Monday, January 30, 2006

Edison Schools in Peoria

A quote in the Journal Star on May 27, 2002 is attributed to Terry Knapp, then president of the teachers union representing Peoria Public School District #150. Knapp said “the fact is, all over the country they (Edison) have failed. If I had $50 million I sure wouldn’t invest it in Edison.”

Knapp was correct on one thing only. He didn’t and doesn’t have $50 million. He was wrong on everything else. Almost four years later it is the public school system that Knapp and his union represent that is failing and Edison is still performing. Where Edison has failed, it has largely been because of aggressive propaganda by teacher union bosses all across the country in their efforts to keep Edison, Edison concepts, charter schools, vouchers or any type of improved schooling; improved schooling that would weaken their death grip on the public school system, out of the public school system.

The unions do not want competition and you CAN blame them! At the same time they claim their greatest concern is the kids, the school system cannot fire a poor or even a bad teacher without facing expensive and time consuming litigation from batteries of union attorneys.

At the recent School Board hearing on whether to keep Edison Schools held at Franklin Edison School, Knapp and other union representatives sharply criticized the board for wasting taxpayer money on Edison. They also complained about Edison making a profit and worse yet taking this profit “out of town”. Shades of Chuck Grayeb, also a long time employee of the Peoria public school system; does Peoria buy books printed in Peoria with Peoria produced paper, are the buses manufactured in Peoria and out of Peoria produced products?

The JS incorrectly identified how much #150 spends on it’s four Edison Schools and issued a retraction a couple days later. The correction read “Edison cost the district $1.8 million of which $600,000 covers transportation and money paid to teachers for longer school days. Speaking of longer school days, the union has been consistent in ending the regular teaching day at 2:30 PM. You don’t have to have much imagination to know what a lot of these kids do in the period after they arrive home before their support system (in some cases, they don’t have any) arrives. Our juvenile court systems are clogged and teen pregnancy is a MAJOR problem.

Knapp talks about Edison “making a profit.” In the increasingly socialized world we live in, profit is becoming a “dirty word”. To bad because even a grade school knows that without the private sector making profits there would be no private sector jobs and no government taxes on these profits these jobs produce, to dole out the entitlements the public sector thrives on. (As does some of the private sector.).

I have been a long time supporter and critic of #150. #150 has suffered thru weak administrations and bad public perceptions. School union bosses have always thrown out the same old story “why can’t we run the public schools like an Edison school and save all this money?” One of the speakers at the Franklin Edison community input hearing was sharply critical of the Franklin school and it’s principal. I found out why later. Two teachers allegedly had been removed from teaching positions in the school and he allegedly had some connection. Were the teachers dismissed from the system? No, they were placed back in regular teaching positions in #150 because it was less costly to keep them employed than to fight the union lawsuits.

This is only one example of why the public school system isn’t working like it should. Another is discipline. You can remove a kid from an Edison school. If you remove a kid from the public school you incite the wrath of a parent or guardian who is just looking for a way to attack the system. An article in the WSJ about Martin Luther King Day talked about a young man who witnessed Martin’s father giving Martin a spanking for misbehaving. Too bad a father can’t spank a kid today and the kid doesn’t get discipline until it is too late. And only ignorant people or some parents without kids will tell you can reason with a kid. The failures of this concept fill our courts, jails, prisons and welfare food and clothing lines.

Should #150 discontinue the Edison Schools without replacing it with an EXACT system, a greater price than $1.2 million will be paid in perception alone. Look for this board to have enough common sense to cut in other places. The majority of the community’s message to the board is to look hard and you will find. This is a board decision and it is administrations job to find the “fat” to cut.

The “fat” is not in the Edison Schools. Either public schools be run like a successful business or that is exactly what will happen; but by then it may be too late. Competition comes from many places as witness the success of more countries shipping merchandise in while we ship jobs out.


Anonymous said...

Let the Edison schools, pick our best teachers and copy the system; get rid of the law firm that has raped 150 for decades and hire an in-house lawyer to handle all matters for $100,00 a year; pay our teachers a good salary with incremental increases based on merit; cut the administrative staff which is overloaded with nepotism; whenyou hire an administrator do a background check worthwhile; tighten the ship and it willnot sink.

Anonymous said...

You have your figures wrong on the cost of an atorney that just sits at the meetings. He and his law firm is getting paid over $400,000 a year. They can hire an in-house attorney for less then that and save $300,000 a year.

Hold everyone accountable, everyone. The teachers at Franklin were let go for cause. They are now at another school and are probably not being held accountable.