What do you mean by ‘choice?’

So you’re for ‘school choice.’
What do you mean by that?

By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor
EVERYBODY likes “school choice,” it seems. S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex is for it. Gov. Mark Sanford is for it.
    Even my bishop, Robert Baker of the Diocese of Charleston, favors it, as he said in a letter
thatBishop
appeared in our bulletin at St. Peter’s Catholic Church 14 days ago.
    But look just a bit closer at what “school choice” means to each of them, and you find profound differences.
    Personally, I’m suspicious when any policy issue is summed up as a matter of “choice.” It often means that the people advocating the given position can’t sell it on its merits. They may be avoiding less palatable, but more descriptive, terms such as “abortion,” or “public subsidies for private schools.”
    But not always.
    Of course, the governor is pushing public subsidies for private schools.
    Mr. Rex seems to be clothing his proposed liberalization of school attendance rules in the “choice” mantle, at least in part, in order to head off the folks on the governor’s side.
    In last year’s election, he essentially said to the school privatization crowd: You want choice? I got your choice right here, in the public schools.
    Then, he trotted out his proposals in a press conference the day before the usual crowd unveiled its usual private-school-subsidy plan last week.
    Not that I don’t think Mr. Rex is sincere. He really does want to make it possible for parents to send their kids to the public schools of their choice. It’s an attractive idea.
    But the idea has its limitations. Richland District 2 — which already has a generous intradistrict “choice” policy — can’t make enough room when every child in Fairfield County wants to come on down. How will the state pay to transport those children, when — as is too often the case — their families can’t afford a car?
    The other side has the same problems. Even if we fantasize that an excellent, welcoming private school even exists in a poor, rural child’s county, and has space for him and his voucher — how’s he going to travel the 10 miles each day?
    I know Mr. Rex has thought about those things, by contrast with the private-school choice advocates. We’ll see how well he addresses them.
    The governor is sincere, too. He really does want to use tax money to pay people to desert public schools.
    I know my bishop is sincere. He believes parents should determine what sort of education their children receive, and that it’s important to provide an option for them that teaches Christian values. I agree completely.
    Where we differ is on whether it’s right to ask state taxpayers to subsidize Catholic education. I say no. We shouldn’t do that any more than we should ask the state to fund a new steeple for us.
    The bishop’s letter pretty much freaked me out, because it used rhetoric of the more extreme advocates of privatization. Worse, it urged Catholics to attend a rally those folks are holding at the State House on Tuesday.
    Since then, the bishop has assured me that he did not mean to back any movement that criticized or attacked public schools. And while he’s not withdrawing his support for the Catholic “choice,” you won’t see him at that rally.
    “I apologize for the tone of my letter,” he said, referring to portions that repeated the “South Carolinians for Responsible Government” mantra that “most of our children are not receiving a sound education” from public schools. “I would reword it” if he had it to do over, he told me Friday. He “would like to be seen as a respectful partner in dialogue” with public educators.
    He just wants people to be able to afford the Catholic option. The diocese closed a number of schools that served poor and minority communities back before he became bishop, and he’d like to reverse that trend.
    He would only seek state subsidies “for the working poor and people who are economically at the poverty level.” That’s just what Mark Sanford said he wanted when he ran for governor in 2002. But when out-of-state libertarian extremists started funneling vast sums of money into the state, he embraced their far more radical agenda, which has its roots in the notion that “government schools” are essentially a bad idea.
    My bishop doesn’t embrace that. Of course, I oppose even the more limited funding of Catholic schools with public money. If we Catholics want to provide education to the less fortunate — which we should do — we need to dig into our pockets and pay for that ministry ourselves.
    Jesus didn’t fund his ministry with the money St. Matthew had squeezed from the public as a tax collector. He didn’t take from the world; he gave. He told us to do likewise. We Catholics are far too stingy when the collection basket comes around, and that should change. We shouldn’t force Baptists, Jews, agnostics or anyone else to make up for our failing.
    Uh-oh; I’m preaching again.
    Another eminent Charlestonian told me he was concerned about the bishop’s letter, and kept meaning to say something to him, but hesitated because of his reluctance as a lifelong Catholic to tell his bishop what he ought to do.
    As a convert baptized at Thomas Memorial Baptist Church in Bennettsville, I was not so inhibited. I sort of went all Martin Luther on the bishop. That’s OK, he said: “You’re free to say you disagree.” Which I do. But not entirely. I’m glad we spoke.
    Bottom line: When somebody says they’re for “school choice,” ask for details. The differences are huge, and of critical importance to what kind of state we’re all going to live in.

For the bishop’s letter, my letter to him, and more, go to  http://blogs.thestate.com/bradwarthensblog/.

96 thoughts on “What do you mean by ‘choice?’

  1. Ready to Hurl

    Your column would lead the reader to assume that Bishop Baker is either naively ill-informed or dishonest.
    Frankly, I’m not sure which would be worse.
    I surmise that the “eminent Charlestonian” who declined to correct the Bishop is a lifelong Catholic. Your Protestant roots showed in your audacity to not only disagree with a Bishop but also call him on the carpet.

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  2. JIm

    Maybe you had already written this before it came out, but I see where Tracy Edge (R – Myrtle Beach) has introduced legisltation to enact school vouchers. He calls it a school tax credit, but it’s the same thing.
    You’d think the will of the voters of South Carolina would mean something to him, but apparently not.
    Hey Tracy, does the name Karen Floyd ring a bell? The voters said no. Does the name Ken Wingate ring a bell? The voters said no. Get a clue.

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  3. Randy Ewart

    RTH, Please do not generalize the “reluctance” of one as evidence that Catholics are a collective flock of blind sheep. Attributing Brad’s willingness to disagree or approach the Bishop is a result of “Protestant roots” reflects an oversimplification.
    Do some Catholics blindly follow? Do some republicans follow W blindly, believing that he does no wrong? Certainly, there are those who take as gospel what people in position tell them.
    I bet the Bishop received letters or comments from other Catholics as well. He deserves the negative feedback and he admitted as much. Brad makes a valid point and it has little to do with the practices and character of Catholics.

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  4. Doug

    Jim,
    There was no referendum on the ballot regarding vouchers. Until there is, our elected officials have the right to propose any bill they choose. It’s not like Rex had a mandate. A couple hundred votes the other way and you’re telling me you’d be fine with putting up the bill?
    Brad’s views on funding for low income families to go to Catholic schools is disappointing. Is the objective for this state to deliver the highest quality education to all residents or to support public schools? Supporting the latter is not always the best way to achieve the former. I look at my church, First Baptist of Columbia, and wonder what positive impact it could make on downtown students if it were able to use its existing resources (classrooms, gym, kitchen, etc.) to provide a K-3 environment for about 100 kids. Just picking a best guess amount of $7500 per kid, that would allow for a budget of $750K… four classes of 25 students, maybe one “principal”, all the infrastructure is already there. For that amount, they could probably provide transportation within a 5 mile radius of the city and meals as well. And what would be the downside of that??? That the kids might be taught to read and do math in a church? not by force but by the choice of the parents??? I’m missing how that somehow sets a bad precedent… oh, yeah, it’s that whole “accountability” thing where we need the government to make sure that if the students are going to fail, that it is done according to the plans set up by the bureacracy… not by some new method.

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  5. Brad Warthen

    Just to clarify, Jim — Tracy Edge’s bill contains both vouchers and tuition tax credits.
    Here’s how the political dynamic works:
    The vouchers are there so that backers of the proposal can say they’re offering something to the poor — never mind that most poor, rural parents would not find any private school anywhere near them to take the money. (And, for about the millionth time, South Carolina’s education problem is a rural poverty problem.)
    By contrast, the tuition tax credits — actually a much, much worse idea than vouchers — are for the middle-class parents who can already afford private options. This part of the proposal is necessary so that the proposal will have an active, empowered political constituency. Tracy Edge acknowledged to us last year that without that part of the bill, he’d never be able to get enough support to make PPIC viable.
    For those who have not visited South Carolina in the last 37 years, here’s an update: After integration actually came to public schools in 1970, each rural community created a separate, private school for the middle-class white kids. Today, those remain the only private options in many of those communities. Poor black parents wouldn’t get much use out of vouchers when the only local private option is a school created specifically to exclude their children.

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  6. Doug

    Brad,
    Can you please name these schools that you are implying exist to support racist beliefs? I think that would be helpful to the debate.

