Guest Commentary: Schools - We can’t afford status quo

At the recent Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce convention, President Obama promised a $100 billion school stimulus fund to the nation’s schools. He called for “new and creative” curriculum offerings, instructional formats, standardized testing programs, individual school-wide achievement measures, teacher merit pay schemes, facility and site designs, unlimited charter school development and expanded parental school-choice vouchers.

As an embarrassing political aside, the president also signed a bill this week canceling funding for District of Columbia parents to expand already successful school-choice opportunities. That silly decision is a payback concession to Obama’s powerful NEA/UFT urban teacher union supporters. Thus, partisan politics and payback rewards remain alive and well despite the president’s rhetorical denials and lofty platitudes.

Putting aside other “political” details for now, President Obama called for decisive actions by governors and state legislatures to spur needed improvements in the performance of our nation’s local schoolhouses from pre-K to post-HS. His stimulus proposals call for greater responsibilities lodged with Boards of Education and community school trustees to exert strident accountability capacities. Included are critical provisions for decision-making transparency and the inclusion of advisory parent-student-teacher-taxpayer coalitions to participate actively in all board and trustee decisions.

For Florida’s school systems — now sadly ranked 47th out of 50 in state per pupil expenditures — this Obama school prescription acknowledges the practicalities of real-world school circumstances and changing education demands. Islanders witnessed such obvious practicalities at last month’s joint City Council/School Board meeting. Clearly uninformed and totally blasé members of both elected bodies failed to comprehend a self-serving, money-grubbing sophomoric solar proposal covertly endorsed by the CEOs of Marco Island and the Collier Board of Education and destined to destroy our Tract K school property legacy dating from our 1960’s Deltona-Mackle exceptional heritage.

President Obama’s educational initiatives finger-point the tired clichés and rhetorical gobbledygook we heard from Collier Superintendent Thompson and his School Board last month. Is the status quo in Collier County Schools sacrosanct? Are changes and reforms blasphemous because we have already attained educational perfection and school impeccability according to Superintendent Thompson? Are we really proud of our D-ranked high school and satisfied with our students’ exposed engagement in educational mediocrity? Are we satisfied with our $60 million annual education investment supporting educational mediocrity?

Marco Island parents and taxpayers deserve wiser, informed, committed and more rational school decision-makers and operatives. Hopefully, President Obama’s educational stimulus package will encourage our community to employ and engage such school leaders and education advocates seeking perfection. We can no longer afford to maintain the status quo.

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