Tag Archives: public education

Teachers are heroes

I want to say a good word or three about those who practice a profession I took a swing at not long after my journalism career came to an end.

That would be teachers. They are heroes in my book. I would bet they are heroes in your book, too. The good teachers, those who are committed to educating our young people deserve all the money we taxpayers can afford to pay them.

My full-time newspaper career ended unceremoniously in August 2012. To earn a little income after I resigned from the Amarillo Globe-News, I decided to try substitute teaching with the Amarillo Independent School District.

I learned something profound about myself during my brief stint as a “sub.” It was that I am not wired to teach young boys and girls. It takes a special breed of human being to commit themselves to the well-being of someone else’s children.

Before long, I threw in the towel and decided that substitute teaching wasn’t in the cards for me. I have gone on to do other things in my retired — or semi-retired — life.

However, my brief exposure to public education classroom work revealed to me the goodness that is required of good teachers and the sacrifices they make each day to prepare our young people for the life that awaits after their school days have passed.

We hear often about teachers who reach out to help struggling children. How they comfort them, encourage them, promote them. They scold the children in their charge when they mess up but do so with love in their voice.

These are special folks who embody the best in the rest of us.

I just feel compelled with this brief post to tell them all how much I appreciate what they do for us and for our children.

And, if you’ll pardon what has become a bit of a cliche, to thank them for their service.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

 

Oh, Ted … please shut up!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Forgive this brief bit of “what aboutism.” I just cannot let this statement go without a response.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said this today regarding President Biden’s nomination of Xavier Becerra to become the next secretary of health and human services:

The fact that President Biden was willing to nominate Xavier Becerra — someone with zero experience in anything related to health care — to the Department of Health and Human Services during this pandemic, illustrates Biden prioritizes partisan politics above all else.

Oh, my. Where do I begin?

I’ll start with this: Cruz had no difficulty supporting the appointment of two members of the Donald Trump Cabinet with no experience at all overseeing the agencies they were selected to run.

Exhibit A is Dr. Ben Carson, the housing secretary and then we have Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education.

Dr. Carson was a renowned brain surgeon. Did he have a clue about public housing? Had he ever led an agency the size of HUD? No and no. Indeed, he was hard-pressed during his confirmation hearing to answer simple questions related to public housing policy. He got confirmed.

DeVos never attended public schools. Her children never attended them, either. She favors giving taxpayer funds to finance vouchers for children to attend private schools. She is anti-public education. DeVos was, and is, ignorant on basics about education policy. She, too, was confirmed … although it took a tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence for her to take office.

Now we hear from the Cruz Missile saying that Becerra has no experience in health policy. Earth to Ted: Becerra served in the House of Representatives and was a key architect of the Affordable Care Act that Cruz has opposed since joining the Senate in 2013. Thus, Becerra had plenty to do with health care.

This kind of flippin’ nonsense from a loudmouth senator who doesn’t possess an ounce of introspection just sends me into orbit.

What’s more, to hear this kind of bullsh** coming from someone who sought to undermine a free and fair election and who ought to bear some responsibility for the hideous attack on our democratic system on Jan. 6 is reprehensible on its face.

My advice to Ted Cruz? Shut the hell up.

Waiting for a government of quality

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As I watch President-elect Biden unveil the team he intends to assemble while preparing to take control of the government’s executive branch, I await the day we can be free of questions about the quality of those who run the various agencies.

Biden is going to rely on his many decades of experience in government to help him find the most qualified individuals possible for key posts.

I want to mention two individuals who have served the Donald Trump administration for the duration of Trump’s term as president; I mention these individuals as examples of what we likely won’t get from the new team.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took office without any familiarity with public education. The Senate confirmed her on a tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence. The Senate deadlocked 50-50. She came to her government post with no understanding or exposure to public education. She attended private schools as a child; her own children were educated in private schools. She couldn’t answer basic questions about public education policy. She wanted to gut public education, diverting public money to help shore up private schools.

I look forward to her departure from an agency charged with educating our nation’s children.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is a brilliant brain surgeon. He had zero experience in administering public housing. He, too, has shown startling ignorance about elements of HUD’s programs. Dr. Carson could have been a better fit as, say, surgeon general; I could even argue he would do better as health and human services secretary. But no. Trump put him in charge of HUD. Can someone tell me what in the world he has done to further the cause of public housing?

He should go back to cutting into people’s heads and repairing their brains once he leaves public office.

Trump populated his Cabinet with others with no experience or interest in the posts they occupied. Trump’s first Environmental Protection Agency administrator came to work after serving as lap dog for the fossil fuel industry. His initial HHS secretary quit amid a scandal. Trump’s first secretary of state ran a big oil company.

