Thursday, April 7, 2011

Civil Disobediance for Higher Education?

This is a mistake, a really big mistake. I should keep my mouth shut.

I'm already pilloried in some quarters for advocating for the students of Cross Keys High School attendance area. A well understood secret is that some of the resentment coming my way is due to the fact that a percentage of these young people are either illegal immigrants, a.k.a. undocumented students, or have family members who are in this category.

The "immigration issue" has been heating to a boil for many years. It is boiling over now partly due to the economy slowing down, partly due to a spurt in xenophobia, and partly due to the very large population growth among undocumented immigrants (do you prefer "illegal aliens?" ... that's ok.) in our midst. I also believe it also is boiling over at this time because we are seeing 2nd and 3rd generation illegals and a minority group feeling empowered by the 2010 Census results.

Don't misunderstand me, I do think we have a really big problem on our hands with our borders and immigration policies. However, I don't think there are any easy solutions and I think too many want to ignore the real complications. Our current, ridiculous state is the result of decades of neglect by our leaders and the full weight of the serious issues involved is now bearing down on the shoulders our children.

In this writing, I'm narrowly addressing the issue of public education as it relates to these realities. The more large and ugly debate about immigration reform and illegals in our society is for another forum.

These are kids who are 100% American in their upbringing, interests, education, tastes, and dreams but who are also here undocumented, ok ... illegally. They have the same expectations and hopes as their more papered peers at our public schools. One thing they do have in perhaps greater measure than their peers is pride and courage.

I see this every day in the young people I have the privilege of meeting at Cross Keys, Sequoyah, and the five elementary schools feeding into them. In the elementary schools, I see in the young faces the same things I see in all children in our community - silliness, wonder, energy, excitement, hope, and sometimes sadness. Their older siblings at the middle and high school navigate through the same troubling and exhilarating processes of adolescence as every other kid in this most-blessed country.

But I have noticed a change in the older ones over the past two years or so. They are more discouraged, more despairing, and troubled about their future and the future for their younger brothers and sisters. Things that they may have taken for granted or glazed over at the ages of five, or eight, or twelve are now staring  them square in the face - how will you complete your education? If you leave the country for education, will you be separated from your sisters forever and miss their quinceañera, their first date, or kiss or car?

Many of the undocumented students are Mexican by cultural heritage but make no mistake - this issue is not limited to our amigos hailing from Mexico, Central America and South America. We have families from every continent on the globe making their way into the USA without papers. So what do we do with their children? Year after year, and now generation after generation, our public schools have encouraged them to educate themselves and chase their own piece of the American Dream.

The have spent their entire lives elevating their minds and aspirations through education only to discover that they are no longer welcome in much of our country and now in Georgia unwelcome in many of our schools. Closing off avenues to public universities has slammed the door shut on many of these young people who want to finish their education in Georgia and become productive members of the community.

And then today, I saw this video. A group of graduates staged a protest on April 5th at Georgia State University by blocking the road. Seven of them were arrested. The first one arrested appeared to be wearing the bright yellow cap of a Cross Keys graduate. Her name, ironically, is Georgina. These types of demonstrations are increasing in frequency and in volume all over the country. My reaction was, "How tragic and how beautiful!"

These young people are disrupting traffic to demand access to higher education! What the hell? I wish all of our young people had this level of dedication to educating themselves or the courage and passion to fight for their siblings and their futures, too.

But then again, perhaps I'm just making a really, really big mistake ...


Anonymous said...

As usual, your message is right on the mark. Just wanted to let you know that someone was up at this late hour contemplating what you have laid before us.

As an aside--it shall be interesting to see how many folks go to the trouble to post. FYI--you can still be anonymous; you just have to jump through a couple of hoops one time!

Cerebration said...

Kim - you are my fave. Good post. We all need to put attention on this issue - it ain't going away.

And dekalbga is correct. You will still be anonymous, it's just that I won't have to dig through barrels of spam to find comments. Or delete spam comments that somehow get through. (If this were a paying job, I'd probably spend all day in the spam trap... )

Clio said...

sorry Kim, illegal is illegal. Illegal (law breakers) cost you and I millions every year in Georgia. Gone to an emergency room lately? Illegals treat it like a primary care doctor visit. Groups like MALDEF & GALEO and even the Archdiocese of Atlanta keep pushing m for amnesty and other illegal rights. For every illegal in a college there is a legal sitting on the sidelines. Every dollar spent in DeKalb schools on illegals is a dollar not spent on a legal resident. The anchor babies have their parents to blame for the harsh words from me and others. A society without secure borders, one language, and one culture is doomed. I've seen first hand the resources at a school drained by ESOL kids.

