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03 January 2005: The Anti-Robin Hood (1 of 4)

Last month, The Sutherland Institute, a conservative Salt Lake City think tank, proposed new legislation that would provide parents of kindergarten aged children a $500 tax credit for keeping their students out of public schools until first grade.

As I am under the impression that most of my readers are teachers, or well informed about education in this country, the primary argument against this kind of system is obvious: The kids who need it the most will be deprived of their head start. For a summary of this and other arguments, read the Salt Lake Tribune article of December 16, 2004 here: a.

But, what does Paul Mero, president of The Sutherland Institute say in defense of their proposal? He, like other conservatives, argues that Head Start and similar early education programs are not working in the long run. Read his editorial on the topic here: .

He says the incentive will increase available funds for the students who do go to kindergarten. He says that most Utah families will continue to send their students to kindergarten because most Utah moms work outside the home. He says, "impoverished parents typically would not earn enough to take the tax credit."

04 January 2005: The Anti-Robin Hood (2 of 4)

So, to summarize: rich kids get more educational support at home, need kindergarten less, and get a financial reward for their rich parents. Poor kids who get less educational support at home and need kindergarten more are sent to schools that are rewarding rich parents at their expense.

Doesn't this sound a bit like a new spin on the voucher system? Except with this legislation, the poorest families aren't even eligible for the government payout.

This creates a situation, like so many other seemingly well-intentioned educational policies such as government-funded voucher systems and No Child Left Behind (read my series beginning on 26 October 2004), where poor kids continue to attend schools where the resources are depleted by the rich. The end result, of course, is that rich kids continue to have opportunities to maintain their wealth, while poor kids continue to have a pronounced lack of opportunities to change their lot.

05 January 2005: The Anti-Robin Hood (3 of 4)

This may sound a bit liberal. I know this is more than a touch leftist. But, unless you have worked in an impoverished public school, you haven't seen what I have seen.

In this case, I'm not arguing that it's harder to teach in poor schools. I know that the art of teaching is a labor of love and an exhausting task, no matter your context.

I am only making the point that if you don't believe me, you should go on a field trip yourself. A few, maybe. Visit the lowest performing school in your district, and no matter where you work, you will find visible, measureable, concrete differences between that and the highest performing school.

Among those differences will be cleanliness and beauty of school environments, availability of resources, experience and expertise of teachers, and economic situation of the surrounding neighborhood. Check it out for your yourself.

06 January 2005: The Anti-Robin Hood (4 of 4)

Someday I'll write more about the statistics on childhood asthma in California's ghettos and the distribution of unclean air in poor neighborhoods, and about the way sub-standard teaching practices in primary grades can be linked to crime and prison population. Someday I'll give more details about my colleage's struggle with rats, asbestos, rain, and armed police chases in the halls of her Oakland elementary school.

For now, my request to you is this: No matter what kind of public school is near you, go visit one in a different kind of neighborhood. I understand that these things must be seen to be believed. Before my teaching career, I didn't believe it myself.

I guarantee you'll find that $500 for every wealthy kid who does not go to kindergarten in Salt Lake City could be better spent.

07 January 2005: Just Next Door (1 of 3)

I remember in my teacher education classes, the instructors making comments referring to teaching as a lonely profession. I know that in the standards for teaching established by my state, that isolation is seen as a hindrance to good teaching. Today, more than ever, I am feeling that isolation. Itís a feeling lurks around the corner every now and then. A really rough day with the kids, a brick wall in my process, an under-qualified, overconfident administratoróthese are the kinds of things that I often need to process at the end of a school day. And sadly, I find that my friends and family are less and less able to offer the empathy or advice that I need. My mom, bless her, is always willing to listen and console, but often unable to truly understand. My friends who have been with me longer than my teaching credential seem to be better at understanding, but are still unable to really empathize. Often the only people who can truly offer support when my job gets hard are my colleagues at school.

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teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

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