Governor Daugaard: Dream Big!…Flip Burgers

You really have to love it. While my daughter laments the loss of the one program that she loves here in Canistota because of his budget cuts, her school will no longer have any art classes, our illustrious Governor tells a room full of high school seniors to dream big.

Going forward my kids will have limited choices in advanced math and science, a foreign languages department consisting of a choice between Spanish or Spanish, and maybe Spanish, and no arts at all. Quite the ammunition for achieving those big dreams isn’t it?

I did hear that McDonald’s is hiring though and on our current path that will be about all our schools will be preparing our kids to do.

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Texas Fundies At It Again

It is said that because of the sheer volume of text books bought by Texas schools, what they want put into those text books often ends up in the books used by the rest of the country. With that in mind the fact that the religious right has all but taken control of their school boards and state house should be sending shivers down the spines of those wishing to keep religion out of our public schools.

Just a few months ago a Texas legislator tried to pass a bill that would have effectively made teaching science a thing of the past by making telling teachers they must give out A’s to students based on their beliefs, not on the curriculum.

Don’t believe in the theory of relativity?

Students wouldn’t have to and could not be penalized for it in school under proposed legislation filed Friday.

Teachers could not be penalized, either, if they reject plate tectonics or the kinetic theory of gases.

The bill says that neither student nor teacher could be penalized for subscribing to any particular position on any scientific theories or hypotheses.

“Students could claim they believe anything they wanted in anything in science and if that’s what they say, the teacher would be forced to give that student an A,” said Steven Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science. “That’s how bad this bill is written.”

But Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, who filed the bill, said it is not an out for students, because they must still be evaluated on course materials taught.

“They can be lazy if they want to .?.?. but teachers are still in charge of the grading system,” Christian said.

The bill does not address evolution specifically, but that seems to be its target. Its goal is to reintroduce the ability to teach “weaknesses” of scientific theories. After two days of heated debate, the State Board of Education narrowly voted this winter to remove a requirement that Texas public schools teach weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

Apparently not satisfied with an all out assault on science, the fundies on the state board of education fed by a panel of “experts” including a fundamentalist preacher are now trying to rewrite history.

The Christian right is making a fresh push to force religion onto the school curriculum in Texas with the state’s education board about to consider recommendations that children be taught that there would be no United States if it had not been for God.

Members of a panel of experts appointed by the board to revise the state’s history curriculum, who include a Christian fundamentalist preacher who says he is fighting a war for America’s moral soul, want lessons to emphasise the part played by Christianity in the founding of the US and that religion is a civic virtue.

Maybe the Texas fundies should quit beating around the bush and just get on with their real agenda of getting rid of all text books and just teaching the bible instead? They are giving them out in some schools already anyways

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Sioux Falls School Board Accepts Responsibility

Despite what some are saying, the Sioux Falls school board has rightly apologized for distributing a school directory containing an ad for the pro-life Alpha Center against their own policies.

“We would … like to apologize for this lapse. We will do better work in the future,” said Darin Daby, president of the board.

The ad, purchased by the Alpha Center, is included in a directory the public schools began distributing last week. The school district supplied the news text for the directory. The Shopping News sold the advertising and published the directory before sending copies to the
schools for free distribution. The Shopping News printed 30,000 copies under an arrangement in place since 1993.

This isn’t about the pro-life/pro-choice argument, this is about the school system staying out of political issues of which this just so happens to be one of the most divisive.

The fact that they distribute it means that they should know what is in it and in fact their own policies say as much and to try and deflect this by contending that they have no control means that there is a problem with Superintendent Dr. Pam Homan’s leadership.

If the Shopping News wants to sell ads to the Alpha Center, put it in their regularly distributed issues and keep it out of the schools.

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School Lawsuit Shot Down

The constitutionality of the funding question for the lawsuit brought forward by a majority of South Dakota’s school districts seeking increased funding was shot down today by Circuit Court Judge Lori Wilbur because it was ruled they cannot use tax dollars to help fund the suit.

Circuit Judge Lori Wilbur of Pierre says school districts do not have legal standing to seek a court judgment on the constitutionality of the state’s school funding system. She says the districts also cannot pay money to a coalition to support the lawsuit.

