Reassured by Obama’s hint of big spending on schools

From Jill Levy, president, American Federation of School Administrators

Shortly after reading The Hill’s Special Report on Education last year (Sept. 17), I wrote a letter to the editor stating that education is the key to our nation’s prosperity. Given the further deterioration of our economy since then, I was very pleased to hear President Obama’s recent remarks on education to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

In his speech, Obama said, “For we know that economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand in hand in America … The source of America’s prosperity, then, has never been merely how ably we accumulate wealth, but how well we educate our people. This has never been more true than it is today.”

Our nation will not enjoy long-term prosperity unless and until we invest in education for our children, adolescents and adults. Our system must support quality, competitive and accountable educational opportunities for all of its citizens. The research is very clear — for every dollar we invest in successful early childhood initiatives we get nearly $10 back in reduced healthcare costs, a decrease in crime and prison costs, fewer people relying on welfare, and more productive members of our communities and society as a whole. Early childhood education, inclusive of day care, is not babysitting, and we must make certain that the providers are certified educators — teachers and administrators.

The time has come to talk about consistent standards across the nation in order to ensure that all children receive a quality education, meeting high standards of performance with the skills, creativity and critical thinking required for global competition. The time has come to provide teachers and principals with the necessary support to prepare students to meet those standards. The time has come to decide how we measure students’ academic progress. The time has come to hold public charter schools to the same rigorous standards and regulations as the public school sector and to make certain that the community has input in their geographical placement.

I thank the president for declaring education a top priority for his administration. I only hope that Congress is equal to the task, and will recognize this opportunity to inspire renewed public education rather than simply another issue on which to draw an ideological line in the sand.



Demerit for merit pay

From Chris Nielsen (retired teacher)

(Regarding President Obama’s push for merit pay for teachers.) One of the most destructive effects of merit pay for teachers is that it severely gets in the way of the free and open communication between teachers and other professionals with whom they work.

Talking about common learning issues when the need arises, and it does frequently, when trying to understand a student’s learning problems is a very useful tool to the teacher. Setting up financial barriers to this most important need to getting at understanding issues that relate to learning is unforgivable. People become hesitant to share what works or does not work with a particular classroom situation when it might affect their pay. That is where teaching is very different from paying people in other professions; their professional and close cooperation with each other is vital to successful instruction and learning.

Eugene, Ore.

A plague on all your houses

From Wes Pedersen

Members of Congress and of the Obama team are the last people on Earth to be snickering at CNBC’s Jim Cramer’s discomfiture at being taken into the woodshed by “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart for his lack of the insights needed to predict the economic downturn months ago. They, like Cramer, have fiscal responsibilities up to here, but they missed the indicators of economic disaster to come.

Nor do I recall Mr. Stewart, The Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal warning of calamity and summoning all hands to arms. Thus, from one who did forecast the recession nearly two years ago, a wish for everyone concerned: A plague on all your houses.

Chevy Chase, Md.