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Microschools Are a Big Success; The NEA Is Attacking Them for It
One of the few bright spots of 2020 has been the embrace of new educational options for kids. The greatest success has been the “microschool” model, where five to ten students gather in a home and receive instruction from one or more teachers. And the nation’s largest labor union is furious about it.
In a recent poll, about one-third of parents already participate in a learning pod, while over half have either joined or are looking to form one. Teachers love microschools as well, with nearly 70 percent expressing interest in teaching in one.
You would think that a group called the “National Education Association” would be thrilled that so many kids are being educated. You’d be very wrong. The NEA is primarily concerned with the money spigot flowing into traditional public schools. And if public schools bar their doors, they want every child to be left behind.
Prenda is a microschool provider in Arizona. It began in 2018 when founder Kelly Smith began teaching seven neighborhood kids. Today, there are over 400 Prenda microschools serving 3,000 students in the state. When the NEA discovered that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos might tout Prenda in a visit to Phoenix last week, they jumped to action.
Instead of adopting this innovation, the labor union created a secret “opposition report” attacking Prenda. A report that found its way into my hands. Most of the NEA’s talking points criticize microschools simply for being microschools.
Prenda policy requires that “Prescription drugs, alcohol and weapons must be locked and secured” but the NEA claims that “Although guides agree to allow unannounced home inspections at any time, it is unclear whether Prenda conducts any such inspections, or even whether any staff are assigned to provide oversight for safety compliance.” In fact, Prenda does conduct these inspections; I know because a friend of mine participated in one.
Another NEA attack is that “Prenda provides no physical space, no transportation, no Internet connectivity, and no meals.” Not having a traditional school campus is nearly the definition of microschools and the NEA knows it. The fact parents still prefer this no-frills option should concern the teachers’ union.
The NEA paradoxically blasts the teachers (known as “guides”) as both getting rich and losing money off the model. “Because most guides are in fact the parents of Prenda students, they are in effect being paid to teach their own children,” the document states. This is followed with, “Because Prenda does not provide the physical space, liability concerns and operating costs are shifted to parents.”
In the Wall Street Journal, Prenda founder Kelly Smith explains the low cost involved for Arizona microschool parents:
“We’ve partnered with schools that access state funding so that we’re able to offer it for free for the families,” Mr. Smith explains. Prenda students are registered in public schools, usually charters, which receive state funding for each pupil and then pay some of it to Prenda to handle those kids’ education. The NEA frames this as Prenda “banking on taxpayers to provide the lion’s share of its revenue.”
The NEA isn’t worried about Prenda’s failure, but about their success.Published in General
Nothing about the real matrix items of education… Are they spying on B.B. guns in boy’s rooms? Heralding transgenderism? Getting Biden and other Democrats elected? And they call themselves schools…
Lol. School liability is forcing parents to sign that if their kid dies on campus, the school can’t be sued.
That doesn’t seem all that hard to replicate for micro-schools.
It is weird that schools tout this idea that they are the provider of meals and use that as a club to beat down any competition. If that was the mission, I think McDonald’s would do it better.
This is, hopefully, the end of traditional public school. Public schools were good until about 1960 when women began to have better career choices than being school teachers or nurses. I knew lots of young women who planned to teach a few years until their husbands’ careers got going. Lifetime teaching was not a career goal for many women whose parents sent them to college. Teaching as a lifetime occupation was what students at “teachers colleges” did and got a free education in return.
For the last 25 years, education majors in colleges have been found in the bottom quintile of students for the most part. The faculty was little better. Every education fad that came along was adopted to the ruination of elementary education, in particular. “Common Core” is only the latest although I understand the Obamas got a nice payday from the publisher of Common Core textbooks. The publisher got a $650 million contract and kicked back $65 million to Obama for a book advance.
Pod schools sound useful and will help those who cannot home school because of career needs. Give the money to the parents. They are the ones who have the kids best interests in mind. “When children pay union dues, I will pay attention to children” Albert Shanker. AFT Pres.
I don’t think that using the phrase “banking on taxpayers” is in the long term interests of the NEA.
