I just stopped reading an article about halfway through by a pro-choice (school choice, that is) advocate because he claimed that public schools for all is only a good idea for central government. It's just easier. That's the problem, however. There is nothing easy about educating EVERY child. The writer figured we'd all look back on the debate someday and be upset that anyone would have wanted a system that kept sending kids to neighborhood schools that were underperforming. The point is that these schools are NOT underperforming: all schools pretty much perform to what is expected. Voucher, choice, public, and private. The reality is that fifty years from now, everyone is going to wonder how we managed to create such a mess and will be trying to re-institute a free, public, liberal-arts education for all.

If a neighborhood school is bad, the neighborhood is bad. When I worked in Menomonee Falls, a blue-collar town outside of Milwaukee, the administrators would ask us teachers every year how we were planning on getting the kids to perform up to the standards of Brookfield, a white-collar suburb just to the south. So we had meetings, plans, and interventions. We got rid of homework because it counted against some kids. We tested a lot and did a lot of surveys. The answer, of course, was simple: either move the school to Brookfield or get the Brookfield students to attend MFHS.

School choice espouses the idea that location of the school matters more than location of the student. I don't mean physical location, exactly. Philosophy or religion or whatever they're selling. But it's the students in the school that matter the most. In Milwaukee, we have our one gem of a high school, and it's not in a great neighborhood. It's always been kind of a choice school. Rufus King has been the top high school in the city since the forced integration and magnet school experiment that preceded school choice by twenty years. Why is this school good? Well, you have to test in, as it's a school for academically-talented students. Sure, they let some others in, too, but the idea was to put all of Milwaukee's best students in one building. So, what happened to the other MPS high schools? I'm sure you can figure that out. They all tried specialize in order to attract other top students. I went to Marshall, which had journalism, media, language immersion, and cafeteria brawls as the specialties. We had basically the same teachers, just as intelligent as the ones at King.


The schools that want government money to run a voucher school are either going to end up like King or like Marshall. Marshall is closed today, as far as I can tell, because the neighborhood got a little worse, the languages left for another school, charter schools littered the area, and what was left was a student body that did not want to be there.

I want to see something work, don't get me wrong. Our country has tried the nearly impossible task of forced education on all its citizens. To what purpose? I say it's because we all have the right and opportunity to learn about and understand the big issues in the world. I tried so hard to get kids to buy into that, but most just wanted to pass a class and go make a living. If that's the end goal, then shut the schools down and open factories with decent wages. In fact, just turn the schools into factories. But don't say that just moving the kid to another building will fix everything. It never has and never will. Parents and kids need to buy into what is being taught as something that is important to them. Half of the kids in our country back in the 1940s did not see a high school diploma as being important, so why is it so important today if it takes pushing and prodding and mothering and moving schools to do it? If a free public education is not really the goal, then let's just say it and find out how to create an alternative.

Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Only Way to Avoid The Reverse Mortgage Disaster
    I've seen several news articles about the pitfalls of reverse mortgages. I also saw that we've set up a fund to help people when they get stuck with a reverse mortgage here in Florida. But the simple answer that most older people don't want to hear is that there's only one way to avoid disaster with a reverse mortgage: don't get one.

    The ad that inspired this reverse mortgage article claims that Americans have trillions of dollars just sitting there, not being used. The problem is that a reverse mortgage isn't using that money, either. It's using the house that's worth that money as collateral for a LOAN. It's a loan that needs to be paid off when your house is sold. You can make mistakes and end up losing your house.

    The better advice for anyone already retiredor looking to retire is to sell. I know, you love your house, all the stuff in it, the neighbors you wave at, the same big box retail down the road, and all the stuff in the house. It's basic economics: if you own something outright worth $500,000, sell it for $500,000 and rent a nice condo for 20 years. If you take out a reverse mortgage, then you can get $250,000 towards a condo for 10 years, still pay property taxes and insurance on the house, and continue to maintain it so that in a decade, you'll make enough money to pay off your reverse mortgage loan. New AC, new roof, new driveway? That would all eat into the profit on selling your house that you'll need to cover all the interest on the loan. Don't pay a bank for the right to live in a house for your entire life. Avoid reverse mortgages at all costs.
  • Rental Bikes Aren't Exactly For The Homeless
    Local news was down in St. Augustine covering the newly-proposed use of some kind of bike-share rental system. Since it's standard operating procedure, a homeless man was interviewed about the program. He said something to the effect that it would be good to have options for someone like him who can't afford a bike. FYI local news and homeless people: bike rental programs are not really created for the homeless.

    Since I don't claim to know the biking habits of the typical homeless individual, I'm going to assume it involves getting to a place and then back home. Home being a structure in a field outside of town, not where you'd be able to return the bike for credit. My understanding would be that these folks would need the bike to get to and from "work," each and every day. Based on a similar rental system I found online, the 24-hour rental is $24. Alternatively, an annual pass is $80. The problem is that the trips can only be 60 minutes each. Assuming the homeless camp is close enough to downtown, this might work as a way to get around once in St. Augustine. Not a bad yearly price to not have to worry about bike maintenance, anyhow. If you're homeless already, and now you can get as many maintenance-free trips on a bike as you can use each day, then $80 for the year isn't bad at all.

    But wait, there's less. The yearly pass will need to be paid for with a credit card with a fob mailed to an address. So even if these ride share bikes makes sense to homeless people, it might not be something that can be purchased without the help of someone with credit and an address. It might seem like a lot of people would volunteer to do this, but any extra time or any damage would be billed to the credit card, so I certainly wouldn't volunteer my credit in the hopes that someone else will always return the bike in time (or at all). The Cincinnati bike share, for example, charges $1,200 for a bike that is not returned.

    I have a $1,000 bike. At least someone paid $1,000 for it back in 1986. I picked it up amidst college moving day garbage at UW-Milwaukee back in 1999. It was already worth $0 at that point. I've used some tape to hold it together, but it's still worth about $0. Since I'm probably not the only person in the area with a worthless bike, I'm thinking a bike donation for the homeless might make more sense than saying they should be using tourist bikes. That's not to say that bike shares don't have a place in St. Augustine, just that it might be meant for rich tourists instead of homeless interviewees.