●●smf's 2¢: No one disputes the value of competition or the goal of strong schools. I feel strange defending Roy Romer - I miss him sometimes but he could always defend himself! What is going on here however in insidious; Rep Tancredo is using the technique of 'The Big Lie' - stating personally held belief as proven fact and arming himself and his cause with spurious and suspect proof.
THOSE WHO DO NOT STUDY HISTORY WILL INEVITABLY MISSTATE IT: Fuzzy thinking proves noting except perhaps the inferiority of fuzzy thought and the absurdity of fuzzy thinkers.
Let us begin with Tancredo's description of Romer: "Romer left Colorado to become superintendent of schools for the Los Angeles Unified School District, a job he held for more than a decade. That district's school board was controlled by the teachers union and he had a friendly City Council as well."
Really? Whatever Rep. Tancredo taught when he was a teacher - and thankfully he's not teaching now - it must not have been history! Romer was Chairman of the DNC after he left Colorado. Romer's LAUSD superintendency lasted six years. Six, count 'em: six! And he had a 'friendly city council' as well? The only three times the city council had anything to do with LAUSD (the state constitution and the city charter forbid them meddling therewith):
- They voted unanimously to support the mayor's (illegal) takeover of the school district under AB1381 - in direct opposition to Romer.
- They helped appoint a commission to investigate the governance of the school district.
- They put a ballot measure on the ballot that:
- raised school board members salaries
- and limited the terms of school board.
(Wait: two things in one ballot measure? ...isn't that illegal? Oh well, another windmill for another time)
- When Romer became superintendent the school board was not 'controlled' by the teachers union; if anything the opposite was true. A majority was 'supported' by [anti teacher's union] Mayor Riordan and Eli Broad.
- And the teacher's union - it must be remembered - also broke with the board they 'controlled' and supported AB 1361.
The rest of Tencredo's argument is similarly and substantially hogwash.
Competition Key to Education Excellence
By U S Rep Tom Tancredo (R/CO) : OpEd in the Rocky Mountain News (Denver)
Wed, Aug 20 - Last week, Gov. Bill Ritter and former Gov. Roy Romer wrote a column about the state of education in America. In it, I believe they've unwittingly made a powerful argument for precisely the kind of educational reform that they have publicly opposed for many years: school choice.
In 10 years, the governors want to cut the high school dropout rate in half and double the number of college degrees awarded to in- state Colorado students. These are great goals for our state but the only way to achieve them is through a competitive educational system.
They lament poor math and science scores, alarming dropout rates and the declining performance of American students relative to kids from the rising economies of Southeast Asia.
What's worse, we are left with these embarrassing results despite record-shattering "investment" (i.e., government dumping your tax dollars into a hopelessly broken system) by state, federal and local governments.
And while all of this is very disappointing, it is not surprising. This is precisely the kind of abysmal result that we routinely see whenever we turn an important task over to a government-run monopoly.
I am a former public school teacher, and like it or not, education is a product. As we all know, you don't get a better product by stifling competition or imposing a rigid regime of government protectionism.
If we want a better product when it comes to education - higher educational achievement levels by our school graduates - our government policies must be geared toward satisfying the consumer: students and their parents. They cannot be driven by a concern for what education bureaucrats, substandard educators or the out-of- touch teachers unions demand.
If we need a current example of the obstructionism of the teachers' union, just look at their opposition to the merit pay proposals in Denver. The union insists on automatic increases in the base pay for all teachers, and they oppose linking pay increases to merit. Should the best teachers get higher pay than mediocre ones? Not according to the unions.
Teachers unions not only oppose school vouchers, they oppose home schooling. In California this summer, the state teachers union filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a California Court of Appeals case arguing that parents who home-school their own children must have teaching credentials identical to classroom teachers. This requirement would effectively destroy home schooling. Thankfully, they lost the argument.
