There are some fundamental problems with the current education system. The biggest is that over 75% of urban educators (including principals, social workers, teachers, etc.) live in the suburbs and not in the communities in which they teach. Nearly 75% of the leadership of these schools live in the suburbs and their children attend suburban schools. This is significant when you review academic performance and financial stability. If over 65% of the professional staff live in the district in which they work, and their kids attend that district, you have a successful district, financially and academically. If less than 20% of the staff live, work, and send their kids to the same district, you have a failing district, financially and academically.
It’s also having an impact on the political landscape. If you look at the important cities in the Midwest (such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee, Philadelphia), where Hillary Clinton underperformed compared to Obama, they are heavy chartered. Why would the Democratic Party believe that poor families want to attend school districts where the staff will not bring their own children or grandchildren. It’s important to understand the new dynamics in education, that not only are their professional staff taking the financial resources out of the urban area, but they have also gutted the extracurricular activities of the District in favor of maintaining staff salaries. These staff members don’t live in the district where they work and can’t even vote for the elected officials who consistently pick salary maintenance over programs for the families they are elected to represent. These elected officials, most times, are minorities themselves who vote on these misguided budgets. They have defunded middle school athletics to the point where urban high schools don’t have a feeder system. This makes them uncompetitive with the suburban schools where the professional staff take their children and grandchildren.
It is important to review the financial situation that most mid-western states, specifically Michigan, are experiencing and have endured over the past ten years. These challenges have lead to the accountant/business manager playing a pivotal role in school districts over this period. One of the clear problems, in districts that are already in tough financial positions, is that being forced into a deficit management position forces districts to close buildings and cut services to save funding. This causes them to lose more revenue because parents choose more stable school districts or newly opened charter schools, thus taking state supported revenue to other districts.
In my experience in education, every Board Member, Superintendent, teacher, parent, and concerned community member attempts to become the self-appointed expert accountant or business manager. At this point I, the accountant, am going to take this chance to become the self -appointed education expert. With all the focus on MONEY within districts, education has become an afterthought. Since money controls education, I have probably heard thousands of educational theories on how to make students, particularly at-risk students, improve their educational performance if “only we spend MORE MONEY.” If I hear one more educator come to ask for money for adults under the guise that “it’s the best for kids”, I will go crazy. These requests are generally not for books, computers, early analytics or other student success evaluation tools, but are typically for more salary benefits and contracts for new & unproven educational experiments– which is a long way from any direct student benefit. The most interesting thing about education at every level is that everybody is an expert on budgets and financial matters, however few people understand and embrace the delivery system and accountability of education. If you ask the simple question such as, “How do you teach children how to read and write?” You’ll get diluted explanations that are difficult to understand. Not only is the answer difficult to understand, the answer changes every six months. The one thing I never seen during numerous reform efforts is at-risk students or the parents at the table discussing what they need to improve their educational performance. I am not talking about the honor-roll student, rather, I am talking about the at-risk students who are dropping out of school and filling prisons and jails at alarming rates.
I believe it’s the tone at the top. Why is it that high levels of staff and/or community attendance within school district meetings tend to center around the Purchase and Finance Committee or Personnel Committee? Given the educational financial situations described above, interest in these areas are understandable. I have been in education since January, 1996. During this time, interest in these areas remained consistent even in good economic times. In contrast, at Curriculum Committee planning meetings – if such a committee even exists or is engaged in a district – there are ver