Signals crossed: Mayor vs School Board for Dayton Tax hike “for the kids”

Earlier this week, the Mayor and her minions started testing the waters for a .25% income tax hike, raising Dayton’s rate to rival Oakwood’s highest in the County 2.5%. Oakwood, with the best schools, the lowest crime, perfectly kept streets and backyard trash pickup. A place where public parks look like Disneyland- and even have public bathrooms “that don’t even smell” (that quote from a DPS student who was amazed at Orchardly Park while helping me with a hoops Dayton video).

Part of that money is to go to pay for comprehensive pre-school.

DAYTON — Under the threat of a state takeover, Dayton Public Schools Board of Education members agreed during a work session Saturday to draft a resolution of necessity, the first step toward placing a levy before Dayton voters in November.

The levy plan being forwarded is a temporary five-year, five mills levy targeted toward improving after-school and summer programs with possible technology components, said Adil Baguirov, board president.

“In the long run it’s more prudent and much cheaper to invest in early childhood education and summer programs and after-school programs and educational technology than it is into prisons and all kinds of remediation later in life,” he said.

Without showing improvement on its state report card, the district runs the risk of being operated under an Academic Distress Commission within the next two years. New funding could pull the district back from the brink, said Joe Lacey, a board member.

“We need to try to do something – an additional program, if you will – over and above what we’re doing to try to bring us out from under the threat of academic distress,” Lacey said. “We’ve seen some successes with that at our schools, specifically Ruskin (Elementary School).” Baguirov said the levy is not permanent and not meant for general operating funds.The measure, however, is headed toward the same ballot as a Dayton income tax increase proposed by the city. Voters in November will be asked whether to approve a 0.25 percent increase on income earned in Dayton to help close a projected budget shortfall, fund police and fire services and pay for universal preschool.

Source: Levy proposal for Dayton schools pushed forward | www.mydaytondailynews.com

Whoa, hold on there. If we just wait 2 years for the State takeover, we don’t have to worry about paying for the schools at all- it’s the State’s problems- so isn’t a 5 year levy a bit much?

And, maybe because the Mayor didn’t even bother to come to the meeting where the three Superintendent candidates were presented to the public- we might infer that coordination between the two political bodies has broken down? Both coming to tax payers “for the kids” at the same time is a monumental recipe for disaster.

Dayton already spends more per student than any other district in the county, with the worst results. Noted, they also deal with the most special needs students, an 85% poverty level population, and has to compete with charter schools that don’t have to meet any of the same requirements for hiring teachers, testing, certification etc.

So, what should tax payers really ask for in terms of change?

David Esrati Campaign literature from 1993

It was 11×17, both sides, a lot to read- too bad not enough did.

I go back to my campaign literature from 1993 when I was running for the seat that eventually was Dean Lovelace’s entry to the dais:

Neighborhood-based Schools
“It takes an entire village to raise a child”
African saying

An entire VILLAGE, people, not an entire City. If we return to neighborhood schools the parents can get involved again. The chief reason for Dayton’s decline is busing. It is The Problem. As your commissioner I will spend at least an hour a day in one of our public schools.

I also proposed, long before our new buildings with A/C were built,

The year-round school

To combat the suburbs, and to keep our kids out of trouble, I recommend we move to year-round schools over the next 12 years. We aren’t farmers, our kids don’t work the fields in the summer. Learning is a lifelong experience, we need to reinforce that with a year-round learning environment.

Subsidized Day Care

An innovative day-care program is needed to attract new busines and new citizens to the city, as wellas to put our high percentage of single parents back into the work force as productive taxpayers. This would be a high-quality 24-hour service, that would provide long-term benefits to our citizens and make your investment in Dayton grow.

Hmmm, and no one took me seriously? We decimated our parks programs, filled in the swimming pools, and the school year remains the same as everyone elses, despite having a tougher challenge.

