Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: A look at three ideas for school reform

Regarding the article in The Tribune by Mit-chell Landsberg of the Los Angeles Times on teachers unions (“Teachers unions’ power in question,” Nov. 8): 

Let’s just take a look at those big three ideas for school reform that have “bipartisan support” (meaning they come from elected political officials, not educators): the expansion of charter schools, merit pay for teachers and evaluations for teachers based on standardized test scores.

Starting with the last two ideas, how about if we take all adults, willing or not and without exception, divide them into random groups of 35 and assign them to a Weight Watchers class for 10 months.

At the end of that time, let’s pay the instructor based on whether 100 percent of the class is now able to fit into a size medium T-shirt. If they all do, the instructor gets merit pay and a good evaluation. If not, the names of these instructors get published in the Los Angeles Times as “ineffective.”

Regarding charter schools, there are some good ones, but they are often like private schools with public money. They can be selective about who is admitted. They often use more money per student than other schools in a district.

If all schools are charter schools, won’t we be back to the same funding problems? If charter schools can pay teachers less with fewer protections, isn’t that really an effort to take back the progress workers have made over time since the Industrial Revolution, when factory workers worked long hours in dangerous conditions for low pay with no security?

All unions are under attack, not just teachers unions. Workers in all industries and professions should stick together. All workers deserve living wages and pensions for their elder years.

Public money is intended for the general good and public education is part of that. There has been an effort to privatize everything, starting during Ronald Reagan’s years, and it has been wildly successful, even down to the military. Corporations have got their hands on tons and tons of public money and it has not gone for the general good.

The No Child Left Behind Act is part of that effort, with its laser emphasis on standardized tests and brazen penalties for public schools that don’t have 100 percent of their students take these tests and reach “proficient” (above average) by 2014. Students who leave to go to private schools don’t have to pass standardized tests anymore, but the public money follows them, so we see the goal was not for the children, but for the private sector.

Did you want to keep a semblance of democracy in the United States? An educated population is a requirement for democracy. Teachers have a lot of training and school districts have a lot of good ideas for quality education. Teachers want to be surrounded by good teachers.

Unions have steps administrators can take to get rid of bad teachers, and we hope they follow them! Talk to superintendents, administrators, teachers, students and parents about ideas to improve education and talk to legislators and politicians about adequate funding.

Come and visit schools, but check in at the office first. We want to protect your children.

Adrienne Dickinson is a teacher in the Lucia Mar Unified School District and a former trustee of the San Luis Coastal Unified School District.

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