Cerebration said...

So, Vandy, are you saying that because these children are brought here illegally as helpless babies, after having grown up in our American culture they are to what - continue the shame of life as an illegal forever? Return to a country that they have never known? Work sub-pay, difficult jobs in servitude for their parent's sins? I'd like to know your proposal as to what to do with these kids. Our leaders did nothing to stop the flow of illegal immigration for years. They successfully swept all discussion of the future repercussions under the rug. The time has come to pay the piper - the discussions must take place.... These kids only "sin" is not adhering to our society's assumptions for their 'life plans' - as a sub-culture of hard-working, low paid service employees to wealthy businesses and wealthy homeowners. (Damn them for wanting an education and a better life than that!)

These students are brave. This is the next big discussion that must take place in this country. It's as big as emancipation for slaves, IMO. In fact, we now know that there are officially far more Hispanics in the US than blacks. Time to deal with it. A good place to start would be to stop the flow of illegals - but has our Congress bothered to work on that? No - the blind eyes continue to rule. But these children are real people, with real lives and real hopes and dreams. They cannot and will not be swept under the rug anymore.

Leo said...

This is one area where I have such conflicting views. I feel every child should have an opportunity for education and to make a better life for themselves if they want it, but I also agree with VandyNow that illegal immigrants take resources away from lawful citizens and immigrants who have come here lawfully.

Susan Curtis said...

I'm not sure I understand exactly what resources illegal immigrants are taking away from people...Jobs? Nope, the business owners who hire them aren't able to find legal people to do them. School opportunities? Nope, public schools are still free for all. Higher education? Nope, they still pay tuition - and in some places they pay more because they are illegal. Welfare? nope, they don't apply? You say they don't pay taxes? Not true! Sales taxes, income taxes, are all paid by illegals and legals. So what exactly are they doing to hurt any of us? The kids who have grown up here are by and large motivated to do well - they have a loyalty to our country that is impressive. The immigration problem is an enormous one, but these kids don't deserve your scorn. It's OUR fault for not electing people who ponder the problem thoughtfully and then act using true data. Instead, we elect people who pander to whatever the latest poll results are. Kim puts his money where his mouth is, and his devotion to "those kids" is to be admired. We should all walk a mile in "those kids"' shoes.

Unknown said...

10% of the 100,000 DCSS school population is Hispanic. If only half (5,000) are illegal, then that is
$50 million of DeKalb taxpayer money each year.

The term "undocumented" is not correct. Many of the illegals have more documents than the average legal citizen.

The parents set the course of the lives of the children. Parents are responsible for their children.

Unknown said...

I miss all comments that used be here. At least then it made me come to the site to see what people really had to say. Now, no so much. See you in a few weeks.

Gayle said...

@ Susan Curtis

"I'm not sure I understand exactly what resources illegal immigrants are taking away from people....
School opportunities? Nope, public schools are still free for all."

That's not true. School taxes are mainly paid for by property taxes. If an illegal immigrant has 3 children in DCSS schools, then taxpayers are paying $27,000 a year ($9,000 per pupil) for those children every year they are in school. How many of those parents are paying $27,000 a year in property taxes? Illegal immigrants are disproportionately low income and thus pay lower apartment rents. The potion of their rent that goes to property taxes is very low compared to the rest of the legal population - some of whom are high income, some are middle income and some are lower income. Hispanics have a very high birthrate (the highest in the U.S. along with Asians). So this compounds the funding issue.

I'm not saying immigrants aren't great students. They are most teachers favorite students to teach because they are hungry for knowledge, well behaved, respectful and hard working. However, we need to recognize that their education costs more tax dollars than their parents put into the system.

Whatever made you think education in the U.S. doesn't cost anything? Do the teachers and other public education workers work for free? Are the buildings built for nothing? Are their no energy costs for schools?

I think what is upsetting is that you would characterize education as "free". I'm a big proponent of public education and continuing to fund our public schools rather than siphoning off the money to fund private schools. Public education is the cornerstone of our country.

Public education is "free" for the students, but the cost is born by every adult that owns property whether they have children of school age or not. I pay almost $5,000 a year in property taxes, and I've lived in DeKalb for about 30 years. I expect I will be paying for another 15 to 20 years. 70% of that goes to schools. This doesn't seem free to me.