What DPS needs to do to improve test scores and keep kids out of trouble is move to a longer school day, with a longer school year, add an additional 20 days to the 180 day school year, with a 4 day school week  for most of the year except for leading into testing weeks.

The school day would be 8:30 to 5:30, but actual academic instruction time would be limited to 4 hours a day. The other hours would be doing art, music, phys ed, home ec, extra curriculars, and individualized guided learning. You want to be a programmer- you go hang out with the computer club, you want to be a social worker, you volunteer with a social service agency, you want to be a teacher, you tutor younger kids. Teachers have more time to plan, and to guide students in their personal passions- be it genealogy, chess, quilting or gardening. And, every school should be raising it’s own food- as both a hands on learning biology and agronomy, but as a business model as well. Hire Lisa Helm from Garden Station to lead the charge- since Nan and friends are evicting them from their gift to our community.

Yes, negotiating the new teacher contracts will be tough, but most inner city teachers aren’t there for the money, especially since Dayton doesn’t pay well. And we need to take a new look at transportation- no more door to door- but have neighborhood stops, on roads built to handle buses- and ways to get kids in a community to know each other. We need to find ways to build relationships back into the neighborhoods- since when you get right down to it- people are always what make a city, what make a neighborhood- not the buildings and certainly not the politicians.

I was talking about the cost of summer and the summer slide 25 years ago. Here’s a bit from an article from the New York Times about “The families that can’t afford summer” – which is most of Dayton:

Most American schools take a 10- to 11-week break during the summer. The assumption that underlies summer vacation — that there is one parent waiting at home for the kids — is true for just over a quarter of American families. For the rest of us, the children are off, the parents are not. We can indulge our annual illusion of children filling joyful hours with sprinkler romps and robotics camp or we can admit the reality: Summer’s supposed freedom is expensive.

In 2014, parents reported planning to spend an average of $958 per child on summer expenses. Those who can’t afford camps or summer learning programs cobble together care from family members or friends, or are forced to leave children home alone. Self-care for 6- to 12-year-olds increases during the summer months, with 11 percent of children spending an average of 10 hours a week on their own. In July 2014, a South Carolina woman was arrested when she left her 9-year-old in a park while she worked. Parents afraid of being at the center of a similar incident may be more likely to park their kids in front of the TV.In summer, the lack of affordable child care and the achievement gap collide for lower income families. Most kids lose math skills over the summer, but low income children also lose, on average, more than two months of reading skills — and they don’t gain them back. That puts them nearly three years behind higher income peers by the end of fifth grade, and the gap just keeps getting wider. Researchers credit the summer slide for about half of the overall difference in academic achievement between lower and higher income students.

Source: The Families That Can’t Afford Summer – The New York Times

Arguments can be made for a 5 day school week with year round school until DPS comes out of academic emergency- but, moving to a full, real world work world for teachers would be a monumental struggle. There is a beauty to the four day work week- look at what Dayton did with trash collection savings. When you have a Tues-Friday schedule- all those national holidays except the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas and New years- all become standard days off.

We need a radical fix for Dayton Public Schools. Anyone who thinks more money is going to fix it is delusional- because you can’t sell the same inferior product with a higher cost to voters- they will vote with their feet, just throwing Dayton deeper into the hole.

As to the City levy- the only way I’d support it if it included a rescission of all property tax abatements for companies with employees making more than $250K a year. We’re not subsidizing the rich on the backs of the poor anymore- and this goes for non-profits and schools as well. When you realize that half of the income for the hospitals is tax dollars for medicare, and the universities are heavily subsidized with grants and loans for students- it’s time to stop padding pockets into the stratosphere on the backs of the little people. The Brexit vote should be a good clue to politicians world wide that the working class is fed up with the redistribution of wealth and the widening gap.

We’ve been sold Sinclair as our savior against kids unprepared for the workforce for years, instead of making sure a high school diploma still meant something.

It’s time to reinvent our idea of school, and of how to help the poor get a real chance at not following in their parents footsteps- neither the city or the DPS tax plan will do anything to substantially revamp the equation, nor spells out actual mechanics of making it happen.

