Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ky. Education Full of Fat!

It seems that some sort of "advocacy group" that represents most of Kentucky's school superintendents is warning that because of the legislature's stringent budget allocations there will have to be layoffs of teachers. The head of the group, Council for Better Education, is Marion County Superintendent Roger Marcum, who, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader of 08 April, is considering cutting the number of employees who work with special-education students. His PR expertise is not the best, apparently.

UK President Todd has announced a 9% tuition hike, representing cumulative increases of intolerable increments over the last decade. The UK staff is upset because no raises are to be given its members, thus a greater thrust for union representation is the inevitable consequence. This could bring online a local union of 10,000 members, and the UK staff-administration structure would never be the same or as efficient.

The educators apparently have given no thought to cuts in spending or streamlining their operations or just doing what a family does when income dictates priorities. Superintendent Marcum and President Todd could probably cut enough fat from their operations to actually raise expectations. Since the advent of KERA, education achievement, if anything, has regressed, but even before that "reform" was enacted school systems were adding counselors, assistant principals, teachers' aides, and unnecessary programs at an alarming clip, notwithstanding that U.S. education was just fine – actually much better as compared to the rest of the world – before all these "improvements," especially the non-academic ones.

It's ironic that the legislators have actually been considering labor-intensive kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds, a totally unneeded plaything. Parents can either take care of their 4s at home or place them in day-care centers, now being done anyway, and certainly not expect all the taxpayers to support what amounts to baby-sitting, never mind the silly talk that the little dears will get behind if they aren't regimented earlier. Traditional students read as well as Head-start students by grade four, if not much sooner, so starting kids earlier makes no sense. Success is a factor of teaching acuity, not age. The following paragraphs were written in January:

"Instead of just acceding to the education gurus in their demands for more money, perhaps it would be wise to determine how well they use the funds already available. In a help-wanted advertisement in the Lexington Herald-Leader of last fall, there was this job description advanced by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System: System Director, Office of Cultural Diversity. Job description: Provides leadership and support for new and existing initiatives relating to diversity and cultural matters. Collaborates with colleges and others in the evaluation and implementation of diversity related initiatives.

The person filling this job was required to have a Master’s degree plus five years related leadership and administrative experience or equivalent. In other words, this was a relatively high-paying job, complete with office staff, myriad machines and all the rest.

What is an office of cultural diversity, especially in a two-year, junior-college/industrial-trades milieu, which has to do with academic or skill-related achievement? Since this office was concerned with diversity-related initiatives (whatever they are), there was no indication that it had anything to do with either academics or skills. The point: Tens of thousands of dollars are soaked up by this enterprise described as involving diversity and culture, both of which are quite well defined in the dictionary and seem hardly worthy of treatment on the college level.

If cultural diversity is accounted as an academic matter, it reminds of the craze some two-three decades ago to establish college/university departments of women’s studies and African-American studies, with graduates in those fields empowered to do little more than become teachers in those fields, thus continuing the craze…and possibly knowing a good thing when they see it. As a practical matter, how do experts in either field impact the society other than with pronouncements?"

The point: Until the education establishment across the board gets its cost-cutting, belt-tightening act together and does what every other department in the state is forced to do, the taxpayers have a right to revolt.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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