Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Is Failing Our Neediest Students

At the recent joint session of Congress, President Trump framed education as “the civil rights issue of our time.” Unfortunately, this is another empty recitation. Let me explain.

President Obama knew the importance of solving one of the most vexing and potentially calamitous issues of today: educating our children for a rapidly changing career and demographic landscape.

He chose Arne Duncan as his choice for secretary of education. Both Duncan and Obama understood the sense of urgency needed to address the underachievement of too many American students, especially low-income Latino and African-American children. Even though both of them believed in the importance of accountability, very little progress was made to close the racial achievement gap in Obama’s two terms.

It is not an easy achievement. Neither is landing on the moon, but we achieved that goal.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2002) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, 2015) passed Congress with bipartisan support. In 2002 and again in 2015, a majority of our congressional leaders understood the importance of holding schools accountable for the academic performance of students that are forgotten and marginalized in public schools. However, under Trump we are at the precipice of taking draconian steps to create a system steeped in local control and little federal accountability—a toxic mix of policies.

On March 8, 2017, the U.S. Senate voted to block the ESSA, which creates accountability for how states rate and improve academic results for the poorest and most marginalized students. It’s a tragically under-reported story.

In addition, the new bill precludes the secretary of education from issuing any new regulations in the future. Now more than ever, America’s lowest achieving students need the support of Secretary Betsy DeVos. And yet, her voice has been notably silent.

DeVos’ has been outspoken not when it comes to equity in results, but in the name of parent choice, vouchers and charters.

The coin of the realm is high quality early learning programs, especially for the most marginalized children who begin kindergarten 1.5 years behind their peers. Children from more affluent families enter kindergarten with at least two years of quality early learning experiences.

Low-income children lose out in the summer by staying at home while their wealthier counterparts participate in camps, clubs, travel and other enriching experiences. This gap persists through high school, as evidenced by a large percentage of high school graduates needing remediation in math and English when entering college. This coursework creates a huge expense we cannot afford. Early learning is the answer and the return on its investment is huge.

Quality early education in two-year doses and extended school years for poor children are essential components for addressing achievement gaps. This is where America’s most marginalized children need Secretary DeVos’ voice to be loudest; the research and data are unequivocal.

After her nomination, DeVos said: “The status quo is not acceptable. I am committed to transforming our education system into the best in the world. … I believe every child, no matter their zip code or their parents’ jobs, deserve access to a quality education.”

To that end we agree. But are these words as empty as Trump’s in his address to Congress?

An educated citizenry is imperative to nurture democracy. The process must be participatory. Our future workforce is in the classroom right now.

I urge Secretary DeVos to look at the impact of quality early learning and how it changes the trajectory of a child’s life. Perhaps she could present the data at her boss’ next cabinet meeting. By next year, we could have a plan for his first official State of the Union address, where a proposal could be made to fund early learning in every school district in America.

That is how America can once again shoots for the stars.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

31 Comments

  1. Do you know how many students could be educated with the Obama Admirals and Naval Officers he promoted and who tied up with Fat Leonard and his lavish prostitute parties in Singapore and the 100’s of millions in graft and corruption lost by taxpayers. More Admirals and Officers are being indicted many who were Rank Bumped early and were unqualified minorities. On Obama’s watch he let the selling of secret info and theft of tax dollars go free of discovery. Why, because he was an angry, black community organizer who’s only reason for becoming President was to destroy this country in reparations for his own kind. He came close after Bush decimated our Treasury and bankrupted us through his stupidity and greed. Left us with two wars and should be tried for war crimes. Now we have Trump trying to right the ship with the Repubs and Dems and Barrack Obama Solinsky still trying to sink the ship. Why, because even with The NSA and CIA we are still free and the 62,000,000 Americans who voted for him have lots of guns and the Snow FDlakes have none. Guess who will win that one if they just piss off enough.

      • CANTGIT RIGHT,

        A symptom of the losers in this election is their singular inability to find anything to attack the President with that sticks.

        JS posted facts to support a reasonable argument. You had the chance to refute what he posted, or post your own facts.

        Instead, your reply was pure, unadulterated, 100.0% ad hominem emotion. Did you know that an ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy? You do now.

        Better change your screen name here, because your current one has zero credibility. I suggest commenting on the NY Times website, where you’ll have lots of company with other crazed TDS sufferers.

  2. > Even though both of them believed in the importance of accountability, very little progress was made to close the racial achievement gap in Obama’s two terms.

    > It is not an easy achievement. Neither is landing on the moon, but we achieved that goal.

    Seems incoherent to me.

    “Obama was a flop. But it wasn’t an easy achievement.” Wow. If he didn’t try at all, he could have been a bigger flop.

    DiSalvo has had a long, long career as an educrat and education “leader”. If the education system is a trainwreck, DiSalvo was driving the train.

  3. Once again Mr. DiSalvo presents us with a cure that is far more dangerous than the disease. His prescription, discredited by a five decades-long record of failure, is the spending of huge sums of money — tens of billions of dollars, to elevate America’s poorest performing students to levels equal to that of its highest. His idea of a fix for the abject failure of his snake oil solution is to increase the spending by targeting even younger children, apparently convinced that if you can get at kids early enough even the dumbest of them will grow up to write code and recite progressive dogma.