Look at my old campaign literature- and realize you missed out on 25 years of forward thinking and let’s get busy making real changes happen.

 

 

A plan for the Dayton Public Schools

Saying that Dayton Public Schools are second worst in the state is similar to saying that all Muslims are terrorists. It’s great for headlines, it’s great for political speeches, and putting the district “under review” isn’t going to help. What will help is real change.

The first thing to realize is that Stivers doesn’t need help. It’s a Dayton Public School that’s working. Is it a model for the rest of the district- yes and no. Is there a single silver bullet like “mo money” or “better teachers” that will solve the problems- no. There is no Walmart of educational solutions where you can shop and buy 100 new reading specialists to improve your third grade reading scores- they just aren’t available.

And, a warning – this post is sure to piss off a lot of union teachers. Not because I don’t think you work hard, or aren’t paid enough, but that I think it’s time your profession owns up to the reality that your work schedule was designed around an agricultural economy that is so far back in the history books that if it had a copyright it would have been in the public domain before the Internet and project Gutenberg came along.

To briefly summarize why our schools aren’t competitive, we have to look at what began the great slide to the bottom. “Busing for integration” might have worked if it had a fixed ecosystem and the students didn’t have the option of opting out either by moving or going to private schools (now compounded by the option of just as mediocre publicly funded charter schools). Racial segregation was replaced by economic segregation- and in every study known to man, there is a direct, incontrovertible relationship between poverty and poor school performance. We’re not going to get more wealthy smart kids moving back into the district anytime soon- even if we stop letting outsiders buy their way into Stivers (which is a dirty little secret).

So the question becomes how to change the system to work better for poor kids than for better well off kids? How do you nurture children better on a part time basis? First step, you move to a full time basis. This is the heretical statement that is the key to making a real change. It’s the realization that you can’t half ass anything and expect different results.

Here are the three changes that must be made, and there isn’t anyone with the balls to say or do it, but anything less, will not change outcomes:

–End the 180-day school year.

For comparison: http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/educatio/barr2f.htm

Japan 243 New Zealand 190
West Germany 266-240 Nigeria 190
South Korea 220 British Columbia 185
Israel 216 France 185
Luxembourg 216 Ontario 185
Soviet Union 211 Ireland 184
Netherlands 200 New Brunswick 182
Scotland 200 Quebec 180
Thailand 200 Spain 180
Hong Kong 195 Sweden 180
England/Wales 192 United States 180
Hungary 192 French Belgium 175
Switzerland 191 Flemish Belgium 160
Finland 190

What have all these other countries done? Made school more like what a real job is like. Prepared kids for a world where you don’t get three months off in the summer. Note, most of these countries also afford their people more than the two weeks of paid vacation which is becoming a pipedream to many Americans.

More days in school isn’t the only part of the equation, it’s about what they do in school, how they approach the educational process. Common-core skills are more like real-life skills- being able to synthesize answers and solutions- through collaboration, research and analysis. These real-life skills often are best learned in what we’ve called extra-curricular or arts and sports programs. Unfortunately with transportation schedules currently ruling and limiting our time with students outside of the normal school day- many of these enrichment programs were cut. And let’s face it- teachers are the only ones who have a 6-hour designated work day with a 180-day year qualifying as a “full time job.”

It’s time to reexamine why our school day doesn’t equal the parents’ work day- not just for adding extra-curriculars- but for the fact that child care for impoverished homes isn’t a luxury- it’s a necessity. Along with the longer year- comes the longer day. It’s time for a 9-5 minimum school day.

The schedule is also critical- year-round schools show much less drop off, the dreaded summer slide goes away. Why a district in “academic emergency” isn’t on a full-year schedule as the first step is beyond comprehension. So, a longer school year (on a year-round schedule), with longer school days and and the reintroduction of the arts- sports, the extracurricular activities that made school worth going to, are key to making positive change happen.