Cabinet-level officials came and went with startling regularity. Many posts remained unfilled; Trump relied on “acting” secretaries and key aides.

I do not expect any of this chaos to develop as President-elect Biden fills the posts that will run the executive branch.

Yes, we are returning to the way government should be run … with individuals who know what the hell they’re doing!

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.

Public education needs an advocate at Department of Education

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg got a big round of applause and cheers tonight when he said this during the Democratic joint appearance with nine other presidential candidates.

He said if elected he would “appoint a secretary of education who actually believes in public education.”

The man Buttigieg wants to replace, Donald Trump, decided to select someone with no interest in public education, no direct experience with public education and no affinity for the needs of those involved with public education.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos needed Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote to get confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

I happen to agree with Buttigieg, that the next president must find someone who believes in public education to run the Department of Education.

I haven’t seen or heard a thing from DeVos that suggests she has any authentic commitment to the nation’s public schools, its public school students or its public school teachers. So far she appears to be some sort of place holder at the Education Department.

Her answers to congressional questioners sound vacuous and lacking any detailed understanding of the struggles that educators wage each year just to get ready to teach our nation’s children. Although I am aware that local communities bear the financial brunt of funding our school systems, how can the education secretary stand aside while teachers have to spend so much of their own money just to purchase supplies for their students to use in their classrooms?

The strength of our public education system must assume a greater role among the discussion points of the Democratic field of presidential contenders … and with the president of the United States.

Here’s to you, the best of our public educators

School has begun in many districts around Texas. The brand new elementary school just down the street from my wife and me in Princeton opens its doors tomorrow morning.

They’re still gussying up the grounds, getting ready to lay down the last of the sod. But … this blog post is aimed at saluting the teachers who will stand in classrooms at Dorothy Lowe Elementary School here in Princeton and in classrooms everywhere.

They are special in every meaningful definition of the word.

I want to salute them. I want to tell them out loud and in public through this forum how much I appreciate the work they do to care for our children, to teach them the lessons they must learn and to be there for them when they need emotional support.

My sons are middle-aged men now. But I do have a granddaughter attending elementary school in a nearby district. She loves school, and for that I am so grateful.

I have experienced just a bit of what these teachers have to do. You see, not long after my journalism career ended in 2012, I decided to become a substitute teacher. I applied for a position with the Amarillo Independent School District. I got accepted, passed the background check, attended an orientation session … and then went to work.

I learned something important about myself. It was that I am not wired for this line of work. Thus, my admiration for good teachers grew mightily as I dealt with the challenges the students threw at me on a daily basis.

I was told during the orientation that if students gave me too much grief, I could call the office and the staff would scurry to the classroom and remove the troublesome student or students. I was highly reluctant to make that call.

So, I suffered some of the indignities the students would throw at me. This occurred mostly at the high school level. The students seemed to know intuitively that the “sub” was in over his head.

Thus, my “career” as a substitute teacher didn’t last a school year. I couldn’t cope.

This is my way of saluting those teachers who do far more than “cope” with the kids. They teach them. They counsel them. They guide them on their path to productive adulthood.

They are the often-unsung heroes of contemporary society.

Therefore, I want to wish them all the very best as they meet the challenges that the students will present to them.

Godspeed to you all.

No problem with appointing school trustees

I am hearing a bit of grumbling from up yonder in my former digs in the Texas Panhandle about whether the Amarillo Independent School District should appoint two school trustees.

The school board has two vacancies to fill. Trustees are likely to select two individuals to fill the seats formerly occupied by John Ben Blanchard and Renee McCown. The other option is to conduct a special election to fill those seats.

The AISD board comprises seven members. Right now it’s got just five. My feeling is that the school board is quite capable of interviewing/vetting applicants for the posts, then swear them in and allow them to serve until the next scheduled election.

It falls heavily on the board to find applicants who can serve the community well. So why not let the board of trustees — who’ve already been elected by their constituents — perform that responsibility?

They are aware of the complaints, I am sure. Some of the gripes concern the lack of Hispanic representation on the current board of trustees. That’s a critical element, given AISD’s heavy Hispanic student population among its 33,000 public school students.

I am absolutely convinced the school board can lobby throughout the community for qualified leaders from any of the district’s increasingly diverse ethnic population base.

Is it better to appoint or to elect board members? Well, elections are a more costly proposition than the appointive process. They also require some time for candidates to campaign for the office they are seeking, which would keep the seats vacant for what arguably is longer than is necessary.

So, study the applicants. Question them thoroughly.

Indeed, there’s no legal requirement that trustees these people privately. In the interest of full transparency, I think it’s absolutely reasonable to visit with them in public. Give constituents — the folks who pay the bills with their property taxes — the chance to hear these applicants’ answers to trustees’ questions.

