Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The 'Education' Black Hole . . .

I like Sen. Chuck Schumer. He looks out for us up here in Upstate. Philosophically, however, I disagree with a lot of the things he pushes. . . . like more federal money for education as he proposed this week.
Governor Paterson and Senator Schumer say, if they get their way, billions of dollars in federal help will prevent massive teacher lay-offs in New York and keep local property taxes from increasing. . . .

New York's senior senator wants one-third of that money to be used for tax cuts, another third to pay for infrastructure, and another third to go to the states with a special focus on helping Medicaid and education.

Schumer explains, "If you add our state and local budgets, education is the largest expenditure in New York State with good reason: it's our future."

We can speculate on what education means to "our future," but what ever-increasing education spending has meant to our present requires no speculation: Excessive school taxes have driven all the good jobs away ... We are broke ... and our children seem to know increasingly less of what matters than they did in the past.

The problem is that we are spending too much on education . . . The money has been so easy for self-serving bureaucrats to extract from taxpayers (because it's allegedly for "our future") that it goes toward a lot of distractions. Almost any kind of experience that our children can be exposed to is sold as "education." The latest technological gadgetry is 'education.' Artificial turf is 'education.'
Even eating is sold as 'education' . . .

Today we read that Utica elementary students may receive free breakfast.
The district is considering applying for a program to offer free breakfast to all elementary school students beginning as soon as the next school year. . . .

Kernan Magnet Elementary School Principal Henry Frasca said the program is a tremendous idea.

“There is a lot of research out there on how proper nutrition and having a breakfast can make you ready to learn,” he said.
Ah yes . . . those Krazy Kernan Kidz . . . (and I'm talking about the Kernan administrators, not the students). . . It's anything BUT the "3Rs" in that school.

Let's cut the money available to education. . . . Some overdue pruning of our so-called "education" programs just might produce the real "education" growth that we seek.


Anonymous said...

I know this has little to do with the emphasis of this particular blog but it does touch on it from a state tax angle. I have just received a directive which states that we are going to have money left in our '08-'09 budget.?!! (yes I admit it - I am a state employee - there I said it) We were told to come up with a list of wants (not needs) asap, so that we can spend this money before the end of March (the States fiscal year-end). What's that old definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result - or something like that. Well this is just more of the same old same old !!

Not only are people unwilling to put up with the difficulties that would come with making cuts, they want to continue on just as they always have, or as Strike has pointed out - they want to expand programs. Talk never fixed anything. Action is needed and that's just too unpopular for our politicians to risk stepping out of their comfort zone. Everyone wants to see things improve, everyone knows it will take some sacrifice, but no one wants it to be their slice of pie that gets smaller.


clipper said...

I am in favor of cutting some programs from education budgets, but Strike, I have to defend to a certain extent the idea of providing breakfast in school for all elementary students.

Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day, and eating breakfast IS a factor in a kid's ability to pay attention and learn.

It is not just a charity item for poor kids. Todays families are comprised in most cases of two working parents, or only one parent period. Parents often go to work before kids leave for school. Households are probably a flurry of panic and chaos in the mornings with everyone trying to get out the door to school and work.

I think providing breakfast is much more important, and would be a much better investment of my tax money, than some of the other so called "extra curricular" activities we pay for now. Just an opinion and a different point of view from an older individual that seldom ate breakfast as a school aged kid.

Greens and Beans said...

I agree with Strikeslip in terms of New York’s Education is out of control in so many ways. The cost of education here in New York State does little to promote the actual educating of our students in the three R’s. The State of New York is taxing itself out of existence. School taxes are at the pinnacle of the problem. The New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief has filed a report in favor of school district consolidation. The December 23, 2008 report sets out to dampen the excessive tax burden placed on us by the excessive number of wasteful school districts. ( In the body of the report the Commission places the blame of this excessive tax burden squarely on the disproportionate costs of the administrator compensation in these individual school districts. Unfortunately, education has been placed on the back burner of these school districts in order to protect the tenure of the administrators. These school districts are little more than fiefdoms that protect those who collect excessive compensation.

I disagree with Strikeslip and his confidence that Senator Chuck Schumer is actively looking out for upstate concerns. Our two U.S. Senators from NY seem to be placing a fa├žade on their concerns for upstate issues. They, unlike the more willingly honest downstate Congressman Gary Ackerman, who stated that “I don’t do Utica,” they don’t really do Utica/Rome either. In Senator Hillary Clinton’s farewell speech to the U.S. Senate she chronicled the accomplishments she acquired for upstate. She was particularly proud of the work to “. . . target investments, from bioinformatics in Buffalo to cultural icons like the Stanley Theater in Syracuse.” ( Hillary has no clue that the Stanley Performing Arts Theater is actually located in Utica and not in Syracuse. Senator Chuck Schumer has made a similar mistake in the past chronicled on this very blog. When they do show up in this area it is a “drive-by” photo opportunity to make an announcement and then is whisked away ASAP. This is why Senator Hillary Clinton’s Senate replacement should be appointed from an upstate candidate. Nevertheless I realize that downstate affluence will more than likely dictate that our unelected “Lame Duck” Governor will politically appoint the next Kennedy to represent New York State in the U.S. Senate. By the way, this candidate actually snubbed the Utica/Rome area when touring the upstate communities this past fall. What does this tell us?

Onjeesun actually knows how New York State handles departmental budget operations. There is little to no internal auditing, in terms of active budgetary controls over year to year disbursements. Some departments will budget for one time expenditures, and then have them replicated for all future budgets. (Example: A department may have to cover the cost for a onetime expense to provide office furniture and additional office supplies for newly added staff. Then this apparent onetime expenditure will be replicated for ALL subsequent budgets. The staff is requested to spend down this additional funding every year or have this money cut in subsequent budgets. The trustworthy department administrators/managers are expected to eliminate the onetime additional expenses from their subsequent budgets, but with little to no chance of an internal audit, they unethically opt to have this additional funding added to their subsequent budgets.) This is the scam how administrators and managers unethically inflate their departmental budgets. The correct procedure is to have the additional funds vaporize in subsequent budgets. Then, in future budgets, if additional operational expenses for the new staff members are justified, the manager is expected to request for these expenses to be added to all future budgets. But this is rarely done because it is easier to have the added funds simply spent down from year to year. Only in instances of blatant impropriety are audits conducted and criminal charges are sometimes leveled upon the unsuspecting departmental managers and administrators who claim ignorance to any knowledge of proper accounting and budget practices. This is one reason why New York State government is ushering itself into fiscal trouble. This condition begs for reform.