Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the day “November 1, 2012”

California Education: The Money Pit – Roger Ingalls

Once again Californians are being asked to fork over more money for education. Governor Brown, teachers and many special interests are promoting Prop 30 in an attempt to convince us to pay higher taxes so more funds get funneled to education. I believe, like many others, this is asking us to throw money into the toilet.

The education system is archaic and dysfunctional and throwing more money its way is not going to fix the problem. The whole system must be overhauled. The biggest hurdles preventing education reform are the stakeholders within the system. They will not participate in activities that involve change because they’re not familiar with competition and accountability. It’s easier to say, “think of the children, think of their future” and then ask for more money. If the extra funding actually improved a child’s education, I’d be all for it but it doesn’t. Instead, the money is wasted on a top-heavy system designed over 100 years ago.

If I were king of education, the system would reflect the realities of today. Here’s a partial list of changes:

1)      Every school does not need a principal and vice principal. If one CEO can run a multi-national company employing 10,000 people, certainly one principal with two vice principals can handle at least 10 local schools. This change alone would save $200,000,000 per year. There are many other non-teaching positions that can be consolidated and redeployed to improve efficiency. We would save in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars a year which could then be redirected into actual classrooms.

2)      Quit buying printed text books or at least 90% of them. This is a massive waste of money and the only reason this practice continues is due to lobbyist and special interest group that are hired by book printers to protect their for-profit companies. The yearly US market for textbook is approximately $8 billion. With California representing roughly 10% of the US population, the state could realize a yearly savings of more $500,000,000 by moving to an e-book strategy. What’s more important to the State’s education system, profits for big business or educating students?

3)      Here comes the controversial change. Toss out the militaristic kindergarten to 12th grade hierarchy (K-12). The K-12 format does not fit today’s student demographic. Teachers are now expected to handle special needs (physical and mental disabilities), language and cultural barriers as well as kids with disciplinary issues. With such student diversity, few on them are properly served. We need a system that fits the environment. Students should be grouped in class by knowledge level per subject, language and other needs and not by age. Teachers would be assigned to a class based on subject knowledge at a particular level, language fluency and other skills. Students would graduate from a subject level at their own learning pace. This would ensure that fast learners are not stifled and others aren’t advanced based on age or defined time period. Teachers would become specialists at a defined knowledge level and students would advance based on ability. This system would be more efficient for both teacher and student.

I’m voting no on Prop 30. California doesn’t need more money for schools; it needs to overhaul the education system.

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