Monday, July 29, 2013

School Districts Demise

The question of whether our schools are failing has been at the forefront of many a discussion with most of the blame falling squarely on the teachers.  They are the ones in the classroom and they are the ones given the lion’s share of the responsibility but when you consider the reality of the situation more emphasis should be placed on the administration and the state and federal mandates for the abysmal results of education and not the teachers.

Being a teacher I should admit some bias in this area but I also hold many conservative notions that separate me from the majority of the fold.  Many teachers by nature are more liberal in attitude, voting for tax increases and continued funding for revolving programs that never worked and despite a name change will never work.  Money and education do not mix and in fact (sorry an opinion) the more money you spend the less profitable the outcome.

There is a law of diminishing returns in relation to education that no one seems to consider.  The more money you spend does not guarantee better results.  In many cases the dollars spent actually have a only a nominal benefit rather than a proportional benefit as one would surmise.  Test scores over the past 15 years have only risen by a few percentage points but the increases in dollars spent for education have more than tripled.  Teachers make more money and I’m actually happy about those increases but the majority of costs associated with education are not found within the classroom, the teacher nor with books, computers or any other direct educational function; most increases are due to pensions and facilities with other outrageous expenditures going to administration, or what I like to refer to as a gaggle of incompetents (peter principle).

As I mentioned in a past post the big fish are taking over, growing districts to enormous sizes with budgets beyond the billions and waste so profound that millions can be gone without a trace and no one learns how to read.  A new pet project here, a new program there, a new campus, elaborate outings or trainings and all those taxes are washed away in a tide of illiteracy and complacency.
Teachers still try to teach but the constraints are overwhelming. 

With 30-40 or more students in a class, with pacing guides that outline their every word and with little or no support for behavior control the schools are nothing more than very large and complicated day care centers.  Many teachers are forced to patiently wait for their retirement but the incidents of heart attack, cancer and heart disease are on the rise within teaching making teachers a high risk profession, so the waiting is nothing more than an early death sentence with more and more teachers dying soon after retiring than ever before.

Gone are the days of Plato, sitting on a pastoral mound discussing the ideas of the day; attentive students, wide eared and eager listening to every word.  The classroom of today is a battle field of frayed nerves, angry students, and frustrated learners.  It’s a balancing act of epic proportions for a teacher these days to actually “teach” when in many cases the idea of learning is so foreign that getting students to stop talking to each other is a major achievement. 
 
I have a solution:  Education, learning should be the key component not the over bloated system that now takes precedents.  Districts are the problem, too many chiefs telling the warriors what to do.  The confusion in education is a direct result of too many incompetent administrators trying to find that ever so elusive magic wand that can be ceremoniously waved to “fix” the problem, when the problem is in the hands of those who wish to lead, (kinda like politics…wow).

I propose that all districts be disbanded and individual schools given the authority over the local students.  Taxes should still be used to fund education but should be proportioned by student and doled out to each school in relation to those who attend (just like ADA does now) but with one exception, students and parents can choose which school to attend, creating a natural competitive nature to the process, forcing schools to work with the community and parents to provide what is most needed.

Principals, teachers and parents in combination should lead a school, hire and fire those who do not perform with tenure rules mitigated not only by individual performance but through a combination of overall school performance as well, the two are inexorably connected and should be judged accordingly.

Curriculum is a community decision, not a state mandate.  Teacher autonomy is essential within the bounds of each school and should be encouraged.  The District and it’s overstuffed, self-worth should be disbanded and the bureaucracy that goes with it.

In truth, some schools will completely fail without the support of a “district” but most will thrive under the management of those who are better suited to handle the individual issues of a community and its learning needs.  Those student dollars can be better spent; I think we all agree on that. Let’s let the schools and the teachers to what they do best, TEACH…..