Randi Weingarten, the New Yorker who is rising to become president of the American Federation of Teachers, says she wants to replace President Bush’s focus on standardized testing with a vision of public schools as community centers that help poor students succeed by offering not only solid classroom lessons but also medical and other services.Ever since the "War on Poverty" we have been asking schools to provide more and more social services to the students. While I can see a pretty direct correlation between providing school breakfasts and lunches to poor students (a hungry student can't learn), I am not sure why a school needs to be providing many of the "social services" that we now ask schools to provide. We ask schools to provide psychological services, counseling, and other non-educational services under the rhubric of "it will help the student learn." I think that is a fine line, but I would be willing to listen to an argument.
“Can you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools — schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need?” Ms. Weingarten is expected to ask in the speech, a copy of which was provided by the union to The New York Times.
“Imagine schools that are open all day and offer after-school and evening recreational activities, child care and preschool, tutoring and homework assistance,” the speech reads. “Schools that include dental, medical and counseling clinics.”
But why does Weingarten think that schools should provide things like medical and dental clinics? Could free or reduced price clinics use the schools as a service point? Sure, just like many schools are used by churches to hold services. At my local school district, after school care is provided on sight by the YMCA, for which parents pay to have their kids supervised by generally minimum wage earning, and otherwise unqualified college students (at best) who are for all intents and purposes providing babysitting services for dozens of kids. Simply put, I have no objection use the school facilities for various activities, for a reduced fee or even free (ideally I would want some rental and cleaning fee).
What I object to is having the schools, i.e. school personnel provide the services and activities using taxpayer funded employees. In Weingarten's vision, I don't see an distinction between unionized teachers and unionized social services personnel who work at schools.
As for the mission of schools, when and if the schools are actually providing high quality education to every student, regardless of income or location, then and only then will I consider whether it is appropriate to add futher social services to the school's mission. Until, unless you can paint me a direct line between teh social services Weingarten proposes and increasing student achievement, then these services should not be paid for with taxpayer funds. Weingarten has no evidence, not even AFT manufactured evidence that even tangentially hints at these services helping a kid learn.
The problem is that Weingarten and lots of other so-called "social reformers" and advocates for "social justice" have failed to recognize the core mission of the schools. Since the mid-60's we have asked more and more of our schools to help close some socially worrisome gap, that the schools have forgotten how to do their basic mission--educating kids. Adding more "social missions" to the school's is not going to improve schools.
Weingarten can claim that NCLB has not improved American schools and she would have a decent case to make. However, her substitute certainly isn't going to work. Love it or hate it, NCLB actually talked about educating kids. Weingarten is not.