Could we save any money by eliminating the state DOE?

Just came back from the House Education Committee meeting where one of the money saving suggestions was to eliminate the state Department of Education. It was suggested that such a move could save the state $95 million, minus the federal funds that go to the agency.

The suggestion was made in jest, although it was mentioned twice. (I wished someone would have asked what the savings would be if we eliminated the entire Legislature.)

Education meetings are great fun because the committee chair, Gwinnett Republican Brooks Coleman, and vice-chairman, Dunwoody GOP Rep. Fran Millar, are both plain-speaking and prone to passionate outbursts. (By the way, kudos to Coleman for giving audience members time to speak. His fellow committee chairs who adjourn meetings without hearing from citizens who traveled  from Savannah or Dalton ought to follow his example.)

Two bills were discussed, the governor’s school board reform bill, which was proposed last session when we only had one school system losing its accreditation, Clayton County. The bill would give the state some entry into school systems that are mismanaged to the point of losing accreditation, which jeopardizes the ability of students to win scholarships and be accepted into top colleges. The governor argues that he needs a legal point of intervention so he can help kids in poorly run systems and can replace delusional and dangerous school boards.

Speaking of dangerous, we have a second school district about to lose accreditation, Warren County.  To understand just how rare and how bad this is, when Clayton lost accreditation last year, it was  first system in the nation to do so  in nearly 40 years.

When Warren loses its accreditation, Georgia will now have the second  system in the country to lose accreditation in 40 years. At the House meeting, a Warren school board member stood up to say that the board is being held hostage by a few members who are intent on bucking the reform-minded superintendent and who want to return Warren to how it was 10 years ago, failing. (The accreditation would be yanked in July as not to stand in the way of current high school seniors getting into college and qualifying for scholarships.)

Most of the debate was around a bill that would free systems up from state regulations in response to the budget crisis. The point of debate is whether the state should allow class size to climb. And, if so, how high should it climb and for how long?

The comments were good, but never addressed in-depth the problem of whether allowing higher class size undermines the state’s ambitious plan for improved student achievement.

Coleman will resume the debate in two weeks.

I am adding this release that I received today about Warren:

The AdvancED Accreditation Commission voted to drop the accreditation of the Warren County School District, effective July 30, 2010, if nine requirements outlined in a Special Review Team Report are not met.  The 33-member Commission, comprised of educators and public representatives from across the nation, took this action after reviewing the findings made by the Special Review Team that conducted an on-site review of the district on November 17-18, 2009.

AdvancED is the parent organization for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI).  The AdvancED Accreditation Commission is responsible for granting accreditation status to all schools and districts in the SACS CASI region.  The Commission makes accreditation decisions based on thorough review of Quality Assurance Review Team and Special Review Team reports as well as other documentation.

“The Accreditation Commission has affirmed the findings and recommendations contained in the Special Review Team report that the Warren County School District is not meeting the standards for accreditation,” said Dr. Mark Elgart, President and CEO.

The Warren County School District may retain its accreditation by meeting the requirements outlined in the report by July 30, 2010.  The district must request and host a follow-up visit prior to that date and show evidence and supporting documentation that they have met the requirements.

40 comments Add your comment

john konop

January 28th, 2010
5:02 pm

A big problem I see is my local school board feels powerless over the irrational unfunded heavy handed policy from Kathy Cox Like math 123. Why not let the local communities succeed and fail without interference from the state? And why not hold the local school board and superintendent accountable?

All we get now is finger pointing!

high school teacher

January 28th, 2010
5:56 pm

“The comments were good, but never addressed in-depth the problem of whether allowing higher class size undermines the state’s ambitious plan for improved student achievement.”

