But that's not why I'm here today.
Today's lecture is about education, or rather, the lack of it.
This is "as heard on NPR" as I was driving home, and the hours may have eaten some details out of my brain.
One of the great innovations that is supposed to fix the public school system is the Charter School program. These school attempt to fulfill specific niche needs that perhaps fall through the cracks in the general public school system. A grand idea in theory; in practice it's become a way for some people who really shouldn't be educators to open schools and receive funding. But some of the schools did good work.
In DC, the school board makes determinations about which schools are given charters and which are not. They also determine which existing charter schools continue and which are closed. There are many reasons why schools might be closed - failure of mission, failing scores, failing students, etc. - but the most common reasons why schools get closed are budgetary.
The problem, then, is what happens to the students when the school closes.
Take the example of one of the schools that closed at the end of the last school year. All these students need to find placement in some other school. (caveat - numbers may be slightly off) Of the 228 children in that school, as of today, the Friday before school starts on Monday, 116 of them had found placement in other schools. Over 50%, the gentleman being interviewed said, with a certain amount of pride.
"When you say that," the NPR correspondent said, "I'm hearing that 50% of the students don't know where they're going to school on Monday."
The interviewee did not hesitate in his response. "Well, that just depends on your perspective."
One school that was closed in 2009 had as it's mission to educate pregnant teenagers, who were at high risk of dropping out. Most of these girls had been alienated from their families, and actually lived at the school. A reporter had attempted to interview some of them to find out what effect the closing of the school had on them, but she was unable to find even one of the 77 students. None of them had been placed in another school in the district, and the school district had no idea where they might have gone. They had no address for any of the girls, and even tracking down their families failed to uncover the student's whereabouts. Now, to be fair, the school had been failing - high cost for not tremendously great outcomes. But the cost of just closing it, with no plan of how to best serve the affected students? It's incalculable, as nobody has any idea what happened to those students.
So. This is what funding cuts mean, real impact on real people.
Now, to keep this post from being grim: much adorable cuteness if you click here.