Court Says New York City Schools are Failing

The New York State Court of Appeals added another opinion in the ongoing argument about how we pay for public education. Last week they ruled that the way high school education is funded in New York City is "failing to provide them [students in grades 9-12] with their constitutionally guaranteed rights to a "sound education."

In reversing the lower court opinion, the State Court of Appeals found that "tens of thousands of students are placed in overcrowded classrooms, taught by unqualified teachers, and provided with inadequate facilities and equipment" and that was enough to consider there is a "systemic failure."

I’m not about to tell anyone that throwing money will solve all the educational problems we have in this country. The solutions are not nearly that simple. However, somewhere along the line we need to decide just what kind of education are we willing to pay for. Hundreds of politicians and opinion polls (and now the courts) tell us that we need better teachers. However, the same politicians and the public behind the polls refuse to pay for the salaries and training to provide those better teachers. We also say that we want our children taught using better materials and equipment in classrooms that are not crowded. Again, those demands are unpaid for.

In responding to the ruling New York Governor George Pataki called it an "historic opportunity to reform the state’s education system". I hope he really means the whole system and not just how it’s funded. Every aspect of how we educate our kids in this country needs to be serious reviewed, including a gut check of how much we are honestly willing to pay for it.

The Ikea Torture Chamber

That’s where I spent most of this afternoon. Not in the store but assembling a piece of their furniture. Pure torture! For those of you who are blissfully ignorant of Ikea, it’s a chain of stores based in Sweden that sell pretty good furniture. The problem is that most of their stuff comes unassembled. While putting their stuff together is a pain, the bigger problem is that the instructions have absolutely no writing. Everything is in pictures and the ones in this package didn’t match the pieces in the box. So instead of a step-by-step process I had something similar to one of those big 3-D puzzles. And a wife who kept telling me how cleaver those Swedes are.

A School With Too Much Money (follow up)

A couple of weeks ago I blogged an item about a school in Washington State that was turning down $43,000 worth of donated computers because they were Macs – the district has decreed they only do PCs (cheaper, easier to maintain, and all that other crap). Now the school board has come up with an alternative that is just as good. Boeing Aircraft will give the school 30 "surplus" PCs and the district will pay $3000 for the printers that would have come with the original grant.

Let’s see if I understand this… the school district still wants to turn down 30 brand new Macintosh computers and substitute 30 well used PCs. If history and the facts are any indicator, the Macs will probably provide five to six years of largely trouble free service and will work right out of the box. The donated PC’s may last another two years and at least a third will probably need some work before they run properly.

Sounds like a deal to me! Can a school board be sued for stupidity?