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Reposting my “Government Education Complex” piece

I doubt if I was the first person to use the phrase “Government-Education Complex,” but I use it often to describe the current education system. Others have clearly started to pick up on the meme, which is good.

A friend of mine in Indiana emailed me and asked me to define it for him. So I did.

The “Government Education Complex” is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation. The explosion of spending, debt, and taxation we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years was used to fund the growth of this Complex.

The complex is made up not only of associations of administrators and teachers unions, but an interconnected network of bond dealers, builders, architects, law firms, textbook companies, and other service providers who profit off of the overproduction of service contracts, debt, public employment and bureaucracy. This interlocking network has played a role in funding the campaigns of 1000s of elected officials at all levels and in both parties.

Like the Military Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned of, the “Government Education Complex” is politically powerful, and completely self interested in perpetuating itself. Unlike the Military Industrial Complex, which has provided America with the most effective fighting force on the planet, the Government Education Complex has failed to provide our society with the educated populace we are paying for.

Rather, it merely uses our children as a stick to beat more money out of us while providing, at best, a mediocre education for the lucky few. The unlucky get to go to America’s urban drop-out factories.

The vast sum of political money raised by the “Government Education Complex” is used to write legislation at the state level to grow the complex while protecting it from any competition. State school codes are written by and for the complex and its members, and passed by the political class whose campaigns they fund.

The “Government Education Complex” succeeds because of one key factor in its structure – the school district. The “district” is an artifice that provides voters and citizens with the false perception of “local control.” In fact, your local school district is merely a “franchise” of the centralized complex – like McDonalds, only more expensive and with a more limited menu.

That is why America has 1000s of school districts, almost all of which are creatures of the individual states’ school codes. While there is some variation state-to-state and district-to-district, most of that variation is due to differing socio-economic or regional factors, not district autonomy.

This raises the question of whether the “Government Education Complex” is corrupt. The short answer is, “Yes.” At any given moment, you can find 100s of local news stories about wasted money, insider contracts, or the difficulty citizens encounter when looking into school district finances. The entire process, from the complex property tax collection systems to the overly complex fund accounting dictated in many states, is designed to obfuscate spending.

The long answer on corruption is more complex, simply because a great deal of what most regular citizens call “corruption” has been legalized by most state school codes. The Government Education Complex is designed to grow itself, while spending money by the billions. It is operating exactly as intended. The actual education of America’s children is not its agenda. Spending money is its agenda.

The Government Education Complex cannot be reformed. It must be dismantled. If you are serious about educating America’s children, you must disabuse yourself of the notion that any combination of tepid reforms – a transparency law here, a teacher merit pay tweak there, or teacher measurement improvement law anywhere – can “fix” our education system.

Dismantlement means that we need to move toward the money following the child to a much more vast array of education content providers. We need to replace the Government Education Complex with a “Parent/Child Education Network.” This means that there will be a place for every imaginable learning system, from the traditional school to international digital content beamed to tablets and smart phones on demand.

The transition from a Government Education Complex to a Parent/Child Learning Network should be our goal, and every incremental step in education reform must be measured by whether it leads there.

Any set of “reforms” that leaves the Complex in place should, and will, be viewed as a failure.

Fisking Allison Benedikt

I haven’t posted to here in ages, since I basically get more traffic and eyeballs on Facebook. That said, I felt the need to put this article/post on a blog post so I could link to it.

Here is an article posted by one Allison Benedikt, who is editor of some section of Slate. I suggest you read the entire article to truly understand the mindset that we are up against as we work to dismantle the worst education bureaucracy in the free world.

If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person [Read more...]

District Dismantlement moves to Philly

We are beginning to see the benefits of the New Orleans experiment in disempowering school district bureaucrats and breaking up the large districts. It is time for Rahm Emanuel to consider the same solutions for Chicago’s failing and bloated infrastructure.

Phila. School District plan would dismantle central office, close schools

“What we do know through lots of history and evidence and practice is that the current structure doesn’t work,” School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos said. “It’s not fiscally sustainable and it doesn’t produce high-quality schools for all kids.”

So, at the SRC’s direction, Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen on Tuesday announced a plan that would essentially blow up the district and start with a new structure.

It is time for Rahm Emanuel to consider the same solutions for Chicago’s failing and bloated infrastructure.

Knudsen, in a news conference, avoided references to the “Philadelphia School District.”

“We are now looking at a much broader definition of education in the city that includes not only district schools but other schools as well,” he said.

Mayor Nutter hailed the plan, which he said would push control over education down to the school level.

“If we don’t take significant action, the system will collapse,” the mayor said at a separate news conference. “If you care about kids and if you care about education, if you care about the future of this city, that’s what we need to all grow up and deal with.”

