Allen Hemphill: State needs to address failing education system
By Allen Hemphill
This seems like a good time to reform what is so obviously a broken and unsustainable system. California once stood at the forefront of change in America, but in education it is a backwater to the changes going on around the nation.
It’s all in the numbers: 40 percent of the total California budget must be spent on schools, and 80 percent of that number on salaries. (Those are minimums.)
There are 330,000 active teachers in California, K-12, and their average salary is $67,000.
(The total U.S. teacher corps is 3.2 million which is more than twice the total size of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force. Combined!)
Teaching is a profession that has not been brought into the 21st century. It uses the same teaching methods used 3,000 years ago in Greece — a teacher standing in front of a limited number of students.
The purpose of every labor union since the days of Henry Ludd is to keep technology from replacing labor, and to fight efficiency. Few professions have been so successful as has the teaching profession. Using the phrase, “It’s for the children,” they have successfully tugged at heart strings even when brain cells said otherwise. We still use the same “technology” as did the teachers of ancient Greece — one teacher standing in front of a few students.
We simply have too many teachers — at least too many to pay and provide benefits at the current level — and yet great individual teachers may well deserve more pay. There is no current quality control over teachers — we just do not know who is good and who is bad, and the unions try to keep us from knowing because they want every union dues dollar possible.
In California, we have a “Top Five” paid teaching corps, and a “Bottom Five” student achieving corps, so whatever we are paying, it is not getting the results we are paying for. We pay well above a “Bottom Five” position.
From a strict economic standpoint, it is the 299,000 California teachers times $67,000 (benefits make this nearly $100,000) that is our budget buster. That is an unsustainable number.
Some way we must make our schools more efficient. We can do that by using technology but it will be over the objections of the most powerful political force in California politics, the teacher unions.
Here is a recent example of the political power of teacher unions (Sacramento Bee):
“Legislation to expedite the process of firing teachers for sex, violence or drug offenses involving children was killed Wednesday by an Assembly committee after sparking strong opposition from the state’s largest teachers union. Senate Bill 1530, by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles, was rejected by the Assembly Education Committee.”
This legislative bill was precipitated by the L.A. teacher who fed his students cookies tainted by his DNA. If in the wake of that singular event, one cannot get a bill through to expedite firing sex-involved teachers fired, imagine the hope of laying off teachers in substantial numbers.
Reach Hemphill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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