Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Education and Big Government

As a parent, educator, and fiscal conservative let me reply with a resounding, "Hear, hear!" to this article at Tech Central Station. Public schools are on average aweful. I do not doubt that the majority of teachers in the K-12 grades are dedicated, hard working, and care about thier students. We all remember a teacher who has made a positive impact in our lives. Pouring more money down the pit of codified beauracracy changes nothing for the better for our kids. From the column:
The only real measure of success is not how much we are spending but whether we are getting the most bang for our bucks. American schools are already very well-funded. Moreover, there is little evidence that additional funding would much improve the quality of education.

In international comparisons of per-pupil expenditures, the U.S. ranks near the top of the list. According to OECD figures, the U.S. spends 78 percent more per primary school student than Germany, 58 percent more than France, 31 percent more than Japan, and 71 percent more than the U.K. But despite these large spending differentials, American students perform no better than average on international comparisons of math and reading skills.

Comparisons over time reveal a similar story. From 1960 to 2000, inflation-adjusted spending on education in the U.S. nearly tripled, yet test scores show little improvement, dropout rates are high, and a large racial achievement gap persists.

Education economist Caroline Hoxby explains that public schools today are doing less with more: school productivity -- achievement per dollar spent -- declined by 55 to 73 percent from 1971 to 1999.

Clearly, money is not the issue. The column takes a crack at the answer: the NEA. Ah yes, unions. Why? I think because unions do little for thier members these days. A teacher I know once worked around her union to broker a deal on behalf of teachers with her school district because the union wouldn't. Once negotiations were underway the unions seemed to think it had bigger fish to fry than being sure teachers and librarians in the school district were shuffled so Mrs. Benowitz was able to stay one more school year to get her pension. Then there is this story from back in March. Key graf:
The WEA Children's Fund will mark its 10th anniversary in January, and, by almost every measure, it has been an unqualified success. From a small start, the fund has grown to provide $50,000 a year for such things as warm coats, new shoes and basic school supplies to thousands of students who otherwise would go without. By making one phone call, any WEA member can access the fund to meet modest and immediate needs of students they work with.

So what's not to like about a program that makes it quick and easy for educators to make an important difference in the lives of children? Alas, a great many of the receipts members submit for reimbursement are for purchases from Wal-Mart, whose exploitative labor practices have added to public assistance burdens in our state and across the nation.

Alas, the teachers reciepts were from Wal-Mart? Isn't the issue teachers helping students? Marsha Richards at Sound Politics had this to say about the article:

So the Children's Fund Board decided last week to refuse reimbursement to teachers who get bargain coats, hats and shoes at Wal-Mart. The union has long tried to bully its members into boycotting the company for what it calls "exploitative labor practices" and I translate to "a refusal to unionize employees."

Seems a lot of WEA members aren't on board with the boycott.

And one more irony: While the union can be commended for administering the Children's Fund, most of the donations come from private contributors and charities. Even if the WEA did shell out $50,000 for the children, that's a whopping .2% (two-tenths of one percent) of the union's annual $25 million grab from Washington teachers.

This post is not a wholly union bashing post because the unions are aided and abetted by the Compassionate Conservative himself, President Bush. No Child Left Behind is pork, pork, pork. The TCS article calls for the GOP to remember it's core values of fiscal restraint. I say this: the GOP contenders for 2008 should talk about real education reform and not just school vouchers. Talk to any parent of school age children and they will agree that public schools are terrible these days, and it isn't the average teacher that is to blame. Talk about the increase in spending and the lack of results, target the unions and the beauracracy be realistic about NCLB. Unions will paint any reformer as a cold hearted miser who doesn't care about 2nd grade teachers and children but if the candidate keeps on message it will be understood by those who deal with the school districts.

The next few elections will be about the War on Terror and the reformation of Big Government, the GOP seems to be doing fine with the former and spineless on the latter.

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