Opinion

Say it ain’t so, Mr. Gates

Dear Bill Gates,

I recently became aware that you and Mrs. Gates met with several superintendents of large school districts, including Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago.

These groups also included the usual suspects: Politicians, teachers unions, etc., discussing how to improve the sorry state of education in America.

This meeting reminds me of your local crack dealers speaking in front of the pharmaceutical annual convention in Las Vegas. Remember, whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

One of the biggest drawbacks to these types of conferences is that people who truly can make a difference are never represented, such as parents. You have school superintendents whose track record for improving education for poor and minority kids is shameful.

For example, children of color whose graduation rates are 30 percent. You have the teachers union whose main goal is to improve and acquire extra benefits for its members, not for the kids. They are against pay for performance, where some of the best teachers could be retained to teach in inner-city schools. They are for extra waiver days.

Does anybody other than this writer think that these kids are out of school too much? I suppose so.

Mr. Gates, I am just a single African American dad and an observer on education issues. My daughter is in the fourth grade, and every day for four years, I have had the privilege of being part of her education.

Since she’s been in school, I have witnessed the good, the bad and the ridiculous. I have argued with school superintendents, disagreed with arrogant principals, talked to clueless school board members and endured teachers who were afraid of me because I am black.

It has been quite a ride.

When it comes to the American education system, there is enough blame to go around. We have union rules that are counterproductive to quality education.

We have politicians who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. We have an educational bureaucracy whose interest is not the child, but the check. We also have parents who profess to love their children, but forget that love is a word that requires action. We have too much paperwork for these teachers because of a bloated bureaucracy that has nothing else to do but make up ridiculous regulations — and kids suffer because of it.

I am writing to you because of my concern, not just for my daughter’s education, but the education of all children. I did not have a non-profit that I am seeking funding for, and I don’t work in the education system. I just care about these kids.

These children can’t hire a high-paid lobbyist. They don’t vote. And far too many of them can’t even read. There are so many people who say they want what is best for the kids. But a majority of them work for a system that is harming these same kids.

I have had the honor of working with some great teachers, and I have seen school counselors who struggle with few resources to help heal the hearts in some of these same children.

I have some ideas that I believe will be helpful — as you struggle against forces that want your money, but don’t want the change.

Mr. Gates, I am not an expert in educational reform. But I am a parent who represents voices who are rarely heard — but who matter.

These children need a bailout more than Wall Street. Because, Mr. Gates, without seeing the wonders in a child’s eye, what greatness can America claim?

I’m looking forward to meeting with you.

No excuses.

Federal Way resident Walter Backstrom:

wkbackstrom@aim.com

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