Tuesday, February 10, 2015

School Choice - The Only Way To Improve Public Schools

In the past 30 years, monies spent on public schools have increased dramatically, coinciding with the rise of teacher unions; yet student academic performance does not compare well with other industrialized countries that spend much less.  The reasons are both complex; but in many ways simple.  About half the money spent on public education is going to support layers of bureaucracy at the local, state and federal levels, so that these additional monies never make it into the classroom.  Teacher unions and tenure have made it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers. And, political correctness has negatively impacted curriculum's, discipline and allocation of monies.  However, to be fair, the number of kids, particularly in our inner cities, coming from dysfunctional families, often with no Dad in the home, has increased dramatically.  It is true that public schools cannot control societal factors that impact the kids in their charge.      

That said, as a former inner city public school teacher and as someone who supports our public schools, I know that improving public schools, is not about more money.  It is instead about how the money public schools already get is spent.  Inner city schools, in particular, get Title I money that is often wasted.  I know, I was there and saw the waste.  Kids in those Title I schools get free breakfast and lunch and assuming Food Stamp (SNAP) money is actually used to buy food, no kid should be coming to school hungry.  The problem is that not enough money is getting to the classroom because of all the highly paid bureaucrats that waste a lot of time shuffling papers to each other to meet local, state and federal reporting requirements that do nothing to actually improve our public schools.  And, Common Core, the federalization of our public schools, the latest attempt at improving our public schools, is a waste of time, energy and financial resources. 

The ratios are all wrong.  Certainly, no more than 20% of monies spent on public schools should be going to support local, state and federal bureaucrats to allow more money to actually get to the classroom.  Additional monies could be used to build new classrooms where needed, maintain current schools and build new ones.   In addition, if lowering class size actually does provide some benefit, which is debatable, then additional teachers could be hired to do so.  However, without the ability to fire bad teachers, class size really does not matter.  Again, I know because I saw all of this with my own eyes during the six years I spent teaching in the inner city in Los Angeles.  Getting better academic results requires discipline, a common sense curriculum and great teachers.   That is the simple secret of success and it does not cost any more money; though great teachers should receive merit pay from the monies that are already spent.  

This Blogger is convinced that none of the things that need to happen to improve public education will happen without competition, which is why School Choice must become the law of the land, particularly for poor kids in failing public schools.  The money spent on public education should follow the kid so that poor parents too have the option of pulling their kids out of a failing public school.   We have to move from public education being a jobs program, run by highly paid bureaucrats and the teacher unions to recognize what is best for children.   Keeping poor kids in failing public schools, often held prisoner by lousy teachers that should be fired, is just plain criminal.  School Choice would provide competition for the public schools, which will force reform for them to survive.  The call for more money, down a rat hole, just to feed the beast is not the answer.  Been there, done that for 30 or more years and it just does not work. 

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