If I wanted to design an education budget that gives the “appearance” of supporting teachers and educators, what would that budget look like? What if my long term goals are to get the state out of the education business and turn that entire enterprise over to the private sector? How can I continue to “starve” public education to achieve this goal? Here’s what I might do.
First of all, since I would have to give some raises in pay during election years, I would, but do so strategically. I don’t really want young college students choosing education as a career, because then I would have to keep paying them and ultimately give them some kind of sound benefits and retirement. I want young teachers and young teachers only, so I make sure that teachers in the first 10 years or so get paid well. I would not want to pay them too much after that. In fact, I would take away experienced teachers' longevity pay and any other incentive they might have to teach beyond 10 years or so. I don’t value experience nor getting higher education degrees, so I would disincentivize those things as well. The goal in my planned destruction of public education is to attract teachers who use the job as a stepping stone to other careers, so keep the pay for experienced teachers flat.
Secondly, I would look for strategic areas in the education budget that would have the greatest negative impact on public education in this state if they were cut. I would cut a bit here and there, change funding structures that in the end result in cuts. I could cut special programs like at-risk funding to make it even more difficult for schools to meet the needs of students, so I can say public schools are failures. I would keep textbooks and instructional supply budgets flat, so teaching becomes even harder. That has the duel effect of making sure no one chooses teaching in a public school as a long term career. It also makes sure that teachers can’t claim to be successful too much. After all, if my ultimate goal is to put public education out of business, can’t have teachers being successful.
Thirdly, I would tighten the accountability screws even tighter. I could use tests as bludgeoning instruments to further beat up the education system. Give schools ratings using these test scores (grade them on an A-F grading scale), and make it difficult for them to obtain the highest ratings. That way, we can use numbers, which I know everyone believes don't lie, to declare more and more public schools a failure. I would also use tests and a testing process that does not give teachers too much feedback on teaching. Can’t have them getting quality, timely testing data that can then be turned around and used to improve teaching and learning. After all, we don’t want public schools to succeed. We want them to fail, so we can then create a whole industry to take over the education enterprise.
Fourthly, I make sure teaching is no longer a profession. Tenure has to go so I try to pass laws with incentives for teachers to give it up or I pass laws so that it quietly goes away. After all, if the destruction of public schools is my ultimate goal, I don’t want due process rights to get in the way of getting rid of teachers when it becomes necessary to get rid of them. For example, at some point, I might want to toss teachers out to balance budgets or to keep from having to pay retirements. I also don’t want teachers in the system who might ask too many questions. If there’s no tenure, and they get too close to the truth, I can toss them out.
Finally, I add more money to voucher programs to continue the process of getting students out of public schools, and I promote legislation that supports the idea that “any-old-charter-school-will-do." It really doesn’t matter if charter schools or private schools are more effective. In fact, they can be less effective. All I want to do get students out of public schools and the funding that goes with them. That way I can continue to starve public education even further, as their ADM drops. I also cut the automatic funding stream too, that way I use it to further the public education starvation process.
With just these five steps, I can move the state closer to dismantling public education and turning education over to private enterprise, and give the "appearance" that I support education. I could simply use a four-pronged approach:
1) Make public school teaching less of a profession and a less attractive career,
2) Strategically cut money from the budget that has the greatest negative impact on public school success,
3) Institute measures to begin getting students out of public schools, after all this will in turn start pulling money from public education, thereby continuing the starving process,
4) Ramp up regulation, accountability and testing, and use both to bludgeon public schools and educators so they aren’t seen as successful.
This entire plan would perhaps so negatively impact public schools that the public would be screaming that they be closed.
Hmmmm…does all this sound familiar to anyone in North Carolina? I’ll let you be judge.