Education in America Part II

by Roland S. Martin from CNN

(CNN) — When President Obama signs the $410 billion omnibus spending bill, there will be shouts of joy from both sides as Republicans and Democrats get their cherished earmarks.

Yet tucked into that bill is an amendment pushed by the president’s former colleague in the Senate, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, who used his influence to essentially kill the District of Columbia school vouchers program.

Oh sure, it will be portrayed that the Democrats aren’t killing the program, but the initiative calls for no new students to be allowed entry, unless approved by Congress and the District of Columbia City Council. And considering that the teachers union has such a death grip on both Democratic-controlled institutions, you can forget about that happening.

Democrats say they believe in school choice, but they don’t fully accept the gamut of choices. They will happily tout charter schools, also opposed by the national teachers unions, but stop at vouchers. Why? Because Republicans have consistently advocated for vouchers, and Democrats have convinced themselves that vouchers will somehow destroy the public school infrastructure.

Now, some believe the Obama administration is sending mixed signals because Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said he doesn’t want to see kids thrown out of Washington schools who are already in the existing voucher program. Fine. But the reality is that after this year, no new kids will be allowed to enroll in the program, and that folks, is killing the program.

Obama and his party have never been fans of vouchers. Why? They contend that vouchers would hurt the public school system. Vouchers allow parents who can’t afford private school to remove their children from public schools in order to get a better education.

Well, isn’t that what the president and those in his party do themselves by sending their children to private school? Only they don’t need the government’s help. The standard fallback position of Democrats and the Obama administration is that the Washington program only helps 1,700 children a year, and those who don’t qualify are stuck in a sorry system, and they are largely poor and minority. They contend that since every student can’t be helped by vouchers, none should be helped. So parents and children are supposed to sit tight and wait on the promised reform to trickle down from Washington to the local school systems, and then all will be well?

To me, that’s sort of like saying that historically African-Americans are likely to have high rates of diabetes and hypertension, so instead of launching a program to save some from developing the disease, let’s wait for a comprehensive plan where all can be saved at one time. Sorry, folks. I believe you save as many as you can now, and continue to save the rest later. This shouldn’t be an either/or proposition, but an and/both situation.

The other fundamental problem here is that we have a bunch of politicians deciding what’s best for education over the objections of actual educators! For instance, Democrats have had high praise for the superintendent of schools in Washington, Michelle Rhee. Just one problem: she supports vouchers. “I don’t think vouchers are going to solve all the ills of public education, but parents who are zoned to schools that are failing kids should have options to do better by their kids,” she told The New York Times. So if Rhee backs them, why not give her the vote of confidence to continue the program while she tries to fix the ailing school system?

The education reform outlined by President Obama on Tuesday is necessary. But we are a long way from seeing the kind of systemic changes that will fix our public schools. His plan goes far on personal and parental responsibility, yet relies on states to enact their own measures of change, and with 50 different state school plans, we know that is a disaster waiting to happen.

I would have more confidence if President Obama and members of Congress truly walked the walk and sent their kids to public schools. If they have so much faith in them turning around with reform, entrust their own children to public education. That’s the kind of confidence our system needs. If it’s good enough for yours, then surely it’s good enough for mine.

 But preaching to the rest of us about the virtues of a public education, then sending your own children to private school and denying the use of vouchers so others can do the same, is frankly hypocritical. I know the value of a public education, and went to such institutions for elementary, middle, high school and college. Yet looking at the sorry state public schools are in now, maybe seeing kids leave in droves via vouchers will force school administrators and teachers to stop thinking they have all the answers and allow for innovation and full accountability, from the classroom to the boardroom.

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F’ing Up and Fessing Up – The Broncos and Jay Cutler

I am Steelers’ man so far be it from me to be all in the Broncos’ business.  But they messed up with quarterback Jay Cutler and should take the lead in trying to make it right.  Many sports honks know by now that the team fired head coach Mike Shanahan and hired Josh McDaniels from the Patriots.  Recently McDaniels tried to trade Cutler to get quarterback Matt Cassel from the Patriots since he was comfortable with Cassel within his system in New England.  The trade didn’t work out as Cassel went to Kansas City instead. 

I won’t even talk about that crazy deal, but lets just say that I think if the Chiefs are not successful by the trading deadline this year that a Tony Gonzalez trade to New England will explain why the Pats gave this guy away to new KC head Scott Peoli.

Anyway, I have been hearing stuff on sports radio talking about how Cutler needs to man up and move on.  That the NFL is a business and that anyone can be traded.  That is not a fact I am lost on.  But these are extenuating circumstances and I have to side with Cutler on this one.  Here is why.

This is how things work in pro sports.  Coach A gets fired and coach B comes in.  He has his own system and way of doing things.  A change was needed which is why he was hired in the first place.  Star player who may or may not have adored the previous coach gets a call from the new coach.  New coach says, ” Star Player, I am so happy to be here and I look forward to working with YOU to help this team get to the top!  Star Player says, “Sure coach.”  On the record Cutler told others he was very excited to work with the new coach.  All is well… “See you soon  in off season mini camp where I’ll give you the playbook and we’ll start on our future and turn this franchise around.”

Next thing you know you find out the new coach dangled you out there to get another guy in your spot.  It was a bitch move or a clever one for the coach to get a guy he was more confident in, but he only knows for sure if it actually works out.  If it fails and it gets back to Star Player then of course all hell is gonna break loose.  Not only does Star Player feel betrayed and thinks you don’t want him, he also dismisses all the other pleasantries that were previously spoken between the two of you as well as team ownership itself who allowed this shopping to be done.  Then on top of it all, when McDaniels is found out, he denies that he even tried to trade Cutler in the first place.

Say its a business all you want.  But what if Cutler had lobbed a call to Jerry Jones and said, “Hey, if you think the Broncos will do it, I think I can take the Cowboys to the Super Bowl faster than Tony Romo?.”  He would be called a traitor.  Jones would be charged for tampering with a player under contract.  Cutler’s name and reputation would be toast. 

The fact of the matter is, McDaniels and Bronco owner Pat Bowlen put the man out there in a shrewed business move that blew up in their faces.  They undermined Cutler’s credibility with his teammates.  They said to him, “We don’t believe in you.”  Which is fine in itself.  But they can’t act like it’s just all good now cause they are stuck with him.

Now the bottle line is this, Cutler is still a Bronco.  And by right he needs to learn the playbook and work with the coach to help the team.  But if I were him, I would let McDaniels know that this IS business and I will under no circumstances trust either the coach nor the owner.  Since there is no trust, I will keep my bags packed cause in the back of my mind I know the hammer could come down at any moment. 

That’s just the reality.  And if Cutler were to feel anything different, both the coach and the owner need to make it right so that it can be different.  So far it doesn’t seem they see it this way.  Which just feeds into the initial disrespect in the first place.  This would not have happened to John Elway.  And yea I know Jay Cutler is no John Elway… at least not yet.   But to paraphrase a quote from Rick Pitino, “No, John Elway is not walking through that door.”