I grew up on the northeast side of town. Thirty-some years ago I attended Aberdeen elementary school. So it was with some nostalgic interest I read about GRPS Superintendent Bert Bleke's plan to consolidate my alma mater with North Park elementary school because of the continued flight of students from the city's public schools. Where there were once six public schools for all the kids in my neighborhood -- Aberdeen, Riverside, Crestview, Wellerwood, North Park, and Huff -- there will now only be one. Oh well, if parents are sending their children elsewhere, Bleke's gotta shut down empty buildings, right?
Right. Thus his plan to consolidate that last two remaining elementary schools in the upper northeast end of the city. That's sensible enough, except that instead of using one of six empty buildings for the last of the students -- three or four of those schools aren't much older than I am -- Bleke wants to build a new school for them. The GRPS is near financial ruin, classroom performance is in the dumper, and students are bailing out of the district at a record pace. So Bleke's solution is to build more schools! Insanity.
This is the problem with teachers, principals, and administrators -- i.e., the educrats who rule over our public schools. They think money grows on trees. Worse, they have this strange sense of entitlement that the taxpayers always owe them more and more. Therefore, ingrained in the minds of the educrats are lunacies such as they are underpaid and that we greedy taxpayers are starving them of the funds they need to educate our little darlings. The fact is, our public schools are wallowing in tax dollars, most of which goes to pay the premium salaries and benefits of the educrats (who still can't get enough and double dip) and to construct new digs for them to drill our children in the latest p.c. nonsense.
Recently, Jay Greene and Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute completed a study that puts the lie to the propoganda that our public schools are impoverished. In the U.S. the federal and state governments spend nearly a half a trillion dollars for public education every year. That's more than we spend on the defense of our country during a shooting war. That spending averages out to $10,000 per K-12 student annually. Adjusted for inflation, that per student figure has doubled since I attended dear ol' Aberdeen School. Yet, achievement scores in math and reading remain flat over that period, while science and social study scores have fallen. Worse is that graduation rates have also dropped. Bottom line: The taxpayers keep spending more and more on education, and they get less and less.
And where does that money go? To fatter teacher salaries and benefits. The next time someone rants about how poorly public school teachers are paid, keep this in mind. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics collected by Greene and Winters the average pay for elementary school teachers is $30.75 an hour, not including benefits. Compare that to firemen who average only $17.91 or cops at $22.64 -- and they put their lives on the line for us. Among professionals Greene and Winters point out that teachers are better paid than biologists ($28.07), mechanical engineers ($29.76), and chemists ($30.68), and do almost as well as dentists ($35.51) and nuclear engineers ($36.16). Yet our public school teachers do not have to measure up to objective standards of performance like any of these other professionals do. With the solid grip their unions have on our public school systems, all teachers have to do to get paid better is stick around for a raise every year and in the meantime collect a next-to-useless masters or PhD in education. With an easy ride like that, no wonder teachers battle taxpayers against merit-pay proposals.
Among the educrats there is a complete disconnect between spending money on themselves and the effort taxpayers must expend to make that money. Only in the la-la land of the educrats can teachers think they are underpaid while receiving wages at a rate nearly double that of our firemen and can our very own Superintendent Bleke put forward nutty plans like constructing new schools in a shrinking system. I have to wonder if the only thing that'll remove the scales from their eyes is the widespread collapse of our public schools. After all there are only so many more dollars the taxpayers can feed the educrats while educrats in turn produce lousier results every year.
P.S. Read here for my caveats regarding the good apples in public education, the limits of what teachers can do, and the lack of causation between more money and better-educated students. That should address the routine complaints of my criticism of the public school system.