Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bill Crawford: Wrong Fixes Hurt Schoolchildren

Emerging initiative "Empower Mississippi" is right that many children do not "flourish" in Mississippi public schools. But the fix it wants is wrong. Just as the fix proposed by the "Better Schools, Better Jobs" initiative was wrong.
Neither creating a new entitlement program in the guise of school choice nor making Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) funding mandatory will help our children flourish in school.

Given all the conservatives jumping on the Empower Mississippi bandwagon, you would think it provides a conservative fix. Nope. Instead it would give parents an entitlement to tax dollars (not a conservative thing at all). It would let them take money away from public schools to spend on private schools, home schooling, tutoring, or any educational activities they might prefer. The rhetoric declares this would allow students to "flourish." Perhaps some would, but mostly this would simply transfer public funds to private schools where many students really don't flourish academically. It would also erode education for students left behind at schools losing funds.

Given all the liberals who jumped on the Better Schools, Better Jobs bandwagon, you would think it would have provided a liberal fix. Nope. Oh, it would have liberally thrown more money at schools, but would have done nothing to fix what's broken. If money alone were the solution, some of our D rated school districts would be A+ districts.

For a high poverty state like Mississippi, the fix lies elsewhere.

Why do you suppose Kentucky, which has an 18.5% poverty rate just below Mississippi's 20.8% rate, has a better high school graduation rate (88.6% to 82.3%) and far higher 8th grade reading and math proficiencies than Mississippi (36.1% and 27.7% to 20.0% and 21.8% respectively)?

School choice? Nope, though a similar initiative has popped up there. Per pupil spending? Not really, Kentucky spends $10,945 compared to Mississippi's $9,885.

Unlike Mississippi, however, Kentucky is committed to early childhood education, particularly for at-risk children. In Kentucky, preschool programs are available for all four-year-old children whose family income is no more than 160% of poverty and all three and four-year-old children with developmental challenges.

"Studies show that children who attend high quality early learning environments have better math, language and social skills," according to Kentucky's Department of Education.

That's the stuff that helps children to flourish. That's the stuff that will attract good teachers back to struggling schools and make weak schools stronger. That's what Mississippi's conservative, liberal, and just regular folks should pursue together as our education fix.

Regrettably, that's not where the big money action is in Mississippi. Empower Mississippi is building a $400,000 war chest to buy political support during the 2019 elections; it contributed roughly $300,000 to candidates in 2015 according to the Clarion-Ledger. Better Schools, Better Jobs spent over $5 million to support their constitutional amendment vote in 2015.

Dr. Cathy Grace, who has spent most of a lifetime championing early childhood education efforts in Mississippi, says, "True conservative leadership across the country has recognized the value in early childhood education." She added that Mississippi has designed a high quality voluntary program, but, legislative funding for it "is shamefully behind."

Pursuing the wrong fixes for our schools will keep our children shamefully behind too.

Crawford ( is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.


Anonymous said...

Children do flourish in private schools! Charter schools work! Homeschooling works even better!

Public school children are held down by unions and do-gooder politicians, actually pandering for votes from the sheeple.

Pre-schools, Headstart, etc. are nothing but baby-sitting services paid for by the taxpayers. Just more FREE STUFF!

Crawford sounds like a union hack and is full of bovine scatology.

Kingfish said...

I'd like to know what unions do to hold down schools in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

Mississippi doesn’t have teacher unions.

Anonymous said...

Please show me the empirical data that shows private, charter or home schooled students do better than public school kids.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps some would, but mostly this would simply transfer public funds to private schools where many students really don't flourish academically.

Another offering of unsubstantiated BS coughed up by Crawford.

Anonymous said...

Please show me the empirical data that shows private, charter or home schooled students do not do better than public school kids.

Anonymous said...

Many of the so called conservatives will only be committed to a public school system which prepares half the population from birth to pick cotton and wash dishes. Problem is, there's no need for cotton pickers and damn little for dish washers. But then there's welfare and we can blame the no good welfare recipients for all the country's problems.

