Friday, April 30, 2004


You’d be surprised how much kids can learn from tests. That’s right: test questions teach. And when the questions have nothing to do with academics, they shouldn’t be asked at all, in public schools.

I’m talking about all those questionnaires and surveys schools give, every year, collecting sociological data on the students in an attempt to ‘’measure’’ how many of them are at risk, how much they are drinking or using drugs, how sexually active they are, who might need psychological help, and how they can justify additional expenditures for social service programs in schools, like drug testing, assemblies, social workers, encounter groups and so on.

The main purpose is to get the statistics jacked up on how many ‘’at risk’’ kids they have, so that they can get more federal grant money.

The questionnaires are supposed to be confidential and anonymous, but of course, they are not. They are supposed to be reliable and accurate, but of course, they are not: many teens wildly exaggerate their behavior on these tests and make a game out of it. Meanwhile, who knows what the shy, meek children are thinking as they are assaulted with questions about sex, drugs, booze, vandalism, depression and all kinds of things . . . many of them still in grade school.

Innocence pierced, once again, by our public schools. Sigh.

I’m all for helping troubled kids. But a scatter-shot approach, like this, is stupid. Yes, there are suicides, overdoses, pregnancies and fatal DWIs among our teens . . . but look at the numbers. What sense does it make to treat 100 percent of the student body with a costly, time-consuming, distracting series of “interventions” when only 5 percent of them will act out so extremely in any given year? Yes, schools should target and intervene with kids at risk. But they should do that professionally and scientifically . . . not with guessing games and privacy invasions.

We need a rifle-shot approach. Schools can use data already readily at hand to spotlight who’s in trouble: tardies, truancy, absences, downslips, suspensions, arrests . . . and respond to what is, not what “might be.”

Schools have dug themselves into this hole by banning simple human kindness on the part of teachers – they can’t even put a caring hand on a sad child’s shoulder any more because that could be construed as “sexual harassment.” Yet schools still think they can cynically invade the child’s privacy, and that of his home and family, with these intrusive tests. It’s just as threatening, and it’s just as wrong.

Smart parents instruct their children NOT to answer any psychological surveys or write any in-school essays with prompts that seem nosy about their personal life. Instead, kids should slip the survey forms or assignments into their backpacks and bring them home to their parents. If questioned, they should say, ‘’Mom and Dad want to see anything I’m supposed to do in school that makes me feel bad or uncertain, before I do it.’’

Then if the questions are OK, the child can complete the test. If they’re not — and believe me, if you saw these questions, you wouldn’t like them -- we parents can go to school officials and the school board and ask what in the Sam Hill they were thinking.

Will they get mad that we did this? That we . . . INTRUDED? Well, gee: isn’t it OUR tax dollars paying for these things? We certainly have the right to know what our children are being taught. The same thing goes for what our children are being ASKED.


Here’s what’s going on in Pennsylvania along these lines, and may be coming soon to a school near you:

By Vince Guerrieri
Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Ken Kaleida envisions a day when suicidal tendencies and potential mental illnesses are identified with a test in school, much like hearing or vision tests now.

The director of Outreach Teen and Family Services in Mt. Lebanon is overseeing the local administration of TeenScreen, a test developed at Columbia University in New York City. It's not a diagnostic tool, Kaleida cautioned, only a screening tool to identify students who might benefit from further counseling.

"There's no foolproof method," he said. "This is pretty good."

The test was born out of research by David Schaffer, a psychology professor at Columbia. He performed "psychological autopsies" on suicide victims by talking to their friends and families to identify a mental state.

"For a long time, it was thought you couldn't tell who would do it, that it was impulsive," said Tiffany Haick, regional coordinator for TeenScreen, which could be used as early as this fall in the Washington School District in Washington County.

Kaleida said as many as 90 percent of teen suicides are preceded by some symptom up to a year in advance. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24.

At most schools, guidance counselors serve as a safety net for at-risk students, and failing grades or drug problems, for example, warrant a conference with parents. State law mandates that all school districts have some type of student assistance program for secondary students.

But while professionals can react to suicide attempts or warning signs, there are few preventative programs, Haick said.

"How do you get these kids before they are identified?" Kaleida asked.

The test, administered by computer, takes about 10 minutes and asks students about drug or alcohol use and feelings about anxiety, depression and suicide.

As many as a third of the students who take the test could exhibit some type of symptom, leading to a follow-up interview by the test administrators, Kaleida said. Of those interviewed, about half will be referred for professional help, but the family ultimately would decide whether to proceed.

Kathy Mastantuono, director of pupil personnel services for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, said TeenScreen poses potential privacy issues.

However, students taking the test must sign consent forms, and they are identified by number, not name, Haick said.

TeenScreen currently is administered at 110 sites in 35 states, as well as Korea, Canada, Panama and Guam, Haick said. Kaleida said, ideally, every school district in Western Pennsylvania would use it, along with local organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs. Outreach would need more funding to expand the program, he said, and while he doesn't have specifics yet he doesn't think it will be very expensive.

The Washington School District could become the first Western Pennsylvania district to use TeenScreen, largely because Outreach already provides a behavioral specialist there, and this could be a natural next step, Superintendent Roberta DiLorenzo said.

"We're not doing this because we see a long-standing increase" in troubled students, said DiLorenzo, adding the school board could approve the test at its meeting at 7 p.m. April 26 at Washington High School.


Come to find out, the subject of yesterday’s story, Cheri Pierson Yecke, was in Nebraska more than a decade ago, helping grassroots activists successfully tone down the introduction of Outcome-Based Education in this state. Now the Minnesota education commissioner is in danger of not being confirmed in the State Legislature, largely because of her strong stand against phony baloney education “deforms” such as Whole Language and Whole Math, which are preferred by left-wing, union-controlled Democrats. Those “deforms” still got into Nebraska, but perhaps not to as large an extent as in Minnesota. We wish her well.

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Thursday, April 29, 2004


A couple of years ago, the State of Minnesota put in place learning standards that were widely criticized as anti-academic and anti-American. The “Profile of Learning” standards were similar in many ways to Nebraska’s, only more radical in their anti-individual, pro-group orientation.

You could almost call them “socialistic” standards in the way they de-emphasized the components of a classic American education and minimized many of the facts and events of American history. Like Nebraska classrooms, Minnesota’s changed from encouraging individual academic achievement to “peer tutoring,” and solitary study gave way to “cooperative group learning.” The honor roll and academically-based competition were out because they made less-able students “feel bad.” The spotlight was turned on to molding the kids’ attitudes, values and beliefs.

Unlike Nebraska’s apathy and complacency, the public in Minnesota rebelled. All kinds of corruption and fandango were exposed in the way money was being spent to put the standards in place. There were big errors on the assessments that supposedly measured student progress. Ultimately, there was a huge rally of thousands of parents and teachers at the State Capitol. The standards were toast. The standards, put in place by Democrats, were a key reason Democratic candidate for governor Roger Moe was defeated. (Can’t resist it: the people said, “No Moe.”)

The winner, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, wanted to replace the state education official responsible for all of this. He hired an educator who was on record FOR traditional education, Cheri Pierson Yecke, as his education commissioner. The Legislature voted the hated standards out, and Yecke began working to replace them with traditional, knowledge-based, academic curriculum and instruction.

You know: the stuff most likely to produce graduates who can read, write, compute, and think for themselves.

You know, curriculum and instruction based on individual reading and study – not group projects; concentration and written reports – not discussions and “stunts”; and the great ideas, discoveries and stories of history – not fill-in-the-blank worksheets, TV sound bites and computer games.

Since the content being delivered in the classroom would be more academic, the testing had to be more over academics and less over the social engineering type of skills and traits that the “Profile of Learning” standards put in place.

Imagine that! Quality curriculum! Better accountability!


So now, 14 months after she took the job, Yecke has to go through a confirmation process in the Minnesota State Legislature that should be a breeze. Instead, the Democrats got together, put her through a kangaroo court this week, called her “divisive” (translation: she won’t cave in to what THEY want to do), and voted Tuesday against her confirmation. The vote was 6-4 – the six Democrats on the State Senate Education committee voted against her and the four Republicans were in support.

Gov. Pawlenty said in a statement, “Today's vote by the Senate Education Committee was a vote against innovation, accountability and reform in education.

"Dr. Yecke has been taking on the status quo -- and winning -- which is why Senate Democrats voted along party lines to reject her. Imagine what the Senate Education Committee could have done if they had invested the same time and energy in improving education that they've spent tearing down a reformer.”

Now the battle moves to the full Senate, which is under pressure to get things done before the session ends in a matter of days.

Here’s hoping they come to their senses and see that this commissioner is doing the right things for kids.

For more about Yecke and her ideas, see her book, "The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America's Middle Schools," detailed on www.amazon.com

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

See below: “School-to-Work” in action in Arizona



No matter what your politics, you’d probably agree that the whole point of K-12 education is to turn out a fully-functional human being. We expect each graduate to be literate and numerate, a good citizen, eager and able to build a productive career, and functional in his or her personal and private life as well.

That’s what a liberal arts education is designed to produce, and that’s what we’ve always had in this country in our public schools . . . but it’s under siege.

A graduate’s materialistic value in the marketplace is shoving aside the other goals of education as the federal model called “School-to-Work,” planted in the 1990s by the Clinton Administration, takes root.

