that the children today are spoiled and have too many distractions. I did my part. The problem that I ran into was with the teachers.

75% of them never expected much of anything from my children. In order to boost grades, they mandated downright ridiculous rewards such as a 100 for returning a signed progress report. I have had approximately 1 in 10 return an email inquiry. The principals only seemed to worried about the athletes.

I have spent hours upon hours tutoring my children in the past 7 years in order for them to learn the subject that they should have learned in class. I don't get paid for this "free" teaching.

Recently, because my child...a senior at Ooltewah High...questioned the validity of paying a "fee" for an in school activity, the math teacher, Ms. Mann, in front of the entire class, called up the office and said "This little snot is disrupting class and saying that she doesn't need to pay the fee for the fundraiser. Would you talk to her?"

The next day, the principal calls in her in to the office and proceeds, along with the bookkeeper, to lecture my child on how much the budget every last detail...and tells her that they would let her into the activity for free but it was best for her not to be telling other students or the school will go broke.

My child asks the principal whether or not there are fee waivers for students who can't afford the graduation fees. "Absolutely not," replies the principal.

March 6, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

story continued...

In actuality, Tennessee state law mandates that all students be told that fee waivers are available. State law also says that fees are requested but not required as all students are entitled to a Free Education and therefore fees would violate the state constitution.

The law goes on to state the students who qualify for free and reduced lunches are entitled to a waiver of ALL graduation fees including cap and gown. But, in Hamilton County, not even the Board of Education seems to be aware of this. But they are not the only school system to pretend to not know the law. The Tennessee Board of Education has had to issue opinions for two years in a row to the school systems in order to clarify this issue. Hamilton County has chosen to ignore.

So, why was my "little snot" so determined to set the record straight? She has two friends...sisters...who are supposed to graduate this year. Due to the economy and lack of jobs, their family cannot afford the $75 PER STUDENT fee that is required to walk across the stage which is something that the family is very proud of and dearly wants to see. She was genuinely trying to help those who had no idea that they could go to graduation for free.

Therefore, in my opinion, it seems that the lack of teacher respect for the students and the school board's violation of state law may have something to do with why some of the students don't make it to graduation.

I hold my children to a very strict educational and moral standards. I think that the teachers could benefit by having the same standards holding them accountable.

"Scapegoats." Please. Don't get me started.

March 6, 2011 at 8:54 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Harp3339 said: “A contract by the government that would allow excessive charges like your example of cokes illustrates how poorly government manages anything. Who wrote the contract, who approved it and who monitors it. I have never indicated Haliburton or anyone else should be given a no bid contract.”

You wrong on this one, Harp3339. In the case of Halliburton, the “career” officials that you so frequently condemn – along with the government auditors - questioned and objected to the unsupported costs, but the politicians and Defense Dept. officials overruled them, which is often the way it is when it comes to private contractors.

Politicians always seem to find a way around federal reporting requirements and procurement regulations, especially when their personal campaign contributions are involved. Without a doubt, we would see the same kind of corruption and special political “waivers” if our public school system were contracted out to the private sector.

Ultimately, I think Blackwater 48 is right and the real intent behind these private school voucher proposals is just a sneaky way to get tax payers to foot the bill for rich kid's tuition. Such a system can only weaken our Nation’s ability to provide a public educational system that must serve and address the needs of all of our Nation’s children, which is incredibly diverse and an ongoing challenge. If there are problems, it's far better to just fix the system that we have.

March 6, 2011 at 9:34 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

AlmostAmanda said: "I am a public school teacher in Hamilton County. I love my students and I love my job, but it is disheartening to hear people who haven't been in a public school in any meaningful way for a very long time talk as though they are experts in school reform."

Great post, AlmostAmanda. I bet you're also a great teacher.

March 6, 2011 at 9:53 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

SavartiTN said: "Due to the economy and lack of jobs, their family cannot afford the $75 PER STUDENT fee that is required to walk across the stage which is something that the family is very proud of and dearly wants to see. She was genuinely trying to help those who had no idea that they could go to graduation for free."

Your granddaughter sounds like a good advocate to me. You must be proud of her, SavartiTN. I must say that $75 rental fee seems a bit extravagant to me - perhaps, Hamilton County should seek a different contractor to provide this service. It also seems to me this is the kind of project that a school PTA or community service club should consider taking on. Clearly, there is something really wrong when a student is not able to walk across the stage to get their diploma because his/her family doesn't have the money to rent a cap and gown.

March 6, 2011 at 10:38 p.m.
fairmon said...


