By Ron Hart
“Swift” justice beckoned in the 2009 Atlanta Public School cheating scandal as the trial of the accused educators started this week. Teachers allegedly changed their students’ test answers to make themselves look better – and to get bonuses.
Teachers cheating for the kids, you say? If teachers are doing the cheating for the kids, how will the kids ever learn to cheat for themselves?
In a Sunday op-ed, the ultra-liberal Atlanta Journal Constitution apologized for covering the story, calling it “necessary.” Ineffective, unionized, monopoly educators, 95 percent of whom are Democrats, represent everything the AJC stands for, thus the guilt the writers felt when forced to commit a rare feat of journalism against their own.
The cheating was so pervasive that administrators had pizza parties to change answers on tests. One middle school went from 24 percent to 86 percent in math proficiency – in one year. Just try to compute the probability of that actually happening.
I do love the fact that this cheating was uncovered by a single mom, who saw her kid’s test scores and, essentially, concluded, “My daughter is not smart; something’s wrong.”
Sadly, kids are the victims, and many still can’t do math well (except for converting ounces to grams and back). Many misspelled the word “test,” which is why they will barely graduate “hi schuul.” Most are “D” students. The only B’s and C’s some are likely to get are in hepatitis.
We are told by politicians and the media that teachers are always “heroes” and, thus, beyond reproach. It seems that pretty much any public-sector workers doing their job are labeled “heroes.” Atlanta schools Superintendent Beverly Hall, the darling of the educrat world, received the National Superintendent of the Year award in 2009. She retired in 2011 and was indicted with dozens of others in 2013.
What is troubling is that this pervasive cheating wasn’t reported by other teachers. The AJC report said there was “a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation.” Good teachers – and there are many of them – were pushed by their leaders to conform to a practice that was not good for the students.
When caught, some teachers indignantly complained that kids just don’t pay attention in class anymore and just watch porn on their smartphones, which, of course, is very inappropriate in that it could give girls an unrealistic idea of how quickly a pizza delivery man will be there and the appropriate form of payment.
In government-run education, there is no consumer choice and no competition. No one is held accountable for the results. I like to say, “You get what you pay for,” but we don’t even get that. Like similar government outfits, such as the VA, no amount of throwing good money after bad will improve the situation unless we break the monopoly control of government and unions.
Also like the 80 percent unionized VA, which continues to produce dismal results, our politicians’ solution is to reward it with an additional $17 billion. If the VA were a business, it would be out of operation and replaced with one that could get results. Government is the only entity that rewards incompetence with more money.
In their public rhetoric, teachers and politicians all agree that the Atlanta cheating scandal is a problem. They also agree on a solution: Raise teacher pay, increase the number of administrators, increase pensions and shorten the school year.
Money is not the answer. I could teach math by scratching in the dirt with a stick. My small hometown did all it could to teach kids with the money we had. I am pretty sure my high school football coaches saved the school’s money by teaching driver education and sex education in the same car.
For the past 10 years, we have spent 30 percent above the rate of inflation on education, too frequently with bad results. Test scores continue to trend downward. We spend $13,000 per child for this “education.” Fulton County, Georgia, where Atlanta is the county seat, just voted to raise property taxes 17 percent. Schools have mascots; Fulton County thinks its taxpayers’ mascot is a pigeon.
On the bright side, Atlanta Board of Education officials are pushing to name a school after President Obama. It will be popular at first, but will then disappoint because it is not prepared. The student government will become incompetent and squander money on personal agendas. But it will have a great golf team.
This is a shame for the kids, who should be able look up to educators. These kids can “emulate” many of their teachers and realize their lifelong dream – a hung jury.
(Ron Hart, a libertarian syndicated op-ed humorist, award-winning author and TV/radio commentator can be reached at Ron@RonaldHart.com or visit www.RonaldHart.com)