    Like the well-meaning obstetricians who once prescribed thalidomide for morning sickness, setting off a tragedy that would kill or leave permanently maimed thousands of children, Mr. DiSalvo is profoundly ignorant of the tremendous damage that awaits the innocent targets of his elixir. Children of an age once wisely recognized as preschool are indeed ripe for learning, but for the type acquired by play, exploration, and socialization (which can be done at their own speed). They are not equipped, psychologically, socially, or cognitively, for academic work (and certainly not testing).

    In defense of his argument Mr. DiSalvo points to the scandalously low levels of math and English scores of incoming college freshmen, ignoring the fact that most of these poor performers don’t belong in college in the first place, and that those who do owe their poor performance to the retarding effects of the relaxed standards and anti-competitive atmosphere of his own equal results-obsessed educational system.

    Despite my criticism, I do salute Mr. DiSalvo for his chutzpah, for forging ahead with his destructive agenda at the same time tens of thousands of his district’s parents have dedicated themselves to one goal: spare their kids his crappy educational product.

    • You have some valid points and I agree some of them to an extent.

      Like you, I am skeptical that if you can get at kids early enough, they will all be able to write code and think progressively. While I understand the importance of having high expectations for kids, there is a difference in skills, interest, and ideological/abstract thinking that foster things like being able to code well or engage with progressive ideology. There is a huge difference in a kid making a choice about the options given to them and kids who don’t really have a choice. There are some kids who can sit down in front of a computer and end up being a genius at it at age 5, there are some kids who can sit down with a book and read at a level far above their age range – yet, a lot of the time, the kids will develop different interests and favor certain things over others, which can account for what one child might prioritize over another. However, there are also kids who are able to do the things listed above, but just don’t have the opportunity.

      I certainly agree with your second point though. I work with preschool age children, and there is a reason the skill set we are teaching is heavily based on play, exploration, and socialization instead of academic work and testing. Children learn by example, so having them engage with peers in games and social imitation is one of the best ways to foster learning in children. These skills are also applied to the classroom as they get older in the form of imitating what peers are doing if they miss an instruction, being able to copy something (like an art project) from an example, working together in a group for a collaborative goal, etc. Though the plans for early learning programs don’t explicitly say testing is involved, there is always testing to some extent because there needs to be baseline data for which programs children go into. (When I do assessments at work, assessment results are almost always lower than the actual data collected.)

      I also agree to an extent with your third point – some students in college should not be. Their strengths may lay elsewhere, like in a trade or vocational school. I understand that education is supposedly the great equalizer, but there are some students who aren’t interested in being in college and would rather seek a trade or vocation. College is not the what some young people want to do, and we should not force it upon them if they don’t want to attend.

      Equal opportunity is exactly that, equal opportunity, not guaranteed equal results — the two are often conflated. I’ve seen an article circulating in my social media feeds about the New York Board of Regents expecting to adopt a recommendation of getting rid of the academic literacy skills test because of concerns about lack of diversity in teaching. By getting rid of this test, the standard for future educators is lowered, and that’s something we cannot have. We can either have more quality teachers, or we can lower the standard to less quality but more diversity. (Don’t get me started on the “diversity, except diversity of thought” doctrine that my friends preach about.)

      I get the merit of both sides; we should help those who want help, but there is much more personal aptitude and choice that isn’t accounted for in the original article.

    • Wow it’s because of people like that our young generation don’t get a shoot! How dare you call innocent kids dumb!!!! Your the dumb ass for being ignorant!!!! Go back to school to learn that education and early education will help our kids!!! Expanding there mind at an early age will help them succeed. The earlier they start learning the farther they go in life, even the dumbest one how you call them! That’s the thing, that there is people like you that don’t believe and have hope in our youth….. They are our future so I don’t see how you won’t want to invest to have a better one…. I believe that making a change is hard, but not impossible! And helping the minority’s just with a better education they can teach you a thing or two…. But see people like you are scared! Scared of change and scared that the Minority can rise above you…. I believe Obama started something great…. yet it is a hard job that requires more than one person to do; however, trump just set us back… he has empty promises!! Trump has no idea what he is doing! DeVos is out to help private schools that don’t need the funding!!! How does that help the the low income kids to receive a better education???? Yes 97% of students that graduate aren’t college ready!!!! The public schools just try to get them out to not deal with them!! On top of money being taken from the public school, they also stop after school programs and sports…. These are all important things for a kid to grow and develop to who they are going to be, a way to find who they are…. 6329- Y.R.

      • My goodness, the first half of your post reads like it was plagiarized from a lame Whitney Houston song and the second from the rantings of a deranged faith healer. That said, I get your point. You don’t believe that some people are born dumb. This belief is common among those who are born dumb as well as those who’ve achieved that distinction through education. I won’t venture a guess as to which group you belong, but your unique approach to syntax is suggestive of the former.

      • Your little missive is rife with spelling, grammar, syntactic, and punctuation errors. This makes you a prime example of Joe’s achievement gap. Take your own advice and ” Go back to school to learn that education and early education will help our kids!!!”

