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Consequences of Government-Controlled Education?

I admit that the argument of this piece has been all but settled by the actions of state and federal politicians, and by a lack of awareness by the public of the results that follow, but if others are inspired to think about the topic, then writing this serves its purpose. Regardless, is it not the purpose of a teacher to inspire others to think critically?

Milton Friedman argued that choices can be lumped into one of four decision-making classes based on two factors—whose money is being spent and on whom it is spent. To be brief, I will write of only two classes. In one case, humans are free to spend their money on themselves. As it applies to education, people would seek the greatest educational benefits at the lowest cost.

Parents would be free to choose what their children learn based on choosing where to live. If this were so, parents within Duneland and elsewhere would influence what their student learned by the threat of moving, and the tax dollars the school would lose as a result. This was closest to existence when schools were mostly funded by local property taxes. As politicians continue to take control over education, decisions about student learning become entirely in the hands of faceless officials who make decisions within Freidman’s fourth category—spending other people’s money on other people. In this case, elected officials—who have not met your child—cannot possibly decide what benefits your child best, nor will they wisely consider the final bill for it is not theirs to pay.

The tax collectors take your money without your consent and without limit, and spend it on educational goals and services without knowing your child’s needs. As a result, several Indiana communities were forced to raise their local property taxes to fund money shortages created from such hopeless seize and divert programs. Meanwhile, schools that received funds taken from successful schools have been taken over by the State due to their dreadful student performance.

The lawmakers’ actions are likely well-meaning; however, before government-controlled education existed we were taught that a certain path exists that is paved with good intentions. Still, I advise the reader to think about the possible unplanned consequences the continual shift in education may have on their most prized possession—their children. I regularly challenged students to think about an observation humans have made from many countries and for a very long time; “when the central planners’ plans fail, the central planners plan more.” A recent article that argued learning begins at the dinner table was half correct; it is best served there.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

April 03, 2014 12:00 am

School Lunches are better than ever

School lunches are healthier and better than ever. With the implementation of new regulations set by the United States Department of Agriculture and strict specifications for food supplied by our government commodity program, American students are eating highly qualified products that are made and grown in the United States. The beef products are 100 percent beef.

Many of you may remember the “pink slime” accusation made by one of America’s favorite chefs. The beef that is supplied by the USDA for the lunch and breakfast programs has absolutely none of that added.

By the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, all breads and grains that are served in school lunches must be at least 51 percent whole grain. Duneland Schools are already compliant with that regulation. The process of lowering sodium in foods that are served has already begun, although the new regulations are not in effect until next school year. More fresh fruits and vegetables are being served. Lower fat dairy products have taken the place of whole or 2 percent milk.

It has been difficult at times convincing students that their lunches and breakfasts are better for them because they are used to white bread, pizza crusts and more than likely are still eating those items at home. It’s been an education process in healthy eating that must be followed through even outside of school.

Currently under discussion at the USDA is COMPETITIVE FOODS. These are commonly called “ala-carte” items. The proposed nutrition standards for these items are: Any food sold in schools must –

• Be a “whole grain-rich” grain product; or

• Have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food; or

• Be a combination food that contains at least ¼ cup of fruit and/or vegetable; or

• Contain 10 percent of the Daily Value of one of the nutrients of public health concern in the Dietary Guidelines for the Americans (calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber).

Foods must also meet several nutrient requirements:

• Snack Items: Less than/equal to 200 calories

• Entrée Items: Less than/equal to 350 calories

Sodium Limits:

• Snack Items: Less than/equal to 230 mg

• Entrée Items: Less than/equal to 480 mg

Fat Limits:

• Total fat: Less than/equal to 35 percent of calories

• Saturated fat: Less than 10 percent of calories and No Trans fat

Sugar Limit:

• Less/equal to 35 percent of weight from total sugars in foods

School lunches truly are healthier and better than ever!!

