Friday, February 27, 2015


Someone’s got to be the heartless brute; it might as well be me.

I attended the February 21st “legislative dialogue” that was held at Presbyterian Manor. I got a real education. 

The Koch brothers have it in for our kids. They’re the reason we can’t get enough money for our schools. They’re greedy and they buy politicians, particularly Republicans. In the 2014 election cycle they purchased over $7,000,000 worth of influence, with 99% of that money going to rapacious Republicans.

Far be it from me to mention that the National Education Association contributed over $26,000,000 in campaign contributions during the same election cycle, with 99% going to Democrats. I never heard anyone at the meeting complain about that, nor did I hear a peep about the $73,000,000 that Tom Steyer gave to liberal causes or the $4,000,000 that George Soros gave to liberals in 2012. I guess money contributed to conservatives and Republicans must be tainted, while money given to liberals and Democrats is donated “ex-cathedra.”

One person asked our legislators if they were going to take a pay cut. It seemed only fair in the light of the “fact” that our kids were being mugged in the budget process. That didn’t seem like a bad idea to me, but I might have gone a bit further. I’ve seen the U.S.D. organizational chart. It’s a piece of work, something that would have done Nikita Khrushchev and the old line communists proud. About the only thing missing is a slot for a highly paid professional bureaucrat overseeing the department of seven letter words beginning with the letter “X,” Xeroxed for example. 

Someone’s got to be in charge of making all those copies. Right?

I suppose I shouldn’t ruffle too many feathers. I’m sure that every executive director, associate executive director,  assistant director,  assistant superintendent, associate superintendent, principal, assistant principal, or lowly coordinator has been fully cost justified in the same way as all that AstroTurf.

Almost every time I pick up my daily issue of the Gazette, I read about problems with education funding. The kids need laptops, tablets, or IPads. The school district is strapped for cash. This morning I read about the very real possibility of budget cuts.

I’m not an unreasonable man. I’d be willing to pay top dollar for a top tier product. But, my problem with the way education money is being spent is that it simply isn’t delivering the quality education it should be.

And, it’s not just me. The vast majority of us really do care about education. We want our kids to get a top notch education, but there’s a disconnect. We’re not getting what we’re paying for.
In the most recent P.I.S.A. (Program for International Student Assessment) study on math, science, and reading, for example, American students rank far below many of their international peers in countries like Korea, the Czech Republic, Poland, Finland, Belgium, Iceland, and over twenty other nations. We’re mired in 27th place. 27th place!

That’s not a pretty picture. And, when we look at our local school district, things are every bit as bad. In a 2009 Bush Institute report comparing local school districts with their international peers, for example, the results were hair-raising. Our kids here in Emporia rank in the 39th percentile in math and the 46th percentile in reading. In other words, 61% of kids from countries like Finland, Ireland, Belgium, etc. are outpacing our kids in math and 54% are ahead of us in reading.

That’s unacceptable! I’d like to think we could all agree on that.

What role does money play in the results? The financial addendum to the P.I.S.A. report was quite revealing. The United States spends about $12,000 per student on education. Our local education spending is on par with that number. Only two countries (Luxembourg and Switzerland) spend more (in U.S. dollars) than us. Even Sweden’s roaring socialists spend less than us. How much do the Finns spend on education? About $9,600 per student. The Irish? About $9,000. The Koreans? About $8,000. The Poles? About $6,100, which is roughly half of what we spend.  How are they, and so many other countries, managing to do so much better than us with a lot less money?

I could go on and on, but it’s driving me crazy. I’m sick and tired of spending big money for 27th place. If our education system were a 27th place racehorse, I’d have put it out to pasture a long time ago.

The pundits and the bureaucrats say they want more money. “Fine,” I say. But I also want to tell them, “It’s time for you to belly up to the bar and figure out how to produce results commensurate with the money we’re spending.”

I’m ready to have that kind of conversation.

I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Our kids are Americans, for God’s sake. They deserve better than we’re giving them. They should be number one in the world, not 27th, particularly for the kind of money we’re spending.

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