Today, it was announced that our public schools will remain closed through the rest of 2020. Apparently, all public school students in K-12 will be taught using virtual learning tools. This, of course, raises a rather uncomfortable set of questions regarding cost.
Approximately a half to two thirds of all our real estate taxes pay for public schools. The money is used for teachers, administration, facility operation and maintenance, buses, and other school related items. When the schools are shut down for an extended period of time, a fair number of these cost items are reduced or disappear altogether.
I do not doubt for a second that public school teachers are a necessity and that they should be paid accordingly. Notably, they are dealing with new uncertainties – how to reach out to students and ensure that they are studying and learning in the virtual environment? (I note that most of the private schools have announced that they will be fully open and will adapt their facilities to minimize pandemic related problems.)
Irrespective of the teachers, other overall public school costs do need to be addressed:
First, while teachers are necessary, what are the administrators administrating? They aren’t teaching so what is their job? and what portion of that job no longer needs to be done. Shouldn’t administrative pay reflect what is being done as opposed to what was done in the past?
Second, the buildings, grounds and buses are not in use. The operation and maintenance costs should be minimal since shuttered facilities don’t cost as much as fully operational facilities. Of course, the grass needs to be mowed, but the buildings don’t have to be cleaned daily and the thermostat can be adjusted up or down to minimize cost. The buses aren’t being used to any extent so their maintenance schedule can be extended. (I am not using my car as much – I save on fuel as a result. In addition, I can cut costs by reducing my mileage based maintenance.)
Third, why are parents not being compensated for being forced to take on increased control of the public school learning environment? Many parents have formed co-ops to teach kids, switched to online learning using private courses, or even enrolled their kids in private schools to make sure that their children’s education remains consistent. The parents incur substantial costs, and there is no mechanism for compensating them.
It would seem to me that costs should be considered when paradigm shifts of this pandemic related magnitude occur. What if the taxes were reduced by a third or more? What would be the impact? I note that environmental impact statements are required for many public decisions so it would seem that something akin to an environmental impact statement would be appropriate.
The politicians, of course, don’t want to have to deal with the cost side of the equation. They enjoy confusing parents with often bizarre and ever changing decisions that can be blamed on the Chicom Flu. In addition, the “we know best” dogmatism of the public education establishment prevents reasoned alternative discussions and are consistently used to suppress cost related questions.
Well, maybe it is about time that the parents stop the political shenanigans and take control – and not just the learning but the cost of learning.