July 12, 1995

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Vol. 14, Issue 40
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A growing number of teachers nationwide say they are frustrated at being targets for students and are turning to the courts for relief.
Although their $18,975 annual tuition does not cover the cost of textbooks or spiral notebooks, incoming freshmen at Hartwick College do get one big bonus: a Zenith laptop computer.
With the Senate joining the House in advancing bills that would replace dozens of vocational-education and job-training programs with block grants, educators are trying to assess the likely impact of handing most authority over federal funding in those areas to states and their governors.
If we accept the time-honored and common-sense proposition that an educated citizenry is a vital necessity in a democratic society, then it would seem to risk tautology to suggest that a highly skilled and well-trained teaching profession is also a necessity. And, if we accept for the sake of argument, that our schools are not doing as well as they should, then one would expect demands for better preparation and training of our teachers. And yet, for a growing number of politicians, it appears that just the opposite is true.
Legislators in several states are considering proposals to eliminate teacher tenure. They argue that eliminating tenure will improve the quality of the teacher workforce by making it easier to dismiss incompetent teachers. (See Education Week, 3/1/95.)
The decline and fall of the American mind is evident whether you flip on a TV sitcom, tune in a radio talk show, or listen to political rhetoric. It is also apparent when you walk through many of our schools. Educators and psychologists point to the curriculum, disparities in I.Q. as suggested in The Bell Curve, lack of parental involvement, and inequities in funding as causes of our intellectual demise. I believe the root cause lies in the way public school teachers are trained, certified, chosen, evaluated, and maintained in their careers.
For conservatives and even some liberals, privatizing public schools has become the solution to the nation's "education crisis." Given American values about competition and choice, this sounds like a great idea, especially since the discussion is unclouded by empirical data on educational systems where there is choice and privatization. Yet such systems do exist, and--contrary to present claims--their experience suggests that voucher plans promise a lot but may actually make most children in schools worse off.
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)

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