The better solution is to INVEST in children. The ones who are still young enough to develop good learning habits and skills and not be poisoned by the "hip hop" and "me generation' bullshit that dooms so many adolescent and young adults who have no parental guidance to speak of. Serious Pre-school is the most effective means of reversing a generation of educational failure BEFORE it takes hold. The only thing that becomes an adult is a child, helping children always bears fruit. Otherwise we can keep investing in prisons and blaming welfare recipients for everything since original sin. But maybe some of us enjoy doing that.

bill said...

Bill says that school choice is just another entitlement. What does he think government paid preschool would be?

Grant Callen said...

I don’t have time to respond to this whole piece today, but I will make a few points:

1.) Arguing that school choice is a new entitlement and public pre-K isn’t, is hogwash. Choice programs require no new
spending and simply utilize existing tax dollars better by allow students to control a portion of the funds already appropriated toward their education. Publicly-funded pre-K would be a new program requiring new money.

2.) Arguing that children do not generally flourish in private schools and therefore shouldn’t have the choice of a private education is like arguing that Char and Walker’s are no better than McDonalds. This claim is indefensible and the height of paternalism. Let parents judge for themselves what is a better educational fit for their children and let the chips fall where they may. I’ve certainly never claimed that private schools are inherently better than public, just that parents should have the choice. The research demonstrates that when choice is introduced, the public schools improve too. Rich and poor parents alike want a great education for their children. It’s just that too often it’s only the rich that can attain a great education for their kids.

3.) We already have school choice for those with money. Every day families with means are choosing to move to neighborhoods with better schools or pay for private school tuition. So really the whole debate about school choice in Mississippi is entirely about whether the poor should also have the right to chose their school. Apparently, Mr. Crawford believes they should not have that choice.

I could go on...and will, another time.

Anonymous said...

Bill assumes the only kids that would benefit from such vouchers would be the elite, white kids who want to go to private school.

He totally ignores the poor kids that are stuck in absolutely failing inner city schools that they are condemned to by their zip codes and their parents inability to move out of their poverty stricken neighborhood. Those kids only chance for a decent education is to be (1) terribly smart, so as to get a scholarship to a private/parochial school, or (2) be extremely fast or able to jump high, so as to get an athletic "scholarship" to a private school.

Vouchers provide a way out for many kids whom our government (local, state and federal) have condemned to a life that folks reading and commenting on this site, including Bill, cannot conceive. Agree - vouchers could help many middle income white families who want a better education for their kids but cannot afford the tuition. Not a question. But those families are not condemned to the same hellholes that their black counterparts have in their neighborhood "public school".

Besides - if the purpose of the government's involvement in education is to educate its populace, why do we care who provides this education? The purpose is not - as the teacher's union (and yes KF, it is technically not a union, but compare the process, tactics, and organization and you will find little difference), Bill, and those espousing the beauty of "PUBLIC SCHOOLS" as the holy grail forget the reason behind us having such a thing.

The government exists to provide a free education to its citizens. The government taxes its citizens to get the money to provide that education. Why should we care where that money is spent - either in the operation expenses of the government schools or in a private or parochial school? And if the option chosen by the parents were the second, at no additional cost to the government, why should we object?

Anonymous said...

I’m sorry Grant. Did you just refer to public schools as McDonald’s & private schools as Char? Really? We can settle this once and for all by giving ALL MS K-12 students the SAME tests. K?

Anonymous said...

It's all BS without quantitative data. When are the private schools going to adhere to the same measurements.

Anonymous said...

What is the end game for school choice advocates? What is the goal? Is it a future of private charter schools for all children? If not, what will happen to the children left behind in public schools? Do they become permanent left-behinds? Does anyone really believe that will work?

Anonymous said...

Some of these dinky small private schools around, like Canton Academy and Rebul Academy, exist for kids to play sports. I’ve seen that their curriculum lacks tremendously and the kids miss school for any reason whatsoever. So not all private schools serve a purpose as to educate students by providing a diversified curriculum and teaching styles.