I had to read my post to be sure but your response regarding government contracts. Your post validates my point that governments do not run anything well. Politicians and administrators, czars and others are government also.

I didn't say anything about contracting the schools. A voucher system would do little to improve anything and would require some very strict and monitored regulations. A voucher system would be detrimental to those most in need of educational assistance and those children without strong family support. Your post is interesting regarding the corrupt officials that would abuse a voucher system since those are the same people you think should represent me in negotiations with the union. I do not think good teachers are over paid. I think unions are not necessary and the compensation process I recommended would work much better. I don't think the educational system is adequately funded. The school board, in my opinion, is not capable of managing the budget very well but I don't have a better idea of who or how to structure it.

I don't think schools should be allowed to charge any child a fee for any reason and the commission should adequately fund them to assure that never happens. Children that qualify should have free lunches, medical attention and any other reasonable need they have. I may reach a totally different conclusion regarding some of the parents that could but won't be better providers. I resent every penny of my tax money used to support them as much as I resent those politicians profiting from their position at my expense.

I enjoy your lectures although I think your speed reading may need improving. Have a good week.

March 7, 2011 at 12:27 a.m.
potcat said...

Ater watching 60 minutes last night and not being able to go to sleep after a rather active day, i reluctantly turned on my computer to read the above post.I was mortified to learn Ikeithlu is a teacher.A spoiled one who dosen't get his hands dirty by the riff-raff.A pompous private school teacherman who informs the underlings that his son who did a stint with City Year..who by the way gets a living allowance and money for college..that the biggest diffrence a person could make in a childs education is for the parents to read to them. I recommend every one to go to and watch last nights program (Hard Times Generation Motel on 60 Minutes.

March 7, 2011 at 9:28 a.m.
hotdiggity said...

It should be obvious from the actions of Mr. Walker why public service workers value a union. Over a period of time both Republican and Democrats are elected to run a state. Without the security of collective bargaining the unionized public service workers, who typically constitute a large voting block, can be subjected to pressure or punishment if they do not toe the line or support a current administration.

Since the teachers unions mostly supported Mr. Walkers opponent he sees this as an opportunity to break the support of Democrats by reducing the money and influence provided by union support from its members. Tax cuts for business at the expense of demoralizing one of society's most valuable commodities, our teachers.

The corporate takeover of America is in full gear. Demonizing the middle class worker and turning them against each other, while the wealthy and influential slowly suck us dry, is continuing unabated. Middle class Republican voters who think their party will put their interests ahead of the interests of the wealthy and big business are truly delusional. Lower wages, benefits, and services will be their reward for supporting a party whose interests are aligned with the elite.

They truly must be laughing up their sleeves that so many can be so easily deceived.

March 7, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Potcat, if you can refute anything that I posted, please do so. Otherwise you reveal yourself as nothing but a troll.

March 7, 2011 at 10:28 a.m.
BobMKE said...


What you didn't comment on in your post is what should Wisconsin and the other States do since they are broke. Or do you agree with the protesters who were yelling, "Tax Tax, Tax the Rich." Please read my post at 12:57pm on 3/6 about Wisconsin being a tax hell and you can't tax the wealthy when they don't live here anymore.

March 7, 2011 at 11:36 a.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Harp3339 said: "I didn't say anything about contracting the schools. A voucher system would do little to improve anything . . . I think unions are not necessary . . . I think your speed reading may need improving."

OK, but you were promoting a voucher system only a few weeks ago when we were discussing Clay's “Budget Battle” cartoon, Harp3339. If you have changed you’re mind about vouchers, I’m certainly glad to hear it because I believe a voucher system would be very costly and destructive. The politicians who are promoting this voucher concept have their own agendas that have nothing to do with improving public education in America.

Although I’ve never belonged to a union, I do support unions because I think they’re needed, including unions for the public sector. In the case of teachers, I think the private sector might also benefit from a union. The salaries of some of these teachers in the private sector – including college professors - are equivalent to the pay earned by religious missionaries. Granted, some of these private schools and colleges offer other benefits like future free or reduced tuition for the children of their faculty, but in far too many cases the salaries are truly so low they actually meet the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Ultimately, I support our public schools, and as I said previously I feel the assault on our teachers is shameful. It wasn’t the teachers who got these State governors in debt it was their own incompetence. If our politicians could perform their duties half as well as the teachers in this country, our nation would not be in such a financial mess.

March 7, 2011 at 12:04 p.m.
MTJohn said...