Nebraska and every other state in the country has taken significant amounts of “School-to-Work” seed money in establishing the bureaucracies and networks now in operation linking schoolhouses with workplaces more than ever before. In fact, the almost unexplainable increase in K-12 school spending over the past decade – double or triple the cost-of-living increase in many cases -- is attributable to a significant degree to the remodeling of schools into “School-to-Work” training grounds.

That’s because vocational education is significantly more expensive, labor-intensive and time-consuming than traditional, liberal-arts education. Note the constant assessments . . . constant surveying . . . teacher retraining . . . de-emphasis of basic skills including reading, writing and arithmetic . . . overemphasis on technological solutions for basic tasks, including computers and calculators . . . de-emphasis on objective measurements of educational quality . . . overemphasis on subjective, unaccountable measurements like “process over product” . . . increased counseling ad psychological expenditures . . . huge investments in technology . . . much more group work than individual work because the schoolroom is to mimic the workplace . . . and so on.

It’s not all for “school reform.” It’s all to accommodate “School-to-Work.”

In states such as Oregon, a student’s ability to demonstrate workplace skills and to complete on-the-job apprenticeships is replacing traditional educational philosophies and benchmarks. Gone are the Carnegie Units (so many years of English, so many years of math, so many years of history, and so on) and the traditional high-school diploma. Here are mandatory job apprenticeships, “Certificates of Initial Mastery” and “Certificates of Advanced Mastery” identical to the “work papers” of Nazi Germany just a few decades ago.

The direction appears to be a two-track system, where kids deemed “worthy” of white-collar work are tracked one way in the K-12 school system, and those deemed “worthy” of blue-collar jobs are put in a less-demanding, more vocationally-oriented one.

Besides the fact that this is not what most Americans want, and it costs tons more than traditional education, “School-to-Work” is scary because the “sorting” of kids begins in kindergarten. Talk about robbing the cradle! Talk about ripping off the “late bloomer” kind of student! Moreover, the overarching emphasis on career exploration, guidance and tracking in schools by government employees who can’t possibly know each child takes the parents, and even the child’s own dreams, out of the process of choosing a career.

What also makes “School-to-Work” scary is that its proponents are completely polarized politically. It is backed by the ultra left-wingers with a socialistic, union-promoting mindset. They believe everyone is “entitled” to a job and the accent is on the benefits of that job, not its productive contribution. For them, getting rid of a liberal arts education is the way to focus on workforce training, which they see as the way to help people make more money sooner in their careers, even if it leaves them ill-equipped for management, the professions or self-employment. Besides, voc ed brings a lot more money and people into the public education income stream than regular ed, which in turn gives more money and power to the unions and the politicians they have on their leashes.

But “School-to-Work” also is backed by bedrock conservatives, who are anxious about keeping the U.S. supplied with lots of adequate and not-too-demanding workers. To them, a well-educated workforce, but not TOO well-educated and therefore “uppity,” is the goal. Therefore, literacy and numeracy are artificially suppressed by dumbed-down curriculum. If you sculpt a workforce that will be obedient and able to run computers and machines, they won’t ask many questions because they haven’t been taught how to think past the next paycheck. These “School to Work” proponents seek control over capital . . . including what they rather scarily call “human capital.”

Left out in the cold in all of this are the vast majority of citizens, taxpayers, parents and students – who still want the American dream of being equipped to do just about any job you want, and to own your own business someday, too.

But right in the thick of the action are our public schools, struggling to please everyone but without sufficient funding to do their basic mission any more because of the demands from new forces such as “School-to-Work.”

Will they be able to hang in there and stay schools? Or will they morph into job training facilities for the global workforce?

So far, education observers say they see evidence that “School to Work” is winning and liberal-arts educations are dying out. They say American public schools are mimicking those of the former Soviet Union, Germany and Japan, “voc ed” school systems whose chief purpose is to equip young people for the work world. That’s why educators begin to cull out the “college material” in grade school and “track” kids through secondary school so that only the elite get the prerequisites for the kind of in-depth schooling that it takes to be a leader and a wealth-builder in those countries. Everybody else is pretty much set up to be pawns, given bare-bones literacy and on-the-job training, and that’s about it.


For a look at how “School-to-Work” is operating in the State of Arizona, consider this memo from a concerned educator out of the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). It was published on http://education-consumers.com:

Changing Arizona high school requirements

In 2003 and 2004 Arizona legislative proposals were made to add two credits of vocational/technical education to high school graduation requirements ... or...to let the Arizona Board of Regents allow two units of vocational/technical credits (in lieu of fine arts) apply towards college admissions. Both initiatives would usher in further erosion of education and the latter proposal could negatively impact fine arts programs as increased funding would be needed for vocational/technical courses.

Altering graduation requirements is one of many strategies connected to federal education reform. Fully implemented, the restructuring -- originally called School-to-Work (STW) -- will result in dramatic changes in the purpose and content of education for ALL STUDENTS.

When the federal STW law sunset October 2001, STW continuation transferred to local/county/state groups and a higher funding burden shifted to local taxpayers. (There are studies indicating the cost to convert and maintain schools for STW workforce training of our children is from 50% to 400% higher than traditional academic liberal arts education. So the ongoing clamoring to increase school funding is not about raising academic quality, but rather about acquiring funds to pay for STW reforms. Likewise, changing graduation requirements is more about moving STW oriented activity into schools versus improving education.)

Recent activity

Arizona Legislature, 2003:

-- HB 2344 proposed including two units of vocational or technological education units for high school graduation--the bill failed. [1]

-- HB 2001 established a Joint Legislative Committee on Vocational and Technological Education to study votech issues including "the feasibility and cost of adding two credit hours of vocational and technological education to the minimum course of study for high school graduation." [2]

-- On October 7, 2003, Arizona's Joint Legislative Committee on Vocational and Technological Education met. Dr. Linda Loomis, TUSD Director/ Administrator of Career and Technical Programs, was one of seven attending speakers. Discussion focused on inserting 2 units of vocational credits -- under the guise of Career Technical Education (CTE) -- for Arizona graduation requirements. [3] Note that the meeting minutes indicate that "many CTE courses would qualify for math and science credit." (This is academically questionable.)

Arizona Legislature, 2004:

-- HB 2493 proposed "allowing the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) to accept vocational arts credits in lieu of fine arts credits earned by an applicant for admission" -- the bill failed in committee. [4]

Tucson Unified School District, 2004:

-- On March 16, 2004, UHS site council was told that TUSD principals wanted to alter high school requirements (Is this a response to failed proposed legislation that would have promoted and supported Vocational/Technical Education?). Site council voted on and a majority approved sending the district a letter of support. I opposed. The requirements would ultimately increase attitude/values-based elements in TUSD. Also, the federal No Child Left Behind Act and state accountability will hold schools responsible for these non-academic items when they are a part of curriculum assessments. (Many states administer these highly subjective privacy-invading assessments by way of national, state and/or school district assessments.)

The preceding attempts to support STW Career/Vocational/ Technological training would precipitate more K-12 and higher education coursework changes to meet STW curriculum goals. This is necessary in order for the school system to be completely restructured. The problem with this scenario is that education will take a backseat to planned workforce training objectives.

What's wrong with Career Technical Education?

Career Technical Education is none other than the promotion of STW under a more publicly digestible label. CTE is another avenue through which attitude/value/ behavior standards slip into schools. These non-academic criteria -- also referred to as "world-class (international) standards" or "high (performance) standards" -- are part of TUSD's BOLD! Game and Profile of the 21st Century Graduate. [5]
See TUSD CTE Life Connections standards here:

And see other CTE standards here:

(Note that CTE standards include the workplace skills/competencies from the U.S. Dept. of Labor's SCANS [6] and also criteria from International Baccalaureate Psychology and Social Anthropology).

Increased health class requirement

Also at the 3/16/04 UHS site council meeting there was talk of increasing TUSD high school health education to 1/2 unit (by dropping 1/4 unit of Driver's Ed. Note that Catalina Foothills HS parents pay $280 per student for Driver's Ed [7] because the school does not provide it). "Health" is another area where non-academic standards sneak into curriculum. In fact, these attitude/ value/behavior criteria are moving into schools through subjects/programs like citizenship, leadership, life skills, career planning, character education, comprehensive guidance counseling, etc.

When my son entered Sahuaro HS as a freshman (2001), the school had been pilot testing a Citizenship/Leadership class that students received P.E. credit for. This 1/4 unit of dubious content was required for 9th graders at Sahuaro -- no other TUSD school mandated this. After pointing out many problems with the course to TUSD regional administration, I was told the class would be discontinued. However, while it was dropped from the school's course list, the contents were going to be moved into Sahuaro's HEALTH classes.

For UHS Parent Association and Site-Council

I encourage more investigation and discussion before supporting activity that impacts students and education. We do a great disservice when making uninformed choices and engage in spur-of-the-moment reform consensus-building -- which provides the ILLUSION of community support for PRE-DETERMINED federally-driven changes. And that means school superintendents and upper level district administrators are simply well-paid "yes men/women" (aka team players) whose primary job is to figure out HOW to implement the unconstitutional federal reforms (without inciting public unrest).

Please become familiar with federal school restructuring goals and components. The future of the U.S./Arizona school system depends on the public's ability to make wise, informed decisions and take action.


