Reforming K-12: Scarborough Blames Teachers Unions 2

Today on Morning Joe, Joe went crazy accusing Howard Dean of being a liar when it comes to education reform and blaming Democrats and Teachers unions for the state of our k-12 system. Public schools just like reproductive rights attract Republican attacks often.

Scarborough was not just rude, he is wrong and it is easy to blame the teachers unions for everything. Joe is wrong when he first begins to speak about education reform, he says: “Republicans love to talk about education reform, it’s the Democrats that don’t like to talk about education reform.” This is where is he is not just wrong he is lying.  Republicans like to talk about getting rid of teachers unions and charter schools, that is all they talk about when they address reforming the k-12  They never discuss the actual problem educating large diverse population with a variety of needs. It is easier though to present the problem as simple, with easy solutions, but if there were such easy solutions as Joe seems to believe, the problems would have been solved 30 or more years ago.

Joe happens to be continuing to rant on this issue on twitter, which is how I found out he went on this epic rant this morning against Howard Dean. He is ranting to prove himself right. Joe doens’t offer facts though, just opinions. He is only convincing people who already believe what he believes, he isn’t convincing anyone who knows the facts.

Let’s discuss real reform and why we have many underperforming school districts, this will be something Joe Scarborough and his ilk will not discuss because there is no way to gain the political upper hand if  he were to really talk about how to reform our k-12 public schools.

Let’s take Joe’s biggest talking point he said: “We as a nation spend more money per child than any other nation in the world.”

Wrong, we are third coming in behind Switzerland and Norway but that doesn’t mean anything really. Our funding mechanisms, student populations are completely different.

But let’s talk about the Charter School panacea, that Republicans never stop talking about. We know now that Charter Schools more often than not do not educate students adequately. And yet they never ever stop with the “We need more charter schools and we need to get rid of teacher unions”.

Charter schools are notorious for not taking students with special needs, public schools are mandated of course through title i, to educate special needs students. This is part of the reason that the job of the traditional public school system, which still educates about 95 percent of all school children, is far more complicated than Republicans and conservatives who advocate reform want you to know. Reform to them is no teacher unions and no title i funding, I wonder how many kids would remain uneducated if Joe and his Republican goon friends got to do what they really wanted to do, complete the circle, subpar education for everyone who doesn’t have money and no college education for those who don’t have access to at least 50,000 for tuition.

We also have some facts now on charter schools, let’s take Florida’s charter school the International Academy, funded by public dollars and run by a private businesses. Well when all the schools took the FCAT, the International Academy garnered a grade of F. Yeah, even though they get to reject subpar students, they still scored an F.  In Miami-Dade a greater percentage of charter schools failed the FCAT than did public schools and in Broward county all the schools that failed were Charter schools. According to a CBS report in Florida;

“A CBS4 News analysis of Department of Education numbers shows fewer than one percent of public elementary and middle schools received an “F” in grades released last week.  In contrast, nearly six percent of charter schools received an “F.”

Charter schools got failing grades at a rate more than seven times that of public schools.”

But Florida isn’t the only example of this of course, let’s talk about New York State and charter schools.

Charter schools in New York City and everywhere else have yet to prove that they can solve the problem that is America’s education system. In the South Bronx, the Academic Leadership Charter School has been put on probation this week for not randomizing admissions—as charter schools are supposed to do—and possibly testing or interviewing applicants, which they are not, the Times reports.

This is a typical tactic of charter schools, yet empirical evidence exposes that despite their built-in test-score advantage of not accepting every student, they don’t outperform public schools in any meaningful way.

Then of course we have the Houston, Texas scandal. Is privatizing public schools really the way to educate students? Doesn’t seem to be, unless you want uneducated students. Charter schools over and over again, in state after state do not educated children any better than public schools, although in many cases those schools perform worse than public schools and are not educating students. I imagine it is because those private companies who are running these schools care more lining their pockets than they do about educating students.  With Republicans corporate profits = #winning, educating all students = #losing

New Jersey is just another example of the failure of charter schools. This more progressive state has the same problem with their charter schools that the other states have had, they have a high rate of failure, in fact 40 charter schools in New Jersey have lost their licenses to operate.

According to the article:

Advocates continue to argue that charters’ freedom to innovate allows them to provide an intense focus on achievement lacking in many traditional public schools, particularly in poor urban communities like Trenton, where test scores remain far below state averages and large numbers of students drop out.

I have to ask Joe Scarborough why this is adequate for children whose parents can’t afford private schools, why it is okay to not serve special ed students equally, and why it is Republicans always blame teachers unions for the failure to educate students when the issue is much more complex and has very little to do with teacher’s unions and much more to do with how states and levy’s fund school districts and educating diverse populations?  Public schools continue to do a better job in educating our students over-all. Charter Schools have yet to achieve the rigor and standards of public schools. Hey Joe, it’s easier to play politics with issue of public schools then solve problems! Yelling a Howard Dean proves this.

Next blog: Complexity of school funding and educating disaffected populations

Crossposted @DAGBlog

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Helping the Working Poor — A Practical Defense of PPACA 3

The Health Care Bill, more often than not, raises the ire of both conservatives and progressives. They’ve teamed up to spread as much misinformation about the bill as possible. Why? I am not sure, because this bill goes a long way to get more people access to health care.

