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Archive for the tag “k-12”

EDUCATION TEXAS- IS TOP DOWN THE ANSWER?

 

Recently I read an article on chron.com, headed “Texas Politics” that got my attention. This article announced that a diverse group of Texas business, philanthropic and community leaders have formed a group named the “Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education”. It was described as a “nonpartisan group” of more than 200 founding members, innovators, job creators, former office holders and education advocates. Their mission was for Texas to lead the nation in higher education. It noted that this was done in support of governance proposed by Rick Perry.

The article went on to say that they were alarmed about the cuts in funding of research and professors. It was predicted as a prescription for mediocrity for Texas. I commend this group of concerned citizens for forming this movement.

It is a shame that our Governor, the legislature, these distinguished business leaders and scholars have no time or desire to improve our K-12 basic education. With all of the interest in higher education Texas has decimated the primary education programs. With no facts to support the spending of billions of dollars by adding more testing in lieu of discipline and better teachers is idiotic at best. Adding additional math and science courses with no foundation or preparation will be another disaster. Creating new testing programs appear designed as a way to evaluate teachers rather than improve our children’s knowledge.

We can’t afford to downgrade education in Texas as our current standing in 43rd place out of 50 states in K-12 schools is unacceptable. Testing does not improve knowledge, teachers do.

This new higher education drive does not even follow the laws of nature. To get an pecan tree we plant, water andFertilize a pecan. We do not wait until it reaches adult life to nourish its growth.

Most of the people who formed this new group, our academics, legislators, business leaders and Governor Perry were educated in another era like myself. We did not have discipline problems, aliens, and a welfare society to distract K-12 education. We also had fewer one parent children and parents who shared education responsibilities. Now we expect a teacher in K-12, who is responsible to teach, to also provide nurturing and discipline that is a parental obligation. Teachers spend an enormous amount of time defending their actions with parents.

Common sense will prevail that not every teacher is perfect and some will need guidance and some removed from education. If anyone believes that every K-12 child is 100% angel, they need an awakening. Our Texas leaders have decided, without any facts that the solution will be to use outside testing agencies to evaluate teacher and administrator performance.

We now live in a technological era where the entire problem could be isolated and corrected at a fraction of the costs of the STAAR testing program.

All that needs to be done is to install a digital sound camera in every classroom, office and board room from kindergarten to graduate school. This would provide the facts necessary to know exactly what to do to improve education at every level. This would pinpoint teacher, administrator, student and school board performance evaluation. Parents could witness discipline problems; administrators could review teacher performance; school boards could evaluate administrators and the state could evaluate school boards. This is what a business would do if their costs keep increasing and the performance diminished. Doing the right thing right, every time, is called success and common sense. Unfortunately politicians have little business or common sense.

How many teachers, administrators, school boards, university/college professors and trustees will fight these suggestions? All of them will. Unfortunately politicians will just ignore them.

Hoping that a child will be smarter with testing, so the professors in college task will be easier is a pipe dream. From my perspective our leadership in Texas has their education priorities bassackwards. Pardon my east Texas vocabulary.

Clyde Brewer

EDUCATION TEXAS-SALARY FACTS AND FIGURES

 

Over the past several weeks I have posted a series of articles about the proposed reduction of state funds for educating our children. At this juncture I can make one solid statement that our Governor and Legislature are so wrapped up in politics; they have no concept of the real Texas education administrative costs. Most of the blame expressed by the politicians is waste at the local school district level and action at that level certainly needs focused attention. 

I have spent several hours on the internet collecting some actual facts that are available for public review. Although all of the actual figures are not directly related to education, you should find some of the numbers interesting, I did. I found most of these facts at THE TEXAS TRIBUNE website.

The 25 highest paid state employees are all education related. The highest paid is Mack Brown, University of Texas (UT) head football coach, whose annual salary is $2,511,667.00 (ESPN’s website shows his salary to be over $5,000,000.00). Second place go’s to another UT coach, Richard D. Barnes at $2,916,667.00. Fourth place is Texas Tech coach, Thomas Tuberville, at $1,500,000.00. Thirteenth place is UT coach, Gail A. Goestenkors, at $930,834.00. Eighteenth place is UT coach, August E. Garndo, at $760,000.00 and at 25th place is Clarence Byme, Texas A&M athletic director at $711,434.00. The other eighteen individuals on the highest 25 paid state employees are all professors at various medical schools. Their salaries ranged from $700,000.00 to $$1,750,000.00.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has a total of 1054 employees doing something. The highest salary is $480,000.00, lowest is $21,015.00 and the average is $60,875.00. This produces a total salary only expense for the TEA of $64,162,250.00. Do they actually teach the student anything?

