May 18th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Should tenure for teachers be done away with?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Teacher tenure, the union-backed safety net that protects teachers from being fired after a certain number of years of service, is coming under fire in states from New York to Tennessee and Illinois.
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Tenure provides experienced teachers job security in a tight labor market, at a time when cash-strapped states and municipalities are trying to make cuts everywhere they possibly can. Critics say the policy can harm students more than it protects teachers because new teachers with fresh ideas often lose their jobs while older teachers - some of whom are just going through the motions until their pensions kick in - can't be touched.

That's because when a district announces layoffs, the "last in, first out" union rule generally takes over. That often means the least-experienced teachers with fewer years of service must lose their jobs before older, more senior teachers do, no matter how well they do their job, or how well their students perform.

But change is coming. States such as Arizona, Georgia, Colorado and Utah have passed bills to end "last-in, first-out" layoff policies in the past year. Now a handful of other states are trying to make changes to tenure, too. But supporters are up in arms and say tenure is an important policy that attracts talent to a profession that offers relatively low starting pay.

Here’s my question to you: Should tenure for teachers be done away with?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Education
May 17th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Should U.S. high schools require students speak English to graduate?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

There's new requirement for earning a high school diploma at one high school in Connecticut. It's not calculus or biochemistry or learning a foreign language even. It's learning this country's language, English.
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The city of New London's board of education has approved a measure stating that, starting with next year's incoming freshman class, students will have to prove they can speak, read and write "American English" - and do it well - in order to earn their diploma. Apparently those are skills many high schoolers in New London lack. Only 16 percent of sophomores at New London High School scored well in English on standardized tests last year, and only 55 percent were deemed "proficient."

The New London student body is made up of immigrants from at least 28 countries. It's an indication how much of a challenge English is in the town that the school district website is translated into 52 languages.

New London is the first district in the state of Connecticut to pass such a rule. Students at New London High will have several testing options to demonstrate their command of English, and will have until age 21 to meet the requirement.

Here’s my question to you: Should U.S. high schools require students to speak English in order to graduate?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Education
January 27th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Teachers grade parents on child's education?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

What if, on your child's next report card, the teacher graded you, too? A Florida state lawmaker is proposing exactly that.
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State Rep. Kelli Stargel thinks public school teachers should grade the parents of students from kindergarten through third grade. These grades of "satisfactory," "unsatisfactory" or "needs improvement" would show up on the student's report card.

The Republican lawmaker from Lakeland says parental involvement is key to educating children. And she's absolutely right.

According to the proposed legislation, the grading system would be based on three things:

1. The student should show up to school on time and ready to learn, well-rested and fed

2. The student should have done his or her homework and be prepared for any tests

3. There should be regular communication between the parent and teacher

All of which seems perfectly reasonable. Some experts call it a "unique" idea, while others say teachers are in no place to judge parenting.

Florida has been trying to overhaul its public school system for years to make teachers and schools more accountable. But many parents, teachers and lawmakers aren't on board. Last year, then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a bill that would tie teacher pay to the student achievement.

The sad fact is the U.S. needs major changes like that if we want to be competitive in the global economy. And we need these changes yesterday.

A recent international test showed 15-year-olds in the U.S. rank 25th out of 34 countries when it comes to math. They also rank 14th in reading and 17th in science. This is a disgrace.

Guess where China placed? The Shanghai region finished first in all three categories.

Here’s my question to you: Should teachers grade parents when it comes to their child's education?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Education
January 19th, 2011
04:42 PM ET

Make your child learn Chinese?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Forget the romance languages. If you really want your child to be ready for the future, you might want him to crack open some Chinese language textbooks.
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As President Obama meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House this week, there are more reasons than ever to believe China holds the key to all of our futures.

For starters, China owns us – or soon will, as they continue to snap up U.S. treasury bonds. China is now the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, just under $900 billion.

The Chinese also have a significant financial stake in many other countries around the world. It was reported this week that China has lent more money to developing countries in the past two years than the World Bank.

