Scorched earth

In the LA Daily News, California State Sen. Tom McClintock offers a radical proposal for education: Spend school dollars on schools.

Across California, children are bringing home notes warning of dire consequences if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s scorched-earth budget is approved — a budget that slashes Proposition 98 public-school spending from $42.2 billion this year all the way down to $44.7 billion next year.

That should be proof enough that our math programs are suffering.

. . . Maybe — as a temporary measure only — we should spend our school dollars on our schools. I realize that this is a radical departure from current practice, but desperate times require desperate measures.

McClintock proposes a budget for a school that hires California State University professors as teachers, leases luxury commercial office and buys gym memberships for all students.

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Comments

  1. SuperSub says:

    HURRAH for him.

  2. This almost reads like a Scrappleface story.

    But apparently it’s true: “School dollars” have become a euphemism for … something else. It’s time to reclaim the phrase’s original meaning.

  3. Hunter McDaniel says:

    As someone who has managed the budget of a (charter) school, I’m quite familiar with the waste which permeates regular public schools; our district made us eat many of their overheads, like them or not.

    However, the numbers in McClintock’s article are so unrealistic that they seriously undermine his argument. 4800 square feet for 180 students – who is he kidding? That works out to about 27 square feet per pupil. Our charter school has 90 square feet per pupil and has some serious inadequacies even at that size – the comparable district schools have at least 120-150 square feet per pupil. Five FTE teachers for 180 students isn’t very realistic either. If those teachers have to spend 100% of the hours in class contact, then the class size is an AVERAGE of 36. Of course since classroom scheduling/allocations are never perfect, some class sizes would be pushing 40 or more. And even these numbers break down if, heaven forbid, the teachers had a free period.

    It’s too bad McClintock felt the need to exaggerate – the truth would have made a more convincing story.

  4. I didn’t realize that square footage was such an important factor in the quality of education.

    No wonder I’m so stupid, my public school had grades 6-12 in a single one-story building.

  5. Hunter McDaniel says:

    Matt-
    Physical space in a school is like RAM for your computer. Once you have enough, there is little benefit from having more. But I’ll dare say your one-story school had a lot more than 27 square feet per pupil. McClintock’s model only covers the classrooms, with no allowance for halls, bathrooms, storage, or an office for that $80K administrator and secretary. And of course it also omits any “luxuries” like a cafeteria, music room, or library. I guess that some kind of gym facilities come with the health club membership, although I’d be surprised if it includes much in the way of instruction.

    Over 80% of the cost in most public school systems goes for labor and benefits. It’s the misuse and misallocation of those labor dollars that is the main problem.

  6. And I used to like this guy.

    Republicans are having less and less of a clue about education, or they are too damn stupid to care. Ok, too generalized, but McClintok is a reasonable man who, in this case, shoots his mouth off too much.
    I could be that we have all these “school bureaucrats, consultants, advisers and specialists” because of the liability that the government puts teachers into if there is a problem with the school. Forget for a second that the parents of this generation are uninspired and (in many cases) degenerates, and that California has a massive population of students who know little or no english, and that more students are being classified as Special Education now than in any point in history, and many parents and community members would love to sue school districts, and that we have to teach them to the Exit Exam, and STAR tests, and NCLB laws. Hey thanks for making all those “school bureaucrats, consultants, advisers and specialists” necessary.
    And by the way, when you find a way to use a 4,800 square foot space to teach 180 impoverished students (no free/reduced lunch?), let me know. Especially if you find it in the Bay Area for a $150,000 lease.
    And by the way, CSU Professors won’t teach high school because then they have to deal with all the problems of parents that the government refuses to deal with. You know: gangs, drugs, lazy students, bitchy parents, NCLB, no academic freedom, Exit Exams, etc.
    And by the way, at least double the price of your textbooks because many of your students can hardly speak english, much less read it. Good luck.

    I’m all for money going to the classrooms. In fact, eliminate the entire county schools system and let the local districts handle it. What I’m asking for is realistic answers to the funding problem, and I’m getting McClintok giving me fantasy land. Dismantle the county, raise taxes and fund your freaking future.
    And stick your elitist, snobby attitude up your ass while your at it, Tommy. This makes your party look embarrassing.