        • If Betsy DeVos does her part to help drain the swamp, proglodytes will be SCREAMING for the abolishment of the Department of Education and return to local control.

  4. Republicans main concern regarding public education is disabling Unions! They call it choice, vouchers or this or that, but defunding public education, hence DeVos’s confirmation, is their main goal. Education for profit with little over site is the GOP’s golden goose to lower taxes and promise of less regulations.

    • Having a public education system is one thing. Having it exist at the federal level is something else. There’s no constitutional authority for it to exist as per Article 1, Section 8 and the Tenth Amendment. Eliminating the Department of Education at the federal level is nothing more than a step in the direction of a return to Constitutional governance.

  5. Although early childhood education is important, it by no means is a silver bullet that will close the achievement gap. I am sorry I don’t have references to offer right now, but I recall my surprise and dismay when I learned that the gains students made in early childhood programs such as Head Start were erased by the time the children reached third grade. I am an educational researcher and if you email me I will dig up the resources for you.

    I also disagree that improving educational outcomes for underrepresented students is not easy. I do it for a living. Give me your lowest performing high schools and I can increase their college math readiness rate by an average of 46%. But keep in mind that I work with schools that begin with an average CSU math remediation rate of 73% and CCC remediation rate of 80%. The schools in Santa Clara have remediation rates below 20% (Find high school reports here: http://asd.calstate.edu/performance/proficiency.shtml and https://csudata.calstate.edu/highschool/)

    There are several reasons why underrepresented students perform poorly. A main reason is low expectations from all parties, including the students themselves. Another reason ALL students underperform is that our standards are weak and our K-16 system is misaligned. Our students can earn an “A” in AP Calculus and find themselves in math remediation in college. It makes no sense.

    I agree with you that Betsy DeVos will fail our neediest students but for a different reason. In my opinion, our parents are not given the information to determine whether a high school is “good” or not. I can cite high schools that claim a 97% attendance rate, but students have up to 20 absences per semester in certain classes because they’re doing, well just about anything that doesn’t include going to class. The attendance rate is based on homeroom attendance and the fact that they’re in the building. I can also cite charter schools that boast a 100% graduation rate with 95% of the students attending college, but all of the students placed in remedial courses and NOT ONE graduated from college. So that charter that looks great on paper will send kids to college to collect some loans and drop out because they were not prepared. Those parents, and kids, were sold a false bill of goods on that school. That charter school is exacerbating the trans-generational cycle of poverty.

    I’m pragmatic, so I would like to see schools judged on student outcomes AFTER high school. Were they ready for college or a career? Did they complete college? Were students given the tools to enter the workforce? Unfortunately our schools are judged on math and English test scores that offer parents little or no information about the educational experience the students receive. In fact, our previous state tests considered “proficiency” earning a “D” on the exam.

    Betsy DeVos has no idea about any of this so I don’t understand how she can advocate informed choice.

  6. Mr. DiSalvo is old enough to remember a time when the education of students proceeded quite well without a federal Department of Education which was a product of the Carter Administration and has only been in existence in its current form since 1980.

    And, if Mr. DiSalvo was half as well-informed as he would have us think, he would know that the creation of the Department of Education (and, to be fair, many other federal agencies) is completely unconstitutional.

    Article 1, Section 8 identifies the ‘enumerated powers’ of the Federal Government. Nowhere among those powers will you find the power to create a federal agency for national education. And, the Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This means that Betsy DeVos is absolutely correct in her determination to limit the role of the Department of Education and to – if she had her way – eliminate the agency entirely.

    Rather than decrying these steps. Mr. DiSalvo ought to acknowledge that this is a return to Constitutional governance and applaud the return of power to the states or, better, the people.

    But, time and again, Mr. DiSalvo reassures his readers that he’s not particularly interested in constitutional governance and confirms his readers suspicions that the only way to solve the problems our nation faces are through more, bigger and more intrusive governance.

  7. First off, I wholeheartedly agree that early learning programs are essential for children to begin developing their minds and preparing for kindergarten. However both Trump and DeVos are only going to make this increasingly difficult for low income families. They both have interest in the privatization of education, which would make it nearly impossible for lol income families to afford these charter schools. Although it would be wonderful for a reformed education system, I can only see these changes impacting the majority negatively.

  8. JS 132-
    I agree 100% with Di Salvo. De vos does not care about EQUAL education for all! She cares about education for the RICH. Today Audrey and I had a presentation on Equal education for all. We found many interesting facts about those who Di Salvo mentions who do not have the same opportunities as others. In fact, I have been one of those kids in the past. No one thought me that education was valuable and important, I had to learn it by myself. De Vos needs to look at the bigger picture and realize that what she needs to do is for the less advantaged. Early education is important. I see the difference in my son who started preschool this year. He is learning so much and he is only 3 years old. Many cannot afford preschool and it is not even an option! De Vos definitely need to work on this.