Then there's their military expansion – Chinese military spending is up 12% in the last decade.

A Chinese-developed stealth fighter jet recently took its first flight. They've also created a long-range missile that could hit U.S. ships in the pacific. And, they're building their first aircraft carrier to launch missions far off China's coast.

There's more: Beijing has become an integral player in nearly every major international issue, from the standoffs with North Korea and Iran to global warming.

In fact, one top NASA scientist says that China is the world's "best hope" in the fight against global warming. He says that our democracy – including lobbying dollars from the fossil fuel industry – makes it impossible for the U.S. to confront global warming.

Here’s my question to you: If you were the parent of a small child, would you make him/her learn Chinese?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Children • China • Education • On Jack's radar
October 5th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

A quarter of parents using retirement funds to pay for college tuition

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Yet another sign of how the troubled economy is forcing Americans to make tough choices:
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A new study shows almost a quarter of parents plan to raid their own retirement accounts in order to pay for their kids' college education.

The Sallie Mae survey, conducted by Gallup, shows 24 percent of parents say they plan to save for college by dipping into accounts like 401(k)s, IRAs and pension plans.

Twenty-four percent. This is the money that people have set aside for their golden years.

Experts call the trend disturbing and a "desperation move." And it can be risky. That's because there are tax penalties and other fees if you withdraw money from these accounts early. There also are restrictions on how quickly you must pay back money you borrow from a retirement plan.

Financial experts point out that there are other options - like 529 college savings plans - that can be spent tax-free on college education.

Nonetheless, the survey finds that despite the shaky economy, education is still a priority for Americans. Sixty percent of parents say they're saving for their children's college education. By the time their children are ready for college, most parents will have saved close to $50,000.

The most common way parents say they're saving for college are CDs or saving accounts, followed by investments like stocks, mutual funds and money market accounts.

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Economy • Education
September 29th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Public school teachers pass math & reading tests themselves?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is shaking up the state's education system - and the other 49 states ought to take notes.
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Christie is out with a plan to reform New Jersey's public schools... that would base teachers' pay hikes on students' performance, and not seniority or tenure.

The Republican governor wants all teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade to pass tests in reading and math themselves in order to be certified. What a novel concept.

Christie says this could lead to quote "the firing of lousy teachers and bad principals who hurt our children." unquote. Here's a rare politician who gets it.

Under the current system, teachers earn tenure after 3 years on the job. But Christie wants to put an end to that... along with raises based only on seniority or advanced degrees.

And that's not all. He wants to select master teachers - and pay them more. so good teachers stay in the classroom, rather than leaving for administrative jobs that pay more. And he wants to offer merit raises for teachers who work in low-performing schools.

Teachers unions are not too happy with Christie's plan - no surprise there. They don't like the idea of tying teacher evaluations too closely to students' scores - saying other issues play a role, like the students' experiences at home.

But education experts are praising Christie... saying his plan will "dramatically improve" the quality of education in the New Jersey public schools.

The state legislature will have to approve changes to seniority and tenure - but the rest of the things Christie signed into law with executive orders.

Here’s my question to you: Should public school teachers have to pass math and reading tests themselves?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Education
May 18th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Women better educated, earn more than their husbands?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

"You aren't too smart, are you? I like that in a man." That was the actress Kathleen Turner in the movie Body Heat. She was speaking to the character played by William Hurt.

It's one of the greatest movie lines ever; and 30 years later, it may resonate with a growing number of marriages.

That's because compared to men, women are advancing more when it comes to education and their careers. This translates into more women marrying men who are less educated and earning less money than they do.

A recent Pew study shows 22 percent of married women made more than their husbands in 2007. That number is up sharply from four percent in 1970.

When it comes to education, women make up about 60 percent of students with advanced degrees in fields like medicine, law, business and other graduate programs.

Also, the recession has hit men harder... with nearly five million jobs being lost by men, compared to two million for women.

So how does this change in traditional gender roles affect marriages? In some cases, experts say there's still a stigma on men who make less... and that professional women don't want to "marry down."

