Thursday, October 16, 2008

"But Everyone Else Is Doing It" Doesn't Apply Here, Either

Today was the day that the Dallas Independent School District started laying off teachers to make up for its "unexpected" budget shortfall. Even before I got home today, I read this article in today's DMN that said, well, DISD may be a bloated bureaucracy, but other school districts are just as bloated:
As the Dallas school system lays off hundreds of teachers to save money, some critics say more cuts should come from the central office rather than the classrooms.

This is a school district with a 250-page organizational chart, with supervisors for everything from concrete to pest control.

But the state deems Dallas just fine for its size, with administrative spending and staffing in line with other big Texas school districts.

Bureaucratic bloat, it turns out, is in the eye of the beholder.
But this beholder calls shenanigans. "We can do it, because everyone else is?" That argument didn't work when we were young, either:

KID: I want to go do [insert dangerous or stupid activity here]
MOM: No, I don't think so.
KID: But Mooooom, all the other kids are doing it!
MOM: Well, if all the other kids jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?

(And yes, it can be argued that DISD already jumped off a cliff when they underestimated their budget by, oh, $64 million or so.)

I'm not the only one saying this, of course:
With half the cuts coming from the teaching ranks, critics have argued on blogs and at school board meetings that educators shouldn't get pink slips in a budget crisis they didn't create.

"They should cut anyone but teachers!" one person wrote on The Dallas Morning News' DISD blog this month. "Cut those people at the top," another wrote.

District officials say they have reduced the staffing levels at district headquarters, and not just in this latest round of layoffs.

"There's been a concerted effort to reduce the size of the central administration," DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander said, with more than 250 cuts from Ross Avenue in the last year. District officials did not have the prior number of central office positions available.
Oh, that's convenient. But this was the most alarming statistic that came from the article:
Just over half of DISD's employees are teachers, also in line with the national average for big districts.
Just over half?? Somebody's priorities are seriously out of whack here (or there are a whole lot of cafeteria ladies in DISD).

Read the whole thing, especially the comments, where people point out a similar thing to what I'm saying--that just because they're not as bloated as other districts' bureaucracies doesn't mean that a bloated bureaucracy is bad in the first place. Others mention that private schools seem to get along fine (and even do better academically) with a fraction of the administration found in public schools. And yes, I use the forum to tout my favorite solution for this and other public education ills; DISD would be a great "lab" for this project, because it sure can't get much worse than it is now...

But this wasn't the worst news of the day. Just a little bit ago, upon arriving home, I read the article about the 375 teachers who were let go today. And the opening paragraph jumped out at me:
Campus by campus, hundreds of Dallas teachers learned their fate Thursday in whatever manner their principals saw fit. Some retained a small measure of dignity; others were forced to clean out their desks in front of stunned students.
You've got to be kidding.

If the DISD would like to follow my advice and cut out some of their administrative fat to save money, whatever principal(s) pulled that stunt should be the first one(s) to go. They should be fired tomorrow, in exactly the same way they let the teachers go--in front of a student assembly would be nice, or even a pep rally. There's simply no excuse for that kind of behavior, and it bolsters my point that becoming an administrator can change a teacher in many undesirable ways.

Oh, and this was brilliant, too:
And the confusion likely will continue this week because the district had previously scheduled parent-teacher conferences on Thursday evening.
I'm really glad I don't teach in this district, and I'm especially glad that I don't pay taxes to it. It's become a laughingstock, and something has to be And it starts at the top.

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