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Rhonda Robinson

Save a School–Fire a Teacher? Part 1

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Posted on March 4 2010 3:11 pm
Rhonda Robinson is part of NewsReal's editorial team. As a columnist, Rhonda has provided readers with thoughtful insight into social, political, and parenting issues since 1995.

It was 1987, and there I sat, with my son’s teacher, the principal, and a social worker. We were all sitting in chairs designed for third grade bottoms, shuffling papers, and discussing “my son’s” academic failures. I was quickly getting the impression that I had missed the first meeting; the one where all of the decisions had actually been made. This meeting with me was obviously a mere formality.

“Mrs. Robinson, I have really enjoyed having your son in my class,” the teacher explained, “but he didn’t learn anything this year…”

At that moment, their voices began to fade into background chatter, as my mind began to race. Their written plans and stated goals meant nothing, after five years (including kindergarten and a repeat of second grade) this small army of educators had failed to teach him to read and do basic math. All I knew was that, I had to succeed where they had failed.

What I didn’t know then, was that I had history on my side. I was taking back what was rightfully mine; the right and responsibility to educate my child.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned,  just a few years earlier the National Commission on Excellence in Education had issued a report calling to attention the “crisis” in American education. The reported stated,

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

In light of that report titled “A Nation At Risk” then President Reagan called for the more parental control, educational savings accounts, tuition tax credits, and abolishing the Department of Education. His initiatives never materialized. Instead the powerful teachers’ unions stood guard and ushered in a firestorm “reforms”; more money and more regulations.

Good teachers labor under the burden of federal regulations, and children are routinely used by unions as bargaining chips and tools for advancing a social agenda.

Recent case in point: Central Falls High School was labeled one of six “persistently low performing” districts in Rhode Island. The state Education Commissioner issued all six schools a March deadline to come up with a plan to improve their performance.

The Central Falls Superintendent requested the teachers among other things, to work an extra 25 minutes daily, and accept a formal tutoring schedule. The teachers were offered $30 hourly for some of the extra time, but were expected to donate time as well. The teachers’ union countered with $90 per hour—the school board vetoed the idea and voted to allow 74 high school teachers and a few other union members the opportunity to join the ranks of the unemployed at the end of the semester.

No one lost their job when they failed to teach my son to read, but in essence, I fired the lot of them. When parents, communities, and states take back the responsibilities of education, out of the hands of organized laborsocial engineering can be stopped and learning can begin.

Continued tomorrow…

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