Education, Money & Politicians

This was my second speech in the Competent Toastmaster series.  It was originally given in April 2002.

Federal Government
Education is mentioned absolutely nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the 10th Amendment states that those powers not delegated to the federal government are left to the states or the people.

While studying to become a teacher I took a school law course. One of the cases examined was San Antonio v. Rodriguez—a school funding case. The Supreme Court in 1973 determined that relying solely upon property taxes is unconstitutional. More important, the opinion of this case is that education is not a fundamental right protected by federal law.

School lunches are funded under the guise of public health.  But the federal government does not stop there.  Title I, IDEA, and national testing all bring federal money to schools.

The question then is why is the federal government involved in education at all?   If it is not its concern, why does it continue to poke its head into the issue?

Money.  It’s all about the money.

When money travels from the taxpayers’ hands to Washington then back to the states, there is slippage. Slippage is the dollars left in Washington. The money left behind pays for commissions, beauracracy, and the general health of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

What makes us think Washington, D.C. knows what we need?

State Government
Public schools are the responsibility of the states.

Each state struggles with a fair and equitable means for financing education as it is their responsibility and power so to do. New Jersey’s Abbott decision addresses our needs, which would not suffice in Illinois, New Hampshire, or other states tackling this same issue. Who better knows New Jersey’s public school ills than New Jersey?  This is why Washington, D.C. has no role in our children’s education.

But the state being responsible for educating our children does not necessarily mean it is liable for paying the bill.  Yet, more and more, the state is coughing up that bill.  Thirty districts, including Vineland, Millville, and Bridgeton, receive the lion’s share of its budget from the state coffers.

The idea is that poor school districts can not afford to fund public schools at the same level that affluent districts can because the tax base cannot support it.  The state subsidizes education in Abbott districts.

Local Government
The money spent locally is controlled by boards of education.  These (normally elected) officials, are well-meaning individuals who are participating in the democratic process.  Yet, ignorance on their part jeopardizes the money that provides for our children’s education.

Just this past Monday evening, an uneducated Millville Board of Education trying to bridge an $11 million budget gap laid off 300 teachers.  Among those laid off are court-mandated pre-school teachers.  These teachers possess state-mandated certifications that no others have.  And, unbeknownst to these simpletons, the pre-school program is funded through the Early Childhood act.  Unlike everything else in Governor McGreevey’s budget, Early Childhood money is increasing next year, despite the backroom deal cut with the Educational Law Center.  The Millville Board of Education is jeopardizing millions of dollars through its negligence.

What to Do
Public education is a boondoggle.  The money distorts the system.  Textbook companies manipulate curriculum.  Courts mandate positions that add to the property taxes we all pay.

Minimizing bureaucracy yields more money for education.

We all need to be informed about education in New Jersey.  The state is preparing to implement an $8 billion plus (with a capital B ) construction plan.  One of the main reasons is to help reduce class size.  Ask a politician (or an educator) to cite one study in which class size is correlational to student achievement.  You’ll be surprise none can be found.

I work too hard for my money to be squandered.  I assume we all do.  Let your voice be heard: whether it is by attending local Board meetings, writing to your representatives, or discussing the issues among your friends, being involved is critical.

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