More than two-thirds of the state’s school districts have been financing a lawsuit challenging the school funding system. That case goes to trial September 2.


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More Details On Fired Ohio Science Teacher

A quick follow up from yesterday’s post

Apparently the Ohio science teacher fired for burning crosses into his student’s arm was more of a Sunday school teacher than a science teacher. The Mount Vernon News has the results from the independent firm tasked with investigating middle school science teacher John Freshwater.

Besides burning the crosses into a students arm which is the offense that ultimately got him fired, the report documented an environment dripping in religion, anti-gay, and anti-science teachings that would make most people (but not all) cringe and ask why it wasn’t stopped long ago.

Some of the highlights from the report:

•Mr. Freshwater did burn a cross onto the complaining family’s child’s arm using an electrostatic device not designed for that purpose. While there did not appear to be any intent by Mr. Freshwater to cause injury to any student, he was not using the device for its intended purpose. Contrary to Mr. Freshwater’s statement he simply made an “X” not a “cross,” all of the students described the marking as a “cross” and the pictures provided depict a “cross.”

•The Ten Commandments together with other posters of a religious nature were posted in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom. Most were removed after Mr. White’s letter of April 14, 2008, but at least one poster remained which Mr. Freshwater was again instructed to remove on April 16, 2008, but did not do so.

•Several Bibles were kept in Mr. Freshwater’s classroom including his personal Bible on his desk and one he checked out of the library placed on the lab table near the desk. Other Bibles that had been maintained in the room were removed by the time the investigators viewed Mr. Freshwater’s room.

•Mr. Freshwater engaged in teaching of a religious nature, teaching creationism and related theories and calling evolution into question. He had other materials in his classroom that could be used for that purpose.

•Mr. Freshwater engaged in prayer during FCA meetings in violation of the district’s legal obligations for monitoring such organizations.

•Mr. Freshwater participated and possibly led a prayer during an FCA meeting that concerned a guest speaker’s health. There is no conclusion as to whether such prayer was a “healing” prayer.

•There is no evidence Mr. Freshwater violated the district’s permission slip policy.

•There is no evidence Mr. Freshwater made statements about FCA members “being the saved ones” nor was there any corroboration to the allegation Mr. Freshwater gave FCA members Bibles for them to distribute. He did have two boxes of Bibles in the back of his room.

•Mr. Freshwater gave an extra credit assignment for students to view the movie “Expelled” which does involve intelligent design.

A pillar of the profession, if his profession was a pastor that is.

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Ohio Science Teacher Fired

Updates Below

A science teacher who taught that carbon dating was unreliable as an excuse to argue against evolution was recently fired in Ohio. On the surface the guy seems to be well respected, at least according to a friend that was interviewed:

I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district,” he told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published Friday.

Well ok, a great guy except for that one minor issue:

Freshwater used a science tool known as a high-frequency generator to burn images of a cross on students’ arms in December

Despite that, the school district outside of Columbus actually tried to keep this guy employed despite numerous staff complaints over his preaching his Christian beliefs but couldn’t because he was only certified in science. So what would have been the last straw if he had other certifications, performing a crucifiction?

UPDATE: The actual Columbus Dispatch story has more on this including a photo of what Freshwater’s attorney called an “x” and not a cross (is he looking at the same photo?) and more on the friend whom was interviewed and defended Freshwater

Daubenmire is a former London High School football coach whose district was sued in 1999 by the American Civil Liberties Union because he led his players in prayer at games, practices and meetings.

The Columbus Dispatch article also lets us in on a few more of Freshwater’s ideas of classroom procedures

– Discrediting evolution in his classroom and focusing on creationism and intelligent design
– Preaching his Christian beliefs in class and slamming scientific theories
– Telling his class that homosexuality is a sin
– Keeping a bible and other religious material in his classroom

Sounds like this guy would be the perfect teacher if some of our local bloggers had their way…

UPDATE 2: That didn’t take long, the blog in question is already coming to the teacher’s defense and even suggesting that what he did was just fine.

One student complained about “branding with a cross” out of how many? Slight reddening of the skin hardly amounts to “branding.” I’d be interested to know how many tattoos and/or piercings this poor child has endured.

