This Sunday John Oliver did a blistering rant on Charter Schools and their utter lack of accountability, level of fraud and deception while also being touted by the Political mainstream as the solution to education. The most egregious State of Dismay, Ohio.
I started substituting in Nashville Public Schools this week. I doubt I will stay in the gig if I can actually find legitimate part time work elsewhere. I am ashamed to be involved in what is perhaps the most disgraceful public education system I have seen. And this is only after day one but one gets a sense that if this is how a professional Educator is treated and respected then it explains a lot.
Let us just say that to pay someone $13/hour with a Teaching License, which means appropriate education - BA, MA or above is STUPID and DEGRADING. To be a regular substitute without a Teaching License just some college credits regardless of what they are in or a degree completed you are paid $11/hr. Good to know that I am worth 2 bucks more an hour. That is the same wages at Panera Bread, I checked and got an application. Panera employees are provided benefits and a standard schedule. As a Substitute for Metro Public Schools you are at will, you work when jobs available, have no benefits, job security, professional growth or qualify for unemployment when schools are closed. You can be banned from a building with no due process and by the way you have no access to using the schools computers or equipment. So no you cannot log on to the computer to look at your jobs, check mail or any communication with anyone even work related at at any time - including breaks. When I asked why the Tech said "I don't know that is the Board decision and above my pay grade." I see.
When I told this to two of the clerks who gave me coffee and a bagel after school, the shame and embarrassment on their faces was something to see to believe. I have been in Education for decades and when I sat through the orientation I knew this was just as it ever was. And in the community I had not met one single person who had anything good to say about Nashville Public Schools, I finally had to accept that this is not how I want to be perceived - a person of pity or a part of a problem. It is the same across the country when it comes to Education. The clerical and the support staff have it one step above anyone who is a vital role in children's classrooms, sorry I am neither a hero nor a villain and that is what I am, a Teacher who wants to but simply cannot teach.
Kids need actual Teachers every day regardless of them being full time "regular" or subs as it truly helps in continuity. My Lyft driver that very morning, her daughter is a Teacher in a Nashville Public School, this is her third year with as many Principals and she tried to get another job doing anything else she is that unhappy. But as that fell through, she is back in her classroom with her Mother "volunteering" one day a week to help her manage 18 kids. Is this the young woman's fault or problem? No, it takes 5 years to become a fully engaged and functioning Teacher. You need support and mentoring and it is a learning curve that unfortunately pushes people out rather than keeping them in. And we add the bullshit of terminations that are arbitrary that can destroy careers (education is the most vindictive and petty profession largely due to the low pay, the lack of respect etc) so instead of looking within and realizing that this is due to funding, poor pay, poor support it becomes the silly idea that tenure and unions are the problem No they are part of the solution. But those too need to be reminded that what is going on the classroom is truly about money and that when you have poor students with poor families and poor Teachers and others educating them you have an equation that ends in a negative.
What I witnessed in one day was truly sad. Children using their fingers to simply add, unable to understand simple division or multiplication, behavior issues that ended in tears several times, a bathroom vandalized with soap, two black Teachers coming in and doing the standard yelling and I will call your mama stuff that if did would instantly label me a racist and banned from the building as someone who has no management. I felt sick, ashamed and utterly out of my ability to even feel safe or secure with my own professional knowledge and skill. It is that bad. Even giving them a project to copy highlighted and bolded words in a text, copy the definitions and draw a picture resembling the word; all of which is literally right there and is manually a version of cut and paste took immense effort, confusion and several directions with the kids copying my example on the board which was copied directly from the text. As I could not use the overhead or any school equipment thanks to not having a password, I literally went old school and drew the example on the board and still they struggled with that. I go back there in a few hours and I canceled the job for next week at that same school, I simply cannot deal with it.
A Teacher who offered me a ride home informed me it was no safe to walk through the parks adjacent to the school or walk up the road to even catch the bus says it all. That implication is that this neighborhood in the daylight or afternoon is a dangerous place. So what does that say about the children and families who live there? I felt bad for everyone and thought I will pay the 10 bucks for a Lyft rather than sit in a car and feel trapped, as she informed me about the racism and good ole boys in Nashville. And that now that they finally had a Black Superintendent it might change. I have no idea on that if that is what the problem or solution is. Frankly in Seattle we went through that in my professional career and we had a Black Superintendent a woman was fired due to theft issues, and a history of problems in the districts she had managed in the South no less prior to relocating to Seattle. The irony is was she moved to Detroit to be in charge of their schools but died before she could do more damage (which may be impossible given it is Detroit). If there is one thing I have known that when it comes to Education there is no racisim or subjugation, that across the board it attracts and accepts incompetence and idiocy regardless of color or gender.
