Cathy Strate's Oct. 3 letter about the sorry state of education, especially lack of respect for teachers, was sad. But it's all true. The only thing she didn't do was identify causes. Below, my analysis of causes.
First, the problem is national. Education "reformers" know little about education. Some, like Bill Gates, recommend actions that make their companies money. Reformers never seem to consult the real experts: teachers. They completely ignore the correlation between low achievement and poverty.
The decline of American public education is due mainly to one political party, the GOP. They have attacked public education for years. Many of them dislike teachers because they fear their children's exposure to ideas they dislike.
Additionally, these days the GOP always votes against all bills providing any public benefit (when not refusing to vote at all). Rich people can afford good education for their kids; they couldn't care less about our kids.
Also, Americans value sports, physical achievement, over mental achievement. Expensive sports programs take money that academic programs need. We shouldn't eliminate high school football programs; neither should the tail wag the dog.
European public education outperforms us. They pay teachers better, have more rigorous academic programs, and do not fund extracurricular activities. Sports are after school, supported by the community.
Secondly, the problem is also statewide. Since Rick Scott became governor, we have become the state with the lowest public school spending per capita, now spending over $600 less per student in K-12, and over $2,000 less in higher education. A recent survey on how favorable states are to teachers put Florida at 44th. (http://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-teachers/7159/)
Lastly, if you really want to improve a system, any system, you must address the system instead of blaming its members, as some reformers have blamed teachers. Teachers don't control any aspect of their education, from college courses to hiring, teaching and evaluation.
Scapegoating is easy; real reform is hard. We have yet to address real reform.