BobMKE - in Wisconsin's case, the first step would be pretty easy. They could begin by rescinding the tax breaks that Walker gave to some wealthy folks. Then, as a significant second step, he could deal with the issue on the basis of facts rather than rhetorical spew.

March 7, 2011 at 12:14 p.m.
BobMKE said...


Have you fell off of the Mountain a few times and hurt your head? Tax the rich (In your wording it would be filty rich which is Lib speak)to the tune of 3.6 Billion with a B. Who is representing the tax payers? Both parties sitting on both sides of the bargaining table are on the same side. Don't cherry pick my comments.

March 7, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.
MTJohn said...

BobMKE - you asked a question and I responded to it. How does that equate with "cherry picking" your comments?

I'll remind you that public servants are taxpayers, too. In this case, Governor Walker gave away $140 M of taxpayers' dollars and now, to pay for it, he has proposed to tax public employees.

March 7, 2011 at 1:17 p.m.
potcat said...

Then a Troll i am. There is nothing to refute. Its your opinions and they speak volumes.Its not very becoming Mr.Private school teacherman to be calling someone names.You should leave that to the illiterate underlings who if they would just read a book to thier children it would make all the difference in the world.

March 7, 2011 at 1:19 p.m.
Musicman375 said...

potcat, I don't know what you've been reading, but I've read post after post over the past two-and-a-half years written by lkeithlu that proves to me she is a darn fine teacher. She's a liberal atheist, I'm a conservative Christian, and if I had kids of my own or could afford to put my nephews through private school, I would do everything in my power to get them in her classroom any day of the week.

You watched one episode of some show and decided you're the supreme authority on education... unbelievable!

I've enjoyed reading this thread quite a lot. Why in the world "W" and all the other politicos honestly think one size fits all is so beyond me its just saddening. Our public education is pitiful, at the hands of the elected officials. The gov't needs to fund public education, that's it. Hopefully our public educators will have the resources they need to focus on the students' needs rather than upcoming standardized tests, but until then, we will remain in a terrible place, educationally speaking.

March 7, 2011 at 1:32 p.m.
potcat said...

The goverment needs to fund education.Musicman, do you believe that lack of funding is the problem? Are you serious? Do you believe that anyone would come to a conclusion about education or any thing else on watching a tv show? I certianly haven't.

March 7, 2011 at 1:59 p.m.
Musicman375 said...

The gov't already funds education. You must have misunderstood my point with that sentence. It read, "The gov't needs to fund public education, that's it." Read the last two words, "that's it," as in nothing more. They don't need to try to set curriculums or standards. They need to let the educators take care of what their kids need.

My appologies for misunderstading your point about 60 Minutes. It seemed to me that you were basing your refuting lkeithlu's comments on the show you had been watching... didn't you?

Anyway, she knows much more about educating young people than many people I know, so take her advise or leave it, but don't try to throw it back in her face like she doesn't know what she's talking about. I guarentee you if you read to young kids often before they enter their first classroom in pre-k or kindergarten, they will accel in school for years to come.

Edit: And sorry to lkeithlu as well. I know you don't need my defense, but I wanted to throw my two cents in there anyway.

March 7, 2011 at 2:18 p.m.
BobMKE said...

MtJohn, Teachers are teaching 190 days a year and are tax payers 365 days a year, I agree. My daughter has been a teacher for 21 years and I totally admire the teaching profession that starts all other professions. You have to take what I wrote in it's entirety. Also you did not answer my questions I asked you above and then you used the classic "The best defence is an offense" routine. I have no idea what you are referring to that Gov. Walker gave away 140M. The previous Gov. James Doyle raided many programs which now have to be repaid. Look that up on Google.

March 7, 2011 at 2:18 p.m.
MTJohn said...

BobMKE - here is the question to which I responded:

"What you didn't comment on in your post is what should Wisconsin and the other States do since they are broke."

If your daughter is a public school teacher, then you also understand it is meaningless hyperbole to suggest that teachers who work 190 days a year are not full-time employees.

And, if you expect my to google your facts, I don't understand why you didn't use google to check up on mine.

March 7, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Dude_Abides said: "This is union busting, pure and simple. Just like gerrymandering, it is a political tool. Every neocon is watching with bated breath to see if this crooked kite flies. Divide and conquer with wedge issues, union busting, starving "the beast", etc. Boring if it weren't so sinister."

You're certainly right about this, Dude_Abides. . . and, indeed, it is sinister. . . You may have read this already, but Steve Benen at Washington Monthly shares some interesting info in his blog on "PUTTING THE ATTACKS ON UNIONS IN CONTEXT," and it's well worth the read:

"In 1954, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower declared: "Unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and depriving working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice."

