In the 1980s I was a computer coordinator and data processing manager in a school system. (I was also a science, chemistry and math teacher for 10 years.)
When the comptroller put together our budget for the year he used hard numbers whenever possible and never used optimistic estimates of teacher absence, vacation days, or utility consumption. Using such unrealistic data to project a budget is looking for trouble. Our budget was presented to the Board of Education where heated discussions always resulted in repeated revisions. Exceeding the budget just did not happen.
When the Obama administration passed the stimulus in 2009 several governors refused all or part of the money, explaining that any public employee positions created using those funds could not be sustained in the future. This discussion was repeated for months in the national media. How can anyone claim to be surprised at this problem now?
Our school system spending must be compared to the spending per student of 10 (not five or two) years ago. How many total personnel per student did we have then as opposed to now? More important, how many full or part time administrative personnel did we have then as opposed to now? How many teachers’ aides did we have then compared to now?
How well is the system preparing students for life? For college? For a career? If we are doing a poor job the answer should not be to throw more money at a system that is not working. (Nobody but government tries to cure problems by simply using the same approach with additional money.) Perhaps we need to completely dismantle the current system and try another approach.
Good administrators and teachers are hard to find. It is even more difficult to keep those good people enthused and performing at their best in a system where they are surrounded by mediocrity. Excellence must be rewarded and poor performance must have serious consequences. We need to look at parenting methods and educational systems that are producing high quality students in other places, even in other countries, for new ideas. Give us a system that serves our young people well, one we can be proud of, and the funding will not be so difficult to obtain.
As for the funding - our county is about to spend over a million dollars on refurbishing the swimming pool and bath house. (Yes, they project less than a million, but anyone with an ounce of brains knows it will grow to well over a million.) This is happening after the voters rejected a proposed enclosed pool a few years ago. Perhaps the schools are a better place to spend that money if we really want to fix them. If we are just going to continue to throw money at a broken school system - just do the pool!
Tom Hill — Franklin, N.C.