Category Archives: education news

School will be back … but should students and teachers return?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has rung the 2020-21 school bell telling students, teachers and staff that classrooms will be open for the upcoming academic year.

Abbott shut down in-person class study this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students kept current with their studies at home; our granddaughter and her older brother were two of them and, I should add, they did quite well studying at home.

Now what? Abbott’s back-to-school directive does give parents the flexibility to decide whether to send their children back to class.

As the Texas Tribune reports:

“It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers, and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall. But there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely, if the parent so chooses,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.

When students return, school districts will not be required to mandate students wear masks or test them for COVID-19 symptoms, said Frank Ward, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency.

If I were King of the World, I most certainly would require masks and COVID-19 tests. I am not. I am just a concerned grandparent who wants to ensure that students, teachers and staff will be safe from becoming infected by a disease that could do them great harm.

Man, I hope Abbott knows what he’s doing. Texas is experiencing a serious spike in infection, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Yes, we want to return to what we like think is “normal” activity.

Given recent trends, I am just leery of sending young children back to school and instructing them to practice “social distancing.”

We’re in good hands

Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, was a brilliant thinker to be sure. He also was dead wrong as he sought to forecast the future of civilization.

The quote you see attached to this blog is attributed to Socrates, who died more than 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. He lamented the disrespect shown by young people. If we were to take what the great man said to the bank, we would indeed be in a world of hurt.

I, though, remain an eternal optimist. Two young women I spoke with today give me ample reason to attest to what many of us know already: that we are going to leave this good Earth in the best of hands.

The women — Savannah Sisk and Aubrie Rich — are Farmersville High School seniors. They are the valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2020. I spoke to them to gather information for a story I am writing for the Farmersville Times, so I will not divulge what they said; I do not want to scoop the newspaper.

However, I want to declare that these two young women symbolize great young people all across this land of ours. Their stories are far from unique. Indeed, similar stories can be told everywhere, in every city and town in this country.

My boss assigned me this story thinking I would like to take a break from the sausage grinder of politics and public policy. Brother, was she correct. Speaking to these two individuals filled me with optimism and hope. They offered clear visions of where they intend to go, what they intend to do with the rest of their lives. They spoke with wisdom and clarity about the challenges they faced during their senior year at Farmersville High School; they were challenges that none of them saw coming as their school was essentially shut down because of a worldwide pandemic.

I told both of these two young folks — neither of whom I have met face to face — how proud I am of them. To be sure, I am proud of all the young achievers who have finished one chapter of their lives and are ready to open the next one.

Do they disrespect their elders, are they tyrants of their households, do they display bad manners? No. They prepare to do great things.

I’ll get back to the humdrum of politics in due course. At this moment, I merely want to salute what well could be the next “greatest generation.”

No, Mr. POTUS, do not encourage schools to reopen, too

Oh, Mr. President. There you go again. You don’t need to entice school boards or state governors or statewide educational officials to jump the gun and reopen public schools prior to the end of the current academic year.

Texas schools are closed for the rest of the year. They’ll reopen — we hope — when the 2020-21 school year is set to begin in August.

That’s not even a sure thing, given the rate of coronavirus infection we’re still experiencing.

But there you went again today, suggesting it would be all right with you if states want to reopen their school systems.

Forgive me for being blunt, Mr. President, but you’ve got a screw loose in that noggin of yours. You’re off your rocker. You seemingly are batsh** crazy … but that’s just me speaking for myself.

Too many states have too many restrictions on the way we interact with each other. Social distancing is now the norm of the moment. How do we tell a kindergartner, or a first- or second-grader to stay at least six feet away from his or teacher or best friends?

My granddaughter is a bright first-grade student. I do not know how well, though, she would respond to directives to stay away from her two besties. I mean, the three of them are BFFs. They do everything together. Yes, she misses her pals, and they miss her. Now is not the time to let them back into the classroom together.

My hope is that we can keep the schools closed. The kids can continue to learn at home through lessons sent to them by their teachers. Our granddaughter is doing just fine under that circumstance.

Open the schools this academic year? Hah! That’s another good one, Mr. President … except nothing you say makes me laugh except out of derision. Otherwise, you make me cringe.

Keep our schools closed!

There’s a marquee in front of the brand new elementary school in our Princeton, Texas, neighborhood that reads “We miss you. See you May 4.”

That’s when Texas’s public schools are supposed to reopen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s my suggestion: Do not reopen the schools; keep them closed for the remainder of this academic year.

