Friday, March 26, 2004



I’ve been told many times that the main problem in K-12 education is that there’s a big battle for control of the schools. The players include administrators, unions and elected officials.

So far it looks like administrators and unions have engaged each other in an ever-escalating death grip over money and power. Meanwhile, elected officials are cuckolded, emasculated, defrocked and otherwise out in the cold.

Unelected, self-appointed control freaks are messing things up, instead of letting the people who are supposed to be controlling our schools -- the people we place in office for that purpose -- do the job.

The accountability yo-yo is off the string, in other words.

Control freaks are self-centered instead of other-centered. They meddle, are coercive, oversupervise, invade, obsess, are hypercritical and stubborn. They refuse to see their own mistakes and misjudgments. They’re selfish and choose everything from computers to curriculum based on what they want, not what’s tried and true as best for kids.

That’s how come school budgets have skyrocketed while it is apparent that our children can’t read, write, figure or think as well as generations past. That’s why they are subjected to aberrant, pointless and weird curriculum, behavior and activities that parents don’t want.

The takeover of public education by self-serving control freaks is why our kids’ needs are either not being met by schools, or in danger very soon of that being so.

I count government regulators as being in on this, by the way, and a big part of the problem, since they side with both the administrators and the unions, and against the legislators and school boards that the people vote to be in control.

The game is fixed.

But now the jig is up.

I’ve suggested in the past that one sensible change would be to make the State Commissioner of Education a statewide elected position. That job pays more than the governor’s and is highly influential on the lives, jobs and fortunes of every single Nebraskan. It’s silly not to elect this key public-policy maker in our state.

Since superintendents’ jobs are also so powerful and high-paid, it would be smart to make them a locally-elected position as well.

But there’s an even more powerful way to get back control of our schools:

Rewrite state law so that elected school board members take over the responsibilities of the superintendents. Pay them to do this.

If you now have five or seven elected school-board members, and your superintendent is being paid $100,000 plus bennies plus car plus annuity, etc. etc., you write the superintendent out of a job and split that leadership money into five or seven pieces.

Just look at the typical superintendent’s job description and you can come up with five or seven major duties that could be divided up. Then make this newly-empowered school board accountable to each other in decision-making, and ultimately to the voters for reelection, the way other elected tax-handlers are, such as a city council or county board.

All of a sudden, a very important but presently thankless, unpaid, part-time public-service job is worth over $25,000 a year . . . and you’d better believe there are neat people who would love to take on the unions and the regulators, and do what’s right for kids in order to serve the public and get re-elected.

So how ‘bout it, Nebraska?

Is it time for a breakthrough?

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