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  7. Randy Ewart

    Doug, please. Brad is not suggesting private schools are operating for explicit racial reasons. It’s more of a supply and demand principle involving the obvious “white flight” which has occurred over the years. Compare Richland 2 and Irmo of the 80s with the Richland One schools. Where do you find the private schools?
    Here’s one indicator. In all the private high schools in South Carolina (Ben Lippen, CN, HH, Hammond in Cola alone) there was a grand total of 36 AP exams taken by black students in 2006.
    In Collenton County, 19% are in poverty vs 14% for the state. The median income is only 78% of the SC median. Collenton Prep costs almost $4k a year. The district has Unsatisfactory rating. And interestingly enough, the County is 56% white but the high school is 56% black.
    And regarding your characterization of the election results, the voters absolutely sent a message. Floyd had a finely tuned campaign machine, with big name endorsements, strong political backing in general, and she ran for 18 months. Rex did not get into the race until May – one YEAR after Floyd, and he ran what I think was a poor campaign. The republicans easily swept all the state offices EXCEPT the choice candidate.

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  8. Brad Warthen

    Doug I can’t imagine what would be helpful about saying “School XYZ” is a seg academy, and the folks at XYZ say “no, we’re not,” and I’m like “prove it,” and they’re like “YOU prove it,” and so forth.
    The burden is on the folks who favor vouchers — since they’re the ones who want to make this change — to explain where they think kids in each rural county are going to go. The resources simply aren’t there.
    Some of the advocates know that, and they fall back on, “The market will take care of it.” They love that answer. They believe parents with vouchers in their hands will attract excellent schools that will pop up out of the clay — or sand, depending on your part of the state.
    They ignore the problem of lack of population density. A community that doesn’t have sufficient demand for a supermarket is NOT going to attract a Montessori school, or anything like it. That’s the thing that gets me: They believe in the market, yet the market is screaming at them: THIS WON’T WORK!
    It does no good to have a voucher if you don’t have a good, accessible school (and I’m talking “accessible” in terms of transportation and distances here, totally apart from race) at which to spend it.

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  9. J.R. Green

    I find it interesting that voucher and tax credit advocates use the states accountability system to justify what they call an “ineffective system”, but are so opposed to using that same accountablity system for schools that would receive state funds through this voucher proposal. There are two points that virtually all of the voucher proponents are opposed to. 1. They want to deny entry to any student that they choose for any reason that they choose. 2. They do not want to be measured by the same rigorous standards that our public schools are being measured by. If that ever happens, then the myth of private school superioty to all public schools will be over. I would submit that there are some very effective public schools and some very effective private schools. The problem is that we have objective evidence to measure public schools but nothing but rhetoric to measure the hundreds of private schools in South Carolina. If all the private schools are really that good, then show it by taking the PACT, the HSAP, and releasing all of your graduating data. Do this along with taking away the option to disciminate, and I will join you as a voucher proponent.

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  10. moe

    The school choice crowd got what they wanted, options, school choice as proposed by Jim Rex, within the framework of public school choice. If they object to his proposal what they are saying is that they are not really for choice, that what they are truly for, as has been the case all along, is tax credits, vouchers whatever you want to call it. Another way for Republicans to line their pockets – I want to send my kids to private schools (where’s the accountabililty?), good schools, I just want someone else to help me pay for it, or pay for it all together.
    The state has a responsibility to provide a quality education for every child AND support public education, one of the backbones of our country.
    Mr. Ewart, I used to know a public school teacher by that name. By chance do you teach in a public school? And if you do, how would you rate your school’s performance and if not my apologies.
    As with any industry, there is good and bad. We have great schools, great teachers, some not so good, some really poor. Does this mean we abandon the concept of public education?

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  11. Jim

    If the Karen Floyd race wasn’t a referendum about vouchers, I don’t know what it was. How else can you account for one single Republican loss?
    And of course, our legislators have the right to propose whatever legislation they want to. Nobody is questioning their “rights.” But I do question why our elected officials insist on pushing this wrong-headed idea when the voters have made it clear they don’t want it.

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  12. Randy Ewart

    I believe I am the only teaching Mr. Ewart in SC.
    Ridge View is a good school. We are very diverse with around 40% white population. While we have deficiencies, like most schools (and most organizations) the real problems are most urban and poor rural schools. I teach AP Statistics. Some of these schools are lucky to have enough math teachers for basic math courses.
    The school choice crowd fled this blog after the election like roaches from a lit room. They understood the collective voice of the voters.

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  13. Ready to Hurl

    Randy writes:

    RTH, Please do not generalize the “reluctance” of one as evidence that Catholics are a collective flock of blind sheep. Attributing Brad’s willingness to disagree or approach the Bishop is a result of “Protestant roots” reflects an oversimplification.

    Brad also writes this in his letter of thanks to the Bishop:

    And once again, please forgive me my hubris. Since I’m not a cradle Catholic like Joe Riley, I never learned that one should not say “must” to one’s bishop. Maybe there’s still time for me to learn.

    I didn’t read the letter until after I wrote the post but I was indeed wondering if Joe Riley wasn’t the “eminent Charlestonian.”
    Since Brad wrote in his article that he “went all Martin Luther” on the Bishop, I infer that I’m not the only one to make such generalizations.
    I’m sure that you’ll correct me if I’m wrong but the comparison to the Republican Party is inapt since the party is hardly as rigidly hierarchial as the Catholic Church.

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  14. Randy Ewart

    RTH, the republican party has not been rigidly hierchial? Naahhh, no CONTROLLING the message in that crowd for several years. “The Hammer” got his moniker from watching HGTV. Besides, my comparison was in regards to blind obedience and not a comprehensive comparison and you know that.
    So you take Brad’s view of Catholicism as a kind of Big Bang from which all Catholic dogma flows? Bishop Baker strayed into the arena of public education. As a Catholic, I’m hardly obliged to defer to him in this matter as I would not defer to him in which political party to choose nor which baseball team to cheer. I would be reverent towards him as I disagreed with him just as I would show President Bush respect even though I disapprove of his work greatly.
    As Catholics, we take Jesus’ word as Truth. We don’t rely soley on our interpretation because we understand that at some point the Gospel was passed on from Jesus to man. It was a group of well studied and faithful men who put together The Bible almost two thousand years ago. From this came the SAME Truth our “nervous” Protestant brothers believe (save some peripheries).
    Now we can debate the theology and religious practices all you want. But to discern a view of ALL Catholics from a couple is ludicrous.

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  15. Paul DeMarco

    Randy,
    Sorry you had to call me out on the other thread. I’m going to leave Mary alone for awhile. We’ll just have to agree to disagree (agreeably, of course).
    Regarding the likely ineffectiveness of vouchers in rural districts-Brad sums it up well above. To give you a specific example: in Marion County, there is only one private school of any size-Pee Dee Academy.
    PDA was founded in 1965 as a segregation academy and has not been able to overcome that. I know quite a number of the students/parents/teachers at PDA and they are mostly good people, comparable to the public high school. However, because of its small size PDA can’t offer some of the extracurricular activities or AP courses that Marion High offers.
    Undeniably, part of PDA’s allure remains that it is a bastion of white affluence. Of its 496 students, only 1% are students of color (in a county that is 56% black).
    The voucher proponents are unable to address whether and how PDA or the other rural white flight school would attract and accept poor black students. Even if they are willing, they simply don’t have space (Marion County has roughly 6000 school age children).

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  16. Randy Ewart

    Paul, I’ve been as guilty of Blogging off the deep end as most others. We all fall into the trap.
    The only politician I’ve heard address the issue of education in the rural areas is Campbell Jr. He made it the center piece of his education position. He also understood this was more than an education issue and he addressed the need to lift up the entire community. Thoughts?
    What do you make of Obama’s position regarding boosting summer academic opportunities for poor students? You asked long ago about the virtual school in which I am an instructor. We are making different courses available to all SC public schools but the smaller and rural ones can benefit most. For example, I am teaching an online stats course. Most schools could not afford such a course because of limited options and limited qualified teachers for stats. This is the wave of the future which colleges already have already tapped!

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  17. Doug Ross

    I just don’t get what the fear is of giving the vouchers a try in ONE district. Rex can announce three year plans with pilots and nobody cares. What possible harm could come from implementing a three year voucher pilot in one district with strict limitations on income? 100 poor kids with little hope. What is the worst thing that could happen?
    Right – it might succeed and that would be a damaging blow to the anti-voucher crowd. Isn’t that it? You need to suppress the entire possibility of vouchers on the off chance they might work. It might lead us down the slippery slope of success.
    And as to the earlier point about the supposed accountability system in South Carolina, please show me who has been held accountable for the performance of our schools in the past ten years. Accountability means consequences for poor performance. Show me where that is occuring. What we have is not “Accountability” but “Countability” — as in the ability to count the number of failing students but not having to do anything about it. It’s like doing an inventory of the lifeboats on the Titanic. It’s numbers, not action.