  7. Hunter,

    Several well-educated generations were taught in one-room schoolhouses in rural America, and those students were of all levels. In certain areas, there were several *languages* in that one room. The “square footage per pupil” ratio makes a McClintock floor-plan look like the Playboy Mansion in comparison to those tiny one-room buildings.

    Yes, science curricula require lab space [along with a few other exceptions, such as dedicated rooms for art classes, tech. ed., etc.], but it is entirely plausible – even possible! – to provide an excellent education without much space.

  8. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    Funny how people can read the same article but read it in different ways. I thought that Senator McClintock was using satire to make a point about Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget. I thought the article was well written and used humor to make a point. It never occurred to me that there would be people who would take his article as a serious proposal for school reform!

    He does NOT really thing that the budget going from $42.2 billion to $44.7 billion is slashing the budget.

    He does not want to hire CSU professors as teachers. He is making a point that the current budget would allow hiring well qualified teachers.

    And so on and so on.

    If you can’t see it is satire then I won’t be able to convince you. If he comes out and says it is satire then I will owe everyone an apology for way overestimating Senator McClintock’s intelligence because as satire it does a wonderful job of pointing out how wasteful the current system is.

  9. I understand that it is satire.

    However, even being satirical, his thesis is horribley flawed. He takes none of the obvious variables into account because he is a politician, not an educator.

    And you can sub in “qualified teacher” instead of CSU professor, and I still offer the same question. Why would a teacher want to deal with those problems in a low performing school, when it is possible to get hired at a school with money, supplies and supportive parents.

    The point is that Tommy makes it look easy, when it actually isn’t.

  10. Hunter McDaniel says:

    McClintock’s article is hyperbole, not satire. As such, I don’t think it adds anything useful to the debate. Which is sad, because I suspect there are more things he and I agree on than not.

    In any event if the public schools were merely wasting money that would be a problem but one we could live with, like the gold-plating which goes into weapons procurement. At least our military is winning the wars it fights.

  11. Hunter: A pupil’s desk fits into a 2×3 space. Add aisles, teacher’s desk, some open space, and I’d figure a classroom ought to have 12-15 square foot per pupil. The lunchroom can be somewhat smaller, even if you’re feeding everyone at the same time. (Every school I ever went to had staggered lunches, and most had a gym that converted to a lunchroom.) “Labs” are just a few extra classrooms, with one class of kids going from their regular room to the lab at a time. So I think McClintock’s 27 sq foot might have omitted hallways, bathrooms, and offices – but your “inadequate” 90 sq ft/pupil implies as much space allocated to each of those as to the classrooms!

    If you are putting classes of 15-20 into rooms that were built for 30-40, that accounts for much of the difference, but the only way 90 sq ft could be inadequate is if you have way too many offices.

  12. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    McClintock should have been our governor. As he has said numerous times, California does not have a revenue problem–it has a SPENDING problem.

    If we could get rid of the ultra-leftist members of the State Assembly/Legislature, it would at least be a first step. More money has been spent at the Federal and State level on education, with lousy results. It’s the VALUES of the students and their families that ultimately matter, NOT spending more taxpayer dollars or endless reeducation/staff development training for teachers. And unfortunately, my fellow Los Angelenos’ ballot choices for mayor are Dumb (Hahn) and Dumber.(Villaraigosa)…no choice at all.

  13. Hunter McDaniel says:

    markm-
    All I can suggest is that you visit some real schools and then tell me they all have 3x to 5x the space they need.

    My charter school has classrooms that average about 900 square feet, and class sizes that average 20-25. If we were building from scratch we could make them somewhat smaller, but I wouldn’t go any less than about 750 square feet. We schedule them 95% busy, which is about the maximum efficiency possible given that not all rooms are interchangeable. The halls are absolutely JAMMED when the kids change classes. Only the principal and counselor have private offices. The teachers share desks in a single 600 square foot office and have another break room which is slightly smaller. We have converted closets as changing areas for PE. We have a 1500 square foot multi-purpose room which serves as gym, cafeteria, and performance space. And finally, we have a library.

