Sunday, June 5, 2011

We Can Have Teachers Without Borders, Part 2

Serfdom is a legal and economic system. A serf is a laborer who has to stay in one area. Serfs were the lowest social class of the feudal society. Serfs were different from slaves. Serfs could have property. In most serfdoms, serfs were legally part of the land, and if the land was sold, they were sold with it.

Simple English Wikipedia

Serfdom – condition in medieval Europe in which a tenant farmer was bound to a hereditary plot of land and to the will of his landlord.

Encyclopedia Britannica Online

We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.

Salman Khan – The Khan Academy

Public education is provided for those that live within the boundaries of a public school. There are exceptions to the rule. Magnet schools and charter schools do not have the same boundaries limitation found in other public schools. For the most part, however, children are bound to the public school in their neighborhood. This is not a problem for parents happy with their neighborhood school.

It was a problem for Tanya McDowell, a mother arraigned in Connecticut for stealing a Norwalk public school kindergarten education for her five-year-old son. She was homeless at the time and used a fraudulent address to enroll her son in Brookside Elementary School. Apparently the education was worth more than $15,000 and its theft is a felony. Tanya was charged with first-degree larceny and if convicted may face up to 20 years in prison.

The public school funding must be different in Connecticut. In California the school would have gained more funding for the enrollment of this little child.

In California, much of the state funding for schools is based on student attendance. It is called the Average Daily Attendance (ADA). The actual amount received by schools fluctuate with the state budget, but based on a formula, it is roughly $6,100.00 per elementary student with perfect attendance. In a school year of 180 days, that comes out to be almost $34 per student day of attendance. It’s a little higher for high school students. [Compare that to the $15,000 price tag for a kindergarten education in Connecticut].

Attendance is very important in California. How can a student that does not attend school learn? Besides, local schools count on the ADA monies provided by the students in their boundaries. Not, of course, that it holds influence on suspensions, expulsions, and transfer requests. No, what is best for the student is what is considered important.

We do not live in serfdom. Our children are not serfs. Parents unhappy with the neighborhood school can wait in line or participate in lotteries for the opportunity to enroll their children (and their ADA) in a magnet school or charter school. Parents can even request permission through transfer request forms for the boon of enrolling their children in a different school.

Of course, school districts need to weigh what is in their best interests in granting permission to enter or leave their boundaries. Does the loss or gain of ADA outweigh the need to raise test scores? A tough question in an age of budget cuts and test score accountability.

Or parents can take their children to private schools.

Most parents, however, can’t afford the tuition of a private school. So, they are essentially stuck with the compulsory school attendance laws of our public school system.

Would a voucher system help? Not really. We don’t have a voucher system in California. And even if we did, vouchers do not work as the name implies that it should work.

A voucher system, unlike the ADA system, does give tax dollars back to the parents to shop for the best school for their kids. And one would think that tax dollars belong to the citizens that pay them. Unfortunately, tax dollars are taken from taxpayers and are then considered public money that belongs to the government. The government determines how vouchers can be spent – not parents.

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is our best example of how a voucher program could work. Operating for 20 years, the debate over its benefits still rages. To some, the program performs no better than public schools. To others, the program is comparable to public schools at half the cost. Only approved private schools (approximately 100) may participate in the program. They must pass through a rigorous approval process and agree to many stipulations that essentially surrender their independence to the state. And there is a limit of 22,500 students that may enroll in a private school with vouchers during a school year.

The Washington Scholarship fund (Washington D.C.’s Voucher Program) is another example of how such a program could work, but it is being phased out. They will no longer accept new applicants. The program is over.

Online schooling, however, is making inroads to education.

Salman Khan, creator of The Khan Academy, is one of the pioneers blazing the trail. The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization seeking to change education by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere. Yes free. Yes to anyone anywhere. (Caveat: In this early stage, The Khan Academy is not an accredited school).

The Khan Academy had humble beginnings. It started with Sal helping his niece with math online. It now enjoys the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a $2 million award from Google and has already delivered more than 57 million free lessons. The concept is simple. They provide the video lessons online and you provide the learning – free for anyone anywhere.

Shai Reshef, the founder and President of the University of the People (UoPeople), is another pioneer in providing a free education through the Internet. The University of the People is considered to be the world’s first tuition free online higher education institution. (Same caveat: In this early stage, UoPeople is not an accredited school).

This non-profit organization has partnered with Yale, the Clinton Global Initiative, and several other organizations to grow and remain tuition free. The university does charge a $10 - $50 application fee and a $10 - $100 exam-processing fee. Their concept is also simple. They provide the curriculum and direct students to free online resources. The students work together online and with the guidance of volunteer experts learn the course objectives.

Tuition free online schooling outside of a charter school is still looking for the right model for sustainable funding and accreditation. Online charter schools are still the best choice for a tuition free education without the boundaries of regular public schools.

In the next posting, we will explore why some neighborhood public schools are better than other neighborhood public schools despite having the same government funding model. We will also explore other ideas developing in the 21st century to provide a tuition-free education for everyone without public school boundaries.

Please visit me at Facebook – Carlos Mendoza

The Khan Academy

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

The University of the People

Washington Scholarship Fund

The Washington Post – Why is Obama Killing Off D.C.’s Voucher Program?

Wisconsin State Journal – DPI: Students in Milwaukee voucher program didn’t perform better on state tests.


Elizabeth said...

Hello Mr. Mendoza,

I am currently facing the decision that you speak of this week: my oldest daughter is entering the 7th grade this coming fall and she has been on an inter-district transfer from Hesperia schools to Adelanto schools since she was in 2nd grade. I have been contemplating where she would attend middle school for quite some time, and I have actually made an appointment for this coming Tuesday to visit a charter school because of the things that they can offer our students in the wake of the current budget crisis and high stakes testing accountability. While my heart lies with public education, and the public school breaks because of the limitations we currently face. I am hopeful that our budgetary crisis will improve, yet it might not be realized before my daughter graduates high school. What kinds of schools have your own children attended, and were you happy with the choice that you made in the long run?

Educator Musing said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you for commenting on this post. Both my daughters have attended the local public elementary school. My wife and I have been satisfied with the education that they have received there. We, however, did place their names on the waiting list for the magnet elementary school. It is a California Distinguished School on a new campus and I love the Visual & Performance Arts focus. I must, as a former principal, admit to being biased toward this school. I hope they get accepted. Best wishes in placing your daughter in the right school. Having a caring mother has already given her an advantage in her education.