Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Mis-Education of America

The first time I ever knew that there was a problem with the educational system occurred around 1986 or so. Had to be around August. I was an eager 7 year old who knew the time to go back to school was fast approaching. And I was ready. Back then, I wasn't one of those kids that dreaded the end of summer break. I Loved school. (OK, I was a nerd). My parents, with some assistance from my grandparents, had done all the school shopping that my brother and I needed. Pencils, notebook paper, and of course a nice little wardrobe to spark the school year off right. There was just one problem this particular year. Chicago Public School teachers went on strike. Yep, a little bit more time at home. I remember everyday checking the news to update the status of whether or not we'd be going to school anytime soon. (I told you I was a nerd). I don't recall exactly how long the strike lasted, but I do remember it lasting well past my birthday of September 1st.

Since then, I have been privy to politicians constantly harping on how our educational system is broken. How our educational system needs to be fixed. The interesting thing is that in my near thirty years on this Earth, it hasn't been fixed. And I'm sure that it was considered broken long before I was ever a glimmer in the eyes of Curtis and Andrea, my parents. (I tend to believe that it remains broken so that politicians have an automatic platform from which to launch their particular candidacy). So a couple of years ago, I started thinking, how can we truly make a change to our educational system? One that will benefit scores of children across this great land of ours. Well needless to say, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. What I would like to present to you is my plan to actually affect change in this country. Let me state for the record that this is merely a thinking man's proposal. This is spliced with some actual statistics, and a real world view of how things should be run. I know that under no circumstances would something like this ever be implemented, but it will give you an alternative to the status quo that we've all been subjected to over our life times. I just want to state for the record as well that I am no smarter than the average genius. (Lol). But it is absolutely time for someone to step to the plate and actually do something about our educational system. That is, other than have diarrhea of the mouth as my Grandfather would call it. With no further ado, my plan.

America spends anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000 per student, per calendar year on education, depending on what state you live in.

With local, state, and federal funding combined, I have heard that the figure nationally is right around an average of $11,000 per year. Here's step one of the plan. For every child born in America, and for every child who is a citizen already alive in America, we as a country will contribute $10,000 into an educational account from the day that they are born. (If they are already alive, we will begin contributing that amount from day one of implementation of this plan). That money is to be used by that child, and its family for education and education only! All monies taken from that account will be paid directly to an institution of learning. Those monies will be paid from the day that child is born, up until the child turns 18 years old. Once that money is in the account, it can be used for educational purposes from the day the child is born, until the day they die. (If John Smith has money in his account and wants to go and get his college degree at the age of 65, he has all right and opportunity to do so).

Step 2. From day one of the implementation of this plan, every public school and public University will be given a complete audit. From the real estate on which it lies to the value of the basketballs in the physical education department, every school will be assessed a value. Once the value of each institution is determined, those schools will be put up for auction. The school can be purchased by any company or individual with the means to pay for it. I know that off the top, this would be considered the most controversial part of my plan, but as it will be discussed later, this is the key to the entire plan. All money received from the sale of an institution will be used for the previously mentioned $10,000 per child/year.

Step 3. Another controversial part of the plan is to abolish teacher's unions. Every teacher would essentially become a free agent, just like the rest of the working public. However, teachers would now be subject to the standards that us in the working public are subjected to. A teacher who is not producing in the classroom would be subject to losing their jobs. On the flip side of the coin, teachers who are high achievers, and have the high test scores of their children to prove it, will be able to negotiate the salaries that they feel they deserve. The salaries of teachers, I believe would go up significantly. (As well as the quality).

Step 4. The Department of Education will become an oversight agency. They would be responsible for managing the accounts of every child in America. (Trust me, I would be uneasy with giving them that responsibility as well. We all know what an agency similar to this has done with Social Security). The department would also be responsible for accrediting each and every institution. Its findings would be 100% open to the public. This information, hopefully, will be used by the public to find out which institution they should send their child to. This department would be funded, again, by the sale of each school, and with yearly governmental funding.

OK, those are the 4 steps. Now let me tie them all up for you.

