The following is a list of thoughtful, neat, crazy, brilliant, stupid, conservative, liberal, anarchist, socialist, greedy, selfless, and sometimes humorous ideas on how to fix public education. Pick any or all to start a new conversation if you are tired of slamming your own hammer into your own face, as this is essentially what reasoning with lawmakers feels like.
These ideas are in no particular order; I simply wrote them down over the past few weeks as they came to me. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
And also, before you begin reading, please note that the possible brilliance of some of these ideas (or their likewise subjectively-opinionated stupidity) should be considered when you think of someone to represent you in the General Assembly next November (it’s me, in case you need help with that one.)
In my opinion, this is what an unaffiliated candidate is supposed to do. I’m supposed to start a new conversation around the most polarizing of topics in order to force people to come up with new partisan excuses why the new ideas suck. Because at least they’re thinking for themselves – if only briefly – and not just repeating what the habitually lying, greedy, gaslighting, propagandizing leaders in their party tell them to think. And I’m ALWAYS talking about both parties.
So here we go:
We often hear of “per pupil” spending, but what most people don’t know is that about 32% of that number goes to “Support Services Per Pupil.” Well, since those positions only impact probably 10% of each student’s school day, what would happen if we scrapped ALL of those services AND the positions responsible for those services and let teachers run the entire thing? Like, the ENTIRE thing. Just have ONE salary scale for the entirety of public education. You can be a teacher and that’s it. No principals, no counselors, no psychologists, no county office, no need for cafeteria workers because we serve nothing but frozen sandwiches, fruit, and bottled water every day, no state Department of Public Instruction (because teachers have no need for that place anyway,) absolutely no titles within public education but teachers.
For instance, we make administration kind of like student government elections. The teachers who want to “run for office” will all have a campaign and a vote is held during the workdays before school starts, and the winner is the principal for a month or six months or semester or whatever. So that gets rid of administrators. That’s $150,000 to $400,000 per year per school. That’s pretty good savings.
Discipline is the only job of these “principals.” Everything else is handled democratically by the teachers. They simply vote on everything. One thing they will vote on is to make in-school suspension an actual punishment, thus rendering custodians searching for new jobs. Punished kids will take care of all of that cleaning with the guidance and supervision of a single teacher who enjoys ordering young people around (this might only work in high school.) Plus, they get a semester break from teaching any classes before another teacher takes on the job. There’s another $50,000 to $150,000 in savings from custodian salaries.
All required county office positions are teachers needing a break from the classroom, all seven necessary DPI positions are teachers, there is no superintendent on the county or state level because the teachers all voted for somebody to be the “Top Lead Teacher of 2020” and that’s the only title they get, and that title comes with no extra pay. The entire thing would be run by teachers, every decision democratically voted on by teachers, and the whole beautiful mess is governed by a School Board filled with – you guessed it – helicopter parents. Or something like that.
This is a bit idiotic, but there are people in North Cackilacky who would LOVE this. Just take the entire education amendment out of the state constitution. And in doing so, you cut about 60% of taxes from every citizen. Just make it pure educational anarchy. I think most counties would rise up and find a way to offer education, but with what money? The county commissioners would have to tax the heck out their citizens, and if they did that, they would NEVER win the next election, even though the taxes paid would not differ from what they are paying in state taxes now.
Can you imagine what would happen if counties didn’t step up? Private schools would be about 80% white, teachers would set up shop in their own houses to teach 8-10 kids at $500 a month apiece, there would be a resurrection of one-room schoolhouses popping up in churches and strip malls and community centers. And you know where all the poor kids would go to school, right?
Yeah, me neither.
Make public school no longer free. We simply charge kids $3,000 per year to attend school, but that doesn’t have to be paid back until they start working. Since the current “per pupil” rate is clearly not cutting it with regards to resources, teacher pay, programs for literacy or parental outreach or preschool programs or whatever, we keep the per pupil rate as it is now with annual inflation increases, but since the children are getting a “free” public education, why not give them some skin in the game?