  9. The new secretary of state is taking steps backwards from the progress in education that the former administration achieved. Not only in education, the backward steps are evident in the desire to repeal the Affordable Care act, which the CBO predicts that 14 million of Americans will not have coverage in the by 2018. Mr. DiSalvo wrote that Betsy DeVos’ must take a stand against the bill that blocks ESSA’s rules and continue to make schools accountable for student’s achievement in education.
    Her stand against this this bill is essential for two reasons presented by DiSalvo: to close the racial achievement gap in students and allow DeVos to make changes in the future. Otherwise, the achievement gap will remain the same if not worsen during DeVos’ term. Addressing this issue is important, specially because it is affecting a marginalized low income community. The education gap creates a cycle that prevents future generations from succeeding. Mr. DiSalvo’s proposition of early education would be an investment that allows the future generation to become doctors and care for the current generation as we age. Also, early quality education is important to avoid state’s expenditure in financial aid in the future with remedial courses for the children than lack the opportunity to receive early quality education.

    Mr. Disalvo brings up great points that shall be addressed.

  10. There are very good points regarding education and its correlation between America’s lowest achieving students. Studies have shown that a lack of education is significantly related to adolescent delinquency. A reform must be made to mend the bridge between those who are able to receive a better quality education than those who simply cannot. In my experience, elementary school teachers in low-income communities do not– essentially– teach the children the same way as seen in middle and higher-income communities. After school programs are rarely offered in lower-income communities. Programs such as counseling are not offered to students who misbehave, rather they are sent to detention or suspended. How can we as a community focus our efforts on mending this gap? We can start by educating the community of the desperate need for a better quality education in all communities– especially in lower-income communities. We can inform society about the statistics and issues that result from a lack of adequate education. We can present and offer programs that will work to help students after school– such as extracurricular activities, tutoring, counseling, and programs to enhance talent and hobbies. It is important to assert these issues now and work to mend the brokenness within our system for those who are in grade school right now truly do shape our future. Everyone should be presented with an equal opportunity and should be given the chance to be the best they can be. Children are vulnerable and easily influenced, so it is important to guide them and reassure that they are supported within families, outside in the community, and within the school environment.

  11. Clearly, the current administration is not what most of the states are use to. The children who are not as privileged as other affluent families are the children who are suffering academically. Early education is extremely important and most minority families can not provide quality learning for their children and it is challenging for them. I believe Betsy DeVos, does not have sufficient knowledge when it comes to children in minority communities and the type of education provided to them. She stated, she is committed to transforming our education system. Hopefully her meaning of transformation will benefit all the youth regardless of their zip code, age, gender or ethnicity. Every child deserves high quality early learning, because these children are the future generation!

  12. I’m surprised how much backlash this article has gotten. I’m surprised that people are so discouraged by our education system, the attending students, and the idea of putting more money into something everyone claims is important: children . This is why they are failing because no one believes in them. No, we cannot save all of them and not all will want to perform at such high standards either. I’m no parent but every child I have encountered wants to succeed and make themselves, parents, and others proud. If we neglect to give them what they need we are creating the failed, lazy generations everyone likes to blame and ridicule. Sure some of the money will be wasted, but isn’t it better to invest in children and help those who need it and encourage them to reach their full potential? Of all the things we choose to waste money on in this country, putting money into our education system is not a waste.

  13. I completely agree with Professor Di Salvo. There is a dire need to educate children at a young age in order to try to close the achievement gap. Lower socioeconomic families are sent to public schools which have teachers with low credentials, when this is the most essential time to receive a high quality education. I believe the data shows for ever $1 put into high quality early education, it puts out $8. DeVos is not concerned with closing any gap, she’s concerned with taking 22 billion dollars from tax payers and putting it to “vouchers” for private schools. This is completely unethical and proves she is only worried about giving the people that can actually pay for a private school education vouchers. Those familes do not need vouchers, in addition, even if the vouchers could be used for low income families, how do these families have the resources to get their children to these schools that are far away from low income communities? If there was high quality early education provided to families of lower income and of color, this would essentially close the achievement gap and give every student an equal opportunity of high quality education. These are just more broken promisesonly served to oppress. We as a nation need to come together to make change to better one another.

  14. Almost 1/3 of US children (~23Mil) live in single-parent (mostly fatherless) households and your proposal for “high quality early learning programs” will be pointless unless the REAL ISSUE gets addressed first.

  15. It pains me when the Oxford/serial comma is not used. Curse the journalistic style for making room for ads.

    My only question here is what kind of education? In terms of your article, high-quality education is vague. It would have been nice if you defined or outline what constitutes early, high-quality education. At the moment, it just seems like words on a page without an actual image.

  16. In response to Mr. DiSalvo’s assertion of the need for high quality early learning programs, one commenter stated that, “by targeting even younger children, apparently convinced that if you can get at kids early enough even the dumbest of them will grow up to write code and recite progressive dogma”. “Dumb” children have just as much right to access high quality early learning programs as “smart” kids; it is unfair to write certain groups of kids off as a loss from the start without giving them the fair shot that they deserve and may not have access to. It is this negative way of thinking that further drives the belief that the focus should be on top performing students and ignore the rest. There will inevitably be children that do not achieve success, despite having access to high quality early learning programs; this is just a fact of life. However, that does not mean that they should be abandoned at the starting line. It is understood that children are limited in their capacity to learn certain skills depending on their age, which is why these programs should be tailored to their age group. Moreover, as far as growing up to “recite progressive dogma”, I wouldn’t count on it. There’s no telling what these individuals will grow up to be. All we can do is be supportive and nurturing by giving them the tools they need and deserve.

