DS08: Organization and administration

At present we have a public education model built on a lot of obsolete 19th Century assumptions about organization and pedagogy. In a sense, we’re trying to pound the square peg of student needs into the round hole of bureaucratic entitlement and the agrarian and industrial impulses that shaped it. This stops the day I take office. Instead, we will re-envision the very structure and purpose of education, teaching, administration, compensation and reward.

A critical element of the EdF1rst restructuration will involve shifting of administrative functions (and their resource expenditures) from central offices to the schools and an attendant transfer of autonomy from bureaucratic centers to teachers. Central administrations will be much smaller under the EdF1rst plan, and one manifestation will be fewer administrative managers at the central office and more para-teaching personnel serving the daily needs of teachers in the schools.

This reorganization is essential if we’re to truly address the diseases afflicting public education in America. At present, critics on “both” sides of the debate point to various symptoms (which are certainly real) and offer solutions that amount to sticking a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. A variety of factors – ideological investment and self-serving financial interests being the two worst – prevent them from seeing through to the underlying root causes giving rise to the symptoms they’re troubled by (or are pretending to be troubled by).

For instance, some critics of my plan, when they hear the words “teacher salaries,” reflexively leap to the argument that we already spend a huge sum of money per student. This is correct (sort of) so far as it goes. But they then leap to precisely the wrong conclusion – “you can’t fix education by throwing money at it.” The irony in these discussions is that these critics will often, in the next breath, explain that bureaucratic bloat is undermining public education. Which seems to suggest that they can’t distinguish between spending too much and spending unwisely. While the two often go hand-in-hand, they’re hardly the same thing.

So let’s be clear – success is a function of a) investing sufficient resources and b) investing those resources in the right places. At present, public education wastes ridiculous amounts of money on administrativa. Yes, education systems need good administrators, but centralized organizational structures tend to suck money out of the classroom and into the bureaucracy.

As noted above, the EducationF1rst initiative will transfer significant administrative authority to education faculty. Especially with respect to curricular issues, autonomy will be shifted from central offices to the teachers responsible for the day-to-day life of their schools. Additionally, teachers currently waste tremendous amounts of time on clerical work when their skills should be more directly focused on the students. The addition of para-educators, who manage clerical functions and perform research and preparation work for teachers, will provide a far more effective and cost-efficient model for the conduct of daily operations in our schools.

EdF1rst will realign educational appropriation, shifting significant funding from administration into direct teaching programs. Obviously how much gets shifted and in what way will vary. At present we can find significant variations from state to state and district to district, and EdF1rst explicitly rejects the idea that one size fits all. However, as standards and best practices evolve and as our classrooms are populated with increasingly qualified teaching professionals, we will insist on locally sensitive policies that fund the classroom first.

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