Friday, September 03, 2004

The Missing Fruit of The Education Bush

In his acceptance speech last night at the Republican National Convention, President Bush concluded his discourse with, "To everything we know there is a season, a time for sadness, a time for struggle, a time for rebuilding. And now we have reached a time for hope....."

It is too bad that most classroom teachers cannot take solace in those brave words. Speaking directly to teachers, parents, and children, he said earlier, "No matter what your circumstance, no matter where you live.... your school will be the path to the promise of America. We are transforming our schools by raising standards and focusing on results. We are insisting in accountability, empowering parents and teachers and making sure that local people are in charge of their schools. By testing every child, we are identifying those who need help... and we're providing a record level of funding to get them that help."

Notice anything missing from Bush's statements? He mentions accountability, higher standards, and results. The President says nothing about actually helping teachers. Nothing was said about increased compensation, or lower class sizes. Much was said about increasing teacher performance. So.... where is all this increased funding being spent, if not in your childrens' classrooms?

In America, what do we typically do when confronted with a problem, be it terrorist attack or troubled school? Why we Americans create a bureaucracy! Student testing, bureaucrats, staffing, office space, perks, travel, expense accounts. They all add up. Little or none of the funding so far allocated under the No Child Left Behind Act has actually reached your child's classroom.

Put simply, teachers are required to work harder for the same pay. To put it in terms of "business speak" teachers are expected to increase productivity, but there is to be no increase in cost of labor. A traditional unionized worker would call it, "speeding up the line."

Since each student will be receiving additional instruction at no additional labor cost, the expense of each hour of instruction received by students actually decreases. Those that administer schools love it. They get to force teachers to work harder for the same money.

From the administrative point of view, The No Child Left Behind Act provides a multitude of opportunities. Bureaucracies at the town, county, state, and federal levels are just bulging with employment opportunities.....for administrators. In a system already overburdened with too many chiefs and not enough Indians, we have just created more lodges for more chiefs. And nearly every chief will be eager to create.... a tribe. In modern parlance, the newly-minted bureaucrat will wish to hire a staff that reports to him or her. This helps insure the junior bureaucrat's job security.

The hapless classroom teacher, on the other hand, has just gotten a whole new crop of supervisors that will be looking over his or her shoulder to make sure that the teacher is working that much harder. And if the teacher is not working hard enough, they will be right there to threaten that teacher with the loss of his or her job.

We know that the President and His Brethren all believe in the "trickle-down" theory of economics (which they prefer to call "supply side") in which the highest percentage of tax breaks and subsidies are distributed at the upper end of income earners. In the Education World, that means the Administative Apparatus. Since both Bush and Cheney have publicly bragged that schools are doing better and that no child will be left behind, the teachers that are doing the actual work want to know why they have already been left in the dust.