If we needed any more proof that the Obama Administration is going to be just as clueless as the Bush Administration was when it comes to improving our nation’s schools, we received the topper this week from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
When Duncan praised the school board of the Central Falls, R. I. School District for firing all of its high school teachers, he was putting the stamp of approval on a feel-good, no-nonsense solution that not only will not help Central Falls High School, but will steer the children on a direct path toward failure.
The board members were “showing courage and doing the right thing for kids,” Duncan said, apparently without taking a close examination of just what that action means for those same kids he thinks the board is helping.
Of course, Duncan has to take that stance since it is the administration’s policy that pushed the school board into that decision.
“In order to remain eligible for a portion of financial aid,” a CBS News article on the firings says, “the Central Falls district had to either come up with a strategy to improve with its existing teaching staff or start from scratch.”
After early negotiations with union officials failed, the board took the easy way out, fired everyone, and started anew with a blank slate.
What a fine message to send to our young people, and to the country as a whole, as we continue to struggle through a recession- if we don’t get our way, everybody goes and we have to hire a completely new staff- with absolutely no guarantees that the new staff will be any better equipped than the old staff to handle the problems at Central Falls High School. Meanwhile, qualified teachers, and there can be absolutely no doubt that the axe fell on many qualified teachers, are pounding the pavement looking for work.
When the Obama Administration and school officials embrace an all-or-nothing strategy, they are following the same bankrupt thinking that so-called educational reformers like Michelle Rhee in Washington, D. C.- closing schools and firing teachers, without rhyme nor much of a reason, does not necessarily translate into a better education for our children.
Much of the problem has been brought about by the refusal of educational unions to cleanse their ranks of incompetent and immoral teachers.
When unions allow teachers to languish in so-called “rubber rooms” in our largest cities, when they have been accused of having sex with students or when they have been proven to be totally incompetent in the classroom, or when they allow these same teachers to be passed from one school to another, they provide the ammunition for public school enemies like former 20/20 anchor and now Fox Business News reporter John Stossel, who hammers public education at every turn.
Allowing just one of these teachers to remain in a classroom, or for that matter to remain on the taxpayers’ dole, is enough to give Stossel, All Children Matter, and the rest of the educational voucher contingent free rein to indict every public school in the United States. It is wrong, but when we don’t take strong action to police our own ranks, we are handing those who want to destroy public education a loaded weapon.
Teachers who have room for improvement and who are willing to work to better themselves need encouragement and mentoring. Teachers who are thoroughly incompetent or morally bankrupt need to be shown the door and not given another year to damage impressionable children.
That being said, a policy that encourages school boards to fire everyone or lose federal funding is as lazy and incompetent as any of the teachers John Stossell and the voucher supporters trumpet (with nearly slanderous abandon) as indicative of all public school teachers.
When you sweep out all teachers, including the ones who have given their all and who have succeeded with countless children, you are not improving schools, you are hastening the destruction of public education.