This might sound like blasphemy to some but don’t be surprised if the education cartel implodes the current public education system from kindergarten through doctorate programs with their steadfast refusal to address costs.
Taxpayers have been hammered by the notion that spending more is better. It is why the education cartel puts a lot of credence in per capita and per student spending surveys among the states. Such rankings are used to demand elected leaders and taxpayers alike to keep writing bigger and bigger checks that — while not blank — offer little if any incentive for innovation that controls costs.
A perfect example is the cost of textbooks. Depending upon the subject, they can run $30 to $130 for K-12 students per book. One would think the advent of e-books would send prices tumbling especially for districts such as Manteca Unified that are sinking considerable resources into digital education. It’s not. Prices haven’t dropped a cent.
A dozen years ago the California Performance Review commissioned by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger came up with a long laundry list of proposals to cut costs and improve the delivery of services by state agencies including education. Judging by the response from special interest groups — specifically the bureaucrats that run state agencies and those that thrive on the money they dole out — you would have thought they had suggested building a condo project atop El Capitan in Yosemite as well as clear cutting the Redwoods National Park.
Why should a textbook used by 2,000 fifth graders in Manteca Unified — or any district for that matter — cost $60 each? It’s even more insane to charge $60 per electronic copy.
The reason is simple. Amazon and an entire alphabet of Internet start-ups have been able to chip away at Fortune 500 firms that have dominated the retail market for decades including Wal-Mart due to their ability to reduce their exposure to much of the cost of government regulations that accompany the brick and mortar world. That advantage is sharpened because government isn’t in bed with the retail industry.
You need to look no farther than Davis for a high-profile example of how collusion between government officials and a chosen industry such as education keeps innovation and competition at bay and prices up for students and taxpayers.
University of California Chancellor Linda Katehi — the poster child for UC brass that use the State of California as a personal gravy train for themselves and their families — is a prime example of how the education cartel sucks dollars out of the system.
Not only does Katehi get more than $400,000 a year plus free housing that would easily cost $3,000 a month on the open market excluding covered maintenance and grounds up keep but a daughter-in-law who reports directly to one of her lieutenants, has received UC Davis promotions and salary increases the past 2.5 years resulting in a $50,000 increase in her pay. At the same time the lieutenant saw their pay skyrocket $20,000.
Of course, there is the big conflict of her serving as director of a textbook publisher that has earned her hundreds of thousands of dollars to supplement the meager $400,000 taxpayers give her. This is no small gesture on the part of the textbook company. College students spend an average of $1,200 a year on textbooks and that encompasses all students from part-time to fulltime. There are students in specific upper division classes at Davis that pay $300 for a textbook available only in an electronic version that they can neither retain after the semester is over or download pages to print.
Such cozy relationships is how textbook publishers keep a chokehold on K-12 and college textbook markets which in turn allows them — instead of the market — to dictate prices.
Textbooks are just one example of how education leaders make spending decisions that are based heavily on the best interests of those in their cartel as opposed to the best interests of students, taxpayers, and society in general.
The Manteca Unified board decision to spend $300,000 to take back the after school junior high program is another example. There was no reasonable period asking for proposals from community-based groups although the board went through the sham of at least looking like they did.
What was the reason to incur $300,000 in annual expenses for a non-classroom program? Was Manteca Unified Student Trust putting students at risk or performing poorly? There wasn’t a beep at the board level for 10 years of anything bad about the community-based group that saved the Acorn League’s bacon. Instead we hear all of a sudden about how the fees are keeping some students from participating.
But instead of working with MUST and coming up with a plan where perhaps a fraction of $300,000 a year could open the doors for more student participation the school board went for the whole hog. Manteca Parks & Recreation and groups such as the Boys & Girls Club have implemented ways to cover the costs of students who are on free and reduced meal plans to allow them to participate at no charge.
The cost of the after school program will balloon significantly. The coaches — which will now all be teachers on additional assignments — will see their stipends more than quadruple.
There are no new innovations such as Zumba fitness classes aimed at significantly more students than organized sports. There is simply more money for coaches who are part of the education cartel.