Friday, February 04, 2005


Looks like the silver sword of governmental greed is poised to be thrust into the heart of Nebraska’s country schools, as the forced consolidation bill has been prioritized now.

But lo and behold! A hero has ridden up on a white charger, with a powerful weapon that contradicts the educrats who claim that closing our Class I schools will save money and improve quality.

As if!

The truth is, the smaller the school a student attends, the higher his income on down the road.

The data comes from a study of one million white males born between 1920 and 1949 which concluded that “smaller schools had a significant positive effect on students’ wages as adults.”

The author: Christopher Berry, assistant professor for public policy studies at the University of Chicago.

Read it for yourself in his article, “School Inflation,” on www.educationnext.org/20044/56.html

Now, there’s no doubt that different facets of consolidation can make a lot of sense in a lot of places. But it doesn’t mean lumping the kids all together in a big, behemoth building and ruining any vestige of local control by getting rid of elected school boards. You can consolidate administration – traveling superintendents and purchasing co-ops come to mind. You can make nonclassroom spending cuts. You can go without swimming pools and Astro-Turf.

The point is, we can keep our smaller schools, which have been shown to be better for kids, with better management. All it will take to get it is more political pressure from the voters, taxpayers and school-district patrons.

It’s what everybody wants. What’s a greater goal than to do what it takes to shape our educational system so that it maximizes a student’s chance at more wealth and success?

Doesn’t it make the educrats who want to kill Nebraska’s country schools look . . . small?

Susan -- Though it would be wonderful if our smaller schools could continue to operate with adequate funding from our state and taxpayer base, we have to think in terms of reality. For example, we all know that teachers' salaries and benefits are union-negotiated, and that districts are taken to arbitration court if they aren't up to standards regarding salaries and benefits. Additionally, districts are required to contribute to a retirement program that consistently ranks among the best in the nation. Because of these requirements, it is not realistic that a small district would be able to fund a teacher-student ratio of ten to one or even 15 to one. You, Susan, are so critical of the costs of education. As a board member for a public school system, I agree that in many ways we are not shored up. However, the unions, and state support of those unions are really the root of the problem. We can't pay what the market dictates. We have to pay what the union and the arbitration courts dictate.

In the class I system, if you have one low-paid teacher earning $40,000 in salary and benefits, it would be difficult to justify that teacher having a small amount of students. If that teacher had 15 students (which is way more than most of the teachers within the class I system have to deal with), he/she would be educating our youth at a cost of $2,666 per student, per year. It's not really the bargain you'd think it is, because on top of that, districts have to pay building expenses, building maintenance, administrative salaries (administrators are required by law), support staff salaries, education expenses for foster children residing in the district, para salaries, transportation, costs of educational materials/books, hot lunch program costs, extracurricular activity costs, testing fees, training fees and a host of other expenses.

Private education is not held to standards to which public schools are in terms of the teacher salary dollars and benefit dollars we're required to shell out.
To Anonymous From Susan: Thank you for your comment. I found this link most helpful and recommended it a year ago, in case you're new to this blog:


Sounds as though we both want the same things: end collective bargaining, and end the ridiculous micromanaging of state and federal government in local schools.

Here are some of the things I favor:

-- Apportion state aid based on enrollment so that it's identical everywhere. With all the computerization we have now, we can pro rate that to a fare-the-well.

-- Apportion state aid to the student, not to the district. Then if the student chooses to be homeschooled, private schooled or public schooled, the money helps offset that expense.

-- Deregulate Class I schools so that they are incentivized to operate more like charter schools. They will succeed so well that deregulation will spread to larger districts.

-- If none of the above takes place, I see the answer for Class I schools in privatization: withdraw from state and federal aid altogether, form exempt private schools and operate more like a homeschooling co-op, with parents paying one or more teachers and one or more staff, and/or serving in those capacities on a part-time basis. Trust me on this: they can do it, and the kids would be far better off.

Still think I'm such a poopyhead? Or could it be that I'm trying to be constructive here, and solve some of the problems you have expressed?
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