Monday, August 3, 2009

No Child Left Unarmed - Education Secretary gives himself an "F" on ending school violence.

It's not every day, folks, where a politician speaks the truth. And when it happens, I like to give credit where credit is due. Especially when the truth is a painful one.

From the Chicago Sun Times
"US. Education Secretary Arne Duncan got a painful reminder last week that not enough has been done to save schoolchildren from violence.

On July 25, Christina Waters, 18, was shot in the head in the 8700 block of South Wood after leaving a picnic.

Waters' best friend, Kris Owens, was wounded in the attack. Waters remains in a coma, fighting for her life.

Duncan was in Florida, heading for Chicago, when people started calling and e-mailing him about the tragedy. Waters had attended Ariel Community Academy, a small school founded by John W. Rogers Jr., head of Ariel Investments. The school is part of the Ariel Education Initiative, which Duncan led before becoming the Chicago Public Schools CEO.

Best friends since childhood, Duncan and Rogers went to see Waters together.

Duncan was in town to discuss the U.S. Department of Education's "Race to the Top" fund. The will award states an unprecedented amount of money to dramatically overhaul schools.
Because the president and so many of his close advisers come from Chicago, there is the expectation that more federal resources will go to target the violence.

After all, the weekend before Duncan came to town, 15 people were shot and wounded overnight. Seven people were shot in one incident on the West Side alone.

Although none of the shootings occurred in schools, dozens of Chicago Public School students have been victims.

Duncan admitted that he has worried "tremendously" about the violence.

"It was one area [where] we didn't do enough and failed our children," he said. "I give myself an 'F' on that one. As a city, as a state, as a country, we need to protect our children and have them be safe."",CST-NWS-mitch02.article


Well, Arne, we agree. You deserve that "F". Chicago has one of the worst rates of violence against students, perhaps because little was done during your tenure as Chicago School Board CEO to change that. Metal detectors installed to prevent weapons from entering the schools sit unmanned or unplugged because the security checks kept students late for class or the school can't afford staff to man them. School security guard numbers have been reduced, and current IL budget proposals plan to gut those jobs even more. School Board Policies hamstring overworked and underpaid teachers while office buildings full of "administrators" surf the web at the expense of the children's education funds. Troubled or poor performing students are encouraged to attend local charter schools, making state test scores for the public school system show improvement based not on teaching, but what some call "student dumping". Chicago Public School System is hardly a model for our national education system.

Which is why I had grave reservations when President Obama chose his Chicago home boy Arne Duncan as Education Secretary. He hasn't had a great measure of success, and I was hoping to avoid a "Duncan, you're doin' a helluva job." moment.

But maybe Arne has seen the light. At least he is able to admit one of his failures, and being able to admit when you're wrong is about as rare in politics as a porkless bill. It takes balls to admit you suck, and we all know that Washington has a shortage of those (I think Nancy Pelosi is hoarding them). Arne Duncan has earned himself the benefit of the doubt with this bit of self reflection, and I hold out hope that he can make a real difference.

But if he comes out with the "No Child Left Unarmed" Program (or No CLU, as I call it), I'm revoking my hope.


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