The Life of a Child

John Smith is born January 1st, 2009. In his educational account is placed $10,000. By the time John Smith is 5, and ready for kindergarten, he has $50,000 in his educational account. Now his parents may have used some of that money to pay for pre-K, but lets just say that they didn't. (If the parents were smart, not only would they use that money for pre-K, but they would also find a pre-K that also provides some child care at the same time as the money could be used to offset those costs as well). When John Smith enrolls in Kindergarten, he would still receive his $10,000 for that school year, but his tuition would be somewhere in the ballpark of maybe say $5,000, depending on which school his parents enroll him in. The remaining $5,000 would remain in his educational account. Extrapolate that over the course of the next 12 years, the time that it should take him to graduate high school, and John would have $115,000 in his educational account. Time for college! That $115,000 should more than cover his 4 years of undergrad. No need to worry about paying for college anymore. Or even if John doesn't want to attend college, he could still use the money to go to a trade school. Still providing him a leg up in his foray into adulthood.

The selling of our schools

How many of us have been to McDonald's? Chances are that if you are living in the United States, that would be you. And why is that? McDonald's is known as the pioneer of fast food. They established themselves as the gold standard for fast food hamburgers. And over the past 60 years, they have done everything possible to hold on to that market share. Sure, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Wendy's and Carl's Jr. have done all they could to take some of that market away, with varying degrees of success. Well, let's apply that same standard to schools. Sink or swim is what I will call it. If a corporation were to take the same business principles they would use to sell you a hamburger and instead sell you a quality education, how could the public at large lose? If you feel like McDonald's high school has crap teachers, and asbestos in the building, you always have the option of sending your kid to Jack In the Box high school. Or lets say that McDonald's high school has an accreditation of say 89%, and they want $7500 per school year, but Jack In the Box high school is rated 95% and their tuition is only $6500 per school year, where are you likely to send your child?

See, I believe in capitalism! Its not the best system, its just better than all the rest! Now the only problem that I've come up with is the fact that these business would already have a built in consumer market. And when you have that, its tends to lend to the possibility of collusion. In my idea, that would be combated by the Department of Education. It would be up to them to make sure that say all of the schools in a particular area don't get together and decide that they don't set their prices at $10,000 each. Of course there would be hefty fines to penalize any businesses caught operating in such practices. Also, I would offer some kind of tax benefit to companies who invest into this educational system.


I see everything in life, in some way, through the prism of sports. In this particular instance, I want to discuss the concept of free agency, and how it relates to education. We have a teacher named Jane Smith. Jane Smith has a doctorate in American History. Now, Jack In the Box high school, McDonald's high school, and the University of Best Buy all have an opening for a history teacher. Jack In the Box high school is willing to pay Jane Smith $65,000 a year, McDonald's is willing to pay $75,000 a year, but due to it not being a pressing need, the University of Best Buy is only willing to offer Jane Smith $55,000 a year. Now Jane Smith's ultimate decision may include factoring in the distance of the commute, and chances for advancement, but we can all guess that Jane Smith is probably going to take the teaching position at McDonald's high school. (Hell, making $75,000 a year, you can better afford $4.50 per gallon). Now that may be Jane Smith's options. Sally Smith may only have a bachelor's degree in history. And with that, her earning potential may be only two thirds of Jane Smith's. Just like in sports, a player who can score 30 points per game in basketball is likely to be offered more money than a player who is only capable of scoring say 20 points per game. Again, capitalism at its best.

Now some of this may be over simplification. I just feel as though over the past, God knows how many years, we've allowed the fact that this is a complicated problem stand in the way of us doing anything. All I ask of you is that if any of this makes sense to you, then reconsider the concept of school vouchers. This plan is an expanded version of school vouchers. I do really believe that competition is the solution. Too often we fight against progress, and as a by product, we end up fighting to keep the very same crap that we've been handed our whole lives. If your local neighborhood school is crap, well maybe its time that it closed down. Maybe that will motivate the surrounding community to stand up and say that we really want better! If parents had the option to send their kids to a nicer school a few miles down the road, that community school may find the motivation to get their act together.

All I know is that I like some of what Barack Obama is saying, but at the same time I feel he's doing nothing more than offering the status quo. And anybody who's spent any time in the hood knows that status quo isn't going to change a damn thing! But this is just one man's opinion. What's yours?

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