Two unrelated articles show how the education of children comes last when dealing with the government education bureaucracy and the labor unions representing teachers. In San Diego, the unions and the district struck a deal yesterday to avoid 1,481 layoffs, according to the U-T.
Representing 7,000 teachers, the San Diego Education Association agreed to extend furloughs for a third and fourth year — once again shortening the school year for 118,000 students and cutting pay for educators.
The preliminary agreement includes a one-time financial retirement incentive in an effort to nudge the most senior teachers off the payroll this year. It also lays the groundwork for shaving 14 more days off the 2012-13 academic year should Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike initiative fail in the November election.
This is no bargain for children’s education. The teachers are getting paid less because they are working less. Further, we don’t know how many of the jobs saved are teacher positions. We could continue this trend and have children have zero days of school but still end up with a huge tab from the government school system. Neither the district nor the union have the courage to address the real problem, the large number of non-teachers on the payroll in the form of administrators. My research from 2010 showed that the ratio of teachers to other staff in San Diego schools was about 1.25 to 1. Chicago Catholic Schools have a ratio closer to 7 to 1. The reason we don’t get much for our education dollar is the huge number of non-teaching staff members. Further, reducing the number of days in school reduces learning for children as is documented in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers. The government and the unions seem intent on rigging the education system against children.
Meanwhile in New York, Governor Cuomo is ready to sign EMERGENCY legislation to prevent government teacher’s evaluation scores from becoming public knowledge, in spite of the fact that they are paid by the public.
Cuomo and the state’s powerful teachers’ unions have tried to limit the evaluations’ release to parents of children in a teacher’s class, without further dissemination. The bill also would prevent parents from seeing the evaluations of teachers they might want to avoid in future years, which could be more useful to parents than seeing an evaluation of their child’s current teacher, who they can’t change.
Of course they can’t. Unions want to protect poorly performing teachers from the consequences of their performance. Parental involvement in education improves childhood learning; but the government school system is rigged to deny parents meaningful influence. But any attempt to give parents a voice in the system will be vigorously opposed by the government employees unions.
I think widespread vouchers and privatization of the government run school system is the fastest way to fix education in the United States. But government run schools can work. In San Diego, we often hear of the Poway school system being highly desirable. In San Francisco, a series of reforms that give parents more choice and principals more authority, including budgeting and hiring, has greatly improved schools there. San Diego schools could vastly improve, by imitating reforms that have worked elsewhere and reducing non-teaching staff size.