Sunday, March 16, 2008

Follow the Money

A vigorously participated comment thread here (thank you, all) on the home-school ruling, inspired us to seek wisdom and knowledge from Pops, BwD’s elder statesman, provider of the chili recipe and all-around sage. The issue of funding started popping up at the end of the thread – Mongo has 3 friends himself that are being laid off as a result of budget cuts in Sacramento and at least two of them were forced to pay for basic school supplies out of their own pocket, an anecdote we here far too often.

B-Daddy suggested that while the classroom may be underfunded, the education system itself (memorialized from here on out as "Big Ed") is not. While overhead is unavoidable in any organization the current funding of 25-person classrooms in California at $275,000/year would certainly suggest that the teachers should not have to be purchasing pencils and papers for their students.

Pops' thoughts on the matter as follows:

My encounter with educational bureaucracy wasn't much of a big deal. After my retirement, subbing sounded like a good way to add a few bucks without jeopardizing my social security. I passed the CBEST (which is another story) and went the district office to sign up. I was told that it would cost me $180 to process my paper work. The whole idea of paying them to get a job really irritated me and I made an about face and walked out. I figured that they must not need math subs very badly.

I would like to weigh in on the idea that our schools are underfunded. It could be that the class rooms are underfunded but that is due to the fact that too large of a percentage of our school funding is being drained off by a bloated bureaucracy which has very little to do with providing a quality classroom experience.

There is a well known economic law that states that the number of administrative positions in an organization will increase over time independent of the useful function of the organization. This was first noted by an economist in the British Admiralty after WWI. The number of ships of line had decreased but the size of the Admiralty office had increased. At one point, there was a flu epidemic and the economist found that he had nothing to do. When he analyzed the situation, he realized that the organization spent its time generating paperwork that had to be reviewed by others creating an endless flow of "work."

My argument that the educational bureaucracy is for the most part useless lies in the fact the private schools operate entirely without an overriding bureaucracy and produce an equal or superior product. I am not familiar enough with our local government schools to know how many useless positions exist inside the schools, but there is a district office, a county office and state bureaucracy dedicated to paper pushing. The state bureaucracy has generated an educational code about four feet high. Somehow the private schools are able to operate without the bureaucracy or the code and therefore educate a child at lower cost.

Our former Secretary of Education, (Bill or Bob) Bennett used the example of the Chicago School system to make his point on needless bureaucracy. In Chicago, the government school system and the Catholic system are of approximately the same size. The government system has a cast of thousands overseeing their system. The entire Catholic system is overseen by a handful of priests and a few secretaries and produces a superior product.

The state of North Carolina is the only place that I have heard of that has taken the problem seriously. They restructured the state bureaucracy and provided more classroom dollars while cutting the total bill for education.

Thanks, Pops!

1 comment:

Road Dawg said...

Wow, "Hommies Dissed" really got heated. I suppose much of it was my fault for the sarcasm. I got sarcasm back, but I never understood Mongo's point. And my question was never answered.

Let's have an investigation on where the money is going. Who is lobbying on behalf of the teachers and why isn't the money getting to the teachers and students? How much of the money is being used by illegal immigrants? Whose constituency is the teachers lobby anyway? If you are part of that constituency, what are you doing to fix the mess?