Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Comrade Milloy spouts more nonsense

Washington Post Metro columnist Courtland Milloy, who has been known to wax pathetic on DC school issues, is at it again. This time he thinks DC is a charity case worthy of billions from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation (which recently got a shed full of cash from Warren Buffet).
The Gates Foundation supports several D.C. public schools. But why not help them all? The foundation will eventually donate about $3 billion a year. Put a year's worth of funds into transforming the entire system. Show the nation what a city of world-class schools would look like, and what it takes to have one. Prove that all children can excel in school, regardless of race or income. Make "leave no child behind" more than a slogan. A prototype is always the most expensive in a line of production; duplicating the D.C. effort in other school systems would no doubt prove to be a lot less expensive -- especially in the long run. After all, it still costs more to keep a man in prison than send him to college.
So my first question for Mr. Milloy is, along with the Gates' and Buffett's billions would he be willing to yank control of the District's entire public school system out from the District's elected officials and into the hands of a private foundation? Or, does he just believe in that old canard that the District's public school system's problems stem from being underfunded. Because no matter how big a check Bill and Warren write, it won't solve a single problem at DCPS.

DCPS's problems aren't financial, they're managerial. The District's schools suck because, historically, everyone involved in the decision making process has sucked. For over twenty years the School Board, the DC Council, the Mayor's office, the local teachers' union and the DCPS management have championed graft, incompetence, and mediocrity. It doesn't matter how much time, effort or money is spent on the system the results are still the same: embarrassingly low student achievement and a continued mass exodus of students to private and charter schools. DCPS doesn't need charity, it needs a swift kick in the ass. It needs a major overhaul. It needs a Board of Education, a DC Council, a Mayor's office, a union and a management core that actually gives a damn about education instead of feigning interest whenever its is politically or financially expedient, or when they're trying to cover their ass.

Unfortunately I doubt any of this will happen any time soon. Oh, just as it has been for the last couple of decades people will bitch and moan, editorials will be written, campaign promises will be made, but at the end of the day nothing changes. Superintendents come and (quickly) go. The District's Office of the Inspector General will continue to chronicle malfeasance and ineptitude. The District's elected officials will continue to squander any opportunity for progress with their grandstanding, power grabs and squabbling. And people like Courtland Milloy will continue to write twaddle, dreaming about some deus ex Buffett moment where some capitalist swine arrives in the third act and solves all of the District's problems by writing a check.

DC's problems regarding DCPS (and, frankly, most of DC's problems in general) are home grown. The silver lining to that is, of course, if they're home grown, they're also home fixable. The District doesn't need charity to help it thrive, it simply needs its electorate to hold itself and its elected officials to a high standard and demand nothing short of excellence.


Mari said...

oooooooh, someone sounds angry. Golden stuff man.

Anonymous said...

You're 100 percent correct.

And I work for DCPS.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Unfortunately there are many who actually benefit from this broken system.

Ed Researcher said...

Good essay. I think you mean Buffet ex machina.

Much of what you say sounds convincing, but an infusion of cash may not be as useless as you suggest.

We should look to the Abbot school districts in New Jersey for lessons about adding money to poor districts. Those are the poorest districts in the state, yet the court-ordered funding equity allows them to pay teacher salaries as high as the wealthy suburbs. I don't know if the results have been worth it, but it's a good case for DC to study. Newark and Trenton must surely have their own school management troubles.

Steven said...

Thats great if the district elected officials to a high standard and demand nothing short of excellence.