Thursday, July 11, 2013

All I Can Hear

All I can hear I me mine, I me mine, I me mine. 
Even those tears I me mine, I me mine, I me mine. 
No one's frightened of playing it 
Everyone's saying it, 
Flowing more freely than wine, 
All through the day I me mine. 
The drive towards a City School System is no less relentless than the drive towards citihood. But due to citihood we know now much more than we knew then. Or at least we should.

  1. Smaller is better. With schools the thinking is with a smaller budget the magnitude of graft is proportionally reduced. But if it is only proportional then by any measure than absolute value it is the same. But being smaller while retaining many fixed costs drives the smaller system to seek alternative funding--think higher taxes or "grants". With the City smaller hasn't been working as well as expected.
  2. Local control is more responsive. Based on our Cityhood experiment it is only possible to believe in this unicorn when inebriated. As the City has handed over total control to the City Manager, the new schools will to a Superintendent, who will be equipped with the added power provided by a protective outside accrediting agency. In each case the elected officials, your representatives, will be operating exclusively with what the Manager/Superintendent provides, suggests or demands. 
  3. Local control keeps decisions close to home. What we have learned from the City is this notion is patently false. What happens is simple. The City sells local control to State and Federal agencies for grant money, often spending more than originally budgeted to provide matching funds to secure the grant. Local decision making evaporates because the grant requires more than matching funds, it also requires you do what the granting agency wants the way they want it done. In order to obtain State and Federal funding schools will hand over control of their curricula, content, evaluation and classroom practices as well as taking on burdensome meta-work. 
  4. They are your neighbors/fellow parents. The implication is that you and your neighbors are more alike than different and society's affinity for self-segregation makes that seem plausible. Sadly we have learned from our City Council that your neighbors can be really pissy little boys and girls.
  5. It's about the kids (or vision). Perhaps it will start that way but sooner or later it will increasingly be about money--the more we get the more we spend. But let's assume smaller is better and that includes school size--remember it is all about the kids. What happens when that runs afoul of the state's funding scheme that pays more for large schools? Will it still be ALL about the kids? Didn't think so.

And isn't it ironic that these lessons, easily and freely understood from our experiment with City governance will be forcibly pushed into the deepest end of our ignorance pool?