Interesting. I suppose we’re too big to go as did New Zealand. I.E. they went from having the worst schools in the developed west to having the top, just below Singapore, by getting rid of the educational bureaucracy, all of it, turning schools over to parents and teachers and letting kids go to any school in the country. They had to compete and lost lousy teachers to compete successfully. So this is sort of copying Indian poor neighborhoods whose public schools are useless at best. Parents hired other parents or professionals to teach a few kids what they knew. Real education took off and poor kids started getting educated for the first time ever. Almost anything works if parents care, and if kids and teachers are liberated from over bureaucratized public education establishments.
So let me get this straight. Some seriously good learning might get done in a learning pod environment in which Mom & Dad are not bankrupted by the expense. Nah! We shouldn’t allow this kind of personal initiative or innovation. You might embarrass the teachers union and the professional educational establishment. We might even re-establish some excellence in education in the United States and further embarrass the teachers union and the professional educational establishment.
Don’t rock the boat, Jon.
Publicly-funded education is one of those institutions that certain liberals will fight tooth and nail to preserve, irregardless of all evidence to the contrary. The pressure comes from every side: from neighborhood parents who don’t even send their children there but virtue signal in their roles as “allies”, from district and school administrators who protect six figure salaries, from teachers who protect their colleagues (especially from the tenured ranks who earn the most) and politicians like the Chicago aldermen who claim they are investing in the community by building the public schools when in fact they are depriving their constituents of alternatives based on the actual outcomes.
According to my recollection, the U.S. spends the second highest amount of money for education per student of any country in the World, Switzerland being first. I think it is around $12,000.00 per year or something like that.
Where we live, the Cleveland School District is around the tenth highest spender in the state of Ohio at $17,000.00 per student per year out of around 600 total school districts. They also pay one of the highest teacher salaries in the State. It is on par with Shaker Heights, one of the richest suburbs of Cleveland. This totally discredits the oft repeated notion that “kids in the inner cities don’t receive funding like affluent cities do.”
I’ve always thought that for 17 Grand per student, Cleveland could hire a personal tutor for three kids at a time at $51,000.00 a year, and with this small size they wouldn’t need large school buildings, or any buildings for that matter. They could use people’s homes just like the Prenda model. They wouldn’t have to hire janitors or security guards or pay heating bills or real-estate taxes, ect…. With all the savings they could probably hire a private tutor for just two children at a time.
Ironically, there is a school levy on the ballot this year that will in all likely-hood pass by a wide margin because the people here are of the mindset that “if you just keep throwing more money at the schools, they will improve.” The truth is, the more money you throw at them, the more lax they become about spending it wisely because they know they can always get more.
Did I mention that with all this funding, Cleveland Schools regularly receive an “F” on their annual State Report Card, and they consistently rank in the bottom 15 districts in the state (out of 600)…….
This is something I bring up occasionally, but nobody seems to believe it. When I went to college, the students going into “education” had a lower GPA than the athletes.
I believe it. I’ve tutored education majors and athletes. At least the athletes were self aware.
Another theory I’ve encountered is that people go to college to get into a field that they hope will fix whatever is wrong with themselves. Which certainly explains some things, such as that the looniest people I’ve known majored in psychology. So maybe at least a good share of people who go into education, do so in an attempt to repair their own stupidity. But what they end up doing is passing their stupidity on to their students…
There must be something wrong with me because every item cited by the NEA’s report as a drawback sounded to me like an unqualified positive.
Go, Prenda, go!
An engineer buddy of mine with a PhD said pretty much the same thing about college except he wasn’t comparing athletes. He said that almost without exception, all the lowest scoring students in the hard sciences classes he took were going into teaching.
Right, because as the teachers’ unions constantly tell us, teaching doesn’t require any knowledge of the subject, you just need to be certified in “teaching.”
The other reason for that is that science academia is intensely competitive and it’s a forbidding prospect to anyone who doesn’t have the scores and the ambition to pursue the long road-PhD work pays poorly and you don’t always get to pick where you go. Teaching is far more stable than higher ed with far more options.
The way it was in public school was that certain degrees were elastic. A math degree could be asked to teach any type of math class. Science was harder- teachers seemed to be specialized in certain fields like bio, chem or physics and I remember it was very, very tough to find good physics teachers. History was even more vast. They could get assigned to teach anything from US or World History to Econ. Unless a teacher has multiple subject endorsements or is a long-term sub, a teacher with a history degree can’t get assigned to teach math at a public school. That just doesn’t happen.
Giulietta’s posts on the hard reality of teaching in these strange days have been one of Ricochet’s must-reads, and if I haven’t thanked her before, I do it now.