As a classroom teacher, let me say that bigger classes will abolutely undermine student achievement. Additionally, it will negatively affect teacher quality. I teach on a 7 period day this year, teaching 6 classes. Loosely translated, I teach 30 more kids this year than in previous years. I am exhausted. Now with RTI for each student and the massive amounts of paperwork that accompanies that, it’s almost enough to make me play the lottery once a week in the hopes of striking it rich and moving to a nice little Caribbean island..

high school teacher

January 28th, 2010
5:56 pm

…absolutely…it’s been a loooonng day!

catlady

January 28th, 2010
6:00 pm

It would save money and frustration. It’s nothing but a money-guzzling rubber stamp. We could spend $5 and buy a rubber stamp.

rosie

January 28th, 2010
6:11 pm

Get rid of the math curriculum. Maureen please do blog posting about the math curriculum. I’d love to hear more about what parents and teachers think. As a parent I’m confused. This curriculum makes no sense to me.

Jennifer

January 28th, 2010
6:26 pm

The alternative argument which happened in California when they reduced class size was they could not fill the teaching slots with enough experienced teachers, so the quality of instruction was reduced.

But who knows, my son has been without a Calculus teacher in a 30 student classroom now since November – even in this economy.

Darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

Old School

January 28th, 2010
6:46 pm

Ten years ago, kids didn’t have cell phones and other distractions and we still had parents who cared enough to keep tabs on their kids’ schoolwork. I found the QCCs of those days to be just the ticket for my teaching style and we got lots of quality work done. I worked closely with our math department (particularly geometry teachers) and together we had a whole lot of learning and practical application going on.

Maybe local school boards and the DOE could take a sabbatical and allow teachers to actually teach.

While we’re at it, how about 7 years instead of 5 for certification renewal? And let us take some classes that will actually be relevant to our content areas instead of forcing someone else’s teaching tricks on us!

ScienceTeacher671

January 28th, 2010
7:08 pm

It would be a start. What do they do up there all day long anyway?

td

January 28th, 2010
7:12 pm

My question is are our children any smarter and how much now with all this money being sent, reduced class size, graduation coaches, nurses, 5 or 6 administrators, all the counselors… than we were 25 or 30 years ago?

wondering

January 28th, 2010
7:25 pm

The suggestion was made in jest, but do we really need deputy superintendents, associate superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors, asst. directors, program managers, and program specialists? And that is in addition to secretaries, administrative assistants, assistants, clerks, etc. Look at the organizational chart of the DOE; it seems VERY top heavy.

high school teacher

January 28th, 2010
7:26 pm

25 or 30 years ago, students were not absorbed by video games, cell phones, sexting, the Internet, or free reign of their homes…

td

January 28th, 2010
7:34 pm

So we are spending all this extra money and hiring all these extra people to maintain the status quo? Seems to me the answer would be to have a little more parental responsibility and tough love. Start failing the kids instead of just passing them along and maybe the parents would get the message?

Jeff

January 28th, 2010
7:49 pm

Eliminating the entire General Assembly wouldn’t save as much as you might think – indeed, Gwinnett County Schools could fire every single member of their janitorial staff and save more money than the State would save in eliminating the GGA.

That said, the ORIGINAL Teachers’ Bill of Rights (not the bastardized version introduced this week) would do quite a bit to genuinely helping Ga schools improve.

Pierce Randall

January 28th, 2010
7:57 pm

The problem isn’t the Department of Education. Every other state has some sort of DOE, and they do not have two school accreditation crises within a short time frame. Maybe the way we frame the question is wrong: instead of, “In what ways could we make cuts to the state education budget?” we should ask, “Why isn’t educational funding a priority in this state?” Whether or not you think the problem is all money, cutting funds probably won’t help.

I mean, I graduated from high school in Georgia. Is that going to be a joke if I apply for a job anywhere else in the country?

Anoymous Jones

January 28th, 2010
8:45 pm

I’ll bet ny degree that education in Georgia would improve if the Georgia Department of Education were abolished and the money spent for teachers. Eliminating that dinosauer would be smart. At least, cut it back by 50% and give the savings in the form of teacher pay raises so they could make as much as non-degreed UPS packeage delivers who carry no work home and are helped by management rather than harassed and de-professionalized.

just curious

January 28th, 2010
8:58 pm

Since the problems in these counties seem to be the school boards, why not amend the constitution to allow districts to go back to electing the superintendent and grand jury appointing the boards of education?