  17. Since it was my comment you criticized, allow me to respond.

    1. You mistakenly assume that early learning programs for children are a “right,” a not surprising assumption given that the deplorable state of today’s higher education has filled young brains with many more assumptions and beliefs than facts.

    2. Your first mistaken assumption has caused you to embrace a second one, that being that the beneficence of early learning programs is universally accepted. For your edification, here is a link to an article from Psychology Today (not exactly a stalwart of political conservatism).

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201505/early-academic-training-produces-long-term-harm

    3. Nowhere in my response did I write off any group. Your take on my assertion regarding dumb kids and coding suggests you believe that being slow-witted — a condition that traditional schooling has never cured, can be remedied by starting education even earlier. Not only is such an assumption not supported by science, but there is evidence that we may be disadvantaging our children by starting them at the traditional age (of five years). Here’s some more reading:

    https://qz.com/546832/stanford-researchers-show-were-sending-many-children-to-school-way-too-early/

    4. Where is the evidence that top performing students have received a disproportionate percentage of the system’s focus? How can that possibly be the case when the focus has for decades been trained on mandated performance standards (it takes tremendous time and effort to elevate under-performers)? Attributing the poor performance of the few (or even the many) to the imagined special treatment afforded others is exactly what the local Hispanic community has done for five decades, consistently finding it preferable to scapegoat the school system (and thousands of dedicated teachers) rather than take a realistic look at the innate abilities of their kids and the impact their cultural values have on behavior and academic performance. Locally, it has been Hispanic students, not top performers, who have received the focus, and yet that community’s problems persist: the high dropout rate, the nightmare of youth gangs, classroom behavioral problems, and poor academic performance.

    5. As far as progressive dogma, the mere fact that the educational system is dominated by “experts” who believe the achievement gap can be closed assures me that reality will continue its fringe existence on campus. For to believe the gap can be closed requires one to believe that all races are equal in academic potential, a notion as much at odds with natural selection as would be the belief that all mammals can be taught to adapt to arctic temperatures. And as long as educators are willing to sacrifice truth to political correctness, progressive dogma will continue to remain the lingua franca of the classroom.

  18. Prof DiSalvo’s supporters have given their side of this debate. But there’s another side: the taxpaying public, which is forced to pay more and more for the astonishingly bad performance of public education.

    So I would like to respond to some of their comments above, such as:

    “I’m surprised that people are so discouraged by… the idea of putting more money into [our education system].”

    “Low income students need more help.”

    “The children who are not as privileged as other affluent families are the children who are suffering academically.”

    “De vos does not care about EQUAL education for all! She cares about education for the RICH.”

    “After school programs are rarely offered in lower-income communities.”

    Both Democrat and Republican presidents have poured countless billions of tax dollars into low income schools. The result is clear: more money does not translate into higher scores:

    http://educationnext.org/files/ednext_XVI_1_petrilli_fig01.jpg

    This is obvious not just in California [ http://tiny.cc/hpkxjy ], but throughout the country [ http://tiny.cc/dmkxjy ]. Schools are not failing “because no one believes in them.” They are failing because educating students is simply a lower priority than many other issues, like teacher tenure, pay and benefits, union intransigence, school district politics, and the lackadaisical attitude of low income parents.

    I know something about the last point. My wife was a Middle and High School Principal for more than twenty years (and a teacher for many years before being promoted to Assistant Principal). She taught both in low income schools, and in school districts with a high average income. I’ve observed glaring differences in parent involvement: in the financially better off districts (and especially in schools with many Asian parents), the after school PTA meetings were attended to overflowing.

    But in every ‘low income’ school (in Santa Clara and Sacramento counties), she rarely got ANY parents to attend PTA meetings. The single exception was at a school in Sacramento with lots of Montagnard (Hmong) refugees. The Hmong parents always attended her PTA meetings.

    The black parents were the least likely of all to attend PTA meetings. I never saw any in attendance, even though meeting notices were emailed to parents, and sent home with students, and mailed out to every student’s parent(s). The attitude of a lot of the parents in low income schools was: “Your job is to teach my children!” Low income parents took no responsibility for their kids’ education. But they were quick to assign blame, while the parents in the wealthier districts took a personal interest in their kids’ success in school. The test results support that view (see the first link above).

    If the parents themselves won’t take an interest in their childrens’ education, why should taxpayers continue to pay more and more money for education? The taxpaying public has done its part, and then some: [ http://tiny.cc/fzkxjy ]. But the .edu’s demands are always the same: We need more money!

    In Santa Clara the teachers (and naturally, their school district administrators) got an ≈8% raise in 2014, another 8+% in 2015, and ≈9% last year. That’s much more than the average private sector worker received. And for what? Taxpayers are not paying for teachers’ welfare. We are paying for a product: well educated graduates. But when that product is defective, which it clearly is, why should the buyer keep paying more and more? And why shouldn’t the buyer try someone else’s ideas? Because clearly, the current education system has been a failure.

