JCL Blog

Getting Scrooged

Charles Dickens did not say how Ebenezer Scrooge got to be so crabby as to deserve to be described like this: "The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and he spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice ..."

Maybe it had something to do with the election process or the legal system.  This year's run up to the election has been long and it seems even more painful than before.  So I can understand that sentiment.  And our legal system... that is a story for another day.

There are legions of people that have worked very very hard to get initiative 1240 on the ballot this year and even more that have worked night and day to get it passed.  Very few, if any, of those people will benefit directly from the passage of the initiate except in one simple way:  the chances for educational success of lower income students in Washington State will improve -- after all it is just plain improbable that their chances could get worse!

If it fails, everyone who has worked so hard would be justified in turning cold and Scroogie and asking themselves, why on earth do I do these things?

Yes I know that we are likely to win and that is awesome.  Yes I know that being negative is poor form and demoralizing.  Yes I know that I should say that if we fail we will carry the fight forward.

Boy do I hope we win so we can get on to rebooting the school system in our lifetimes.


Tomorrow We Could be the 42nd State to Get Charter Schools

Tomorrow is election day and I am quite interested to see how things are going to work out.  I am always interested in election results, but this year I am heavily invested in our local initiative for charter schools -- initiative 1240.  My interest is not personal in that my kids will be out of school by the time the first charter school goes into operation.  However I am working hard to pass I-1240 because I think it is vital that we figure out how to do a better job educating people in our state.  I have learned some interesting things as I have worked to support I-1240.

  1.  The Importance of Education:  I have been amazed at how many people I talk to are not interested in I-1240 because they don't have school age kids, or their kids already go to a great school.  I fear I never was all that convincing when trying to share my enthusiasm for creating a more competitive Washington State.  I wish I had figured out a better way to explain why I think they are connected.
  2. Philanthropy is Misunderstood:  Opponents have worked to condemn the initiative because it has been supported by rich white guys like the co-founders of Microsoft, and other famous techies.  The idea that these guys actually want to improve our state is hard to accept I guess.  Charter schools mostly serve the people with very few educational options.  The rich philanthropists are already among the 25% of parents in our area that send their kids to private schools.  They will not directly benefit from this initiative.  
  3. Catching Up or Blazing a Trail:  Going into this I thought it would be pretty easy to convince people to vote for the initiative because 41 other states already had charter schools and there are many incredible success stories.  I have been surprised to learn that our voters have no problem blazing a trail on the legalization of marajuana which currently leads 53-44 in the polls.  The approval numbers for charter schools are about the same.

All together I am delighted that the numbers look good for Initiative 1240 and I am greatful to all of you that are going to make sure to vote for the future of our State of Washington.

Won't Back Down is a Heartbreaker

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching Won't Back Down, the heartbreaking story of one mother's seemingly impossible quest to get a good education for her daughter.  It is a good movie no matter where you stand on education reform.  The story and the characters are great and even though you kinda know through the whole thing that they are going to win in the end -- it is still riveting.

I say it is a heartbreaker because it exposes how messed up educaiton is in our country.  Here in Seattle, 25% of the students in the Seattle School District attend private schools.  I am guessing everyone knows which end of the economic scale that is.

In our country, 40.2% of students from top quartile income families achieved a Bachelor's Degree by age 24 in 1970.  By 2009 it had improved to 82.4%.  At the same time the bottom income quartile students went from 6.2% to 8.3%.  See www.postsecondary.org for details.

With these numbers staring us in the face, we should get going and do something.  There is no question that there is plenty of blame to go around.  It is a shame that all of the press about the movie tries to expand the Teacher's Union vitriol.  Anyone who has seen the film realizes that the school administration and the principals and many parents are also standing in the path of progress.

I think the main message in the movie is:  our kids are going to jail instead of college while we fight about who is at fault.  Everyone has an opinion about who is at fault, I bet that we could agree however, that it is not the kids fault.

So let's do something.

I happen to think voting for I 1240 in WA State is one of those things.