Monday, December 28, 2009

The Rest Is Commentary

Here are a few thoughts about events of the last few months.

On the good side:
Maybe things are looking up in the Willow Run schools. I don't say that because their finances have improved (they haven't). At least, though, their school board has finally figured out that it is supposed to make some decisions, and it seems they may be doing the best they can. They shunted their erstwhile superintendent into a side (newly-created) position, in a way that might seem like a waste of money when they have none. Except I don't think it was--if her contract had been written better, they could have fired her for complete and absolute dereliction of duty. But it wasn't, and putting her in this position avoids a potential lawsuit. And people seem to like the principal they've made as acting superintendent, so--all in all--they appear to at least be trying to move in a positive direction.
Lincoln Schools decided not to cut all bus transportation. This probably was meant to keep people from running to charters and other schools. (Is bus transportation the only thing that keeps people in the Lincoln Schools?) Nonetheless, on behalf of all working parents in the Lincoln school district, I thank them.

On the "I thought this was a bad idea but it happened anyway" side:
Detroit school teachers approved a contract that has them taking $10,000 out of their own salaries and loaning it to the school district. The idea is ingenious on the part of Robert Bobb, but if I were a teacher I wouldn't have voted for that. First, if I'm going to loan money it will likely be to my family or friends. Second, bankers everywhere have assessed the Detroit Public Schools as a poor credit risk. Why should teachers take on that credit risk? The whole thing really shows up how weak the unions have become--despite what the press might say.
At the last minute, the state legislature approved changes that could qualify the state for federal Race to the Top money. First, my assessment of the changes--they are a mixed bag, some are good (alternate certification paths for teachers) and some will probably hurt local school districts (more charter schools?) . Don't believe for a minute that the last-minute agreements on this mean that the legislature is acting like a legislature. No--it was the chance to qualify for free money--that got them talking. Don't expect them to be able to act like a decision-making body next year. In any case, in addition to the fact that not all of the changes will be good for the state, there is a better than even chance that we won't get any of the money at all. There are more states competing for the money than there are awards. And--even if we get the money, that money won't go to all school districts, but only a select few.

I'm sure there's more, but I will stop there.

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