If you're a defender of the American public education establishment and an advocate of throwing more money at the problem, 2010 was just an awful year.
In fairness, the establishment types have had a long run. For at least a generation, we American taxpayers were persuaded that money does indeed equal quality in public education, and as a result, we opened our pocketbooks. We accepted the choice: either foot the bill for more education patronage jobs, or just admit to hating children.
To date myself, it reminds me of Damon and Keenen Ivory Wayans in the "Mo' Money" bit from In Living Color.
So, now that we spend more money on public education than any large nation in world history, what have we got to show for it?
A 2008 report by Lips, Watkins and Fleming of the Heritage Foundation showed that while inflation-adjusted spending per pupil more than doubled from 1970-2004, reading scores remained relatively flat.
And according to a report from the EPE Research Center, the national graduation rate stands at a dismal 68.8 percent for the class of 2007, the most recent year for which data are available. Imagine, a third of the country without high school degrees. What jobs will these people have in the increasingly technological, 21st century economy?
What's more, the places where the most obscene sums of money are spent on public schools, like Newark, N.J., student achievement has not improved.
What Made 2010 So Different?
I've mentioned some of these developments in the past, but the new year has rendered me more nostalgic about the stunning progress in 2010.
Let's see... in no particular order:
- The Cartel documentary won film festival awards from Washington to Atlanta to Burbank. In just the last few weeks, there were new mentions from Barron's, Forbes and Governor Chris Christie.
- Waiting for "Superman" enjoyed a wide theatrical release.
- A Right Denied was released -- it is absolutely required viewing.
- National School Choice Week was announced in 2010 and is winning major attention. Events will be held all over the country, January 23-29.
- The Rise of Parent Revolution.
- Michelle Rhee went national with Students First.
- Ken Robinson's Changing Education Paradigms rocked YouTube.
Stunning State Developments:
- CA: The Parent Trigger Law explodes orthodoxies. (Legislators in Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, West Virginia and Maryland also promise to introduce parent trigger legislation.)
- CO: Major Tenure Reform passes, leaving unions "shaken."
- FL: The new Governor-Elect is talking "Vouchers for All."
- IL: State Senate passed a Voucher Bill, (although killed by the Illinois House).
- IN: Governor's Sweeping Proposal pushes teacher merit pay, the end of tenure and school choice.
- NC: Charter school cap may soon be history.
- NY: Charter school cap more than doubles. (Why is there still one at all?)
And the Mainstream Media?
NBC devoted a whole week to Education Nation, which included many previously forbidden utterances, like perhaps, maybe, that good teachers should be rewarded, and that bad teachers should be fired. Heresies like that flowed across the airwaves. The predictably indignant reactions from the establishment defenders just didn't seem so scary anymore.
Think of it... after all the years that none of this happens, it suddenly all goes down in 2010. These developments would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
The Bottom Line
I could go on. The larger point is that Ed Reformers are winning this debate. You know how you can tell? When even the New Jersey teachers' union, the NJEA, starts talking tenure reform you know public opinion has begun to shift.
How should you, gentle reader, keep the ball rolling this year? Support or host a National School Choice Week event near you, January 23-29.
And if you don't support school choice, perhaps someone will announce a National School Monopoly Week event you can get behind instead.
It all has the makings of a very happy new year, at least for those who care more about children than protecting the jobs of adults.
Follow Bob Bowdon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BobBowdon