Tag Archives: school administrators

Why Kids Misbehave in School

Five years into retirement and I still read school related articles from time to time.  Although there have been changes since I retired after 37 years as a teacher, coach, and school administrator, the articles I read prove some things never change.  Student behavior or misbehavior is one of those things that remains relatively the same year after year after year.   As long as there are schools, there will be kids who, for whatever reason, choose to be rebellious, defiant, disrespectful, and obnoxious.  Why?  Every year countless articles and books explore that question, but to date, no one has come up with a better answer than kids are human, and humans are impulsive, unpredictable, and make dumb choices.   Education discipline jargon changes yearly, and new enlightened gurus appear on the scene proposing the newest and greatest solutions ever conceived, but like the gurus before them, their solutions often prove ineffective and useless for dealing with negative student behavior.  The number of books published annually on this topic is a clear indicator there is not an easy answer or cure-all solution.  Education authors lay the blame for school discipline problems on bad apples, the teacher, poor parenting, peer influence, bullying, stupid choices, and academic difficulties, but the truth is school discipline problems are caused by all of the above laced with a healthy dose of animalism, humanism, and hormones.

If you follow Facebook, you will most likely be led to believe kids misbehave because they are mutinous little hellions, they come from bad stock, or they are simply BAD APPLES.  Fortunately, such reasons are rarely the case.  In my experience as a teacher and school administrator, I seldom faced a disobedient or rebellious student who was a pure evil BAD APPLE.  As a good friend often reminds me, “God don’t make no junk,” and tongue in cheek bad grammar aside, he is right.  All children have worth; it sometimes takes extra patience and prayer to find it in some, but they all have worth.  In my 37 years as an educator, I would say less than 1% of the students I dealt with for behavior problems were just plain bad, and even that handful usually went on to become responsible citizens as they grew into adulthood.

“It’s the teacher’s fault!” is the number one cry of too many parents when confronted by reports their child is misbehaving at school.  Many parents like to point at the teacher as the problem because they are frustrated themselves with junior’s behavior, or they are not adult or savvy enough to understand most teachers will do backflips or whatever it takes to avoid having a parent conference due to a child’s behavior.  Teachers want to be left alone to do their jobs, and there is maybe a 1% chance they will hold a grudge against a child, take revenge against a child, or intentionally do anything to a child that will ultimately result in a hostile parent conference.  Teachers have degrees for good reason; they are smart, and it is not smart for an adult, especially a professional, to create circumstances that result in extra work and stress.  However, teachers are not perfect, so it could be the teacher’s fault if a child misbehaves, but not likely.

Likewise, the number one reason teachers give for student discipline issues in the classroom is “poor parenting.”  Although, they rarely know for sure, teachers are often quick to blame mom and dad for the child’s disruptions in the classroom.  They see disrespect, rudeness, and defiance as traits of poor upbringing, and although there is some merit to such perceptions, there are often other influences or factors that are the real cause.  Parents, like teachers, are not perfect, but most of them do the best they know how to do when raising their children.  Like teachers, they despise parent/teacher conferences and would as soon get a root canal as attend one.  Both teachers and parents need to understand, student misbehavior in the classroom is the student’s fault; there is no one else to blame!  The student made the choice to be disruptive or lash out, and the student should be held responsible for his/her disruptive behavior!  It is important to understand why they chose to act out, but it is just as important, if not more so, to hold them accountable for their actions.  Consequences for poor choices is the only way to teach children to be responsible, caring human beings.

Although schools are much more aware of bullying today than a few years ago, it still happens.  In cases where a child is bullied by another child, we often think of the bullied child as one who withdraws within himself, isolates himself, or becomes depressed and even suicidal; we think of a helpless victim.  However, a bullied child can sometimes lash out.  As a defense mechanism, such a child can take on the role of the bully with his peers or even become a disruptive force in the classroom.  Such a child is not a bad apple, mistreated by teachers, or the product of parental malpractice; the bullied child takes refuge in the only protection he sees available to him – “if you can’t beat them, join them.”  By becoming part of the problem, the bullied child builds a wall of protection that shields him from further torment and provides some semblance of sanctuary.

A more likely reason for unruly behavior at school is peer influence.  When growing up, did your parents ever say, “If Susie jumped off a cliff would you also jump off the cliff?”  Mine did, and quite often!  If you are 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, or 18 the answer is “YES! You would follow Susie off that cliff!”  Middle and high school students are likely to try anything, regardless how stupid, if they think it might be fun, make them more popular, or get them noticed favorably by their friends.  Peer influence is more of an inducement for disruptive behavior than all the bad apples, vengeful teachers, poor parents, and bullying combined.