But to simply define it as a Nashville thing with racism shows that it becomes both the blanket in which to shroud and to suffocate. It is not easy to mount change let alone accept it. And while I am sure that is true but with all the new people moving here perhaps they can be the voice and the shoulder we need to vote out the bubbas.. such as Senator Corker (Trump Lover) or the aging Lamar Alexander and the "Ed Governor" Haslam; Sorry but to define this as "this is the South" is demeaning to all of us that CHOOSE to live here. Yes that is why I moved here to tote guns and be a racist. Well there are at least two perks other than relenting humidity.
Public Education is not un-salvageable but the idea that charters is the panacea is absurd. Charters abound and Nashville has many. I have zero to no interest in engaging in them as I cannot believe they are anything better. The recent Board elections have shown that this is a contentious issue as the Board of Education here not only oversees the Nashville Public Schools, a district so spread out and utterly confusing as to where exactly these schools align geographically in relation to the City itself (in other words the MPS runs schools outside of Nashville in towns and areas that are not actually part of incorporated Nashville) and they are to oversee the Charter schools called the ASD. The article below substantiates much what John Oliver shared on Sunday. I think they are spread a little too thin perhaps?
On Sunday ironically before seeing John's show or ever setting foot in a pubic classroom, I tossed all the papers, books, lessons and remaining items that I had retained with the idea of returning to the classroom. No I checked my last book out of the library and I am going to spend the next year writing about what it is like to be a Substitute in pubic schools. It is sad. It is grim. It is pathetic. But it is consistently a problem be it from where I came from and where I moved to. Perhaps that is comforting to know it is not just me.
But the reality is that we have massive problems that actually need to be resolved. But we have the same problems as many in many other states including the lovely clean Seattle, when it comes to funding Education and finding ways to make public education work. Charters I am afraid are not the way. But even I don't think this is a battle I am willing to take on it is too fucked up for any words that I have available in my extensive vocabulary. So I will let John Oliver speak for me.
** I wrote this at 3 in the morning as I could not sleep. It was anger, sadness and truth. I did not edit, revise or change any of this.. I just needed to vent.
State Audit Finds Issues In Achievement School District
The audit, which reviewed the period from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016, found that:
1. The Achievement School District’s management did not establish adequate controls over several key human resources and payroll processes.2. The Achievement School District’s management failed to implement adequate internal controls over its expenditures, travel claims, and purchasing card purchases.
3. The Achievement School District’s fiscal management did not perform sufficient fiscal monitoring of its direct-run schools and charter management organization.
4. The Achievement School District did not provide adequate internal controls in one specific area. (The report notes that this section of audit is confidential.)
Some highlights from the audit:
— In one case, "management did not properly approve nine expenditure transactions totaling $83,363, and seven travel claims totaling $2,460. Two expenditure transactions and two travel claims did not have all required management approvals before the payment was processed. Four of the expenditure transactions represented reimbursements to charter management organizations. Three of the expenditure transactions and expenses on five travel claims were paid using a procurement card. For these items, the cardholder’s supervisor did not properly sign and date the transaction log."
— The audit also outlined several "unreasonable expenses," including a $1,631 alcohol purchase for ASD school leaders and support staff, which was charged to an expense account for Charter School Grant Funding, a grant that, according to the audit, is “restricted funding for operating expenses for school year 2015-16 Achievement Schools: Corning Achievement, Frayser Achievement, Georgian Hills Achievement, Westside Achievement, and Whitney Achievement."
— The ASD paid almost $700 for "all-day transportation services to drive the Deputy Superintendent to Memphis to attend a full day of meetings."
— For several expenditures, including "dental insurance premium, donation, coffee supplies, and accrual calculations, totaling $131,637, and for three travel claims for a flight and expenses involving CMOs, totaling $4,734, management could not provide supporting documentation." (CMOs are Charter Management Organizations, which are ASD schools run by charter school operators.)
— For eight purchases totaling almost $2,000 (spent at Amazon, BB King's Blues Club, and other retail stores) the ASD "management could not provide the transaction logs containing these purchases or the related receipts."