Friday, August 04, 2006

Education Differences Too Important to Let Pass

Over sixty percent of our state budget is spent on education. It outweighs everything else put together. Both candidates for Governor have issued education plans and it would not be fitting to let that pass without comment.

Beebe's plan and Hutchinson's plan actually sound a lot alike. Both are expensive, involve a significant expansion of government, and fail to address the real problems of lack of discipline in the classroom and burdensome red tape hurdles that drive the best teachers out of the profession. Both plans want money to be taken from your pockets in order to pay the training costs of workers for some of the state's wealthiest businesses (so-called "workforce education" though Bebee does not call it that). Both plans call for families who choose to raise their own children in their own home to pay for Pre-K for families who wish to put their three and four year old children in a government institution at others' expense. There is a lot not to like about both men's ideas.

On the other hand, the plans are not equally terrible. Let's talk about where they are different.

(continued, click "Friday" below and scroll down for the rest of the article, or if sent straight here just scroll down).

2 Comments:

Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Though both want Nanny State Pre-K, Hutchinson seems to think there is some point at which parents should be the ones responsible for the care and nuturing of their own children. Not so General Beebe. He wants to expand after-school and Summer programs so that the government can have possession of children year around. He writes, "We need to ensure that our children are safe and have quality after-school and summer programs to attend. To that end, a task force composed of teachers, parents, school district and school board representatives, child advocates, and the State Department of Education will convene to assess the whats, wheres, and whens of after school and summer programs."

Hutchinson is far more friendly to rural schools. He writes, "If a rural school is performing well and meeting academic and fiscal requirements, then state government should be a friend and not an enemy of that school," and "We need to maintain the highest standards without discriminating against schools in our rural communities. Studies show that while district restructuring has a place in reducing inefficiencies, closing down schools in rural and impoverished communities harms the kids and increases the hurdles to their getting a good education. The kids should be our first priority, and closing down schools in rural and Delta communities should be viewed as a final resort and not a first choice,"

He then backs that up by pushing for distance learning (which allows even small schools to offer all required courses) and adding length of bus rides as a consideration in whether or not a campus should be closed down.

Beebe has consistently been in favor of consolidation and has not offered any concrete proposals to help rural schools. This is a clear contrast of the two in education: Hutchinson has a measured degree of support for rural schools, Beebe has expressed little to none.

Charter schools and a willingness to explore alternatives to the traditional public school model is another difference between the two. Beebe seems to want to operate within the old framework. Hutchinson seems more open to experiment. For example, state law currently allows a maximum of only 24 charter schools to operate, and we are rapidly bumping up against that maximum. Hutchinson sees the 24 limit as arbitrary and unhelpful. Beebe would like to keep the lid on at 24.

Both recognize that we need to retain quality teachers. Though both don't dare touch the real issues here, they each have a good idea that deserves to be explored. Beebe wants to expand the "Mentor Teacher" idea and Hutchinson wants to examine alternative pay arrangements. The latter is a nod to free market realities. An advanced chemistry teacher should not be paid the same as a middle school history teacher. Those are not the same jobs. One position is a lot harder to fill and requires more training. To attract the same quality of help, you need to have a "signing bonus".

Likewise, both admit we need more parental involvement- but the system better understand that "involvement" is not simply the state telling parents what they need to do to get with the state's program. The state needs to do its share of listening and adjusting as well.

I have not evaluated Rod Bryan's or Jim Lendall's education plans, but if someone would post a rundown on them we would be glad to look at them. We might even judge their ideas as better than the two traditional parties. Changing nothing might be better than adopting the whole of either Hutchinson's or Bebee's plan. On the other hand, doing nothing is not a long-term option. My bottom line is that we have gotta vote Hutchinson, and then hope that the good parts of his plan make it through, and that the big-government nanny-state poop that somehow got stuck on his shoes during his years in Washington DC gets scrapped off by events.

10:09 AM, August 04, 2006  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Just to be clear, though both support digging into your pockets to expand government Pre-K, Beebe wants to dig a lot deeper. Today's papers have him saying, "Beebeā€™s plan calls for eventually providing preschool to all public school students regardless of income. He would do this by adding money to the program gradually for an undetermined number of years."

Also, Beebe might take issue with the idea that he has proposed zero ideas for rural schools because of his "travelling teacher" idea. Still, he's wrong. Schools can do that some now. They already do it. It is not new and it is of little help for rural schools if every class has to be offered every semester of every year. Hutchinson's idea about distance learning makes more sense.

I was also disappointed to see that Jimmy Cunningham is supporting Beebe. The man was past president of the rural schools association and is superintendent of Danville, and a Demorcatic legislator. Is it an example of party over principle? Cunningham said that he believes that Beebe supports rural schools but he gave no specifics. He can't! He can't because Beebe doesn't.

11:04 AM, August 04, 2006  

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