The first week of May is far too early to send our children back to school, where they would mingle with other children. Do we expect kindergartners or first-graders — or even older children — to observe the six-foot rule, to practice “social distancing”?

My hope is that we can keep the schools dark. Let the kids continue to study at home until the end of our school year. School systems can issue pass/fail grades for the students. Those who pass can move to the next grade; those who fail can do it all over again in the fall.

Our primary concern needs to be the health of our children and the men and women who educate them … and the staff members who run our schools.

I hereby request that Gov. Greg Abbott forget about reopening our schools on May 4. Close ’em for the rest of the year. Then let’s concentrate on stemming this infection rate.

School’s out … for the summer? Let’s hope so

There’s a shiny new elementary school in our Princeton, Texas, neighborhood. It opened this year, welcoming more than 400 students.

It’s been quiet at Dorothy Lowe School since spring break. The marquee in front of the school tells the kids that their teachers miss them and that they will see them on May 4.

I don’t think that’s a good idea.

You see, the school’s been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Greg Abbott issued a recent order that keeps all Texas public schools closed until May 4. The closure affects about 5.4 million students, about 357,000 teachers and an untold number of administrative and support staff, vendors and contractors.

If I were King of the World, I’d say school should be out for the summer. The outbreak isn’t going to diminish in time for the doors to open in one month. Indeed, the greater Dallas/Fort Worth metro area is being identified as a possible new “hot spot” for the killer disease.

With that prospect possibly awaiting us, it is my considered opinion that Gov. Abbott ought to just order the schools closed for the duration of the 2019-20 academic year.

Independent school districts could just issue pass/fail grades to students and let the students who pass move on to the next grade.

The threat to students’ and teachers’ health and well-being is too great. They must not be exposed to the threat that continues to loom out there.

‘No’ on tuition-free college

That ol’ trick knee of mine is telling me something I hope is true, but something I cannot predict will happen.

It’s telling me that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are negotiating an exit from the 2020 Democratic Party primary campaign for Sen. Sanders.

The way this deal might play out is that Sanders might seek to demand certain elements of his campaign end up as part of the Biden campaign going forward. I want to express my extreme displeasure with one element of the Sanders Mantra: the one that seeks to make public college and university education free for every American student.

No can do! Nor should it happen. It’s a budget-buster for the national treasury not to mention for colleges and universities that depend on students’ tuition and assorted lab and book fees to stay afloat.

Former Vice President Biden has broken the Democratic primary for the presidency wide open. The nomination is now his to lose, to borrow the cliché. Sanders, though, isn’t likely to bow out quietly without making some demands on the nominee-to-be.

Sanders isn’t even an actual Democrat; he represents Vermont in the Senate as an independent. He is a “democratic socialist.” To be honest, I don’t quite grasp the “democratic” element in that label as it applies to granting free college education.

The free college plank has been critical to the support Sanders has enjoyed among young voters. How does Biden mine that support for himself? He could call for dramatic restructuring of student loans, making them easier to pay off. I didn’t accrue a lot of student debt while I attended college in the 1970s; I had the GI Bill to help me out. As a parent of college students, though, we were saddled with “parent loans” that took a long time to retire. There must be a better way to structure those loans.

Making public colleges and universities free, though, is a non-starter. Is it a deal-breaker if Joe Biden adopts it as part of his platform? Would that compel me to vote — gulp, snort, gasp! — for Donald Trump? Not a bleeping chance.

The former VP must not be bullied into embracing the free college idea as his own.

They’re shutting down … maybe for the rest of the academic year

The Princeton Independent School District, where my wife and I live, has made a critical command decision in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The school system is shutting down at least until May 4.

How does that affect us? We have no children or grandchildren in the Princeton ISD schools. However, nearby in the Allen ISD, our young granddaughter is home for an extra week, along with her brother. I haven’t heard whether Allen ISD is going to follow Princeton’s lead.

This is what we need to expect in school systems around the country as we all worry — without panicking, we should hope — about the impact of this health crisis on our lives.

Donald Trump today took a decidedly more sober and serious tone when discussing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. He recommended that Americans avoid gatherings of 10 or more individuals, to pay careful attention to “social distancing.” The president announced the implementation of testing of Americans free of charge.

The tone today was a remarkable change from what we heard just a day or two earlier, when he was blasting Democrats and the media for their respective roles in handling this crisis. Today was much different and I daresay much more “presidential.” I am left only to say: It’s about damn time!

But closer to home in North Texas, we are feeling the impact and are preparing for the “worst case” that medical pros tell us is on its way.

