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Rita M. Solnet Headshot

Who's Kidding Who With These Reforms?

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I summarized Florida's Education Summit yesterday indicating that the event may have moved us a step forward towards genuine dialogue on education reform. We are certainly better off than if the summit never occurred!

What we haven't looked at -- as a state or nation -- is the big picture on some of these proposed reforms. Let's take a step back and away from the intense debate and ask this question:

Who are these reform initiatives really intended for?

The triumvirate of reforms being aggressively pushed right now are: 1) ending teacher tenure; 2) merit pay based on standardized test scores; and, 3) closing schools/firing staffs.

1) How will ending a teacher's right to due process (consistently mischaracterized as lifetime employment) help to improve the quality of education for children? Short-termers will teach without mentors or seasoned teachers to assist them? Who will you attract to the teaching profession when due process is gone? Corporate America has due process with upper management levels on day one of employment.

2) Merit pay will merely ratchet up the stakes surrounding standardized tests even more. High stakes on tests -- your pay or job riding on one test -- increase the dependency on mind-numbing bubble tests. That doesn't enrich the curriculum. In fact, it narrows it and creates more weeks of test prep, drill and practice.

3) How does closing neighborhood schools help improve the quality of education? Even when the handful of a few good charters acquire rights to open up, many children whose English is a second language or who are dubbed "hard to teach" are left in the dust of the closed school. That's reality versus rhetoric, Real world versus propaganda.

None of the reforms being touted and legislated in some states will truly enhance the quality of education. Isn't that what we set out to accomplish? When, where and why did we take a wrong turn?

Instead, this grand illusion of three reforms impedes improvement to public education. Hidden under the smokescreen of "tough love" reforms, these initiatives are destroying public education in our nation. Celebrities signed on to this front and the media bought it, hook, line and sinker.

Let's call a charade, a charade.

These reforms are specifically intended to acquire power or control over unions. Some may think that's the right fight. Some may think that's the wrong fight. But many will agree it's being played out in the wrong ring -- the classroom. The children of our nation, particularly in impoverished areas, are the ones being sucker punched.

Take your fight outside of the classroom! Settle it across a negotiation table or in a conference room or challenge each other to duels. Take a step back and realize that's what this has been reduced to. Then, for the love of all that's good and holy, please take this feud out of the classroom. These particular initiatives will cause irreparable damage to the future of our children. Don't let this administration be remembered as the one that sacrificed children's futures to seek revenge on unions.

Ending tenure reduces the candidate pool; merit pay further narrows the curriculum; and closing schools and firing staffs leaves many children in impoverished areas without a choice and devoid of hope.

I'm a business woman, a parent, a non union member who hails from corporate America. My only "skin in the game" is seeing my tax dollars disappear. I don't enjoy seeing my money transferred to private entities who think they can run a school, nor do I relish watching area schools open and close like check-cashing stores. If I want to invest in privatized education, I will. I want my tax dollars to go towards public education as I'm told they do.

My only motivation is to be a voice for all children who cannot be heard. Parents of America's only focus is children. We no longer choose to sit in ringside seats and witness endless bouts. Our children. Our schools. Our voices.