I recently had lunch with an individual who has a background in mechanical engineering and manufacturing. He is a strong advocate for public education and wanted to discuss what he described as a “death spiral” mentality that seems to be pervasive among some in Austin, specifically relating to the Educations Savings Account proposals now being advanced by the Lt. Governor. He drew parallels to a manufacturing environment where a company jettisons a product that is not meeting sales and margin targets, only to find that the overhead associated with the manufacturing facility remains, whether it is operating at capacity or not, thus impacting the profitability of the ongoing products.
So I got to thinking and this is exactly the situation with vouchers (by any name). While schools are not manufacturers and students are not the product as discussed in a prior blog, under a scenario where the money follows the student, little changes immediately in the classroom being vacated by the student. There is still a teacher, still bricks and mortar, still a principal and likely an assistant principal … and the list goes on. And the remaining students? They face the loss of programs and resources that ultimately will impact their quest for knowledge. We all know that and it makes perfect sense that this is occurring but many of those who represent us don’t seem to understand the whole concept of overhead. What do we do about it?
I recently read a post by Diane Ravitch and while I don’t always agree with her position, her articles are thought provoking. In this one, she posted an article by a New York state superintendent seeking support from his peers to challenge recent actions relating to testing and teacher performance by the Secretary of Education, John King. This mindset is exactly what is needed across the board, engagement at all levels to openly challenge decisions and actions being made by those who have little or no education experience.
Is the potential for a “death spiral” a reality? It certainly is and the only way to stop that is for education advocates at all levels to engage those who are making such pronouncements and trying to dismantle public education. The reformers are in it for only one thing, to make a profit. Thankfully, those in public education, despite the failure of much of society to acknowledge their efforts, are in it for an entirely different reason, the welfare of the students in the classroom. Let’s make certain that we make the effort to put students, not profit, first and to continue to Make Education a Priority.
Are you doing your part to stop the “death spiral” mindset? More than 5.2 million public education students are counting on all of us to do just that!