It will probably surprise many readers, but when it comes to spending on school elections, teachers unions make megacorporations, industry associations and labor federations combined seem like pikers. I was reminded of this fact after reading John Nichols's otherwise excellent essay in The Nation about the race for a seat on the nonpartisan board of education in Denver ("Big Money, Bad Media, Secret Agendas: Welcome to America's Wildest School Board Race," Oct. 21). Nichols described how "over-the-top spending by wealthy elites and corporate interests," coupled with "partisan consultants jetting in to shape big-lie messaging" and "media outlets that cover spin ...


No, the headline is not a typo. It's the conclusion of a new study "Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers" by Jason Richwine, senior policy analyst in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation, and Andrew Biggs, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. They attempt to show that public school teachers receive compensation far more generous than is widely believed. They cite summers off, job security, and fringe benefits (health insurance etc.) that make "total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels, equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year." Ordinarily, I wouldn't ...


It's only natural for parents to want their children to have a better life than they have. That's one of the reasons they've been willing for so long to subsidize the cost of a college education. But as wages for workers with a four-year degree on average fell by 8.6 percent (adjusted for inflation) from 2000 to 2010, and student loan debt rose to nearly $1 trillion today, parents are understandably having second thoughts. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that college grads are just as pessimistic as others about the economy and their prospects for finding ...


Whenever reformers want to score points about their bleak view of the state of K-12 education, they invariably cite data showing that only 76 percent of students in public schools graduate within four years of entering the 9th grade. Before going any further, however, I hasten to point out that four-year graduation studies are not the same thing as dropout studies. Although they are related, they have to be viewed differently. For example, students may not graduate on time because of illness, family problems or incarceration. Too many reformers automatically assume that academic failure is the only factor or that ...


The latest blow to freedom of speech for teachers occurred at Occupy Los Angeles when a substitute teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District made an anti-Semitic remark and was subsequently fired by the district's superintendent. According to the Los Angeles Times, Patricia McAllister said in a taped interview with Reason TV that "The Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and the Federal Reserve ... need to be run out of this country" ("Free speech -- within limits," editorial, Oct. 20). Although McAllister wasn't at work when she spoke and stressed that she was not speaking as a ...


The long smoldering debate over the role that environment plays in intelligence was reignited by researchers at University College London who found that IQ is more malleable than previously believed. Although genes still play a powerful role, biology is not destiny. Experience has the potential to alter the brain by affecting neural synapses ("As Brain Changes, So Can IQ," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 20). That view was notoriously challenged in 1994 by the publication of The Bell Curve (Simon & Schuster, 1994) by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. They placed overwhelming reliance on the biological basis of intelligence and the ...


One of the perks of being a billionaire is that anything you submit to a newspaper is definitely going to be published. No one has been more successful in this respect than Bill Gates opining about education. His latest essay, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal, was nothing more than a rehash of what others have proposed as a way of improving educational quality ("Grading the Teachers," Oct. 22). Yet Gates believes that he has broken new ground. The heart of his claim is based on a recent survey of teachers undertaken with Scholastic. It found that "teachers are ...


The controversy over H-1B visas to date has largely centered on their issuance to engineers and scientists who are willing to work in the private sector at lower wages than their American counterparts. Despite the 50 percent decline in the number of petitions this year below last year and 80 percent decrease below 2009, the debate has merely subsided, rather than disappear. What is less known is how the issuance of visas is being abused by school districts. According to The New Republic, Prince George's County in Maryland, for example, now has more than 10 percent of its entire teaching ...


The justification for charter schools is that they provide parents with a wide range of choices at public expense. But what is increasingly happening in Los Angeles, which has more charter schools than any other city in the nation, serves as a warning that all is not well with the movement. Even though a lottery is required whenever demand for places in a charter school exceeds the supply, officials at a coveted school can rig the lottery to favor parents they prefer ("Charter Schools: Getting Your Child on the List," L.A. Weekly, Oct. 13). They do so by invoking ...


Any hope that the controversy over the misuse of standardized test scores had finally run its course evaporated when news about the practice used by a high school in Orange County, California made the headlines. In an attempt to motivate students, Kennedy High School in La Palma issues color-coded identification cards to students based solely on their individual standardized test scores. The Orange County Register reported that students are required to carry their black, gold or white cards in addition to a spiral-bound homework planner with a cover of a matching color ("Student IDs that reveal test scores deemed illegal," ...


The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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