Sometimes students misbehave at school because something is out-of-whack at home.  Students from good homes with the best parents are not immune to behavior problems in school.  There are times when things go wrong in the best of homes with the most loving and caring parents.  In a world of shrinking commitment, children are often the unintentional victims of family quarrels over finances, infidelity, and divorce.   Such potentially life altering events in a family cannot help but ride to school on the shoulders of children who out of hurt, frustration, and feelings of betrayal and abandonment act out contrary to their norm.  In my experience as a school administrator, roughly ten percent of student behavior issues were the result of problems at home – not issues of bad parenting, but issues that threatened to tear the family unit apart.  Under such conditions, even the most even keeled child can break and lash out.

The number two reason for student misbehavior in school is stupid choices.  As smart and sophisticated as kids are today, they still make stupid choices.  It is no secret that teen elevators do not always go all the way to the top floor.  They are not only at the mercy of peer influence and pressure, but all too often, they are impulsive and empty minded.  Little thought is given to consequences for their actions.  For example, I still recall the stench of deer urine a student poured in a friend’s locker as a practical joke.  The books in the friend’s locker as well as the books in adjoining lockers were saturated and ruined with the stink.  The smell was so bad the whole locker section, approximately thirty lockers, had to be closed off and two classes had to be evacuated and reassigned elsewhere in the building.  On top of that, the student had to make restitution for a couple hundred dollars in damaged textbooks.  Was the student who committed the foul deed a BAD APPLE?  No, but he caused a major disruption of the school day just the same!

Finally, the number one reason for student misbehavior in school is by far the saddest – academic deficiencies.  When I was a high school principal, my assistant principals and I studied discipline data religiously.  We especially focused on students with habitual discipline problems.  We combed the data and reviewed cumulative folders looking for clues that might show how to best intervene with the student.  What we found was over fifty percent of students with habitual discipline issues were a grade to two grades behind, struggled academically in two or more core subjects, and could not read on grade level.  Academically, they had little hope for passing to the next subject or grade.  They could not keep up, so they disrupted class out of frustration and to cover up their academic difficulties – primarily, their inability to read.  If a child cannot read when he reaches high school, he is lost, and there is little that can be done to get him/her back on track.  Therefore, what else can a child do but act out and become a discipline problem?

During a school year, school administrators, especially at middle schools and high schools, will be confronted by discipline issues ranging from mean spirited to ridiculously stupid.  Except for a very few kids, they will find BAD APPLES are rare, and misbehavior is a human reaction to the cards life deals, or the result of stupid human choices.  Over time and with help, 90% of kids learn to deal with life’s ups and downs as well as learn from the stupid choices they make.  These kids move on to bigger and better things in life.  The other 10% is why principals, assistant principals, and guidance counselors earn their paychecks.  If they don’t give up on that 10%, ninety-nine percent of the time, those horrible little hellions are also likely to turn out all right and become productive citizens.  When that happens, teachers and administrators should write their own book!  They did something right, and it should be celebrated and shared with the world.

JL

 

©Jack Linton, April 18, 2018

The Continued Success of the Petal School District is not Luck!

Is the only constant in this world the success of the Petal School District?  I was blessed to serve twenty-five years as a teacher, coach, and administrator in the Petal School District, and it was a great school district before I arrived on the scene, it was a great school district while I was there, and it is a great school district today.  Recently, the state released school accountability scores and rankings, and the Petal School District was once again ranked in the top five school districts in the state (number one in mathematics).  No one was surprised because no one can remember when or if there was a time in its history that Petal was not ranked at the top.  The mark of a great school district, athletic team, or great business is the ability to sustain success over time regardless of who is at the helm or in the trenches, and the Petal Schools have done a remarkable job of maintaining success even when key personnel have changed.

In the past four years, the District has had two superintendents, changes in directorships, and multiple changes in school principals and assistant principals, yet, it has remained a top-rated school district.  That is amazing!  However, what is more amazing is the District has maintained its success even with the loss of some great teachers who have retired or moved elsewhere due to family and career decisions.  Common sense says for a school to be successful it must have great teachers in the classroom.  In fact, research supports a quality teacher in the classroom is the most crucial factor in the education of a child.  However, in an era of state and nation-wide teacher shortages, it is not easy to find quality teachers to replace outgoing quality teachers even for a school district, like Petal, with a strong discipline and academic reputation, so how does Petal do it?

Having worked in the school district, I am very familiar with the “movers and shakers” (great educators) among the teachers and administrators, but until recently, while browsing the District website I was unaware of the turnover that has occurred over the past four years.  The school websites are filled with new teacher and administrator faces at almost every school.  Most of the old guard is gone!  The people I always believed made the schools great were missing, but success marched on without them.  How could that be?  Maybe, there is truth to the adage, “One monkey does not stop the show.”