    President Trump was elected in part because the electorate understood that throwing more tax money at the problem, without getting commensurate results, is just digging the same hole deeper. In total frustration, voters decided to try something else—but the .edu vested interests are fighting tooth and nail to keep their fingers deep in taxpayers’ wallets. All their hifalutin’ verbiage is just a cover-up for that basic fact.

    And as expected, those feeding at the public trough are imputing all kinds of evil motives to the new Secretary of Education—after only a few weeks on the job, and as if the critics are proficient mind-readers. They deliberately ignore the fact that the voters have strongly repudiated their endless excuses for failing to educate our students. As one of the links above shows, the current .edu crowd assign themselves a “D”. So why shouldn’t those paying the freight try something—anything—new? Ms. De Vos certainly could not do any worse than the current .edu crowd. Truth be told, what they are truly terrified of is that Ms De Vos could well be successful. So they run interference, instead of cooperating.

    The .edu industry is simply another self-serving vested interest. If they ever did as promised, they would have an argument. But despite the gigantic and ever-rising tidal wave of money flowing into their .edu factories, the product—well educated students— is nowhere to be found. Test scores remain at the bottom, with no appreciable improvement. Students are doing no better now than before that immense run-up in operating funds.

    On a related note Mrs. Smokey retired, but she got tired of daytime TV. Her Master’s degree is in teaching handicapped students, so she found a position at a school for mentally disabled adults; mostly those unfortunates who had their umbilical cords wrapped tightly around their necks in utero. As a result their developing brains were starved of oxygen, and they have an adult IQ of ≈25 – 50. That’s called cerebral palsy. Her school also cares for students with similar problems, like Down’s syndrome and severe autism.

    Fortunately, there are very few people born like that. But the ones who are need constant care. They’re in wheel chairs, and/or they need their adult diapers changed several times a day, or they need their “drool rags” changed every couple of hours (for the ones unable to swallow), etc. Some of them—a few—actually improve over time due to the school’s regimen and care.

    But honestly, it’s mostly adult babysitting; giving them things to do at their mental level, socializing them, and caring for them. Giving them some sort of life. Believe it or not, they laugh and have fun at times, just like everyone else. But they can’t arrange things on their own. On their own, they vegetate. They just exist; nothing more.

    But the school where she teaches is in danger of losing funding because Gov. Brown refuses to allocate the funds necessary for this tiny but helpless group. The Governor’s top priority is his ‘train to nowhere’, and that requires a huge diversion of financial resources. So he takes money from wherever he can. His budget does not provide even the minimum for people in this predicament, so a few private charities help out. Now there’s talk of the school closing down due to lack of funding.

    Whenever I hear Democrat politicians mouthing their platitudes about caring for the unfortunate among us, I think of these mentally disabled adults, who will end up sitting in a home watching TV all day waiting for someone to change their adult diapers or their drool rags. Because that will be their total existence if the state refuses to provide the basics for a few folks who got the worst breaks of all in life, through no fault of their own.

    (And the cynic wonders: Are they being ignored because they don’t vote…?)

    Mr. Di Salvo does a lot of hand-wringing in his article. But it’s clear that his real concern is over the possible re-direction of a small fraction of funding, which might go to charter schools. I don’t believe he really cares for low income students, any more than the Governor cares for a few mentally disabled adults. Instead, Di Salvo wails, “…we are at the precipice of taking draconian steps to create a system steeped in local control and little federal accountability—a toxic mix of policies.”

    But federal interference in education and the lack of local control have brought us to the present situation, where immense piles of money are being squandered every year for no rise in student test scores—instead turning out millions of know-it-all parrots, who repeat errant nonsense about “climate change”, while failing miserably in their Science testing. The .edu contingent could not do any worse if they planned it out.

    America was populated a century ago by many millions of “low income” immigrants. They had no government assistance, but they became extremely successful. There is no reason, other than government interference and policies, that current low income students should not prosper just as well as our immigrant ancestors.

    If Mr. Di Salvo had written about the problems caused by government interference, and problems caused by the lack of local control; if he supported defenestrating the entire federal .edu fiasco due to its abysmal failure, he would be in tune with the electorate and common sense. But all he offered was more vague pablum (“…America can once again shoots [sic] for the stars.”), and his whiny criticism of any change. That is a recipe for continued failure, no?

