Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ask Arne: The Role of Private Funds and Interests in Education -- Januar...

School district administrators often justify their discontent by rationalizing their way to an answer.  For example, there will never be enough time, money, or people. Critical underfunding forces school budget makers to be creative and disciplined. It would appear in the face of this prolonged agony that schools are forced to endure the impossible.  Education is seen as an irritating expense. In reality, however, education is not nearly as expensive as ignorance; a reality that our state lawmakers do not seem to recognize.  They seem to be intent on creating extreme hardships for schools testing their resilience. Today, in fact, Oklahoma education was in the news.  We made a top 10 list.  Unfortunately, it is not a list we want to make.  Oklahoma is being recognized as one of the top 10 worst educational systems in the U.S.  Yeah for us!!  Questions are constantly being raised as to whether money is the panacea for the shortcomings of education.  David Thompson's book, "Money and Schools", makes it very clear that well intended annual budgets and strategic plans won't cover up inadequate performance.  He writes educational opportunity, and the equality of, sets the stage for "fierce competition for fiscal resources in an increasingly fragmented society that is unwilling to support increased funding for education without evidence of greater cost-effectiveness and higher student achievement" (p. 14).  Fewer dollars means fewer services.  Fewer services means less quality.  Education is an industry that is "often subject to a certain romanticism that fails to objectively ask whether the world was ever rational and gentle..." (p. 4).  Thompson says an "adversarial approach" has divided opinions and created a lot of questions; but, support for every school "is essential".  Thompson tells it like it is.  If "public schools fail" loss of support will make alternatives very attractive.  So if money isn't the answer, why are huge corporate conglomerates so eager to jump into the education?  Just recently I read an article that disclosed figures that support an interest in alternatives.  eLearning is a $52 or $56 billion dollar industry.  Forbes lists many of these corporate entrepreneurs as top earning companies.  Money for the old brick and mortar schools that support our place of employment, our classroom, our job description, and our job duties is being spent on pseudo classrooms.  Thompson points out that as revenues diminish, cost effectiveness will become ever so important.  Perhaps we should move away from being a regulatory agency preoccupied with performance on testing and shift to an experimental environment supported by reliable, valid research.  After all, laboratory rats have it pretty good!!  Maybe I'll #AskArne.  

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