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  18. Jim

    Expanding on what J.R. Green refered to as “the myth of private school superiority”, I was really puzzled last year as the Floyd/Rex battle raged, that there was so little noise about the Dept. of Ed’s July ’06 study comparing public/private school results.
    After some apparent attempts by the Bush Administration to suppress the unwanted truth, the U.S. Dept. of Ed released a report last July US Dept. of Ed Report Comparing Public Schools and Private Schools that compared public and private school results, factoring out student background.
    Here’s a clip from the Summary:

    Adjusting the comparisons for student characteristics resulted in reductions in all four average differences of approximately 11 to 14 points. Based on adjusted school means, the average for public schools was significantly higher than the average for private schools for grade 4 mathematics, while the average for private schools was significantly higher than the average for public schools for grade 8 reading. The average differences in adjusted school means for both grade 4 reading and grade 8 mathematics were not significantly different from zero.

    The report went on to breakdown private school results along religious lines, which is particularly interesting for South Carolinians, since most of the private schools in the state church-backed:

    In grade 8, Catholic, Lutheran, and Conservative Christian schools were each compared to public schools. For Catholic and Lutheran schools for both reading and mathematics, the results were again similar to those based on all private schools. For Conservative Christian schools, the average adjusted school mean in reading was not significantly different from that of public schools. In mathematics, the average adjusted school mean for Conservative Christian schools was significantly lower than that of public schools.

    As a parent with two kids in the South Carolina public school system, I’m deeply concerned about the quality of education options for my children (and for ALL children). Though we’re not poor, the voucher proposal in the legislature would not be enough to allow to send our kids one of the “better” private school in town. So what good could it possibly do for families in poverty?
    Education is an investment that pay returns to everyone in our society. For thoughts on this, check out recent comments on my blog (Other Factors Equal, Public Schools Make the Grade at AnyIdiot.org)

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  19. Syd

    How many times are we going to have to go through this? This is all about racism and pandering to the white suburban voter.
    And for the poster who asked about naming schools that were created after integration for the subtle purpose of re-segregating the community, just look at every rural county: Jasper County: Thomas Heyward, Hampton County: Patrick Henry, Orangegburg Prep, etc, etc, etc.
    Rather than denegrating and demeaning those hardworking teachers, administrators AND students in public schools by saying it’s a lost cause to try to work on the problems we all agree are there, why isn’t Tracy Edge and Mark Sanford working to improve schools that include all children, rather than exclude others?

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  20. Michael Rodgers

    Brad,
    Yes, the right answer to the question “Is it right to ask state taxpayers to fund Catholic education?” is clearly No, but when the question is reframed, the answer is not so clear. For example, what is the answer to the following: “If a non-Catholic child with severe economic needs wishes to go to a Catholic school, should the state keep the money that they no longer need to spend to educate that child or should the state do something with that money that will help that child?”
    Very Truly Yours,
    Michael Rodgers, Columbia

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  21. Jim

    Michael, the state should spend that money, and more, if needed, and make whatever non-monetary adjustments are required (e.x., cutting bureaucratic mandates), to fix the school that that student feels compelled to leave.

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  22. Dennis Smith

    A comment heard from a parent at a Catholic school; “Im against this school voucher thing because I don’t want THOSE KIDS in my kids school.” Racist? Elitist? All of the above?

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  23. Lily

    I can’t resist adding one more rural private school to the list of those created after integration in order to maintain segregation: Robert E. Lee Academy in Lee County. Surely the name says it all.

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  24. Brad Warthen

    Lily, I’m afraid it does. It’s easy to guess why such a name would be chosen, although we can’t know for sure. At the same time, Gen. Lee was a very honorable man, and it’s a shame to see his name put to such a use.
    And I’ll have to agree with Jim — the money should be spent in the public schools. The public schools are OUR schools — ours, the taxpayers’. If they aren’t working right, it is our challenge to fix them, whatever it takes. And indeed, many of the changes are nonmonetary. But you can’t wish away the need for money, especially in the poor districts.
    Michael, I know what you are saying makes sense to you, but if you look a little deeper, you’ll see it’s based on at least two false assumptions. First, neither the tax credit (which is only for the middle-class and wealthier) nor the voucher would help the children in rural areas where no good private options exist. It’s simply not enough money, on a pro rata basis, to start a school from scratch, and attract good teachers who essentially do NOT want to go to such areas.
    Secondly, the public school your theoretical child can NOT afford to lose that little bit of funding. Aside from the fact that the school in question — if there IS a problem with the school itself — most likely has inadequate funding sources to begin with, the departure of a child does NOT reduce the school’s expenses. The school still must pay the teacher to teach the children left behind, pay for utilities to heat and light the classroom, etc. There are very few per-pupil costs.
    Some funding, however, IS per-pupil. That will go away in the budget year after the child leaves. Even the nonper-pupil funding will disappear for a school losing students, if it loses enough of them.
    Some of the basic assumptions that attract well-meaning people to the private school “choice” banner simply don’t have anything to do with how things work in the real world. What you cite is one of the biggest misunderstandings — thanks in large part to the out-of-state ideologues pushing this, who support the full-time organizations that exist to promote such disinformation dissemination.

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  25. Michael Rodgers

    Brad,
    Your answers to my question may make for a good editorial column. It would build upon your answer to your question.
    Very Truly Yours,
    Michael Rodgers, Columbia

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  26. Randy Ewart

    It is up to public sector to fix our failing public schools. The focus on this thread are the failing poor and rural schools. What has the public sector done to fix this? We divert some money and on occasion some state resources to these schools but to what success?
    Rex does not address these private schools in his five point plan. Brad and his paper paid little attention to them in the superintendent campaign last year. Campbell Jr. is the only one to target this area.
    I’d like for Paul to chime in at this point.

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  27. Paul DeMarco

    I favor a Vermont style plan in which all the money collected locally for schools is sent to the state, then divided by the number of students in the state. In this way, every student would receive essentially the same amount of money toward his education. I would add a poverty weighting factor so that students in poor schools, who require more resources to educate, would receive them.
    The political problem with this solution is that, while it would lift up the poor, it would require wealthy school districts to give up some revenue (or the state to increase taxes or shift revenue to bring all districts up to the level of the wealthy districts).
    Vermont was able to do it because their Supreme Court declared their system of funding public education unconstitutional and forced the legislature to make a radical change. Despite the best efforts of the “Corridor of Shame” districts, the state Supreme Court has failed to supply the needed leverage.
    Another possibility would be that wealthy districts would give up some portion of their funds to poor districts and then raise the deficit privately via school foundations. However, I sense no appetite for this kind of approach from the donor districts.

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  28. Paul DeMarco

    Brad,
    I appreciate your taking Bishop Baker to task. His letter shows he has only a rudimentary understanding of the issue of school choice and allowed himself to be used as a pawn by the voucher crowd. The PPIC bill in the legislature last year was not written for the low-income students he mentions repeatedly in his letter.

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  29. Randy Ewart

    Paul, this is where the bully pulpit could be used. A leader could focus our collective attention on the plight of these schools.
    I remember visiting the schools around North, SC. It was schocking to see the disparity between schools.
    Cambell shared a story I assume to be true. He explained that a company wanted to expand into one of our rural areas. When the execs saw the horrible conditions, including the schools, they went looking elsewhere. This problem affects the state as a whole in other ways as well.
    We are starting school in Columbia late this fall because of schools in Horry County. They have important constituents with influence. On the other hand, Lee County can be ignored.

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  30. whooopie

    I would not quote Mike Campbell on what business wants or does not want. His sole involvement in business is inheriting one from his daddy, and cashing in.
    In fact, it is much like his sole involvement in politics…inheriting daddy’s name and cashing in on it as well. Except his daddy always supported the Republican ticket, unlike Mike…who deserted it regardless of how well it has served his family in the past.

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  31. Doug

    RANDY SAYS:
    “We are starting school in Columbia late this fall because of schools in Horry County. They have important constituents with influence. On the other hand, Lee County can be ignored.
    This is simply not true. Parents across the state have complained about the earlier and earlier start date (which was driven mainly by the PACT testing dates) for years. When I was a PTO president, we did a survey at our school asking for feedback on school start dates. The overwhelming response (75%) was that parents in this Richland County school wanted to see the start date at the end of August. I took those results to the school board at one of their meetings and got blank stares and no response.
    I have little doubt that parents across the state are pleased that the start date has been moved.

