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In all of the debate about Common Core and its related testing we are missing the real problem facing teachers and parents today. That problem is the placing of educational decisions in the hands of non-educators. Worse still these non-educators are often people who do not believe in or support public education.
I first became aware of what was happening when Governor Abbott of Texas appointed Donna Bahorich, a parent who home-schooled her three children before sending them to private school, to head the Texas State Board of Education. Ms. Bahorich has been a board member for the last two years during which time she voted to reject a Board proposal to ban vouchers for private school tuition and voted for the new Texas textbooks. She is now the Chair of the State Board. It has been noted by critics that since 94% of Texas students attend public school it probably isn’t a good idea to have a Chair of the state board who has no experience with public schools.
I hoped when I first heard about the Texas decision that it was just one aberration in one state. Unfortunately, I was wrong. On July 29, 2015, Governor Bentley of Alabama appointed Matthew Brown to represent his own district on the State Board of Education. Mr. Brown was home schooled through high school, has stated that he will never send his own children to public school, and has never shown any interest in helping public education. Worse still, Brown led a campaign to defeat a school tax that would have helped the schools in his county.
After these decisions in two states I became concerned that this might be a new trend in educational decision making. So I asked teachers that I know if they had heard any other such situations. And sadly I was informed of two similar situations.
Illinois has its own idea about who should be leading the state’s education department. Newly elected Governor Rauner has gone in a different direction. He has named an "Education Czar" on a contractual basis. The person he has chosen is Beth Purvis of the Chicago International Charter School non-profit. Purvis has been referred to as the former CEO of the non-profit when she was announced as Rauner’s choice but this writer has had difficulty finding who the current CEO is. Purvis is receiving a $250,000 yearly contracted salary without benefits. Purvis has stated that the Governor is not going to focus on charter schools but it is interesting that the Rauner Family Foundation has contributed to the Chicago International Charter School organization and that Ms. Purvis was a member of his transition team.
In Connecticut, the state legislature passed a bill requiring that the Commissioner of Education have some teaching and education experience. This bill was passed almost unanimously in both houses of the Connecticut legislature as the Governor’s previous appointee had no such experience. Governor Malloy vetoed the bill. In a decision that seems to have many political watchers baffled the state legislature chose not to hold an override vote on the veto. At least there is a good ending to this situation. Governor Malloy did appoint Dr. Dianna R. Wentzell who has taught in the state’s public school system for 25 years.
There are several reasons to be concerned about these appointments. First, while home schooling may be right for some families it certainly doesn’t work for most. In the case of the Alabama decision, how can someone who has never set foot in a public school have the background to make a sensible decision about funding or curriculum? Secondly, although Governor Malloy ended up appointing a Commissioner of Education who had actually taught in public schools, why was he so opposed to having a law that made it a requirement? Finally, Illinois Governor Rauner chose someone who was the CEO of a charter school organization that has a total of fourteen different schools managed by five different management companies. The working conditions and salaries for these schools depend upon what management company is running a school. Could the governor’s choice have anything to do with the fact that he does not believe that public employees should all be paid the same salary for the same job?
While I do not have the answer to the questions I just posed, I can say that parents, teachers, and taxpayers should be concerned about some of the educational decisions that are being made. We live in a complicated and technologically driven world and we need a highly educated population to solve the problems that may arise in the near future.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]