Spieckerman Speaks

Monday, February 06, 2017

A vote against DeVos is a vote for ruining the lives of children of color

The nearly $700 billion government K-12 superstructure of unions, administrators, school board politicians and bureaucrats, jealously guard their failed construct. They love to divert from the alarming facts:


  • The U.S. spends, in inflation-adjusted dollars, more than three-times per pupil what we spent on public education in the early 1960s – the highest in the developed world by at least a factor of two.
  • Yet our country ranks in the high teens and 20s among developed countries in academic performance.
  • Pupil-to-teacher ratios are the lowest in our history.
  • In most school systems, there is a 1:1 ratio of non-teaching to teaching personnel, an inexcusable level of bloat not present at any reputable private, charter or parochial school.

Nowhere is the egregious performance of government-controlled schools more harmful than to the POC pupils. African Americans are already suffering from the vestiges of the synchronized post-WWII conspiracies to suburbanize whites and ghettoize African Americans – which created today’s inner city cauldrons of privation and dysfunction – and Wall Street-designed trade policies that deindustrialized big cities, disproportionately destroying African American jobs, incomes and dreams.

As if that wasn’t sufficiently impairing, inner city minority children are tethered to the worst schools in the developed world. Those schools’ drop-out rates, graduation rates, performance on standardized tests and college readiness metrics aren’t even close to acceptable. Much less world-class. With very few exceptions, the government-run inner city schools America’s children of color attend are a disaster.

To attain the American dream,  every African American child must finally have a strong start. Right now, we’re not even close to achieving that.

In the New York City public school system, which does an atrocious job for African American pupils, teachers awaiting disciplinary hearings are paid full salary – $70,000 a year and more – to use their iPhones and iPads to Facebook and surf the Web.

And in just the past two years:


  • A crippling teacher’s strike shut down Seattle schools.
  • Atlanta public schools are still reeling from a pervasive fraudulent testing scandal.
  • And in Detroit, a teacher sickout by their union kept thousands of kids out of the classroom. Then a multi-million-dollar kickback scheme was uncovered, involving multiple school principals, that further sapped precious dollars from this already cash-strapped district.

And this is just a sampling of the outrageous scandals and educational malpractice at large government-run school systems across the country.

Let’s face it. "Reform" of large public school systems is impossible. Some of the smartest people in the country, from Joel Klein in New York City to Michelle Rhee in DC to Roy Romer in Los Angeles to Arne Duncan in Chicago, have tried to fix the bloated, union-dominated, corrupt school systems in our biggest cities. None have succeeded. It’s akin to Soviet premier Gorbachev’s attempt to fix communism through Perestroika in the 1980s. You just can't get there from here.

But the situation isn’t hopeless. And the solution to our American education catastrophe isn’t a mystery. Research proves charter schools are much better for minority pupils and consistently outperform government-run schools, in some of the poorest areas and the toughest neighborhoods in our country.

Here are just a few examples: 

  • Harlem Children's Zone’s Promise Academies, New York City. Geoffrey Canada, founder and former CEO has said, “If we can’t fire (bad teachers), we should send them to the upper middle class neighborhoods.  Because those kids can afford a year of a bad teacher.  Poor kids can’t afford it.” Harlem Children's Zone also offers a comprehensive range of before and after school programs.
  • At Washington, DC’s Thurgood Marshall Academy, 100 percent of the school’s graduates are accepted into college. And two-thirds of those students finish college, a rate that is higher than the national average—and about eight times the rate for D.C. students in general. A third of TMA’s entering ninth-graders start off at or below a fifth-grade level of proficiency in math and reading.
  • Success Academy, New York City. Though it serves primarily poor, mostly black and Hispanic students, Success is a testing dynamo, outscoring schools in many wealthy suburbs, let alone their urban counterparts. In New York City last year, a pathetic 29 percent of public school students passed the state reading tests, and 35 percent passed the math tests. At Success schools, the corresponding percentages were 64 and 94 percent.
  • Democracy Prep schools, in New York and New Jersey, operate the highest performing school in Central Harlem and are ranked the number one public middle school in New York City.
  • Urban Prep, in Chicago. For a remarkable fourth consecutive year, every single graduating senior at Chicago’s majority black Urban Prep Academy high school have been accepted at four-year colleges or universities this fall.
  • KIPP Academies throughout the country. In addition to stellar academic results, the KIPP Through College program supports students after they complete KIPP, through college.
  • St. Philip’s in Dallas, Texas. Operated by the Dallas Episcopal Diocese, St. Philip’s, in low income, predominantly minority South Dallas, works to lift the whole neighborhood. All pupils graduate high school; many go to college.
Two documentaries, “Waiting for Superman” and “The Lottery,” captured the desperation of parents trying to get their children into charter schools through annual lotteries. Success Academies, for instance, receives more than 22,000 applications for less than 3,000 seats.

And in the District of Columbia, where so many of the politicians and lobbyists send their kids to expensive private schools, more than 8,000 students are on a waiting list for spots in the top D.C. charter schools which achieve vastly superior results to DC’s government-run schools.

And this travesty is happening all over the country. It’s “The Hunger Games” brought to K-12 education! A national disgrace!

Those who advocate charter schools and tying K-12 education funding to the pupil, rather than defaulting the dollars to failed government school systems, are met with the Orwellian mantra that this “takes money from public schools.” That’s like saying that when someone elects to use T-Mobile or Sprint, he or she is “taking money” from AT&T and Verizon!

But at least AT&T and Verizon provide solid service!

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and, while governor of Indiana, vice president Mike Pence, signed America’s most far-reaching school choice laws. They should be models for our country. Every state should be able to offer its least advantaged kids the kind of school choice Nevada and Indiana provide their children.

But the teacher’s unions hate charter, private and parochial schools. Because those schools are wonderful for great teachers – but not for the teachers unions. And make no mistake, the teachers unions are the most noxious force in education today. A few years ago, a top official of the NEA teachers union, actually said in a speech – listen to this – that the NEA is successful,

…not because we care about children,

not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child

but because we have power

and we have power

because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us

hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year.

Can you believe that? Disgusting! And there’s zero indication the NEA’s power- and money-hungry paradigm has shifted.

So, since the NEA teachers union donates enormous amounts of money to Democratic politicians, millions of poor African American and Latino children are being forced to keep playing the lottery. To remain entrapped in execrable schools!

Meanwhile, again, almost all the children of the elites and the politicians attend exclusive, expensive private schools.

If that isn’t a rigged system, I don’t know what is!

Betsy DeVos is a formidable crusader for children, passionate about unwinding that rigged system.  It’s crucial that she be quickly confirmed so she can commence the vital mission of unchaining children of color from wretched government-run schools.


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