Greatest New Idea – The Parents
Richard Salbato 2-20-2012
I have written many times about the importance of education for all people’s future out of poverty and in fact how the founding fathers felt in the most important natural resource of any nation.Our education has become one of the worst in the world and those who are graduating cannot read or write. People who are trying to hire workers complain they cannot even find people who can be trained. Even in minimum wage jobs people apply who are un-bathed and dressed like hobos.
Everyday there are horror stories about our schools, what they are teaching, abuse of students, rape, unsafe, and learning nothing. Nonetheless, all government wants to do is give unions more money. In fact, most of the so called Stimulus Bill went to keep teachers from being fired for one year. A complete waste of money since the following year they were fired anyway because the states could not afford them.
power of the unions is so great in
This plan is the brain child of Scott Oki, a Microsoft senior executive. His plan is The Parents Union.
years ago, former Microsoft senior executive, Scott Oki had an epiphany. Encouraged by his wife Laurie, the 62-year-old
Frustrated by the slow pace of public school reform, Oki visited public and private schools nationwide, read everything he could about education, talked with experts, and came to a realization: While there is a plethora of ideas on how to improve learning outcomes for children, few tools exist to effect systemic change.
In his 2009
book, Outrageous Learning: An Education Manifesto,
Oki pointed to disturbing signs that K-12 public education in the
A self-described “serial entrepreneur” and community activist, Oki is passionate about his ideas and an ardent proponent of no-nonsense, “evidence-based” solutions. The former software innovator minces few words about his misgivings about public education. “The current school system is driven by formula,” he said. “Nothing about it makes any sense. It’s a broken, archaic way of managing schools. As a parent, I should have the flexibility to send my child to any school, but there is no flexibility in the system.”
In Oki's mind, the chief
roadblocks to change are clear. A hidebound educational bureaucracy resistant to reform, coupled with well-organized teachers unions. “So long as the
Oki also is strongly in support of doing away with tenure and establishing merit-based pay for teachers. “Public schools don’t need more money. Most of that money has been misspent,” he said. “More should be spent on classrooms and decentralizing the school system. We spend 43 cents on the dollar supporting a central bureaucracy.”
His solution has been to create a new parent’s union to complement the WEA, the statewide teacher’s union.
“Children have no voice," Oki explained. "WEA represents 82,000 educators and is a powerful lobby.” Oki’s goal is to recruit a membership of 250,000 parents in three years.
“Given that the
Washington State PTA [WSPTA] has a membership of 148,000 and the AARP has a
his new organization, named The Parents
Union, would mobilize parents and concerned
Union, as Oki envisions it, will be a self-sustaining, membership-based
organization. The Oki Foundation has already committed $250,000 for start-up
and raised more than $800,000 from private individuals, corporations, and other
foundations. Oki is close to recruiting a president and CEO and has enlisted the
support of such civic leaders as former
plan also addresses his problems with school governance, which he says is a
big factor in the ineffectual delivery of quality public education. “There’s so
much waste and inefficiency now.
Greater local autonomy and parental engagement, he maintains, would provide a platform to debate substantive issues with public education. In his blueprint for The Parents Union, Oki’s business plan concludes that parents are the missing link in the system.
“There is clear evidence detailing the benefits of parental engagement, including increased student achievement, better social skills, and a higher chance of graduating from high school,” he writes. “Furthermore, engaging parents and families can be incredibly cost-effective; schools have to spend $1,000 more per student to achieve the same gains that accrue from increasing parent involvement.”
Oki’s parents union is not the first such union in the U.S.: Green Dot Public Schools, which turns around dysfunctional high schools in Los Angeles, Calif. within a union frame, spun off a parents union years ago and a number of other parents unions have also cropped up around the country, including unions in Chicago, New York City, Texas, and Connecticut.
explains that his proposed organization is unique in that it is the first
statewide parents union in
himself a graduate of Hawthorne Elementary School, Sharples
Junior High (since renamed Aki Kurose Middle School), and Franklin High
School — recalls a meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in
New York City, arranged by his former Franklin classmate — then U.S.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. Upon hearing Oki describe his project,
tool of The Parents Union is what Oki terms the
Knowledge Action Network (KAN) — a parent-driven, proprietary technology
Among the information gleaned from the network, parents will be able to submit reviews of individual teachers at their children’s schools and access reviews written by other parents. Aggregating school ratings and rankings would enable parents to choose which schools match their children’s needs.
