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Could I talk, listen, and type that fast?
Once I got on the phone with Dr. Perry, the time flew – and he gave me 45 minutes!
I wanted to share the majority of our conversation with you today because I found what he said fascinating. Hang in there, it’s long but I know you’ll want to hear him out.
. . .
Melissa: How do you get parents who are afraid of repercussions, afraid to speak up, to transform into an activists?
Dr. Perry: That is the real challenge – I don’t know that you can make somebody who is afraid, unafraid; but, what you can do is make the impact yourself by identifying other people of the same mindset. Our movement has friends in every sector.
Free education ain’t free, it’s far from free. We pay more per person than we do any other public service – – including the military! So because we pay so much for it, we are so invested in it, we ought to be able to decide what part of that service we want.
Someone said to me, but there is only one Steve Perry. Well, I like my odds. You and I are of the same mindset. You and I could disagree on single educational pedagogy but at the end of the day you could say, I just want to send my school to a Catholic school, I’d say, cool, fantastic or if you said I just want to send my kid to an arts magnet school – great, splendid!
The problem is that the teachers unions have made it such that we don’t have very many options.
Melissa: I’ve been following Michelle Rhee and how the teachers unions are using their money to attack her instead of bettering education.
Dr. Perry: You are paying, I’m paying, to go up against Michelle Rhee. We are paying because of collective bargaining – you are forced. I’m forced in Connecticut to give up my salary.
In this country – really? I have to pay money in this country for causes I’m I’m dead set against – is that America?
They give you these cockamamie outs. They tell you you have to say that you don’t want to be in.
Okay, I don’t want to be in.
Okay, that will get you out. But you still have to pay us.
Hold on. I give up my voting rights in the organization but you still take my money? To use it for the same causes you were going to use it for before?
Is that the country that says that I have the right to freedom of expression? I don’t want them to take my money!
Melissa: (laughs) Okay, let’s talk about unions then.
Dr. Perry: I think they’re the devil.
Start with the issue of choice.
If we said simply to all parents in America, you get to choose, union schools or not, Let’s see how quickly the air comes out of the union schools.
What we have to do is elect officials like Scott Walker and Chris Christie and others who are advocates who understand that they’re going to use their bully pulpit and have some courage and make the decisions that are necessary.
And, you’re talking to someone who is a lifelong Democrat by the way. I worked for Jessie Jackson in high school, worked for Joe Liberman in college.
This is not about politics.
This is about children.
What we have to do, people like you and I, have to lock arms and take a book like Push Has Come to Shove and slam it into peoples faces. So when Scott Walker is out there and people are shouting him down, there needs to be another group that says –hold on partner, stop yelling at my man.
I don’t work for a political party right now. I care about kids. And I can’t find anyone whose opinion I respect who supports the union.
There’s not one person who has had any success in education who thinks that what the union stands for is okay.
Melissa: I’m sure we could talk about unions all day but in the interest of time, let’s move on. What about teacher training, and an issue I think is even bigger, principal training?
Dr. Perry: You can not be trained to be a leader.
Check with a teacher, you know there are kindergartners who are leaders, they are just leaders. People are either leaders or they’re not.
And if a school needs a leader, it needs to have access to leaders.
Unfortunately, in public schools, the only people who can work in public schools have to have certification. And you limit the talent pool.
I think you have to open up the talent pool.
Certification has not been proven to improve instruction. So, since there is no proven impact on the way in which teachers teach and children learn, it should no longer be a threshold. Background checks, of course, of course.
But just like you’d be able to do if you worked at a college or university or an independent school, or a charter school, you’d simply need to prove to the hiring committee that you are in fact capable of teaching –and then from there, you be able to do the same thing with school leaders. There are people who could run a school and we don’t have access to them!
Melissa: I love that you’re just speaking honestly, and are courageous enough to say it like it is.
Dr. Perry: See because what happens is they start screaming at people – and then people say, oh, I don’t want to fight.
I actually do feel like fighting, I actually do. I want to fight. I will be everywhere they are.
And what’s going t happen, is you’ll say, I won’t let Steve fight by himself. I’m coming. And then more people will come and then we’re not fighting anymore because you’ll see them run and cry.
But the biggest cowards of all are the legislators who are going to follow suit. They don’t care, they’ll do anybody whose got money, they’re the biggest whores of all.
We are all in this together. You can have your way of educating kids, we can be the same or different.
Just like you asked, how do you get parents to change?
You have to speak it boldly. Then they’ll say, she’s not afraid. Maybe I can stand next to you. I stand up and speak so you can see that these people are bullies, they are punks.
Melissa: I know your time is short, can you quickly talk about vouchers? We’re having a huge fight about vouchers in Douglas County, Colorado right now.
Dr. Perry: Whatever Denver Public Schools per pupil expenditure is, it should be yours. Let’s say it’s $14,000. If you have 3 children and you want to home school them, you should be able to homeschool them and that’s $42,000 in your pocket and now it’s not such a financial hardship.
One of the reasons that the unions are beating us on this issue is unions are saying that it’s the use of public money for private goods and services. That is true but, hey wait a minute, I got a Pell Grant and went to Brigham Young University, that’s a religious college. Or I went to I went to Trinity; I went Georgetown, those are all religious schools. Wait a minute – how is that possible? Unions say, we can’t allow it to go through cultural organization.
Hold on a second – they’re lying! Then you start to see . . .
I could go to Cedar Mt. Sinai, which is a religious-based hospital, and I could use my Medicaid there. That’s public money . . . in a private, religious hospital, and you can go to St. Mary’s and walk around and see nuns in there, or crosses. These are religious organizations receiving public money.
. . .
Saying that a child has to go to the school next to their house is an absurd, antiquated notion. If you had to go to the oncologist, God forbid, you wouldn’t have to go to the one next to your house. You could go to to Puerto Rico if you wanted to.
Melissa: Is school choice state by state or district by district?
Perry: District by district, but some states have a law saying it’s unconstitutional. It’s not going to stay.
The best thing that happened to education is the recession . . .
Melissa: But more needs to happen.
Perry: It’s not over, it’s a flesh wound. We’re going down to the white meat.
. . .
Thank you to Dr. Perry for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with me! For more from Dr. Perry, buy his new book, Push Has Come to Shove or visit him online at www.Dr-StevePerry.com and on Facebook and Twitter @DrStevePerry.
Giveaway: Comment about what Dr. Perry said. All opinions are welcome just be courteous please. Three winners will be selected with a random drawing. (Imagination Soup’s official giveaway rules.) U.S. and Canada only please. Deadline for entering is September 20, 2011, 11:59 EST. No purchase necessary.