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

March 20, 2014 12:00 am

Be involved in child's education

I have been a secondary educator for 33 years. I was a high school math teacher for 15 years and a middle/high school administrator for 18 years.

Based upon my classroom and building level administrative experience, I believed I had a unique perspective about what young people need to be successful in life after high school.

However, my perspective has changed recently. After 10 years as the principal of Chesterton High School, I was offered the opportunity to move to the central office as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. It was a move that I welcomed; and, it was a move that created a paradigm shift for me.

The shift began because I didn’t and, to a large degree, don’t get to see students on a daily basis. For me, the best part about being in public education is seeing and interacting with students every day.

It has become very clear to me that a child’s preparation for post-secondary education and/or a career begins well before that student gets to high school. I came to this realization as a result of seeing students and teachers engaged in classroom activities at every grade level in each of our schools.

Every time I visit a classroom I see exciting activities involving students and their teachers. The creativity I frequently see throughout the district is heartwarming. Fun activities that encourage learning, such as students working on math and science concepts using Oreo cookies, open reading each week with parents, reading clubs that encourage friends and family to sit and read with children, and students creating and working on science projects.

The foundation for student success begins at home, well before students enroll in school. Be involved in your child’s schooling and help them be successful. Although it is never too late to become involved with your child’s education, I encourage you to start early.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

March 06, 2014 12:00 am

Parents can help children flourish

During my 20 plus years in education, as a classroom teacher and building principal, many parents have asked how they can help their child be more successful. These are some of my suggestions to help a child flourish.

COMMUNICATE. Take time to talk with your child; let your child lead the conversation and really listen to what he/she is saying. Validate what he/she is saying. Not every conversation needs to turn into a lesson, but you can learn a lot about your child and his/her friends just by listening. How many of you have asked your child about his/her day at school only to get the response, “nothing”?

When asking your child about his/her day, raise specific questions. Ask him/her about the project he made in art class, the books the teacher read, what was his/her favorite or least favorite part of the school day.

GET INVOLVED. Find a way to get involved in your child’s education. Visit the school and get to know your child’s teacher and friends. Let the teacher know you want to be involved and the teacher will find appropriate ways for you to help.

PLAY. By play, I mean engaging in an activity with your child that does not involve electronic games. Choose an activity that involves interaction with your child. Be silly, laugh, and just have fun. Take a walk, build a birdhouse or go fishing together. When was the last time you had a tea party, played catch in the front yard, or played a board game like checkers, chess or Battleship?

ESTABLISH A ROUTINE ... and stick to it! Set up a time for your son/daughter to complete homework. While she/he is doing the work, this would be a great time for the parent to make dinner, to balance the checkbook, or to read the newspaper. Another part of a child’s routine is to establish a consistent time for him/her to go to bed and to wake up — including weekends.

COMPLETE CHORES. Give your child jobs to do around the house. Some chores such as sorting socks can help a child learn colors, patterns and shapes. Setting the table can help a child learn about right and left. Feeding a family pet teaches responsibility. Having regular duties will give your child the opportunity to learn independence.

HELP OTHERS. Show your child the importance of giving back by lending a helping hand. Remember, part of giving is not always about money. Is it possible to help shovel a neighbor’s driveway, rake leaves for someone, make cookies for a sick friend, visit a nursing home, donate outgrown clothes to a shelter or offer your time?

EAT TOGETHER. Make time to have at least one meal together each day. Even with busy schedules, try to establish a time when the entire family can sit down and be together. It is a great time to make lasting memories.

READ. From my perspective, if all of the other suggestions don’t seem to fit your schedule, the number one way you can help your child is to READ, READ, and READ some more! Make time to read something with your child everyday and allow him/her to see you reading.

 This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

February 06, 2014 12:00 am

Celebrating Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Celebrating Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
January 24, 2014 12:00 am Photos

Photos

Building character in children is important

We can all agree that educating young children to read, write, and perform arithmetic is critical to success in life. As parents and teachers we invest our time and effort in exposing children to letters, words, and numbers in order to prepare them for their adult lives.

