Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The finest education other people's money will buy

(Updated 1:11 a.m.)

I've been falling behind on what I've wanted to blog about. Some news I've had to discard once it became a little stale, but this one I feel is important.
Tutors Say Parents, Kids Missing Free Help

WASHINGTON - Schools are blocking huge numbers of poor children from getting free tutoring, civil rights advocates and private tutoring companies said Thursday.

In a Capitol meeting sponsored by House and Senate education leaders of both parties, tutoring providers pointed to what they called an unkept federal promise.

Low-income parents are supposed to get a free tutor for any child who goes to a school that gets federal poverty aid but has not made steady progress for three straight years.

Parents get to pick the tutor they want even a private one from a state list.

But that central pledge of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law is often not being met.

Only 11 percent of eligible children, or 226,000 out of nearly 2 million students who qualify, received tutoring in the 2004 school year, according to the Education Department.

The numbers of underserved kids could be even higher because data collection is not always strong....

Publicity that is so filled with jargon that parents don't understand it. "It needs to say two words: free tutoring," said Leigh Hopkins, vice president for education at Public/Private Ventures, a nonprofit think tank....

The Education Industry Association, a lobbying group for more than 800 corporate and individual members who provide services, organized the meeting. The tutoring provision is a lucrative opportunity for the industry, particularly as the doors to more schools open....
The schools are not hindering parents from getting tutors, so how can it be called "blocking"? The schools simply aren't advertising it, and with good reason: if they did, every parent would want to "hire" a tutor (at taxpayers' expense), whether or not the student needs one. The limited resource would get overused.

This is what I wrote about last July, when the director of the left-wing "Families USA" said, referring to children who were eligible for but weren't receiving a certain type of government-paid health insurance, "We want to get them enrolled." It didn't matter if the children really needed the insurance, but we shouldn't be surprised. Because it's not their money they're spending, it's in bureaucrats' and lobbyists' interest to define as many individuals as possible as "eligible." Bureaucrats measure their programs' success only by the numbers served, not by actual results or efficiency.

"Free tutoring" indeed. I suppose, by the same token, that all the things my parents gave me when growing up were "free" too. It didn't matter that my parents paid for them. I didn't pay for them, so they were "free," right? Of course that's absurd, so then why do we think any type of social program is really "free" for the recipients?

Let's not be surprised that the biggest push for "free tutoring" is because teachers send their lobbyist groups to garner such lucrative opportunities. In my area, it's not unknown that a public school teacher can pull $75 an hour giving private tutoring. Now imagine what they could ask for when their tutoring services are really in demand, because parents don't have to worry about paying the tutor themselves.

California shouldn't need tutors, though. After all, students there are suing (and will probably win) to do away with high school exit exams. If you're too busy playing gangsta, engaging in "teenage mating rituals" of various types, or simply too stupid to pass, just claim "racism" and sue. It's so heartwarming to see that, though the job skills of these alleged "students" barely qualify them to operate deep-fryers at McDonald's, they're sufficiently knowledgable to engage in this country's greatest modern pastime: litigation.

In the face of perpetually declining scores on the Regents exams, and with only 71% of students graduating from high school (9th through 12th grades) in five years, New York City has taken a different approach. No danger of lawsuits here, because it's extremely accomodating to all the supposedly oppressed minorities: the Department of Education continually dumbs down the test, and since that isn't enough, almost each year, the test is revised so that the passing score of 55 (which isn't a percentage) can be achieved with fewer correct responses.

Tutoring, even at others' expense, might have a snowball's chance of doing some good...except that the NYC public school system is filled with and by nature attracts so many bad teachers. Meanwhile, and you can't make this up, New York state has become concerned over certain for-profit schools: one school alleged cheated so its students could get more financial aid, and others' academic quality is very poor. Imagine that: the state of New York accuses institutions of higher learning of poor academics, when it would do better to scrutinize NYC public schools. And in recent months, there have been several NYC public school employees (including principals, as I recall) caught stealing funds -- never mind the many bad teachers who are silently picking the taxpayers' pocket.

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