    That’s it. I just don’t see any possibility of running a normal school in one-third of that space.

  14. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    OK, after saying I would not do so I will bite. The use of bathrooms, hallways, and other common areas are generally included with you rent office space.

    The gym would have to be factored into the average square feet as well although it might be easier to take it out of the traditional school calculations instead of adding it to the satirically proposed school since it would be shared space that is not dedicated to the school’s use.

    As far as “Why would a teacher want to deal with those problems in a low performing school, when it is possible to get hired at a school with money, supplies and supportive parents.”.

    I see that you are implying the current problem is largely the fault of the teachers (you might be right, I don’t live in CA and I don’t know how their teachers are). After all, the current teachers are working in the current environment for even less pay than proposed. Factor in that the core of Senator McClintock’s argument is that there is adequate funding (which would by supplies) and the only remaining problem is unsupportive parents. Raising more revenue would not magically make the parents supportive or the teachers able to teach better so what part of Senator McClintock’s premise to you disagree with? Or put another way, how would sinking more money into a system that is so flawed solve any problems?

  15. Where the hell do you come up with teachers being the problem!?!?!? I implicate none of that! The problem is McClintok sticking his nose in a place that is totally unfamiliar to him. He is thinking like a politican, not a teacher. With all the laws and mandates, many of the support staff in education can’t be thrown away because they cost too much. And I’m still trying to find out where exactly this money is being “wasted”. I know very few districts that “waste” money for schools, and those that do have local problems that need to be addressed.
    Finally, McClintok wants to put this onis of education on teachers instead of paying attention to real problems like degenerate parents, gangs, drugs, etc. We (the teachers) are not the fucking problem. Yet we are treated like we are supposed to have the solution to the great social fuck-up that is the State of California.
    Speaking as a Republican, I’m embarressed that my party hasn’t a clue about the real problems in education. You want to fix your little education problem? Fine, stop looking at the system and look at society. Right now the core value of the political system is “by any means necessar yet absent of compromise”, and those values leak right down to the kids. And my party, who used be for accountability, wants to point to the people fighting in the trenches and call them the problem? You know when you’ll solve the problem of education? When you realize that we are the solution.
    Pay us like professionals, build us cathedrals of education, demand that schools be safe, take rights away (that’s right) from students, and treat the profession of education with some actual respect. How do you pay for this? Simple, you raise taxes. For the future of this country (see India and China), it is what any “fiscally responsible” politican would do.
    Then you will see change.

  16. All the guy is underscoring is the huge amount of money involved and the fact that many of the same services are available in the open society. With 40B US$, we could probably pay all the citizens of some small city-state like Singapore and have individual tutors for each student. The amount of money spent in Calif is staggering.
    If most of the costs are in the institutional framework, how about some creative solutions for that? Try limiting physical attendance at the institutional building site for 2 days per week for 3 hours of instruction, for example. Or buy each teacher a Prius and then they spend the week dropping in on small groups students in homes. OK that is bit much, I’m thinking out loud here. Could this work? A day’s math lesson takes 15 minutes to present. The rest of the time is individual effort, generally speaking. and the time needs change with the grades, too. Hey, why the same model for K-12, why K-12 at all? Why not use competency levels for grouping and drop the grade level concept. I’d like to think we can be a bit more creative about resource and time usage, with such huge amount of resources $40B++, PER YEAR.

  17. Walter E. Wallis says:

    What the hell do we need coaches for, anyway? Pay to teach academics, then let those who want it join sports clubs after school. When taxes make you a minority partner in your own life, they are too damn high. The public sector needs to learn what the private sector has known all along – live within your means or keep your paper route.

  18. Coach Brown wrote:

    The problem is McClintok sticking his nose in a place that is totally unfamiliar to him.

    Is that the problem? See, I was under the impression that it was the public education system that was under discussion. That being the case, whatever McClintock’s qualifications to “stick his nose” into the situation, it is his resposibility. You know, elected representative and all that.

    He is thinking like a politican, not a teacher.

    Alert the media.

    And I’m still trying to find out where exactly this money is being “wasted”.

