By Aaron M. Rodriguez
In a few days, voters will have an important decision to make that will ultimately affect children, parents, and taxpayers. In simple terms, a choice will be made between two candidates. One is an underdog reformer running on a platform of increased parental choice, and the other is an experienced insider with an entrenched history in the education bureaucracy. One is relying primarily on a grassroots effort to promote the message of change while the other is relying on the deep pockets of WEAC and other local unions.
One of the biggest red flags concerning Tony Evers is his marital relationship with the local unions. Don’t misunderstand me, unions are an indispensable and vital part of our capitalistic framework; they are a system of checks and balances representing the modern day employee. However, when candidates profess their commitment to the teachers’ union, they are pledging allegiance to an entity whose sole purpose is to fight for the teachers, not for the children, not for their parents, and certainly not for taxpayers. In the arena of public education, teachers are not the only important players in the process.
As noted in my article The Allurement of Tony Evers, 30 years of experience will afford any candidate with an obvious edge. However, the “experience argument” has a downside as well. With a lot of experience comes a record - in particular, a history of past performance. Evers, a participant in the chronic failures of MPS, must logically share in some the blame.
Liberal bloggers have pointed to the fact that MPS scores have improved at a greater rate than the rest of the state. This, of course, would depend on what statistics are being viewed. DPI has released its 2005-2008 proficiency results. And although, there have been some improvements, most of these come in the lower grade levels such as grades 5-8. In the high-school range, arguably the most important period in terms of college preparation, there has been a decline in scores. MPS 10th graders, for instance, have dropped from a 41% to a 38% proficiency in reading, while state 10th graders have improved from a 74% to a 75% proficiency. MPS 10th graders have also dropped from a 31% to a 27% proficiency in Mathematics, whereas state 10th graders have dropped from a 70% to a 69% proficiency. The improvement results are relatively mixed, but as one can see, the disparity in performance between MPS and the rest of the state is rather astonishing.
In another study, the graduation rate of MPS between 2003 and 2004 was 46%. If one wants to quibble with the methodology of the study, then that is certainly within one’s right. However, the same methodology was used to grade 50 other school districts, and MPS placed 38 out of 50. MPS is the bottom of the barrel, and milk-toast ideas will not turn MPS around. In the past 20 years, MPS spending has increased by 58%. This is a substantial amount of money invested in the public school system, so where are the results? After 20 years of increased spending, 10th grade proficiency in math and reading are still deplorable while graduation rates are still among the lowest in the nation. This, of course, doesn’t even include the facts that MPS has tripled their student expulsions in the past 10 years, and high-school truancy has risen up to 72%.
We need to start thinking outside the box. Parents know their children the best, therefore more options for them will produce better results. If a mother is concerned that her kid is unsafe going to a particular school, then aren’t vouchers or virtual schooling a viable option? Sometimes the solution to our education problems, whether they be safety or performance orientated, does not lie in traditional public schools. And unless we are willing to elect candidates who understand this, we will be condemned to repeat the same mistakes of the past 20 years with costly results. Tony Evers is a status quo candidate at best. He has no fresh or bold ideas, just milquetoast proposals that miss the mark of fixing MPS.