“What’s Recess?”

Published May 1, 1998

When the Cleveland Avenue grammar school was built two years ago, it had no playground. But none was necessary because the Atlanta public schools had eliminated recess as a time-waster. Students are now confined in school with no free time from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. During their half-hour lunch period, they are not permitted to move about and talk to friends but must sit at the table after finishing their meal.

Many other districts across the country are adopting a no-recess policy, although the decision is left up to individual schools in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In some places, such as Philadelphia, unstructured playtime has become “socialized recess,” where children are required to take part in organized, supervised activities.

While this frees up more time for academics, it alarms child development experts, who regard free time and unstructured play as vital for learning how to negotiate and cooperate, as well as for emotional and intellectual growth. Noting that many children watch television after school rather than play outdoors, Georgia State University child development professor Olga Jarrett questions how children will learn to resolve conflicts with their peers if they can’t mingle or interact with other children.
The New York Times
April 7, 1998

Teachers Promote Education Tax Credits

Although the Illinois Education Association (IEA) successfully lobbied Governor Jim Edgar to veto a $500 per year tuition tax credit bill in January, its leadership must have been bitten by the tax credit bug. In March, the IEA was actively promoting a proposal for a much larger tax credit of $2,500 per year for education-related expenses–but only for school employees, not parents.

The tax credit proposal is part of the IEA’s RISE plan–Renewal for Illinois Schools and Education–and would be available to school employees who use their own money to supplement their work with children (e.g., instructional aids, motivational aids, classroom/library books, etc.). It also would be available to school employees to offset tuition at public higher education institutions for courses meant to improve their skills and keep their educational ideas current.

The IEA provided no estimate of how much their $2,500 education tax credit would cost Illinois taxpayers. But Governor Edgar had cited concerns about education tax credits leading to “even greater costs for Illinois taxpayers” when he vetoed the earlier $500 tax credit. When IEA President Bob Haisman criticized the much smaller $500 tax credit, he warned it would start “a gold rush to stake ever-increasing claims on public taxpayer resources.”
IEA Advocate
March 1998

More Selective Than Harvard

According to New York Times writer Elisabeth Bumiller, lower Manhattan’s Stuyvesant High School is a free public high school that “has been seen for nearly a century as an Ivy League dream-ticket for the poor, the rich, and especially the immigrant.” It seems appropriate, then, that the new school building on Chambers Street has an unobstructed view of the Statute of Liberty.

It’s also fitting that Stuyvesant sends more students to Harvard than any other school in the U.S., since it’s easier to get into Harvard than into Stuyvesant. Last year, Harvard accepted 2,073 of its 16,818 applicants–one in eight–while Stuyvesant accepted only 850 of its 11,397 eighth-grade applicants–one in thirteen. But Stuyvesant is a ticket to the Ivy League: Last year, 21 of its seniors went to Harvard, 20 to Yale, 47 to Columbia, and 103 to Cornell.

Admission to Stuyvesant is based not on residence or connections but simply on a student’s score on a two-and-a-half-hour entrance exam. The student body is 47.7 percent Asian, 45.5 percent white, 4.1 percent black, and 3.7 percent Hispanic. New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew has rejected calls from community advocacy groups to suspend the tests, but in 1995 the Board of Education instituted an 18-month prep course for mostly minority students.
New York Times
April 2, 1998

Ohio Union Overlooks Public School Problems

Although Ohio teacher union affiliates lost no time in criticizing the Cleveland voucher program when a state audit questioned $1.9 million spent on student taxi fares and consultant evaluation fees, they made no comment or criticism when the same state auditor found a $1 million discrepancy in the accounts of the Columbus public schools.

State Auditor Jim Petro found that the school system’s payroll transactions were often incorrect, with the district paying employees for hours not worked and at incorrect rates. “There is a need for district management and the board of education to exercise further oversight of school finances,” he said.

Rather than criticize this mishandling of taxpayer money in the Columbus schools, the Columbus Education Association chose instead to blast the Cleveland voucher program as “a giant rip off of taxpayer money to support private and parochial education. . . . The Cleveland voucher program borders on the criminal.”

When the Columbus Dispatch pointed out earlier this year that Ohio teachers were absent more often than students, the Columbus union’s weekly newsletter, The CEA Voice, took the report as an “attack” and claimed that “working conditions and pressures often dictate increased absences” for teachers.
The Education Intelligence Agency