Saturday, December 31, 2005

Blackboard Politics

We need more money, we need more money, we need more money!!!!!!

Listening to the Anchorage School Board, you would think the school district is going bankrupt.

Borrowing the endearing name the Anchorage Daily News has given Governor Murkowski; Frank the Bank acting like the frustrated parent who has the child with the tantrum in the toy section in Walmart, doled out an extra 90 million to education.

Well in my Christmas wish list, I asked Santa for the State of Alaska to fund education (it is in the Alaska Constitution). More importantly, 100% funding with strings attached. (sinister snicker)

For those who don't know, when I ran in the School Board elections, I was an advocate of a decentralized school system. This is a system that cuts the administration staffing and puts the money where it needs to be; in the classroom.

The Anchorage School Board likes to talk about how efficient the Anchorage School District is. It isn't, when you compare the Edmonton Public School system to the Anchorage School District.

The Edmonton Public School system is twice the size of the Anchorage School District and when you take out the privately contracted services, Edmonton has less than half the size of the central adminstrative staffing that the Anchorage School District has. And yes, Edmonton has its "No Child Left Behind."

The Anchorage School Board members say they can't cut anymore at the administrative level? Hogwash.

The problem is how the state money is distributed and how the funding formula is set up.

First to the funding. The State of Alaska should be contributing 100% to the cost of actually running the school. How can that be achieved?

Here is where the Anchorage School Board, the school district superintendent and some other people will get a little "hot under the collar".

The principal, the teachers and the parents of each school get together and figure out the actual cost to run the school and then come up with a budget and submit it to the State of Alaska School Board for approval.

That way, you keep those local school board member's and the assembly member's fingers off the State of Alaska's dough.

Once approved, the State cuts the check for 100% of the costs. Now there are strings attached.

Here comes the parent part.

No money is to go to any costs associated with a central adminstrative function other than contracted services requested by the school. Here is another string, the funding formula will be based on having teachers salaries being set on an average between public and private school teaching salaries.

The reason for this is, the unions have in effect, hijacked the cost of education by negotiating unrealistic health benefits. The unions are doing this through litigation in the courts.

(scream paper terrorism, paper terrorism !!!!!!!! here)

Next, as for teachers, I came from a family of teachers and I remember the extra hours that my mother put in on teaching. This is unfair. The State of Alaska should be obliged to recognize this and offer to each school through the decentralized budget, overtime pay for teachers and their aides.

To maintain integrity in the system, the State of Alaska should conduct random audits to ensure integrity in the system.

Here is another string, a bonus program set up to provide bonuses to the school principals for oustanding results. In Edmonton, some schools didn't use all of the money, and it was rolled over into the next year.

If this is acheived with not degrading the education of the children, then the school principal gets 50% of the left-over money and the rest goes to the school to be used as the principal, teachers and parents see fit. This produces an incentive to get the "best bang for the buck."

Next, the State of Alaska is ranked among the states with poor laws on promoting Charter/Vocational/Technical/Art Schools. The State of Alaska should set up funding specifically targeting the development of these schools that would have to be approved by the local school districts. And again this means 100% funding for the schools.

School buildings. The State of Alaska should provide 100% of the funding for the maintenence and the construction. But there are strings. The State of Alaska should set a limit on what is deemed acceptable costs under a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

What does this mean. No Taj Mahals and use simple construction methods.

The Nordstrom attitude that went into the design and building of the South Anchorage High School is unrealistic and costly. However, if the voters want to pay for the extras, then those luxury items can be payed for by local bonds that will not be reimbursed by the state.

The school administration staffing. Cut the funding bigtime.

Start with funding that goes to the Public Relations department.

We have become too sophisticated and cumbersome. What happened to the days when you brought home a note or a flyer made on a mimeograph machine that you had to have signed and brought back.

What we get today is a one or two page ad in the Anchorage Daily News or some fancy brochure telling us how great the school district is doing. Do parents really want to know this. Or do they care more about how their own child is doing in school.

When you have a decentralized school system, the parents will know how their school is doing, because they are involved very intimately in the budget process.

A public relations department is not needed to tell the parents that the child may be doing well or isn't doing well or how great the school district is doing.

The sole purpose of the Public Relations department is to present an image and damage control.

The Public Relations department would be the first target and there are more departments that should be trimmed.

Now what does all of this mean to you the parent and the voter? For one, hopefully property tax relief, a more efficient school system and accountablity on where the money is being spent.

Spending on education is getting out of control and a more efficient system needs to be set up.

The temper tantrum by the Anchorage School Board that 90 million is not enough, is getting very, very old.

We have reached a point that in the years ahead, you will be voting on a state sales tax, property tax and and a state income tax to fund education.

I don't think you want to see $70 or $80 a barrel oil that would be needed to keep the funding levels that have been set. I sure don't, my wallet gets thinner each time I go to the gas pump.

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