Read more about the federal restructuring of our school system - written by current or former educators, school board members, U.S. Department of Education officials, state legislators, etc.:

Stratman, David G. (Former Dir. of Governmental Relations, National PTA; Former Education Policy Fellow working in the U.S. Office of Education) School Reform and the Attack on Public Education, Keynote speech to the Massachusetts Assn. of School Superintendents Summer Institute, 1997. < http://newdemocracyworld.org/edspeech.htm >

Bachmann, Michele (Minnesota Senator) Fed Ed in Minnesota Classrooms: Smaller Learning Communities Preparing Workers for a State Planned Economy (2002.) Pdf: < http://www.edaction.org/What%20To%20Do/Bachmann_FedEd.pdf >

Cuddy, Dennis L. (Former Sr. Associate, US Department of Education; Historian; Political Analyst) Background of School-to-Work Concept, 1997, Congressional Records. < http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/OtherPDFs/Hyde_Cuddy_testimony.pdf>

Eakman, Beverly (Former educator; Executive Dir., National Education Consortium) Cloning of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality through Education, 1998. Articles: < http://www.beverlye.com/ >

Esposito, Joe (Businessman; Former member of Oklahoma’s School-to-Work Task Force) Tangled Web—A cumulative report resulting from original documents concerning School-to-Work, 1996, 1997, 2004. Online book will be available in the future.

Fessler, Diana (Ohio State Representative, Former Ohio State Board of Education member) A Report on the Work Toward National Standards, Assessments and Certificates, Prepared for the Ohio State Board of Education) < http://www.fessler.com/SBE/index2.htm > Click on "STW"

Iserbyt, Charlotte T. (Former school board member; Former U.S. Department of Education official) the deliberate dumbing down of america ...A Chronological Paper Trail, 1999, 2000, 2001; Conscience Press; < http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/ > Back to Basics Reform ... Or OBE Skinnerian International Curriculum, 1985. < http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/pages/back_to_basics_reform.html >

Patterson, Chris (Education researcher; Director of Education Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation) “School-to-Work: The Coming Collision,” Feb. 3, 1998. Working Paper in Education Policy, Presented at The Heritage Foundation Symposium: School-to-Work: Is Government Micromanaging the Lives of Our Children? < http://www.vvm.com/~ctomlin/a52.htm >

Quist, Allen (Former Minnesota House Representative; former school board member; Professor of Political Science) Fed Ed: The New Federal Curriculum and How It’s Enforced, 2002; The Seamless Web: Minnesota’s New Education System, 1999.). Handout: < http://www.edwatch.org/pdfs/FedEd%20_%20Quist%204pg%20w_form.pdf >

Stuter, Lynn M. (Education researcher/writer) < http://www.learn-usa.com >

Taylor, John Gatto (Former educator;1991 New York state Teacher of the Year) The Underground History of American Education, 2002. < http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/index.htm >



[1] HB 2344, Arizona 46th Legislature First Regular Session February 20, 2003. <
http://www.azleg.state.az.us/legtext/46leg/1r/summary/h.hb2344_02-19-03_failed.doc.htm >

[2] HB 2001, Arizona 46th Legislature, First Regular Session, May 9, 2003 < http://www.azleg.state.az.us/legtext/46leg/1r/summary/h.hb2001_05-09-03_astransmittedtogovernor.doc.htm > Also see: < http://www.azsba.org/pubs/brfV20_22.htm>

[3] Joint Legislative Committee on Vocational and Technological Education, Arizona Forty-sixth Legislature - First Regular Session, Minutes of Meeting, Tuesday, October 7, 2003.

[4] HB 2493, Arizona Forty-sixth Legislature, Second Regular Session, March 9, 2004. < http://www.azleg.state.az.us/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/46leg/2r/summary/h%2Ehb2493%5F03%2D04%2D04%5Ffailed%2Edoc%2Ehtm&DocType=S >

[5] Profile of the 21st Century Graduate, Tucson Unified School District. Last updated: Wed, 28-May-2003. < http://www.tusd.k12.az.us/contents/distinfo/profile.html >

[6] What Work Requires of Schools, US Department of Labor, Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, June 1991. < http://wdr.doleta.gov/SCANS/whatwork/ >

[7] Falcon Student Activities, [Catalina Foothills] Community Schools, Third Trimester Offerings, February 9-May 14, 2004. < http://hh2.cfsd.k12.az.us/static/gems/districtSite/3rdTriFH04.pdf >

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004


I slept through a couple of huge, boooooring TV lecture classes during college. So whenever the idea of “distance learning” comes up, I get skeptical. Though it makes sense to deliver an unusual class such as Japanese in a cost-effective way to kids in small-town schools, for example, e-learning has many, many down sides. It’s already in Nebraska and more is on the way, I bet.

Here’s the real deal on the subject. It’s from a Texas teacher and school reformer I really admire. She has some very sobering warnings to share about e-learning. School board members, make note of the good questions at the bottom. They may come in handy for you.

Reprinted from the website http://education-consumers.com
“A Terrible Distance Learning Model”
By Donna Garner
(Excerpt from testimony before the Texas Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance)
March 29, 2004

For full testimony, please see: http://www.educationnews.org/joint-select-committee-on-public.htm/.

Distance learning has been touted as a way to bring inexpensive courses to e-students, giving them the opportunity to take such courses as Advanced Placement classes. Some Legislators have even suggested giving e-students a publicly funded voucher.

In a district with which I am familiar, the superintendent approached the school board last summer with an idea. He had a great plan for helping the district and some of its teachers to make money. The plan was for eight e-teachers to be chosen to offer e-students Advanced Placement courses. The e-teachers were to have individual carts in their classrooms from which they would tape their presentations, and then upload their presentations to the e-students.

The e-teachers were to earn $80 per e-student up to $8,000 per year. The school district was to earn $80 per e-student with no limit on income. The district was to buy the carts; but if the district did not earn its cost back in three years, the company stated they would buy back the equipment. (Of course, I wonder if the district would be reimbursed for the original cost of the carts or at a depreciated value. In three years, most technology equipment would be almost worthless because it goes out of date so quickly.)

The name of the company which provided the eight carts is Tegrity (http://www.tegrity.com/. The district purchased eight carts at $30,000 per cart for a total of $240,000. The distance learning carts have an out-of-date camera (not digital) that focuses on the teacher's face; a document camera; a computer and screen; and controls with which to manage the two robotic cameras on either side of the room. The teacher is to handle all of these controls from the cart at the same time he is teaching the students the day's lesson. After seeing the DL cart, one technology expert said he estimated the equipment was probably only worth around $5,000. If this is an accurate estimate, then Tegrity is making around $25,000 per cart.

The e-teachers are constantly having to stop the class to fix all the many gadgets, and the numerous pieces of equipment are continually in a state of disrepair. The technology personnel are so busy keeping the eight DL labs running that they have been forced to neglect their duties with the school's computer labs and the other teachers' needs.

USA Distance Learning Network (www.USADLN.org) is in charge of the distance learning courses. USADLN told the eight e-teachers (pressured by the administrators to participate) that each e-teacher would be paid per course. Six weeks after school started, the e-teachers were told by the company that instead of being paid for each course, they would instead be paid for only one course even if the e-teachers were uploading two different courses.

The e-teachers kept uploading their courses, waiting to be told where their materials were going. Way into the school year, USADLN finally told the administrators and e-teachers that there actually were no e-students yet but to keep uploading their courses as a trial run for next year. Meanwhile the e-teachers had spent huge amounts of time learning how to run the equipment, taping their courses, and reconfiguring all their curriculum materials for the uploading format. In fact, the e-teachers have told me they have neglected their own classroom students because of spending so much time in preparation for their e-students.

Toward the end of the first semester, USADLN held a meeting and told the e-teachers and administrators there would be no money at all coming to them this school year but that they were sure to be paid next school year. "Keep on uploading." When the e-teachers got upset, the superintendent told them, "You knew there was a risk when you decided to participate." However, the e-teachers did not know there was a risk and were pressured by the administration into becoming e-teachers.

What is the classroom like in which the e-teachers are taping their uploads? The students hate the distance learning carts because they take the teacher's attention off the class members. Something is always breaking; new glitches are constantly popping up. Students have to wait on their teachers to exchange equipment with other e-teachers or to rectify problems with the network. Because the e-teachers are taping their Advanced Placement courses, students who are taking numerous AP classes this year may have as many as four teachers e-taping their presentations.

The regular classroom students have to sit to either side of the cart because the e-teacher's body plus the cart cover the chalkboard on which the documents have to be shown. The chalkboards are treated with a special solution; but because the boards were designed for teachers to write on them with chalk, the boards have been mounted at eye level. When the DL cart projects the slides on the chalkboard, most of the students in the classroom cannot see the material. To make it possible for students to see the board, they have to split their rows down the middle of the room which forces students to sit too close to each other, creating possible discipline problems.

The e-teacher cannot move freely around the room because he is constantly manipulating the equipment on the cart. The microphone in the center of the ceiling does not pick up the classroom discussions very well. The robotic cameras placed in two positions in the classroom are ineffective because of their limited trajectory, and the document camera on the cart can only project documents which are flat -- totally ineffective with textbook pages.

What does the e-student experience? He is basically sitting in front of a computer watching a video and has no interaction with the e-teacher whatsoever. Since the microphone which is placed in the e-teacher's classroom is ineffective, the e-student cannot hear classroom discussions. The two robotic cameras are not quick enough to respond and don't pick up the activities going on in various places in the classroom. The camera on the cart which televises the teacher's presentation is so close to the teacher's face that the e-student viewing the tape sees a bigger-than-normal teacher's face on his screen.

