If They Know What to Do to Fix Education, Why Not Do It?

Observe government at any level for long enough, and you’re apt to have the sensation of being herded toward foregone conclusions involving more money and more concessions of power.  The effect is enhanced where the service in question is more personal to people and more vital, as with education.

Such was my thought when reading this, from a Providence Journal story on Sunday’s front page.  The point of Jennifer Jordan’s article is that “two pressing problems have emerged” as Rhode Island strives to “improve 13 of its weakest schools”:  “a dearth of school leaders experienced with turning around chronically struggling schools and a lack of federal money to pay for the local efforts.”

Somehow it’s always a lack of money from somebody, isn’t it?  A little more than halfway through the piece, the reader comes across this:

Mass Insight, a consulting group working with Central Falls and Providence, estimates it takes about $1 million a year for three years to turn around a persistently low-achieving school.

Pause and think about the implications of that, for a moment.  A consulting group under contract (presumably) with two of RI’s most-struggling cities is sufficiently confident in its turnaround estimates to proclaim a specific dollar amount.  So — considering that improving results for students, especially disadvantaged students, is of paramount importance to the mission of any school — why do they not just find the money?

Providence Schools’ projected revenue for FY12 was around $364 million.  Nine of the schools in question are Providence schools.  So, according to Mass Insight, by allocating 2.5% of its total budget, the district could turnaround all nine schools. That couldn’t be impossible for such an important goal.

If that’s not possible, then the elected and appointed officials who run our state’s school system need to make it possible, even if it means disappointing the well-compensated adults who lock up 98% of the budget in “labor contracts, service contracts, state requirements, and health and safety requirements.”  At some point, the people within the establishment have to begin turning to each other to do what needs to be done, rather than teaming up in search of more and more from others.