I am truly grateful for the professionalism and caring attitudes of our local-level government educators who work very hard on a day-to-day basis. If they were not strangled by political correctness and hamstrung by bureaucratic red tape, they could educate our children and do it for less money than we now spend.
I also am truly grateful that our teachers are not unionized, as is the case in several states. The unionized states don’t enjoy any better outcomes, but have the pleasure of spending 15 to 20 percent more in taxes to obtain the same, or worse, results.
IF EDUCATION OF our young people were left up to your county school board members, school superintendents, principals and teachers – along with involvement and input from parents – our children would stand a chance at obtaining an excellent education.
Instead, taxpayers pay the vast cost of layer upon layer of government intrusion into the educational systems that used to provide an excellent quality education.
A powerful federal education bureaucracy is relatively new. The U.S. Department of Education, in its current form, did not start really working until 1980. It was created as a payback to the education unions by President Carter and congressional Democrats in power in 1978.
Their reason for existence is supposed to be to help educate our children. Some of the people employed in those departments sincerely try to do that. But sadly, that is not their end result as a whole.
In the end, they create layers upon layers of sticky, cumbersome and sometimes irrelevant rules and regulations that demand school-level employees do things a certain way, regardless what is right for the child, the teacher, the school or the communities they serve. In fact, those agencies are essentially a slick way to grow government, and increase their intrusion into all our lives.
A little-known problem is the relationship between the state Department of Education and local boards of education. The state sends funds to local school boards based on various formulas and calculations. Those formulas and methods are very difficult to understand and almost impossible to predict. And there are thousands of state rules and regulations that accompany the money.
TO MAKE MATTERS even worse, the state funds are not adequate to pay the teachers or build the buildings needed to carry out the mission. Local taxpayers are called upon to fill the gaps. And local taxpayers pay far more for educational funding than they do to fund other county-level services, such as fire and police protection.
Cuts in local education funding are announced constantly, and local school boards struggle to make ends meet. Somehow taxpayers at the local, state and federal levels have not received cuts in what they pay in taxes, while the overall spending per student continues to rise. Nationally, per-student spending has gone up 400 percent, after adjusting for inflation, since 1980. That is an incredible increase.
Consider the recent budgets at the federal level. The U.S. Department of Education, according to its own website, put the 2009 budget at $32 billion. It grew to $56 billion in 2010, and to $71 billion in 2011. Is that a cut? That is more than doubling in just two years.
In our area, the special-purpose local option sales tax for education passes every time. Usually it is not even close. Have your property taxes gone down? Have state or federal income taxes gone down? Have sales taxes gone down? Yet, you constantly hear that funding to schools has gone down. Has spending per pupil gone down?
The answer is “no” to all of the above.
The needs of our most gifted students go unmet while we spend two to three times more on children who disrupt classes, choose not to learn and, in many cases, manage to hold back entire classes from reaching their full potential. All of this is politically correct, but devastating to the general school population.
THE BOTTOM LINE is that the explosive growth of government school bureaucracy, government regulations and government intrusion into the lives of all of us has grown exponentially under both conservative and liberal administrations. This is the case regardless of who controls Congress, state legislatures and governors’ mansions.
Please hold elected officials at all levels to a high standard in proper use of our funds. Also, s
upport our local educators as
they do the best they can considering all the absurd government
and legal regulations they must follow, to the detriment of our children and their educational outcomes.
Let’s get back to letting teachers teach.
(The writer – the owner of a local pest-control business – was a trustee of the Richmond County Board of Education from 1994 to 1998.)