Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Time to Gore the Sacred Cow of "Education" . . .

Headlining the Local Section of Yesterday's Observer-Dispatch was this AP story: "N. Y. Senate coalition vows to reject school aid cuts." A "new coalition" of upstate and suburban Democrat senators (including local Senator Valesky) are going to join Republican senators to refuse Gov. Paterson's proposed mid-year 4.5% cut in school aid. Assemblyman Townsend struck a similar note in last week's Utica Daily News.

Last week we also saw this school-related headline: Stacking cups toward world record.

Providing education, undoubtedly, is one of the more important functions of government. Parents want their children to be knowledgeable about the world around them, to be able to make sound decisions, to be able to cope with daily life, and to be able to earn a living. Society requires a citizenry that is sufficiently educated to lead and run its many institutions -- which maintain order, which supply everyday needs, and which maintain security. Education is so important that, for some, it is worth whatever price is placed upon it. . . . But is it worth the price that we are actually paying? And is what we are getting what we think we are paying for?

The cup-stacking story suggests NO on both counts. . . . as did the Pinwheels for Peace, "Pajamas, Pep Rallies and Posters", Yoga, volunteer celebration, and Kernan Kidz at Kollege stories of the recent past (among others). Schools are not the places of learning that they once were.

As noted last month ("Knowledge Is (Still) Power") teaching methodologies and objectives have been drastically changed, necessitating ever increasing levels of staff while producing lower returns.

Let's not forget the huge "stimulus" package by former Gov. Patacki for massive school construction all across the state that will put $300 million into Utica schools alone. Imagine the cost of this program as it is replicated all across the state.

The importance of "education" has been co-opted by special interests, including the Teachers Union, Construction Workers Union, publishers, contractors, and architects, to enrich some while advancing the political interests of others.

Midyear cuts to education can and should be made. We can do without a few cups to stack. In fact, Midyear is the BEST time to do it because school districts will not be able to ask for money from their local taxpayers for months. Needed cuts in staff and nonsense programs will have to be made. . . .and maybe the idea will sink in that one can accomplish more with less IF the right choices are made.

The education "sacred cow" has run roughshod over the taxpayers for years. It is time that it is gored.


Anonymous said...

I think your post is interesting and the cost of education will continue to go up even where enrollment declines. The populist politicians will cater to the teachers and administrators because there is much money, power and a growing voting block there. A vicious cycle continues. The only school with increasing enrollment is Utica.

Greens and Beans said...

The problem with midyear school cuts in the district where I reside is the nonsense “cup stacking, pinwheel messages, pajama pep rallies and yoga” all seem to be prioritized over academics. I believe this is largely due to the apathetic majority of residents who fail to participate in school functions and school politics. The parents, who support these types of special events, make it their business to become active in School District business and functions. But the parents (most of them being single working parents) who feel that the focus of a school district should be academics, are relatively inactive when it comes to School affairs. This is how academics take a back seat to other special activities that seem to have infiltrated today’s American academia.

When school districts find the need for volunteers, these “special interest” parents (also chronicled as the “soccer moms”) are the ones who step up to help. Not to alienate this valuable pool of volunteers, school Administrators will become very reluctant to cut any of these seemingly nonsensical programs and events. This is where the Administrators find it self-serving to form an allegiance with this compact nucleus of special interest group parents in a “one hand washes the other” relationship. The special interest parent cliques, teacher and school employee union organizations, and the Administrators will band together to push out anyone who opts to run for a School Board seat that is not a charter member of one of these self perpetuating groups.

The student eventually pays for the dysfunctional path of the failing American education system. It does not take long for the American college student to discover that they are at a distinct disadvantage when compared to their foreign student counterparts who easily excel academically. Ultimately American society suffers as multinational corporations look to discount the dysfunctional American national graduates who find it impossible to cognitively compete with foreign graduates.

1. Think of the tax dollars that would be saved if the State were to mandate that all school districts who have a student population less than 1000 would have to dissolve and consolidate into larger districts.
2. Charter Schools (with the usage of the voucher system) should be better investigated as an option to better serve the student. It has become a major contributor with the successful rebuilding of the New Orleans School System.

Anonymous said...

As in all enterprise, labor is the highest cost of the government. But, unlike the trend in the private sector, the public employee unions, including the teachers, are as the post points out burying the taxpayer. And, when one looks at the cost/benefit ratio of public eduaction, there is no justification for the numbers of positions or the salary levels. The political clout of public employees in both parties in New York State and in our area is overwhelming, to date. None of our representatives have the political guts or will to tackle the unions. The question is whether or not a candidate is electable while challanging public employee unions. Given that and a couple of other circumstances, I think not. And, therein lies the disaster of the state and area.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet UCSD officials are wringing their hands over the cuts. After all, where is the money going to come from to pay for all the high priced {$70,000/yr. plus}, administrators that the district, yr. after yr. keeps saddling the taxpayers with? Not to mention social workers, nurses, & all the other dead weight. All "for the students", my arse.

Anonymous said...

Very good... the important thing to know is that we are NOT getting a return on investment... in Texas they continue to vote UP their school budget, but that's because they see results. I've spoken to my friends in Texas and they ask me why we keep trying to vote down our budgets, and I explain to them what's going on... their jaws would drop, and they say that they'd vote down the budget also if the same thing happened there.

Greens and Beans said...

We are miserably failing our students to bolster the salaries of the school district employee elite. Whenever our school district was forced to make cuts (mostly due to a defeated school budget vote) the school administration would first opt to cut transportation to students who reside within one mile of their school. The point here is to upset the parents into voting for a bad budget in the next round of voting. The administration also would also make cuts to the sports programs. This energized the sports boosters into action in terms of prompting them to get the YES vote out to support the bad budget. Mid-term school cuts will only cause the administration to raise school taxes to insure that these cuts will not take place. I can guarantee that the school administration would NEVER allow any revenue sharing cuts to endanger their $100,000 plus salaries or the $80,000 plus teacher salaries. And folks, these are conservative salary projections. After FOILing the school district employee salaries, I was astonished just how high some of the salaries were for only nine months of work. The payoff is the dismal literacy rate of our high school graduates. That’s right . . . some of our high school grads have NEVER read a complete book from cover to cover. And they graduate only to flunk out of their first semester of community college.

Matthew K. Tabor said...

Greens and Beans,

If you haven't seen SeeThroughNY, give it a look - loads of information, including all salaries, is available:

Saves lots of FOIL requests.

Anonymous said...

The average taxpayer has no idea of the numbers of positions involved and the salary level, particularly when benefits are factored in. The media does not cover these matters. In fact, when dealing with all public sector salaries, benefits are never calculated by the OD. I'd love to see comparisons with the past on a cost per student basis factoring in both administrators and teachers.

Greens and Beans said...

Thank You! Matthew K. Tabor for the web site “SeeThroughNY” at It is super. And it will save a lot of FOILs too. Now if we can only get them to stop their lying on other issues.
Thanks Again