Only about 56% of high school graduates actually graduate from college, so that means at least 44% of the population currently doesn’t have to worry about student loans. If we charge them $3,000 per year for thirteen years, that’s only $39,000 that they have to pay off between the ages of eighteen and forty. Interest free, of course. That’s $162 a month for twenty years. Make it $2,000 a year and it’s only $108 a month.
I gotta tell you, I don’t hate this idea. I deal with such apathy on a daily basis that these kids need to be invested in their own education. And I deserve more money to fight seventy-five armies just to attempt to teach them. And ALL parties deserve smaller classes so that we can actually do the thing we set out to do: TEACH!!
And this means that while the citizenry as a whole is supporting public education, students and their families are responsible for a larger piece of the pie. And not only are the kids more invested in their own education, the parents will be, too. Especially those parents that decide to pay the yearly tuition supplement for their precious angels.
But there’s a downside to this. You know what lawmakers will do, right? They will find a way to take the current per pupil rate of $9,500+ and knock it down to $6,500 since the kids are paying part of it (and corporations need even lower taxes, of course,) and this, in turn, will change nothing except the quality of the lies they tell when convincing the general public that it’s all the teachers’ fault.
Because our slogan is and always will be, “Teaching: The Greediest Profession.”
Make the corporations – those royalty-like untouchables with the tiniest of accounting ledgers titled “Taxes paid” – contribute back to the schools as a tax incentive endorsement. In other words, get somebody like SAS to make a ten year commitment to provide textbooks (but only two actual textbook adoptions) for the four counties where their employees reside. They can even treat it as a sponsorship and hand out SAS book covers and logo mouse pads or bookmarks or whatever or even have their name on the sign. It could say, “Eastbrook Middle School, brought to you in part by SAS.”
And for them, the contribution is tax deductible, which actually means absolutely nothing to them since it’s hard to deduct many taxes off of about twelve dollars worth of “profit” or whatever it is big corporations call their billions they disperse to shareholders.
But this idea has merit. The UNC Hospital system could donate ten thousand bottles of hand sanitizer (because teachers use it WAAAAYYYY too often) as a means of giving back to their community. Local car dealerships could sponsor driver’s education. Caterpillar could drop a few zero-turn mowers off at Facility Services every three or four years to help with the yard maintenance.
And it could go beyond corporations. Find enough professional athletes from North Carolina to come together and donate twenty million a year to disperse to all 686 public high schools in NC. Yeah, that pretty much only covers gas for the year, but a high school can do a LOT for their athletic program with $28K per year.
The overall point is that yes, they are providing employment and those employees will obviously pay taxes, but large corporations reside here mostly tax free while the state educates and trains their future employees. They should have some skin in the game, too.
I’ll say this idea until the day I die, even though I know we as a country don’t have the balls to actually do it. We are raising a country full of addicts, and we’re enabling it. What happens when their nine hour a day phone addiction has disabled the natural development of their brains to the point that dealing with addiction in twenty years has gone beyond a twelve-step program and into the realm of rampant bipolar disorders or six months of psychiatric confinement. Addiction is deadly to an ADULT brain; we have no real way of knowing what kind of damage we’re enabling to brains that don’t fully develop until the age of twenty-five.
We need to have the cajones to ban electronics from elementary school (except weekly computer lab and/or typing lessons) and incorporate school-wide and district-wide policies of zero cell phone use during the school day for older kids. We’re playing a dangerous game allowing our children to develop addictions. When it comes back to bite us in the ass, I told you so.
Take education completely away from federal and state governments. ALL decisions, funding, personnel, construction, etc. are made on the county level ONLY. The only thing the state would be responsible for is exactly what the US Department of Education does now, and as my trusty resource Wikipedia tells me, that department’s functions are to “establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal education laws regarding privacy and civil rights.”
Aha!! That last one. That’s all they really do, right? The Federal Department of Education’s only real purpose is to make sure everybody is safe from legal ramifications if states started segregating or teaching Buddhism to third graders or banning gays from high school or “leaving children behind.”
What else do they really do? Collect data? The only worthwhile data that exists in schools comes from the teachers who actually teach the kids about whom the data is derived. Because the data in the form of standardized test results is about as reliable as wet one ply. The only actual reliable data is when a person says to a teacher, “Tell me Johnny’s strengths and weaknesses.” Everything else is trash. It’s relatively clean-smelling trash with some salvageable items, but it’s mostly just trash.