All this costs money of course, but so do drop-outs who will be a burden to society for the rest of their lives by being unable to compete, to earn, to stay out of trouble. The costs of unprepared graduates also costs in the form of remedial courses at the college level, where costs are the responsibility of the student and their families- or, through more money in government grants and assistance.

We already know the effects of poverty on education, we pay for it by supplying meals to all Dayton Public School students “free of charge” (paid for by the taxpayers) because these are often the only meals these kids get. By extending the school day, and the school year- we may see better chances for poor parents to shift child care expenses to being able to cut food insecurity out even more.

We also have to look at how we’re educating kids. More and more, it’s become a matter of teaching to the tests requiring huge expenditures on new course materials driven by a mega business in educational materials that lobbies for “standards” that are ever changing. It’s time to get off this merry-go-round and realize that the world has changed, and that anything you want to learn about is available for free, on the internet. The text book is dead, and the fancy solutions that they are offering as rentals is another educational fad- driven by dollars that are there to be sucked out of government by the industiral-educational machine.

It’s absolutely critical that we learn to teach using the age-old Socratic method.

Socratic method (also known as method of elenchus, elenctic method, or Socratic debate), named after the classical Greek philosopher Socrates, is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.

This is what the “common core” is- a branded and packaged version of education.

Give the kids access to a digital reader- and there are tens of thousands of free books available via Project Gutenberg and others, that are perfectly capable of being used as reading texts. Books were written before 1923 that were worth reading. We read The Scarlet Letter in High School and it’s just as appropriate today as it was then- but we had to buy our copy. That’s no longer necessary if you have the technology in place.

Part of the common-core skill set should include researching and writing your own textbooks. The skills of adding to Wikipedia, building websites and online communities is critical for future knowledge workers- but we’ve not incorporated these skills into the curriculum- because we’re too busy working on jumping though hoops- instead of creating our own challenges. In the extended school day, school year- part of it should include writing your own books, creating your own math tests, devising your own chemistry experiments, writing your own music- because these are the real world skills you were supposed to gain under ANY educational framework- and have been sorely missed by all industrialized educational systems.

There is one other realization that must be made- and that is that all of our kids aren’t in homes that are fit for living in. Either because of extreme poverty, violence, addiction, special needs, Dayton has a population that is under incredible duress, where school is the only sane place in their young lives. It’s time to have a residential/boarding school as one of the options in the educational process. Either for short-term, or long-term students, to remove them from toxic influences. I’d recommend converting the former Marine Reserve Station on Gettysburg into a campus for kids who need more love and protection than most. An attempt was made to open one in Cincinnati- and failed. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or impossible. It just means we’d be innovators like the Wright Brothers- because everyone knew they were crazy and man couldn’t fly.

Because we’re still stuck with a charter school system that requires Dayton Public to breast feed- one of the things that makes all these things difficult is that kids aren’t connected to neighborhoods anymore. One option that should be investigated is to bus kids back to the closest neighborhood school for the extended after-school programming- the arts, sports, coding and homework time after the “conventional” school day is done. This also allows parents and community to get involved in their children’s programming for tutoring and coaching. something the random distributed system we have now isn’t allowing for. Research has proven that parental involvement is a critical step in improving schools- but with current distribution of kids randomly throughout the district- it’s hard to form hard community and neighborhood bonds. Ideally, we’d move away from spending so much on diesel fuel attempting to “balance” an unequal system- but, for now, we’re sort of stuck with the system we have. Emerson Academy in South Park, a charter school, has a high percentage of neighborhood kids- and still doesn’t have the community as involved in the programs as possible. I’m hoping to bridge that gap in the coming months by beginning a literacy and reading program at the school on Saturdays for all ages.

There are no easy silver bullets to turning around school districts- no number of consultants, no new dollars, no supply of super teachers exist using our current structures. Throw those constraints out and try a different systemic solution and see what happens. Because from where I’m observing- there is only one way for the district to go from second from the bottom- and that is up.