Before I retired, I often bragged, the key to my success at Petal High School was the quality of teachers that lifted me and the students on their shoulders and made what sometimes appeared impossible possible.  Although many of the administrators and teachers who carried me to success are now gone, Petal High School and the District continues to be successful.  That is not only a tribute to the recruiting efforts of the District, it is a tribute to the foundation on which the District is built.  Superintendents, directors, staff, teachers, principals, and school board members come and go, but the two constants, the two non-negotiables, that never change in the District are “everyone is accountable for learning” and an undying attitude that “ALL children can learn.”  These constants result in a successful school district year after year regardless who leads the way in or outside the classroom.

Faces change, but as the battle-scarred veteran teachers gradually move on to another phase in their lives, fresh faces arrive to grow into their shoes.  Like those before them, they pick up the banner of excellence, refuse to lower standards for themselves or their students, and rise above the crowd.  They do so because that is the PETAL WAY; the only WAY for a Petal educator!  Petal educators expect the impossible of themselves and the children they teach, they rise above their imperfections and the imperfections of their students and show them what may seem impossible is but a grain of sand in their shoe.  They lift kids – their own and the kids of others – on their shoulders and carry them – sometimes kicking and screaming – to heights they would never know unless their teacher sacrificed a piece of their life, their heart, and their soul to show them the way.

However, where does the district continue to find quality teachers who have the ability to pick up where the masters left off and walk in their shoes?  Contrary to widespread belief, good teachers are not a dime a dozen; they are few and far between.  They cannot be contracted through Amazon and arrive in the classroom in two days, so where are they found?  Maybe, there is a secret door hidden under a green moss laden bluff somewhere along the Tallahala Creek where teachers with iron nerves who do not know the meaning of “quit”, teachers with hearts of glass kids can look into and learn trust, and teachers with eyes that say, “I am here for you – take my hand” stand waiting patiently for their time to step forward and cultivate our tomorrow.  Or, maybe quality teachers are born somewhere off the Gulf Coast in emerald waters salted lightly with rock flour and wisps of dreams and hope.  More likely, there are no secret doors or emerald waters, only a one-time school boy or girl who grew up to be a teacher with dreams to save the world one child at a time, and was fortunate enough to find like-minded people in a place that has yet to give up on its children and their dreams – the Petal School District.

Yes, year after year, it amazes me how superintendents, directors, staff, principals, teachers, and even school board members can change, yet, the school district continues to not only be successful but thrive.  Working hard and smart with kids as the bottom line while plugging in a sincere love for them and passion for learning is a surefire formula for success, and that success becomes even more sustainable when everyone from the superintendent to the custodian understands everything a school district does is about kids.  “Doing what is best for kids” is what ensures success for the District regardless of who the superintendent or the teachers in the classroom may be.  When a school district asks, “What is best for the kids?” prior to every decision it makes, it cannot not help but be successful year after year.  That single question puts every decision and every action in the proper perspective for a school district.  It enables a small, underfunded (by the state) school district like Petal to succeed where others fail.  My hat is off to those who laid the foundation, to the old guard who remain as models of commitment and excellence, and to those brave new faces that are carrying on the tradition of Petal excellence.  My hat is off to the Petal School District for always putting kids first.  By doing so, the District will always be a success!  Congratulations, Petal educators for another successful school year! You deserve every accolade laid upon you!  Your success is not luck!  You work hard for your success, so take a few minutes to enjoy a job well done, then get back to work – the kids need you.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 24, 2017

Teachers and Administrators don’t Enforce Rules:   A Case against School Dress Codes!

 

Teachers who do not consistently enforce school rules are not always bad teachers or irresponsible individuals; sometimes some of the best most dedicated teachers in a school do not follow the rules.  Some teachers, like some school administrators, hate confrontation, and enforcing rules means confrontation with the student, confrontation with parents, possible confrontation with the administration, and often negative vibes from students as well as other teachers.  For some, enforcing rules makes their lives messy, uncool, or even unpopular.  Others don’t enforce the rules because they feel they have more important things to do, and then there are those teachers who do not agree with the rule, so they simply ignore it.

So, why have rules in school?  If so many teachers look the other way rather than enforce the rules, why should schools bother with rules in the first place?  The textbook answer is that rules ensure a safe and orderly learning and teaching environment, but do they really?  It can be argued that rules provide a fighting chance to bring order to the chaos; however, is that what educators really want?  No!  What teachers really want is for kids, parents, and school administrators to leave them alone.  For many teachers, rules are tools of convenience frowned upon as an inconvenience and waste of time that creates negative confrontations.  They see teachers and administrators who dodge the rules as the smart ones.  Maybe, they are right, and if so, maybe, rules are not needed in schools!