I found another state agency I was not aware of, the Texas Teacher Retirement System. This agency has 511 employees with the highest salary being $480,000.00; the lowest is $20,217.00 and the average of $56,116.00. This amounts to an annual salary only expense of $28,675,276.00.

The Tribune reports that there are 1154 school superintendents in Texas. Apparently some of the 1265 districts do not have any superintendents. Many of the school districts are charter schools. A review reveals that the Beaumont ISD superintendent, Carrol Thomas has the highest salary of $347,834.00. There are 78 that make more than $200,000.00; 511 earn between $100-200,000.00; 475 earn between $50-100,000.00 and 90 that make less than $50,000.00. Other than the outlandish salary in Beaumont, school superintendents are not overpaid. When you compare most to business leaders they are underpaid. The University of Texas alone has 190 positions that pay salaries over $200,000.00. The President, William Powers, salary is $511,491.00. The wide separation between the pay for a college professor and a K-12 school superintendent is another concern that Austin and the TEA have priority problems.

Wow, it would be nice to really know the true costs of education at the state level. If I had a staff to research this I would. It would be interesting to know if our Governor or Legislators had even a foggy idea of what a business would call overhead. At most only 25 of the above would ever come face to face with a student. Can you imagine what these costs would be if fringe benefits were available to review?

While I was accumulating these facts I decided to look at the entire State of Texas salary structure. The Tribune reports that the state currently has 660,000 employees. They report that we have 434,210 who have a salary up to $50,000.00; 203,795 with a salary from $50-100,000.00; 14,728 with a salary from $100-150,000.00; 2,783 with a salary from $150-200,000.00; 1,404 with a salary from 200-250,000.00; 786 with a salary from $250-300,000.00 and 2,294 with salaries from $300,000.000 to the $2,511,667.00.

By the way we pay Governor Perry $150,000.00 a year plus fringes. If every student in our universities had the brains to accumulate this knowledge, they would be idiots if they did not pursue a career in public service. You can’t blame this situation on the republicans now in power as the roots of these systems were created during democratic majority years. When you multiply this by all 50 states and throw in the education waste generated in Washington, it should tell the common folks that it is time to demand change.

What we all can do is blame the current republican leadership in Austin if they fail to understand and correct the problems that are so evident. Shifting the burden to the next generation to fix this is unacceptable to me. Are you satisfied? Please send me your comments and send your questions to your state Senator and/or Representative.

The sad part is the K-12 children are at the bottom of the priorities in Austin. That is probably because they can’t vote.

Clyde Brewer

EDUCATION TEXAS-SHOULD TESTING BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN TEACHING?

 

 

The good news for teachers is that the ill-fated Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) testing will be given a well deserved funeral in 2011. This was an unfunded mandate that never deserved a breath and actually replaced valuable teacher time. Teachers were forced to teach for the test rather than teach to have students gain knowledge.

The bad news is our illustrious Legislature mandated 12 end-of–course assessments for high school students in Senate Bill 1031 in 2007 and created new graduation requirements for an additional year of math and science plus grade 3-8 assessments in House Bill 3 in 2009. This resulted in a new State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness or STAAR test to replace TAKS. Wow!

So STAAR grades 3-8 test will include:

Grade 3 Reading and Math

Grade 4 Reading, Math and Writing

Grade 5 Reading, Math and Science

Grade 6 Reading and Math

Grade 7 Reading, Math and Writing

Grade 8 Reading, Math, Science and Social Studies.

STAAR High School tests will include:

English I, English II, English III, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, World Geography, World History, and United States History. 

In plain language the new tests will be used beginning in the 2011-2012 school year. Students entering ninth grade next year will be the first who must meet the extra course in math and science and be subjected to the end-of-course testing requirements. By the way they must also pass their classes, in order to earn a diploma.

Another tidbit you have to search for is what does all of this STAAR surprise cost? A concerned citizen, using the open record law found the answer. The STAAR testing program has been awarded to a for-profit company in the amount of $468,382,617.00 that will cover the period from 2010-2015.

By the way, there has been no additional training developed for the K-12 administrators or teachers and they face not having textbooks or any preparatory classes to prepare students for the additional science/math requirements. Like the TAKS program teachers will be forced to teach to the STAAR requirements. Any failure of students to pass the tests will be blamed on the teachers like happened when TAKS produced negative results.

If our Superintendents and teachers were allowed to demand discipline there would be no need for a testing program. It is criminal that teachers must have liability insurance to protect their personal property. No wonder we have a broken system. It should be no surprise that our Texas education system in our prisons is highly successful, why? There is no discipline problem with prisoners. Why can’t educators accept that until teachers and administrators are allowed to demand discipline, wasting money with testing is irresponsible! They do not care.

