Thursday, April 14, 2011

Government schools and budgets and how to fix them; and it’s ‘right before our eyes.’

In the context of the massive publicity barrage (print, TV, radio) associated with the pending Brunswick School Budget, I thought it might be refreshing for Side subscribers to read a recent thought piece on the state of our government school system.

The article is entitled “To Surly, With Love: Are Teachers Overpaid?”  You can find it here. 

We’ve commented on this subject in the past, quoting local education gurus.  This particular article is very straightforward in addressing the subject, and it is rich with hyperlink references to the government sources for the argument it forwards.

Emotional schoolies will get the vapors when they read it, and make all sorts of claims about how the article “misses the point,” or “doesn’t ask the right questions,” or “But you don’t understand; Brunswick is different,” or any of the other classic diversions and distractions.  But the same schoolies will have a real challenge refuting the facts presented.  It should be fun to watch.

Here’s a couple of teasers to get you to read the very brief but powerful article:

Those levels of compensation help explain why per-pupil school costs have risen substantially over the past 50 years. In 1960-61, public schools spent $2,769 per student, a figure that now totals over $10,000 in real, inflation-adjusted dollars. Among the things that threefold-plus increase in spending has purchased are more teachers per student. In 1960, the student-teacher ratio in public schools was 25.8; it's now at a historic low of 15.

But wait, it gets better:

It's little wonder that parents with little or no choice report the lowest-levels of satisfaction (about 90 percent of K-12 students attend public schools). Despite all the extra resources devoted to public school teachers and students, student achievement has been absolutely flat over the past 40 years.

As I was driving to and from Portland today, I thought of how fond public officials are of convincing us that aging public structures are “beyond repair,” and that “it would cost far more to fix it than it would to tear it down and start over with a new structure.” 

We’re seeing it happen over and over again locally as the desire for the holy grail - “community pride'” – trumps common sense and fiscal prudence.  The most visible example is the intentional process by which the Old Brunswick High School was allowed to decay and crumble. If you follow the news, you can see glimpses of the same management inattention in our other structures.

And then it hit me: the Old High School is the perfect metaphor for the government education “structure” or “system,” if you prefer.


It is beyond repair, to put it bluntly.  There is only one option that makes sense at this point, to borrow a much beloved principle of our elected “leaders.”


The existing government education “structure'” must be completely torn down, and replaced with a totally new structure.

Who’d have thought that it would come to this – that I would be thanking the schoolies and the education bureaucracy for showing us how to fix the mess we find ourselves in, and that no amount of money can spend us out of.

Perhaps not in the way they might have intended, but it’s brilliant just the same, and we should thank them for educating us.

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