As world demands increase, however, we know that our children need “a little more” in order to achieve this desired success. We can give them “a little more” by modeling and teaching them the process of building solid character. Character is simply thinking and acting by doing what is right. It isn’t always easy. It is, however, beneficial. Research indicates that positive character traits are the foundation of success in academics, home life, and the work world.

Character development begins at home and extends into the early school years with the three main character-building themes of respect, responsibility, and persistence. These three themes cross over from home to school quite easily.

Respect is initiated at home when parents teach their children to listen and follow through when asked to do simple tasks. Parents can model respect by establishing themselves as the authority figures responsible for the family’s welfare. Respect follows the same pattern at school. Students are required to address their teachers by Miss, Mr., or Mrs., perform the required academic tasks as directed, and communicate by raising hands and taking turns.

Responsibility starts at home as well. Establishing house rules early on is a great beginning. Give your children tasks they must complete on a regular basis – make the bed in the morning, pick up toys when playtime is finished, or set the table. As the child is ready to take on more responsibility, feeding the family pet can be added to the list. Children who have mastered routine jobs at home have a much easier entrance into school. They are able to follow classroom routines, have success with homework completion, and know how to ask for assistance when instructions are not clear to them. These are traits that travel with them through the grades as they learn to make good choices, act as solid citizens, and take on leadership roles.

Persistence (working hard for a future reward) is probably the most difficult character trait to instill in some children. Young children enjoy playing so much that giving up play time to do a required chore often results in resistance and defiance. Parents need to discuss with their youngsters the importance of working hard – sacrificing immediate pleasures for long term goals. Modeling is the best teaching method – partner with your child through difficult tasks. Praise the child for the persistence and highlight the end result. As with responsibility, children who are already familiar with the process of working toward long term goals, have an easier time negotiating through difficult academic tasks. In the school environment, teachers will offer various strategies to achieve success – praise, sustained encouragement, peer mentoring or tutoring. Children learn to equate the persistence involved with their hard work to achieving academic success.

The themes of respect, responsibility, and persistence are the keys to successful adult lives. When these themes are promoted both at home and in school, our children are given the maximum opportunity to develop their individual potential for happy, healthy, successful adult lives.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

January 23, 2014 12:00 am

Changes in public education

Public education is currently experiencing another round of change. The spectrum of change includes new annual staff performance evaluations, new health insurance guidelines, the ever-changing grading formula for schools, which curricular standards should be taught, and what can and cannot be served for lunch in the school cafeteria.

The volume of change causes many of us in public education to feel stressed and overwhelmed. School districts across the state are working diligently to address the changes and new requirements placed upon us by our state and federal governments and their regulatory agencies. Regardless of stress levels or personal views regarding the ongoing changes, educators must rise above them. American author and poet Maya Angelou once said, “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.” Educators cannot control the winds of change; they can only control how they react to them. Teachers and administrators need to remain positive and optimistic, not only for their personal well-being, but more importantly, for their students.

Among the many challenges we have in public education today, is establishing and maintaining a safe, positive and nurturing learning environment where students have the best opportunity to learn. As a principal, it is up to me to set the tone in our building and lead by example. I need to be visible, I need to listen to students and staff members, and most importantly, I need to be positive and enjoy some laughter with others whenever possible. I must also remind myself, as well as others on occasion, to always look at the glass as half full, rather than half empty.

Teachers need to lead their students in a similar way, and they need to make learning fun. To reiterate my point, I came across a quote from motivational speaker Carol Buchner, who said, “Students may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Students will always need positive educators in their life, and that is the one thing that will never change.

Proposed and mandated changes for public education will always be present. It is how we as educators respond to and address those changes that will determine whether or not there will be a positive or negative impact for our students.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

December 26, 2013 12:00 am

Live from Jackson Elementary ...

