Meeting Report

March 18, 2012

Carlos Rico

The Challenges Facing a Public School Teacher

Is public education under threat? If so, is the threat deliberate or unintentional? At this meeting, attended by nearly twenty-five of us, Carlos Rico said that there is a threat and it’s most definitely intentional.

A fourteen-year public school teacher, Mr Rico is an ardent advocate for quality education in the public schools. He is concerned about his students’ future prospects. He is concerned about policies that affect the education his students receive. And he is most definitely concerned that first No Child Left Behind, a product of the Bush administration, and now Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s replacement for it, are harming his ability to teach his students.

First, on the subject of government-mandated standards: Because schools and teachers face penalties for not meeting them, many schools require “teaching to the test,” which causes redirection of resources from non-tested subjects. Furthermore, the tests are multiple-choice, which undermines creative writing practice.

Worse, there is a strong movement toward privatization of education in the form of the charter school and school voucher efforts, which threatens the public school system in the United States. As Mr Rico said, there’s a “Billionaires Boy’s Club,” which finances such ideas without any actual accountability if the ideas don’t work.

Mr Rico brought up the 2010 film “Waiting for Superman,” pointing to the charter school/voucher movement’s habit of cherry-picking data in support of its argument. Someone also mentioned the 2011 rebuttal film, “The Inconvenient Truth about Waiting for Superman,” which may make an appearance at one of our future meetings.

The take-home message I got from Mr Rico’s presentation was that public schools are under threat but are worth preserving, and that we citizens must take action to see that they are preserved. His closing comments said it all: Vote to pass Governor Brown’s budget initiative in November, or see our schools further starved and our children’s education furthermore undermined.

Thank you, Carlos Rico for giving us a taste of your passion!

Report prepared by  Roger Zabkie

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