Kim Gokce said...

"The anchor babies have their parents to blame for the harsh words from me and others ..."

Sorry, Vandy, that doesn't work. We only are responsible for our own words. That doesn't take away from the merits of anything you may wish to point out otherwise but I have to cry, "foul," on that one.

The merits of your arguments will stand or not stand on their own - I'm not here to argue abstractions about the national issue but only the reality of a very local and very serious question in my mind about the future of our community and the children in it.

Kim Gokce said...

Regarding the discussion about the local resources this population "takes" ... no discussion of the "take" has any meaning without addressing the "give" ... the net is what we should address.

There is a lot of data on this question out there to support both sides of the argument. When that is the case, my conclusion is usually that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

These folks in DeKalb are not breaking or making our public budgets. Pushing the young people out of our public universities is not improving our public finances - that is clear.

Regarding the "they take our jobs" argument - that is also mostly myth. While there can be argument made that the availability of a working population ready and willing to be exploited can have a downward pressure on wages, we are talking about the extreme cases here.

A worker with fake papers makes the same rate as a worker with real papers in all but the lowliest of jobs. In a recent case in Norcross, a warehouse operation was audited by the IRS and they found that over 40% of the employees were undocumented and they were terminated over night and turned over to INS. It took the owner months to re-staff and guess what - most likely the new workers are also holding fake papers.

There are far too few workers in the U.S.A. and these folks are filling the low end of the job scale. Who are all the workers that they were displacing prior to the economic down-turn? There are MILLIONS of working illegal immigrants in the U.S.A. ... MILLIONS ... there are not MILLIONS of legal residents in our country looking to clean houses, mow lawns, provide home child care, load trucks, etc, etc, etc. ...

If we don't want illegals in our county, fine. But let's not pretend that they are keepinng us from getting a job or funding our public needs.

As much as I would like to focus the discussion here on the children and their education, no matter what I say it will become a tempest in a teapot mirroring the national debate that has been so productive.

So accept my apologies if I decline from moving the debate into immigration reform - this is a forum about education in our County and my belief that we are being foolish for closing the doors to GT, UGA, GSU and other institutions to our children.

Kim Gokce said...

gcoplein: "The term "undocumented" is not correct. Many of the illegals have more documents than the average legal citizen."

That is hilarious because it is true - thank you, I needed that!

Cerebration said...

Gee I'm in debt. By the math discussed above, at $9,000 per year, I owe DeKalb County $234,000 (probably more because I have one child with ld and one who was in the magnet program).

Anonymous said...

In South Dekalb, the great majority of the kids are "legal." And a huge number live in apartments, which means that their parents don't pay enough in property taxes to cover their education. And if you want to go there--uh-oh, their birth rate is high as well.

Maybe the analogy isn't exact, but my point is that these kids didn't choose to be poor, just as the kids Kim writes about didn't choose to be "illegal." They are starting out with the odds against them, and those who strive to overcome those odds deserve our support.

By the way, I am a childless homeowner. By your numbers, I am sending a couple of kids (OK about a kid and 2/3) to school each year. And I am glad to do so.

Gayle said...

@ Cerebration 10:06
Property taxes are paid by all income levels - low, middle and upper, single and married individuals, people with and without children, and businesses.

I am very much in favor of public education. I don't support the idea of vouchers because I think it drains badly needed funding from public education. We are going to need the best educated working adults in our history to meet the challenges of our global economy.

But my point is still valid. Public education is not "free". We all pay. And undocumented immigrants pay at a lower rate, often because they live in a gray area of a shadow economy shut out of many professions while they work at lower hourly wage jobs. This is the real problem that needs to be addressed. Until we have a path to citizenship for these undocumented workers, this debate will continue.

SHS said...

@ Rufus ... et al ...

A large part of the reason for the slow-down in comments on this blog is that this week is Spring Break for DCSS. Comments will pick up again after Spring Break.

Just a reminder to teachers and other DCSS employees who blog here, but who, out of a very real fear of retaliation, have been posting as "Anonymous": DO NOT use the Internet connection at your school or in your office or classroom to post to this blog. Here's why:
(1) At any time, DCSS IT/MIS can look at what you are doing or have done on your computer. So, in reality, you are not all that anonymous.
(2) Also, if DCSS does regular back-ups, it is possible that there could be a record of your postings on this blog.

I'm not saying that DCSS is, in fact, aware of who you are, even though you have posted anonymously -- just that they could know if they wanted to. That, of course, assumes that DCSS IT/MIS has the knowledge, skills and abilities to remotely access your computer. I don't think they do, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it! Even a blind hog can find an acorn every once in a while.

