Education - Solution 5 - A More Complete Basic Funding and Structural Framework
IT'S A NATIONAL DEFENSE ISSUE, STUPID!
I NEVER DID LIKE that phrase but it apparently got a President elected once; it is the "stupid" part that is irritating. In any case, education, as I have shown in the first five parts to the series (the first one didn't have a number), is, without a doubt, a national security issue in today's world. I won't revisit the discussion on why, just refer you back to my previous hubs, but I will expand on it a bit more. I will also propose a much more detailed structure of what, it seems to me, needs to be done vis-á-vis America's educational system in order to protect America into the future; the past methods simply do not work anymore and are, in fact, a prescription for disaster and leading us to follow in the footsteps of the Roman Empire and didn't learn from the lessons of history.
Even though I proudly call myself a Humanist, I have to succumb to the understanding that in today's world environment, educating our youth in the haphazard, uncoordinated, underfunded, politically-influenced, religiously-influenced manner we have for the last 200 years is no longer feasible; if we do, we lose, it is simple as that. We must look at education as the production of a sufficient number of intelligent citizens distributed among the necessary scientific, social, political, and educational fields in order to secure the safety of the Nation.
The needs must be studied and planned for in advance at the highest level of our government as a collaboration of national security, social science, political science, and educational experts at both the national and state levels. Imbalances must be predicted and the pipeline filled with enough students learning in the appropriate fields to keep America ahead of the rest of the world in innovation and productivity. Anything less leads to our demise.
To do that, education must be coordinated among the 50 States (or maybe 55, because we may have that many by the time something like what I propose would ever pass) and, in order to do that, it must be coordinated and run by the Federal government and executed by the several States. The obvious reason for this is that it is the Federal government, not the 50 State governments that set national security policy and if you accept the argument that education is a critical part of national security then its requirements will drive, in part, the national education program and the environment it is executed in.
Consequently, to that end, I offer the following 9 points for considerations:
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
1. THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION should remain its own department. If fact, it should be stregthned rather than eliminated which is the mantra of the Right today. The reason for this should be clear, it is taking new, larger, and more important responsibilities.
2. HOW SHOULD THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION BE FUNDED?
WHILE FUNDING OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION will occur in fundamentally the same way as all other agencies, it will be different in one respect; the operational or national security related part of their funding would be programmed as part of the Department of Defense's budget. The administrative part of their budget would be programmed in the normal way through the Office of Management and Budget.
The principal reason for this strange set-up is that national security items receive a higher priority in the budgetary process than other items do and if education is to be a true national security issue, then it needs to receive the same priority.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
3. HOW SHOULD DOE BE REPRESENTED IN DOD?
THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION(hereafter known as DOE) needs to have an interface with the Department of Defense (or DOD). I would propose the field office known as the DOD Education Activity be expanded to take on this function, but, I am sure they will be creative in finding their own way.
Where ever they end up, they would develop their budget based on national security objectives derived from the National Security Strategy and submit their operational budget through the DOD Programming and Budgeting process to produce the Future Years Defense Program just as the other Defense Agencies, Combat Commands, and Service Departments.
DOD would provide the operational funding approved by Congress to DOE to be combined with the administrative funding DOE received directly from Congress; the two cannot be intermingled.
4. SHOULD HOW SCHOOL SYSTEMS ARE ORGANIZED BE CHANGED?
I BELIEVE THEY SHOULD! It seems to me the disparity in how school systems within a state and within a county are structured is one of the leading causes of failing schools today. It doesn't matter what state you are talking about, it is across the board from your richest to the poorest.
The logic goes like this. The disparity that I am talking about is in the disparity in funding each school gets; it varies widely based upon what socio-economic area a particular school is located in. This is fact, shown time and time again in studies all across the nation.
Second, what is also a reality is that there is a direct correlation with schools in poorer socio-economic areas receive less funding on any equitable scale you wish to use to measure it than schools in better areas.
Third, studies also repeatedly show that you will find a higher proportion of poorer performing teachers in schools that receive less funding and/or are located in lower socio-economic locations. Finally, there are conclusive studies, that, everything else being equal, students of poorer quality teachers to worse than those taught by higher quality teachers.
Now, common sense should tell you all of those things are true and studies shouldn't be necessary, but there are many in America who will dispute what I have just laid out. In any case, the above rational leads me to conclude something has got to change and here is the change that I suggest be mandated on the states.
- Whatever school district structure a state designs must have roughly an equal number of schools from each socio-economic group in them
- Each school district in a state must contain roughly the same number socio-economic groups as any other school district.
- School districts will be sized such that teachers may have a reasonable commute to any school within that district.
- Children will attend schools closest to their homes
- Teachers may not choose which school within a district they will work at.
- Teachers will initially be assigned a school on some random basis within the school district they choose to work in.
- Teachers within a school district may not serve longer than three years in any one school in that district
5. HOW SHOULD SCHOOLS BE FUNDED?
IN ORDER TO INSURE equitable funding for each school should receive funding based on the same formula as every other school. No doubt schools are going to be different sizes driven by different school populations, but the funding they receive should provide the same benefit to each student regardless of how big or small the school is.
Formulae are easily (i used to do it, just not for schools) derived based on local economic conditions, school infrastructure, school assets, and school population that would provide reasonably fair funding levels to all schools regardless of the environment.
6. MAXIMUM TEACHER LOAD AND MINIMUM FACILITY SIZE/CONDITION
THE DOE SHOULD establish maximum teacher load and minimum sq ft per student per academic classroom and laboratory classroom. States would be required to fund, as a mandatory expense, construction and maintenance costs that meet the minimum standards.. They would be free, using discretionary spending to improve on these standards anyway they see fit.
7. MINIMUM CLASSROOM AND LABORATORY EQUIPMENT AND TEXT
THE DOE SHOULD establish the minimum classroom and laboratory equipment and text requirements and will provide funding for the purchase, upkeep, and replacement of such equipment and text. States are free to improve upon these minimum standards at their cost.
8. TEACHER PROFICIENCY
THE DOE WILL establish a minimum test and achievement-based wage for teachers, not administrators; DOE will fund any bonuses above the minimum wage for above average test scores and achievement results. The Federal government will also provide 50% of the base wage for teachers, not administrators, with the remainder being a mandatory budget item for the States. The States may improve upon the minimum in any way they choose.
9. WHAT SHOULD THE CIRRICULA CONSIST OF?
IN CONCERT, the DOE, DOD, STATE, AND EDUCATION EXPERTS, will set, based on an assessment of the National Security Strategy, the basic curriculum each student will be taught. While I recommend the following seven core subject areas be taught somewhere during the from 1st through 10th grade, the weighing in each may change over time based upon perceived needs. Notwithstanding what was covered in Education - Solution 1, I think the following subjects should be taught:
- science (hard, social, and political),
- English (reading, writing, composition),
- history (world, American, ancient, modern),
- life experience (shop, home economics, home finance, etc.).
I would also suggest the parts of the 11th and 12th grades be reserved for concentration in areas for either going to college, vocational school, or training for a vocation.
From what I have observed over the years, American schools have forgone many of these subjects and it shows up in our lost standing as a leader in the world, a lack of understanding of what America is and how it works, and the broken political process where extremists rule our Congress by slogans rather than by logic.
SOLUTION NUMBER 5
WELL, THAT IS my solution to the educational problems of America. I am realistic enough to know it will never fly, but I do hope it will set off a storm of comments because this topic needs to be talked about; talked about a lot for America is going down the tubes because the old system and the current system are no longer good enough for today's world. They will both lead, in my opinion, to America's downfall if we stay the course or regress to what was.
© 2011 Scott Belford