Thursday, June 16, 2005

Good Lord, McClintock Actually Wrote Something Intelligent!

Good Lord, McClintock Actually Wrote Something Intelligent!

California State Senator Tom McClintock recently wrote a thought-provoking and effective piece of agitprop.

Looking at the issue of the educational system, McClintock conducts a clever thought experiment to determine whether our schools are spending our money wisely.

He creates a hypothetical 180 child school, and gives it the Governator's proposed budget of $1.2 million.

Then he proceeds to show how you can lease luxury office space to house the school, hire associate professors from the Cal State University system to teach the students, pay for all their books, pay for gym memberships to replace PE, and add in an $80K administrator and $40K secretary to boot. The annual cost (including benefits)? A tick over $1 million.

Since I hate to give either major political party an unfair amount of space in this blog, I would love for one of my faithful readers to locate a more progressive take on education spending that refutes this simplistic, but seemingly effective thought experiment.

Otherwise, I might be forced to admit that, at least in this one small matter, I agree with McClintock, which is a pretty frightening thought!


MJ said...

It's a pretty good column. I don't know enough about ed admin to know whether it's viable or just overly simplistic. But it's a good excercise. Schools do waste a huge amount of money.

Some comments:
- 180 seems like a pretty small school. The average school in NYC, for example, has an $8 Mn operating budget and serves many, many more pupils.
- 180 kids in 5 classrooms is 36 kids/class. I'm assuming this is a middle-school or high-school, since there's only one teacher per class. Typically in elementary schools there are more.
- A couple of things missing:
- School nurse
- Cafeteria
- Library/Librarian (hopefully, there is a public one, or at least a big-ass BN nearby).
- daily transportation/busing

I'm sure there are other issues here, but that's all I can think of right now.

Ben Casnocha said...

Ah, the effect of hyperbole....

McClintock is usually a nut, yep.

Anonymous said...

To start with the $6,900 is closer to what most school districts get per child than the $10,000 figure. Some of that has to go to the school district administration. There have to be staff available to manage the budget, do the payroll, handle the insurance, find substitute teachers when someone wakes up with the flu, etc. So this figure is reduced by 3-5% depending on the district.

This is a very small school. Obviously it has no K-3 students at 20 or less per classroom. And no Special Education classes limited to 12 students per classroom.

There is no librarian. California schools have the lowest rate of student to certificated school librarians in the nation. And no money for library books, magazines, or software for the computers.

There no money for a school nurse. This nurse doesn't just put bandaids on skinned knees, but does mandated testing for hearing and visual problems. Plus a growing number of our young students have diabetes and asthma. The services they need can only be administered by a school nurse.

There is no counselor. California has the lowest ratio of counselors to students in the nation.

Does this office building that he is talking about meet the Field Act Standards, required by law for most public schools? How safe would the children be in case of an earthquake?

If this is an elementary school, there is no provision for a playground. If it is a secondary school, a gym membership will not provide playing space for team sports. Also there is no transportation to the gym or accountability that children actually use it.

Speaking of accountability, where is the funding to pay for all of the state and federally mandated testing? These test have to be purchased and the grading paid for.

There is no provision for music, no music room or teacher. No rooms set aside for science labs. Remember, under the No Child Left Behind Act, every teacher must be credentialed in the subject they teach.

No funding for a cafeteria or cafeteria workers. No funding for security or for playground supervision. Teachers do need a lunch time break.

I could go on. This is typical McClintock over simplification.

Chris said...

Many thanks to Joanne Leavitt for providing a detailed critique of McClintock's piece. It's clear that he is oversimplifying the issues.

The intererting follow up question is, to what extent are our rules and regulations handicapping our school system by increasing its costs and overhead?

Joanne said...

Chris, this is obviously a problem. There are over 100 categorical programs, some 20 that have been collapsed into block grants, but still far too many.

While some are worthy mandates, such as the requirement to provide services to students with special needs, far too many are too narrowly limited. Plus it takes a great deal of time to see if you qualify for many of these, then complete the application and provide the documentation.