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  32. MPS

    I just wanted to say that this is the first time I’ve actually seen a detailed, nuanced discussion of the different angles of the school choice question. The devil’s really in the details in this issue. It is unfortunate that the political rhetoric around the PPIC campaign revolved around empty rhetoric ON BOTH SIDES in terms of being for or against vouchers, choice, etc.
    As with many issues in our 24/7 media-soaked age, the debate was boiled down to meaningless abstractions. For example, as much as I’m open to the idea of school choice, vouchers, etc., it bothered me that Governor Sanford tried to hold up Milwaukee, a large urban school district in a Northern industrial city with a large private Catholic school system in place, as an example for SC to follow. This was foolish – the entire Columbia metropolitan area’s population (with at least 7 school districts) is about the same as just the city proper of Milwaukee. And I totally agree that SC’s desparate rural education situation isn’t going to be solved overnight by any voucher program (**not that this means we shouldn’t implement a voucher plan**).
    And PPIC opponents all too often simply made the argument “I’m against vouchers! We can’t legally ‘subsidize’ religious schools!” Never mind that PPIC wasn’t really a voucher program, which is why I didn’t like it in the first place, and the Supreme Court said it’s perfectly legal to do a Milwaukee or Cleveland-style voucher system as long as the three-pronged “Lemon Test” prevails. Moreover, as Milwaukee’s former true-blue Democratic Mayor John Norquist said, we already have “vouchers” (Pell Grants, etc.) for private, including religious, colleges. As he quipped, “you can take federal dollars and decide on your own to go to Notre Dame and become a priest, go to Yeshiva and become a rabbi, or go to the University of Wisconsin and become a communist”.
    What I want to see is open-minded folks in public service start being pro-active on innovative ideas, now that we have moved past both the “throw more dollars at public schools” and PPIC-type canards. Jim Rex’s moves are baby steps in the right direction. I would like to see someone like Bill Cotty (who I disagree with on the overall issue of vouchers, but seems willing to reform the public schools in the right direction) push the envelope more on charter schools, inter-district choice, etc. (e.g., can Kershaw County set up a charter school and attract both NE Richland and Fairfield County students?). I would also like former PPIC supporters rethink their priorities and reshape their abstract ideologies into something more appropriate for South Carolina’s situtation (and for God’s sake please don’t take money with orders attached from Michigan or DC or wherever). I think a pilot voucher program would be a great start, and I would choose one urban and one rural district to start (say Richland 1 and Marion County).

    Reply
  33. Paul DeMarco

    MPS,
    Great post! Thanks for including Marion County as part of your pilot program for vouchers. Like you, I was disappointed in the voucher debate. I have very strong reservations about vouchers because I distrust the motives of many of those who support them (and PPIC only deepened that distrust).
    However, I believe that it might be possible in an urban area with a high enough density of schools to design a worthwhile voucher program. I would be willing to support it only if:
    1) It was targeted only at poor kids to give them school options they otherwise would not have
    2) It increased school diversity rather than decreasing it
    3) It was accountable, with a voucher group compared to a control group of children to determine if there were any differences.
    The problem in Marion County is that we are constrained by our poverty and our geography. It is unlikely the Catholic church or a private company will build a new religious/private school here anytime soon.
    As I’ve posted before, we have one private school of any size (Pee Dee Academy, 500 students) which has 1% black enrollment. I would support a voucher program that allowed a small number of poor public school students (perhaps twenty-five to fifty) to attend PDA as long as they could meet the entrance requirements. I’m unsure that plan would be embraced by the PDA leadership or current student body (even if they had the space).
    I am also skeptical about vouchers because I doubt that they will produce a marked improvement in achievement. Home influence trumps school influence and many of the students who need the most help have the most difficult home situations.

    Reply
  34. Randy Ewart

    Regarding the Uniform Late School Start: “Tourism interests started the debate after school districts began opening earlier and earlier over the past several years to have more time to prepare for the May accountability tests.” – http://www.SaveSCSummers.com March 23, 2006
    Gee Doug, guess your own faction didn’t get your memo.
    I’m also willing to bet that your survey did explain the consequences such as two weeks less preparation for AP exams and students having to take exams AFTER the winter break.

    Reply
  35. Randy Ewart

    The problem with vouchers/tax credits/choice et.al. is they do NOT address the problems in our schools. It simply allows some students to get away from these problems.
    As worthy as that may be, what will we do about the actual problems? What about the chronic discipline issues; students entering high school at a 4th grade reading level; relying almost exclusively on an accountability system based on one state test a year and teacher produced grades?
    The students and parents motivated for an education are the ones taking advantage of choice. Public education includes all those other students as well.

    Reply
  36. Doug

    Randy,
    Quoting one website’s opinion of what triggered the call for a reasonable start date (while ignoring the part that is directly related to what I said about the start date being driven by PACT) is meaningless. I know what parents in this district said at the time and it had nothing to do with tourism in Horry County.
    I did a search on “school start dates” and saw news articles from states all across the country where parents are fighting back against early start dates. Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and so on. This isn’t a Horry County initiative. It’s a national backlash against No Child Left Behind.
    How do students across the country in other states manage to get through all these AP tests and exams yet still start school in late August? And if it was so important for high schoolers, why was there never any great call for an early start date by the school boards until after PACT was instituted?
    It was driven by PACT, parents rebelled, and it was fixed.

    Reply
  37. Randy Ewart

    Doug, you asserted that the coastal counties had nothing to do with when RV starts school this fall. I used a website of the parents you claim caused the late start date and information on it contradicted you.
    Why do other states have higher AP scores? There are a multitude of reasons which you overlook. The bottom line is cutting two weeks from AP prep time certainly has some negative effect. (I’ll be happy to share my calendar and show squeezed I am in AP Stats currently.) We push education as being vital yet we make decisions like this, making decisions based on other priorities.
    Starting 2 weeks later in August, and then getting out of school 2 weeks later in June is classic “robbing Paul to pay Peter”. SaveSCSummers.com seems to overlook the fact that the students will get the SAME amount of time off. BTW, vacations can only be taken in August?
    The engine driving this issue is in the coastal counties. To suggest otherwise is turning a blind eye to reality.

    Reply
  38. Doug

    Randy,
    You wrote “We are starting school in Columbia late this fall because of schools in Horry County” which would lead one to believe that there was no other reason for the schedule change. All I did was correct your exaggeration to show that it was not just an Horry County initiative. The backlash against the early start dates came from across the state. You can choose to disregard what the parents say in Richland County, but I know what I heard as a PTO President and what I heard when I ran for school board in 2002. The vast majority of parents wanted the start date to be late in August. They heard the pros and cons and decided otherwise.
    Also, I did not make the claim that other states have higher AP scores despite starting later. All I said was that somehow they are able to meet the challenge.
    If there was evidence that starting earlier had a measurable impact I would assume other states would pursue it. But then again, your concern over the AP tests represents such a small number of students, that it really should not factor into the equation of when the school year starts.
    Out of the 20,000 students in Richland District 2, I would guess the number who take AP exams each year is about 2%, probably less… compared to 10,000 who take PACT tests. The percentage of those AP students who would be impacted by starting later would be even smaller.
    The AP test issue doesn’t even register in the debate on when school starts.

    Reply
  39. Randy Ewart

    “The AP didn’t register in the debate” is a condemnation of your analysis of the issue. At Ridge View, 10% of students took an AP last year. RNE had a higher rate. Challenging students with the highest level courses(in which they get college credit) should be a priority. But, cutting two weeks from this program to shift 2 summer vacation weeks from early June to August is more important…

    Reply
  40. Susan

    “I would support a voucher program that allowed a small number of poor public school students (perhaps twenty-five to fifty) to attend PDA as long as they could meet the entrance requirements.”
    I couldn’t let this comment pass without my own comment. As a public high school teacher, it is so strange to see that a school would have entrance requirements. I don’t recall that any of my students had to pass a test to get IN to my school. Just wow. Does PDA have one to get out as well? We do. And the results of HSAP are well-publicized for anyone to see. Is PDA as forthcoming? (Not meaning to pick on them necessarily, just using the one school mentioned.)
    Also, about the Save Our Summers…I have a new name: Save ONE Summer. That’s all they did. And my students at my high school don’t want a later start date. No one asked them. They like finishing up in the 3rd week of May, and they want their exams before Christmas.
    How “scientific” were these surveys that were taken? Now, I’ll come back when my bosses tell me to come back. I don’t much care, but as my friend at RNE said in his letter to the editor a few weeks back, “Don’t complain if your child has work over Christmas.” If my exams aren’t until after Christmas, they will possibly have work, too. I have a curriculum to teach. A mandated curriculum.