However, regardless of what some may think, there must be rules!  Rules are necessary to enable teachers to teach and students to learn.  Unfortunately, like all things, there are good rules and rules that are questionable or make little or no sense.  For example, rules dealing with dress codes most definitely fall into the questionable category.  As a former teacher and school administrator, I believe dress codes are necessary, but it has been my experience few teachers agree with me.  Very few teachers really care what students wear to class.  I say this because very few teachers write up students for dress code violations, and the ones that do are often ridiculed by their colleagues.  So why have rules, especially a dress code?  Why hold a student accountable for a dress code that five out of six teachers in the school day ignore?  What is the school administrator to do when the sixth-period teacher turns a student into the office for coming to class naked when that student attended five previous classes in the buff and not a word was said by previous teachers about exposed wingydings in class?  The only option the administrator has at the end of the day is to give the kid a hat and send him home.  Now, I am slightly exaggerating, but when it comes to dress codes, it is truly almost that bad.  I realize correcting a student for a dress code violation shaves precious seconds off teaching the test, especially when there is not a single question on the state assessment that deals with student nudity, unless, maybe, someone slips in a liberal writing prompt.

Over the years, as a school administrator, I developed and enforced more than my fair share of school rules including rules governing dress codes.  To this day, I have forty year old former students walk by me in the mall and intentionally pull their tucked shirttail from their pants with a wink (tucking shirttails was probably the most despised rule I ever implemented as a principal).  I was a stickler for rules, and maybe too much so, but I believed then, and I believe now if you have a rule it should be enforced.  I also believe using a rule for any reason other than its original intent (i.e., allowing students to break the rule as a reward) is counter-productive and sends a mixed message to students, parents, and the community.

Therein lies my issue with current dress codes in schools.  Instead of teaching a lesson or addressing a safety issue, dress code rules in many schools today have become a part of the school reward system.  If students exhibit good behavior for the month, if there is a big district game, if a student collects the most Popsicle sticks, if a student brings a dollar to school, and the list goes on and on, they are allowed to break the dress code rule on a specified day such as Friday.  For example, they are allowed to wear clothing such as jeans or apparel outside of school colors.  That may sound innocent, but if the rule was important enough to be created, it should be important enough to be enforced consistently five days a week.  If it is okay to excuse students from the dress code on a game day, as a fund raiser reward, or for any other excuse, why have the rule?  It is counterproductive to the intent and purpose of a rule to permit students or adults to break a rule as a reward.  I am not against rewarding students, but don’t reward them by allowing them to break school rules!  Schools always talk about teaching kids to be good citizens; how can teaching them it is okay to break rules be good citizenship?  We have enough rule breakers in our society without training more.  If it is okay to reward students by letting them break a rule, maybe that rule is not relevant and should be done away with for every day of the week and not just on special occasions.   If eliminating the rule for one day is not a problem, the odds are good it would not be a problem if eliminated completely.

When it comes to school rules, it is fairly simple.  If a school is going to have a rule, it should be enforced consistently across the calendar.  If a teacher signs a contract to work for a school district, the teacher should be up to the task of enforcing the rules of the district or look elsewhere for employment, preferably in another profession.  Enforcing rules is not a fun job for administrators or teachers, but it is a necessary job made more difficult when a rule is used contrary to its intent.  If a school ever finds it okay to allow students to break a rule, it is time the school re-evaluated that rule.  If wearing jeans to school is okay on certain days as a reward, then it is ludicrous to ban them on all other days since it is obvious jeans do not pose a threat to a safe and orderly school environment.

If a school rule can be suspended as a whole or in part as a reward, then the rule has little if any bearing on the orderly function of the school and should be eliminated from the student handbook altogether.  The purpose of a school dress code is not to teach kids that rules are made to be broken or to provide a cash cow for local clothing vendors.  The purpose of the code is to enhance school safety and student learning five days a week.  Giving students permission to break a rule periodically sends the message to adults and students alike that the rule has little to do with safety and learning – at least not every day of the school year.  The bottom line is enforcement of rules must go beyond convenience; teachers and administrators should enforce the rules (dress code or any other rule) or dump the rules!

