Cuts in Education Make Clear the Need For a System Overhaul
Apr 4, 2010 Other 2556 Views
Many are aware that California state cuts have been significant, and have made it tough for those in and around education. With districts across the state suddenly forced to operate on a significant reduced budget-in many cases several million dollars-it is inevitable that tough choices be made. Cuts to athletics, transportation, and the number of teachers undoubtedly have kept administrators up late at night. However, I have long believed that schools-much like other government run agencies-need to undergo a complete overhaul in regard to the allocation of funds. The following "humorous" tale is somewhat of a microcosm of this assertion.
I ran across an acquaintance who teaches in another district. Quickly, our conversation shifted to teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, and general budget problems in the California Education System. He also relayed to me the difficulty of purchasing needed materials to run his classroom. He had recently found himself in need of a replacement LCD Projector, as his had decided it had enough.
He inquired about the cost to replace is district issued HP LCD Projector. The $1500.00 price tag far exceeds the remaining funds in the department budget at his school. Thus, he went shopping, and was able to find a decent one for around $400.00 Thinking he had solved the problem, he submitted a request for the funds to purchase it. He was denied-Not because his subject area department did not have enough funds, but because it wasn't the same brand/model used in the district. It seems that the IT department believed that it would interfere with the wireless network. What! Really?
The fact that an LCD projector has about as much chance of interfering with the districts' broadband as a Ford Pinto has of winning the Indy 500 aside, he was shot down again after promising to only use it for off-line presentations. Had the closed minds opened-just a bit-they would have discovered that the projector is an add on device which does not directly access the network.
A day or two later, the powers that be proudly contacted him to announce that they had procured the funds to purchase the $1500.00 projector! Incidentally, the price of this model of projector was about $300.00 more than the next highest retailer (and about $550.00 more than we could have offered) But, since the district had a "longstanding" relationship with this technology supplier, it was easier to place the order with them.
While I realize that the $1,100 wasted in this case is a mere drop in the bucket, I know that situations like this are NOT just isolated incidents. For one thing, I know that my classroom could use a couple of desktop PCs, as computer availability high priority. Maybe its not as plain and ridiculous as this, but waste happens everyday in education. Whether it is spending thousands of dollars implementing the "latest" educational program only to have a new administrator scrap it a year later, or spending over $10,000 on band uniforms (true story from nearby district), I am sure that thousands are wasted every day.
But, keeping with the tradition of big government, our educational leaders continue to operate in survival mode. Thus, the questions continue to center around which programs to cut, how many kids can we stuff in one classroom, and how many pink slips have to go out. That is much, much easier than investigating real, lasting reforms which could save teaching jobs, save valuable programs, improve technology in schools, and, ultimately, save our woeful educational system that is rapidly falling behind other nations.