Mayor Bloomberg Misses the Problem
By Arnold Kling
we have built too many bureaucracies that lack clear lines of accountability, which means that mediocrity and failure are tolerated, and excellence goes unrewarded. We recruit a disproportionate share of teachers from among the bottom third of their college classes. Then we give them lifetime tenure after three years, and we reward them based on longevity, not performance. We fail to help struggling students in the early years, when costs are lower, and then, in the upper grades, we pay for expensive remediation programs which have very limited success. And we allow vast funding inequalities to exist between school districts, with poor students, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic, paying the price.
Here is my reaction to a story in our local suburban newspaper (I decided to exercise my inner Don Boudreaux and write a letter to the editor–it would be printed next week if they accept it):
Your lead story on the school budget (December 13) contained some very interesting facts, which in turn raise some questions.
For example, if you divide school enrollment of 137,798 by number of employees, 21,840, you get a ratio of one employee for every 6.3 students. My daughters have been in classes that are 4 or 5 times that big. Apparently, the vast majority of school system employees do not teach in a classroom.
The story said that 89 percent of the $1.98 billion budget goes to employee compensation. Dividing this by the number of employees gives average compensation of $80,686 per employee. If the non-teaching staff are bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and janitors, then they are very well paid!
If the County should ever elect an official who represents taxpayers and parents, rather than being teacher’s union-approved, that official might want to ask questions about this. Start by asking what all of the non-teaching staff are being paid to do, and whether it is really worth as much as the work of classroom teachers.