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Morning Shots

Two Parents Take On the Union (Ben DeGrow)

In their ongoing battle to preserve the education status quo, teachers union officials often find an advantage in sophisticated public relation campaigns.

The side of union officials you don’t observe over the airwaves, however, is the arrogant belief that their narrow political agenda merits special protected status in our taxpayer-funded places of learning.

From its vast resources of member dues, the Colorado Education Association (CEA) finances radio and television ads designed to convince the general public that the organization only cares for kids and knows best how to help them learn.

But cracks in the public image veneer may soon grow larger, as election season has brought out a less seemly side of union leaders. The need to win votes for their candidates and causes must be too compelling. Political power and close alliances with other unions and advocacy groups have trumped both the sanctity of schools and respect for parents and taxpayers.

CEA has to walk a fine line. Teachers and other education employees in Colorado are free to join or not to join a membership organization. Roughly two-thirds of them belong to CEA for a variety of reasons, and some ardently back the political agenda. Many others support collective bargaining but ignore or reject the politics, or they stay aboard for the liability insurance and grievance protections.

Some Colorado teachers go their own way and join an alternative organization or none at all. Witnessing the union’s behavior in at least one school district, more might be convinced to join them. 

Last Friday, the CEA-affiliated Poudre Education Association (PEA)—representing K-12 teachers in the northern Colorado university town of Fort Collins—fired the latest salvo in an ongoing struggle to protect their assumed schoolhouse privileges.

Even after legal hearings and local media attention exposed earlier political abuses, PEA used the schools’ interoffice mail system during school

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The Indian Education Deficit (Shruti Rajagopalan)

The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

-Article 21A, Constitution of India 

The Indian government, often known for its corruption, bureaucracy and socialist leanings, has not been very successful or efficient when it comes to providing the universal and free education that the constitution now guarantees as a fundamental right to all citizens.

One would imagine that Third World governments don’t spend much on education, but education in India receives substantial funding, both state and federal. From 2001 to 2005 the government spending on education approximated 4-6% of the GDP.  Clearly, the problem with education in India and the poor quality of public schools has more to do with the government regulation than lack of funding.

This poor quality of government education has given rise to a large market for private education offered by excellent institutions. Not surprisingly, the fee in a private school is often less than half of the per-pupil costs in a government-run school which has huge administrative costs. In a public school in New Delhi the average per pupil cost has been estimated approximately at Rs.10,000 ($220) per annum and the private schools in the territory of Delhi offer much better quality of education at about half the cost, a trend also witnessed in the United States. In a study by James Tooley and Pauline Dixon, the reasons for such high costs have been attributed to personnel costs and administrative costs for the upkeep of the entire education bureaucracy. The study has managed to encompass education in India: too much government spending, too much regulation, large bureaucracies, stifling of private entrepreneurship and exploitation of the common man.

The other problem is that despite the

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Direct Instruction, Direct Improvement (Claire Brefka)

I have been working at St. Anthony’s School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin since the 1996-97 school year.  I began as a classroom teacher in the 7th and 8th grade teaching Science, Reading and Religion.  In 2004, I accepted the position of Reading Coordinator for the school.  Our school participates in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and has been educating children since 1872.  Over the last 4 years, our school has grown from 420 students and 27 teachers to 974 students and 50 teachers. 

In our school, you will hear administration and classroom teachers saying, “We are here to teach students what they need to know to help them further their education.”  A large majority of our students come from Spanish-speaking backgrounds and Spanish-speaking homes.  They enter an English-immersion school with low oral English, comprehension, writing and vocabulary skills.  Some students come right from Mexico with little to no speaking, reading, or writing abilities in English.  Needless to say, it was a challenge for classroom teachers to teach reading to a student who did not speak English before the fall of 2004.  In the 2004-05 school year, we had 3rd graders who had been in our school 2 years, and were not close to reading at grade level.  Today, we have 3rd graders who have been in our school for 2 years, and are reading at a 4th grade level.  

So what changed?  As the application process for the federal Reading First grant was underway, our K-3 staff and administration starting looking for a SBRR (scientifically based reading research) program to implement to make the difference for our students, targeting kindergarten, first, second, and third grade students.  After presentations from different publishers, it was SRA’s Direct Instruction program, Reading Mastery, that was chosen by our faculty to be the program to

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