Romer left Colorado to become superintendent of schools for the Los Angeles Unified School District, a job he held for more than a decade. That district's school board was controlled by the teachers union and he had a friendly City Council as well. So, why is Romer not bragging about what he achieved in that position? Maybe because the product of his stewardship in Los Angeles mirrors the awful product of the union-controlled public monopoly in Colorado.
If history has taught us anything, it is that solutions to some of the world's most complex problems have come only when we have unleashed the power of the free market. The answer to the education problem, simply put, is more choices for parents, and more competition by schools for students. It is not another ambitious big government "solution" put together by the same special interests that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo - a status quo that even Romer and Ritter admit leaves our students lagging far behind youngsters from Seoul and Singapore as they enter a newly competitive global economy.
Sadly, I suspect that liberals like Ritter, Romer and their underwriters in the labor unions will continue to use every resource at their disposal to deny the children of poor and middle-class parents access to the same private schools that many of them send their children to.
I hope that when parents listen to the left's disingenuous arguments about why they shouldn't be free to send their son or daughter to any school of their choosing, they will remember the words of Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman: "Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself."
Our goal: strong schools
By Gov. Bill Ritter and Roy Romer :opinion: The Denver Post
Wed, August 13 - Next weekend, the Democrats will gather in Denver and one of their first priorities will be to adopt a party platform. The following week, the Republicans will gather in Minneapolis with a similar mission. The parties' final platforms will likely note rising energy costs, increasing unemployment rates and this nation's ongoing housing crisis — all important issues.
But amid this discussion, we need a clear and reasoned voice to continually make the case that strong public education is the best driver of future economic growth.
New research by economist Eric Hanushek shows the inexorable link between the quality of a nation's schools and its economic productivity. He concludes that if the U.S. can improve its performance on international assessments to match top-scoring countries like Canada and South Korea, the U.S. economy will produce an additional 4.5 percent in gross domestic product in less than two decades.
That increase would amount to what the United States currently spends on K-12 education.
Bold education reform is needed to achieve these economic benefits. Consider these alarming statistics: Nearly 70 percent of U.S. eighth-graders are not proficient in reading. More than 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year. In a recent international assessment of 30 countries, U.S. 15-year-olds placed 21st in science and 25th in math.
We as a nation have the capacity to reduce dropout rates, improve student learning and enhance our international competitiveness, but we need the political will to achieve these goals. That's why we have joined together in support of the Strong American Schools campaign.
In Colorado, our 10-year education goals are ambitious: cut the high school drop-out rate in half; slice achievement gaps in half; and double the number of college degrees awarded to in-state Colorado students.
To help achieve those goals, we need to continue to enact groundbreaking education reforms to make our students competitive — not just with other states, but also with other countries. And it will take strong leadership at every level — including the presidential level — to ensure our efforts are successful.
At present, Colorado students perform higher than the national average. We're five points higher than the national average in fourth-grade reading levels, and eighth-grade minority reading levels beat the national average by five points as well. But it is not enough. Every state's standards need to be benchmarked against the best performing nations in the world.
As a nation, we are falling behind. As a nation, we must re-examine our standards and assessments to ensure that every student is equipped with the 21st century knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy. As a nation, we must enact rigorous standards and relevant assessments that challenge students and teachers so that we are providing American businesses with the best-educated and best-skilled workforce in the world.
In a global job market, Americans are competing for jobs with workers from around the world. We cannot allow our current generation of students to be the first generation of Americans whose economic outlook is worse than that of their parents.
We know it won't be easy; providing clear solutions to complex problems is never simple. But we do know that changing the course of public education will only occur if the next president makes it a priority from day one.
The Strong American Schools campaign is making a determined effort to ensure that education is a priority in this election and we are having an impact.
Our schools can be the best in the world again, preparing students to compete with the brightest. In doing so, we will not only protect our economic security, but we will also maintain our standing in the world.
Bill Ritter Jr. is Colorado's governor. Roy Romer is chairman of Strong American Schools and former three-term governor of Colorado, head of the Democratic National Committee and superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.