The appointment process can be done with full public awareness and buy-in.

Have at it, Amarillo ISD trustees … and good luck.

Mayoral candidates reach beyond their limits?

Dallas is going to elect a new mayor this weekend. Voters in Texas’s third-largest city have a huge slate of candidates from which to choose.

I’ve heard TV ads from at least three of them say something quite unusual for candidates for municipal office.

They vow to “strengthen” Dallas’s schools. My reaction is a simple one: Huh?

I covered a lot of mayoral and city council races over many years working for newspapers in Oregon and Texas. I’ve never heard a sound from any of those municipal candidates say a word about public education.

Why do you suppose that is? I have a thought: It’s because school policy ain’t their concern. 

So, what am I missing here as I listen to these Dallas mayoral candidates vow to shore up Dallas schools? 

The Dallas Independent School District elects a board of trustees to do that work on behalf of children and their parents. Yes, I am aware on the edges of the problems concerning DISD and some of the financial woes that have bedeviled the district.

The TV ads from these mayoral candidates make no specific mention of those woes. They merely declare candidates’ intention to create better educational environment.

If that includes strengthening law enforcement presence on school campuses, or if it means providing clean water, or providing good lighting on public streets surrounding these schools, then . . . fine! Go for it!

Setting school policy and implementing it is the sole province of, um, independent public school systems.

Jackson mess seems to fit a pattern

Let’s review for a brief moment some of Donald J. Trump’s key Cabinet appointments.

I thought it would be worthwhile to look back a bit in the wake of the Dr. Ronny Jackson nomination to become head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Jackson is a fine physician who has a good rapport with the president, which seems to be the major — perhaps the only — reason Trump selected him to lead the VA. He has no experience in leading an agency of such size and importance. His nomination is in dire peril over allegations of drinking on the job and over-prescribing of medicine.

  • Dr. Ben Carson is a renowned neurosurgeon who now runs the Department of Housing and Urban Development. His experience in running a huge federal agency? None, although he said he once visited a public housing complex.
  • Betsy DeVos was educated in private schools; she sent her children to private schools. She has no direct experience or exposure to public education. Yet she runs the U.S. Department of (public) Education.
  • Rick Perry once declared he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. Now he is the secretary of the agency he once promised to wipe away.
  • Scott Pruitt served as Oklahoma attorney general and sued the federal government repeatedly over what he said were onerous regulations designed to protect our environment. Now he is head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Jim Bridenstine had no science background before Trump nominated him to lead NASA, the nation’s space agency.
  • The Trump administration has burned through four communications directors in less than 18 months. One of them had, um, no experience in the communications field.

Is there a pattern here? Sure there is. The fellow who nominated all of them to their high offices has no political/government/public service either.

The first public office the president of the United States ever sought was the one he occupies at this moment. He has no experience in government. None in public service.

He doesn’t know a damn thing about the value of public service, nor does he seem to appreciate why people serve the public.

There will be more drama and chaos to come. Of that I am certain.

But … the president tells it like it is.

DeVos offers proof of why she is unfit for her job

It’s no wonder at all that Betsy DeVos needed a historic vice-presidential vote in the U.S. Senate to get her confirmed as the secretary of education.

You want evidence of it? Check out the “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night.

DeVos’s confirmation in 2017 ended with a 50-50 tie in the Senate; Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm her nomination by Donald John Trump.

Oh, brother, she stumbled and bumbled her way through the interview with CBS News correspondent Leslie Stahl.

She actually acknowledged that she hasn’t visited “underperforming schools” to see for herself why they are in such bad shape. “Maybe I should,” DeVos told Stahl.

Uhh, yeah, do ya think?

I should note that DeVos is a champion for school choice. She also has no personal exposure to public education. She was educated in private schools; her children attend private schools; she can afford — as a billionaire — to send her children and grandchildren to any school they want.

This is the person the president chose to administer our public education system? Give me a break.

As the Washington Post reported: The secretary also said she is “not so sure exactly” how she became, as Stahl described her, “the most hated” member of President Trump’s Cabinet but believes that she is “misunderstood.”

I am not among those who hates DeVos. I am deeply concerned that this individual who has zero knowledge or experience relating to public education has been put in charge of the agency that is supposed to advocate on behalf of public schools, students and teachers.

DeVos has called “traditional public education” a “dead end.” How does that engender confidence in the secretary of public education? It doesn’t. Not in the least.

I encourage you to take a look at the exchange between Stahl and DeVos contained in the link that follows. Check it out here.

Yep, this is one of the “best people” Donald Trump pledged to populate his presidential administration.

Sheesh!