Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Bigger Bang for the Taxpayer Buck in Public Education

What is the way forward for public education in this country? Here is a step in the right direction: an organization under the guidance of Michelle Rhee, a true pathmaker and former superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C. She is innovative, open-minded and willing to take a stand for those without a voice - the student.

The application to fulfill the mission of the organization is clearly put forth:

To succeed in our mission, we're working with parents, teachers, administrators, and citizens across the country to ensure great teachers, access to great schools, and effective use of public dollars. Together, we'll demand that legislators, courts, district administrators, and school boards create and enforce policies that put students first. We'll make sure politicians and administrators recognize and reward excellent teachers, give novice teachers the training they need, and quickly improve or remove ineffective educators. We'll work to ensure that every family has a number of options for excellent schools to attend, so that getting into a great school becomes a matter of fact, not luck. And we'll make sure all Americans understand that our schools are not only an anchor for our communities, but an absolute gateway to our national prosperity and competitive standing in the world economy.

This point stands out - We Believe: Public dollars belong where they make the biggest difference—on effective instructional programs; we must fight ineffective practices and bureaucracy.Schools need smart spending — not more money. Tax dollars should go toward programs that help our kids, ensure their long-term success, accurately evaluate teacher performance, and produce results — not layers or bureaucracy that only serve to protect the needs of special interests.

The same idea has been found to be true in the State of Texas for public colleges and universities. According to a recently released survey conducted by Texas Public Policy Foundation Texas voters want a bigger bang for their taxpayer buck. Texas voters are in strong agreement that educational quality can be improved and money can be better spent on operating costs simultaneously.

“Texas voters want more value and higher quality teaching for the tax dollars they pay to support higher education,” said Justin Keener, TPPF vice president of policy and communications. “The results give lawmakers and university officials clear marching orders for how Texans want them to address budget shortfalls and rising tuition costs: put our students first and cut higher education overhead.”

A step forward is to demand professors spend more time in the classroom, actually teaching ( even if this cuts into research time ) and carry a heavier class load. In other words, put in the time necessary to teach and interact with students so that the subject material is truly disseminated. More classroom time, less research subsidies.

Holding professors accountable and rewarding performance is high on the list of problem solving measures.

Raising tuition or taxes were the least favorable options, at 6 percent and 10 percent respectively.

A recent report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) exposes rising tuition costs among Big 12 institutions at the cost of taxpayers and students. The report reveals that three major Big 12 public universities in Texas—University of Texas, Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University—charged 23.6 percent more on average for tuition and fees in 2009-10 than they did in 2004-05.

The need for greater efficiency in colleges and universities is mirrored in the beliefs of parents with a child who currently attends a Texas public university. Eighty-one percent believe that colleges and universities can be run more efficiently.

As the parent of a college student, I strongly agree.

Texas voters want less financial resources devoted to expanding the campus - delay building more facilities.

And, those participating in this survey believe that students are trustworthy in conducting performance evaluations of professors. Who would be better to judge than those being taught in the classroom?

The road to better results in education begins with working harder and budgeting smarter. Common sense solutions rise to the top.

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