Who Should Run Public Education?

Once again, we are talking about public school teachers’ salaries.  The plan being discussed by legislators and some notable members of the business community calls for an across-the-board $5,000 raise.

The reasoning is this will bring Oklahoma salaries in line with bordering states and stem the loss of teachers.  But in a recent survey, teachers in Tulsa never mentioned salary as a reason for leaving.  They listed lack of support and too many meetings.  Who is listening to whom?

Another problem with the across-the-board raises is it is not the state’s business to pay salaries, it is the local school board’s duty.  The state only sets what the minimum is.

When Governor Mary Fallin suggested that at least 60 percent of the local district budget go to classroom and related activities, we find that out of 515 school districts in the state, only 11 could meet the goal.

That fact is one of the significant contributors in Tulsa Public Schools’ recent report card which showed our test scores are half of the state’s average and our absenteeism is 80 percent higher than the national average.  It is not a lack of money, but a decision by the local school board to pay administrators way more than they deserve for such poor performance.

On December 27, Walter E. Williams, professor of Economics, at George Mason University wrote a column entitled, “Educational Rot.”

His article began by stating that there is enough blame for all involved for the poor educational outcomes of black students that includes students that are hostile and alien to the educational experience and have derelict, uninterested home environments.  If parents don’t care, educational dollars won’t produce much.

There is also another issue besides students and parents that must be discussed.  This one is uncomfortable to confront.   It is the low academic quality of so many teachers and administrators.  Most individuals running school systems started as teachers and possess no real-life experience outside of education.

Mr. Williams goes on to say that most states require prospective teachers to pass a certification test.  He gives examples of recent test questions.  A Michigan test asked: “Which of the following is largest?  a. ¼, b. 3/5, c. ½, d. 9/20.  A CBEST math question is: “You purchase a car making a down-payment of $3,000 and 6 monthly payments of $225.  How much have you paid so far for the car?  A. $3,225, b. $4,350, c. $5,375, d. $6,550, e. $6,398.”

To Mr. Williams questions such as these, demonstrate the low bar that states set, in order for one to become teacher certified.

In Georgia, nearly 60 teachers had failed the certification test more than 10 times and one teacher failed the test 18 times.   There are 297 teachers on the Atlanta School System’s payroll who had failed the state certification test five times or more.

“With but a few exceptions, schools of education represent the academic slums of colleges,” Mr. William states.  Their students tend to have the lowest academic test scores and their professors tend to have the lowest level of academic respectability.

“I think,” says Professor Williams, “we ought to adopt a practice whereby teachers are hired according to their under-graduate major.  If you teach math, English or chemistry, the person must have a bachelor’s degree in that discipline.”

Likewise, for those running a school district must have degrees outside of those provided only by a school of education.  If this were the case, the public might get what it is already paying for a more experienced and educated administrator managers who get results.