Today, those reactionaries dominate Republican politics, which created an un-virtuous cycle -- enjoy the largess of powerful benefactors, use the money to run campaigns as champions of working families, use their offices to ignore working families and boost their benefactors -- that feeds itself with great ease."

March 7, 2011 at 4:47 p.m.
acerigger said...

Please allow me to copy and paste(again)something to consider,Wisconsin’s public employees have already agreed to accept pay cuts and to place more of their compensation in Wisconsin’s public employees pension fund. And upon closer examination, Walker’s house-on-fire rhetoric regarding his state’s finances doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, as McClatchy found: Ironically, in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker is trying to weaken public-sector unions and reduce pension benefits, he’s exempted police and firefighters, who are among the most unionized public employees. And Wisconsin’s public-sector pension plan still has enough assets today to cover more than 18 years of benefits.Keep in mind, that’s nearly two decades of benefits that could be paid even before the changes to which Wisconsin’s current public employees have agreed go into effect. Overall, Wisconsin’s pension system is 97 percent funded, according to the Center for Retirement Research.

In fact, as the Center for Economic and Policy Research pointed out, “the shortfalls facing most state and local pension funds have been seriously misrepresented in public debates”Walker has already been scolded by his state’s finance director for falsely claiming that he would have to lay off state employees if his budget bill wasn’t passed by a certain date. Politifact also rated Walker’s repeated assertions that his state is broke as “false.”

March 7, 2011 at 5:29 p.m.
fairmon said...


This is scary we almost agree on something. Vouchers as proposed by some would adversely impact the underprivileged. If a voucher system is to work it would require strict regulation to assure legal requirements are met and opportunities are equal. I think it could work but don't trust legislatures to get it right. Teachers should not need a union. There should be legislation requiring a validated independent survey of the labor supply area which would include adjoining states. Teachers salaries and benefits should be automatically adjusted to keep educators at no less than the mid-range of the upper 25 percentile for like work in the private sector. A 360 degree review process should be part of the aanual performance evaluation to validate and assure objectivity by those making the formal review.

You conclude I am conservative and in some matters I am and I do not trust most politicians. I will never not do all I can to assure every child has the opportunity to be all they can be. The education system is complex and in some cases broken. It needs to be fixed and I will complain, recommend etc. until I think it is but in the mean time there is still a need to assure a lack of funding does not prohibit every child from receiving the best possible opportunity to receive an education. I have voted for a sales tax increase that was supposed to go to education before I realized the allocation process was unchanged and it did not increase the schools budget proportionately. I am conservative about providing for pot heads and system gamers and I do get irate at how the federal one shoe fits all wellfare system is so inefficient and invites abuse.

Education and opportunity is the only answer. Cruel to say but generally those that are educated, successful and career oriented plan parenthood and provide for their children while there is a segment that pops children out like a pop corn popper further increasing the numbers in the dependent sector of society. I should say, in my opinon, which is worth about what it cost to get it.

March 7, 2011 at 5:44 p.m.
srlaymon said...

The public education system is greatly in need of an overhaul. As a teacher in a public school I recognize that "teaching the test" is not providing an education for our students. However, this is where the involvement of elected officials has led us. Requiring all students be at certain levels by certain ages, and being able to signify that achievement with a test does not meet the needs of every child and only finds children being left further behind in the long run. So blame the teachers if that is what you need to do. However, remember, teachers did not create the "standards" or the "test" and if you ask most teachers they will tell you there is a better way to provide meaningful learning environments to students. But wait, no one asks the teachers. However, people sure feel comfortable about blaming them. So while you are blaming the teachers remember a couple of items that effect the education of your children:

HB1375 Removes the requirement for a state license for teachers. So anyone can walk in off the street and say "Today I decided to be a teacher." There are also lots of business men/women who are excellent statisticians or mathematicians. However, if these people wanted to be teachers, that is what they would have done with their education. If being a teacher was easy, everyone would do it, even if they had to get a license. By the way, would you want to see a doctor who does not have a license to practice?

HB505 Changes charter school student selection requirements. Children with low academics or behavior problems will not find themselves candidates for these schools. However, public education will continue to serve all children. Additionally, there is no research that unequivocally supports or refutes charter schools, making charter schools a marginal concept at best.

March 7, 2011 at 7:45 p.m.
Oz said...