Teachers union president Jerry Jordan decried the radical restructuring as the SRC divesting itself of many of the core responsibilities of public education. He called it a “cynical, right-wing, market-driven” blueprint.

“This is totally dismantling the system,” Jordan said. “It’s a business plan crafted to privatize the services within the School District.”

Hallelujah! It is about time we did this!

Schools would have much more autonomy, with the ability to choose their own curriculums.

Though there is some precedent for this kind of work – officials pointed to the decentralization in New York City public schools – Ramos noted that what Philadelphia is proposing “is different from what many other places are doing.”

The central office, already half the size it was a year ago, will shrink further, from over 1,000 employees a few years ago to about 200 in the new model.

Entire sections of administration should be cut off and cauterized.

It’s really nice to see this start happening. We merely need to accelerate the process.

Dismantle the large districts first…

Then dismantle the smaller ones.

When the Washington Post starts writing editorials like this, it can’t be long before more liberals start to see the light on education.

The Big Easy’s school revolution

But what really distinguishes New Orleans is how government has re­defined its role in education: stepping back from directly running schools and empowering educators to make the decisions about hours, curriculum and school culture that best drive student learning. Now, state and school-district officials mostly regulate and monitor — setting standards, ensuring equity and closing failing schools.

Rahm could just as easily shut down 125 S. Clark. Setting standards is ALL any state or city need do. Let 100s of new independent schools find the best way to meet those standards.

As for the teachers, once free of their unions’ golden handcuffs, they can find solace in once again being viewed as true professionals, and not the rent-seeking collectivized drones of the failed legacy system. From, the article…

One teacher I spoke with during a recent trip talked about the luxury of being pursued by different charter networks willing to pay for her talents. After 11 years of teaching, she said, it was the first time she felt she was being treated as a professional. I visited the classrooms of Sci Academy, where 99 percent of the students are minorities and 92 percent are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. They have some of the city’s highest scores on statewide tests, and more than 90 percent of Sci Academy seniors have already been accepted to a four-year college or university.

Teachers need to realize that 100s of schools bidding for their talents is better than 4 or 5 districts doing the same. This bidding will eventually raise the pay of the most competent teachers. As for the rest, it shouldn’t be our problem.

The “Human Toll” indeed

Rich Miller posted some legislator’s comment on the “Human Toll” of the upcoming budget cuts.

It detailed all of the pain that would be generated from some of the cuts to Medicaid that are being discussed. The comment that I placed on this post is below.

Some time around to 2005, I questioned former Rep. Fritchey on the 13% increase in school enrollment and the 157% increase in school funding. His reply?

“Yeah, but that all went to pensions.”

As all the “human tolls” are collected in the upcoming budget cuts, there is only one place to put almost all the blame.

It falls on the legislators who voted for every mandate, every payroll expansion, and every pension benefit increase in the last 10-20 years.

The facts speak for themselves. Unwilling to say no to the powerful spending, borrowing, and taxing interests, these folks (in both parties) voted future generations of Illinoisans into pension poverty and tax increase hell.

You are all now left with a choice. Fund the pension payroll, perks monster you created, or fund government services.

If the taxpayers are asked to do more, which is not an entirely unreasonable request under dire circumstances, the very least you can do is put a stiff, enforceable, and robust constitutional amendment on the ballot.

That amendment should place hard spending caps on all governmental entities, with virtually NO exceptions, and such a cap should be raised only upon a referendum, preferably requiring a super-majority of some sort.

Taxpayers should realize such a cap is worth the cost, and government employees and elected officials should realize taxpayers deserve nothing less after their decades long ride on the debt and pension gravy train.

It is NOT the taxpayer that is to blame for this situation. It is the legislature and the spending interests that purchased them. We can fund services, or we can fund out-sized benefits for too many public employees. Your choice.

Public Sector Unions – just abolish them

Look at who ruined America

Here’s why.

Best. Econ. Videos. Ever.

The first one of these can be found on their site, or on YouTube. It is funny and enlightening. This one, shown below, should be sent to your liberal and moderate friends far and wide.

Bruno Behrend on WPWR

The video is of appearance on WPWR’s (Channel 50) “Perspective” program a few months ago. You may be interested in the other 3 guests, as they make the conventional case for dumping more money into a failed education system. If not, my stint starts at the 11:22 mark.

The Latest News On School Reform and School Vouchers: My50CHICAGO.com

Two videos to help win the budget debate

It’s a testament to the slow witted nature of the Republicans that they haven’t found a way to run this ad across the country. It makes the case for cuts so clearly that only the most partisan person could deny its truth.

Let the sheer magnitude of the problem do the heavy lifting.

Next up, let’s give Paul Ryan the “Profiles in Political Courage” award for tackling Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. I don’t know how this all turns out, but I must say that it’s good to see Republican telling the truth.