The public school “business model” is now bankrupt, obsolete

Some of us have been making the case for years that the k-12 public school system is one of the worst run enterprises in the country. Now that the economy is in the tank and revenues to all levels of government are down, reality is beginning to dawn on more people that further delaying real school reform is no longer an option.

Recent newspapers are providing even more material – none of which is unexpected by anyone who has been paying attention to the profligacy and ineptitude of the government-run school financial managers. Here are just two examples:

An excerpt from today’s Chicago Tribune:

CPS faces $1 billion deficit, Huberman says

Only pension reform, union concessions and layoffs can stave off crisis

Chicago Public Schools is facing a deficit of up to $1 billion next year that can be reduced only through a combination of pension reform, union concessions and job cuts, schools chief Ron Huberman said Thursday.

Without all three measures in conjunction, Huberman said, teacher layoffs, increased class sizes and cuts to important programs are distinct possibilities.

This is from an editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times:

No way around CPS teacher pay freeze

Without union concessions — one of CPS’ only guaranteed ways to save money — CPS is looking at devastating cuts in every corner of the school system.

Ron Huberman isn’t crying wolf.

It’s time for big concessions now — rather than face massive disruption in the schools and an ugly and fruitless strike down the road.

For too long, words like “efficiency” and “productivity” were considered politically incorrect when discussing the taxpayer funded public school system because it was supposed to be “about the kids.” How can one talk about cold-hearted things like that when the future of our precious children was at stake?!

Honest adults, however, have for decades been chronicling the waste and financial foolishness found within the government-run school system. The links found in that first paragraph above lead to numerous studies showing that the increased funding didn’t correlate with increased student academic achievement. Increased funding does track, however, with the power and financial well being of the unions and other special interest groups.

Bill Zettler’s continued great work researching the bankruptcy of the state’s pension funds reveals another layer of this bloated mess.

Expanded competition and the injection of real incentives are the only answer. Taxpayers and parents have seen what happens when we’re all supposed to rely on the goodness of the hearts of those who run the public schools. It’s what we have now: unsustainable costs and unacceptable student performance.

Illinoisans are never going to see a streamlined and effective school system unless its structure is changed so the government monopoly is ended, teacher tenure eliminated, and parents are allowed to choose the schools their children attend.

Back in 2004 I wrote an article titled “Perestroika and the Illinois public school system.” All these years later the point I made still holds: you can’t fix the unfixable, even with more money.

Now that there isn’t any more money, this financial turmoil can help bring down the Berlin-like Wall which was long ago constructed by the public school establishment to prevent true reform.

©2010 John Francis Biver