Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Further signs that we have a school system, not an education system

If you pay attention to the way schools are run, you will quickly note that their goals as an organization are the betterment of schools, and their associated employees. Nothing illustrates this point better than the closing of the Rhea County Schools:


Some 3,800 youngsters got Friday and Monday off because of the action taken by Dallas Smith, superintendent of Rhea County schools in east Tennessee, to ease transportation spending.


and why did they get Friday and Monday off? Because of high fuel costs:


Rhea County Finance Director Brad Harris said county schools spent $14,000 on fuel in March, compared to $7,800 in March 2005. He said fiscal year to-date-spending was up from $68,000 to $102,500.


Now lets think about this. We have a school district that is facing a $34,000 annual increase in it's transportation budget. In response, rather than finding someway to save that money and still service it's customers (ie, students) it simply stops serving them for two days. Does anyone not think that all school employees got paid for those two days they weren't working?

Given a 20 school day month, and $14,000 a month in fuel costs, closing for those two days saved them $1400.

According to the Tennessee Education Associations salary schedule the minimum amount anyone in that school district was being paid was around $22k a year. Given a standard 2000 hour work year (and educators work many fewer hours per year than that) and a stock 8 hour work day, each employee who didn't work on that day cost the district at least $176. This means that if the district has more than 8 employees it cost more to pay them to be idle than it saved by not running the busses.

Or to put this in a different light, finding a way to reduce the districts payroll by just 1.5 employees would have provided sufficient fund to make up the whole years transportation cost increase. Given that just a single elementary school in the district has 7 assistants, I suspect they could have found the money to keep the schools open if they really cared about the education of the students. Clearly the schools are more important than the students.

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