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What price we pay for incompetent education

By James Hall
web posted May 6, 2002

Many Americans would contend that few areas of public policy are more important than the education of our children. For those who are ardent supporters of the public schools, they will go to any lengths to defend the system. Some even live in a world where they claim that the structure and institution is not broken. Well, reality has a cruel way of setting the record straight. Public education has become government schooling by the ignorant, administered by the incompetent. We all know about lower performance and 'PC' curriculum but what about the systemic ineptitude?  Embedded in the very composition of its organization are the kind of  personnel that create and perpetuate this bureaucratic tragedy. Learn about one such nightmare.

Rochester, New York has long taken pride in their educational standards. But during the recent decade, a decline in leadership and vision has taken a grave toll on the entire community; especially upon the public schools. The Gannett press is seldom known for its balanced reporting, but in this case they even admit the facts.

"Eight years ago, when Mayor William A. Johnson Jr. took office, city funds made up 40 percent of the City School District's annual budget.

Now city funds make up less than a quarter of the annual school budget.

Johnson has essentially frozen the city's share to the school district since taking office in 1994, maintaining that Rochester's contribution is extremely generous and that the school district typically receives plenty of state funds to bolster its budget."

According to the Democrat and Chronicle, the City School District teaches more than 37,000 students with the highest per-pupil costs, $11,245 per student in Monroe County.

Superintendent Clifford B. Janey, administers this school district. But he claims a pre-K through adult student population of 55,000. No wonder that the taxpayer has concerns with the head man, responsible for the bean count says: "he has to eliminate $68 million dollars in spending and to expect major changes."  If he can't get the student count right, how can he administer a budget?

The process to enact a school budget has grown complicated and convoluted.  But that does not discharge officials of their duty, nor does it absolve parents and citizens of holding them accountable. This next summary tells the entire tale - What went wrong with school budget.

The lesson is that we have a ruined educational edifice, when politicians and 'so called' professional educators, can systematically allow costs, performance and purpose to get totally out of control.

Remember all those promises that the lottery would save government education? Now Albany Lottery Division officials, report record sales - $4.6 billion dollars in fiscal 2001-2002, with revenues topping $1.5 billion dollars - in the recently completed fiscal year. Where is the beef? Where are the results? Each year the decay grows while the salaries swell. Intelligent and sincere citizens can only look with disgust at the instructors, who have achieved majors, in - incompetence.

So what is the response of Dr Janey to this shortfall in funds? Here is his creative solutions to the never ending problem: Some of Janey's proposal includes eliminating 945 positions from top administrators and teachers, to maintenance workers. Some of these positions would be absorbed through retirement and attrition. Have we not heard that before and all we get is the same failed cosmetic make-overs, when the patient is really gasping for air, while on life support?

The need for real reform is so obvious, that only the most severely brain dead will continue to defend the current system. During a recent cruise, a veteran of the Buffalo School District pleaded the benefits and enhancements that are now part of the improved public schools system. When she was challenged to use the correct term - government schools, her demeanor turned defensive. Let us hope that the shortfall in the Buffalo budget, will result in turning that old mare out to pasture. The problem of inept personnel is not confined just to Dr Janey's staff. It infects the entire unholy union of secular humanist teachers, their enablers on every level of administration, all the politicians that endorse these policies and the public who puts up with this fraud.

We all know that more money cannot fix this broken machine. Robert Franciosi, the author of No Voice, No Exit has it correct: "The standard prescriptions for fixing what is wrong with America's schools - spending more, lowering class size, raising teachers' salaries - cannot be relied on to deliver consistent results."

If parents, especially mothers want a better life for their children, they need to grow up themselves. Emotional appeals not to cut staff and eliminate social engineering programs, must stop. The present  socialization scheme deserves to die, and very soon. The implosion of the current pitiful method is desirable. The alternative model exists that can restore justifiable confidence into the education of our most precious children.

James Hall, AKA Sartre, is the driving force behind Breaking all the Rules, a collection of his essays.

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