M G said...

DCSS MIS DOES have the capability to access a teacher's workstation and they DO SO.

I stood in the door of my classroom one day last year and watched the mouse move around on my workstation, windows open and close.

Since that day, I use the DCSS workstation for 2 things - print needed documents such as lesson plans and student reports and for the promethean board in my room. Everything else is done on my personal laptop with my internet aircard.

Cerebration said...

I've always said that no one should be blogging on work time. Please just bring your thoughts to the blog from your personal computers at home. And no - we still have no way of identifying you, but requiring some kind of log in and open id will really reduce the spam -- and we've been getting quite a lot.

Appreciate everyone's flexibility!

Dekalbparent said...

Cere -

I see the warning to mean don't use the DCSS workstation for personal stuff EVER. Even if you are at school until 8pm (now, who would ever do that - we all know teachers have a cushy job and they can leave at 3...). This isn't just a blogging on work time issue, it a all the time issue. (I'm not jumping on the paranoia bandwagon - I worked there - MG is right.

DCSS employees - stay safe - use another computer.

Anonymous said...

We are a bit off topic, but yes, you are responsible for anything on your workstation or while signed in under your username. You acknowledge that every time you log on, and you sign an agreement to that effect every year.

Now, see all of those rows of computers in the lab that are signed on as "student"? Blog away, folks.

Dekalbparent said...

Kim -

The rationale given for barring undocumented students (I have given my POV away by using that phrase) is that the colleges and universities have turned away otherwise qualified students when admitting the students in question. The schools that have not turned away otherwise qualified students are not on the list (e.g. GPC, Savannah State, Valdosta, etc.)

This implies the undocumented students were deemed qualified, and therefore it is assumed they can be successful and graduate. As far as I can see, these students are exactly the same as any other student in terms of their "intrinsic value".

I think the two questions that are in my mind are practical rather than philosophical:
1) when these students graduate and are out in the job market (whether after a bachelor's degree or a graduate degree), what effect will their undocumented status have on their employability? I suppose some of them might have become citizens in the meantime, so they would not have a problem, but what about the others?
2) assuming, as it seems many of us are, that these students come from a lower economic level, are they requiring more financial resources from the universities or other scholarship sources than the "documented" students who would have been in the school instead? Does this reduce the amount of money available for "documented" students? If so, by how much? We may be talking about a vanishingly small impact. Are there "documented" students who are financially injured by the money given to the undocumented students?

What are we talking about here, anyway? If these students can become contributing members of our society, are we disadvantaging US citizens who could also become contributing members, but won't because of them?

Kim Gokce said...

all reasonable questions ....however, the state board of regents themselves said they were addressing a non-issue in terms of admissions but rather changed the policy under political pressure to do so.

As far as how these grads would manage in employment, they do fine in most cases. The e-Verify system from the feds is so terrifying to liberals and conservatives alike, it remains an elective program of the government for employers.

Cerebration said...

I just think it's terrible that for decades, our leaders turned a blind eye and basically with a wink and a nod, didn't exactly put a stop to illegal immigration and now - the issue is the hot topic of the legislature! Geeesh.

Anyway - it appears that GA legislators are joining the groups in AZ and elsewhere and attempting to put laws into effect that will punish people who have effectively been living here for years.

Seeing some parallels to their own struggle, veterans of the civil rights movement from the 1960s have joined the fight against Arizona-style legislation targeting illegal immigration.

In Georgia, state lawmakers are poised to vote on two bills that would empower police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects and punish people caught transporting and harboring illegal immigrants.

Such legislation, civil rights activists warn, could bring about the same kind of discrimination and racial profiling African-Americans struggled against decades ago. They have been delivering fiery speeches against House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40 and marching alongside Hispanic activists in Georgia and in other states in recent months.

There is a sharp division among blacks on this issue, however, with some arguing illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from African-American U.S. citizens and burdening public schools and hospitals in black communities.

Both immigration bills could come up for votes in the final days of this year’s legislative session in Georgia next week.

Click the link for the whole report -

Civil rights activists join fight against immigration bills

David Montané said...

Since my own dear father illegally immigrated here in 1952, became a naturalized citizen in the late '60's, was a successful, hardworking businessman, paid all his taxes as any citizen would, plus paid for my three sisters' and my tuition until we were old enough to pay our own, this subject is very close to me.