  19. Jesus! All i know is that working in the k-12 system is very hard, long hours underpaid. In elementary one teacher has up to 30 children in her class. I have 2 children my self and helping both with homework is very stressful and difficult it requires alot of patience and strength. I can only imagine teachers. We cannot allow the new secretary of education to cut fundings for public schools. Public Schools should be innovated children deserved to go to school in a nice clean environment with nice playground. I go to my children school once a week and help children during math and writing time. I am just able to teach and dedicate my self helping ONE student while the other ones are talking it is very difficult to multi task when you are a teacher. I believe we should have 3 teachers in a classroom because one is just not enough. Instead of cutting after school programs they should pay teachers and staff more so they can love their job even more and come in ready to meet their goal. This is why i love charter schools better they are able to fire teachers when ever they are not doing their job right. What also affects public schools is that they have teachers who don’t even want to teach anymore but they have to because of the strong union contracts what kind of system is that? Public Schools curriculums are old we are in 2017 is time to use the technology here and renew policies. Early education is important because is they have those social skills and all a child should have such as love, they can keep up going and explore the world. We have to remember we cannot force our children to learn math and english when they are in a certain grade because that affects their confidence level instead you tell them something like “everything takes practice but you will get there later if you continue to work hard and put effort” We should motivate them and we should be happy of what they are being capable of. I know as a parent we want our children to be at grade level but if a child is not ready then he is just not ready i pay attention to their brain development and how forcing a child to read and write can affect them if you do not have the right words to say it. We expect to much from people how about working on ourselves too teachers staff all deserve to take a moment to really think about why are they there.

    • ROCSANA E GA,

      Were writing to Jesus? He probably won’t answer here, so may I? Thank you:

      I agree that teachers have a difficult job. It is also very rewarding. I volunteered at the Humane Society with a woman who taught 2nd grade for 41 years. She told me lots of stories about the kids who had grown up and then came back to see her years later, and told her they remembered here, and bragged about how well they turned out as adults because of her patient teaching. It was great hearing how much difference one person can make.

      Teachers are fine. It is the system that is hopelessly ossified. Once labor unions were allowed to organize teachers, the end was in sight. Students are a low priority now, below union dues, and tenure, and local politics, and many other, ‘more important’ concerns.

      Money is at the root of these problems. As President of my union Local for 4 terms, the constant message I received from our International bosses was always the same: “Organize!” They just wanted more of that monthly dues money. Their love of money was more important than our arbitrations, grievances, contract language, or anything else. It is no different with teachers’ unions.

      There are plenty of good teachers, but current classes are too small for really effective learning. For example, from 1st grade through 12th, I was taught in classes with ≈40+ students, and I have no doubt at all that we received a far better education than today’s public schools provide.

      Teachers’ unions helped pass a law that sets maximum class sizes. The result is a fabricated teacher shortage. Furthermore, smaller classes have not resulted in any rise in test scores. It turns out that children learn better and faster in larger groups. They learn better group discipline, and they don’t have to experience one exceptional student in a small group who constantly surpasses them. In a large class the Bell curve tends to even out those differences. And a good teacher can motivate the entire class to excel, no matter what the size.

      We have seen what happens with union control of education: test scores are stagnant, while the money poured into education has risen inexorably. There is no accountability. The money is mis-directed into union priorities, which is why teachers are distracted from teaching, and assigned to call centers where they contact voters prior to every election, urging them to pass the latest school bond measures.

      School bonds are now a feature on every ballot because of the mis-direction of taxpayer funds. Rather than use the (ample) tax money available for building maintenance, that money has been squandered on non-essential priorities that now supersede students’ education. The money is sufficient (especially with the sharp rise in property prices), but since maintenance has been deferred, bond measures are used to make up for the mis-allocated funds. Is that any way to run an education system?

      The answer simple: a return of schools—and funds—to local control. The top priority of all parents is their childrens’ welfare, and that includes a good education. Local parents will see to that, and local control will eliminate self-serving federal and state interference, and the concomitant confiscation of exorbitant taxes.

      The Gallup poll found that more than two-thirds of Americans agree with the statement: “Improving the education system should be a top priority for the president and Congress”. The Department of Education paid out more than $78 BILLION last year to education, in addition to state and local support. In addition, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocates another $90 billion per year to education. Education spending has risen by about 50% over the past decade, but what do we have to show for that immense outlay? This:

      http://tiny.cc/fzkxjy

      If just one-quarter of that money was simply given to local schools on a student per-capita basis, with local parent groups responsible for allocating the money for education, teacher compensation, and facilities, I have no doubt that the chart in the link above would show drastic improvement.

      But as long as those $billions are funneled through federeral and state bureaucracies, less than a quarter of the money actually ends up educating students. The rest is used to support and grow the bloated .edu tick, which feasts on the blood of its host: the American taxpayer. We are not getting anything close to what we are paying for.

      Teachers aren’t the problem. Big government, and the self-serving .edu bureaucracy is the real problem.

  20. Prof DiSalvo’s supporters have given their side of this debate. But there’s another side: the taxpaying public, which is forced to pay more and more for the astonishingly bad performance of public education.

    So I would like to respond to some of their comments above, such as:

    “I’m surprised that people are so discouraged by… the idea of putting more money into [our education system].”

    “Low income students need more help.”

    “The children who are not as privileged as other affluent families are the children who are suffering academically.”

    “De vos does not care about EQUAL education for all! She cares about education for the RICH.”

    “After school programs are rarely offered in lower-income communities.”

    Both Democrat and Republican presidents have poured countless billions of tax dollars into low income schools. The result is clear: more money does not translate into higher scores:

    http://educationnext.org/files/ednext_XVI_1_petrilli_fig01.jpg

    This is obvious not just in California [ http://tiny.cc/hpkxjy ], but throughout the country [ http://tiny.cc/dmkxjy ]. Schools are not failing “because no one believes in them.” They are failing because educating students is simply a lower priority than many other issues, like teacher tenure, pay and benefits, union intransigence, school district politics, and the lackadaisical attitude of low income parents.

