Big government relentlessly torments and destroys our schools

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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.)

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Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 06/10/12 - 02:47 am
Big government, huh?

The combination of a powerful and self-serving educracy, mistrust between teachers and parents as well as a profound and widespread civic apathy- not big government- is destroying GAPubEd, Mr. Annis.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

southernguy08 06/10/12 - 07:27 am
Education being destroyed

Its a lot of things, namely the lowering of standards for student advancement and the power of the NEA. When we start demanding more from our kids, like they do in schools overseas, we'll see them producing more. But, with the current system in place, this just won't happen. And, since the NEA will fight tooth and nail against anything like school vouchers so that parents have a real choice for their kids, the problem won't be solved.

Kramer 06/10/12 - 07:44 am
Big government vs. education

Dr. Spinks is right, and so is Jeff Annis. Big, remote, intrusive educratic involvement serves to create that divide. And parental entitlement adds more. Civic apathy is due to the growing feeling that it is up to government to raise our children.

Rhetor 06/10/12 - 08:26 am
Politically speaking, the

Politically speaking, the column seems to blame this all on Jimmy Carter and the Dept of Education. Keep in mind, however, that the biggest government intrusion into schools is the No Child Left Behind law, which George W. Bush signed. President Obama has promised to moderate some of NCLB's more odious provisions, but he (regrettably) still supports its main requirements.

southernguy08 06/10/12 - 10:37 am
Good point, Rhetor

Especially the point that Obama is, once again, supporting something Bush put into place. Bush wasn't my favorite president, but I find it interesting how Obama blames him for all the problems the nation faces with him as president, and yet, look at all the things Bush did that Obama still supports. Not as much "change" as he promised.

socks99 06/10/12 - 02:52 pm
An added advantage of "local

An added advantage of "local control" would be the fact that the many local communities could try-out different ways of doing things. Counter-intuitively, the burden of top-down, one-size-fits-all bureaucratic "do-gooderism" often does more harm than good.

Why are our federal representatives not calling for the repeal of Federal education laws and dismantling of the federal educational bureaucracy?

Why are our state leaders and the state superintendent of schools not working everyday to dismantle the rafts of mandates, rules and laws that are now strangling our public schools?

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