So there you have it, just because a kid may or may not have a piercing or tattoo, having a teacher burn a cross in their arm is no big deal. I wonder if the teacher had burned “666” or some anti-religious symbol on the childs arm if they would have been so forgiving. Nothing if not predictable.

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Take That!

A corporation tries to do something good for schools and all they get for their troubles is grief.

Subway wants your kids to write a story that could get their school $5000 worth of athletic equipment. All they need to do is go here, choose a sandwich, and get creative. Sounds like a pretty cool contest, except that is, when the wingnut nation strikes.

You see, considering the purpose of the contest is to win athletic equipment for the winners school, Subway decided that home schooled kids couldn’t enter. Kind of hard to donate equipment to a non-existent school (yes, I know there are donation option for home schoolers). Anyway, like I said the wingnut nation has latched on to this and now Subway is being bombarded with calls for boycotts as well as becoming the target of all sorts of unflattering comments.

Maybe Ms. Malkin could join with local our home school proponent Sibby to help lead a revolt against Citibank next. As those of us in South Dakota are aware, they are providing a boatload of cash to help provide laptops to our high schools kids, and if I am not mistaken, home schooled students need not apply.

UPDATE: It seems that Dunkin Donuts has attracted the ire of the Malkin led wingnut BS machine as well.

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Teacher Pay Bills Introduced This Year

Now that the deadline for introducing new bills has come and gone, the details of the 5 bills making the rounds this year that deal with increasing teacher salary are discussed in this morning’s Argus and are linked to below.

HB1214 – Creates minimum salary for teachers in districts that get state funds. $28,000 minimum in 2009 and $30,000 minimum in 2010. (Prime sponsors are Rep. Ed McLaughlin, R-Rapid City; Sen. Cooper Garnos, R-Presho)
HB1262 – Simply says, “The salaries of teachers in South Dakota are hereby enhanced,” a device sometimes used to get a bill in play while working on details. (Prime sponsors, Rep. Mike Buckingham, R-Rapid City; Sen. Ed Olson, R-Mitchell)
HB1268 – Creates minimum salary of $30,000 by 2013. Districts under that in 2008 must develop plan to move the pay to the minimum target. (Prime sponsors Rep. Kristi Noem, R-Castlewood; Sen. Ed Olson, R-Mitchell)
SB169 – Sets annual school-aid increase at 3.5 percent, requires a minimum teacher salary of $35,000 by 2012, increased in four annual steps from $29,000 minimum in 2009. (Prime sponsors Sen. Cooper Garnos, R-Presho; Rep. Ed McLaughlin, R-Rapid City.)
SB187 – Requires schools to increase average teacher pay by 4.25 percent or receive $80 per student less in state aid than schools that do provide that pay increase.

Does anyone think this year will be any different? Can our legislators push any of these bills past a probable veto by the Governor or does Rounds get his way as usual and push through the standard less than inflation increase again this year?

I’m betting a lack of backbone will again win out as will the meager 2.5% one time raise being pushed by Governor Rounds.

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The Next Program To Get Cut

School funding will be a big topic for discussion as the lawsuit against the state goes forward and during the upcoming legislative session. So when I saw this headline and accompanying story, I felt that it fit perfectly within that discussion.

Underfunded Schools Forced To Cut Past Tense From Language Programs

Faced with ongoing budget crises, underfunded schools nationwide are increasingly left with no option but to cut the past tense—a grammatical construction traditionally used to relate all actions, and states that have transpired at an earlier point in time—from their standard English and language arts programs.

A part of American school curricula for more than 200 years, the past tense was deemed by school administrators to be too expensive to keep in primary and secondary education.

Then the response from fictional educators in The Onion story sounded just like our school administrators as they are announcing the latest funding related cut.

“This was by no means an easy decision, but teaching our students how to conjugate verbs in a way that would allow them to describe events that have already occurred is a luxury that we can no longer afford,” Phoenix-area high-school principal Sam Pennock said. “With our current budget, the past tense must unfortunately become a thing of the past.”

And yes I know it is satire but not far from the truth here in South Dakota, especially for those of us with children in rural school districts.

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