Reform And The Three Rs
The real problem with public education is bad management ("Will Schools ever get better?" Cover Story, Apr. 17). When people invest in stocks, mutual funds, and startups, what they are investing in is management. If public school districts were traded on the New York Stock Exchange, they would soon go broke.
The educational establishment simply does not have the stomach or the personality types to change. Current leadership wants the status quo.
If we put corporate types in as superintendents and principals and rotated all current teachers and managers to the private sector for a year once every five years, we would shortly have a far different look about our schools.
Edmund G. Gildersleeve
I do not agree with the comment in your editorial that teachers have gained "a compensation package that is the envy of most working people: 10-week vacations and a gold-plated package of health and pension benefits that disappeared in the private sector long ago."
All the teachers I know have masters degrees or more and continually take refresher courses during "summer vacations." Furthermore, they spend their evenings grading papers, unlike professionals fortunate enough to observe office hours. For my money, teachers in public schools are worth twice what they get.
P. Douglas Fowler
In my 23 years as a public-school teacher, I have seen a parade of ideas for improving schools. Whether they were good or not made little difference, because none of them addressed the structure of public education.
A school system is a monopoly. What's more, it is a protected monopoly. Customers must shop at our store no matter what we put on the shelves. Public education will not get better until vouchers let our customers shop somewhere else if need be.
Another lesson to be learned by public educators from U.S. corporations is "pay for performance." I firmly believe that teachers would have an incentive to develop better students if the teachers received only a percentage of their salary [automatically]. The remainder would be paid on a graduated scale, depending on how far their students exceeded a minimum score on standardized state or federal tests.
Exceptional grades achieved by their students would result in commissions for teachers that exceeded 100% of salary. However, there would be no commissions for teachers whose students did not achieve a specified minimum score. Let's bring the real world to academia.
You say public schools are "frittering away vast sums...." Before reaching such a conclusion, it makes sense to look at just what sums are being used for what purposes.
Using figures cited in the article, one can compare the federal, state, and local education spending for youngsters 5 to 18 with the federal spending for Medicare and Social Security, uhich goes to the 12% of the population that is age 65 and over.
The bottom line is that school spending is $6,675 per child, while Medicare-Social Security outlays are $15,387 per recipient. Could there be something wrong with this picture?