Monday, September 25, 2006

Under the Microscope...

So, the doorbell rings, and the husband of a candidate for state representative is at the door plugging for his wife. He has a glossy flyer listing her claims to fame and promises to keep. After a couple of claims that she'll provide "Property Tax Relief" and "fiscal prudence" the brochure promises a "wise investment in our schools and greater accountability". Since this was all pretty vague, I asked the guy what this meant. He pointed out that his wife would make sure that the schools wouldn't waste money on administrative costs like flying superintendents in jets.

Flying superintendents in jets?

Is this the most pressing issue for our schools? I asked the guy if he has internet service. He says, "Yes". So I asked him if he made sure that his internet company doesn't waste money flying it's executives around in jets. He says, "No". I offered that perhaps we should trust our school boards, who are also elected, to do their job; rather than having our state legislatures meddling in the day to day operations of our schools. If we don' like the school board's policies or fiscal priorities, then we can replace them.

Good grief.

I also asked what party she is with, since the flyer fails to mention party affiliation. Apparantly she's endorsed by the Republican Party. I don't understand why that's not on the flyer. Wouldn't you think that would be something they would want to highlight?

So, he leaves. And I look at the brochure a bit more. Turns out he's a teacher. What gives? How can anyone who's ever worked in a classroom really think that administrative overhead is our biggest problem. Administrative loads in Minnesota average about 31%. Maybe this could be lowered somewhat, but not without sacrificing essential planning and support. Let's say we cut the heck out of Administration, by 20% for instance, that only changes the load to 26%, meaning that we get an extra 5% for instruction. While this would be great in the short run, it's hard to estimate what the long term effect would be. Particularly if the original 31% includes things like copies, custodial, and counseling. It doesn't help morale to have things like that cut by 20%. Also, I would guess that most calculations include professional development in the administrative costs. So much for ensuring Quality Instruction.

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