    Reply
  41. Doug

    ” I don’t recall that any of my students had to pass a test to get IN to my school.”
    That’s true. Student’s can score Below Basic on the PACT test all through elementary and middle school and be pushed along until they reach high school.. where they will then likely be part of the dropout problem that exists in the public schools.
    Why would we ask the students what they want for a schedule? They don’t pay taxes and they don’t vote. Why don’t we ask them to vote on whether there should be a cell phone policy? or whether there should be soda and candy machines in the schools?
    As for Randy’s condemnation of my off-the-cuff analysis of AP students representing 2% or fewer of the student population: according to the ed.sc.gov website, 11.2% of high schoolers in the state enrolled in AP/IB classes. With a statewide enrollment of 676,819 there are 196,519 high schoolers, that’s 29% of the population. Multiply that 29% by 11.2% taking AP classes and you get 3.2% So I was off by 1% point. If you really think that the school schedule is going to influenced in any way by the needs of 6288 students in this state (most of whom will see no impact on their ability to pass the AP test regardless of when they start school), go ahead. If you want to think that Horry County sets the policy for the school schedule in the state, go ahead.

    Reply
  42. Paul DeMarco

    Susan,
    Please understand my perspective. I’m a strong supporter of the public schools (I’m a member of the school board in Marion District One where my children attend) and oppose every voucher bill that’s yet been introduced in the SC Legislature including the one introduced this session by Rep. Edge because they all give money to people who don’t need it-the families who are already sending their children to private school.
    Some people believe that vouchers are necessarily anti-public school. Brad appears to be in that camp, and I am mostly sympathetic to his views. However, I believe it might be theoretically possible to design a voucher program that would actually be positive.
    The one I describe above with Pee Dee Academy is an example. What I like most about that example is that it would increase diversity at PDA.
    Do I think it is likely to happen? Unfortunately not.
    I view the whole voucher issue as a distraction from the real debate which is
    1) How do we equitably fund public schools?
    2) How much of the burden of parenting a child (feeding breakfast, after school programs, character education, discipline) should we expect schools to assume as more and more children come from to school unprepared and absent fathers become the rule?.
    Doug,
    The trouble with the uniform start date was that it usurped local school board authority. Every school district in the state previously set its own calendar. If Horry County wanted a later start date then their school board had the power to enact it.
    The legislature had no business dictating to every district what calendar to use. That’s a local matter.

    Reply
  43. Randy Ewart

    Doug,
    Your egocentric view of education, dismissal of the AP issue (which was only one of several in the late start debate) and taking a PACT centered view of all things education, is an overly simplistic analysis of a complex issue. It’s no wonder the school board reacted to your survey with blank stares.
    The AP program provides tremendous preparation for college. Students can get credit for college while in high school. Go survey parents who have a student in AP classes and ask them if they want 2 weeks cut from this program. As for your suggestion that most AP students “will see no impact on their ability to pass the AP test regardless of when they start school”, try asking them. Apparently, the view from the ivory tower doesn’t reveal the work load they have.
    I’m further amused by the conclusion that shifting two weeks of summer vacation from August to June “saves” the summer for students. Would you elaborate on this? After all, this was the center piece of your survey. Also, did you include in this survey the fact that many students will have to complete work over the winter break? Would parents then start a save our winter campaign?
    The bottom line is a decision which affected ALL SC schools was based on priorities other than education. Further, this was driven by coastal counties as YOUR cohorts stated in the save our summers site.

    Reply
  44. Lee

    Real choice = spending your own money on the education you want, or on anything else.
    Mixed choice = spending an amount set by the government on a mix of schools approved by the government
    Socialist choice = only getting to choose among a short list of government schools.
    No choice = what we have now.

    Reply
  45. Ready to Hurl

    Randy, please correct me if my math is wrong.
    11.2% (percentage of SC high schoolers enrolled in AP/IB courses, according to Doug) of 196,519 (total SC high schoolers, according to Doug) equals 22,010.
    If we’re serious about raising the academic achievement of SC students then I think that it’s time to go to year-round school. While we’re at it, why not extend the school day so that we can give P.E. the time that it deserves?

    Reply
  46. Doug

    RTH,
    The school start dates apply to all grades (K-12) so it’s 11% of 196,000 H.S. (22,010)
    out of 678,000 total… 3% of all students
    enroll in AP/IB classes. Some probably don’t take the tests. Even more would pass or fail the test with or without the extra two weeks. The number of AP students for whom the extra two weeks really matter is probably fewer than 1000. If I had the time to research it, I suppose I could compare passing rates for the AP exams in SC to states where the start date is later.
    Paul,
    The school boards still can choose any date after the third Monday in August. I know Richland 2 floated three different calendars for teachers to vote on. The local control is still there. The legislature had to step in to rein in school boards who kept moving the calendar back further and further each year.
    My interest in this issue had nothing to do with saving summers. It was directly related to the fact that the start date kept getting moved back due to PACT – which in my view is a useless exercise which has yet to be proven worth all the time, effort, and expense it has warranted.
    I’ve had three kids go through three complete 2-8 cycles. It is useless and only detracts from allowing teachers to do what they were trained to do. We end up losing valuable teaching time the week before PACT (gotta let the kids rest up so they score well), during PACT, and after PACT. Nothing happens in the schools after PACT is completed. We get 180 days to teach the kids each year… we lose at least 12 due to PACT.
    Are we saving summers? No. We’ll get a little extra this year. Did we lose days from prior summer breaks every year for several years as PACT was implemented and the start date moved up? Yes.
    FYI, I would have no problem with year round school.

    Reply
  47. LexWolf

    Amazing! 49 posts so far and nobody mentions the fact that we already have school choice — if you can afford it! If you are wealthy enough, you exercise school choice by buying or renting a home near a good public school or you shell out big bucks for private school tuition. If you’re not wealthy enough, you’re SOL and stuck with sending your kid to whatever school some educrat has deemed proper for you, no matter how horrible that school might be.
    The real issue is whether not-so-wealthy parents who can’t afford it now will ever be given any choice in where their kids are educated. Anything else is just misdirection, misinformation and meaningless blather.

    Reply
  48. Randy Ewart

    My interest in this issue had nothing to do with saving summers. It was directly related to the fact that the start date kept getting moved back due to PACT – Doug
    So your disagreement with a partial motive for moving start dates is your basis for ALL SC schools to be subjected the motivation of the coastal counties? Atleast you’re right about one aspect of this, the localities on the coast do have control.
    Again, did your survey question parents with students in AP classes? Did you ask parents if they were ok with their students having work over the winter break? YOU brought up the issue with your survey so explain it, how does shifting two weeks from August to June make a difference in vacation time?

    Reply
  49. Randy Ewart

    My interest in this issue had nothing to do with saving summers. It was directly related to the fact that the start date kept getting moved back due to PACT – Doug
    So your disagreement with a partial motive for moving start dates is your basis for ALL SC schools to be subjected the motivation of the coastal counties? Atleast you’re right about one aspect of this, the localities on the coast do have control.
    Again, did your survey question parents with students in AP classes? Did you ask parents if they were ok with their students having work over the winter break? YOU brought up the issue with your survey so explain it, how does shifting two weeks from August to June make a difference in vacation time?

    Reply
  50. Paul DeMarco

    Doug,
    I agree with your concerns about PACT. Jim Rex has similar concerns, I believe. I’m hoping that replacing PACT with MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Testing or some other less onerous but more informative instrument will be next on his radar screen.

    Reply
  51. Doug

    Randy,
    It’s impossible to debate with you. You twist everything around and only see what you want to see. I never denigrated AP classes; I never said I supported Save Our Summers; I specifically said the survey we did was at an elementary school. There is very little overlap between parents with elementary school students and AP students
    so as I’ve been saying all along, it’s a non-factor to most parents.
    This whole rathole started because you said “We are starting school in Columbia late this fall because of schools in Horry County.” You’re wrong. It is a statewide and nationwide response by parents to school boards messing with the calendar to try and get in as many days as they can before PACT testing. You can think that AP tests factored into the equation to start school earlier but it didn’t. If it did, show me evidence of efforts to change the start date for that reason prior to PACT being implemented. Your myopic view of the world from inside your AP classroom doesn’t reflect the views of the parents of 700,000 students in the state. The majority of those parents want school to start in late August no matter how many times you tell them the world will end if your kids don’t get two extra weeks before the AP tests. Your claims are weakened by the fact that across the country thousands of AP students start school at the end of August or even (horrors!) after Labor Day and yet still manage to pass the tests.
    I did not say shifting two weeks saves vacation time. Shifting two weeks does what it says it does. Parents are comfortable for whatever reason with vacationing in July and August. That’s
    it.