Texas current academic performance measured with all states has diminished over the past few years and we are planning to slash the state funding as much as 20%. It appears that someone in Austin is back to smoking weeds. Only dreamers like the State Board of Education and the legislature can develop these pie-in-the-sky grandiose programs. They believe that they can cut spending and snap their fingers and all Texas students will be ready for the universities and we will have thousands of Academics and Rocket Scientists, available to find unemployment?

When will someone in America wake up and admit that every child will not attend a college or university. We spend billions year after year preparing all children to go to a place of higher learning, knowing full well most will never go.

America is the only industrialized nation on the planet that has little or no trades education for those who will eventually be policemen, firefighters, plumbers, carpenters, cosmetologists, small business owners, etc. Maybe if we could have courses to prepare some students for a political future, we could reduce the costs of our Congress and Legislatures. Most politicians are lawyers and they could be free to return to doing the legal work they were educated to perform. The way they have screwed up America, I suspect some would have to be re-educated on how to chase ambulances again!

For those who read my article on education in the Texas prisons, providing free trades education in high school might help the ones who are lost or drop out of school. Knowledge that would help them find jobs might keep some from joining gangs, selling drugs or other criminal activity. They would fit into society at graduation. Now, if they desire to learn a trade after high school, it is not free and the ones who can’t afford higher education certainly can’t afford the trade school fees.

The only way to get a free education today without grants is to go to prison. It would be nice if the U.S. Department of Education could provide PELL grants for a trade’s education initiative. They spend billions annually to send the under-privileged and the ill-prepared to a college or university with little or no hope that the majority will graduate. They try to make the shoe fit even if it is impossible and accomplish a ten percent result. If we would evaluate every child after the eighth grade and have two courses of opportunity, trades versus academics, we would have the right shoe on the right foot.

What I have outlined is nothing more than common sense. Sadly the academics and politicians that design and fund education were never subjected to a course in common sense and most have never had to make a payroll every week. The really sad part is they really do not care about our children as they just want power and prestige.

For those who wish to keep up with education in Texas, you will find a lot of information on the Texas Education Agency website. I enjoy reading material at TexasISD.com which is the Homepage for Texas School Officials.

Clyde Brewer

EDUCATION IN TEXAS-ARE PRISONS THE PLACE TO PREPARE PEOPLE FOR THE FUTURE?

 

 

When “Perry’s Posse” announced a $9,000,000,000.00 cut in education funding for the next two years, they woke me up. The more I discover and read, the more problems both designed and ignored, rear their ugly heads. When they announced the possible elimination of $128 million in education funding for the prison system in mid-March, some people went ballistic.

Just discovering we had a prison educational program was news to me. After spending several hours reading some 600 pages of reports, charts, results and opinions, I will try to summarize my thoughts. Before I do, let me clearly state that I am not an enemy of educating anyone. I began my education experience at age 6, graduated high school at age 16, and finally completed my formal education with a Masters Degree at age 46, all in Texas. I have been a life member of the PTA for over 44 years and I love children.

Prison education is managed by the Windom School District. They have some 1300 employees at 90 prisons. They have existed for 41 years and the largest of Texas 1265 school districts. They currently have some 77,000 students. The district has 67 principals and librarians are paid $54,000 annually. Figures are from a March 17th article in the Austin American Statesman. I omitted their biased commentary.

Should you desire to pursue the following facts and figures, you can read the entire 2008-2009 Annual performance report and the 2010-2014 Strategic Plans on the Windom website.

Goals of the district include; (1) reduce recidivism; (2) reduce the costs of confinement or imprisonment; (3) increase the success of former inmates to behave in positive ways during confinement; and (4) provide an incentive to inmates to behave in positive ways during confinement or imprisonment.

I have previously written that the word “behave” is totally different today than when I was in K-12. If the 150,000 inmates in the Texas prisons were made to behave when in K-12 they possibly would not be in prison today?

The district provides 28 full-length Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. I will summarize it with Automotive, Building Trades, Business, Computers, Culinary, Custodial, Heating/AC, Horticulture, Personal and Family Development, Truck Driving, Welding. They also offer advanced College Credit Vocational courses in 25 subjects, most in the same categories as the CTE programs.

