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Monday, April 18, 2011

Attendees at Tea Party Rally asked for help

Note from Laurie Rogers: I've been criticized for speaking at an April 16, 2011, Spokane Tea Party Tax Day Rally. The Tea Party, one person said in all seriousness, is a "homophobic, xenophobic, reactionary populist neo-nationalistic group" and so my well-intended message will be tarnished. The person told me: "If you play with tar, you get black" and "If you sleep with the do, you get fleas."

Wow. Setting aside his unjust determination of "guilt by association," this also is what passes for public discourse nowadays. Our current president told an entire political party, and the near-half of the country that belongs to it, to "move to the back of the bus." Our local newspaper -- which has not said a word about the April 16 Tea Party Rally -- reports today that conservativism might lead to teen suicide ("Local politics play role, teen suicide study finds," Spokesman-Review).

People in power and most of our media will continue to divide the country because it serves their purpose. I will talk to anyone who listens. I want the children to be able to learn what they need to know, and I do not want my voice to be removed by the folks in power. That's my entire message. I have always been treated with absolute respect by people associated with the Spokane Tea Party. They listen, ask questions, and tend to express support. Certain others in the world could set down their condescension for a minute and take a lesson.

I respect, support and encourage the people's efforts to have a voice in the spending of their money and in the running of their country. If fighting for the children and speaking up for my country label me as a problem, that's the choice of those who label me. It's already happened to me, and I am not afraid of it.

- Laurie Rogers


Laurie Rogers's April 16, 2011, speech to attendees at the Spokane Tea Party Rally

Thank you for that wonderful introduction. Good afternoon, everyone. It’s a fine day to fight for liberty.

I’m here today because I’m scared – for our children and our country. There’s a thief at the door. His friends are at the window. They have the exits covered, and they’re about to cut the phone line. These thieves aren’t after the car or the jewelry. They’re after something much more precious: Our children’s education. And we, the people – are literally the last line of defense. Welcome to public education.

Public education is in dire straits. So much so that it threatens our great country.

You know that our students are struggling. What you might not know is WHY. Our children are not being taught what they need to know in mathematics, grammar, civics, or other critical subjects. They aren’t being prepared to follow their dreams, or to take over the reins of this country. Our children, this community, our country are in jeopardy.

I respect and admire the teachers and staff who do their best to battle the bureaucracy. But it’s the thieves in education who have the connections, the money, and the decision-making power. They have many friends – in the district, in Olympia, and in Washington, DC. It’s their own desires that drive them – not our children’s best interests.

Do it for the kids, they say, every time a bond or levy comes up for renewal. For the kids, they say, as they refuse to allow teachers to teach sufficient arithmetic or grammar. This isn’t just a local problem. It’s national. And it isn’t just a difference of opinion. Their agenda is deliberate and purposeful.

You know Spokane has a dropout problem. You’ve read that the graduation rate suddenly improved. What you might not know is that our high school graduates don’t need to pass a state math test or state science test to graduate. They don’t need to know much grammar or ANY civics. Many high school students get As in Honors Math, and then test into arithmetic in college. Of those who take those college remedial math classes, almost half will fail or withdraw early.

Our kids simply don’t have the skills they need to go to college, begin a trade, start a business, get a fulfilling job, join the Armed Forces, or even fill out a job application.

District administrators say they need more time. Our kids don’t have more time. Spokane’s pass rate on last year’s 10th-grade math test was just 38.9%. Students needed just 56.9% to pass. 61% of our 10th graders couldn’t pass a basic-skills math test on which the passing score was less than 57%. District employees called that student data --- "irrelevant." Get angry, folks! I’m angry.

What will happen to our children? How will this country continue to absorb an entire generation of people who don’t have basic academic skills? Our children are being left behind. America is being left behind. This is not a game. There are real and long-term consequences for all of us.

Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of education – Arne Duncan – is moving in, taking over all of public education, as he says, "from cradle through career." He talks about the importance of local control, even as he works diligently to replace it with federal control. He wants to shove a federal agenda down your throat: national standards, national tests, and a national curriculum. Have you ever tried to deal with the district on behalf of your child? Wait until you have to deal with the U.S. Department of Education. And if you think the WASL was bad, wait until the feds are running the tests.

Sec. Duncan also wants a federal role in alternatives to public education, including homeschooling, private schools, and faith-based schools.

Forget that pesky 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which makes education a state responsibility. Forget the U.S. Code, which prohibits the Department of Education from directing policy or curriculum (20 USC 3403). Sec. Duncan and his allies are pressing forward, whether we like it or not. Proper process and the law don’t seem to matter anymore. States’ rights, the people’s vote – just get in the way.