    I know something about the last point. Mrs. Smokey was a Middle and High School Principal for more than twenty years (and a teacher for many years before being promoted to Assistant Principal). She taught both in low income schools, and in school districts with a high average income. I’ve observed glaring differences in parent involvement: in the financially better off districts (and especially in schools with many Asian parents), the after school PTA meetings were attended to overflowing.

    But in every ‘low income’ school (in Santa Clara and Sacramento counties), she rarely got ANY parents to attend PTA meetings. The single exception was at a school in Sacramento with lots of Montagnard (Hmong) refugees. The Hmong parents always attended her PTA meetings.

    American low income parents were the least likely of all to attend PTA meetings. I never saw any in attendance, even though meeting notices were emailed to parents, and sent home with students, and mailed out to every student’s parent(s). The attitude of a lot of the parents in low income schools was: “Your job is to teach my children!” Low income parents took no responsibility for their kids’ education. But they were quick to assign blame, while the parents in the wealthier districts took a personal interest in their kids’ success in school. The test results support that view (see the first link above).

    If the parents themselves won’t take an interest in their childrens’ education, why should taxpayers continue to pay more and more money for education? The taxpaying public has done its part, and then some: [ http://tiny.cc/fzkxjy ]. But the .edu’s demands are always the same: We need more money!

    In Santa Clara the teachers (and naturally, their school district administrators) got an ≈8% raise in 2014, another 8+% in 2015, and ≈9% last year. That’s much more than the average private sector worker received. And for what? Taxpayers are not paying for teachers’ welfare. We are paying for a product: well educated graduates. But when that product is defective, which it clearly is, why should the buyer keep paying more and more? And why shouldn’t the buyer try someone else’s ideas? Because clearly, the current education system has been a failure.

    President Trump was elected in part because the electorate understood that throwing more tax money at the problem, without getting commensurate results, is just digging the same hole deeper. In total frustration, voters decided to try something else—but the .edu vested interests are fighting tooth and nail to keep their fingers deep in taxpayers’ wallets. All their hifalutin’ verbiage is just a cover-up for that basic fact.

    And as expected, those feeding at the public trough are imputing all kinds of evil motives to the new Secretary of Education—after only a few weeks on the job, and as if the critics are proficient mind-readers. They deliberately ignore the fact that the voters have strongly repudiated their endless excuses for failing to educate our students. As one of the links above shows, the current .edu crowd assign themselves a “D”. So why shouldn’t those paying the freight try something—anything—new? Ms. De Vos certainly could not do any worse than the current .edu crowd. Truth be told, what they are truly terrified of is that Ms De Vos could well be successful. So they run interference, instead of cooperating.

    The .edu industry is simply another self-serving vested interest. If they ever did as promised, they would have an argument. But despite the gigantic and ever-rising tidal wave of money flowing into their .edu factories, the product—well educated students— is nowhere to be found. Test scores remain at the bottom, with no appreciable improvement. Students are doing no better now than before that immense run-up in operating funds.
    Mr. Di Salvo does a lot of hand-wringing in his article. But it’s clear that his real concern is over the possible re-direction of a small fraction of funding, which might go to charter schools. I don’t believe he really cares for low income students, any more than the Governor cares for a few mentally disabled adults. Instead, Di Salvo wails, “…we are at the precipice of taking draconian steps to create a system steeped in local control and little federal accountability—a toxic mix of policies.”

    But federal interference in education and the lack of local control have brought us to the present situation, where immense piles of money are being squandered every year for no rise in student test scores—instead turning out millions of know-it-all parrots, who repeat errant nonsense about “climate change”, while failing miserably in their Science testing. The .edu contingent could not do any worse if they planned it out.

    America was populated a century ago by many millions of “low income” immigrants. They had no government assistance, but they became extremely successful. There is no reason, other than government interference and policies, that current low income students should not prosper just as well as our immigrant ancestors.

    If Mr. Di Salvo had written about the problems caused by government interference, and problems caused by the lack of local control; if he supported defenestrating the entire federal .edu fiasco due to its abysmal failure, he would be in tune with the electorate and common sense. But all he offered was more vague pablum (“…America can once again shoots [sic] for the stars.”), and his whiny criticism of any change. That is a recipe for continued failure, no?

  21. somebody should investigate San Jose City College District . They have a lot of money . Last year president of San Jose City College lost one million dollars . But he is still there . This school district now has a lot of money because they are receiving budget from Santa Clara County property taxes, not from Sacramento . But look, students in this district go to De Anza and Mission college , instead of San Jose and Evergreen . It looks like they have a free ride . They spend money on administration and faculty but not serving the needs of community . Jus saying .

  22. I’ve noticed for a while now that the comments here tend to be better written, footnoted, and independent than the actual articles. Josh, perhaps you should consider inviting some of these commenters to submit articles especially if they can bring in a fresh point of view?

Leave a Reply to frustrated finfan Cancel reply