Once an e-teacher begins to tape a certain class period, he must continue with that same class all semester; or else the e-student will experience lack of continuity and flow of the curriculum. If there are interruptions during that particular class, the e-student experiences the interruptions, too. If the regular students go to the library to work on research papers for a week, the e-student does not receive the instruction offered by the e-teacher and experiences a week's gap in taping.

E-teachers have been told that they must send all their tests, keys, notes, lesson plans, and quizzes to the receiving e-student; but who is going to monitor the security of those materials? What is to keep those materials from being sent all over the Internet? If a teacher gives a test one day and goes over the answers with the class the next day, the e-student hears the answers. What keeps the e-student from cheating by looking at his notes, textbooks, etc?

USADLN and Tegrity have evidently given customers the impression that their model is an interactive distance learning system. However, there is no communication at all between the e-teacher and the e-student. The e-teacher does not grade the e-student's tests, compositions, or quizzes; someone working with the e-student will have to do that. What about the expertise of the person monitoring the e-student? Does that person have the ability to grade compositions, research papers, and other subjectively assessed products? How will there be any security over final exams? Who makes sure there is daily accountability for the e-student? How will he be held accountable? If the e-student completes the course, he will get the same English credit on his transcript as the English student sitting in the classroom, working hard each day and being held to daily accountability.

The e-teachers were pressured into signing a "secret" contract which the superintendent told them not to make public to anyone. When he was asked about the legalities of teachers making money during the school day by being paid at the same time they are receiving teachers' pay for teaching their own classroom students, they were told everything had been cleared with the attorney. This is similar to a teacher's holding a second job during the same time in which he is being paid a full teacher's salary.

Since the taxpayers have paid the $240,000 for the eight carts and the school technology personnel are using their time to fix the carts when they constantly break down, the e-teachers' contracts should have been public information.

Before spending taxpayers' money on distance learning programs, the Texas Legislature, the Texas State Board of Education, and the Texas Education Agency need to seek answers to the following questions:


How much actual viewing of the computer screen do e-students do per day, and how much interaction with a qualified teacher do they receive?

What is the distance learning program's previous track record which demonstrates the company is capable of raising e-students' academic achievement?

Specifically how do individual e-students interact with the e-teachers?

Are the e-teachers going to be credentialed and experienced teachers in the field in which they are offering instruction?

Are e-students held to any deadlines? If not, how can we expect students to learn the value of meeting deadlines -- an important life skill when they get out into the real world?

Who monitors the e-student's daily progress, and how is that monitoring documented?

Who grades the e-student's subjectively assessed projects such as essays and research papers?

Who gives e-students their final exams, and who insures the security of the tests and keys?

What kind of security is provided to ensure the enrolled e-students take daily quizzes and tests under supervised conditions?

Since e-students will be getting actual course credit for their classes, who will make sure that e-students do the work themselves instead of cheating?

Where is the independent research to show that e-students gain increased academic achievement from taking distance learning courses?

Where do today's students learn the value of handwriting a document instead of always using the computer? What would happen if there were another electrical blackout and people had to write life-or-death messages in longhand (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc.)? Is there not some value in teaching all students, including e-students, to function without the use of a computer or a graphing calculator?

What about the medical concerns which have surfaced in recent years indicating that children who use computers too much have developed carpal tunnel, back, and other physical problems?

Texas homeschoolers elect whether or not they want to take nationally normed tests; most choose to give their children those tests. However, homeschoolers are completely independent of state control and do not receive any taxpayers' funding. That is a different scenario from state-funded distance learning courses which are paid for by the taxpayers and should require some accountability measures. After all, if a student is going to get credit for English I, how is the state going to verify the e-student has completed the same requirements that a traditionally taught student has completed under the direct supervision of a credentialed teacher?

What about the TEKS (note: Texas statewide exams)? Do the distance learning courses follow the TEKS curriculum standards? What kind of Pre-K through Grade 3 reading curriculum is used? Is it scientifically and research-based? Does it meet the state guidelines regarding decodable text? How is the program delivered? Obviously there is no way that a computer can teach through direct, systematic instruction.

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Monday, April 26, 2004


Read this excellent article about textbooks, and then page through a history book from your public school district. If you see this sort of distortion, please write a letter to your school board.


Reprinted from the website www.townhall.com
“Textbook terror in a visual age”
Suzanne Fields
April 12, 2004

There’s a new religion in the world, and it's growing among young, old, men, women, black, white, red, yellow and pink, and the rituals of the faith are fun, fun, fun.

America-bashing, writes John Parker in the Asia Times, "has ascended from its former status as the preoccupation of a relative handful of Jurassic Marxists, professional victims, Third World whiners, and Islamo-fascist troglodytes to the level of a major new global religion."

America-bashing is addictive, born of power envy and nurtured by power lust among the weak, the cowardly and craven. That's bad enough, but the consequences are even worse. We're raising generations of "educated" men and women who have never learned that we're envied by the weak, the cowardly and the craven simply because we're Americans.

America-bashing coincides with the proliferation of dumbed-down world history textbooks used in grades six through 12 in our public schools. The material our schoolchildren study is either diluted to emphasize trivia or edited with an eye to the politically correct, designed never to offend the lowest common sensitivity.

"In subjects from Africa to terrorism, the nation's leading world history textbooks provide unreliable, often scanty information and provide poorly constructed activities," writes Gilbert Sewall, author of a new report of the American Textbook Council, an independent national research organization which acts as a watchdog on educational issues (www.historytextbooks.org). These textbooks cut, shave and reduce content to pass the litmus tests of advocacy groups organized specifically to search for offenses.

In California, for example, an Islamic council has oversight to the degree that it exerts a censor-like force as editors gloss over facts crucial to understanding the Muslim culture: jihad, holy law, slavery and the abuse of women.

When discussed at all, these matters are discussed at such a distance from reality that all meaning is lost. Muslims aren't the only group demanding immunity from examination. Editors similarly pander to Indians, blacks, Hispanics, feminists, Christians, Jews and Islamists. The squawkers get attention and textbook editors cower.

The largest publishing conglomerates, which have made themselves the most susceptible to intimidation, have absorbed dozens of independent publishing houses, making it difficult for a small company with a conscience to enter the competitive fray.

The "full service" providers offer study guides, workbooks, discounts, premiums and teacher enticements. The four biggest multinational publishing houses -- Pearson, Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt and McGraw-Hill -- offer ever fewer textbooks in a drive to make one size fit all, and can ignore critics and reformers.

Many publishers save money by hiring anonymous author teams instead of historians whose knowledge and established reputations make them expensive and difficult to intimidate. Texts without a single author lack the cohesion of a thoughtful narrative and events float through the pages with no attention paid to the roots of the culture or the moment. Judgment is limited to contemporary interpretation, or "presentism."

Presentism collapses time and historical differences, and judges events not in the context of their times but by the standards, often superficial and fleeting, of the present. A study of "the hero" links Ulysses with Indiana Jones. A chapter on "going shopping," which requires an appreciation for culture and economics, merely likens a medieval bazaar in Baghdad to an indoor suburban mall in Indianapolis.

Politically correct simplicity describes "Native Americans" as living in harmony with both nature and human nature, with no recognition that Indians, like the rest of us, are subject to human frailty and prejudice.

Francis Parkman, the historian who describes the pleasure Iroquois took in torturing the Hurons, is anathema, and gone with the Mohicans.

The lens for understanding the unique American vision focuses on the African-American freedom struggles that "helped open the door for all minorities and women." In one text on the Enlightenment, Mary Wollstonecraft, an 18th century feminist, is featured more prominently than Voltaire, a dominating figure for the ages.

Textbook publishers plead that they are at the mercy of state and local adoption procedures, but this is a dodge. They rely on "standards committees" and focus groups to package their ideas. These groups, made up of men and women raised in an image-centered culture, dismiss "content-heavy, information-loaded, and fact-based" materials as too difficult for the kids to absorb. Instead they cater to short attention spans and purvey visuals that turn history into "edutainment."

In varying degrees, world history texts make it impossible for students to discriminate between the brutality of antidemocratic countries like China and Cuba and the democracies, or to understand the conflicts faced by nations determined to preserve freedom.

"World peace" has become a chimera and there is little recognition of the contempt in which the truly democratic nations are held by the educated elites, so called. By failing to understand what's worth defending, we can't understand the peril around us. Woe is we.

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Friday, April 23, 2004


This school year, there are five school districts in Nebraska with budgets totaling over a third of a million dollars that don’t have any students or teachers.

Remember the ghost towns of the Wild, Wild West? Well, these are the ‘’ghost schools’’ of the wild, wild world of school finance.

According to a report from the office of State Auditor Kate Witek prepared for State Sen. Ronald Raikes, the five ‘’ghost schools’’ are all small, rural, Class I districts in towns that are not even on the map. Raikes, of Lincoln, chairman of the Education Committee, wants to force consolidation of the smaller districts into larger ones. That measure failed in the legislative session just passed because of strong grass-roots opposition from pro-rural schools advocates.

The districts and their pupil-less budgets are:

Linwood, $168,132

Riverview, $51,000

Norden, $8,500

Kalamazoo, $38,846

Panhandle, $92,650

Total: $359,128

Raikes has been using anecdotes such as these as evidence for why consolidation makes sense.

