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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

School daze

I wonder if Elmhurst parents and students would feel better or worse if theirs weren't the only high school being considered for closing. We can all be happy, though, that we're better off here than in Kansas City:

Superintendent John Covington called for the closing or consolidation of almost half of the schools in the Kansas City, Missouri, school district, and a school board voted Wednesday to approve the downsizing.

[. . .]

Covington proposed the "Right-Size" plan arguing that the financial future of the entire school district was at stake. The plan shutters 28 of Kansas City's 61 public schools, cuts 700 jobs and saves $50 million to help reduce a burgeoning deficit.

[. . .]

Covington said the closures were the first phase of "right-sizing" a district where enrollments have plummeted from more than 35,000 in the 1999-2000 school year to about 17,000 in 2009-10.

Closing almost half the schools doesn't seem all that draconian for a system that has lost more than half its students. One resident complained that this "blighting of the urban core is scandalous and shameful." But, really, what the school system is doing is in response to the blighting -- and the fleeing -- that's already taken place.

Meanwhile, back at central planning central:  Since the nation's founding, decentralized education has been the norm. Having local control of schools is one of the most important things a community should fight for. I've devoted a lot of time and editorial space over the years to fighting back any encroachment by state and federal bureaucrats, and I've sought and printed opnions from many others on the subect. Looks like we've been fighting a lost cause. The momentum given to the push for national standards by George Bush's No Child Left Behind, a task happily carried on by Barack Obama's Race to the Top, has brought us to this moment:

 A panel of educators convened by the nation's governors and state school superintendents proposed a uniform set of academic standards on Wednesday, laying out their vision for what all the nation's public school children should learn in math and English, year by year, from kindergarten to high school graduation.

[. . .]

The new standards are likely to touch off a vast effort to rewrite textbooks, train teachers and produce appropriate tests, if a critical mass of states adopts them in coming months, as seems likely.

[. . .]

Alaska and Texas are the only states that declined to participate in the standards-writing effort. In keeping his state out, Gov. Rick Perry argued that only Texans should decide what children there learn.

And so it begins. Cheers for Rick Perry for speaking up for his state. Apparently we've given up here.


Bob G.
Thu, 03/11/2010 - 12:24pm

They've not only given up, but it looks like some have decided to fight for the OTHER side.
It's not so much "Race to the Top", but rather "Dash for the Cash".
We COULD always go back to the way "WE" were taught...(back in the Pleistocene era)...a disciplined and accountable system that apparently worked (and a lot better than all the feel-good and entitlement-driven programs enacted today).

Just a thought.

Thu, 03/11/2010 - 6:38pm

Or maybe it wouldn't kill us just to agree to have property owners pay just a tiny bit more in property tax. If folks want government services, such as a decent school system, we have to pay for it. I don't even have children, but I would have no objection to having my property tax returned to where it was before the cap took effect.

tim zank
Thu, 03/11/2010 - 7:28pm

Sorry, Littlejohn, I already pay thousands in property taxes every year. Get it from somebody else. School systems, just like governments, business, and households have to operate on a budget. That requires planning, so suck it up (just like I have to do right now) and make a better plan.

I don't know how to break this to everybody, but we (the citizens) are out, and our government is completely tapped out and the honeymoon is over.

Since I graduated in 1976 we've thrown GAZILLIONS of dollars into FWCS (and all school systems) and you know what? Performance, grades, and graduation rates are about where they were. It's been a pretty damn expensive 34 year experiment in my eyes that didn't work, so hey, wtf, let's try something else, whaddya say?

Fri, 03/12/2010 - 11:00pm

Right on, Tim! Let's start by parking 200 buses and assigning students to the closest appropriate school. If parents want Johnny and Judy to go to another school, they can become the transport drivers.

If the kid lives at least two miles from the assigned school, we transport . . . otherwise they walk, if Mommy and Daddy don't drive them. This is a policy that every retired NKOP taxpayer on fixed income will gladly support.

Andrew J.
Fri, 03/12/2010 - 11:27pm

So you want a child to walk in bone chilling cold just under two miles without a ride because the lone parent is a stay-at-home mother with a toddler to take care of? What if the family doesn't have a car?

Leo Morris
Mon, 03/15/2010 - 7:32am

Darn, Andrew, you caught us. And if she complains, we'll whip her and take away her gruel.

Bob G.
Mon, 03/15/2010 - 8:11am

In Philly, we had a "bus token" program at our high school that was very affordable and got all our waiting-to-be-educated asses into the classrooms via PUBLIC transit...

We didn't need no steekin schoolbuses.

But since in Fort Wayne, such things are NOT in place (that I'm aware of) that must say that our public transit system may not be "safe" enough for these little urchins.

Well, that can't be good...can it?
At least Citilink could make some money, and the schools could SAVE some money...I dunno...sounds like a plan.
'Ya think?

tim zank
Mon, 03/15/2010 - 8:40am

Andrew, It was .98 miles from my house to Croninger Elementary which I walked everyday rain sleet or snow or "bone chilling" cold until Junior High, then I walked exactly .47 miles to Blackhawk Junior High School. Both of my parents worked, so like the majority of all of us kids in our neighborhood, we dressed for the weather and walked to and from school every day. What a freakin concept. I don't recall school ever being cancelled either.

Sooner than later, it's going to become painfully obvious, the government (be it fed, state or local) simply doesn't have the money to give every single citizen every thing.

It may be necessary (oh horror of horrors) to close a few schools, and increase class size while the school district actually (again horror of horrors) saves up some money (what a concept) to expand again when they can AFFORD it.

Mon, 03/15/2010 - 9:17am

IT's one thing to walk .98 miles or .47 miles; it's another if you are walking nearly two miles, or should I say, nearly four miles a day.
As to public transit, I know all about it. Rode buses (and subway) when I was growing up in NYC. It works in big cities where mass transit is adequately funded and runs frequent routes that make sense. I doubt the Fort Wayne I remember from not too long ago runs routes with frequencies that make much sense because it's a small system, whose opponents would want to see go away as it is, not expand.