    Reply
  52. Randy Ewart

    Doug,
    this started when you completely denied the influence of Horry County and stated that it had to do with parents. Well, what is the issue associated with parents? SUMMER TIME as in SAVE SC SUMMERS. You clearly pushed their position as the cause for the Uniform Late School Start. How is that “twisting” your argument. The parent driven website, Save SC Summers, stated that this whole push started with Horry County, which was my original point.
    The only twisting I see is your effort to shift every debate on education to be associated with PACT.

    Reply
  53. Lee

    If the parents are not being listened to by arrogant local superintendents and school boards, then the legislature has a proper role to set limits, before the tyrants gradually abolish summer vacation.

    Reply
  54. Lee

    If the parents are not being listened to by arrogant local superintendents and school boards, then the legislature has a proper role to set limits, before the tyrants gradually abolish summer vacation.

    Reply
  55. Doug

    According to today’s paper, Richland District 2 Superintendent Steve Hefner received a $4000 bonus for having 70% of the AP students in the district pass tests. That was in addition to another $15,000 in bonuses for meeting other goals (not coincidentally all tied to H.S. performance, none tied to PACT “accountability”) , bringing his total salary to nearly $200K.
    70% passing rate = $4000
    70% score on a test in the classroom = D+
    Wonder how much will be shared with the teachers who actually delivered the results?
    http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/16717894.htm

    Reply
  56. Randy Ewart

    Hefner has pushed for more students to take AP courses, which would likely reduce the passing rate.
    Doug, I agree with the need for more accountability associated with the PACT.
    The problem is reflected in the debate on choice and the late start. People take a piece meal or haphazard approach to education. There is no broad based or comprehensive plan. The only one to offer such a plan, Bob Staton, was swept aside by the short sighted choice crowd in the primary.
    Consider this, R2 and R1 constantly have their board members return to office (by the public), the public pushes a shift of 2 weeks in the summer as a major issue, and the public asks nothing more of their superintendent than to be anti-choice (“saving” our public schools). Doug, while you are pointing the finger at PACT, point to the public as well.

    Reply
  57. Randy Ewart

    Hefner has pushed for more students to take AP courses, which would likely reduce the passing rate.
    Doug, I agree with the need for more accountability associated with the PACT.
    The problem is reflected in the debate on choice and the late start. People take a piece meal or haphazard approach to education. There is no broad based or comprehensive plan. The only one to offer such a plan, Bob Staton, was swept aside by the short sighted choice crowd in the primary.
    Consider this, R2 and R1 constantly have their board members return to office (by the public), the public pushes a shift of 2 weeks in the summer as a major issue, and the public asks nothing more of their superintendent than to be anti-choice (“saving” our public schools). Doug, while you are pointing the finger at PACT, point to the public as well.

    Reply
  58. LexWolf

    Feb. 16, 2007, 9:15PM
    Apple CEO Jobs attacks teacher unions
    AUSTIN — Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions today, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers.
    Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.
    “What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn’t get rid of people that they thought weren’t any good?” he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference.
    “Not really great ones because if you’re really smart you go, ‘I can’t win.'”
    In a rare joint appearance, Jobs shared the stage with competitor Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc. Both spoke to the gathering about the potential for bringing technological advances to classrooms.
    “I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way,” Jobs said.
    “This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy.”

    Reply
  59. Randy Ewart

    Sigh, Lex is up to his old tricks of posting an article to simplify a complex issue. Jobs is a computer whizard so clearly he’s an expert on the education system. Next Lex will quote Russell Crowe on global warming.
    There are bad teachers who have a negative effect, just as there are bad doctors. Are the problems in health care only attributed to these doctors? Put a good teacher in a bad situation and education will be stunted. There are many other factors involved.
    In SC, the teacher “union”, the SCEA, is weak. There is low membership and the organization does little more than pay for billboards and pass out buttons. It’s true that teachers can achieve a type of tenure, but I’ve seen first hand an administration run a “tenured” teacher out of a school. Further, the Northeast has some of the highest test scores and the strongest teacher unions. Jobs’ simplistic demogoguery doesn’t take this into account.
    If anything, the driving force behind bad teachers keeping jobs is the teacher shortage. Go to the CERRA website (SC teacher recruitment) and you’ll see a long list of open positions for THIS school year.

    Reply
  60. Doug

    Randy,
    Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the founders of Apple Computer, owe much of their success to all the Apple IIe’s and Macs that made their way into classrooms across the country back in the 80’s. Jobs has been closely involved with technology in education for nearly 30 years. Before you slam someone who isn’t part of the “brethren of teachers, local 347”, why not see if he’s got some credibility. Bet he could get a meeting with Jim Rex in a heartbeat.
    From Wikipedia:
    Apple’s sustained growth during the early 1980s was mostly due to its leadership in the education sector because of their adaption of the programming language LOGO, which was used in many schools with the Apple II. The drive into education was accentuated in California with the donation of one Apple II and one Apple LOGO software package to each public school in the state. The deal concluded between Steve Jobs and Jim Baroux of LCSI, and having required the support of Sacramento, established a strong and pervasive presence for Apple in all schools throughout California. The initial conquest of education environments was critical to Apple’s acceptance in the home where the earliest purchases of computers by parents was in support of children’s continued learning experience.

    Reply
  61. Randy Ewart

    Doug, that’s laughable. You suggest that “before I slam someone” I should check their credibility yet you consistently take pot shots at public education because of some personal grudge you carry and not because you have all the facts. I’m surprised you made it through a post without using your favorite four letters, P-A-C-T.
    Steve Jobs hardly has credibility regarding teacher issues because he knows how computers are installed at schools. Similarly, a GE technician can install all the mammography machines he wants, but that doesn’t make him an expert on breast cancer surgery.
    Doug, let’s talk about your credibility. Step out of that ivory tower and fill out a form to become a substitute for one day. Then share with us how the computer guy responsible for the technology in my classroom knows all about what I go through on a daily basis.

    Reply
  62. Lee

    Randy, your problem is that you play the anti-intellectual game of declaring that everyone who defeats you in debate can be ignored, because they are not qualified to deliver the facts which you are unable to explain away.

    Reply
  63. Doug

    Randy,
    I guess the technology teacher at Blytehwood H.S. who asked me to come in and give three presentations for the job fair and then act as a judge for a database design class project must think I’m unqualified as well.
    You have no idea how much time I have spent in classrooms… Maybe I’ll point you to the special needs classroom teacher in whose class I spent many hours.. she voted for me for school board… or maybe I can round up the 5th graders who I taught programming for a week for free a few summers ago… I can round up a dozen teachers in ten minutes who actively supported my campaign for school board.
    But teacher support is not the same as spending $20K on signs. Signs win.
    Your “logic” is bizarre. I can question the usefulness of PACT (and will be proven right very soon when it is eliminated). PACT is not a person. I take pot shots at education bureacrats and wasteful spending on technology. My “potshots” are not personal, they are directed at specific programs.
    It came to me the other day what the issue is. Some teachers cannot ever admit being wrong. They are accustomed to speaking and not being challenged.

    Reply
  64. Randy Ewart

    Doug,
    you’ve done a great deal more than simply point out “specific” problem areas. You have OFTEN used a broad brush to criticize our profession as a whole. I’m quite sure the teachers with whom you interact (and the one who voted for you) would not appreciate many of your posts on this site.
    I don’t deny that you are involved and I have repeatedly highlighted areas in which I believed you made good points. Regardless, my point still stands. You stated that Steve Jobs is highly qualified to analyze teachers because he knows how computers are used in education. I criticized your judgement in this situation, quite accurately I believe (talk about an unwillingness to admit a mistake).
    Again, come on in and take charge of a class ALL BY YOURSELF without a teacher holding your hand. Try it with students who are a little less interested than 5th graders working on computers on their own time. Then tell me how you and Steve Jobs understand what happens in our classrooms. Walk a mile in our shoes.

    Reply
  65. Randy Ewart

    Doug,
    you’ve done a great deal more than simply point out “specific” problem areas. You have OFTEN used a broad brush to criticize our profession as a whole. I’m quite sure the teachers with whom you interact (and the one who voted for you) would not appreciate many of your posts on this site.
    I don’t deny that you are involved and I have repeatedly highlighted areas in which I believed you made good points. Regardless, my point still stands. You stated that Steve Jobs is highly qualified to analyze teachers because he knows how computers are used in education. I criticized your judgement in this situation, quite accurately I believe (talk about an unwillingness to admit a mistake).
    Again, come on in and take charge of a class ALL BY YOURSELF without a teacher holding your hand. Try it with students who are a little less interested than 5th graders working on computers on their own time. Then tell me how you and Steve Jobs understand what happens in our classrooms. Walk a mile in our shoes.