When asked how it came to be that school districts with zero enrollment were adopting budgets, Auditor Witek explained that they filed their budgets as a hedge because they couldn’t be sure whether or not they would have pupils the following school year or not. If just one or two families moved into their district, especially if a child or children had special needs, the money had to be set aside. Mrs. Witek said taxes levied for those budgets flowed into other school districts where living, breathing children were indeed enrolled. The money didn’t just sit in a fund.

Raikes and other pro-consolidation forces may have a field day with this as they try to bash the reputation of the Class I schools on economic grounds. But there’s a whole ‘nother, much bigger ghost afoot:


And guess where most of them are?

Not in the itty bitty Class I schools. They’re in the big metropolitan districts -- especially the Omaha Public Schools.

You can spot these ghosts on enrollment data compiled by the Nebraska Department of Education from district annual reports, on the website http://ess.nde.state.ne.us/SchoolFinance/AFR/search/afr.htm

Glide down to the bottom of each annual report to see the attendance data.

Last school year across the state, there were 277,286.40 students enrolled, K-12, on the day in the autumn on which districts take their ‘’average daily membership’’ count. That’s enrollment -- how many kids are supposed to be there, on paper. Throughout the school year, kids move in and out and so forth. The number changes. It’s a ‘’fudge factor.’’

But the fudge runs deep in Nebraska. When it comes to the actual attendance count, called ‘’average daily attendance,’’ there were only 262,530.51 children attending school in Nebraska on any given day.

That’s a difference of 14,756 students. If the same gap between enrollment and actual attendance keeps up for this school year, since the State Auditor found we’re spending $13,843.66 per pupil, that means we’re paying for $204.3 million worth of education . . . for students who aren’t even there.

Put these students together into one district and they’d form one of the biggest school districts in the state.

I call them ‘’ghost students.’’

Percentage-wise, it means 5.3 percent of our statewide enrollment isn’t actually attending class, day in and day out.

The Omaha Public Schools more than doubles that statewide average, with 4,092 pupils missing each school day, or 10.9 percent.

Heck, that number alone would constitute one of the largest school districts in Nebraska. We could call it ‘’The OPS No Shows.’’

Of course, we pay for all students -- including ‘’ghost students.’’

Other metro districts in the state, including Lincoln, Grand Island, North Platte and Millard, had gaps right around the state average of over 5 percent.

But a spot-check of Class I schools showed a lot less of a gap. Here are the percentage differences between children enrolled and children actually in attendance at these little schools:

Juniata Elementary, Adams County, 2 percent

Merriman, Cherry County, 3 percent

Richland, Colfax County, 3 percent

Rokeby, Lancaster County, 3 percent

Unadilla, Otoe County, 3.8 percent

See? The great, big districts are getting paid for a lot more ‘’ghost students’’ than the itty, bitty ones.

So yes, Sen. Raikes, it’s deplorable that $359,128 in tax funds were allocated for students in Class I schools who didn’t wind up coming.

But what does THAT make the $204.3 million in tax funds that are allocated for kids who aren’t there everywhere else, especially in OPS?

It makes taxpayers mad enough as it is to be spending $13,843.66 per pupil per year. But it should make them REALLY mad to be spending that kind of dough on kids who aren’t even there to learn, literally as well as figuratively.

Obvious solution: change the funding formula to be tied to average daily attendance -- actual usage of the public service -- instead of the one-time enrollment count.

And then audit that attendance on a spot-check basis throughout the school year to cut down on the hedging and the fudging.

We ain’t afraid o’ no ghosts. We just can’t afford ‘em no mo’.


Last in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on a March 4, 2004, report from the office of State Auditor Kate Witek prepared for State Sen. Ronald Raikes. Data sources included the September 2003 Fall Personnel Report from the Nebraska Department of Education, and other 2003-04 statistical information reported by districts to the state.

For Nebraska public education spending reports and to check your district’s attendance record, see statewide and individual district annual report information on:


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Thursday, April 22, 2004


How did we get from the one-room schoolhouse to a $4 billion public school system in Nebraska? How did we get to a spending level per pupil of $13,843.66 per year? How can it be that a Nebraska school district is about to employ our state’s first superintendent making more than $200,000 a year?

Well, in those school-year kickoff speeches they always have, to rev up the teachers, they always say, ‘’Education is people!’’ I’ll go along with that. But here’s an additional motto: ‘’Overspending is administrators!’’

That’s how it happens that we spent $967.9 million paying all the teachers across the state . . . and $115.4 million paying their administrators. Put another way, we have 14 times as many teachers as administrators in schools in this state (21,197 vs. 1,504) but we devote only eight times as much salary to teachers as to their bosses.

It works out to an average of $45,661 per teacher, and $76,746 per administrator. On a per-pupil basis, Nebraska taxpayers devote $406.27 per pupil per year for administrators’ salaries alone, and provide one administrator for every 189 students.

Figures are from a March 4 report on school data prepared by the office of State Auditor Kate Witek.

Consider the fact that most school administrators in Nebraska live in relatively small towns with relatively low costs of living. They also receive off-budget income perks such as annuities, cars, per diems, expense accounts and the freedom to consult on the side. Considering the fact that their total income would rank as the best in town or close to it, you have to ask yourself: is what they do really worth that much money?

Now go to a website with budget figures for a school district (www.ops.org/budget for the state’s largest, the Omaha Public Schools, is a good place to start) and scan through all the budget items administrators call for. Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat: all those people doing all those things beyond delivering the old 3 R’s. Now, some of the things that cost money to manage in our schools have been imposed by regulatory agencies in what administrators call ‘’unfunded mandates,’’ always uttered with frowns and tight lips. But many, many of these costs were brought on by the school administrators themselves -- by their voluntary choice.

It looks as though they have been trying to justify their own jobs, in taking on new programs and activities to administer in schools.

To ‘’look good on paper,’’ in other words . . . to follow after fads and fluff instead of keeping their noses to the grindstone in the delivery of educational basics and foundations, which is what taxpayers and parents want for kids.

And the sad thing is, school administrators have for the most part come up through the ranks of school bureaucracies and don’t even know this is a problem. They’ve been steeped like human tea bags in a culture of ‘’What’s new? Let’s try it!’’ The basics, including the 3 R’s, fell by the wayside and got lost in all the new activities, each with a whole ‘nother set of problems to distract public schools away from their basic mission, and a whole ‘nother set of expenses to bear, including new people to hire and administer.

That’s how come schooling costs so much more today than a generation ago, even though K-12 enrollments are about the same or even less.

Want proof? Talk to just about any employer, and they’ll just shake their heads over how poorly today’s graduates read, write, figure and think. And yet we’re spending nearly $14,000 per child per year.

Bottom line: school administrators have ‘’over-fancified’’ the schools in order to make themselves look good and worth those deluxe salaries.

Now, look. They’re only human. It’s ridiculous to put them in a situation where the checks and balances on their spending are feeble at best -- administrators far outmuscle school-board members in these matters -- and expect them to view their spending patterns the way detached outsiders do.

It’s ridiculous to put administrators into collective bargaining positions with their old cronies from their teaching days who are still in the union, and expect to have fiscal restraint come out of it. We all know having educators on both sides of the bargaining table is the reason we have so many more people making so much more money doing so many more non-educational tasks in education today. It all started when President Kennedy said in the 1960s that public servants could unionize. Boom! That was the old ballgame in transforming schools from a public service to a money-making proposition for public servants.

I’m not saying school administrators aren’t trying to be good public servants. Of course they are. I’m also not saying they are reckless and wanton in their budget decisions. They’re neither ogres nor doormats. In fact, the ones I know are really nice, smart people.

They’re just in a no-win situation. There’s a natural tendency among human beings to want to strive for a little bit more than the other guy has . . . and when you have unlimited access to taxpayer dollars, that winds up as empire-building and featherbedding in the public schools. It gets ridiculous. And it’s catching.

Consider the salary set for the incoming superintendent of the Lincoln Public Schools: $200,000 plus perks. That is going to have huge cascading consequences in administrative salaries across the state as the ‘’keep up with the Joneses’’ syndrome kicks in.

Back in September 2000, the Grand Island Independent reported that 11 Nebraska superintendents were earning more than $100,000 a year in base salary, led by Phillip Schoo of the Lincoln schools, who was making $133,075 at the time. The cost of those high salaries goes far beyond the salaries. For example, Bev Bennett of the Nebraska Education and Research Council (NERC) in nearby Roca, Neb., says that when Schoo was hired nearly 20 years ago, he was given a $10,000 desk.

Consider the claim made by people like Mrs. Bennett that a lot of the problems in schools and their budgets today were actually brought on us by the school administrators themselves. For instance, Mrs. Bennett said that outcome-based education, which was opposed by no school superintendents or administrators that she is aware of, imposed gigantic new expenses on schools over the past 15 years or so. This philosophy of school management, which pervades public schools today, requires the massive new hiring of non-classroom personnel in everything from the administration of Nebraska’s crazy quilt of assessments, to incredible new record-keeping requirements, to high-paid school psychologists, to in-school health aides and social workers, and on down the line.

Consider the administrative job descriptions of today compared to those in our schools a generation ago, and ask yourself if running schools has really gotten this much more complicated, especially with all the technology we’ve bought them to manage our resources better. On the Lincoln school district’s website, www.lps.org, it lists the assistant and associate superintendents for instruction, human resources, business affairs and so forth. Then it lists all the directors and managers under those people. For instance, under “business affairs,” there are managers of accounting, budget, distribution center, facilities and maintenance, finance, internal audit, nutrition services, operations, purchasing, risk mangement and computing services. Each of those people is working with other people’s money with very little public accountability for each spending decision, and has a powerful, natural tendency to want to get more and “be” more. School overspending is thereby built in: everybody’s after more, more, more, more, more.

