This letter was sent in response to the story, . It has been abbreviated in order to run in sections.
By now, the conviction should be forming in the minds of all school board members that a paradigm shift is upon them. Declining student test scores, the reduction or abandonment of state and federal financial support, excessive educator compensation, and the looming possibility of a tax revolt should encourage board members to begin considering ways to improve student outcomes at half the cost. We know that this is possible since it is done in other countries today and it was easily accomplished in this country (in real dollars) just twenty years ago. Why not here and now?
In the business of education, teachers have become “non-performing assets”. By this we mean that - whatever their pay is - the return on investment is negative. Student test scores have been declining for decades. As for principals and superintendants, it is difficult to determine if they are “non-performing”. Due to the strength of the teacher unions, they have virtually no power to replace substandard teachers. How can we hold them accountable to the taxpayers when their employees know that they cannot be fired, in any practical sense, no matter how poor of a job they do?
The purpose of this is to call the attention of School Boards, and of those who elect them, to an upcoming collision of four forces – declining quality of education, exploding teacher compensation, disappearing resources to pay educators ever-escalating salaries and pensions, and increasing parent/taxpayer/student awareness and involvement. The situation is now such that no one, in good conscience, could hire a single teacher under the conditions that exist today, when that action means a commitment of $20,000,000 of taxpayer dollars over a single teacher’s lifetime.(Appendix A)
Everyone agrees that education is hugely important to the quality of one’s life. However, the more money that we have poured into education, the worse is the result. It would take Byzantine logic indeed to conclude that the solution for declining student test scores is “more money for teachers”. Actually, “more money for teachers” is only the solution to the problem of “politicians would like more campaign contributions and election support from teachers unions”.
Education is said to be the only input into the economy that does not have diminishing returns. More and more, we are hearing that employers cannot fill jobs with the product of our educational system. We have read that only 25% of high school graduates can even pass the test to get into the military. A rather chilling unemployment statistic describes the condition of “Americans educated in America” losing jobs to “Americans educated in foreign countries”.
When we see that only half of high school graduates in major cities can even effectively read, we think of hundreds of thousands of the young who are processed through our schools and will never be able to support themselves – yet they will have to be fed, clothed, housed, and medicated for another sixty years. Then, there are the 50% who don’t even graduate. Are we saying that only a fourth of these young will have productive lives? What of their children? Will they do any better? Any parent would expect that their kids might not mind going to school and “pretending to learn”. However, every parent should be outraged that the teachers do not mind “pretending to teach”.
—John Sullivan (brother of a resident.)