GW

January 28th, 2010
9:02 pm

30 year teacher here. I don’t know who would shuffle the paperwork and create the hoops that we have to jump through without the DOE but I do know a lot more planning and teaching would occur without the DOE. Obviously somebody decided that papers and hoops are more important.

Edugator

January 28th, 2010
9:33 pm

Part of the appeal of the private schools is the small class size. When the public schools have to deal with classes growing even larger than before, it makes it hard to compete. Keeping the class size down is the first thing that needs protectiing.

Winfield J. Abbe

January 28th, 2010
9:45 pm

The way public education through high school is funded must be changed. In most counties over half the property tax goes to fund this horrible moneywaste. But they won’t even listen to any suggestions from property owners; all they care about are parents of kids in school many of whom pay little or nothing of the costs of their own kid’s education.
I do not mind “paying back” for the public education I received in another state. But why must I and my family and grandchildren pay year after year after year while many pay little or nothing at all?
Furthermore many businesses pay many thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars and have no children in the schools and cannot vote either! This is the most unfair tax in the world and must be abolished.
The property tax must be abolished and replaced with a tax on every adult citizen. Every citizen must be charged for their fair share of costs of education and all the rest of government. This would be the fair way to tax. This would likely have the added advantage of getting some of these people interested in government who now pay virtually nothing. Wouldn’t it be nice to see some of them at a local commission meeting arguing with the commissioners for a change, instead of the shafted property owners who have been taken for granted for so long? The bottom line is that the property tax is a Robin Hood type of tax taking from the rich and giving to the poor. If anyone refuses to pay the tax, the government confiscates the property just like Nazi, Germany. Funny isn’t it how our laws are patterned after Nazi, Germany and the former Soviet Union so many brave ancestors fought so hard to rid the world of? Lets abolish the unfair and illegal property tax which remains unchallenged because it is so expensive to challenge. Let’s replace it with a head tax on every adult citizen as Georgia once had many years ago.
Furthermore, the law much be changed to permit all school board members and all local government officials to be sued personally and not be permitted to use public funds for their defense costs. Also, the voting law must be changed to require that no person is elected and no ballot or tax issue passed unless a majority of the registered voters says so period. Minority rule in Georgia must be stopped.
Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics
150 Raintree Ct.
Athens, GA 30607
wjabbe@aol.com

Charles

January 28th, 2010
10:04 pm

We already did this years ago. Have we already forgotten Linda Shrinko and company? She and Perdue did quite a backslide on education in Georgia. One down…one to go…

One tired American teacher

January 28th, 2010
10:25 pm

Let’s hear it for the idea to can the state DOE and the entire General Assembly.The DOE cut would eliminate major bureaucracy and save thousands of trees. As for the General Assembly, let them spend a day in a public school classroom. Maybe this would give them a clue about how assine education policy is in Georgia!

Concerned Citizen

January 28th, 2010
10:57 pm

Wonderning, you were right on target. We also have at the county local levels, deputy superintendents, associate superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors, asst. directors, program managers, and program specialists? And that is in addition to secretaries, administrative assistants, assistants, clerks, etc. Imagine all the counties in Georgia with these positions! And the amazing thing is…..the classroom teacher still does most of their planning and organizing resources to teach. If those positions went away – there would be very little difference in the classroom. Most of the positions are created to pay large salaries….some making over $150,000 to sit.

HS Teacher

January 28th, 2010
11:09 pm

The main concern is funding. The class size arguement only comes up becauseof funding. If the funding was there, you would classes of 15-20 students and top-notch school buildings. Due to the property tax driving school funding in just about every state, we have all these other issues. Just as Winfield Abbe has said, we need to get rid of this form of tax. It has been ruled unconstitutional in just about every state I would imagine but with not alternative in place, the state supreme courts have allowed it to stand.
I would suggest the FairTax be implemented in the country. The math of this system works out that the debt would be paid off and money coming out of our ears. Yes that means many people would have to find new jobs. What is better though? Keeping a broke system or improving the nation as a whole?

Get rid of the paperwork, the hoops and let teachers do what they have been called to do.