    Reply
  66. LexWolf

    Apparently it has never occurred to Randy that employees of a bankrupt organization, as our public schools undoubtedly would be if they were a private business, don’t exactly have the most credibility on how to fix the organization.

    Reply
  67. Doug

    Randy,
    Using your “standards”, we would expect you would refrain from commenting on healthcare (which medical school did you attend?), politics (which office did you run for?), the military (which branch did you serve in?), religion (when was the last sermon you preached?)
    It’s called “perspective” – everyone has one. With education, we all have had some type of experience — as students, as parents (I’ve got 30 years combined there), volunteers, chaperones, school board members, etc. To presume that only a teacher can hold the true opinion on what our educational system should look like is very close minded. And as a taxpayer who pays for the educational system, I have every right to expect the most value for MY money. If you don’t want public oversight and comment, go to a private school.

    Reply
  68. Randy Ewart

    Doug, spare me the indignation.
    You go beyond opinion and perspective to paint us with a broad brush. For example, you belittled education by likening ALL education awards to a trophy in a rec hall. You came up with this “perspective” based on all that time you spend in the classroom… at a single school?
    I have explicitly stated that I agree with many of your points and that you made important points. What I take issue with is your reckless disparagement of education in general – and you talk about teachers not willing to admit a mistake.
    It’s one thing to have a perspective, it’s another to suggest, as Steve Jobs did, that you know it all. His misguided perception “what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way” is overly simplistic and reflects pure arrogance of thought. Let’s hear him, you, or Lexiewolf explain the paradox that the most teacher unionized states have the highest test scores. Which is it Doug, is PACT testing a major problem or is it unionized teachers? Jobs explicitly claims the latter.
    Lexie, after your girl Floyd was sent packing, you were no where to be found for a long time. Welcome back and hope you have some other ideas.

    Reply
  69. Doug

    Randy,
    When you don’t know the facts, make them up.
    “at a single school”
    My kids have been at one elementary school, two middle schools, and two high schools in Richland 2. I’ve spent time in classrooms, on multi-day field trips, at schools events, volunteerings, etc. at all of them. 30 years combined (8,10,12)…
    Most of my kids teachers have been good to excellent.. some have been awful (and parents know who they are… parents talk about good and bad teachers all the time).
    I’ve also got a wife who has worked as a teachers aide in the district for eight years. Hard to not hear things about what’s really going on in that case.
    When I was running for school board, I went to as many of the schools as I could and sat down with the principals to hear what they thought were the major issues they faced… some were honest, others just spouted the party line of “everything’s great”… I got tours of schools (like Ridge View with Dr. Buddin at the time)
    to see what was going on there. You want to paint me as some disconnected malcontent, but you look more foolish every time you try. I was intent on doing what I could as a board member to improve the work environment for teachers… too bad the public voted for all the incumbents plus the one who bought the most signs.
    How many kids do you have in Richland 2 schools? What do you do when your kids have a teacher who is below average (they do exist, you know)? Grin and bear it?
    And, yes, to me, all the school awards (Blue Ribbon, Red Carpet, Palmetto Gold, etc.) are like soccer trophies for everyone who shows up. I’ve observed the efforts people have made to obtain those awards… aside from the out-and-out fraud that goes on, it’s offers no value to the actual teaching process. If you need a trophy to get you fired up about work, let me know… my kids have dozens of them… I’d rather see you get a cash award for achieving a certain level of success with AP tests.

    Reply
  70. Randy Ewart

    Doug,
    Regarding the handful of schools you’ve dealt with, you really think this provides meaningful insight into ALL SC schools? Apparently you do because you stated in an earlier thread that if parents in poor counties really wanted their kids to make use of vouchers, they’d find a way to get them to private school. You went on to explain carpooling in Richland 2. In poor rural counties, simple carpooling may not be the option your myopic analysis suggests.
    Your personal vendetta undermines the valid points you have made on this blog. Education involves a great deal more than what Doug Ross learned from walking around some Richland 2 schools and teaching a voluntary summer computer course. Again, I challenge you to spend a day as a substitute. “Get all the facts” as you hypocritically suggest.
    By the way, one of these “trophies” awarded to an educator (which you dismiss with so little thought) was given to our principal for his work creating Winter Days at Spring Valley. It’s school wide community service effort in which STUDENTS collect THOUSANDS of canned goods for Harvest Hope, raise THOUSANDS of dollars for Children’s Garden, provide gifts for over 100 FOSTER kids, and collect THOUSANDS of toys for Toys for Tots. Your venomous effort to ridicule all education awards would therefore be dismissive of such an effort. It’s no wonder the voters refuse to drink your koolaid and vote you into office.

    Reply
  71. Doug

    Randy,
    I donated several hundred of those cans to Winter Days while my son was there. It’s a good cause… and I assume it is done without concern for whether there was a trophy given or not. Try another grasp at the straws…
    No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to be able to pigeonhole me as anti-education. You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve done.
    Maybe I will substitute some day before the school year ends. THEN can I complain?
    I’ve taught day-long computer classes several hundred times around the country for class sizes of 10-30… I know, IT ISN”T KIDS… that’s a COMPLETELY different thing… and then it will be that I haven’t taught a full semester of Spanish to albinos in Alabama…. at some point you’ll realize that your experience with education is just one view…

    Reply
  72. LexWolf

    Randy sez:
    “the most teacher unionized states have the highest test scores”
    I say: Link(s), please!!
    Doug says:
    “My kids have been at one elementary school, two middle schools, and two high schools in Richland 2…..I’ve also got a wife who has worked as a teachers aide in the district for eight years.”
    To which Randy sez:
    “Regarding the handful of schools you’ve dealt with, you really think this provides meaningful insight into ALL SC schools?”
    I say to Randy: How many schools have YOU spent time in? Haven’t you been at your current job for 13 or 16 years or something? Which other schools have you been at? What makes your perspective more credible than Doug’s? Especially considering that most evidence solidly backs him up!
    Somehow we have a Jekyll&Hyde-type Randy here. Every once in a blue moon he’ll come up with some amazingly candid and honest posts but the vast majority of the time he regresses to this stonewall-at-all-costs defense of the educracy for weeks at a time. Amazing!

    Reply
  73. Randy Ewart

    Doug,
    You make a disparaging remark about ALL education awards. I point out an example of a very worthy award, contradicting you. Your reply is to side step the issue of the merits of this award, instead suggesting that the award is not necessary. Face it, you were WRONG.
    After substituting for even one day, you’ll change your attitude because yes it IS “DIFFERENT.”
    I’m painting you as reckless with your remarks. You make many statements with little justification, e.g. the education awards and paint my profession and teachers with a single broad brush. If you can’t see the error in this, then perhaps you are anti-education. I’m quite sure those teachers who support you claim would feel the same after reading many of your posts. For example, go ask them how unionized teachers have destroyed education. They’ll laugh in your face.

    Reply
  74. Randy Ewart

    Welcome back Lexie. :)
    I would prefer address the issues and problems in education and I think I am more honest about these problems than most teachers. The so called Hyde in me comes out when you, Doug, Chrisw, and others post reckless and disparaging remarks about education as a whole. For example, my beef with you started when you dimissed SC schools as terrible. This is a broad generalization that is false. You rigidly and blindly defended this position, which was the foundation for your choice “plan”.
    Doug has made many good points which I have pointed out, repeatedly. Then Doug jumps in with his hate mongering, for example he tries to defend Steven Jobs for his absurd statement that THE problem in education is unionized schools.
    Neither of you has yet to explain how the most unionized states have the highest test scores. This one fact, along with many others, blows his misguided claim out of the water.
    The bottom line is I take issue with these misguided posts.

    Reply
  75. Doug

    Randy,
    Do you know the difference between an award you are given for good work and one that you have to submit an application for (an application that is open to all sorts of fraud)? I saw firsthand people fudging numbers on the applications for Blue Ribbon school awards in order to obtain them. It’s like those “Who’s Who In ” books that are shilled to people willing to pay $50 to see their name in print.
    A good school should be its own reward. And the individuals who contribute to making a good school should see personal rewards in their paychecks. Spending hundreds of man hours to complete an application for these school awards just so you can hang a banner is a waste of time and resources in my opinion. Faking the numbers to achieve the award is unethical.
    You claimed Steve Jobs had no right to speak on the issue of teachers unions, comparing him to Russell Crowe talking about global warming. I simply pointed out that Jobs has a long history working with educators which gives him credibility to discuss the issue. You make blind assumptions about people based on snippets of text… I guess if he spouted the party line of “I love all teachers! Yay!” then his background wouldn’t matter, eh?