There is no excuse for government to coercively take money from me in the form of taxes or erode the value of my money by inflating the money supply, and distribute funds to others in the form of welfare. This includes using it to pay for schooling, whether that schooling is K-12 or college, public, charter or voucher, for citizens or immigrants, legal or illegal.

The answer to the illegal immigration problem is simple: Re-legalize it! The cornerstone of our country is not public education (where did THAT idea come from?), it is liberty for all! Citizens and immigrants alike have a right to learn, just not at my expense. I want my right to spend my money on my own education returned to me.

themommy said...


The feds turned a blind eye but the states have to pay the bills. States are required to educated all children, regardless of immigration status, but like the costs associated with special education, the feds come nowhere near covering the actual expenses.

This is why so many states are looking at making things much more uncomfortable for immigrants who are not here legally. They can't afford the costs.

I haven't had time to study the budget deal, but I understand that the republicans are going to propose big changes to Medicaid. This will also have a huge impact on immigrants, legal and illegal.

States will not be able to make up the difference if the feds start funding medicaid less.

Cerebration said...

Well, IMO, this state turned a blind eye for a very long time as well. There is a huge benefit to the agriculture industry to be able to employ hard-working illegal immigrants at low wages. When the state coffers were flush, no one seemed to care how much illegals were costing taxpayers. Now they do. They have to. But to blame it on the illegals themselves is a cop-out. Everyone is complicit in where we are today. To harshly put the blame on one group over another isn't right. But there is no doubt that the healthcare, education and judicial costs of millions of illegal immigrants has gone far beyond what U.S. taxpayers can bear.

Gayle said...

@ David Montane
"The cornerstone of our country is not public education (where did THAT idea come from?)"

LOL David - it came from Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson considered public education to be one of the most essential foundations of our democracy. Remember him? Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, helped write the Constitution of the United States, and was our third President.

Jefferson quotes:
""If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

". . . whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right."

Jefferson also said:
1. "...that democracy cannot long exist without enlightenment...
2. ...that it cannot function without wise and honest officials...
3. ...that talent and virtue, needed in a free society, should be educated regardless of wealth, birth or other accidental condition...
4. that the children of the poor must be thus educated at common expense."

Jefferson felt so strongly about education that he, as a strict constitutional constructionist, submitted to Congress an amendment to the constitution to legalize federal support for education in his State of the Union Address, December 2, 1806. "Education is here placed among the articles of public care. . . "

"...Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree. . . .
...An amendment to our constitution must here come in aid of the public education. The influence over government must be shared among all people."

The amendment was never considered, so, Jefferson turned his efforts to his state of Virginia. He developed a comprehensive plan for education which encompassed elementary, secondary, and university levels.

Thomas Jefferson was one of the greatest thinker the U.S. has ever had in terms of our political philosophy and political system. The idea of liberty for all came directly from Jefferson and he held the idea of public education as a prerequisite to that liberty.

Dekalbparent said...

@Kim -

Thank you for your explanation. I re-read my post, and in an effort to be completely logical, I think I obscured my point.

If those students have achieved enough to be admitted to our state's "better" colleges/universities, then it can be assumed they will be as capable of contributing to our society as any other student. What is the problem here? Should we not be judging each person on her/his merits? They're here. They speak our language without an accent (except perhaps a regional Georgia accent). They have a potential to contribute as much to our society as anyone else. What's the problem?

themommy said...

Dekalb parent,

One of the problems for them is a path to citizenship. Earning a 4 year degree without citizenship, doesn't give them very much potential for future employment.

Maryland is looking at a different tact.

Go and complete community college and then you are eligible for in state tuition at the 4 year schools.

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Look, if these folks want an education, great! If you get educated here, you must work here and help pay for others to be educated. You must assimilate into our country and learn English. I don't mind at all if these undocumented or illegals want what we have. However, they should stand in line like my parents did. Get your citizenship and move on with your life.

We should look at the rules of other countries and see what they insist on, if you want to become a citizen. Mexico's is very tough. In Mexico, folks that become citizens, and are not from Mexico, can not own property and MUST learn the language along with many other tough steps.

I say let's celebrate these kids who are enrolled in our schools. However, when it's time to work you must work here, be taxed here and live here long enough to help pay for others education. Also, if you commit a felony you could be sent home and citizenship revoked.

It's time we secure our borders and ask the parents of these kids to work on becoming legal citizens and if they do welcome them with open arms!

David Montané said...

