Soucheray: It won’t make any Difference who the Super is. No Difference at all

This story was copied from Joe Soucheray, a columnist at the Pioneer Press.  The story was originally published in the Pioneer Press on June 17, 2016.  We have not altered the content, but have closed some links and added a different headline.  ~~ Publius Jr.


St. Paul Public Schools superintendent Valeria Silva is interviewed in her office in St. Paul on Friday, February 5, 2016. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)
St. Paul Public Schools superintendent Valeria Silva is interviewed in her office in St. Paul on Friday, February 5, 2016. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Soucheray: Another search. Another superintendent. Another member of the Super Club.

By JOE SOUCHERAY | jsoucheray@pioneerpress.com
June 17, 2016

What can be said on Valeria Silva’s behalf is that it won’t make any difference who succeeds her. That isn’t exactly the gift of a gold watch, but as a school superintendent who might get bought out of her contract, she can buy a watch manufacturing company.

It is called the Super Club. Most of us have been on to it for years. School superintendents have a better gig than NFL coaches and are surrounded by at least as many assistants, sycophants, factotums and manservants. Supers come into your town and tell you important things about the community and how they intend to have the students rise above the fray. They tell us that we all have to work together and believe in the great promise of education and, oh, by the way, we need more money. Soucheray

Supers are rainmakers. They always need more money.
Silva isn’t at all unique. She can be a super with the best of them. They are all untouchable and they all land on their feet. You might say, well, they are touchable, because they can be removed by school boards. Yes, and then comes the landing-on-their-feet part. Silva succeeded Meria Carstarphen. They all last about three to five years on average, though Silva has outlasted the average. Their act wears thin and new school board members who are eager to tell us that they know what they are doing better than the super start grumbling, and the next thing you know, the taxpayers are on the hook to buy the super out of a contract.

Carstarphen went from St. Paul to, I believe, Austin, Texas, and is now the super in Atlanta.

It doesn’t make any difference. A great fuss and bother will be made to hire a consultant and scour the nation for the next best answer, and it just doesn’t make any difference.

Silva is being held accountable by a grumbling school board for falling reading scores and student violence. What was Silva supposed to have done, visit each home in the city and read to a kid? Falling reading scores are an inattentive parent problem.

Silva presumably can be held accountable, at least in part, for the appalling increase in the lousy behavior of students. She had to be a part of the brain trust that bought into a San Francisco consultant group called the Pacific Education Group. They came in here and sold a bill of goods that said, basically, if a minority kid acts up, it isn’t the minority kid’s fault. It is the fault of systemic racism and therefore the kid should be excused and not too severely disciplined.

That works real well. You would think that after a few teachers suffered concussions after fights with violent students, they would dump that horse manure, but that’s not what supers do. When you get in the Super Club, you defend tooth and nail your brilliant decisions, even when they are complete failures.

Oh, it is a wonderful, exclusive club. In the first place, once you are a super, you are rarely seen by the public. Carstarphen lived on Summit Avenue near Fairview. I know a guy in that neighborhood who knows everybody in that neighborhood, one of those guys. He never once saw Carstarphen, not even out for a walk. Not once.

Supers surround themselves with about 100 assistants, each of whom has a clipboard and a laptop and are on alert to tell the super when to go to her next meeting. Even as Silva’s buyout is being considered, the district faces a $15.1 million deficit. Nevermind that that is inexcusable. You want to know where you could save the money? Go to 360 S. Colborne St., the district castle, and thin the herd of redundant bureaucrats and administrators. That’s another thing supers do. They bring in more people to pile on top of the people that the previous super brought in.

Go ahead and buy her out for $600,000, a longevity bonus, a car allowance and 32 vacation days. She might even have to emerge at some school as a teacher or an administrator, but that part of her contract is unlikely to be realized. She is, after all, a super.

And then get ready for the next expensive dog and pony show which will be exactly like all preceding dog and pony shows.

It won’t make any difference who the super is. No difference at all.

Joe Soucheray

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Our Schools need to Embrace Capitalism & School Choice.

This is from Star Parker’s Urban CURE website (Center for Urban Renewal and Education).  The content hasn’t been altered, only color and font type have changed for emphasis and some parts of Star’s column are set aside in quotes for emphasis as well. ~~ Publius Jr.


New evidence supporting school choice

Why should our education system be shielded from capitalism, the competitive forces that produce excellence?

By Star Parker | Syndicated nationally by Creators

A groundbreaking new study from the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas provides state of the art data showing the benefits of school choice.

The bottom line: When parents have choice where to send their child to school, their children perform better in reading and math tests.

Patrick J. Wolf, one of the authors, summarizes the results:

According to their “meta-analysis of 19 ‘gold standard’ experimental evaluations of the test-score effects of private school choice programs around the world. The sum of reliable evidence indicates that, on average, private school choice increases the reading scores of choice users by about 0.27 standard deviations and their math scores by 0.17 standard deviations. These are highly significant, educationally meaningful achievement gains of several months of additional learning from school choice.”

The idea of school choice and school vouchers was pioneered in the 1950s by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. However, it has not been until recent years that the idea started picking up steam.

According to Wolf, “there are now 50 private school choice programs in 26 states plus the District of Columbia. Well over half have been enacted in the past five years.”

About 1.3 million students are in these programs, compared to 50 million students enrolled in our public schools.

There are various approaches to providing school choice: vouchers, education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships and individual tax credits and deductions.

There has been much back and forth over recent years, with various studies claiming to show no benefits from school choice and even negative effects. Other studies have shown positive results and are supportive. The authors of this latest research report their results with great conviction and feel they have produced the most comprehensive, thorough, and unbiased work on this subject to date.

But no matter. Those opposed will most likely stay opposed because, like in many, maybe all, areas of public policy, it’s really about interests and ideology and not about science. Those who want to keep things the way they are will ignore studies and research or find ways to rationalize why the results are not conclusive.

However, a black mother, whose child is trapped in a failing urban public school, doesn’t need research to inform her that it is a good idea to give her control to pull that child out of that school and send him or her to a different one. It’s obvious.

Capitalism works so well because failure is punished and success is rewarded. Why should one of the most crucial institutions of our society — our education system — be shielded from the competitive forces that produce excellence? Why should failure be allowed to go on forever just because unions have power and parents don’t?

Furthermore, when we measure education we look at test scores in reading and math. But education is about more than reading and math. It is about transmitting principles and values. Where are the tests that measure whether children are learning the right values?

The progression of court decisions over the years extracting any trace of religion from public schools correlate with changes in attitudes among our youth about sex and family. Back in 1962, when prayer was banished from public schools, less then 10 percent of our babies were born to unwed mothers. Today, it is 43 percent.

Over the same period, the percentage of black families headed by a single parent jumped from 20 percent to 70 percent. In these troubled communities, the option to send a child to a Christian school, to learn and digest Christian values, can be a lifeline to the future. Why in our free country should this be prevented?

Now we have powerful research showing that competition improves test scores in reading and math. This just bolsters the intuitive notion that parents should have control over where they send their child to school.


Star Parker