No Deficit Left Behind

, James F. Davis, Leave a comment

The dam has a huge hole and gushing leak.  Plugging only a part of the hole will not stop the dam from collapsing. It may slow down the collapse but as long as the water is pouring through, the dam will continue to collapse.

That is the situation our Federal, State and Local law makers find themselves in  as they start their legislative sessions this week. If they try to patch the problems, they will only get worse.

Bold moves are needed and they will be initially painful. That was the message I gave when I met with a number of my state legislators over the weekend.

One of the biggest expenditures in many state budgets is educational bureaucracies. They have an impressive record of failure. Educational standards have dropped precipitously over the past 45 years.

More bureaucratic layers of teacher supervision have weakened teacher control of their classrooms. There are many other factors that have contributed to this, but new methods of educational delivery pushed by the educational establishment are another big complaint of teachers.

I reviewed public school budgets for 20 years as a member of the Finance & Budget Committee when I was an elected representative. One year the Superintendent of Schools wanted more money to hire specialists for the ‘Whole Language’ approach to teaching reading. I had the audacity to ask “What evidence do you have that this method will enhance educational delivery?”

He replied that he was an “expert with a PhD in education and 30 years experience running the schools.” He pointed out that I had no credentials in teaching nor did I have a PhD.  I said “This is true, but I work in the private competitive sector and if I managed to have operating losses for 23 of the past 25 years, as you have had with student SAT scores, no one would consider me an expert, nor would I have kept my job that long.”

As it turned out, there were a lot more children who failed to learn to read at their grade level using the “Whole Language” approach. So a lot of higher paid reading specialists were hired. They tended to use the centuries old proven method of ‘phonics’ to teach reading and pronunciation until students caught back up to their grade level. So I suggested that the school go back to stressing phonics in the classroom and use the rest of the whole language ideas if phonics did not work. That way reading proficiency would increase and we could save a whole lot of money by not needing to hire so many specialists to teach reading.

Given the budget deficits facing most governments, reducing substantially the educational bureaucracies, which are continually trying to reinvent the wheel at great cost, will leave more money available so we do not have to cut teaching staff and it will allow educational delivery to improve. It will also free up more time for teaching rather than having to comply with bureaucratic demands.

James F. Davis is the president of Accuracy in Academia.