Education Reform

Here is another proposal I set forth in my previous campaign for Florida State House- this was published as a guest column by Florida Today Newspaper. This was also the straw that broke the camel’s back in my bid to run again- as the Unions refused to endorse me- and liberal Democratic activists could not stomach a candidate who was pro-life and pro-private school options. I was especially disappointed with the teacher union reps since my proposal is one that is so totally win-win from a teacher perspective, and it is obviously something in the interests of parents and their children. Pope Benedict has recently commented that Catholic schools should receive some state funding given the benefit these schools offer society. Here is the text of my proposal:

Dear Editor: (Published as Guest Column in Florida Today Newspaper (Mar.2008)

I would like to propose some original ideas for improving Florida’s primary and secondary education system. We have to try to create a win-win scenario for our children, for parents, for teachers, and society at large.

Parents have a fundamental right and obligation to see to their child’s education. Many parents object to the stressful FCAT system, or to the agnostic worldview inherent in the “God-sanitized” public schools. But only the parents of means can afford private schools, which may provide a better fit for a given family’s spiritual values or philosophy of education.

There are those who resent the very existence of public schools, and social programs in general. I don’t agree with the privatization movement when it comes to many essential public services. What we should do is expand our public funding, to include paying the salaries of a fixed percentage ( ratio of 1:20 students) of teachers at non-profit, accredited, private schools. The private school teachers could form a sister union with public school teachers, to cover only wage and benefit issues, leaving all other concerns to the individual schools.

These private schools better reflect the diversity of our society. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim schools could benefit, also schools with strong and positive African-American or Hispanic identities would be enabled. Private schools could emerge that reflect the space industry presence, with engineering, and other high tech/environmental specialties being highlighted.

The fact is that too many parents feel trapped by the current situation. The private schools they would long to enroll their children in, are increasingly priced beyond their budgets. If the state would kick in for just the teacher salaries, leaving the facilities, administrative costs and so forth, to the school itself- this would allow more alternative schools to become much more affordable. And if prevailing living wage guarantees are established, along with a sister union, the public school teacher unions should feel positive about expanding opportunities for individual teachers.

It is also time to look at new ways of enhancing teacher remuneration, which do not always rely on public funds. I would suggest the encouragement of private foundations forming for the purpose of rewarding teachers, who are going above and beyond, as motivators and instructors of our youth. Similar to the way various organizations provide achieving students opportunities for monetary scholarships, such things could be developed in the private sector to augment teacher pay, and provide the bonus incentives customary in many professions. Of course, there would need to be some oversight to ensure that there is no quid pro quo between the teachers and potential wealthy benefactors- corrupting course content or grades.

The bottom-line for me is that all parents should have a say in how their children are educated. We don’t live in a true family wage economy anymore, so there is ever more reliance on the public school system. Having more affordable school options will take some of the pressure off the taxpayer from having to build as many expensive, large-scale public schools. Children, families, teachers, will be better served and respected in a system that doesn’t economically discriminate against minority interests and the religious citizenry.

Yours Sincerely,

Tim Shipe (www.timshipe.com)

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Tim Shipe

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  1. Interesting.

    I’m curious why I settled on a model of paying the salaries of a specific number of teachers rather than the more standard model of offering a voucher equal to around 80% of the money the state would allocate per child (while leaving the remaining 20% with the public schools to cover infrastructure overhead.) Was that aimed at finding a middle ground with the teachers’ unions, or is a separation of church and state provision? Or just a different economic model?

    I’d be concerned the effectively subsidizing the school rather than the child would provide less incentive for the school to cut tuition enough to be affordable, but I’m curious as to the thought process.

  2. The Vouchers had been shot down by Florida’s Courts because of the Church-State issue- it is really bad here in the South due to the last effects of anti-Catholicism.

    I was trying to avoid the legal issue by paying teachers not schools directly- it would work a bit like a market in that only schools that attracted more students would get more teachers- see the 1:20 ratio- so if a private school tried to take advantage by hiking fees they would still have to be appealing to parents- the state would only kick in and kick in a set amount for teachers- of course- opening the door for ‘scholarship’ like monies for excellent teachers is something that private citizens and/or orgs could add into the mix- this is why I call my proposal pro-teacher in the extreme- and it exposed the true agenda of the teacher unions- it is about ideology and control, and thinking outside the box is not welcome- and this is how teachers represent themselves? Public and private school teachers should not be pitted against one another- we are all supposed to be motivated to instill something good and great in the young people- I’m sure many public school teachers would be more comfortable teaching in some private schools so this is actually a ‘pro-choice’ proposal ironically!

  3. The demand for state funded Muslim school is in accordance with the law of the land. Muslim community is not asking for any favour. There are only ten state funded Muslim schools and the British Establishment are ready to fund all Muslim schools. Only less than five percent of Muslim children attend Muslim schools and at the same time, there are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools.

    Bilingual Muslim children need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. At higher levels, there is no need for a Muslim teacher.

    The medium of instruction in a Muslim school is English and all of them follow the National curriculum. Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. At the same time Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in Arabic language for their spiritual and religious development. Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry.

    Bilingual Muslim children in British schooling has led to a predictable response from the tabloids, which present these children as a problem for “others” children and teachers.This is both racist and wrong. British society must recognise that over 50% of the world now routinely use more than one language in their daily lives and some 85% are able to function at least two. In a global economy these “problem” children are infact, the norm, and in a global sense they are potentially an asset, not a drain. British society should be thankful that the highest achieving students are bilinguals.
    Iftikhar Ahmad

  4. Making private schools use unionized teachers would destroy the private school system. A significant advantage of private schools is that they are not beholden to the teachers unions which would force them to keep bad teachers and pay them the same as good teachers. In fact, the unions would probably use seniority to force the private schools to offer preferential hiring to “veteran” public school teachers no matter how bad they are.

    I would suggest the encouragement of private foundations forming for the purpose of rewarding teachers,

    a great idea, but the unions would not likely support such a program.

  5. The teacher union leadership was hostile to the whole deal- but like I said the sister union idea would not be comprehensive beyond salary guarantees- since the state was paying the salaries for a certain set of teachers- if the private school wanted more teachers they would not be beholden to make those teachers part of the union deal for example- and hiring/firing would be an administrative perogative- separate from the public school set-up. Only salary and benefit packages would be the realm of union contact- and only for those teachers being payed for by the state to aid the private schools, not take over management. If the schools have no market interest in the community, they get no money because they need to have their act together to attract students- and only if they attract students will they get teacher assistance from the state- if they don’t want the teacher assistance they can still say no and go it alone. I am trying to find a comprehensive approach that harm’s no one’s interests here but allows for more options to spread the students out according to a true accounting of their parents’ wishes.

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