What Does The Future Of Public Education Look Like?

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I don’t think anyone really knows, and that alone is pretty damned frightening.

I want to talk about something I normally don’t. National news, and I only choose to do this because it could so seariously affect the education of the children in Schiller Park.

It is also more important now then ever that we stand up, and speak out in defense of our School system, and public education in its entirety.

In a 51 to 50 vote Betsy DeVos (A main player behind the Michigan charter school systems that is being called by some “the biggest school reform disaster in this country” will now be the guiding force behind this country’s public education system. A wealthy campaign contributor from Michigan who has devoted much of her life to expanding educational choice through charter schools and vouchers, but has limited experience with the public school system. (Here, here, and here)

When she was nominated to the post in November, she was called “a brilliant and passionate education advocate” by President Trump, But her performance before the nomination committee had her in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. In the end two Republican senators said they could not back her, leaving the vote tied at 50-50, and it was Vice-President Mike Pence who cast the vote that confirmed Betsy Devos

Prior to her hearing, labor unions, rights groups and teaching organisations spoke out against her appointment. So why is she so unpopular?

Mrs DeVos, age 59, is a wealthy Republican Party donar and a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman who has long campaigned for education reform in the state. Her husband Dick DeVos was a CEO of the beauty and nutrition giant Amway and her brother is Erik Prince, the founder of the controversial private security company Blackwater.

Most of the problems with Mrs DeVos focus on her support of charter schools, which are publicly funded and set up by teachers, parents, or community groups, outside the state school system. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said her work in Michigan involved “elevating for-profit schools with no consideration of the severe harm done to traditional public schools” despite “overwhelming evidence” that charter schools were no more successful than their traditional counterparts.
In the past she lead the fight to loosen oversight of charter schools in Michigan, and less oversight of charter schools could allow them to pursue a creationist, evangelical agenda. The New York Times reported that she had told a meeting of Christian philanthropists in 2001 that education reform was a way to “advance God’s kingdom”.

An editorial in the Detroit Free Press in December highlighted concerns in Michigan over her appointment. “DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader,” it read. “She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools. “She is, in essence, a lobbyist – someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them.”. One of the two Republican senators who said they could not support Mrs DeVos, Susan Collins of Maine, said she was “concerned that Mrs DeVos’ lack of experience with public schools will make it difficult for her to fully understand, identify and assist” challenges facing rural schools in particular.

The concerns over her qualifications were furthered last month after her confirmation hearing. In perhaps the most uncomfortable moment, she struggled to show she was familiar with the Individuals With Disabilities in Education Act (Idea), a federal law that requires public schools to make accommodations for disabled students. The American Association of People with Disabilities said it was “very concerned” that she seemed “unfamiliar with the Idea and the protections it provides to students with disabilities”. It was not the most striking moment of the session though – that was when Mrs DeVos, discussing whether to allow firearms in schools, noted that a Wyoming school might need a gun to defend against grizzly bears.

What does this mean for the Schiller Park public school system? In all reality I don’t even think the educators here, or in this country know how this will affect the process of educating the nations youth. One thing I do know, you will have a hard time finding anyone that works in public education who is excited about this appointment.

 

 

 

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Stop Signs and Traffic in a School Zones

As I have said in the past I tend to stay away from village level issues, unless it pertains to the School, or in this case the safety of the students in Schiller Park. At times village level issues tend to have an affect on the School, and I have always found it disturbing that people in positions of leadership would play these types of games with the education and safety of your children.

This brings us back to the flashing stop signs, and the traffic concerns in Schiller Park around our schools that seems to be getting worse yet still not being addressed.

I discussed the flashing stop signs in a post a short time ago, and the program that put them in place (Flashing Stop Signs). The short of it is that the flashing stop signs were installed as a federally funded program to add safety to the walking routes around our schools. Mayor Piltaver, and her staff worked to get this program put in place in Schiller Park for a reason that we hoped was the safety of children, with no political motivation. One of the signs was removed and replaced with a standard non-flashing version, and coincidentally that took place shortly after a petition was circulated to have them removed. A petition that oddly only gathered 25 signatures before action was taken.

Why was the stop sign removed? The original reason for the removal was that a sign at another location was not working, and the village pulled the sign from the corner of Scott and Eden to use as a replacement, and that the one at Scott and Eden would be replaced when a new one arrived. As of the Schiller Park School District 81 School Board meeting on January 18th 2017 it was reported that the lighted sign at Forster and Linn had still not been replaced with the sign removed from Scott, and Eden. As of yesterday January 26th 2017 the lighted sign at Forster and Linn was still not working, and the sign at Scott and Eden was still a standard non-flashing sign. What makes the Sign at Forster and Linn so important that a village president would feel the need to remove one sign to replace another that is not working. Then replace the removed sign with the replacement when it arrives? Why not simply leave the non-operating sign in place waiting for replacement? Or as an alternative theory maybe the sign at Scott and Eden was removed to please a complaining voter, and the story about using that as a replacement to a broken sign was simply back pedaling on a bad choice? (EDIT- I was told recently, but have not verified Yet that the village had a meeting to discuss issues with the School Signs, and traffic, and at another meeting the Mayor asked the Director of Public works to explain and back up her position to have the sign switched that he himself may not have ordered, in essence put the Director of Public works on the spot for something he did not order done. He has since resigned). If that were the case the choice to please a complaining resident took priority over a program the Mayor herself advocated for as an increase in child safety. Who is leading who in Schiller Park? The mayor or the voters?

Who is leading who in Schiller Park? The Mayor or the Voters? It’s my belief that neither are calling the shots, and let me explain why? We have an arguably thorny complainer in the Mayors ear about a stop sign that is located in front of his house, and is a blight on his life and to the community. He presents a single 25 person petition to the mayor and suddenly the sign is gone (Interesting to know that the person who circulated the stop sign petition also had a petition to stop the installation of speed signs, and he had a petition for the Mayor to run for re-election, campaign favor?). It has been reported that the remaining speed signs have been returned and will not be installed.

You also have a significant portion of the community complaining about speeding around the Schools, and busses for months if not years, and still no solution has been attempted. Yes flashing stop signs were installed, but the reports of severe speeding around all three schools continue with almost no enforcement at all. Other parents post to Social Media with complaint after complaint of difficulties with the new traffic arrangements at Kennedy School yet the village blames traffic control on the School, its procedures, and its staff. The standard passing of unloading School busses, and what has been described to me as “The Soreng Drag strip” by Lincoln Middle School have been problems for years. I have witnessed first hand the staff of all three of these schools often putting themselves at risk to try and deal with this issue, an issue that is 100% a village level issue, and not School District staff. How many children have been hit in Schiller Park? How many more have to get hit before the village president will stop pandering to campaign supporters, and listen to the voters? Because that seems to be who is actually in charge of Schiller Park, the Campaign supporters not the voters or the Mayor.

That is in fact what it looks like to me and many others. It gives the appearance that the Mayor of Schiller Park only cares what is best for the people who support her campaign. If you circulate one of her petitions you have her ear type of situation. These are very serious issues regarding the lives and safety of children at a minimum, but truly affect every person that lives in or passes through Schiller Park.

Stop governing based off of your supporters needs and start governing towards what the community needs.