I think it all began with a guy named Howard Dean and some comments he made In December of 2009.  Dean was very angry that the public option was eliminated from the Senate bill. The target of Dean’s rant was Joe Lieberman, ( I)CT, he was pretty pissed at Lieberman and he seemed to feel no bill would be better than this bill now. He was angry at the process. And his anger is not unfounded. This Senate has become a branch of our government that is immovable, ideologically entrenched, almost completely unable to pass any worthwhile legislation. Dr. Dean was pretty pissed about that, as we all should be. However, instead of directing his anger at the improbable 60 vote requirement to pass any legislation of substance, he decided it would be time to just let Republicans win by killing the bill. That didn’t happen of course, but that was an extreme reaction, one Republicans were relying upon, this is where they were able to begin to sow the seeds of discontent among voters, they have filled the air with misinformation, with the help of people who are otherwise quite progressive. All that discontent, and the Executive Branches unbelievable inability to fight back against the propaganda has left people with a sour taste in their mouths when it comes to their thoughts about PPACA.

A number of people jumped on Dr. Dean’s bandwagon, Keith Olbermann went on the air to loudly proclaim why the Senate Bill should not be passed. Two days after Dean’s rant against the bill, a number of left leaning organizations and people banded together to help kill the bill:

Dave Linderhoff of The Public Record
Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake
Markos Moulitsas; Daily Kos Founder
Darcy Bruner; a past candidate for Congress

Lying about ACA has become something of a cottage industry. But don’t believe the hype, the reforms already implemented have brought down insurance costs, added more people to insurance rolls, new benefits for senior citizens, implemented necessary regulations regarding pre-existing conditions and an 80% requirement that premiums be spend on the consumers health care costs, with 20 mandated for administrative costs.

People who will benefit most from the bill:

  1. Those without any insurance.
  2. Those who have paid for expensive individual policies on their own.
  3. Employees of small businesses that have trouble affording the cost of joining a group plan.
  4. Low income Medicare participants who are left paying for whatever is not covered by Medicare for their medical bills and prescriptions.

Who is without access to health insurance? Some of those people are the working poor. It has been a long struggle to get federal legislation dealing with this problem, the estimates are there are some 45 million people without access to basic heath care.  In the past, some states attempted to solve this problem on their own by setting up their own state run “group” for people who didn’t qualify for Medicaid. When the boom of the 1990’s ran its course, those programs began to be cut severely because of the expense of running the programs and because states don’t have as much revenue since the economic downturn and they are having to make tough choices.  Many states of course never attempted such things. Washington State has such a program, but its funding has been cut in the past few years so although people may qualify by their income, there are no slots open to take them as customers, in fact the plan has had to disenroll people because of a lack of funding, in total 17,000 members were disenrolled.

However the results of PPACA have been positive.

  • More young adults have coverage
  • Requires beginning this year, insurers must spend 80% – 85% of premiums in actually delivering care
  • Premiums decreasing even for state employees.
  • Our health insurance plans now have to justify their premium rate increases to the State and pass an approval process before they can raise prices.
  • Because of the ACA, young adults can now stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
  • New York has something called “community rating,” which means that health insurers can’t charge you higher rates simply because of your age, gender, or health history.
  • Because of the ACA, we no longer have to pay co-pays for many preventative care services.
  • Because of the ACA, people with pre-existing conditions now have choices for coverage, one example the NY Bridge Plan.
  • Because of the ACA, seniors who hit the Medicare “donut hole” are now getting help with their prescription drug costs.
  • States like New York have a law in place called “guaranteed issue,” which means that insurers have to offer health insurance to everyone, even if they have a pre-existing condition (even though they have waiting periods for coverage related to that condition.  But thanks to the ACA – those waiting periods will soon be a thing of the past!). 
  • More changes to Pre-existing condition plans by states, here is a preview, premiums have decreased.
  • Premium and Cost sharing subsidies to individuals: the mechanism provides refundable and advanceable premium credits to eligible individuals and families who fall between 133% and 400% of FPL (Federal Poverty Level) to purchase insurance through state created health exchanges.
  • Provide Costsharing subsidies to eligible individuals and families. Cost-sharing credits reduce the cost sharing amounts and annual cost-sharing limits and have the effect of increasing the actuarial value of basic benefit plan to the following percentages of the full value of the plan:
    • 100 – 150% FPL  94%
    • 150 – 200% FPL  87%
    • 200 – 250% FPL  73%
    • 250 – 400% FPL  70%

Health Exchanges: a few examples

  • Vermont : passed legislation to build a single payer plan for the state of Vermont and in October  of this year, (2011) that plan got one step closer to implementation.

These new federal policies are working. I think this is good. There seems to be a small, but loud coalition of people on both sides of the ideological aisle who would have you believe PPACA is a complete failure, but the evidence says otherwise. Let’s stop letting them get away with their propaganda war against delivering health care to those who would not otherwise have access. Let’s fight back with the facts at hand, because the facts indicate the legislation is working.

Crossposted at DAGBlog