    Don’t over-exert yourself. You don’t have the ability to find that waste any more then a fish can pole vault.

    Finally, McClintok wants to put this onis of education on teachers instead of paying attention to real problems like degenerate parents, gangs, drugs, etc.

    So you’re saying that the job can’t be done because of the poor quality of the society you’re forced to work with? Or is it that the job would just be much easier if you had better quality people to work with. People like, well, yourself?

    I believe you had a suggestion for what to do with a snobby, elitist attitude?

    Pay us like professionals, build us cathedrals of education, demand that schools be safe, take rights away (that’s right) from students, and treat the profession of education with some actual respect.

    Anything else you want to add to the list? Maybe exempting teachers from the income tax and traffic laws? How about a “get out of jail” card?

    And, in case I missed it, does your wish list contain anything about what society can expect from teachers and the public education system?

    Do we have to wait until after teacher’s salaries come up to the same level as NBA players, the education cathedrals are erected, students and parents required to wear shock-collars and the rest of society learns that a tug of the forelock is required when a teacher rides by before we can expect education to sprout across the land like the flowers of spring?

    How do you pay for this? Simple, you raise taxes.

    So simple. Why can’t a politician understand something that simple?

    Ooh! Ooh! I know! I know!

    Could it be because there’s hardly a one of those dumb politicians who doesn’t understand that being a loud, clear advocate of raising taxes is a good way to add “the former” to his title? Maybe, having to go back to the people they represent every now and then to hold onto the job they’re ever so slightly attuned to the mood of those people? Could that be it? Yes, I’m sure it could.

    And why would those voters be less then excited at “simply raising taxes”? Could it be because they’ve watched what purports to be an education system turn into a jobs program that produces excuses and illiterates? Probably you can’t see that any more then you can see the waste so, you’re off the hook on the basis of diminished capacity: where you’ve got your head prevents you from seeing much of anything.

    For the future of this country (see India and China), it is what any “fiscally responsible” politican would do.

    Somebody put on a recording of “Yankee Doodle”, we’ve a real patriot on our hands. What’s next? Going to reenact the planting of the flag on Mount Suribachi?

    The only reason you’ve got a bug up your ass about McClintock is that you can’t shut him up, you can’t keep people from listening to what he has to say and what he has to say is threatening your self-serving house-of-cards structure of rationalizations.

    I can only pray that public education has more advocates like you. Nobody’ll do a better job then people like you of puncturing the wishfull thinking and complacency that the public education system depends on for it’s continued survival.

  19. Coach Brown says:

    1. Elected representatives are chosen by a Democracy. Since that Democracy doesn’t value Education, I’m not suprised that the elected representative has no clue about education.

    2. Since I’m a teacher, who by the way works in education, I’m still trying to find the waste.

    3. The problem is that society doesn’t value its education system. Instead of solving the problem, you are attacking solution.

    4. And don’t be a jackass about respect for teachers. We are post-graduate professionals that are not paid for our value to society. As for the expectations for teachers, I am my harshest critic and you should beg the state to keep myself and the teachers I work with. We have the highest standards and work plenty of 12 hour days to get your kids to meet them.

    5. Since a vast majority of California is willing to raise taxes for education, and the point is to what is right for the state, not to get elected, I’ll say again that I’m not surprised that Tommy is more interested in partisonship than education.

    6. The typical, centralist “ignorant American” arguement to ignore China and India. Two countries that are getting more looks than the United States by high tech companies and two countries that within ten years will graduate more PhD’s than the United States.

    7. And finally, you ignorant fool, I’m the last person to ever call “self-serving”. I work 12-15 hour days to teach your kids. I stood on a corner for two hours, not asking for a pay raise, but asking the government to fund the future of your children. You are right about one thing, you should hope that education has more advocates like me. I dedicate myself to 150 students every year to make them productive, intelligent, hard working members of society. I’ve dedicated my live for the advancement of others. That is hardly self-serving.

  20. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    “Coach”..your musings are quite amusing.

    Spellcheck is a wonderful tool. You might want to use it. As for grammar and syntax…I guess you’re not an English teacher.

