>Leave it to Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons to come up with something less than original thinking. What’s a Republican governor to do with rising budget deficits and shrinking tax revenue? School Vouchers and Union Busting. [LVSun] As with so many other Gibbonesque initiatives – practicality is nowhere in the equation. What we have here is more Gibbons’ sloganeering for the right wing base of the GOP. The Sun helpfully provides the (pdf) outline of Gibbons’ suggestions:
(1) Cut through the bureaucracy of larger school districts. This makes for a lovely statement, ‘full of sound and fury’ and signifying relatively little. Granted that larger school districts tend to be administrator heavy, but the notion offered by the Governor doesn’t differentiate between program administration and school administration. Do we really want to cut the positions held by those who administer the school lunch programs? The programs for academically talented youngsters?
(2) Allow smaller districts to consolidate. Ah, the old Conant Report recommendation for economies of scale resurrected. Now which smaller districts might be “allowed” to consolidate? Would Storey County prefer to be engulfed by Carson City or Washoe County? Would Esmeralda County prefer to be swallowed up by Mineral or Nye County? If the underlying concept is that more control should devolve to locally elected officials – precisely how does consolidation advance that proposal? You guess it, it doesn’t. In fact it does precisely the reverse. However, logic doesn’t matter in GibbonsLandia, it’s the slogan that counts.
(3) Create local empowerment districts. The idea that this might be accomplished at the local level by local boards and administrators seems to have escaped the Governor, but neverthless, this does ring nicely in sound-bite format.
(4) Delete special earmarks. Put “special” and “earmarks” in the same sentence and we have another great sound-bite. Now what “special earmarks” would we like to slash? Would those be from Title I funding for schools with under-performing students? Or, how about programs for Native American youngsters? Special Education students? Technology and school improvement programs? GED programs? School lunches? Touting “local control” and “deleting earmarks” makes for dramatic copy, but as in all things wherein the rubber meets the road, the Governor doesn’t get down to the brass tacks, and thus we have yet another example of sloganeering without substance.
(5) Eliminate laws requiring local government and school district collective bargaining agreements. Ah, union busting at its most blatant, coupled with basic right wing mythology: “Unions do NOTHING to help educate our children.” Unless, of course, the unions require management to (a) provide adequate preparation time for class room instruction; (b) or, perform actual (as opposed to hummingbird) evaluations of teacher performance in the classroom; or (c) have rational systems to deal with transfers, reassignments, and related personnel decisions. What’s really rankling the Governor is that teachers tend to vote in their own interest — the GOP not having much of a stellar track record in educational funding, and that the teachers’ associations have not opened their contracts for renegotiation.
(6) Adopt a statewide school voucher program... and how this is supposed to save money is left to one’s imagination. First, this is a major whack at rural school districts in this state because outside the major metropolitan areas there are precious few private schools — which under the terms of the governor’s idee fixe could cap enrollment to prevent overcrowding. Secondly, this is nothing more nor much less than the libertarian suggestion that education should be privatized, with the rich subsidized for sending their scions off for a private education commensurate with their social entitlement, and without having to subsidize the education of the Great Unwashed.
(7) Eliminate the elected body known as State Board of Education. To be replaced by a Superintendent appointed by the Governor, serving at the pleasure of the Governor. And, we know how well some of this particular Governor’s appointees have done… enough said.
(8) Eliminate statutory requirement for class-size reduction. “It’s not cost effective.” The elderly maxim “When all things are reduced to money, fewer things make sense,” may apply here. First, we know that interaction in Carnegie Units of time is limited; add more people (especially the smaller variety) to the mix and less interaction means less individual attention for students. Sometimes money probably ought not to be the measure of all things. Secondly, do parents really want their offspring in primary grade classrooms in which the ratio is something like 40:1. In bean counting terms this would be “cost effective.” In human terms not so much.
(9) Eliminate statutory requirement for full-day kindergarten. We know early childhood education is effective. We know early childhood education (Headstart & kindergarten) programs give youngsters the preparation needed for success in the primary grades. The Governor is reverting to a nostalgic world in which early childhood education programs were considered a luxury, not an essential part of the total educational experience. As with so many of the Governor’s notions, this one is definitely Looking Backwards.
In short, there isn’t much to see here. Gibbons has returned to the comfortable practice of announcing the improbable, concerning the ultimately impractical, for the benefit of the unthinking.