JL

©Jack Linton, February 12, 2017

School Free: Eliminate Public Schools in the United States

I have been thinking about the recent Mississippi vote against fully funding public school education. I realize it does little good to rehash old wounds, but sometimes a second look is warranted. That is especially true in light of the emotions that flowed so freely on both sides of the issue in the days leading up to the vote. So, putting aside the confusion caused by the ballot and the chancery judge issues that dominated the discussion prior the people’s decision, I took a second long look at the main reasons people gave for voting against fully funding education. The primary issues I looked into were school consolidation, over paid school administrators, throwing money at education, and lack of performance and fiscal accountability. Rather than focus solely on Mississippi, I decided to take it one step further and examine how Mississippi attitudes toward education compared to public attitudes of education across the nation. I am glad I did; it changed everything!

First of all, when it comes to public attitudes, I found Mississippi pretty much flows in the same direction as the rest of the nation. We also seem to be perfectly in sync with the other education bottom dwellers – Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and Washington, D.C. I found the negative attitudes displayed toward public education by so many Mississippi voters differed little from attitudes toward public education in other parts of the nation. Like most of the nation, Mississippi is facing an education crisis spurred by a thinly disguised Republican agenda to privatize public schools, a movement for greater parental choice in education decisions, and an unwavering belief that the public knows more about what is best educationally for their children than educators. In addition, the overall lack of political and public respect for public schools as well as the political and public resolve to influence, dictate, and control the selection and development of local and state school curriculums appears to be common across the states. What truly bothered me though was the discovery of a deep underlying – unspoken – opinion held by many in the political arena as well as the public that suggested the United States would be better off by eliminating ALL public schools!

After years of lackluster academic performance, it appears the public’s respect and trust of public education falls somewhere between their respect and trust of politicians, TV evangelists, and used car salesmen. In seems, many people in the public believe they can do better teaching their children at home than public school teachers can in the classroom, so they question the existence of public schools. Of course, as an educator, I regarded such reasoning as nonsense, but after immersing myself further into the issues, I came to the realization that maybe they are right. Maybe, it is time that as a nation, we face the possibility that public schools have outlived their purpose. If we are honest with ourselves, public schools today exist primarily for childcare, sports, free lunches, and of course, testing. Even academic courses, to create jobs and sustain student interest, have been subdivided and disemboweled to the point of irrelevance. When lack of subject substance and continuity is meshed with the present public school focus on social interactions, celebrations, playtime, political correctness, and curriculums we dare not make too challenging, we are left with little more than a hypothetical school. Again, let’s be honest, that game can be played at home with less expensive overhead than public classrooms. Current politics, local pandering, inclusiveness, and permissiveness have left many public schools little more than thirteen years of leveled kindergarten with a senior year that according to the public should exclusively be about having fun and building memories.

So, yes, maybe there is credibility to the idea of eliminating public schools altogether. With the Internet, cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and texting, children have little need for the social aspect of school anymore, and the academic possibilities and resources available online far exceed what many underfunded and understaffed public schools can offer. Regardless of parental income level, the Internet is available with very few exceptions in homes via a connected computer, smart TV, Ipad, or data linked cell phone, so why do parents need to send their children to school? For a fraction of the cost of what parents spend on local school taxes, school supply lists, workbooks, monthly school fundraisers, school field trips, school uniforms, and private tutoring lessons, they can have everything a school can offer in the comfort of their homes or the public library, and still have time to drop the kids off at the mall for the afternoon.

This has not been easy for me to swallow, but as an educated person, I have no choice but to face this new reality. Schools are no longer relevant in America! The sooner this is accepted, the sooner we can put an end to the many school related issues handcuffing our society. Since everyone who has ever attended grade school or high school is recognized by most American political leaders as experts on what children need to know and be able to do (especially in Mississippi), the United States could easily abolish ALL public schools and save billions of dollars in education wages, salaries, and benefits. I dare say, making America “School Free” would most likely have a major positive economic and social impact on our nation. If there are any doubters, please look carefully at the following benefits . . . .

If we made America “School Free”. . . .

