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Federal Education Intervention- What is the Cost?

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My friend Brenda Haithcock Brown wrote a fine piece of analysis related to the inequitable rise in “Non-teaching” employees in North Carolina schools over the last several decades that is very eye opening. I hope this will start a conversation we need to have about education going forward.

This is an interesting piece of reporting on the symptom, but We The People need to understand the root cause of the infection. It is the continued increase in the involvement of the federal government and the US Dept. of Education in OUR public schools. A deeper look in to this growth of “non-teaching” personnel I believe will reveal that many or most of them are necessary to conform to some federal rule, regulation or mandate and the hidden compliance requirements connected to the federal money attached to the federal rule, regulation or mandate.

Starting with the initial application paperwork and the federal compliance reporting required for Title 1- http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg1.html, in 1965, all the way through “Race to the Mediocre” and Common Core, the amount of useless reporting and record keeping has increased exponentially to the federal money received for the “program” and the compliance related to it.

A saying my mother used to tell me a long time ago- “The road to Hades is paved with good intentions” is the perfect explanatory comment on what the federal government has done TO our public education system. I believe that the majority of our federal elected officials initially buy in to the next big national education initiative because the “experts” tell them that it is “for the children” and really necessary. Sadly most of these educratic “experts” have NEVER stepped foot in an actual classroom, but their “research”, which has been “peer reviewed” by other educratic “experts”, who also have never been in an actual classroom, shows that this next great federal education program is the one that will “fix” ALL of our education problems.

So the next big national education initiative is passed in Congress and the federal educrats go on the road to sell State and local educrats on how by complying with and recording and reporting the “necessary” components of the program, education will be fixed. And by agreeing to do what is required, you will qualify for this or that federal appropriation or grant. I mean, how could anything go wrong with this?

Now, how many people know that in the State of North Carolina we receive only about 10.5% of our education funding from the federal government? This is not a misprint, ~10.5% of education funding comes from the federal government. And at what cost does this ~10.5% come? Sadly, NOBODY seems to know. I’ve spoken with several local school officials in different counties and have heard a number as high as 20% of their total education costs are related to complying and recording and reporting on federal rules, regulations and mandates.

I hope everybody reads that last sentence real slowly and lets it sink in for a minute. I believe it really illustrates the results of almost 50 years of direct involvement in our public education system by the federal government. We have become so well educated in mathematics that we now believe that it is a good thing to spend ~20% of our education dollar to qualify to receive ~10.5% of that same dollar, just to comply with the federal dictate? Again, I ask that you take a minute and let that sink in.

So now that, I believe, we have identified the root cause, what do we do? First, we need to start asking the right question, “What does this federal intervention in OUR public education system COST us in the classroom?” I think the primary answer is right there in front of US and we talk all the way around it, but we never see it. What do I mean?

We constantly here that from home schooling, to private schooling, to charter schools, to public schools, the costs to educate a child increases at each level. Why is this? Despite all of the whining from the educrat community about inclusion and exclusion of these various education systems, I believe it is directly related to the volume of federal intervention at each level. The basic math says that federal intervention, and in turn, compliance IN ANYTHING increases costs. Why would we believe that the education equation would be any different? I don’t think it is.

It’s time we start asking, “What costs do the federal intervention really exact?” And not just in actual dollars, but in lost instruction time? And in the restrictions on the use of the classroom teachers’ talent and abilities to teach children? And in the wasted time in constant retraining of our school personnel, both in the classroom and in the administrative offices? And in the costs of the constant replacing of textbooks and classroom materials? (Note: the issues related to the influence of money from the textbook industry in this process are a whole different story to be addressed at another time). I believe it is time we start to initiate this side of the conversation on federal intervention in to OUR public education system.

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