But others insist it works for them: one executive at a Wall Street firm says she finds her husband's career as a dog-walker refreshing. Others say couples can have a healthy marriage as long as both spouses share similar goals and values.

Here’s my question to you: What does it say when many women are better educated and make more money than their husbands?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Education
March 31st, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Race-based admissions a good idea at public colleges?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/31/art.uta.utaedu.jpg caption=" Two students say the admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin violated the federal civil rights law."]

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The White House is backing a race-based admissions policy at one public university.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration has asked a federal appeals court to uphold the system at the University of Texas at Austin.

The case was brought by two white students who were rejected for admission at the Austin campus. 75 percent of students are admitted on academic grounds if they rank in the top 10% of their high school class... but the rest are admitted through a so-called "holistic" evaluation that takes factors like race or ethnic identity into account.

These white students say the admissions policy violated the federal civil rights law. So far, a district judge has rejected their claim... but it's possible this thing could wind up before the Supreme Court.

You see, this case actually tests a 2003 high court ruling that upheld a similar policy at the University of Michigan law school. At the time, the court said the school had a "compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body." It prohibited "outright racial balancing"... but said race could be a "plus" factor in order to build a "critical mass" of minority students.

But since then, the Supreme Court has become more conservative and critics of race-based admissions are hoping that the Texas case could be the way to change the policy.

For its part, the university insists its policy is critical in achieving the "diverse institution" its looking for.

Here’s my question to you: Are race-based admissions a good idea at public colleges and universities?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Education
February 2nd, 2010
06:00 PM ET

What role should abstinence-only sex ed play?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Abstinence-only education might just work.

A landmark, federally-funded study shows the first clear evidence that these programs can persuade teens to put off having sex.
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This could have huge implications on the national debate over lowering teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

The study - which appears in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine - shows 33 percent of sixth and seventh graders who took an abstinence-only program started having sex within two years.... that's compared to 52 percent who were taught only about safe sex... and - 42 percent who learned about both safe sex and abstinence.

The Obama administration had cut out more than $170 million in annual federal funding for abstinence programs... and instead put more than $100 million toward other types of sex ed programs.

But based on these new findings - officials suggest similar abstinence programs could be eligible for government dollars.

Some call this abstinence research "game- changing"... that it comes after years of getting a bad rap.

But critics say the curriculum in this study isn't a good example of abstinence-only programs. They say the class studied didn't take a moral tone. It encouraged teens to wait to have sex until they're ready - not until they're married; and it didn't disapprove of condom use.

One researcher says the take-away is the best solution to fight this problem is to use a wide range of programs.

The results of this study come just a week after another report showing that after a decade of declining teen pregnancies... the rate is going up again among all racial and ethnic groups.

Here’s my question to you: What role should abstinence-only sex education play in preventing teen pregnancy?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Education
September 4th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Obama's back-to-school address an inappropriate mix of politics and education?


(PHOTO CREDIT: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It was supposed to be a "feel good" event for the White House and a break from all the fighting and name-calling over health care, but instead President Obama's back-to-school speech next Tuesday has created a firestorm of its own.

Some school districts around the country are refusing to carry it. Some Republicans say they're appalled at spending tax money to spread the president's "socialist ideology." They're comparing it to something you would see in North Korea or Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

On the surface, it seems like a good idea - a pep talk for the nation's schoolchildren from the president, calling on them to take responsibility for their education and do their best.

Instead it's starting to look like another political miscalculation by the White House with some Republicans and parents characterizing the ideas as developing a "cult of personality."

The White House is asking students to write letters about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals. They will also release the text of the speech on Monday so parents know what to expect. Seems harmless enough.

Ironically, the first President Bush was criticized by Democrats when he made a similar televised address to students in 1991. He asked children to take control of their education and write him a letter about how they could achieve their goals. Been here - done this.

Here’s my question to you: Is President Obama's back-to-school address an inappropriate mix of politics and education?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Education • President Barack Obama
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