Tag Archives: government

The Power of Politics

3 Aug

National politics are funny.

Many people  turn to politics because they believe it can help them become more informed; that knowing the issues and the political scene may help them affect the political scene, and thereby affect their world.

The funny thing about it is that often, you just end up the politician amongst your group of friends/colleagues/coworkers. You talk a lot about issues you’re not doing anything about and have little power to affect. To top it off, you’re righteous AND angry.

We want YOU - to feel good!

Yet knowing about the national political scene makes a person feel more involved with their world. There is a sort of “I’m doing good just by knowing this and making others aware” feeling.

Making others aware?

Most people who are already not aware of a particular national political agenda will not care when you make them “aware.” In fact, most of the people who show up to events to spread awareness are those who are already very aware. It will take a spontaneous act of the heavens on behalf of the spectator/listener to engage him or her in a political conversation about which they previously did not care.

However, let the issue affect some potent aspect of the spectator/listener’s being and then you have TWO angry and righteous individuals.

The only way these two “ready to make a difference” individuals could ever make a difference would be to forget the national agenda and create programs locally that support their position – OR – advocate locally against the national political agenda and amass a local, growing mass of people who agree and fight the national agenda.

Which brings me back to the first problem – how do you amass a large group of people on one particular political agenda if they do not care about the issue. Do we have to wait until something terrible happens at the national level which affects the population to such a degree that each individual feels his or her rights have been violated? I had thought that issues in education would interest almost everyone, as public education is something that affects us all. I thought that all education majors, at the very least, would want to gather on issues in education and start up a movement.

So how do you start a movement? Half of us are busy with the feel good of making others “aware” while the other half desperately fails to amass enough people to make a noticeable local change. Do we wait until the government takes more and more control until we knock our head against the obvious and say, “Oh, shit.” ?

Because by this point it would be, well, almost too late.

See Brother Ali for a better rendition of fighting the man.

Wisconsin: The National Uproar and the Rolling Stones

4 Mar

The longer the Wisconsin fiasco is dragged out, the further the issue moves from the heart of education: the kids.

Governor Scott Walker recognizes there needs to be drastic reform to the education system. However, the governor is looking at the issue from a purely financial standpoint: he needs to cut the budget. Those employed in the public school systems also recognize the need for education reform: they work daily under laws and legislatures that are failing to improve public schools. However, both sides are so caught up in their rigorous political agendas that one key element is being forgotten: the kids in the Wisconsin public schools.

Let’s face it: bargaining rights, pension payments, health care, and Scott Walker’s bill have nothing to do with the actual education (i.e. improving the achievement) of Wisconsin’s kids. These components of the great Wisconsin debate have everything to do with the politics of education. We have Republicans and Democrats doing what they always seem to do best: rigidly advocating the agenda, regardless of the cost. Continue reading

A Near Impossible Task: Saving the Detroit Public Schools District

25 Feb

The Detroit Public Schools District is closing half its schools.

This is part of the current state-approved deficit-elimination plan drawn up by emergency financial manger, Robert Bobb. The Detroit News predicts an influx of 60 plus students per classroom as a result of the closures (Huffington Post, see source below). While Robert Bobb assured the press today that there would not be 60 plus students per classroom, he did not give an alternate figure. Many Detroit schools are already overpopulated and understaffed, with 30 plus students per class.

Does this make Robert Bobb the bad guy?

In November 2010, Bobb lobbied for the $400 million in state tobacco revenue to be redirected to the DPS district. He hoped to convince state legislators that the money was needed to dig schools out of their current poor academic and financial states. If the money was not granted, Bobb argued, DPS would face severe, detrimental, “draconian” cuts. Bobb needed a political leader to back his proposal. No one stepped forward.

Fast-forward to February. Detroit Public Schools are failing academic standards; the vast majority are not making AYP. The city and state are strapped financially and continuing to hurt academically. What does the state do?

The state orders Robert Bobb to immediately implement his proposed deficit-elimination plan that includes closing half the district’s schools and consolidating academic operations. Bobb needed to find some way to do his job; the state had ordered him to reduce the $327 million deficit in five years. Initially, legislators demanded that he balance the debt in two years. Lucky for Bobb, they threw him peanuts.

Robert Bobb’s job is admittedly not easy to accomplish. Where does one make cuts from a district already plunged in academic and financial straits? Schools have already bumped up class size, laid-off staff and faculty, and minimized academic and extracurricular programs. How does one cut fat from bones?

Bobb clearly does not have a good solution. The state is shirking responsibility by passing off the impossible task to one man. Bobb himself has admitted that the proposal is not good for students academically or educationally.

So why is this plan approved?

The plan has been approved because politics have overthrown the responsibility of government. It is the responsibility of a government to protect its people, especially those people who cannot defend themselves (i.e. children). While reducing the deficit is included in this description, the disregard of an equal education opportunity for over 70,000 plus students is NOT. Just because a plan exists that shows “zero” figures to the eyes of politicians in five years does not mean this plan should be automatically endorsed. Rather than simply look at numbers, politicians should look into the eyes of the children they are cheating. A classroom of 30 students is difficult to manage, difficult to ensure academic progress. A great teacher in the best circumstances can reach many of the 30. Teaching in a class and ensuring the academic success of 60 students, many who are placed at-risk from living in a low-SES, high poverty district, is like being asked to cut a $327 million deficit in five years in a district that already cannot compete financially or academically with its suburbs. The state is asking Robert Bobb and the district’s teachers to achieve a near impossible task.

What is the solution? While I cannot offer any solidified plan, I hope that our state rethinks its current agenda with the Detroit Public Schools. We must remember that schools serve children; equal education for our kids is the goal of our schools. Closing half the schools and jamming 60 kids in a classroom is not a service to our kids. Legislators and policymakers need to undertake the task of creating a new deficit-elimination plan for the DPS district, instead of throwing the weight of the world on one man’s shoulders. They need to sit down, work hard, and develop a long-term deficit-elimination plan for the DPS district, instead of asking for immediate, impossible results. If our legislators can work toward a new, less severe proposal, Detroit schools will still struggle, but they will struggle less each year. We cannot resign the Detroit schools to the mercy of the economy. We need to rebuild them. We cannot give up on our state’s neediest children; we must rise to the challenge and help them.

Bobb is set to re-work a new budget, due to the state by May 31st. While I lack confidence in one man to solve all the deficit problems of an impoverished district, I’m rooting for him. Better yet, perhaps our state will come to its senses and form a committee to help him in his endeavor. This is the least Detroit’s kids deserve.

Huffington Post Source:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/16/robert-bobb-400-million-for-detroit-schools_n_784353.html