Anonymous said...

I’d argue that only Mississippi is standing in the way of Mississippi, particularly the “tear ‘em down” attitude applied indiscriminately by most.

*Oppressing ones fellow man to keep the reigns of power relegated to the chosen few carries into the schools as most of the teachers are preoccupied with a natural tendency towards subjugation rather than enlightenment among other psychological maladies. Much like an alcoholic drowning in sorrows - Mississippi won’t admit that is has any such problems - nor do her people recognize them AS problems; however, they proudly sing the praises of the old ways while ingratiating them into everyday life, whether by legal statute or everyday practice. Collectively, “it” won’t rethink much of anything unless forced by an increasingly frightening overlord of overlords known as the Federal Gubmint. Only one or many with the brevity of willful ignorance or purposeful deceit could find it so easy to call any form of publically backed education an entitlement when attendance is compulsory and enforced onto the very parents that are blamed for the state’s own failures.

In addition to the implication that I may or may not have a solution to such proud traditions backed by the paralysis of trepidation, empirical data on any issue of importance on such fertile soil where ancient trees grow mightier and the populace grows weaker might as well be right up there with trying to defend a perceived communist plot, especially if it rocks the boat of the GOB power structure and their AA counterparts. Notice how that attitude changes when they start frothing at the mouth to sue “Big [insert corporate something here]” or even better, a federal grant.

Anonymous said...

Crawford opined in one of his columns that Kemper was still a great idea in 2017. Take that for what you will.

Anonymous said...

For sure there are high performing public and private schools and there are low performing projects bloc and private schools.
What needs to be done is to evaluate and identify the differences. And be williams my to accept the differences as models for
Improvement. I recently heard that the MDE in the face of a great need for math teachers decided to lower the test scores for
math teachers. It is becoming a trend to lower the standards in our schools in order to raise the rate of success.

Anonymous said...

If only 20% of 8th graders in MS are proficient in reading and math skills, how do 80% of students graduate? Head Start must begin in 9th grade.

Anonymous said...

Nothing will work until parents start teach their children the value of an education and provide family leadership to ensure success.

Anonymous said...

While research shows that pre-school education certainly does help a child initially, by the 5th grade, the advantage disappears when all else is the same school.

The assumption that all private schools are better than a public school is hogwash. That's like saying that Duke and Shaw University are the same.

The assumption that all home schooled students do well because some excel on testing and do well in college is also hogwash. The research on home schooling is so skewed as to be useless.

What I notice in home schooled children ( including in my relatives) is that their social skills and vocabulary are no better than that of their parents. So, if you home school, don't expect your child to do better than you did in fitting into all levels of society. If they are excited about a subject with which you are unfamiliar, you don't know how to help them move beyond the basics. You don't have the advanced knowledge at your disposal nor the objective ability to tell if your child is ready to move beyond programmed material available to you.

We have been teaching to test at home school, at public school and at private school, not teaching to learn or be excited about gaining knowledge or teaching our children to empirically and objectively analyze or see how information fits into a larger universe of knowledge.

Those charter programs that have an excellent school for the gifted should be a bellwether. In those programs, you have 5th graders speaking a foreign language fluently, reading at the college level, writing computer code and and since social skills are recognized as important, getting along well with neighbors kids both younger and older. It doesn't help to be smart if you can't communicate what you know to others in a way they can understand.

The harsh truth is that not all children have the same learning ability. What ability they do have can be either helped or hurt by not only their educational opportunities but also by what they learn at home. If children are expected to work hard and do their best at whatever they do, it helps. A brilliant child who is lazy will not live up to their potential and an average child who works hard and keeps trying will exceed their innate abilities. And, children need to learn those social skills. If they are bored in school, they will not develop good study habits because they don't have to study to get As.

What school is today is read the chapter day 1, write down the outline of the chapter on day 2 , be tested on day 3. History becomes boring. Memorization is not learning, it's regurgitating. Multiple choice is recognition , not knowledge.