Spring break while WHO declares a pandemic among us? Well …

When someone speaks to me and asks that his or her comments are off the record, I will honor that request … even when the individual tells me something of extreme significance.

That said, I spoke today with a Texas state legislator whose name will remain my secret. He told me was meeting in Austin with state education agency officials on the topic of the Covid-19 outbreak and its potential impact on the Texas public education system.

Get a load of this:

Millions of Texas students are on spring break this week; thousands of Texas teachers are on break, too. Many thousands of students, their families and teachers are going to travel abroad during this time. They will return home late this week and are slated to return to school next week.

This legislator is concerned about the impact that the Covid-19 will have on the system, namely whether it would be wise to allow students and teachers back into classrooms when they might potentially have been exposed abroad to those who are carrying the coronavirus germs.

Hmm. I asked the legislator: Do you think the Texas Education Agency is going to close our schools? This legislator doesn’t think so.

Here, though, is the question I would ask someone in authority: Wouldn’t it be prudent to close Texas’ public school system for two weeks to examine all those who traveled abroad to see if they had been exposed to coronavirus carriers and then extend the school year two weeks at the end of the academic year?

The World Health Organization today declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic, which means it’s beyond epidemic status, that it’s now a worldwide threat to potentially every human being on Earth. The virus is reported in 142 countries, killing more than 4,000 victims worldwide.

Italy has shut down. There might be more nations that follow the Italians’ lead. I don’t expect the United States of America to join them. Still, there well might be some drastic measures on tap to deal with those who ventured perhaps too close to where the coronavirus is doing its worst.

Strengthen, do not denigrate, public education

An interesting blog entry showed up on my Facebook news feed that I want to share with you. It comes from a young man who is an avid supporter of public education. His entry is written as an open letter to Donald J. Trump.

It starts this way: In your State of the Union speech last week you said, “for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.”

He goes on with this: I suppose that sentiment isn’t surprising for a man who appointed the least qualified Secretary of Education in history.  Neither you or Ms. DeVos have ever spent any meaningful time in America’s outstanding PUBLIC schools.  You call them “government schools,” because that somehow ties our education system to the dysfunction in Washington, D.C. that you preside over.

Read the rest of the blog post here.

I want to endorse the principle that Patrick J. Kearney posits in his blog, which is to endorse public education and to declare that I share his view that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is as unqualified in her job as the man who nominated her is in the job he occupies.

DeVos became education secretary in 2017 after the Senate voted in a 50-50 tie to confirm her; it fell, then, to Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm her, the first time that has occurred in a Cabinet confirmation vote.

I heard the president use the term “government schools” and I found it off-putting. He tossed that term out there to somehow separate the “government” from the “public” that pays for it. I am one American who sees the government and the public as being the same thing. Thus, when we speak of public education, we speak of an educational system that serves the public.

Our public schools are not to be feared. They shouldn’t be considered candidates for a political whipping. Are there problems with public education? Of course there are. The cure for those problems is not to take money from the public treasury and send it to private institutions.

Furthermore, I agree with the blogger whose entry came to my attention, who believes that Donald Trump would do well to visit a public school classroom and see for himself the great job that our public educators are doing for our children.

‘Pro-choice’ does not equal ‘pro-slavery,’ Mme. Education Secretary

Get an ever-lovin’ grip, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos!

The education boss who was confirmed by a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate in 2017, has equated being “pro-choice” on abortion to being in favor of owning slaves.

To which I say … What the f***?

She spoke at a Washington, D.C. event for Colorado Christian University and made the absurd comparison, that a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy is akin to decide to put human beings in bondage.

This is one of the more apples-and-oranges comparisons I’ve seen in a good while.

You see, slave owners’ health was not an issue when they decided to purchase human beings and enslave them. A woman who decides she can no longer carry an unborn baby to full term quite often faces potentially mortal health issues. Yes, I get that some women make that decision for many more cavalier reasons than that. However, to equate these two matters — slave ownership and abortion — is irresponsible in the extreme.

The Hill reported: “(Lincoln) too contended with the pro-choice arguments of his day. They suggested that a state’s choice to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it,” DeVos said, the outlet reported. “Well, President Lincoln reminded those pro-choices (there) is a vast portion of the American people that do not look upon that matter as being this very little thing. They look upon it as a vast moral evil.”

I’m trying to wrap my head around her alleged logic. I can’t quite get there.

I’ll just have to conclude that she is equating one issue with another utterly unrelated one. I think Secretary DeVos is reaching way beyond her grasp.