@ ATL: Thank you for that history lesson. I didn't realize Thomas Jefferson, whom I also greatly admire, was in favor of education "at common expense".

I hope you can appreciate that this new knowledge does not alter the fact that public education is NOT a cornerstone of our country. At best, it means that one of our most important founding fathers, a great thinker, recognized how dependent liberty is on a well-informed populace, and that he thought using tax money to educate children was the answer to sustaining a well-informed populace.

The question then becomes, if Thomas Jefferson had the benefit of hindsight that you and I now have, would he still feel that using the government to educate the people - in order to make sure that the government does not take advantage of the people - is a good idea? Or would he now see that this has created a "fox guarding the hen-house" situation?

The problem of the poor needing enlightenment is best solved by charity, not extortion. I would like to know if 60% of all state and local taxes in Virginia went toward education in Jefferson's day.

Do you think our public education system in the past few generations has created the environment Thomas Jefferson wanted to sustain in which America would continue to have "wise and honest officials"?

Interesting point about there never being a Constitutional amendment regarding education, and yet here we are with a US DOE in full control of all the states' educational systems. In a truly free market system, a plethora of approaches toward education would be explored. If the states had remained sovereign, there would at least be 50 competing systems. Now we have this cookie-cutter approach for the whole country.

What student wants to be crammed into the same mold as every other student? How can any real learning take place this way?

Gayle said...

@ David Montane

Since there is no time travel, what Jefferson would think of today's educational system is really moot. Remember that most people were farmers in Jefferson's day. Comparing the need for the educated populace and skilled labor in our society is quite different. Jefferson espoused literacy from the viewpoint that literate citizens would be more able to participate in and therefore protect the democratic society he and the founding fathers set up. Today we also need literacy so our jobs don't all end up in India and China. So analogies are limited when comparing public education of the present with the past.

Clearly, however, Jefferson did not think education of poor children should be left up to charity.

IMO - leaving education solely to the states has given up a patchwork whereby some states have good results and some state have poor results - Georgia being one of the poorer. Compare Georgia or any state to Massachusetts. The students in Massachusetts are the only students that can compete on the level of Finland, Singapore, etc. on the International Tests of math, reading and science. Massachusetts is also a state of high taxes and a state with an exceptionally strong teacher's union.

Massachusetts has an employment rate that is lower than the national average (versus Georgia which is higher than the national average) and one of the highest per capita incomes in the nation. Highly educated and highly skilled people like to live in Massachusetts because they are attracted to the results the school system produces.

Kim Gokce said...

Let's not forget that in Jefferson's time there were few institution's offering education TO ANYONE, with or without money. A liberal arts education even at what we call a secondary school level was virtually unknown compared to the scale of our society today.

There are over 50 million students in our schools today and less than 11% of them are enrolled in a private school. I would hazard a guess that percentage is not far from what it was in Jefferson's day when ALL education was private and no more than 10% of everyone received an education.

So whatever we think of the wisdom of a public system there is no disputing that the public system ALONE has expanded participation and OPPORTUNITY for education among our people.The public system concept is a relatively modern set of institutions so the question I have is what prevented private schools from educating the masses all those centuries? There were no laws preventing private schools from marketing their services to the poor,huddled masses, right?

I think the primary answer is clearly money and money remains the primary issue today.

While I'd love to have a $5,000 - $10,000 "public voucher" to spend on my son's education at any one of a number of very fine private schools in my area, the fact is that these schools true costs far exceed those levels for parents. Just ask the parents at Marist, Lovett, Westminster, Blessed Trinity, and Woodward, etc if the published tuition rates of $15-25+ represent the total cost of those schools for their children - it doesn't!

Ask the board of directors, dean or headmaster of one of those schools how much fund-raising they must pull in above and beyond tuition to maintain and develop the school's plant.

So, I think the reality is that the kind of experience and opportunities offered at our area private schools are in no way comparable to that of our public schools and for a reason. That experience cannot be bought at a much lower price whether in a private OR public school.

One could argue that releasing public funds to private options SHOULD create options at lower tuition rates and total costs over time for parents. But I think that an honest assessment of this argument would be that the resulting product would be approximately what we get from spending the same dollars via a public system - minus a little extra waste from bureaucracies.

I'm not opposed to supporting education, public or private. I do not believe that private is per se better or cheaper option for the "general public's education."

That said, our public system in DeKalb is a great recruiting tool for the private school industry and for the vouchers movement.

Kim Gokce said...

atl: "Highly educated and highly skilled people like to live in Massachusetts because they are attracted to the results the school system produces."