  1. Parents could teach their children the way they were taught;
  2. Parents could assign homework not too difficult, so they could help their children with the homework;
  3. If we made America “School Free,” the national budget could be balanced and the national debt paid off with the money saved on education;
  4. The cost of childcare for working parents could be drastically reduced. Parents could reduce childcare costs by dropping their older children off at the mall, movie theater, park, or zoo during the day. For younger children below the age of five, there would be an abundance of teenagers available and willing to babysit for a small fee since they would not be burdened by school;
  5. Eliminating public schools would drastically impact the economy for the better:
    • Revenue for businesses in malls would increase;
    • Local sales taxes would increase;
    • State money normally spent on education could be divided among other state agencies to hire extra personnel, improve services, rebuild crumbling infrastructures such as bridges, and there would even be money to build more prisons. Who knows a little extra money in the budget may even solicit a smile from the highway patrol personnel in the driver’s license office;
    • Without such expenses as school taxes, school fund raisers, and school supply lists, parents would have more money in their pockets;
    • If America was to become “school free,” unemployment numbers would spiral downwards since malls would need to hire extra security and sales floor people and more police and highway patrol personnel would be needed to patrol the streets.
  6. If We made America “School Free,” kids too cool for the mall or without transportation to the mall would have more social time on street corners;
  7. School buildings could be converted to climate control storage units, which would create additional local government revenues. Of course, the broken windows and air and heat would have to be repaired or replaced first, and better security systems would have to be installed in most public schools used for this purpose;
  8. Football and baseball stadiums as well as gyms could be turned over to local club sports. Clubs would be responsible for hiring and firing coaches at their discretion. There would be no more of the “namby-pamby” talk about character building; it would be “win or the highway” for coaches and players alike. Kids could practice eight hours a day, five days per week or even seven days a week if coaches and parents desired;
  9. There would be no testing, which means no more shaming comparisons to other schools in the state or countries around the world;
  10. Since they would no longer be needed, School buses could be parked bumper to bumper along the USA/Mexico border to provide an inexpensive wall to keep out illegal immigrants. School bus drivers could be hired full time to sit in each bus with a shotgun to repel all illegals trying to cross the border;
  11. Money saved on education could be used to create a wall of isolation around the United States. Only information and people deemed pertinent to the political agendas of the governing party or pertinent to the success of collegiate or professional athletic teams would be permitted to enter the country;
  12. The government could control all free thinking, or at least quarantine free thinking troublemakers to restricted zones in barren thinly populated areas of the country. The Democrat and Republican parties would be free to indoctrinate or brainwash the American people with any ideology that suited their agendas;
  13. Providing services such as sex education, suicide awareness, health screenings, counseling, providing for children with disabilities, and serving breakfast and lunch would once again become the moral, parenting, and monetary responsibilities of parents;
  14. State and Federal legislators could concentrate on issues such as poverty and not simply focus on the symptoms of poverty such as poor academic performance. Without public schools as a whipping boy, legislators might finally do the job they were elected to do;
  15. If we made America “School Free,” freeloading teachers would finally be forced to get real jobs like everybody else!

These are only a few of the benefits of getting rid of public schools in America. Based on the current attitudes toward public school education in Mississippi and across the United States, I am convinced the public is ready for such a move.  It is bound to happen sooner or later.  How much longer can public schools in this state and this nation exist without the confidence of the people? Public school educators have endured about all the disrespect and votes of “no confidence” they can tolerate. So, why not simply put them out of their misery and close public schools altogether? Except for Friday nights in the fall, I wonder if public schools would even be missed.

JL

©Jack Linton, December 14, 2015

Ten Things I learned this Past Week about Supporting Initiative 42

This past week my previous blog, “Initiative 42: Misconceptions, Lies, and THE TRUTH,” lit up like a Christmas tree. My blog has some public outreach, but it is primarily written for friends and those they share it with when they deem it worthy of sharing. Occasionally it will also be picked up by other blogs or news groups. So, I was surprised by the literally thousands of visitors who read my blog this past week. The comments I received were a mixed bag of support for Initiative 42 as well as opposition, and I enjoyed the interaction for the most part. I was truly amazed at some of the things some people believe about the Initiative as well as what they believe about education in general. The amount of credibility given to hearsay was astounding, and I certainly did not realize there are so many legal and state Constitution experts milling around Mississippi.

However, I did learn some interesting things about people and their attitudes toward education. Believe me when I say, it was sometimes frightening. One thing I learned for sure is that Mississippi education needs a public relations person. It is apparent that many people never hear about the good things happening in Mississippi education; all they hear about are the negatives, but maybe that is all they want to hear. For example, look at some of the things readers taught me this past week about Initiative 42 and education as a whole in Mississippi.

