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Who actually runs our school system?

One of my grandchildren recently taught me a new word. “Kludge” — they told me it came out of the computer programming world. A kludge is a quick fix on an unexpected programming glitch.

A kludge only solves one problem, then a second kludge solves the second and so on. Pretty soon, you have a mess on your hands. The user has no idea which fix does what. Crashes become a daily occurrence. Frustration builds and waste accumulates.

Kludge can explain much of West Virginia’s public education policy: Clumsy but temporarily effective, i.e. the new charter school law.

I believe that West Virginia’s education system is descending into a kind of dispiriting Kludgeocracy. Kludge can explain much of West Virginia’s public education policy: Clumsy but temporarily effective.

Nearly 250 years ago Massachusetts and Connecticut were the first to mandate public education in America. It was called The Old Deluder Satan Act, and it began with these words: “It being the one chief project of that old deluder Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures.”

Education in America began with three specific goals:

To make good people. To make good citizens. And to make each student find and develop some particular skill.

Slowly, yet continuously, over the past several decades, liberals introduced a fourth goal that squeezed those three traditions to the outer margins of our educational system.

This fourth goal was to create an obedient servant class of citizens that could be managed for political purposes.

Take a minute and ask yourself. Who runs our schools?

Is it the principal? The unions? The superintendent? The school board? The state secretary of education? Or is it the governor? The legislature? Perhaps it’s the U.S. secretary of education? Or Congress?

The answer is an easy one: All of the above.

Maybe that is our problem.

If you don’t believe me, try drawing an organization chart for our school system. Schools are hierarchical, aren’t they? So whose name should go in the box at the top? Surely no one would claim that West Virginia’s school systems are flat organizations.

I believe that West Virginia’s schools are top heavy. Why, I ask, does a small state like ours have 55 school districts? Each with a separate superintendent and elected school board? Costing millions of dollars a year. Wouldn’t consolidation save money and make the schools run more efficiently? No doubt.

Yet even if there was only one district (and I am by no means suggesting that), its administration would be burdened with rules and regulations coming from different directions. Contradictions abound as bureaucrats develop a compliance mentality.

Our local school officials currently spend much of their time and energy making sure their institutions follow the rules and documenting that they do so.

For years, the left clamored for federal aid for education. They saw that rich school districts were prospering while poorer districts suffered.

Liberals would sigh “only if” the feds pumped more money into schools, “only if” there were a Department of Education, and so on.

Now the money is here and so is the Department of Education. However, their sighs never turned into shouts of joy.

Recently teacher unions went on strike for more money. Now they have it, will we ever hear shouts of joy?

With each dollar comes a regulation, and with each regulation some form of a report.

All that government money coming into our local school system seems to come with a straightjacket. The federal dollars must be spent on this program and not that one, even if a homegrown one is more effective.

Now we will dabble in charter schools. I believe this new charter program as designed will falter at the implementation stage. Remember this is just another taxpayer-funded experiment to be run by a liberal state university or college.

Perhaps we would have better schools if we could skip the implementation stage and go directly to the glorious results.

Robert Ware

French Creek

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