I have to "throw a flag" on that observation - that is a bit of a circular proposition. Is Mass attracting wealthy people because its school system is so awesome or is the school system performance based on the state's demographics??

"Smart," wealthy people tend to raise "smart," wealthy children, right? Nothing against Mass but I think it is unfair to make the contrast with GA in this way. The poverty rates in GA have been higher than those in MASS since before either became a State and before there ever was a public system in either.

Less wealthy children are just as capable of learning but I think we generally under-estimate the other complicating factors that come along with poverty rates. People often complain about our public schools becoming too involved in "social" issues. The fact is, our public system educators figured out long ago that they have to deal with these serious issues to get to the education part.

So, whether we like it philosophically or not, our public schools are a reflection of who we are and our under-lying problems. And in States like ours, poverty is right at the top of that list of problems.

Gayle said...

@ Kim
Georgia has not invested in education the way Massachusetts has.

Did you know that in Massachusetts beginning in first grade, children that fall behind in Reading and/or Math are pulled for double doses of Reading and/or Math. Struggling students take Reading and/or Math in a small groups, and then they take the subject with their homeroom.

Teacher certification is extremely difficult to obtain. Teachers take the 4 hour MTEL for their subject. The MTEL is more difficult than the Praxis, a national exam Georgia replaced with the easier GACE.

Every Massachusetts teacher (from Kindergarten, PE, Physics, etc) must also pass the Communications and Literacy Skills test, a test of critical reading, vocabulary, grammar and a written essay. This is a 4 hour test of reading and written fluency. This is to ensure EVERY teacher is a good critical reader and very fluent writer.

They have put their dollars into the classroom and it shows. Taxes are higher in Massachusetts, but all that direct instruction in small groups as well as in the regular education classroom pays off. Equally important is the stringent certification process which only employs teachers who are experts in their subject matter as well as fluent readers and writers.

"Is Mass attracting wealthy people because its school system is so awesome or is the school system performance based on the state's demographics?"

That's a "which comes first, the chicken or the egg" question?

One clear fact that is that as long the public education system in Georgia remains on the bottom of the barrel in student achievement, we will not be attracting industry that brings jobs that require high skill levels.

Is it so wrong to look to a state that has the highest student achievement in the U.S. and ask what they are doing that perhaps Georgia is not doing?

Gayle said...

@ Kim

"Just ask the parents at Marist, Lovett, Westminster, Blessed Trinity, and Woodward, etc if the published tuition rates of $15-25+ represent the total cost of those schools for their children - it doesn't!"

As Cere pointed out 30 (in many cases for high schools it's 33 or 34) per class students equates to $300,000 for a classroom of students. Around $65,000 including benefits goes to the teacher who directly instructs the students.

The schools you mention have 15 students per classroom (per the Pace Academy website). At $20,000 a year, this equates to $300,000 spent on a classroom of students as well.

That's why we need to look at the money that actually makes it into the classrooms.

Unknown said...

atl-- April 14, 2011 1:41 PM
Is it so wrong to look to a state that has the highest student achievement in the U.S. and ask what they are doing that perhaps Georgia is not doing?

Amen to this!!! As an educator in the Dekalb County school system, I've often pondered this same question. Maybe they have sought input, but it sure doesn't show!!

Kim Gokce said...

At the risk of sounding argumentative, I think you have both glazed over my point about MA vs GA public education. MA results speak for themselves. My point was that comparing the results from a relatively wealthy population, the relatively homogenous demo, and the relatively higher spending, small state to our relatively poor, larger minority, lower spending and rural, large state doesn't make sense to me.

How about NY or PA vs GA?

Kim Gokce said...

@atl re "pace" ... Mercury must be retrograde or something because I am not getting my points across well this week ... we certainly should look in classroom expenses but my point was that I think that a voucher system will not necessarily create a "Pace Academy" for every child in America today. I do not think it is as simple as public = bad and private = good.

Kim Gokce said...

Atl, I also have to throw another flag on Georgia not attracting companies bcos there is not an educated population or highly skilled work force. What high skills are you saying we lack in our work force? Corporate headquarters are coming here for more than weather and properly fried chicken.

Gayle said...

@ Kim Glock

One of the most telling figures in Georgia to me is the fact that Georgia is one of the three states that has consistently had the highest percentage of unemployed in the U.S. (per AJC article today).