Can we get back to the days of the one-room schoolhouse? Of course not. But can we keep on going like this? Don’t think so.

We need to be talking about these issues and finding alternatives. Suggestions:

-- Do away with the advanced educational requirements for administrative staff, especially superintendents. Good managers don’t necessarily have doctoral degrees. If you want the best management at the best possible cost, open the doors beyond people who come up through the ranks of the bureaucratic school systems. They’re hardly the best training ground for management.

-- Take those high-priced superintendent salaries, and split them in half. Give one job and still-attractive salary to someone to head up the educational side of the district and report to the school board. Give the other job and nice paycheck to someone who’s truly a manager, who comes from business or the military or some realm other than education, and let that person head up the operational side. This system puts a lot more control back into the hands of the school board and away from the overpowering administration.

-- School boards should hire the meanest, toughest, outside labor negotiation law firm to do the collective bargaining each year. They can’t expect internal employees like school administrators or the law firms they hire to handle this crucial task, negotiating with the administrators’ former buddies and severely tempted to set favorable wage scales that give themselves fat raises along with everybody else.

-- For every teacher who is RIF’ed, a district should RIF at least one non-classroom employee, to signify that teaching is indeed the most important function of the school district.

Because it is . . . isn’t it?


One in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on a March 4, 2004, report from the office of State Auditor Kate Witek prepared for State Sen. Ronald Raikes. Data sources included the September 2003 Fall Personnel Report from the Nebraska Department of Education, and other 2003-04 statistical information reported by districts to the state.

For Nebraska public education spending reports, see statewide and individual district annual report information on:


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Wednesday, April 21, 2004


It isn’t the part of the iceberg that you can see that’ll get you. It’s the bulk of it, hidden beneath the surface.

A report from the Nebraska State Auditor shows that the key spending item that most people associate with public schools -- teacher pay -- accounts for merely 24.6 percent of total public-school spending in Nebraska.

It’s startling: how can this be? Teachers are the heart of education.

Well, that’s still true. But there’s a titanic amount of other cost items bulking up those operating budgets. The teacher has now become a minority item in the overall cost of educating a child in Nebraska.

That cost reached $13,843.66 per pupil in the Cornhusker State this year, according to figures compiled by the auditor’s office.

Big items in that total include the costs of non-teaching staff, non-teaching school operations, building projects, repayment of debt, and enormous amounts of cash reserves. Gradually, over the years, these ‘’non-teacher’’ costs have greatly outstripped teacher salaries to become three-fourths of the cost of educating a child today.

Lets start with salaries for what I call ‘’The Great Non-Educational Education Workforce’’ – ‘’The Blob.’’ These are non-teachers who work in schools and associated bureaucracies but aren’t teachers. Examples: superintendents, assistants to superintendents, assistants to the assistants to the superintendents, data enterers, health aides, counselors, bouncers, techies, bus drivers, lawn mowers . . . you get the idea.

‘’The Blob’’ is gaining on the teachers. The most recent budget of the Omaha Public Schools shows total employment of 6,003 people . . . 3,600 of whom are teachers. Who ARE those other guys? Not teachers.

‘’The Blob’’ is on the increase because the philosophies and methods that are in place in our public schools -- outcome-based education, whole language, whole math, progressivism, workforce development, developmentally-appropriate practice, special education inclusion -- are much, much more labor-intensive than traditional educational models . . . not to mention the fact that they don’t work worth squat. It’s a stark reflection of the power the unions have in our schools: the more people we employ to work in them, the merrier it is for the unions.

The same OPS budget also is a stark reflection on how many things the schools spend money on that have nothing to do with serving children in the classroom.

You’ve got your $65 million in fringe benefits.

You’ve got your $5 million in electricity.

You’ve got your $1.3 million in legal work.

You’ve got your $2 million in liability insurance.

You’ve got your $33 million for building and grounds.

You’ve got your $2 million for remodeling.

You’ve got your $7.8 million in contracted transportation.

And on and on, yadda yadda yadda. All of these people are paid salaries and bennies, use tools and resources, need parking spots, pension payments, and on and on. The nickels and dimes continue to build the iceberg from the top down and the bottom up.

The perceived need for hiring more and more employees leads to increased costs that go far beyond those employees’ salaries. There’s all the money that goes to support each employee, whether they’re in the classroom teaching or not. To assess the total cost of employing someone, the rule of thumb is approximately 65 percent salary and 35 percent fringe benefits and ‘’other.’’

You can see how it adds up as school staffs grow, year after year, and that’s not necessarily reflected in the spending reports schools make to the public. Consider, for example, the taxes that went into the funding of the Omaha Public Schools’ pension fund alone. The most recent OPS budget shows a balance of $710.2 million. That’s a lot of taxpayer nickels and dimes, and it dwarfs the OPS operating budget, set at $320 million this school year.

Similarly, OPS spent $14.3 million in debt service alone the year before last, which is more money than most Nebraska school districts spent overall. OPS spent that money to retire principal and interest on its 1999 bond issue, $254 million for building projects. That’s another sizeable chunk of change affecting the overall cost of education that most people don’t think about.

In fact, Nebraska school districts requested $288.3 million in total bond fund requests this school year, according to the auditor’s report. That’s enough to hire almost a third again as many teachers as we already have across the state.

Another big sub-surface item is cash reserves -- CYA funds -- ‘’fudge factors.’’ According to the auditor’s report, Nebraska school districts were sitting on $354.6 million in cash reserves this school year, plus an additional $62 million in cash reserves for their bond funds.

If you removed the cost of having such big cash reserves and capital expenditures from the spending per pupil figure, it would cut the cost by nearly $2,500 per child. That’s because schools spent $11,362.74 per pupil without cash reserves and bond funds, and $13,843.66 per pupil with them, according to the auditor’s report.

Yes, it’s good management practice to have a cushion of available cash, should things go sour. But as one cheerfully jaded public official put it, ‘’What are they worried about -- nuclear war? That we’ll all be mad if they take too many days off after the Big One drops?’’

An even more jaded question is: ‘’Who is making money on all those cash reserves in various financial accounts, here and there?”

Whole lot of back-scratchin’ goin’ on, folks. I mean, it gets repulsive, when all those inner-city kids still can’t read, write and figure.

Look: what have we been hearing about for the past couple of years? The horrendous overspending by Nebraska units of government, which is dolled up as a horrendous ‘’tax revenue shortfall.’’ However you slice it, we’re spending more than we ‘’make.’’ It’s in the multimillions of dollars. We’ve got that huge toxic waste bill to pay, too. And yet here are our schools, squatting on a really, really, REALLY big nest egg, and still squawking for more.

That’s not a nest egg. That’s an iceberg. Do we want to crash into it? Or shrink it, maybe?

They shouldn’t sit on it for long, anyway, because taxpayers are waking up to what’s going on. And you know what happens when you sit on ice: you get yourself burned where the sun don’t shine.

So that’s what’s what. Tomorrow, we’ll look at ‘’whodunit.’’


One in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on a March 4, 2004, report from the office of State Auditor Kate Witek prepared for State Sen. Ronald Raikes. Data sources included the September 2003 Fall Personnel Report from the Nebraska Department of Education, and other 2003-04 statistical information reported by districts to the state.

For Nebraska public education spending reports, see statewide and individual district annual report information on:


For the Omaha Public Schools budget, see:


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Tuesday, April 20, 2004


A couple of years ago, a debate raged in the Unicameral and at coffee breaks across Nebraska. In a hubbub fomented by teachers’ union palookas and their paid-for pets in political positions, the public was told that Nebraska teachers were drastically underpaid . . . among the lowest salaries in the nation . . . forced to eat beans out of a can and ride used bikes to school . . . yadda yadda yadda.

Well. Gee. Now the facts are out.

Nebraska teachers actually averaged $45,662 this school year. That’s according to data submitted to the State Department of Education from districts statewide, and contained in a report prepared by the office of State Auditor Kate Witek.

The average includes extra-duty pay for services such as coaching teams, but does not include the additional costs of fringe benefits.

Not exactly the doomsday scenario the teachers’ union was promulgating, back when they wanted more dough from us poor unsuspecting taxpayers.

They weren’t lying to us back then. Well, not entirely. Starting teaching pay in Nebraska is lower than in more urban states, since so many teaching jobs in Nebraska are in small towns where the economy isn’t as hoity-toity. When you use national rankings of starting pay and compare us to more urban states, of course our first-job pay scale looks worse.

More importantly, when the teacher pay hubbub was going on, Nebraska had just put in the most expensive early retirement package for teachers in the nation. The ‘’Rule of 85’’ allows teachers who reach age 55 and have taught for 30 years to retire with full pension benefits. Therefore, a whole slug of them did so . . . and THEN, with all those veterans sidelined and replaced by new teachers, the salary average plunged in Nebraska for a while.

It was artificially deflated, a statistical anomaly . . . but the union jumped on that as an opportunity to cry, wail, beat its breast and try to get more dough.

We’ve got to WATCH those guys.

