(Readers: Please note the blog is constructed as a story. While not all chapters are linked, after reading a few recent entries, you might want to start at the beginning. More about the blog and about the author. )

Scene:  JC, Greenie and Jordan continuing conversation about higher education.  Start of conversation entry #80.

Greenie:  “You really think schools can be separate but equal.  Seems like such a throwback.”

122813_2140_15Education2.jpgJordan:  “Schools are never equal.  That’s a misnomer.  I do think, as a society, we can make sure all children are exposed to a credible minimum level of quality instruction.”

JC:  “That’s a mouthful…but I agree.  There is a number of ways of measuring performance so I think we have multiple methods to achieve a credible minimum standard.”

Greenie:  “I’ll buy the claim we can achieve minimum academic standards.  Not easily achieved but possible.  But what about social interaction in education?  Isn’t that lost without busing?”

010414_1635_16TeachingS1.jpg JC:  “Some.  But think about how much social interaction we’re losing now.  We’re becoming more segregated with private schools, parochial schools, charter schools.  Even worse, look at how many people are home schooling.  Where’s the social interaction with home schooling?”

Jordan:  “Good point.  I’m all for putting the kibosh on home schooling.”

Greenie:  “Jordan, you do like to swim upstream, don’t you?  Why the kibosh on home schooling?“

Jordan:  “First, I’m all for encouraging kids to learn as fast as possible.  But a major part of education is developing social skills and learning to get along with people who are different.”

JC:  “Proponents of home schooling claim public schools hold back smart kids.”

Jordan:  “Hogwash.  If the parents think the kids are so smart, then enroll them in a program after school hours.  No one is proposing to quit learning.”

Greenie:  “Can they get more learning during school hours?”

Jordan:  “I know people think we were educated in the Stone Age…and maybe they’re right.  However, I recall my 8th grade math class…”

JC:  “…Mrs. Davidson, right?”

Jordan:  “Yes.  She set up an extra credit program for the entire year.”

cootie-bug-canada JC:  “Was that the Cootie Bug thing?”

Jordan:  “You’re on a roll, JC.  Anyway I finished the entire year’s math coursework and all the extra credit work by mid-October.”

Greenie:  “So what did Mrs. Davidson do with little Jordan?”

Jordan:  “Made little Jordan a TA.”

Greenie:  “Really.  I never knew you were a teacher’s assistant.  In 8th grade?  I’m impressed.”

JC:  “Don’t be.  His only shining moment.  Just kidding, Jordan.  This conversation seems centered on one thing.”

Greenie:  “What’s that?”

JC:  “Making sure there are high-quality teachers at all levels.”

Jordan:  “That means upping the ante for teacher’s salaries.  Much more than we pay them now.”

Greenie:  “Plus, we need to put some respect back in the teaching profession.”

JC:  “Agreed.  Becoming a teacher should not be a ‘can’t-find-anything-else-to-do’ occupation.  Teaching needs to become a profession of first choice.”

Jordan:  “Attracting that caliber of person to teaching is going to require a radical change in thinking about salaries.”

Greenie:  “JC, if you were graduating school today, what salary would entice you to teach?”

JC:  “$100k.”

Greenie:  “$100k?  Tenured teachers don’t earn that much most places.”

Black School Teacher JC:  “That’s the problem.  Smart people who can be good teachers have many alternatives, even in a lousy job market.  Why should they teach for $40-50k given the alternatives?”

Jordan:  “Want to hear some back asswards thinking?  Starting pay for teachers in North Carolina?  Just over $30k, which is near the bottom of all states.  The legislators hadn’t increased the salary for several years.  Then they wanted to cut other support for teachers.  And the same legislators couldn’t understand why teachers were leaving the state.  Duh.”

Greenie:  “You’re not suggesting the same salaries for teachers in all school districts are you?”

Jordan:  “No.  What I am suggesting is without quality teachers in quality neighborhood schools this country is going to continue to fall behind in education.”

JC:  “Who’s going to fund all the increases in salaries?”

Greenie:  “JC, have you become a Republican?”

JC:  “No, but it’s a legitimate question.  We’re talking about a large increase in compensation and it needs to come from somewhere.”

Greenie:  “As a start, let’s get rid of most all school buses.”

Jordan:  “What else?”

JC:  “I’d like to take a look at every part of the school budget, including facilities.  What’s that called where you take a look at every part of the budget as if you are starting over?”

zbbJordan:  “Zero-based budgeting.”

JC:  “That’s it.  The approach requires justification for every expenditure.”

Jordan:  “Zero-based budgeting is often an emotional exercise.  People like to protect their pet programs…and their jobs.”

Greenie:  “I hear you.  But, if we don’t use something like zero-based budgeting, how else can real change be made?  The people in charge will never make the changes required.”

JC:  “Jordan, you’ve been involved with major organizational changes.  How’d it get pulled off?”

Jordan:  “Not easily and almost always with a lot of personnel changes…and pain.”

open-mindedGreenie:  “I’m certain it was painful for people who normally are uncomfortable with change.  What about people who were more open-minded?”

Jordan:  “For most of the open-minded, the change was exciting.  Not everyone liked all the changes but they knew the old way was not working.  And they supported the changes.”

JC:  “As a society are we really ready to tackle the problem of getting more quality teachers?”

Jordan:  “Everyone – left, right and center – seems frustrated with the current education system.  What we need is a pilot program to demonstrate how quality teachers can move toward quality education.”

Greenie:  “Quality public education that can be achieved in neighborhood public schools…”

JC:  “…without busing.”

Jordan:  “Without busing.  But with more parental involvement.”

(To be continued.)