    BTW….it’s Tom McCLINTOCK, not McCLINTOK. (LOL)

  21. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Allen or Nails – running for office? Please.
    Coach – 5 laps and then shower and change.

  22. Coach Brown wrote:

    1. Elected representatives are chosen by a Democracy. Since that Democracy doesn’t value Education, I’m not suprised that the elected representative has no clue about education.

    Thanks for the civics lesson but I’ve read all about it. Elections, votes, legislatures, voting districts, executive branch. All very fascinating. Nice to know you have some familiarity with the subject.

    Sorry we don’t live up to your expectations but your paychecks are still clearing, right?

    2. Since I’m a teacher, who by the way works in education, I’m still trying to find the waste.

    I told you not to do that. You might hurt yourself.

    3. The problem is that society doesn’t value its education system.

    You’re repeating yourself and, by the way, you’re wrong.

    Instead of solving the problem, you are attacking solution.

    I are?

    4. And don’t be a jackass about respect for teachers.

    See, here’s where we come to a parting of the ways. You seem to be under the impression that respect ought to be accorded by title and I think respect ought to be accorded by the accomplishment.

    We are post-graduate professionals that are not paid for our value to society.

    You think so? You are free to go into a line of work that pays you what you’re worth are you not? That would seem to be a more worthwhile use of your impressive skills that whining about the ungrateful public.

    But I could be wrong. Maybe post-graduate professionals put a higher value on whining then the rest of society does. Could be a master’s thesis in sociology in that.

    5. Since a vast majority of California is willing to raise taxes for education,

    And this squares with your points 1) and 3) how?

    6. The typical, centralist “ignorant American” arguement to ignore China and India.

    I suggest the Coach Brown-approved treatment for snobby elitism. Recommended by nine out of ten doctors!

    7. And finally, you ignorant fool, I’m the last person to ever call “self-serving”.

    I’m ignorant and fool? All that Discovery Channel-viewing for nothing.

    I’ve dedicated my live for the advancement of others. That is hardly self-serving.

    And, you are not paid nearly enough for all your dedication!

    Oh, the sting of insufficient gratitude!

    How sharper then a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless public! Just another cross for you to bear, hey?

  23. We are post-graduate professionals that are not paid for our value to society.

    Any professional could tell you that your value is determined by your customers. Until your customers have the option of taking their money elsewhere no one will ever know your true value.

    Oh, and so long as you hide behind unions, not only are you not professionals, you’re nothing more than factory workers with college degrees.

  24. Michelle Dulak Thomson says:

    Coach Brown, I’d only add to the comments above that if China and India will outpace the US in PhDs within ten years, it only makes sense; both countries have more than three times our population, and both take education extremely seriously. I say more power to them, personally.

    I can’t get any sense from your posts what you teach, by the way, and I must admit to being curious.

  25. hardlyb says:

    My kids go to a small private school that has a teacher/student ratio of 1/10, a very nice facility, a 12-month curriculum (253 days of school a year), and it costs about the same per pupil as the local public school does for a 9-month program. But one advantage that they do have is that they can “fire” a family that is too much trouble, and they don’t have to take everyone in the first place (although they do take what looks like a representative cross-section of kids not in the “extreme special needs” category).

    I know some of the teachers quite well, including one that was a good friend before working at this school, and I can tell you that some of the stories of parent behavior I’ve heard curdle my blood. As I’m sure that we all know firsthand how even one out of control kid can disrupt a classroom (although where I was a kid they usually only did it once, since those split-baseball-bat paddles really hurt — and no, I’m not advocating a return to this practice, since it was badly abused by jerks that like to hurt kids), just imagine the resources wasted by psycho parents.

    I think that it’s facile to hold just the “education professionals” for waste when we collectively require them to do so many things that are really stupid. I do agree that we probably spend enough money on schools in CA, but only if we actually spend the money on teaching the vast majority of kids that are willing to learn, and send the rest of them (and their parents) to detention.

  26. ragnarok says:

    Some examples of the demanding standards that we require of our California teachers here: http://www.cbest.nesinc.com/
    For an account of how some people fought against these unreasonable expectations, see http://www.dailyrepublican.com/cbest_test.html