Heather Wolpert-Gawron

It’s Time to Audit Education

By on April 24, 2008

In today’s LA Times article, “California Public Schools Seek Private Money Just to Cover the Basics,” the paper reported that many families are being asked to dip into their pockets to cover the fundamental supplies and necessities for their child’s education.  In one district, parents are being asked to donate “A Dollar A Day,” that is, $365 dollars a year.  Frankly, it’s not so bad, right?  I mean, if a buck a day helps bridge the gap between “not enough” and “plentiful” then it’s OK to pass the plate, right?

Wrong.  It’s one thing to ask foundations or private organizations to aid the public schools.  As I wrote previously in my article, “Walmart Presents: (Insert President’s Name) Middle School,” it may be our future considering the budget cuts and under funded programs.  

But the minute we compromise the fundamental right that we Americans have to a free education, is the minute we begin to chip away at our educational principles.  First, it’s “let’s just have the parents pay for pencils.”  Then it becomes, “how ’bout textbooks?”  Then, “how ’bout electives?”  “How ’bout a particular teacher’s salary?”  Not only is it not fair to ask of the families, it is sending the system down the road to private input about what is best for education.  Rather than go to the families for handouts, are there not other steps we should be taking first?

For instance, let’s start by auditing the educational system.  It’s a simple thing really.  Find out where the money we do get it going before we get more money.  It’s not that I don’t think schools need more.  Heaven knows we do, since so many of our so-called “failure programs” have never gotten fully funded in the first place.  But let’s start with the fact that the system is set up to lose track of money.

In every city I’ve worked in, there’s been embezzlement.  There’s the story of the newly hired superintendent that came to work to find the ousted super and staff shredding documents.  There’s the Director of Technology who got the kick back deal for the much ill-advised computer lab.  There’s the Board of Education who tried to force a district to pay for ESL and Special Ed programs with their Magnet money to avoid having to pay out.  There’s the union president who put a down payment on the house, paid for by the dues of the teachers on her very site.  

It isn’t a system build tightly.  I don’t know.  Maybe the beast just became so big and cumbersome that nobody can truly be accountable.  But it affects all levels of education.

So I propose, before you ask the hard working parents to dig into their pockets, that we just take a little look-see as to where the funds are.  Where is the lottery money going?  Where is all the bond money?  How is the Title I money being spent and where?

I think it’s happening at every level: federal, state, county, district, and site.  

At times, I think it happens accidentally, in good faith, and with good intent, like the head of a department over-ordering supplies to meet the needs of her teachers.

And, at times, I think it happens because the system is not set up to protect itself.

So before we go so far as to begin chipping away at our right to a free education, let’s begin by finding out where our money is.  I want to know.

But you let can let me know tomorrow, because tonight I’m on my way to a Scholastic Warehouse Sale to maintain my classroom library out of my own pocket.  But that’s another battle for another day.

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