I leave you with a quote from George S. Patton:

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with the results.” General George S. Patton

I believe we teacher were told what to do in college when we earned our degrees. Let us surprise you with our results Sonny!!!! Hands off!!!!

Jason

January 28th, 2010
11:15 pm

HS Teacher, please give a source for your assertions about the “Fair” tax. So far every time I ask anyone who supports that tax to give actual hard proof and not just Linder and Boortz “’cause I said so” talk, they haven’t been able to produce.

Will you be any different?

EJ

January 28th, 2010
11:19 pm

I didn’t go to school in Georgia and my children won’t either. The education is terrible and that won’t change anytime soon. If you care about your kids, move out of the state.

Amanda

January 28th, 2010
11:35 pm

I have a four year degree in American History and I repeatedly am asked by relatives why I would rather go back to school for another 7 years to teach at a junior college or university instead of getting a teaching certificate and going to work now. The reason is I don’t want to be stuck in a classroom for 6 to 7 periods a day with teenagers who have every gadget, have no idea how lucky they are to live in a country where they get an basic education without having to immediately pony up the money themselves, or being forced to reward mediocrity and hand out passing grades for work that isn’t deserving for a good grade – not too mention the lousy pay for the hours worked!! Someone please tell me the incentive(s)/rewards to being a teacher anymore?

Same thing for my husband, he’s an electrical engineer who is awesome in upper level math and science. Why should he give up 80K+ (only 5 years out of college) to teach a bunch of ungratefuls for a less than 1/2 his salary?

Keith

January 28th, 2010
11:46 pm

(1) Abolish the U.S. Dept of Education (2) Have all GA school systems sell their facilities to private companies. (3) Give all kids a voucher to attend the school of their choice. (4) Have a system of statewide testing standards in place and a state clearing house so that parents will have real time info on the status of the schools their children attend.

future teacher

January 28th, 2010
11:58 pm

well when the students aren’t learning and our society is not excelling in any way they are going to blame it back on all the teachers, who are already paid at such an insulting wage for all the work that they do. I attended to all Georgia schools, I believe that education is a priviledge not a right, and I am grateful for the opportunity but what child is going to be able to learn and flourish with 49 other students. Are these students going to have to share desks and books because we can’t even supply them with the basics, because the government is to busy trying to cut costs in different ways?! It is ridiculous. I wanted to teach because it would have allowed me to make a difference in a child’s life, I love children and I love what my teachers have done for me and I appreciate them greatly but what impact can I have on a child if I am forced to do paperwork all day and teach 50 kids at one time?! It is disheartening for me to see that I am getting myself into a career where so little people care about the good of the child but are to busy worrying about money for silly areas.

Mary Ann

January 29th, 2010
12:19 am

Thank you Winfield J. Abbe and HS Teacher for your wise comments.

ScienceTeacher671

January 29th, 2010
6:01 am

Amanda, excellent points that will be largely ignored by the “teachers are paid too well already” crowd.

ScienceTeacher671

January 29th, 2010
6:06 am

Keith, (1) I have no problem with. (2) and (3) might be in violation of the Georgia constitution. (4) How are you going to force the private schools to participate, and who is going to develop the statewide testing standards and implement the clearing house? Won’t that be yet another layer of bureaucracy?

Larry

January 29th, 2010
7:36 am

Jason, the reason the almost universally despised property tax remains a main funding mechanism is that the revenue stream is much more stable than other forms of taxation.

Take a look at the sales tax revenue from any source – from a local SPLOST to the state level data of any state – and notice the magnitude of variations in annual revenue, not just during recessions but even during typical economic cycles. Then look at property tax reports and you’ll see the pronounced difference.

This is why the Georgia Constitution requires SPLOST proceeds be used for capital projects and debt retirement, not current expenses; the kids can stay in a trailer for another year if you don’t get the money to build a school, but if you don’t get enough to pay salaries or purchase diesel fuel…

Elizabeth

January 29th, 2010
7:56 am

I posted this several days ago and I do not think I can say it any better so I am repsoting it. I agree with all wjho said “drop the paper work and let teachers teac.” That is why i am retiring though I will miss the kids.