The best teachers are doing 12 months (if not more) of work in 9 months. Do you really think teachers go home everyday with nothing to do? Dream on. The best teachers work another 25 to 30 hours per week outside of the classroom grading papers, meeting with parents, attending PTA meetings and school functions. The sad part is the best teachers are paid the same as the worst teachers. The union does not care about quality education. They just care about time on the job.

March 7, 2011 at 10:11 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

Oz, that video only confirmed what I thought about the teachers unions in the first place. "It's not about education." Wow.

When I graduated from college with my engineering degree and got a job, it was expected that I work 60+ hours per week at salary pay. Most state laws exempt professionals from the overtime rules. This is just the way that it is. Teachers say that they are professionals so, naturally, there is that expectation that they work "professional" hours.

My mother worked for the Hamilton County school board for years back in the 1980's. She saw education degrade as teacher benefits demand rose. When working at a local high school, she listened every day in the lounge as the teachers demeaned and talked about the students. She reminded them "If it were not for the students, you would not have a job."

Maybe it would serve everyone well in the education arena to remember that.

March 8, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Agreed. I suspect the really good public school teachers would also agree.

March 8, 2011 at 12:12 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Harp3339 said: "If a voucher system is to work it would require strict regulation to assure legal requirements are met and opportunities are equal. I think it could work but don't trust legislatures to get it right. . . You conclude I am conservative and in some matters I am and I do not trust most politicians."

I've also concluded that you do hold a job position that involves either short or long range planning, Harp3339. . . If you did, you would be screaming by now about the increased costs that every state would face if a voucher systerm were created – why do conservatives always fail to project the cost of their reckless actions ? [grin]

Clearly, since there would be a sudden increase in the number of students qualifying for vouchers, there would be a dramatic increase in every state's educational budgets in order to cover the cost of educating all of these students currently attending private schools. If states keep tallies of the number of students currently attending private schools, the projected increase might be known. If not, the increase becomes a potential messy unknown known.

Since most states are already slashing their educational budgets to pay for their own incompetence and the reckless conduct of our financial investment sector, it’s unclear where the states will get the additional funds needed to pay for these vouchers they will be handing out to all of these students currently attending private schools.

March 8, 2011 at 1:08 p.m.
srlaymon said...

SavrtiTN said, "Most state laws exempt professionals from the overtime rules. This is just the way that it is. Teachers say that they are professionals so, naturally, there is that expectation that they work "professional" hours."

This is true, teachers are professionals who work professional hours, however we are not even paid for a 40 hour week. Teacher pay is based on 37.5 hours per week.

As to the discussions on merit pay. I would be happy to be paid based on merit if the system could come up with a way to include special education teachers. I am a good teacher and teaching my students is not just my job, but my priority. Currently the plan is to base "merit pay" on standardized test scores, so as a special education teacher, any students I serve would have their test scores credited back to their regular education teacher. The same is true for art, music, P.E., foreign language, and other related arts teachers. Do our elected officials wish to work with the teachers to design a fair merit pay system? No, they don't even consider the impact for teachers like me and they steam roll ahead with plans that will leave a large percentage of teachers, who are good at their jobs with a lower pay scale, just because of their subject area.

By the way, Hamilton County's current position on merit pay, or what they call differentiated pay, is "Continuation of all differentiated pay plans is subject to funding." (source - So even if teachers do everything they are supposed to do, if the money is not there, it won't be paid out. What's the point of merit pay then?

March 8, 2011 at 7:51 p.m.
Oz said...

I'm sure good teachers want bad teachers gone. Teachers know who the weak teachers are. They know every year, they are going to have X number of children from a certain teacher and they are not prepared for grade level.

If you want to see who the bad teachers are. Go to any school for a week and see which teachers exit the building first, everyday of the week, with nothing in their hands.

The Department of Education was founded in 1979 and the Federal Government has failed miserably.

March 8, 2011 at 9:31 p.m.

Oz said... I'm sure good teachers want bad teachers gone. Teachers know who the weak teachers are. They know every year, they are going to have X number of children from a certain teacher and they are not prepared for grade level.

Right on. Why not let “Teacher A” evaluate “Teacher B” whose students are promoted to “Teacher A’s” class?

Oz, you’re right to distinguish between blaming unions and blaming teachers. Most teachers I know care very much about their students and work very hard to educate them. Unions, however, politicize and undermine good education.

Here’s my laundry list (a day or two late), based on involvement with public and private education, K-graduate school.