This federal education agenda will cost us billions of dollars. It won’t make our children internationally competitive, but it will remove our voice. Once our voice is gone, it will be hell getting it back.

Ironically, we taxpayers are forced to pay these thieves to break into our house, steal our voice, our vote, and our children’s future.

We still have to pay district administrators – as they fail to educate our children, as they ignore us, as they wait for the feds to tell them what to do, as they cut teachers and programs, while giving themselves raises. Last year, some of the Spokane levy – which was supposed to fund enrichment programs – helped pay for administrative raises. I tried to find out how much of the levy went for those raises. No one could tell me. Apparently, they "don’t break it down that way." Can you believe that?

A year ago, in January 2010, the Department of Education estimated that $664 billion would be spent in 2010 on K-12 education, from all sources (federal, state, local and other). $664 billion. That was $28 billion more than the entire Department of Defense spent the year prior. $636 billion for the DoD. $664 billion for K-12 education. And look what we got for it. Our kids are failing, dropping out, not prepared for college.

Public education doesn’t need more money. It needs to spend the money it gets better. We desperately need financial transparency and accountability for administrators.

Where did our money go? The Department of Education was criticized this year for being wasteful and redundant. In some states, taxpayers paid for things like iPads - for kindergartners. Gov. Gregoire "diverted" $208 million that was supposed to fund education jobs. She just took it for the General Fund. In Spokane, many administrators get more than $100,000 each in base salary. The superintendent gets about $220,000. Where is their accountability for student outcomes?

Folks, where does the buck stop in public education? Shouldn’t district decision-makers be held accountable for the results of their policies? How will we hold them accountable when the boss is the federal government?

These are our children. This is our money. Federal, state, local – it’s all our money, and it’s being wasted on failed approaches and self-serving bureaucrats. But I believe in we, the people. I believe in your children, and I believe in this great Republic. We must all rise up and take back the classroom and our country from the people who are stealing them. You are not helpless. There are things you can do to save your children and grandchildren.

Join me on my blog, “Betrayed.” Read my book “Betrayed” and other books like it. Join us at our next organizational meeting Tuesday, April 19 at 6 p.m. at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. Run for the school board. Get your legislators talking about education. Come talk with me. Together, we the people can turn around public education, send these thieves packing, and get our children and our country back on track.

In Liberty. And for our children. Thank you.

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is
Rogers, L. (April 2011). "Attendees at Tea Party Rally asked for help." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

This speech was posted April 20, 2011, at at

Friday, April 8, 2011

College placement hindered by in-state tuition, weak K-12 system

By Laurie H. Rogers

From the April 1, 2011, Seattle Times: Why straight-A's may not get you into UW this year:
“In the face of continuing state budget cuts, academic leaders at the University of Washington in February made a painful decision to cut the number of Washington students the school will admit this fall and increase the number of out-of-state and international students, who pay nearly three times as much in tuition and fees.”

The phenomenon of in-state students ceding their college seat to international students is important, yet old news. We math advocates have been worrying about it for years.

International and out-of-state students are increasingly welcomed on campuses because they pay higher tuitions (which many pay up front). However, international students also tend to have substantially better academic skills. (Their “A” in “Honors Math” and in “Honors English” can actually be trusted.)

Meanwhile, up to a third of our students are dropping out. In Spokane, just 38.9% of our 10th-graders passed the 2010 state math test. Most of our graduates require substantial remediation in math before they can even begin college courses. They’re years behind in English. Rest assured that university recruiters are aware. International students are picking up the slack – on campuses, in the business community, and in STEM fields.

You’d think the situation would alarm our K-12 public school board directors and administrators, and motivate them to change how they do business. Instead, we keep hearing them say: “Not all kids need to go to college. Many careers don’t require college degrees. Our graduation rates are way up. We're so proud of ourselves. Everything's fine.”

I used to think district leaders cared about what my child needs in math, grammar, civics, and history. I thought they cared whether she graduates from high school “college ready.” I thought they’d want her to become a freethinker, to do her best, to excel academically, to be an individual, follow her dreams, stand up for what’s right, respect her teachers and her parents, and help take over the reins of the country.

I believed those things for longer than I should have. For three years, I simply couldn’t believe what I was seeing in front of me. I kept thinking, “I need to bring them more research, more data, more parents, more professionals. I need to make better arguments.” I tried to figure out which magical combination of words would ring true with them.

In March 2011, a Spokane board director told me that an approach to K-12 mathematics “whose end goal is merely learning efficient ways to get correct answers is inadequate virtually by definition.” Actually, that’s exactly the point of mathematics, to learn efficient ways to get correct answers. Math is a useful tool and a “gatekeeper” subject. Students need to learn how to use it. It doesn’t need to be a dog-and-pony show.