January 26th, 2010
3:02 pm
The larger class sizes have a greater impact than most people think. The more students you have , the less class time there is to explain things and help students one-on-one. I worked with a fantastic math teacher on a team that had 55 minute periods. She spent half of class teaching the lessson and then gave students practice activities so that she could make sure they understood it before they went home to complete the assignment. She would walk to each desk checking on each child and helping. But because she went to every child, every child could have about 2 minutes of her time before she moved on. Some kids were fine; others needed more time but could not have it because she felt that each student deserved SOME of her time. The more people in a class, the less time per student. Yet it is only ” a few extra students”.

Raising class sizes means saving on teacher salaries. It does not save on supplies, books, instructional materials, student services, or a host of other things that still have to be in place. More kids in a class sometimes means fewer assignments graded because of the extra numbers. Four extra people in a class means 20 extra students if you have 5 classes. For me, because I teach writing, that means fewer essays that I can grade. That means less practice on writing which affects the state writing test scores. It means fewer chances for students to boost a low grade with a higher grade or two. It means less time in the computer lab because students will have to share computers. And yet poeple say “it’s just a few extra students”.

Classrooms are small. The more students there are, the more crowded the clasroom is and it is harder to place students where others will not distract them. Discipline problems escalate because of the numgers; this means more time taken from the teaching-learning process for dealing with behavior issues and there is already too much time spent on that. It means less planning time because a teacher has more parent conferences and SSTs and IEP’s and 504 plans a to devise and implement. It means more and more work without pay and teachers who are more tired and closer to burnout. And yet ” it is only a few extra students.”

It means fewer teachers to sponser clubs, do bus, hall, bathroom, cafeteria, and a host of other, extra duties. Fewer teachers, more work added. But it is “only a few extra students.”

It means more money out of pocket to provide materials that parents and /or the school do not supply. Yet more students does not mean extra supplies such as paper for teachers to use.In fact, there will probably be less of these things next year. But it is “only a few extra students.”

oldtimer

January 29th, 2010
9:28 am

I see the biggest problem with larger class sizes…Children do not behave like they did 20-30 years ago and their parents think of teachers as the “enemy”. There is no support. For these type of students there will never be a world class education because they cannot be made to drink at the fountain.

James

January 29th, 2010
10:42 am

Can anyone point to research and studies other than anecdotal that prove that smaller vs larger class sizes in high school make a significant difference in the quality of education received? Yes; in elementary grades they *do* make a difference; but beyond that I don’t know that they do.

Anyone that has gone to a major university or can probably recall the class sizes in their freshman year which frequently range from 30+ to 300 and yet the education imparted is generally considered superior quality. What is the magical difference between say 11 and 12th grade students and college freshman? If you were disruptive during a lecture you very quickly got called out and reprimanded. If the professor saw more disruptions they asked you to leave. Certainly adopting such a teaching style to high schools would take quite a bit of adjustment – not to mention that high schools don’t even have lecture rooms.

James

January 29th, 2010
10:50 am

@Pierce – “Why isn’t educational funding a priority in this state?” – *funding* for education in this state is indeed a priority; GA currently funds it’s education much more than many other states that have far and away better education than we do. Education is funded perfectly fine. Perhaps those funds are misused, misallocated, allocated to programs that are unnecessary, or any number of things?

John

January 29th, 2010
1:41 pm

@ Mr. Abbe -

With all due respect, renters may not pay property tax directly, but their landlords do, and it is part of the rent along with all the other costs a landlord has. Maybe the owners of large apartment complexes do not pay their full share of taxes, but that is in no way the fault of the renters who are sending their children to public school.

Some other system might be more fair, but do not denigrate renters because they get no property tax bill in their mailbox

Amanda

January 29th, 2010
1:49 pm

Landlords divide property taxes among their renters that is how they off set their operating costs. When property, local & state business taxes increase so do the rents they charge their renters.

Wounded Warrior

January 29th, 2010
10:55 pm

get rid of federal doe and ga doe and give teachers a raise.

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