When state education superintendent Joseph L. Shilling unveiled his "Schools for Success" program last year, he said that it would be tough getting local educators to go along with his concept. After all, he wanted to impose new accountability standards on local school systems, rate their performances, impose new teacher training and provide money for schools that need help as well as schools that do an exceptional job of teaching children.
Sure enough, local educators and bureaucrats pounced all over Dr. Shilling's plan when it hit the legislature. They bristled at the idea of the state coming in and telling them what to do. And to top it off, Gov. William Donald Schaefer wants to take $19 million out of a new aid package for the schools and use it to pay for the Schools for Success program.
Dr. Shilling's goal from the start has been to identify problems in individual schools and put up the money to undertake remedial action. He is trying to prod local educators to re-think entrenched concepts of education that may no longer be effective in today's changing society. Yet local educators are resisting this effort to shake up the schools. They would rather retain the status quo, regardless of growing evidence that kids are not getting a decent education in many of these schools. And they are using their considerable clout with state legislators to kill any chances of reform this year.
With the budget problems confronting the state this year, it would not be surprising to see Dr. Shilling's $19 million request trimmed substantially. But lawmakers should avoid the trap of appeasing local educators who are resisting the Shilling approach as hard as they can out of self-interest and parochial reasons.
Giving mere lip service to education reform would put the General Assembly in the embarrassing position of being one of the few legislative bodies in the nation to oppose major changes in public education. If legislators seriously care about improving their local schools, they ought to support Dr. Shilling's plan and let him get started with Schools for Success.