But in public education, everything is a dog-and-pony show. What parents and taxpayers want, or what students need, appears to matter little to the leadership. Basic academic skills, efficiency, effectiveness, proficiency, and sufficiency aren’t the goals. Thriftiness (spending taxpayer dollars wisely and not wasting them on non-academic desires) perennially takes a back seat to “Oooo!! Cool!! How do we get some of that?” And all the while, our children aren't able to learn what they need to know.

You’d think district decision-makers would melt from shame at the weak results of their policies and approaches. Instead, most appear to have concluded that teachers and parents are the problem. They stare us down, challenge the relevance of our experiences, and assure us that everything’s fine. They aren’t assessed on student outcomes. They aren’t fired for weak results. Last year in Spokane, most of them got raises – funded by the levy.

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. It’s hard to believe. I’m shocked by it, every day. You’d think devastation and deceit like this would be front-page news. You’d think heads would roll. You certainly wouldn’t expect to see raises, praise, and contract renewals.

Here’s what I recommend to all parents and interested community members. Ask your local administrators and board directors: “What is the school district’s mission? What’s the end goal?” Then, pursue the conversation logically. Ask how they plan to achieve their mission and end goal. Ask how they know when they’ve done it. Ask what they mean by “excellence” and “college readiness.” Ask to see their research and statistical support for their approaches. (And I encourage you to read their “research.” It will definitely open your eyes.) Ask for explanations of the low pass rates, high student exit rates (by dropout or by transfer), and high remedial rates.

I expect them to have proper support for their decisions – beyond “everyone knows” and “research shows.” I expect them to argue their case.
  • But when I questioned certain central-office decision-makers and board directors, I saw: A lack of supporting data; an absence of scientifically conducted research; illogical argumentation; efforts to divert away from the topic at hand; and much blaming of others.
  • When I persisted, I saw: Defensiveness; denial; condescension; challenging of me; and questioning of my “agenda,” my background, my experience and my intentions.
  • It wasn’t long before I saw: Arrogance, rudeness, anger, personal attacks, and a sudden (and apparently permanent) determination that I am the problem.
Welcome to public education. They say “college readiness” is their goal, even as they reject all data showing that our graduates aren’t ready for college. And we who attempt to pin them down are considered to be rude, unprofessional, biased, and antagonistic.

At last, I finally understand. My argument is destined to fail. The district I want to see, the district the students need, the district I’m fighting for … isn’t the district they’re building. I want academics, facts, efficient procedures, logical process, respect for teachers and parents, a deep breadth of knowledge, and eventual college-or-trade readiness. They want more taxpayer money, a tightly controlled message, and district-wide adherence to their agenda. For students, they want collaboration, consensus, and compromise, to be well-behaved and dependent members of a group, to share group values and group process, and to sacrifice one’s own needs for the “good of all.”

I see now that:
  • No student data will convince them. They look at Spokane’s 38.9% pass rate on the 2010 state math test, at students' high rates of remediation in math in college, and high numbers of student dropouts and transfers, and they wave it all away as insufficient, biased, fake and irrelevant.
  • No student feedback will convince them. Students practically beg for clarity, instructions, explanations and structure. Administrators reject that, claiming that students don’t know what they’re saying.
  • No parent feedback will convince them. Parents tell stories of their children struggling, failing, and becoming dispirited. Administrators respond with variations of, “struggling is good, we need more money, poverty is to blame, we need better teachers, we need to feed these kids, fix their teeth and provide clothing, we need to sympathize and empathize and show them we care.”
  • No professional feedback will convince them. For decades, STEM professionals have called for a more “instructional” approach to mathematics. Administrators say mathematicians and engineers know math but don’t know how to teach it to children, don’t know how to communicate, and are stuck in old ways of thinking.
  • No community feedback will convince them. At recent community forums in Spokane, the public clearly called for a more traditional approach to K-12 math. But district emails indicate that administrators flooded our forums so they could argue for the district’s approach. They’re now preparing to hold their own forums so they can present the “truth.”
Parents and community members want schools to provide students with useful academic skills. They want students to be treated as individuals, not as cattle; to learn to think for themselves, not to wallow in groupthink; and to be self-sufficient, not to be dependent on others. They want students to learn respect for their elders, and graduates to be ready for postsecondary life, whether it’s college, a trade or a career.

To get schools like that, many parents will have to leave the public system altogether.

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is
Rogers, L. (April 2011). "College placement hindered by in-state tuition, weak K-12 system." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site:

This article also was published April 9, 2011, by at: