Monday, July 17, 2006
Money is NOT the answer
For some time, we have been barraged with the need for building more schools, "No Child Left Behind", More at 4, the need for smaller class size, an "education" lottery, and the mantra of "it's for the children".
What we are really doing is saddling those very children that we are supposed to be caring about with record debt that they will have to work to pay off in the next thirty years every time we pass another bond referendum.
The Johnston County school system has a seven year plan in which they desire to float a bond of up to $234 million to build nine new schools and renovate dozens of others. The School Board desires to have another bond referendum on the ballot by 2007 for funding.
If there is one thing that we should have learned by now is that the cost of building schools and renovating existing ones NEVER works out to be the amount contracted. Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that construction and renovation projects at six Johnston County schools came in $7.27 million over estimates. Do you REALLY believe that any bond we pass will actually cover the projected costs seven years from now? I don't.
I don't have a problem in maintaining existing facilities. I don't have a problem with new school construction if we as a county are growing as fast as we are told we are. I do have a problem with the idea that we are supposed to just accept the same answers and paradigms concerning school district administration.
It has been shown that in California, the concept of class size reduction is a failed one. Results have been dismal. I read that California is abandoning the idea of class size reduction because the results have been so insignificant. Why then are we continuing to duplicate their failed system? The idea as policy originated in California, and the innovators have decided that it is not worth the cost.
One reason is that teachers today in general, are softer than the ones I had while growing up. They have been through an inferior school system themselves, have been raised with a soft upbringing by contrast, have been shown far less discipline and therefore model poor discipline themselves. I don't blame the instructors themselves, since there are many great teachers and the rest are basically a product of a failed liberal experiment that has crippled the education system in this country.
Another major reason is that the largest labor unions in the country are those for educators. Smaller class size, higher salaries, more and newer buildings all mean more educators, more union dues, and therefore more money and power.
If private schools can educate children better for less money, as we have seen repeatedly over the past half century, then why do we persist in patterning an education system after the same failures of the past? Do people really believe that we just haven't perfected the government school system and we need to throw more money at it in order to fix it?
Where I was educated, we crammed students into full classrooms that were not air conditioned, had a smaller cost per student per capita than most states, and consistently got better results on standardized tests than the majority of the country. Parochial schools achieved equal or better results for far less money and far fewer staff. That proves in my mind that money is not always the answer to poor education.
Keeping quality educators, eliminating those educators who should find other career paths, using existing facilities to their fullest, being thrifty with the money we send to the schools, and eliminating non-essential administrative staff will go a long way in improving education and keeping costs down.
Recently, the school system was threatening to sue the county in order to get 1/150th of their requested budget back, claiming that they could not function without that last million dollars. I don't buy that stance and neither should taxpayers.
If textbooks have to last one more year, they have to last. The information about how to add, subtract, form sentences, and write letters has not changed and will not change in the next year. History will only have changed by having one year added to it. I used some ratty, old textbooks while in school and facts do not or should not change from one year to the next.
Take an interest in your county school system. Contact your elected school board and county commission members. Demand accountability from them. You are a part owner of the schools. Demand quality education at the lowest possible cost, abandonment of failed experimental methods, and the restoration of our schools to the methods of administration and education that made this country great.