Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Education Reform, a goal without a plan is just a dream.

Everyone talks about education reform.  To teachers unions that means higher salaries and lower classroom sizes.  To conservatives, it means abolishing the teachers' unions.  Neither plan is likely.  Here are three  ideas for significant changes that could reasonably be implemented to lower costs, the key enabler to education reform.  

1) Privatize the management of building maintenance, cafeteria, administrative, and transportation.  This means eliminating the union positions in school buildings for managing employees like janitors, skilled trades, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, secretaries and other non-certified district employees and contracting managers to run these operations efficiently as possible.  The union can still represent the crew, but it will be a smaller crew.  Some say privatize these entire operations and shed all of the employees, but in many districts that fight isn't practical and will take a lot more time and effort to accomplish.  This plan targets one specific level of the union hierarchy for privatization.

Instead of chipping away at everyone's wages and benefits, focus instead on cutting the headcount. This is a good one for a public battle if the non-certified union wants one.  Do they really want the public to know how little is expected of them in a shift?

2) Convert to a 4-day school week to save building utility and transportation costs.  Huge cost savings potential and best of all its a super-green idea with the 20% reduction in petroleum use and emissions. We can count on the teachers and the other unions to support green initiatives, right?  And a Newsflash to griping parents: No one ever promised the school would be your Monday to Friday babysitter.  People will figure out how to manage it.  School districts can reap huge savings here.    

3) Eliminate popular election of the school board members and make them appointed positions of the locally elected City council or Township board.  There is about zero chance that the people who get elected onto the local school boards are the most capable people for managing district finances.  The unions, particularly the non-certified employee unions whose members are more likely to live in the district can have a large influence on the low-turnout school board elections making it relatively easy to elect friendly school board members that will negotiate their contract.   What a racket.  True, if more voters would get involved in the campaigns and participate in the elections it would be less likely the unions could sway the outcome.  But why should taxpayers even hire negotiators by a popular election in which a lot of people whose jobs are directly affected by the negotiations vote?  A professional school board team hired by the council would be at least one layer removed from local politics and freer to pursue genuine reforms in union work rules and contracts instead of tweaking the status quo like they do now.

Lots more ideas for another time..  That's a start anyway.

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