Ten Things I learned this Past Week about Supporting Initiative 42

  1. I learned there are a lot of good people in Mississippi who are confused about Initiative 42.   Thank you Governor Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn for your leadership in misleading and confusing the issue;
  2. I learned some people are in favor of withholding education funding until such time they can be assured the money already available for education is spent wisely. Of course, that is like withholding money for maintenance on your roof until it caves in. There are state agencies responsible for fiscal responsibility, so why not demand those agencies monitor school expenditures more closely, and go after the districts wasting money (if any), but don’t punish all schools.  If people have firsthand knowledge of waste in schools, they should expose it and bring it to everyone’s attention, but don’t condemn all school districts for the actions of a few.  It is insanity to withhold education funds at the expense of children;
  3. I learned Jesus Christ could have written Initiative 42, and some people would still find excuses not to support it;
  4. I learned there are people who care more about Democrat vs Republican than they do about educating children;
  5. I learned there are teachers who are riding the fence on Initiative 42. It is unbelievable, but there are teachers who naively believe the scare tactics and half-truths portrayed as facts on television, who believe the negative hearsay, and who have made little, if any, effort to look at the issue for themselves. It is also unbelievable that there are educators who teach children to read, research, and be critical thinkers, but they don’t practice what they teach and preach;
  6. I learned that there are more lawyer wannabes in Mississippi than you can shake a stick at, and they do not mind sharing with you what they know as the legal gospel;
  7. I learned that Mississippi has an abundance of state Constitution experts even though these experts may have read only a tiny portion of the Constitution, none of it at all, or their expertise is based on what they have been told;
  8. I learned from these self-appointed legal and Constitution experts that a chancery judge has the authority to hire and fire teachers, consolidate schools, pick and choose the schools that will be funded, shut down other state agencies at his/her discretion, raise taxes, change the state flag to the LGBT flag, and forbid Santa Clause to fly over Mississippi air space.  They taught me the power of the chancery judge is unlimited, and if Mississippi doesn’t strike down Initiative 42, the chancery judge in Hinds County will have the power to disband the state Legislature, send the governor packing, and set himself up as the supreme governing authority in Mississippi;
  9. I learned many people can’t stop thinking about themselves and their pocketbooks long enough to understand that education is expensive but ignorance is even more expensive;
  10. BUT, the biggest thing I learned was that supporting Initiative 42 is well worth the fuss and putting up with the unfounded hysteria. This past week reinforced what I have always known – KIDS and TEACHERS are worth the fight!

With all the huffing and puffing surrounding Initiative 42, it is important to remember the Initiative is about teachers and kids, and it is about making education a priority in Mississippi. It is NOT about school administrators, school consolidation, a judge in Hinds County, or any other smokescreen the education naysayers insert into the discussion. It is also important to understand making education a priority is up to the voters for one reason and one reason only – the Mississippi Legislature has proven year after year that education IS NOT their priority. My only purpose in writing about this issue is to encourage teachers and parents to take a stand for education. Although Mississippi will continue to have school regardless of the outcome of the vote for Initiative 42, the question is will the schools have funding to give our children a quality education, or will Mississippi continue to treat education as an afterthought. Through Initiative 42 nearly 200,000 Mississippi citizens have already petitioned for education to be treated as a priority, and now it is time for all citizens and especially teachers to stand up and join the fight. The state Legislature is counting on teachers being timid, frightened, and apathetic on this issue. I sincerely pray that for once teachers will stand together and prove them wrong.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 17, 2015

Initiative 42: Misconceptions, Lies, and THE TRUTH

I have been asked to share my perspectives on Initiative 42. First, I am honored to have been asked since there are people who could share their insight much more eloquently. That I am a supporter of Initiative 42 is no secret. That I have been troubled by the underhanded actions of those opposed to the Initiative is also no secret. Everyone has a right to their viewpoint as well as a right to take an opposing stand, but when lies and misinformation are blatantly told as truths, the boundaries of decency and integrity are breached. It is an injustice to intentionally mislead anyone, but especially citizens who want so desperately do the right thing. How can people be expected to make the right choice when they are relentlessly subjected to misleading information that has only one purpose and that is to confuse? Unfortunately, opponents of Initiative 42 have done an excellent job confusing the public about Initiative 42. I can only hope in these last days before the November election that more people will discover the truth and take issue with those trying so desperately to destroy public education in Mississippi.

Personally, professionally, and financially, I have nothing to gain by presenting my views on this issue other than the satisfaction of doing my best to help kids get a better education.   My purpose with this article is to separate the facts from the fiction. To do so, I have looked closely at both Initiatives 42 and 42A, researched news articles dealing with the debate over these issues, listened to people both for and against Initiative 42, and drawn, to a small extent, on my 37 years as an educator. In an effort to bring about clarity, I have broken the issue into two informative charts: Chart I: A Comparison of Initiative 42 Supporters and Opponents, and Chart II: Initiative 42, Misinformation and THE TRUTH. The charts represent the truth as I understand it, and they are backed by facts available to anyone with a little determination and willingness to research and read to get at the truth.

