The issue we face in Pre-K-12 public schools is deteriorating performance, with the request for additional funding as the solution. Teachers are protesting, and teacher unions are demanding more money in the name of the students. All the while our students and their families are being underserved. In some cases, cheated; their High School diplomas lure them into thinking they have the required education to get and hold down a job. When that turns out to be false, they blame other factors, including racism & privilege when the real issue is they have not been taught the basics. The basics. Respect for authority, decent grammar, and the beginnings of a work ethic. Who can find fault with the graduates for blaming outside factors when the real culprit is the lie they were told about the adequacy of their education?
Don’t tell me for a second that we can’t solve this problem. All we need is a common goal. And we don’t have one. Here’s a useful link to our Common Goals discussion.
This is not a difficult problem to solve. Few of the issues facing our communities and nation are. This nation of 330M people is the most successful and wealthiest in the history of history. Look at what we did with “one-time challenges” we have met, like going from the first heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk to putting a man on the moon (and getting him back safely)in 66 years. Our many lasting accomplishments include the US essentially having invented the high-tech industry. Silicon Valley and its geographic extensions comprise the single greatest idea-and wealth- generating engine on the planet. And we have gone from being terrified of running out of oil (remember Peak Oil?) to being a net exporter. Now the energy conversation is appropriately changing from fear of running out of gas to looking at the best way to transition to renewable fuels. We can make that type of change in our schools.
Taxpayers invest in schools as a way of investing in our youth. Imagine with me that you are an investor in a company that is putting out an important, but deteriorating, product, and management comes to you asking for additional money. You ask what is going to be done differently with the additional money, and the response is, “We are not going to change any policies, personnel or “production”, but we will pay everyone more, and have a larger, better looking factory.” What would you do? Hint: the answer is never more money. More money never fixed anything–it’s just kicking the can down the road until the next request for, you guessed it, more money.
OK, what should our common pre-K-12 goal be? Try, “Having the best pre-K-12 education with the most efficient use of taxpayer money.” The teacher’s unions, acting like any bureaucracy, seem to be hell bent on defending and increasing their power and their compensation in the name of the students. “What, you hate kids?” is the likely response if you resist–or even question–additional funding. Students and their families are increasingly scrambling as they try to find an affordable way to have access to a decent education. Underpaid teachers are paying for supplies which they often bring to school in dated cars.
There is little–if any–correlation between funding per pupil and performance. At $25K per year per student, the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) has the highest per-pupil spending in the nation, by more than $4,000 over New York which spends the second most,” he said. Both school systems are miserable. Clearly no correlation here.
If–and only if–we can agree on a common goal, the keys, the steps, to a solution are easy enough to see:
- Cut admin costs: in CO alone, between 2010-2017, there was a 7% increase in students, 10% increase in teachers, and a 22% increase in administrators.
- Teachers are indeed professionals; pay them that way. Merit pay, lay off the under performers. Promote on accomplishments not seniority. Just like other professionals. Can’t have it both ways; wanting the protection of strict factory-floor-like union rules, and claiming to be professionals worthy of professional pay and treatment is self-servingly inconsistent. BTW, yes, many teachers do considerable work outside of the classroom and the school day. But so do most professionals.
- Create competition with liberal access to equally funded public schools, charters and vouchers. Professionals learn and grow from competition.
- Fix the retirement plans; they are lavish to the point that nothing in the world of private business comes even close. And take some of the money out of the backend and give it in salary to teachers now. There’s enough to meet both the current cash and retirement needs.
Bottom line: We do not need increased funding; we need to get the funding that is currently available into the classroom.
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It is time for our usual parting thought. For us at Results With Reason, it is not simply change your thinking, change your life. It is change your thinking, change your actions, change the world. And if you can do it in love and enjoy the people around you at the same time, all the better. Remember: Knowledge by itself is the booby prize.
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.