So here I am writing about what I studied in official school again. More on the ‘crisis’ in the public schools, the teacher strike and money allocation….
I am against teachers striking. I participated in a short strike once and it had long term detrimental effects in the school district. The schools stayed open but ‘scab’ substitutes filled in and no educating took place, except that the kids maybe learned something about the adults going at each other. A teacher strike is inappropriate.
In Arizona, the educational edifice already commands a large portion of all the state revenue, while producing mediocre overall results, high administrative salaries and perks, teachers and students shorted in salaries and materials, giant high schools far from the students, expensive busing and a paucity of programs using internet classes below the Community College level.
The ‘traditional’ high school is rigid in structure, time and attendance, but is not rigid in teaching the students to think for themselves instead of expecting them to regurgitate liberal Pablum. These schools are too large, creating crowd control problems and difficulties in defense. Why not have very local small high schools with excellent internet classes, on site classes, tutoring and assistance? Break up those huge schools into manageable units that don’t require a giant bus system, and close enough students could walk or bicycle to school. Charter schools are operating all over the state in private quarters and the public schools should also. Existing huge schools could be turned into community centers, vocational education centers, clinics, apartments…..They have nice grounds and space and are valuable properties. Take those monster schools out of the public domain and privatize, generating tax revenue instead of gobbling it up. Just think of a school budget without a Maintenance and Operation budget, but with a lease instead, a fixed cost free of costly repairs. A predictable, negotiable cost rather than a wild card 50 year old building with corroded plumbing.
Right now, school boards are controlling the spending in each designated school district and some are abusing the privilege of managing tax money. Some punky little shits called superintendents are raking in huge salaries and benefits, while the students go without equipment and materials and teachers are not paid enough. The school board travels to Washington DC for a conference from little Tucson Arizona while the kids suffer a high dropout rate, discipline is difficult and the infighting on the school boards prove the distress in the system. Free day care for all employees comes out of district money while students fight outside the high school while administrators are nowhere to be seen. The mismanagement of received funds, the boondoggle of ‘bond issues’ to build huge edifices expensive to maintain at taxpayer expense while kickbacks flow and some ‘superintendents’ get huge payouts for being incompetent. These fools on the school boards will sign any goddam contract anybody puts in front of them. And this ‘bonus’ crap! If somebody signs a contract to do a job, a bonus should not be required ever. Budgets need fixed costs, not some jerk deciding whether to give employees a bonus or not based on who bent over the quickest. The system is corrupt and needs mandated spending guidelines passed by the legislature. The waste is enormous and the taxpayers are being asked to give the school districts even more money, at the expense of the rest of the state.
I am in favor of school choice. Charter schools are great and they allow parents to choose a focused program and offer small class sizes and other social benefits for students. The original public schools were built at community government expense because there were no schools. Now there are many schools and buildings but the main stumbling block is the lack of a state curriculum.
The state of Arizona is responsible for high school graduation requirements and a curriculum to match. I say the state is responsible, but that does not mean they fulfill that responsibility. We do not need common core. We need educators in Arizona to write a basic curricular framework for the high school subjects basic to a college education and basic for community college and basic for the high school graduate who will be a functioning citizen. Government and citizenship must be taught and no student should graduate without a basic Constitution test.
This leads to another problem. The validity of the High School Diploma must be maintained. I recommend several types to avoid the attendance versus achievement hassle. Do not give the same diploma to a student who is in special programs and who cannot read very well to a normal student who actually passed the state requirements and graduated with skills. I knew a kid once who could read very little but could take an engine apart and repair it. Why not a vocational diploma?
The teacher walkout will strip the schools of their substitute budget if they stay open and will hugely inconvenience parents who will have an instant babysitting problem. Education will be disrupted. A strike is a bad idea and the parents will suffer. It’s not fair to the parents or the students.
I am amazed that the teachers are taking the side of the existing order when a change would so obviously assist them and their students. The school districts should cut spending in the nonacademic areas and reallocate the funds to the classrooms and teacher salaries. No more free cars, no more administrative travel, no more free memberships, no more free insurance while others pay, just come to work like the rest. Pay for your own expenses. I think no more than 20% should go to administration: after all, that is one fifth of the whole budget to how many people? Maybe that’s too much.
I have heard board members state that good administrative candidates are expensive, while ignoring the local dedicated professionals who would do the job better for less money because they actually care about the job, rather than commanding excessive money in a display of puffery and greed. Whatever happened to dedication? Hire the dedicated, rather than the social climbers and the kickback takers from huge building deals brokered with tax money. The teachers are being manipulated to support a position detrimental to their own stated goals.
Is it the unions? Professional agitators? I think the unions push for the status quo where their reps get free time, a gift of public funds to do union ‘business’ and it has been my experience that the teachers’ unions work closely with administration while maintain their own perks and status. The teachers need to accept new leadership and understand that their position will be augmented by a new spending formula.
If some changes in the spending formula are not implemented, the Charter School Movement will gradually overtake the public schools, siphoning off students until the size of the districts will be diminished.
A few suggestions:
· Divest of the huge schools and form smaller, safer, local schools.
· Use private enterprise buildings for schools
· Cut out busing and use the local bus system, which needs financial support
· Expand course offerings through internet classes
· Institute a State Curriculum without which a school may not receive state student funds
· Phase out the top heavy administration and limit administrative salaries and perks
· Institute a school district spending formula that assures the money gets to students and teachers
The educational scene has changed considerably due to the rise of Charter Schools and school choice. The voucher program should be available to all students, however I know it is a pilot program but the choice should be available to all, even in a pilot program. It smacks of favoritism, otherwise. If it’s not for everyone, it will not pass. The unions are afraid of the voucher idea, because they think it will cause a flight from the public schools.
The public school teachers are going to get a spending formula imposed and they may end up with a voucher program that will cut enrollment in the public schools due to parental dissatisfaction. If they’re looking for a job, then they can apply to the nearest politicized school to continue working…..they may find the parents are actually interested in their children learning to judge for themselves, rather than repeating adult slogans. –Dorothy Prater Niemi