    Reply
  76. LexWolf

    “Neither of you has yet to explain how the most unionized states have the highest test scores. ”
    We might do that once YOU provide a link that supports your claim, as I asked you before!
    BTW, shouldn’t it be ‘Neither of you have yet explained…’ or ‘Both of you have yet to explain…’?

    Reply
  77. Doug

    Hey, Randy.. go to this website and see who’s on Jim Rex’s “Transition Team” – responsible for overhauling SC educational system.
    http://www.ed.sc.gov/agency/transition/transitionteam.html
    Here’s some names from the 97 member list who don’t appear to have any teaching background. Maybe you should let Rex know that he’s a fool to gather input from these people… I mean what could they possibly add to the conversation if they haven’t at least taught one day of school? Who cares what dentists, doctors, farmers, pastors, mayors, sheriffs, builders, CEO’s, etc. think?
    http://www.ed.sc.gov/agency/transition/transitionteam.html
    Don Bailey
    Business owner
    Mount Pleasant
    Susan Bowman
    nonprofit consultant
    Chapin
    Michelle Brinn
    Greenville Chamber of Commerce
    Greenville
    Ken Clark
    Member, South Carolina House of Representatives
    Swansea
    Thelma Dawson
    Dentist
    Darlington
    Emile Defelice
    Farmer
    St. Matthews
    Paul DeMarco
    Medical Doctor
    Marion
    Trip DuBard
    Nonprofit Director
    Florence
    Theodore Dubose
    Attorney
    Columbia
    Doug Echols
    Mayor, City of Rock Hill
    Rock Hill
    Bud Ferillo
    Public Relations Executive
    Columbia
    Vince Ford
    VP, Palmetto Richland Health
    Columbia
    Ben Harrison
    CEO, Amick Farms
    Batesburg
    Susan Heath
    Retired Clergy
    Columbia
    Don Herriott
    President, Roche Carolina
    Florence
    Ted Hopkins
    Attorney
    Columbia
    Charles Jackson
    Pastor, Brookland Baptist Church
    Columbia
    Harry Lightsey
    President, BellSouth
    Columbia
    Erwin Maddrey
    President, Delta Woodside Mills
    Greenville
    Elizabeth Moffley
    Business owner
    Mt. Pleasant
    Steve Morrison
    Attorney
    Columbia
    Floyd Nicholson
    Mayor, City of Greenwood
    Greenwood
    Rick Ott
    VP, MB Kahn Construction
    Columbia
    Liz Patterson
    Former Congresswoman
    Spartanburg
    Otis Rawl
    VP, SC Chamber of Commerce
    Columbia
    Ed Sellers
    President, BlueCross BlueShield of SC
    Columbia
    June Shissias
    Former member, SC House of Representatives
    Columbia
    Bob Staton
    former CEO, Colonial Life
    Lexington
    Herman Young
    Sheriff, Fairfield County
    Blair

    Reply
  78. Randy Ewart

    Doug, why are you nuancing your statement about the awards? Stick by your origninal statements that all education awards are mere rec hall trophies. Your reckless, disparaging and misguided statements speak volumes.
    Steve Jobs made a similar blowhard comment using a broad brush to over simplify a problem. Are you going to offer nuances about this as well? Again, go ask those teachers who supposedly support you what they think about unionized schools being “THE problem in education”.
    Again, I’m impressed with your super inductive powers of attributing “fraud” to all educators working on awards based on your experiences at a handful of Richland 2 schools. What do those supportive teachers think about these comments?
    You’d be a great fit in those Holiday Inn Express commercials.
    Lexie, the last time I posted a link, you had trouble navigating the site and understanding the basic vocabulary, like “median”. Try looking up something on your own…something other than partisan articles.

    Reply
  79. Randy Ewart

    Doug, sigh, let’s try this again…
    I have REPEATEDLY agreed with many points you have made.
    I also explained that I take issue with the RECKLESS and OVERLYSIMPLISTIC statements you make and which you justify because of your experience at a handful of schools.
    It’s a shame that such demogoguery and disparaging comments undermines the credibility that you otherwise would enjoy. I’d bet the ranch you didn’t make such wild and misguided statements to these teachers you claim supported you.

    Reply
  80. LexWolf

    I say to Randy: How many schools have YOU spent time in? Haven’t you been at your current job for 13 or 16 years or something? Which other schools have you been at? What makes your perspective more credible than Doug’s? Especially considering that most evidence solidly backs him up!

    Reply
  81. Doug

    Randy,
    I’m not nuancing anything… The Palmetto Gold, Red Carpet, and Blue Ribbon awards are the ones I have SPECIFICALLY mentioned… They add no value to the educational process. They are completely subjective and rely more on the ability of the submitter’s ability to write than on facts. Schools need to stay out of the marketing business.
    Just wondering which of the members of Rex’s transition team you would suggest we ignore? Me, I might wonder whether it’s a good idea to have a member of one of the largest school construction companies trying to influence education in this state.

    Reply
  82. LexWolf

    “Schools need to stay out of the marketing business.”
    I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you on this one. One of the biggest problems with public schools is precisely that they don’t (have to) market themselves. They get their educrat plantation serfs no matter how much or how little they market themselves. They have little or no incentive to do a superior job which would allow them attract more customers, read students. After all, the kiddos will always be there since they have nowhere else to go unless their parents are wealthy enough to pay for private school tuition. If we had a real choice system public schools would have no alternative but to improve and market themselves based on their achievements.

    Reply
  83. J.R Green

    Doug, schools do not apply for the Palmetto Gold or Blue Ribbon award. The state department makes those awards based on objective data that they gather. Several years ago schools could apply for a Blue Ribbon Award, but that has changed. The number of schools that each state is allowed to nominate is based on the student population in that state. The following links will explain both awards.
    J.R. Green
    http://ed.sc.gov/news/more.cfm?articleID=721
    http://ed.sc.gov/news/more.cfm?articleID=701

    Reply
  84. Randy Ewart

    And, yes, to me, all the school awards (Blue Ribbon, Red Carpet, Palmetto Gold, etc.) are like soccer trophies for everyone who shows up. – Doug
    I’m not nuancing anything… The Palmetto Gold, Red Carpet, and Blue Ribbon awards are the ones I have SPECIFICALLY mentioned… – Doug
    You put “ALL” awards in the same category – a clear contradiction.
    I’ve observed the efforts people have made to obtain those awards… aside from the out-and-out fraud that goes on – Doug
    If you saw it yourself, then it must be true for “ALL” awards at “ALL” schools.
    If you need a trophy to get you fired up about work, let me know… my kids have dozens of them… – Doug
    I have made this my profession so clearly it’s not a matter of some trophy motivating me. I do more than spend a week teaching summer computer camp to volunteers and I don’t have a teacher holding my hand while I explain some topic for two days.
    I’ve had a student shove me, another scream at me that I’m racist, another tell me to f-off, a parent berate me because her son cussed and I wrote him up and my salary when I first started teaching 13 years ago with a college degree was 21k. If we are recognized for our work, like receiving the Winter Days award, I am proud because what we do is more than winning some rec league.

    Reply
  85. LexWolf

    Randy, you’re such an amazingly great teacher that if only all other teachers in this state were like you we would obviously be #1 in the nation!! Heck, we’d be #1 in the world! Shame on those other sluggard teachers that are pulling us down to #49 out of 50.

    Reply
  86. Doug

    You win, Randy. I went back and reviewed what I wrote and I did use the word “all”. That completely negates my opinions. ALL of them.
    You should go back and review your comments in this post. The level of vitriol seems to be matching that of your out of control students.
    Still waiting for you to tell us which members of Rex’s transition team should be ignored due to their lack of in-class teaching experience.

    Reply
  87. Randy Ewart

    Doug, why don’t YOU go back and read my posts. I have regularly given you credit for “insight” and “great points”.
    What I take issue with is your disparaging broad based remarks regarding education such as lumping “ALL” awards together. It is indefensible to suggest that such comments are accurate based on personal observation.
    I’ll always take a stand, as a bulldog if necessary, to defend the good work WE do. If you’re going to post hateful remarks don’t cry about having similar remarks directed back at you.
    I have offered repeated critical posts directed towards specific problems in education. I am not for the status quo and have made that clear. There are some very good aspects as well so don’t lump all those together with simplistic generalizations. If you want to address the specific problems, like you sometimes do, I’m a willing participant.

    Reply
  88. Lee

    Randy, stop lying to yourself.
    No one “lumped all awards together”.
    They named a bunch of awards that are just junk, and noted that all the self-congratulation that goes on inside the bubble of government schools is no answer to customer complaints, an no substitute for accountability to the customers.
    Real accountability means the customer being able to take their business elsewhere, and rotten employees being told to clean out their desks on 5 minutes notice.

    Reply

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