Chart I: A Comparison of Initiative 42 Supporters and Opponents

Public Education Funding Supporters Public Education Funding Opponents
History The state Legislature passed a law in 1997 that mandated that MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Plan) be fully funded each year. The legislators promised to provide each public school district in Mississippi enough financial support to adequately fund K-12 education. The state Legislature has honored the 1997 law only twice in 18 years.
At Issue Supporters want state legislators to be held accountable to the 1997 law. The state legislators claim they should not be held accountable to a law passed by a previous legislative session.   With the exception of two years, they have refused to fully fund public school education as required by the 1997 law.
Citizens vs state legislators Over 188,000 Mississippi citizens concerned that state legislators consistently ignored the 1997 MAEP law, signed petitions to place Initiative 42 on the November 2015 ballot. For the first time in Mississippi history the state legislators countered a citizen led initiative by placing Initiative 42A on the November ballot.
What does each Initiative do?
  • Initiative 42 requires legislators follow the law and fully fund public education based on the MAEP formula
  • Initiative 42 will protect each child’s fundamental educational rights through the 12th grade by amending Section 201 of the Mississippi Constitution to require that the state maintain and support an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.
  • Initiative 42 will authorize a chancery court to enforce the law to adequately fund public schools   A court ruling would require the Legislature to follow the law/Constitution.
  • Initiative 42A basically changes nothing.
  • Initiative 42A will allow legislators to continue to ignore the law and fund education at their discretion.
  • Initiative 42A does not provide any additional funding nor does it require legislators to honor the 1997 funding law.
  • Initiative 42A provides no accountability for funding public education.
  • Initiative 42A is a political ploy to confuse the public.

Chart II: Initiative 42, Misinformation and THE TRUTH

Misinformation and Lies about Initiative 42 THE TRUTH
1 If Initiative 42 passes, one judge in Hinds County will have the final say on how school money is spent.

 

THE TRUTH: A Hinds County judge will not be needed if the Legislature fully funds MAEP. If the Legislature fails to fully fund MAEP, a Hinds County judge will hear the issue since Jackson is in Hinds County and that is where the state legislature convenes. Any decision the judge makes can be appealed to the State Supreme Court, so a single judge does not have the final decision. Finally, the judge cannot make decisions regarding how or where state education funding is spent. How education money is spent is a local school district decision.
2 If Initiative 42 passes, a judge in Hinds County will be able to take money from one school and give it to another. THE TRUTH: The idea that a judge could take money from one school and give it to another was fabricated by a political group opposed to Initiative 42.   As Sam Hall, writer for the Jackson Clarion Ledger said, “The ad by Improve Mississippi Political Initiative Committee is the worst kind of scare tactic and downright lie yet used. He went on to describe the ad as “the lowest kind of politics there is.”   There is nothing in Initiative 42 that gives a judge the authority to take money from one school district and give it to another school.
3 If Initiative 42 passes, one judge in Hinds County will have the power to force schools to consolidate, THE TRUTH: Nowhere in Initiative 42 is consolidation of school districts mentioned.   However, opponents of Initiative 42 want the public to believe that if they vote for Initiative 42, they will lose their school district. School consolidation falls under the power of the Governor and state legislators.   The Governor and state legislators decide when and if schools are to be consolidated.
4 If Initiative 42 is passed, increased funds will go to pay for administrator salaries and not go to the children in the classrooms. THE TRUTH: MAEP funds pay for teacher salaries and instructional materials. Administrator salaries are set by local school boards and are completely under local school district control.
5 If Initiative 42 is passed, the budgets of other state agencies will have to be cut. THE TRUTH: The petition signed by nearly 200,000 Mississippi citizens included a full description of a six to seven year phase in process. Therefore, passing Initiative 42 will not result in other state agency budgets being cut. Increases in school funding would also be dependent upon state revenue increases.
6 If Initiative 42 is passed, taxes will be raised. THE TRUTH: Raising taxes is not required if Initiative 42 passes. According to House Speaker, Phillip Gunn, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Mississippi has enough money to fund all state services without raising taxes. In fact, at the end of the 2015 legislative session, they rose in support of eliminating state income taxes altogether. If Mississippi can afford to eliminate state income taxes, which accounts for about 40% of the state’s revenue, it is safe to say there will not be a need to raise taxes to support education or any other state budget. Raising taxes is a scare tactic used by opponents of Initiative 42.

Whether readers take to heart what I have to say is up to each individual reader, but I am committed to support all children, and I can assure you I will sleep well the night of Tuesday, November 3, 2015, knowing I have voted for Initiative 42 because it is best for not only my grandchildren, but all Mississippi children as well. My alma mater has a slogan during football season, “Southern Miss to the Top!” Wouldn’t it be great if by November 3 we had all Mississippians shouting, “Initiative 42 to the Top!” I bet that would put an uncomfortable wad in the panties of Governor Bryant and other state legislators so set on underfunding public school education.

INITIATIVE 42 to the TOP!

JL

Jack Linton, October 9, 2015