We should be focusing on improving teacher education so learning is exciting and interesting again. We should be attracting good teachers by paying them well enough to live comfortably. And, we should educate young people to be parents and understand human development.

We need to get out of our children's way and stop controlling every moment. Children learn more than the techniques of a sport in a sandlot ballgame than one organized by and for parents. They learn to get along and solve their own problems. Climbing a tree gives confidence and pretending triggers the imagination. We don't give our children time for that anymore.

As a result, research is showing that we are teaching children to be followers and obedient and gullible. They lack perspective and perception and imagination and curiosity. And, those studies include college students in top universities

Anonymous said...

429, when the people who operate them feel a need for it, and when the people who pay the freight think it would be beneficial.

FYI, many private schools do use the same tests, and more. Are you just bitching to hear yourself, or do you have a basis for your question?

Anonymous said...

If you haven't read @10:10 AM before reading this comment let me give you a tip. Don't bother.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of good private and public schools. My kids attend an excellent private school and part of the reason it is excellent is because of teacher autonomy in the classroom, recess twice a day, two days of testing a year, 35 minute lunches and a host of other things that used to be routine in public schools. We can make these changes in public schools and help all the children in the state and not the few whose parents can navigate the paperwork, provide transportation, and pay for all the extracurriculars that come with private school.

We also can't discount the number of parents who send their children to private schools not for a better education but to keep their children away black children. Segregation academies still exist and you only have to look at the educational background of their staff to know which ones. Plenty of private schools don't expose their students to upper level math and science and I know of plenty who count DuoLingo or Rosetta Stone as their foreign language training. I don't want my tax dollars going to support that kind of nonsense. If you hold the public school accountable to certain standards to receive tax money then you better do the same to private.

Anonymous said...

I and my kids are public school graduates. But your critique of Canton Academy and Rebul Academy is goofy. Are you really claiming that Canton High School is better academically than Canton Academy?

Anonymous said...

1:51 - as long as you want to get to decide where and how "your" tax dollars get spent, can I decide that I don't want my tax dollars wasted on the many public schools that don't even have teachers in the classroom? You want to complain about using Rosetta Stone for teaching foreign language (which, if I am paying my non-tax dollars to send my kids to school, I'm not picking that one or many of the other choices that are providing only mediocre educations) - what about the classrooms in Jackson Public Schools (and others around the state, but trying to keep this simple) where they don't even have classroom instruction -- in anything.

So - you keep your tax dollars from being spent on the private schools that you deem inadequate, and let those of us that don't want to support a school just because it is part of the public school system but that is last of the last. (JPS has 7 of the bottom 10 high schools in the state, and do I need to remind you that MS is 50th, so where do those seven stand? BTW, JPS middle schools are only slightly better, and while there are five decent elementary schools, the rest are on the bottom as well.)

So - how do we get schools funded if you think you can choose which private schools can't get your tax dollars and I get to choose to not waste my tax dollars on absolutely failing public schools?

Anonymous said...

We decide how our tax dollars get spent every time we vote for those who represent us.

It seems to me that some of you don't see the value of public education or believe that it is critical to the success of a Nation. Indeed, public education is thought to have been critical to our rise to power as a Nation.
That's why other countries followed our lead.

If you did that, you'd see that " one size doesn't fit all" when it comes to education. The talents and skills and abilities of children differ as does their rate of development . But, politicians sell you on the notion that if your child isn't testing at his age level, then it's the school's fault or the teacher's fault. It may be, but we aren't doing anything to determine whether or not that is true. Nor are we discovering what your child's talents and abilities are so we can help them make the most of their gifts.

And, despite having money, the best private schools don't have to take a child and a voucher won't change that.

What you care about is defending your political party or tribal belief systems or you want a great education for your children, but you don't want to pay for it.

IF that weren't the case, you'd bother to look at the educating of children from an international as well as national point of view and ask " what are they doing that we aren't?".

Some of you, frankly, seen afraid of knowledge. If you weren't you'd seek it.

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