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17 February 2010

School Superintendent Fires All High School Teachers in Failed High School

Central Falls High School in Central Falls, Rhode Island has a 48% graduation rate and huge numbers of students failing courses.  The town of Central Falls grew up around the falls on the Blackstone River, which began powering manufacturing operations in the mid-1700s.  The area claims to have produced more of the arms used in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars than any other.  Central Falls was home to many manufacturing enterprises, but especially to the textile industry.  Now, it is a terribly depressed city with a median income of $22,000 and an unemployment rate well above the already high Rhode Island rate of 12.3% in December 2009.  But, the high school teachers earn $72,000 to $78,000 per year, teaching from 7:50 AM to 2:25 PM during the school year.

The State Education Commissioner, Deborah Gist, authorized the Central Falls School Superintendent, Francis Gallo, to turn the failed high school around.  Gallo asked the teachers union to agree to extending the school day by 25 minutes.  She also asked that teachers spend some time tutoring students before and after classes, eat lunch with them once a week, undergo more rigorous evaluations, attend a weekly after school planning meeting, and take two weeks of training each summer.  She offered them $30 per hour for 90 minutes of after school planning time a week and for the 2 weeks of summer training.

The teachers union wanted $90/hr. for the extra work.  They did not get that, so they refused the offer, knowing that the School Superintendent would have to fire the teachers, administrators, and assistants of the high school staff if they refused her offer.  Francis Gallo did just that.

Someone earning about $75,000 per year while working about three-quarters of the year is making money at about a $100,000 a year rate.  Surely one should expect such a person to be a professional.  Or viewed from another angle, surely one should expect a teacher to be a professional.  I cannot figure out why a professional needs a union, which will always require its members to behave in an unprofessional manner appropriate to at best semiskilled workers.  In any case, a professional teacher ought to be appalled at the degree of educational failure at Central Falls High School and should feel duty-bound out of professional pride to undertake the additional work needed to actually teach its students.  Possibly, the students are unreachable.  If a professional teacher were to conclude this, then that teacher would move to another school where the students are teachable.  But, to be happy drawing a high school teaching salary of $75,000 per year and not being able to graduate as many as 50% of the students, that is despicable.  The fired teachers surely deserved to be fired and apparently should have been fired long ago.

Unfortunately, Central Falls will fill the public school with more teachers and attempt to continue public education.  They may do better, but public education is always a failure.  Its internal contradictions are numerous:
  • One of the chief lessons of history is that government must be highly limited, but government will not properly teach this in a government-run school.  This is an inherent conflict-of-interest.
  • The central purpose of education is that children should learn to think rationally and independently.  Government does not want this to be the case:  it wants docile followers, so we have another conflict-of-interest.
  • The study of ethics is central to education, but ethical ideas are commonly a bone of contention among Americans to such an extent that government-run schools will not allow genuine ethical discussions because they may become "confrontational" and may bring in religious ideas.
  • Political issues must be discussed, but political viewpoints either rest on limited government or with extended government they must rest on imposing ethical ideas upon the citizens under threat of force.  Again, there is confrontation and the introduction of religious ideas, if powerful government is advocated, as the government always wishes it to be.
  • The government cannot resist using the government-run schools as propaganda mills designed to mold its future voters into the beliefs the government wants them to have.
  • The government cannot resist advocating ideas of class warfare and racial and sexual victimhood, since these ideas give the government many excuses to expand its powers.
The proper and wise way to provide the children of Central Falls with a decent education is to close down the government-run schools and start up more private schools.  The educational mandate of private schools is much less in conflict with the needs of American students and it has the property of being freely chosen, rather than imposed by force.

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