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A Modest Proposal For Education
by Ben Perrone
Our current school system is broken and attempts to make it work have never been successful. We have a continual battle between the school board, parents, and unions that produce small increments of change and improvement, and we accept the terrible results for graduation and test scores. It’s like trying to keep the old car running when it has Ílong past its usefulness. It’s time for a sea change that will bring many protests from all sides. I would like to propose a new system of public education that would bring more harmony and better results for students, parents, and teachers, and therefore society as a whole.
My proposal is this. All certified teachers are put into pools divided by first and secondary teaching. Anyone who wants to be a principal administrator must run for the position. This may include trained administrators and/or anyone who may see themselves as qualified through life experience. They would have to present themselves to the teaching pool and after due process the teachers would vote on them. The highest vote receivers would get the available positions but they would be placed in schools not by their choosing but by lottery. The principals would then pick their administrative staffs and by agreement the teachers that they need. All teachers would receive a base salary considering past experience. The school board would assign and pay maintenance and building upkeep. They would be responsible for school supplies and their distribution.
Students would be assigned a monetary value based on the amount allotted for education from the city, town, and state. As each student graduates by passing a state-university-designed test, some of that monetary value would go to the school and to the teachers whose classes the student had attended. Both administrators and teachers would have a financial benefit to educate the students and also to help each other in accomplishing that goal. That will mean that the faculty as a whole will also want to and have to police its own staff, and hire new replacements out of the pool of available teachers, in order to enjoy the benefits of higher graduation rates and financial incentives. The principal (and staff) would also be replaceable by election every four years. Each school would be an independent unit, small enough and stable enough to determine its goals and success.
The part that the state university plays in designing the tests needed for graduation is obvious. It has insight into what degree of lower education is needed for success at the university level and for those going directly into the work force. The state university can also advise schools on their direction and curriculum needed to best prepare for final testing.
Parents will also be slightly rewarded out of the “student value.” They will be compensated for their responsibility to get their child to school and on time for a certain percentage of the school year.
Another part of this plan is to eliminate bussing as much as possible. That means returning to neighborhood schools, with parents responsible to walk or drive their children to school. Cooperation within neighborhoods and policing can help with this problem. The huge savings on bussing to schools, plus the evenhandedness and improvement of schools will outweigh the benefits of bussing.
To accomplish these changes would require a Herculean effort. Almost everyone now employed in the present system—teachers, union leaders, and administrators—would resist change. Even if the will is there it could require a closing down of the present system, the firing of all teachers preceding the rehire, and much planning ahead. To continue on the present path, however, will never return the country to a leading role in education.
Ben Perrone, Buffalo
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