If we had a highly skilled labor force and many high school and college graduates who were proficient in math and science, we would not have this problem. Thus the school system is tied to the economic engine or lack thereof. If we had all those corporate offices moving here you referred to, we would not be one of the 3 states with the most persistent unemployment.

I agree that Massachusetts is wealthier than Georgia and has a more homogeneous population. The wealthy aspect has an effect. However, there are many states that do not have the diversity of Massachusetts yet they do not have the student achievement of Massachusetts.

BTW - Mass. has an enormous amount of technical schools. Even small rural areas have technical schools sitting within their high schools. Many towns have technical high schools.

Although income and other factors are very important, we have to look at education as the way to get people out of poverty. As a long time educator, I can say that most low income students are the very ones who need the "best practices" Massachusetts is providing.

Look again what Massachusetts has done and tell me it is not the "best practices" that our state should be considering:

1. High quality teachers who must pass stringent assessments. EVERY Massachusetts teacher must have a Masters within 5 years of being hired.

2. Relatively high pay for teachers, and a union that holds the line on excessive class sizes and extra duties that drain the planning time for teachers.

3. Early intervention for every child who is not on grade level. Starting in first grade, students who are not on grade level receive double doses of math and reading in small groups with direct instruction by math and reading specialists.

4. High expectations in math and science classes in high school. Their regular high school science objectives are on par with the AP science objectives.

5. An extensive technical school track for students which includes apprenticeships for electricians, plumbers, and other high skill jobs.

Kim Gokce said...

Atl: we are arguing passed one another with our points. The migration of people and companies to Georgia is just a fact. So I'm not sure why your raising that as an issue.

The lagging unemployment problem here is precisely because there was such a boom in employment and housing in Atlanta due to that migration. That boom has been followed by an equally exaggerated bust in GA because so much real estate was being built out for the migrating people and businesses that went *POOF* ...

So please continue to advocate for reform and improvements in public education in DeKalb and Georgia but do not mistake cause for coincidence. Georgia's unemployment rate is not due to a lack of highly skilled workers.

The fact that I am pointing out MA <> GA is not to take issue with your suggestions for GA public education. I am simply pointing out that the results may or may not be a direct result of what you are suggesting and I don't assume that it is.

Dekalbparent said...

Kim -

The interventions and expectations @Atl describes dare not just a result of homogeneous population and relatively high economic status (besides, Massachusetts is not all Harvard and the Vinyard - it's Lowell and Springfield, too).

How can you argue that you have to have a richer population to set up interventions for struggling first graders? To offer high level science and math programs? To develop more stringent testing for teachers?

This is just best practice. How can we tell our kids "Wait - when we get more money, then we will give you an adequate education."

Kim Gokce said...


Kim Gokce said...

These are not my words.

David Montané said...

@ atl: Resurrecting our previous discussion here, on Jefferson's idea that the one great assurance of good public order and honest government lay in a literate citizenry:

I just finished reading a lecture entitled "The Theory of Education in the United States", given in 1931 at the Jefferson-founded University of Virginia, by Albert Jay Nock, who had previously written the book "Jefferson".

Nock at that time said that "I need not remind you of Mr. Jefferson's passionate faith in this idea, and his insistence upon it in season and out of season. It was in his day a speculative idea, which commanded quite wide consent among thoughtful persons, but which the subsequent test of practice has rather tended to explode."

Nock points out that "the mere ability to read raises no extravagant presumptions upon the person who has it. Surely everything depends on what he reads, and upon the purpose that guides him in reading it." He advised us to look at our large literate population and the intellectual interests revealed by the colossal volume of garbage it reads.

On the other hand, in countering the idea that everyone is equally educable, Nock pointed out that "Mr. Jefferson's plan was this: Every child in the State should be taught reading, writing and common arithmetic; the old-fashioned primary-school course in the three Rs. Each year the best pupil in each primary school should be sent to the grammar schools, of which there were to be twenty, conveniently located in various parts of the State; they were to be kept there one or two years, and then dismissed, except 'the best genius of the whole,' who should be continued there for the full term of six years. 'By this means,' wrote Mr. Jefferson, 'twenty of the best geniuses shall be raked from the rubbish annually.'"..."But this is not all. At the end of the six years the best ten out of the twenty should be sent to William and Mary College, and the rest turned adrift. Mr. Jefferson's plan appears selective with a vengeance in our eyes, accustomed as they are to the spectacle of immense hordes of inert and ineducable persons slipping effortlessly through our secondary schools, colleges, universities, on ways that seem greased for their special benefit."