Monday, January 16, 2006

Weintraub actually makes a good proposal on schools

A modest proposal
It hasn't received a huge amount of attention since no one is screaming about it, but the increase in education spending in the governor's budget proposal comes to a cool $600 per student in K-12, or an 8 percent increase over the current year. I offer a modest proposal here for how that money might be best spent.

I say we give half of it to the districts to cover general cost increases and give the rest to the teachers to decide how to spend. Really. Why not authorize each classroom teacher to spend $300 per student more in whatever way they think would best improve the education of those children? Even better, I'd take that money and give it all to the teachers who are teaching kids in the bottom half of the socioeconomic spectrum, where the achievement gap is the largest. Since half of the total increase would be going to half the kids, that would bump the amount back up to $600 for each of those kids.

If we did that, a teacher with 30 such kids in say, inner city Los Angeles, would get a chit worth $18,000. I say let them decide how to spend it. They could hire a fully credentialed teacher to work in their classroom for half the day doing small groups and one-on-ones with the toughest kids. Or they could hire a couple of aides to help out. Or they could hire someone to do intensive after-school tutoring. Or they could use it for the finest supplies, new computers, better books. You name it. I'd even be willing to let the teachers pocket some or all of the money as a salary bonus for working with tough-to-teach kids. My only rule would be they would have to write a report detailing how they spent the money and post it it on their classroom door for all the parents to see.

Does anybody doubt that this would be more effective than what the governor is proposing to do, which is give about two-thirds of the money in a general cost-of-living increase and divvy up the rest among targeted initiatives like his after-school program, teacher recruitment and training, arts and music programs and physical education?

After we empower the teachers, my next step would be to audit the results and find out whose decisions brought the greatest gain in achievement. Then publish a list of best practices for teachers to consider the following year.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:31 AM
this blog has often enough criticized Weintraub for (like politicians) being out of touch with teachers. We should recognize when he actually makes a reasonable proposal, or as he calls it, a modest proposal.
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