In other words, give the states the job of the Federal Department of Education (it’s unconstitutional on the federal level anyway,) and let the counties take control of their own education system. And that means that if they want a piss-poor public education system, by all means, have at it. If they want a really good one, they have that power, too. It’s all about the tax dollars and the desire of the citizens that live there.
And the peer pressure that would exist for the county that got some nickname like “The Land of the High School Equivalency Exam” would hopefully make counties want to do better. And if they don’t, they lose taxpayers to counties where their kids will get better educations. Whichever they choose. But they’re making the decision for a MUCH smaller number of people than the educational savants currently residing on Jones Street in Raleigh.
I think we’re already imagining a world where students are completing the majority of their education online (and it’s a BAD idea for the vast majority; see number five above.) Let’s say that trend never takes off and becomes popular (it won’t,) but let’s say that a characteristic of it DOES become popular. That would be the idea that a student can advance through school at their own pace.
There are ways that this can happen now, but not in traditional public schools. And there are so many ideas that could come from this – teachers teaching multiple subjects at once during each block, a perfectly spelled out and vertically aligned curriculum that allows for self-discovery forms of learning, project-based learning that involves presentations in front of a panel of peers and teachers rather than standardized tests, etc. – that I’ll just leave the idea as just that.
It boils down to this: if your kid is smart enough that they could master all the required high school standards by fourteen years old, head off to college at fifteen, and be done with their doctorate by twenty-two because Doogie is their idol, why should public school hold that kid back?
Take away the ability for public schools to use ANY outside vendors for resources, technology, or other intellectual property. In other words, anything used in the classroom must be developed by teachers who are employed with the school system. This can either be part of their jobs or they get a summer stipend (or overtime or whatever) to develop resources or technology used in the classrooms of public schools throughout the state.
This is a good idea for one reason above all others. It takes away the ability to corrupt. If Apple, Houghton Mifflin, SAS, Pearson or any other company on the state’s payroll can’t take the public school bigwigs out to wine and dine them, then we have no worries about Marky Mark tossing eight million dollars at Apple because they complimented his hair or something. It helps keep education corruption free.
Tell me this: if we as a state made only ONE political decision – if we committed to keeping our teachers above the US average in pay (which literally could be 24th every year) – who would this damage and why? Here’s an example. Let’s say the average pay for a teacher in NC is $50,000. It’s clearly not the $54,000 the legislators toss around, but we’ll humor them and go with a number close by. So if it’s $50,000, let’s say we raise it to $60,000. That’s obscene to some people, but it’s on par with other college educated state employees, so back off.
Now, take that and multiply both numbers by 110,000 teachers, and you’ll find them to be $1.1 billion dollars apart. Quite a hefty number. But there are at least two ways of getting there. First, let’s get that money from taxpayers. $1.1 billion spread out over 8,320,000 North Carolinians accounts for a whopping $132 apiece.
Or get this. Let’s just take away the Federal Department of Education (the worthless money pit) and you’ve got $63 billion to give back to the states. Since we’re the ninth largest state by population, that means we’re on tap for probably about $1.5 billion in money coming back to the state. Voila!!!!!
Everybody gets raises on me!!!!
But it takes me back to my question. Who gets damaged by this? The corporations popping up who want to make money giving below par education to our children? Yep, that’s probably who. And who exactly are these corporations? Well, these are for-profit corporations THAT ARE BRAND NEW (and mostly backed by larger corporations who have a distinct conflict of interest) and our legislature is worried more about their bottom lines than the two million children in the state who NEED public education because it’s the only avenue to ensure they get an equal shot at success in life. Why can’t these corporations find out how to take over ABC stores or the Post Office? Why attack public education?
Oh, I get it. It’s because they’re owned by really rich people who give large campaign finance contributions to people who have not been in a classroom in forty years and whose grandchildren are rich enough to go to private school in Connecticut if they wanted to and it’s always going to be about money instead of kids. Got it!! Forgive me for suggesting it then. I’ll see myself out.