Jackson Elementary School students begin each day with their own morning TV news program broadcast “live” to its audience of fellow students and teachers at the school from WJES, its in-house studio. This program makes Jackson a unique elementary school. The broadcasting of the daily news program prepares a select group of responsible fourth graders in production fundamentals that they may not normally experience until middle or high school. Every fourth grade student has the opportunity to be “on the air” as a morning announcer.

The students, who are trained by Linda Eleftheri, our school’s media specialist, prepare the daily individual announcement sheets for the student “reporters” and operate the camera and soundboard equipment behind the scenes. Each day the broadcast begins with the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance followed by moment of silence for quiet personal reflection. News of the day includes important school information, perfect attendance, a daily weather report and lunch menu, Words of Wisdom character education messages and a weekly life skill. I even get involved by reading a portion of a fiction or non-fiction library book each Friday to encourage the students to read the book’s conclusion.

The studio also allows the other students in the school to get involved. Math word problems are read on the air and the classrooms are invited to call the studio “live” with their answer. Some groups such as student council or scouts prepare and present “commercial breaks” during the morning news. These are timely announcements, often in conjunction with school wide activities, such as collecting items for the local food pantry.

The daily news broadcast program is a great program that satisfies academic standards in the areas of speaking and listening. Students at Jackson Elementary look forward to their fourth grade year when they will experience being news announcers at the WJES studio. And, who knows, maybe one of our students may pursue a career in TV/radio production or electronic journalism as a result of their experiences with their in-house studio.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

December 12, 2013 12:00 am

School Finance 101 – funding for the Duneland School Corp.

The Duneland School Corp. recently completed the annual process that established its operating budget for 2014.

The School Board adopted the 2014 budget in early October. While the school year runs from about mid-August through early June, the state  operates on a July through June fiscal year. The district's financial (i.e. budget) year follows the traditional January through December calendar cycle.

Collectively, the varying timelines and state and local regulations will determine the amount of funding available for Duneland to operate the entire school system: from employing teachers and instructional support staff, to maintaining buildings/facilities, paying the bills, operating and maintaining school buses, and everything else that must be done to provide a complete educational experience for students every day.

The budgeting process for Indiana public schools is established by statute. Funding for public schools is primarily determined by a prescribed state formula and by the limits of the property tax system. In other words, school districts are not allowed to simply tax the local taxpayers and then ask the state for whatever amount of money the districts decide is needed to operate their school systems.

Public school corporation budgets are comprised of several different funds. Each fund has a specific purpose and a specific funding source. The general fund is the largest and most versatile fund. It covers the costs for most employee salaries and benefits, materials and supplies, most insurance and utilities, and all other costs required to administer the school system.

General fund money comes primarily from the state and the amount the school corporation receives is primarily determined by the number of students enrolled in the district.

The other operating funds are: debt service (the "mortgage" payments); pension debt service; capital projects (the repair, replacement, and updating of buildings and facilities, and purchase of equipment); transportation operating (the drive and operate the buses fund); and the bus replacement fund. These funds are funded from local property taxes. It is important to note that school corporations are not permitted to simply levy and then redirect property taxes from these funds outside the scope for which they are designated.

Duneland schools first received funding for a voter-approved referendum fund for general operations in 2013. The fund was established as a result of a positive vote in May 2012 when Duneland taxpayers approved a rate-capped general property tax fund.

While this is an additional fund for Duneland schools, its purpose is to supplement the general fund with the overall operating costs of the school corporation. The referendum fund will help replace much of the funding that has been cut by the state over the past several years.

The students, teachers, support staff, parents, administration and staff are grateful for the community’s support of one of the fundamental building blocks of our community — the Duneland School Corp. Each day, we strive to use our resources wisely and effectively to make a positive difference for our students and our community.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

November 28, 2013 12:00 am
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