Wages aren’t the only reason teachers are striking – slashdot gas 1940

My take on it is that the budgeting at public schools is as big of a mess as budgeting at NASA. Way too much is wasted on legacy make-work boondoggle cronyist handouts. In the last slashdot discussion of this, someone linked to this image [heritage.org] which pretty succinctly summarizes the problem. This is magnified by the problem of school administrators getting a large salary increase in the last year or two of work before retirement, because their pension is based on their salary at the point of retirement; and thus they get an inflated pension.

I was thinking that regulations could mandate a maximum portion of a school’s staff that is non-teaching administrative staff, but then those staff members would teach 1 hour a year to be classified as ‘teaching staff‘ thus gaming the system, so there’d need to be a stricter definition of ‘teaching staff‘ as well. Aside from a nurse, janitors, principal, career counselor, and social worker, how many other administrators do you need?

A book I read years ago on how to fix America’s schools advocated using zero-based budgeting [wikipedia.org] and cutting non-academic ‘side-shows’ like sports teams, then starting school a couple hours later, once children are actually awake enough to learn. A related book (‘The End of Homework’) also advocated eliminating homework as a way to save time that’d be better spent on one-to-one assistance.

The problem isn’t the amount of money allocated for schools. The problem is where that money goes – namely, to bloated administrative costs. Fire half of the non-teaching staff, set the salaries of the rest so that no one earns more than the teachers, and – magic – suddenly schools will have plenty of money.

While that is some of the problems, there are others than need to be addressed. I know a number of teachers and the complaints are the same. Parents who blame them for their child’s problems in school; the homework’s too hard, too much, the teacher doesn’t know how to teach, it’s never that their snowflake is lazy and or undisciplined. Overcrowded classes without enough desks or books, the administrations reply is to think outside the box. Having a contract for X days and then being told, "oh, we need to save money so you are getting a bunch of unpaid furlough days." One teacher had a parent expect her to monitor what the child was eating because she was getting fat; of course the parent sent the kid to school with extra lunch money so the kid bought cookies and Cokes. They are going to a merit bonus system and teachers have been told no one can get higher than a 3 out of 4 because the county doesn’t want to pay out bonuses. It’s no wonder teachers in my district retire on the first day they can, even in the middle of the school year, as a final FU to the system. A recent survey showed over 70% would retire tomorrow if the could, and actively discourage anyone, especially student teachers, from entering the profession. They can’t keep match and science teachers, and most new teachers leave after a couple of years; the veterans are marking time until they can retire.

I have nephews and nieces in the UK who have all read the Quran. A couple of them have memorized it, but if you ask them to translate a random verse into English, they won’t be able to because they don’t really understand what they’re reading. It’s a big thing in my family when someone has memorized the Quran – parties are thrown, gifts are shared etc. but no-one really cares about if the person actually understood any of it. It’s just memorization.

I read the Quran when I was younger and even memorized half of it but I couldn’t tell you what any of it meant until I got my hands on a version that hand Arabic and English translations side by side. That was considered ‘cheating’ back in the day so my parents and the local Imam were really disappointed I had to resort to finding an English translation version.

This is one of the great dangers of preachers/Imams etc. They ask a child to read some text and then tell the child what the text is saying rather than let the child figure it out themselves. What doesn’t help is that most religious texts are kinda ambiguous – if you’re a pacifist you can read one sentence a certain way and think, "OK, that sounds entirely reasonable. I should look to help others" whereas a maniac would read the exact same words and come to the conclusion, "God is telling me to kill infidels".

We should also remove the special perks for teachers: they should work a full working year, with a few weeks off, get the same kind of health insurance as other people in their income bracket, and get 401(k) or 403(b) plans instead of pensions.

This whole "teachers get the summer off as a paid vacation" is a fallacy. Most teachers are paid for woking X days; where I live they can get the check only during the school year or spread over 12 months; even so teh summers are spent prepping for the next year. Anyone could have the same deal if their company offers an unpaid sabbatical leave of 3 months. They don’t get overtime if the have to stay late for an event or a parent insists on their conference be held after normal working hours. As for benefits, they are average at best in my district. Yes, they are one of the few jobs that still offers defined benefit pensions, but even then the county messes with them by giving bonuses in lieu of pay raises so they don’t get included in pension calculations.