The stats on teacher pay are beginning to equalize again for Nebraska. According to the 2004 ‘’Quality Counts’’ report of Education Week with figures from 2002, starting teachers in Nebraska ranked 21st in the nation with an average salary of $28,812; two years ago, all teachers in the state averaged $40,140, or 37th in the country.

It’s important to note that average Nebraska teacher pay was only a few thousand dollars out of the top 10, not some horribly out-of-sync proportion lower. Again, the beanies-and-weenies poverty portrayal the teachers’ union tries to use in this state is . . . full of beans.

It’s the old story in public education politics: bait and switch.

We were baited with emotional appeals to give more money to K-12 education, focusing on that adorable Miss Bates who does such a great job with Junior’s class . . . c’mon, doesn’t Miss Bates deserve BETTER? . . . when it isn’t the TAXPAYER who’s actually shortchanging Miss Bates.

It’s the education system itself . . . including those same union lobbyists and everybody else who cajoles us into parting with more and more of our dough ‘’for the kids’’ and finds more and more uses for that dough BESIDES teacher pay.

Now, picture this: according to the auditor’s report, Nebraska school districts adopted budgets this school year totaling $3.9 billion, an incredible amount.

Imagine that as a great, big, gigantic pie.

OK. Now, how much of that pie do you suppose goes for teachers’ salaries? How big of a piece?

If you’re like me, you guess something like 60, 70, 80 percent. Right? That’s how it USED to be.

Well, guess what?

Out of all the budgets of all the school districts in Nebraska, the percentage that goes for teacher pay is . . . drum roll, please . . . 24.6 percent.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how that could be . . . and who’s responsible for this hill o’ beans.


One in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on a March 4, 2004, report from the office of State Auditor Kate Witek prepared for State Sen. Ronald Raikes. Data sources included the September 2003 Fall Personnel Report from the Nebraska Department of Education, and other 2003-04 statistical information reported by districts to the state.

For Nebraska public education spending reports, see statewide and individual district annual report information on:


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Monday, April 19, 2004


State Sen. Ron Raikes of Lincoln requested some information about school budgets from the State Auditor in the legislative session just ended. The results are so eye-opening, Go Big Ed will take a week to take a hard look.

Raikes led the charge to try to close all Class 1 schools -- the little ones in rural areas that dot the state as evidence of Nebraska’s one-room schoolhouse heritage. He was seeking information on those that have no students, teachers or administrators, or some combination thereof, and yet still are obtaining state aid to education . . . kind of like ‘’ghost schools.’’

The review turned up five of them with budget requests totaling $359,128.

We’ll take a closer look at how that works. But additional data revealed in the report is so instructive, in the words of the ancient scholars, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Anybody who ever wondered where the money goes in education might want to stay tuned for more on facts like:

Full-time teachers: 21,197

Full-time administrators: 1,504

Student-to-teacher ratio statewide: 13:1 (much higher than that in the elementary grades and much lower than that in the secondary grades)

Student-to-administrator ratio statewide: 189:1

Total teacher salaries: $967.9 million

Total administrator salaries: $115.4 million

Average teacher salary: $45,662

Average administrator salary: $76,746

Stay tuned this week. It’s going to be fun, isn’t it?


One in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on a March 4, 2004, report from the office of State Auditor Kate Witek prepared for State Sen. Ronald Raikes. Data sources included the September 2003 Fall Personnel Report from the Nebraska Department of Education, and other 2003-04 statistical information reported by districts to the state.

For Nebraska public education spending reports, see statewide and individual district annual report information on:


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Friday, April 16, 2004


A friend of mine was in the Dallas airport recently, coming home from a business trip. Waiting alongside him was a large group of Nebraska educators. Here’s how he describes what happened:

‘’I overheard them talking favorably about the State Board of Ed and standards, and what a good job they were doing with standards.

‘’I couldn’t help myself, and I said that the State Board would be a good place for a bomb, providing no one was hurt.

‘’I said standards do nothing but teach to the middle and take more time away from teachers than recess.

‘’They were somewhat feisty.

‘’It turns out that these ladies were school psychologists on an ‘education junket’ to Dallas for six days. Two of them, count 'em, TWO . . . were from (my home district). Now, couldn’t one go and return with information for the others? Six nights of hotel and roundtrip airfare for this. Wow!’’

When he expressed his opinion to them about what he saw as an imprudent use of Nebraska taxpayer dollars, what did he get? That ‘’deer in the headlights’’ look. They just didn’t get it.

Well, you know, they’re spending somebody else’s money. That’s it. That’s the problem.

If they were spending their own, there’s no doubt in my mind they would have spent $15 or $20 to buy a book on the same topic they just spent six days’ worth of taxpayer money to bone up on.

I got into that same discussion with a teacher in our old grade school, who was the first to admit she had the world’s worst grammar and writing skills, but who was also the union representative in that grade school. That year, she got a union-related perk from her district intended to massage her sensibilities: a week-long, taxpayer-paid junket to Atlanta, Ga., to attend a writing conference for teachers.

She was bragging about it to me afterwards, using a large amount of atrocious grammar in the offing despite her high-priced recent junket at my expense. Naturally, polite steam began to come out of my ears, and I asked with a keen mixture of sincerity and sarcasm, ‘’How many thousand dollars did THAT cost? Couldn’t you have just bought a paperback copy of ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk & White for $5.99 and learned the same stuff?’’ She stared at me like a deer in the headlights. ‘’What’s that?’’ she asked. ‘’I’ve never heard of that.”

Never heard of Strunk & White. That book is, like, you know, OK, the BIBLE of writing instruction, and stuff teachers should know. Of.

She just didn’t get it.

It’s the same thing with the district administrator from Omaha who took a taxpayer-paid junket to Japan to ‘’study’’ the schools there -- couldn’’’t he have watched a video? . . . and the Lincoln high schools with voc-ed technology that is far and away more fancy than what the average working person uses to make a living . . . and the widespread, indiscriminate use of “disposable’’ classroom materials instead of materials that kids can use year after year . . . and the Omaha teacher who chartered a jet to take a classroom of high-school kids to Washington, D.C., for the day -- couldn’t they have gone to the library? . . . and the northeast Nebraska superintendent who recently rammed an incredibly expensive, high-tech classroom phone system down the throats of his school board that has the same emergency-minded, safety-protecting, voice-activated technology as jet pilots who might have to fend off terrorists -- couldn’t they have just gone with the tried-and-true BUZZER TO THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE?

But noooooo. They’re spending somebody else’s money. That’s it. That’s the problem with public schools. They just don’t get it. They may never get it.

Until we force them to show us how they’re spending each and every dollar, and to defend those expenditures that are questionable, of which many, many are, the money’s just going to flow and flow. And all we’ll get from them is the ‘’deer in the headlights’’ look when we ask them whether there might be a more cost-effective bang for our bucks.


One in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on an article on the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s education website this week:


For Nebraska public education spending reports, see statewide and individual district annual report information on:


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Thursday, April 15, 2004


More and more kids are getting labeled ‘’special ed,’’ and more and more millions of tax dollars are going to pay for special ed programs.

Nowhere does the off-kilter condition of public education show more clearly than in special education, where they have things so drastically backwards of what the public wants.

In special education, the more kids are labeled ‘’disabled,’’ the more money the schools get . . . even if it’s clear that the curriculum and instructional methods that are being used are, to a significant degree, the reason they are becoming ‘’disabled.’’

Nationwide, estimates are that about two-thirds of the kids who are in special ed are there only because of ‘’reading failure.’’ There is nothing wrong with them medically. When regular instruction fails -- which it does more and more, since the wrong methods are being used in the early grades -- instead of correcting the ineffective instruction, schools just plunk the kids into special ed. There’s more money in it for schools, anyway.

Then the ‘’remedial’’ services they get in special ed do nothing for them. That’s why the proportion of kids in special ed doubles between grade school and the secondary level. Sheer frustration by kids and teachers is why the ‘’behavior disability’’ rolls are exploding, and so many kids with normal intelligence, but dysfunctional academic skills, are getting held out of tests so that they don’t drag down the score averages . . . and reveal the truth to the public. Schools employ more people and have more income stream . . . but kids are stuck for life as quasi-literate underachievers who have been disabled, not by nature, but by the very schools that were supposed to teach them.

And we’re paying for it, by the boatloads.

Think about that, on this Tax Day.

That’s not only sad. It’s crazy.

Special ed is the most damning evidence of all that the inmates are in charge of the asylum, when it comes to managing public schools . . . and the public funds that run them.

I mean . . . Wouldn’t it make a heck of a lot more sense to have financial rewards for bringing a child OUT of dysfunction, and into academic achievement? Instead, we’re throwing more and more money at what’s obviously not working, and miring more and more kids in the underclass.

Yet the stubborn refusal to change back to traditional educational methods and philosophies despite the obvious failure of ‘’progressivism’’ is why we are seeing such astounding overstaffing, as reported Wednesday in Go Big Ed.

Also note that the increase in special ed comes in the face of astounding reductions in class size. Take the state’s largest school district, the Omaha Public Schools. In 1970, 48.6 percent of the elementary pupils in OPS were in classrooms with 31 or more pupils. By 1997, that had fallen to .6 of 1 percent.

You’d think that’d be a set-up for success. Yet the special education rolls mushroomed during that time.

Again: more and more tax dollars and more and more staffers are being applied to fewer and fewer students . . . and because the wrong methods and philosophies of basic instruction are being used, the kids are become more and more academically dysfunctional.