Equality misunderstood and misapplied has a leveling effect. It’s tough to race to the top when our heart is stuck in the middle. Absolutely EVERYTHING must be equal in every way. The result is that we have been quite attached to mediocrity.

Follow the money. You value what you personally invest in with your time and money and it’s pretty obvious that we don’t value education. No amount of professionalization in education will compensate for MIA parents. Parents are a child’s teachers. Teachers can either assist parents, erect barriers for them, or enable their irresponsibility.

Educators are intimidated from failing students who aren't ready to progress. There is too much sensitivity about and personal offense taken about failing results for children who need extra attention. The thinking of bureaucrats and the public is: When the package doesn’t get shipped with the others or if the shipment fails to reach the terminal on time, the suppliers lose funding, and the production line can lose their jobs. There are even regular threats of lawsuits from parents against schools for declining to pass a child to the next level, whether they are ready or not.

Result: High school and college graduates who either do not or cannot read, and who are not proficient with the English language. Middle school and high school students who don’t know their multiplication tables.

Students no longer have the ability to bring textbooks home, so little that they cover at school is retained. It’s all about craft projects, worksheets, and teaching to tests. Instead of assigning a work of classic literature, one teacher recently had students read a piece of popular teen fiction (one which amounts to soft porn) (Sarah Dessen).

One teacher I know allows half the class to sleep because the alternative is that they would disrupt and distract the students who are there to learn. I know a couple of tenured teachers (with masters degrees) who are not as bright as their 5th or 6th grade students. I’m not exaggerating. Education majors have lower scores on their college entrance exams than any or almost any other major ...

March 9, 2011 at 12:27 a.m.

As a society, we don’t nurture the habits of learning. Instead, we nurture spectators and consumers. We celebrate entertainment and sports instead of reading. We don’t like limits. We deceive ourselves and others that we are good multi-taskers when we are actually scrambling to find excuses for not nurturing a generation of reader, disciplined learners, and thoughtful leaders.

There is scapegoating aplenty because very few of the adult players have the time (or interest) for getting to know one another at more than a superficial level. That and that alone builds trust, inspires excellence, and allows for effective accountability. As you know, I’m all about free markets, but schools cannot be run or evaluated like businesses. There are overlapping principles, but we’ve gone way too far in that direction and it’s smothering a culture of learning.

March 9, 2011 at 12:28 a.m.
fairmon said...


You said it well. There is a way to assure teachers are paid well and to evaluate them other than test scores. A 360 degree review process would work wonderful in the education arena and even be a means of recognizing good performance/merit pay.

I have been the recipient of over a thousand products (students) of the education system. Some are shockingly disappointing while others adapt to the work world much better. I had one college graduate from a well known college that actually spelled took as tuck which is only one example. I had a visit from a school principle and assistant principle suggesting a partnership where we assisted the school at no cost to us. Their proposal was that we send a team of craftsmen to the school to make repairs and to construct play ground equipment plus other skilled worker needs once a week for a day. They actually stated it wouldn't cost us anything and would be a great help to them. Those workers cost us around $52 an hour. An employer is buying an employees time. Is it any wonder so many people knock businesses and have no concept of how a business system works? They didn't realize they were asking for around $100,000 dollars of company purchased time and was of the opinion it would cost us nothing.

There are some outstanding, dedicated hard working teachers that are not paid commensurate with their contribution. There are some that are not capable and simply cannot teach. The system will not allow them to be terminated so many of them wind up in a non value created administrative position. Jack Welch who made GE a great company may have had the answer. He terminated the bottom ten percent every year even if all were considered outstanding, the 10% least outstanding were terminated and replaced.

March 10, 2011 at 12:01 a.m.
fairmon said...

Attending college and obtaining a degree or multiple degrees does not confirm intelligence or ability.

March 10, 2011 at 12:16 a.m.
Sailorman said...

Welllllll If we didn't know it before, we do now - the Wisconsin brouhaha is all about class warfare. Jesse Jackson, now on the scene, just said so. Wonder where Al is?

March 10, 2011 at 1:26 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

srlaymon said "This is true, teachers are professionals who work professional hours, however we are not even paid for a 40 hour week. Teacher pay is based on 37.5 hours per week."

I think that part of the basis for public dissension is that teachers get benefits like they are paid for a 100 hours per week.

March 10, 2011 at 7:40 p.m.
distressed said...

Why not do a cartoon in which the State Legislature is presented as the school yard bully and the teachers are being bullied! It certainly would fit. They are telling us that we are "selfish, greedy, and immoral!" What's up with that?

March 18, 2011 at 9:26 p.m.
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