The network would also alert parents to issues facing local and state school systems, provide access to information about school board meetings and agendas, and provide an online “bulletin board” for information sharing about school- and district-specific issues. Armed with up-to-date data, Oki believes, parents will be empowered to advocate for change at the state and local level.
Director of the Center for Education at the
Some education observers have reservations however. “We are all over transparency, but fairness is important,” said Lisa Macfarlane, senior advisor at the League for Education Voters [LEV], a statewide reform coalition. “Schools, like restaurants, shouldn’t be reviewing themselves.”
Steve Jobs on School Unions
I'm a very big believer in equal opportunity as
opposed to equal outcome. I don't believe in equal outcome because unfortunately life's not
like that. It would be a pretty boring place if it was. But I really believe in
equal opportunity. Equal opportunity to me more than anything means a great
education. Maybe even more important than a great family life, but I don't know
how to do that. Nobody knows how to do that. But it pains me because we do know
how to provide a great education. We really do. We could make sure that every
young child in this country got a great education. We fall far short
of that.... The problem there of course
is the unions. The unions are the
worst thing that ever happened to education because it's not a meritocracy. It
turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers
can't teach and
But in schools
people don't feel that they're spending their own money. They feel like it's
free, right? No one does any comparison shopping. A matter of fact if you want
to put your kid in a private school, you can't take the forty-four hundred dollars a year out of the public school and use
it, you have to come up with five or six thousand of your own money. I believe
very strongly that if the country gave each parent a voucher for forty-four
hundred dollars that they could only spend at any accredited school several
things would happen. Number one schools would start marketing themselves like
crazy to get students. Secondly, I think you'd see a lot of new schools
starting. I've suggested as an example, if you go to Stanford Business School,
they have a public policy track; they could start a school administrator track.
You could get a bunch of people coming out of college tying up with someone out
of the business school, they could be starting their
own school. You could have twenty-five year old students out of college, very
idealistic, full of energy instead of starting a
DM: But deservedly so.
SJ: But far less painful I think than the kids going through the system as it is right now.
[On Digital Learning]
The market competition model seems to indicate that where there is a need there is a lot of providers willing to tailor their products to fit that need and a lot of competition which forces them to get better and better. I used to think when I was in my twenties that technology was the solution to most of the world's problems, but unfortunately it just ain't so... We need to attack these things at the root, which is people and how much freedom we give people, the competition that will attract the best people. Unfortunately, there are side effects, like pushing out a lot of 46 year old teachers who lost their spirit fifteen years ago and shouldn't be teaching anymore. I feel very strongly about this. I wish it was as simple as giving it over to the computer....
As you've pointed out I've helped with more computers in more schools than anybody else in the world and I absolutely convinced that is by no means the most important thing. The most important thing is a person. A person who incites your curiosity and feeds your curiosity; and machines cannot do that in the same way that people can. The elements of discovery are all around you. You don't need a computer. Here - why does that fall? You know why? Nobody in the entire world knows why that falls. We can describe it pretty accurately but no one knows why. I don't need a computer to get a kid interested in that, to spend a week playing with gravity and trying to understand that and come up with reasons why.
DM: But you do need a person.
SJ: You need a person. Especially with computers the way they are now. Computers are very reactive but they're not proactive; they are not agents, if you will. They are very reactive. What children need is something more proactive. They need a guide. They don't need an assistant. I think we have all the material in the world to solve this problem; it's just being deployed in other places. I've been a very strong believer in that what we need to do in education is to go to the full voucher system. I know this isn't what the interview was supposed to be about but it is what I care about a great deal.
The above interview was from 1995, but it is clear that Jobs did not significantly change his mind over time. In 2007 he reiterated that unions and lifetime employment for teachers were at the heart of the problem. This is from PC World:
During a joint appearance with Michael Dell that was sponsored by the Texas Public Education Reform Foundation, Jobs took on the unions by first comparing schools to small businesses, and school principals to CEOs. He then asked rhetorically: "What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in, they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good? Not really great ones, because if you're really smart, you go, 'I can't win.' "
Catholic Bishop on Public Schools
Catholic bishop of
an interview with the ABC affiliate in
“In the totalitarian government, they would love our system,” McFadden said. “This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all them tried to establish — a monolith; so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”