In Nebraska public schools, special education instruction cost $128.2 million in the 1992-93 school year . . . and $245.1 million a decade later. That’s a 91.2 percent increase in 10 years.

SPED instruction costs accounted for 15 percent of total instruction 10 years ago. That figure reached 18.8 percent in the 2002-03 school year.

Consider the cascading consequences of this increase in the broad range of infrastructure costs. Take school-age special ed transportation: in 1992-93, it cost Nebraska taxpayers $11.1 million. A decade later, it was $19.6 million. The increase alone is more money than most Nebraska school districts have in their annual budgets.

Nebraska is certainly not alone in this. Over in Iowa, a citizens’ group has reported that special ed enrollment grew statewide by 39 percent in the decade from 1992-02, while total public-school enrollment in Iowa fell by 1.4 percent. In Cedar Rapids, SPED growth was 48 percent in a decade.

The Iowalive Network (www.crlive.com/iowalive/specialed.htm) has been highly critical of public-school test scores in Iowa. In relatively under-funded private-schools, test scores show children of equal demographic backgrounds in private schools are doing much, much better than their public-school peers. Why? Because the private schools are using more of the traditional teaching methods that make kids literate and numerate.

Iowalive says the special education model rewards dysfunction, not function, and provides powerful disincentives to schools to get kids reading and writing well. There’s no pressure to employ the best, most cost-effective practices. The ever-increasing income stream provided by SPED funding is a ‘’reward’’ for schools to keep doing the things that keep a lot of kids unfairly dysfunctional academically. The citizens’ group blames self-interest in union leaders and the education bureaucracy for this state of affairs.

I know, this is all very depressing. Tax Day is ALWAYS depressing. You know, on this day in 1912, the Titanic sank, too.

My question is: are we going to let our public schools do the same?

I say NO! I say we follow the example set by longtime OPS board member and State Board of Education member Ann Mactier, who donated money to train teachers in two low-achieving inner-city Omaha schools, Central Park and Kellom, so that they would use proper phonics, not whole language . . . and those are the only two low-income schools in OPS now that have lofted their standardized test scores out of the cellar.

I say we fire the people who have been devoting Title I federal funding to no-account remedial programs that don’t work, and get people in there who will use our tax dollars to benefit kids and get them OUT of special ed, not stuck in it forever.

I say we vote out of office every federal, state and local school-board member and legislator who has gone along with this despicable “on-purpose disabling” of our children, and replace them with people who really WILL put kids first. Not the union. Not the educrats. KIDS.

And I say that since that’s probably wishful thinking, we’d better get as many kids onto the lifeboats of private education and homeschooling that we can, over the next few years. If things don’t change soon, we may ALL go down with the ship.


One in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on an article on the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s education website this week:


For Nebraska public education spending reports, see statewide and individual district annual report information on:


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Wednesday, April 14, 2004


In the 1970-71 school year, Nebraska’s largest school district had a pupil-to-teacher ratio of 24:1, and employed one staff member for every 17.7 pupils.

In 2002-03, that had changed a whole lot in the Omaha Public Schools. The pupil-to-teacher ratio had been cut nearly in half, to 12.7:1, and there was one staffer for every 7.6 students.




That’s an illustration of how school budgets have gotten so far out of hand: the incredible sea change in the way we staff our public schools.

I call it ‘’The Attack of the Non-Teaching Blob,’’ and it’s a killer monster that’s truly threatening the infrastructure of our K-12 public education system and the ability of the general public to continue to be able to pay.

School staffing has changed in unbelievable ways in the past 30 years or so. Consider this: the Omaha Public Schools have gone from 63,600 students on a budget of $41.65 million in 1970-71, to this year’s $311 million for an enrollment of 46,000.

That’s far fewer students, after the ravages of busing and westward expansion, while the total staff serving those far fewer students has increased by exactly two-thirds. In 1970-71, there were 3,601 full-time staffers in OPS, including classroom teachers. Last year, that had zoomed to 6,003.

Who are all these people? Well, they’re mostly union members, but not mostly certified teachers. They’re just about everything else you can name, besides the traditional K-12 staff lineup of teacher, principal, janitor and lunch lady.

Just as one example, in the 1970-71 school year, there were no teacher’s aides employed by OPS. But last year, there were 1,002.4 of them -- one of the largest employee groups in the city. Their fiscal cost to OPS in 2002-03 was $14.2 million in salaries, not even counting fringe benefits and other costs of employment. And the relatively new expense of all those teacher’s aides is on top of the teacher-to-pupil ratio, which has been cut in half.

Bottom line: there are far more people at far more expense serving far fewer pupils.

That’s ‘’The Blob’’ in action.

The ravages of ‘’The Blob’’ on OPS can be summed up like this: we are now spending seven times as much money on about three-fourths as many students, and taking two-thirds again as many employees to do it.

Those ratios may not be identical in other public schools in Nebraska, but they certainly are indicative of what’s going on from border to border.




If you care anything about public education, and keeping it going for future generations, you can see right away that this kind of a trendline has to be reversed.

We need to ‘’Un-Blob’’ the schools. And do it now.


One in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on an article on the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s education website this week:


Also review Omaha Public Schools budget information on:


Source of the 1970-71 OPS data is a longtime Nebraska tax activist.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2004


To check for dust, you do ‘’the white glove’’ test.

To check for stain removal safety, you do the ‘’try a small amount on an inconspicuous spot first’’ test.

But to check for the main cause of overspending in schools, you do ‘’the yearbook’’ test.

You get a yearbook from last school year, and one from yesteryear -- say, 30 or 40 years ago.

Smile at the hairdo’s and fashions in both. Then focus in on how many pictures there are of adult school staff . . . and how many there are of students.

See the gigantic change in the staff-to-child ratio? See the gigantic increase in nonteaching staff?

Bingo. That’s why it’s costing us so much more to educate kids today than in the past. It’s not that politicians, school administrators and union officials want to spend us all into bankruptcy, or teachers want to do a bad job for the kids. It’s just that they really are acting like drunken sailors lost in a raging hurricane of excessive personnel spending . . . and instead of bailing, they’re taking on more bilge.

A highly-placed Go Big Ed reader supplied an excellent example of this from an article a few years ago by Kevin Avram of the Nebraska-based think tank, the Niobrara Institute. Here’s an excerpt:

‘’In 1961 there were roughly 280,000 students in Nebraska who were being taught by 13,300 teachers. In 1980 Nebraska public schools still had 280,000 students but the number of teachers had jumped by 4,600. Move ahead another 20 years and we see that during the school year 1998-1999, there were 291,000 students and 20,100 teachers.’’

So there was just a slight uptick in the number of students served over those decades . . . but a huge increase in the number of classroom teachers employed to serve them. And each one of those extra employees needs a salary, benefits, materials, supplies, a parking place, heating and air conditioning, magazine subscriptions . . . you get the drift.

The Go Big Ed reader went a step further to report that at the turn of the last century, 1899-1900, in Nebraska the student-to-teacher ratio was 30.4 to 1 (288,227 students and 9,463 teachers).

But at Y2K, the 1999-2000 school year, with darn near exactly the same number of students in Nebraska classrooms, the number of teachers had more than proportionately doubled, to 14 to 1 (288,231 students taught by 20,412 teachers).

And that trend just continues stronger and stronger, even though enrollment is going down, too: in the 2001-02 school year, the student-staff ratio had dropped to 13.7-to-1 (285,095 students, 20,808 teachers).

Yeah, but . . . don’t kids come to school with more problems today than in yesterday, like rotten home lives and non-English speaking and so forth? Well . . . they’re not as poor as in yesteryear, their parents are far better educated, and we’re spending three times as much per pupil, after inflation.

Well, but . . . doesn’t it cost a lot more to employ ANYBODY in ANY field of work today? Yes, but personnel costs go far beyond salaries and benefits. It’s overstaffing, not necessarily overpayment of salaries and benefits, for example: having too many people in the boat rocks the boat. There are many other ways schools could hold the line on personnel costs and still do a good job: they could ‘’outsource’’ non-classroom functions, quit staffing and maintaining underused or shut-down buildings, terminate staff for programs that are unnecessary and/or ineffective, and use technology where appropriate to cut down on non-teaching staff.

Yeah, but . . . the main reason we have so many more people employed in schools today than yesterday is that we like smaller class sizes. Aren’t smaller class sizes better for kids? Well . . . no doubt about it, ‘til they’re reading, writing and figuring well, which should happen by third grade. After that, you can teach in a BARN or MEMORIAL STADIUM and do a great job . . . because everybody’s LITERATE. The most damning proof that schools today are causing ILLITERACY is the outcry by educators for smaller class sizes. I mean, it’s embarrassingly obvious. But with the boneheaded curriculum and instructional philosophies in place in the early grades in public schools, which mire kids in substandard reading and writing skills, even a 1:1 staff-child ratio isn’t going to work. No way. No how.

So why in the Sam Hill should we be throwing MORE money at this sad, strange state of affairs?

It’s clear that, besides bad curriculum in the early grades that keeps kids from reading, writing and figuring properly, which in turn brings on all kinds of problems that necessitate excessive staff in schools on down the road, the main reason for skyrocketing personnel costs in schools is that educators have gotten away for too long having too many people on staff.

It HAS to change, and change now, or the next generation of kids won’t be able to afford to publish a yearbook at all . . . because they’ll need soooooooooo many pages for staff pictures.


One in a series on Nebraska school finance issues based on an article on the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s education website this week:


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