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The solution to Everything – Part 1

August 13, 2012

We have a number of serious trends and issues in this county that are just not being solved. While the politicians are out trying to get either elected or reelected, the country is struggling. I read a recent report that stated that 100 million Americans are now receiving welfare in some form from the federal government. 100 Million. In America. The same report stated that the vast majority of these recipients did not have high-school educations. In America. So, between a public education system that is failing at every level in spite of the hundreds of billions of dollars we pump into it, and because we have a current administration that is actually encouraging people to get on some form of welfare (food stamp advertising ?) we are in the process of turning America into a 3rd world country where we can no longer take care of ourselves.

So, lets solve these issues one at a time. Because the level of education of the population affects everything, from voting patterns to employability to government dependency, we will start there.

It is pretty clear to anyone paying attention that the public education system has failed. We are spending more per student and getting less for the money than one can imagine. We have reached the point where the majority of every dollar we spend on education goes into benefits for the teachers, and the unions are running the show. The actual product is no longer a concern, just benefits and protecting the union job. This happened in the auto industry a number of years ago. The unions became so powerful that it was all about benefits, pay and job protection with nothing tied to the actual product quality. Remember the cars the US auto industry produced in the 80’s? To a certain extent the private sector auto unions figured out that the output was actually important and things got a little better. In the public education system, the public sector unions have lost their way. There is NO focus on the quality of the product, the actual education of the student. It is ALL about benefits and job protection.

I have four simple steps to solve the problem:

First thing, eliminate 75% of the Department of Education. I will be the first to admit that I have no good understanding of what the Department of Education does, but I am extremely confident that we could cut it by 75% and be just fine. It is, after all, the federal government. The remaining 25% should focus on a couple of things:
1. Create standardized testing for each grade 1-12. The kid passes the test in June, they move to the next grade. They don’t pass, they stay where they are. We know what a kid is supposed to learn in each grade, just test to see if they actually learned it. It is pressure on the kids, yes. It is pressure on the teachers, yes. Welcome to the real world where performance and results matter. It is our increased concern for the ‘feelings’ of the student that has caused us to not want to stress them in any way. It is also what created the 9th place ribbon at the school track meet.
2. Create standardized proficiency testing for teachers. Let’s figure out if the teacher can actually teach. Require at least one continuing education class per year and test the teachers annually to make sure they are current in their skills. No more coasting on the tenure pleasure cruise. No more tenure. Apply the same pressure on our teachers to perform as we normal people get in the private sector. Work and produce or get fired.

Second, eliminate the teacher’s unions. Completely. This needs to be a free market pricing best teachers win environment. Not a single good thing has come from the existence of the teachers union. Not one. Ever.

Third, create standardized performance criteria for teachers. It should be based 25% on whether their students pass the grade-level testing in #1 above. 25% is based on peer review. 25% is based on stack-ranking at the district level and 25% is based on annual proficiency testing and fulfilling the continued-education criteria. The teacher’s continued employment and pay is completely based on this performance criteria and it is not based on any single thing that would allow someone to control the process. The bottom 5% are fired, every year. Get some pressure on the teachers to perform and to keep their skills up to date. Great teachers get great pay, poor teachers leave (and take the 9th place ribbons with them). Everyone wins, and this becomes more like the real world again.

Fourth, enable charter schools at the federal level. More competition on the public schools. Perform or die. You want the best teachers? Compete for them. Just like in the real world. Let the parents decide where they want their kids educated, and take their tax money with them. We would probably lose 50% of the public schools in the country to superior charter schools and the remaining 50% would be performing like the charter schools. Someone please tell me why this would be a bad thing?

We do these ‘simple’ things and in a single generation we will have a dramatically improved population capable of talking care of themselves and smart enough to vote correctly.

Next up: Health care


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