Southern Man

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Southern Man hears a lot of noise about the underfunding of public education. Indeed, Glorious Leader has just promised to hire 10,000 more math and science teachers. Being a math and science guy, this may be good for Southern Man's future employment prospects should he decide to depart higher education for lower. This of course is contingent on his ability to convince a prospective employer that his graduate degrees in nuclear physics and computer science and twenty-odd years of university experience actually qualify him to teach math and science in the public schools.

However, according to the Cato Institute the reality is a bit different:

Over the last thirty years, inflation-adjusted cost of K-12 education has increased tenfold, yet test scores in language, math and science remain flat. So the solution is to pour even more money into our public schools?

And where did that money go? The following graph illustrates:

Southern Man remembers his public schooling in the 1970s - a building with one principal, one assistant principal, one secretary, a few custodians, and a host of teachers, some of whom doubled as counselors. Today teachers make up less than half the employees of a school district; Southern Man's teen daughter goes to a school that has more employees in the student attendance office than managed his entire high school. But those administrators and teachers have job security that are the envy of the rest of us: annual turnover is less than a tenth of that in private industry, where one must actually demonstrate continual value to an employer to keep one's job.

Southern Man has a plan to fix public education, and it looks like this:

  • Fire all but the most essential administrators. Yes, Southern Man realizes that every administrator believes that he or she is essential. Hate to tell you, but it just ain't so. Require all administrators to have substantial teaching experience and cap salaries to that of the highest-paid teachers.

  • Incorporate voucher programs to encourage growth of private schools. Public schools will whine and fuss but they always improve - often dramatically - when forced to compete with private schools.

  • Eliminate school districts and allow school choice to encourage competition between public schools.

  • Adopt double tracks in high school: college preparation and vocational training. We need to stop pretending that every little snowflake is potential college material.

  • Outsource infrastructure such as HR and groundskeeping; the private sector is much more efficient at these things than the public.

  • Abolish tenure and add regular testing and other evaluations to eliminate ineffective teachers and reward good ones.

  • Require teachers in grades 6-12 to hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree in the subjects they teach with significant salary incentives for graduate degrees in teaching areas. Sorry, no brownie points for that "Master of Liberal Arts" so popular with the administration crowd.

  • Use the money saved on administration cuts to increase teacher salaries across the board.
Trimming the fat, voucher programs, and school choice will force schools to compete for students and for the best teachers. Offering higher salaries coupled with genuine job performance reviews and rewards for solid credentials will attract and keep better teachers at the higher grade levels. A return to vocational training (an unintended casualty of No Child Left Behind) will ensure that students will be prepared for something more than flipping burgers after graduation. Administrators and poor teachers will hate it; students and parents and good teachers will rejoice.

Hat tip to PowerLine, who in turn tips Instapundit but without linking to the original post.


At Thursday, October 07, 2010, Blogger Becoming Beautiful said...

I really like all of these ideas for education. Vocational training should be promoted on a much broader level.


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