Degrees and certificates awarded during the 2008-2009 academic year included the following

Associate Degrees…………………………………………………….382

Bachelor’s Degrees………………………………………………………36

Master’s Degrees…………………………………………………………11

2-year College Vocational Credit (CVC) Certificates.…. 1,717

2-year CVC Non-Credit Certificates………………………………198

2-year College Workforce Non-Credit………………………….1,310

In FY-2009 the Windom School District had revenues of $78,423,339.00 and expenditures of $76,136,551.00. The state provided $59,425,788 in revenue. The remaining revenue came from interest $91,294, Federal pass through $1,847,535, continuing education $2,694,308, Federal grant $2,020,618, contract $4,253,803, Project Rio $3,647,569, other $34,888, operating transfer-in $129,989, and carry forward $4,277,547. If you have questions, ask your State Senator or State Representative what these spooky descriptions mean. I was intrigued with “carry forward”. I asked them several questions two weeks ago and I did get a reply from my State Representative, Wayne Christian, on March 23. I have received no response from Robert Nichols my State Senator. I will share some interesting feedback from some educators on Mr. Christian’s response next week. Some of his figures are misleading and incorrect.

Our entire American education system is misdirected and one of the primary reasons we have so many people in our prisons. Most other industrialized nations have understood that education that prepares all students as equals in the language, arts, math, science, history and humanities is a disaster. They evaluate all students after the 8th grade and prepare the ones who struggle with options. Similar to the Texas prison program, they offer training in the trades during high school free. In America we force the disadvantaged, both academically and financially, to pay at a trade school or get it free in prison.

I am working on an article that will reveal the state financial inequity at the local level. I watch our Sabine County high school graduates forced to leave this rural area and their families as there are limited opportunities for any career.

U.S. EDUCATION GONE WILD

 

Last week there were two articles written by Kyle Olson and published on http://biggovernment.com . I encourage everyone to read the articles in this publication daily. You will find a link on this blog-site with every issue. I will share and paraphrase some of the highlights that will reveal some disturbing facts that our education system is broken. We the people must force Congress to eliminate the US Department of Education. In addition it is beyond too late to stop the runaway waste caused by the teacher unions. If we don’t we are destined to see our 2009 position of 22nd in Science, 27th in Math and 32nd in reading out of the top 32 industrialized nations. This is sick. 

Take a look at some facts. In too many places school districts have no funds for text books, laying off teachers and increasing class sizes beyond common sense.

One public school superintendent in Wayne Township, Indiana recently retired with a $1,000,000.00 golden parachute provided by the local school board. This consisted of a lump sum payout of $817,000.00 plus an additional $200,000.00 for 150 day assignment as Superintendent Emeritus. No one is sure what he was supposed to do for the $1300 per day expense to be paid by the taxpayers.

Kyle cites another example in Central Falls, Rhode Island where the school system and the city are on the edge of financial ruin. The Wall Street Journal reported that the district’s teachers are paid four times as much as the US median household income.

It is not over as last month the US Department of Education awarded a $1,300,000.00 grant to the Central Falls School District as part of our government’s effort to help improve the nation’s worst schools.

Kyle said; “The second realization I had was that taxpayers have been played for a bunch of dopes. Teacher unions and their political surrogates continually tell us we need to “invest” more and more in education. The reality is that while education spending has skyrocketed, student achievement has flattened. Taxpayers are getting a rotten return on their investment.” I think Kyle is too kind in his assessment!

In my blog last week, I mentioned a new film released named “Kids Aren’t Cars”. Kyle noted the following; “For teachers unions, it’s all about the money. A protester we encountered at a pro-tax increase rally last year in Springfield, Illinois underscored the point.” “Where is the money?” she asked as she rubbed her fingers together. “Save our children! Give us the bucks! Where’s the cash? We need it fast,” she said. Of course she does, or she may need to take a pay freeze or start contributing to her pension plan. She was savvy enough to work children into her demand.”

From 1980 to 2007 the U.S. increased K-12 education spending 571%. It was $101 billion in 2000 and $581 billion in 2007. That is $10,000 per student per year.

I bet you think that we had a big increase in learning for all of that expense? Wrong, every year our high school seniors take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT’s) to assess readiness for college. The average score for critical reading in 1980 was 502. The average score in 2007 for critical reading was 502. Not much bang for the buck. There was some improvement in math. The 1980 score was 492 and in 2007 it was 515, a modest 4.6% improvement in 27 years. I suppose this is why our world ranking in math was 27th in 2009. Our standing at 32nd place in reading out of the 32 nations measured should tell someone something other than money must be necessary to solve the problem. When kids can’t read they can’t learn. With our new texting language they can at least communicate with each other.

I am dedicated to reporting on our education problems until Congress has the courage to bite the union hands that feed them. I do not expect this to happen soon. I pray that the people will keep throwing them out until we find some who will serve our needs rather than get re-elected.

C Brewer

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