DO WE REALLY NEED MORE TAJ MAHALS FOR KIDS?
But, but, but, it’s “for the children” they will all say. No, it’s for the Educrats and their friends in the relatively exclusive club of school design and construction “specialists”. As the son of a lifetime educator, I can remember that my Dad, a Secondary Education Professor, used to say, “A child will learn when being taught in a cardboard box, IF the teacher is prepared to present the material in an interesting and challenging manner.” But the competition to see who can build the next “Educational Taj Mahal” has become so intense between districts, administrators and their well-heeled friends in the school construction industry, that whether or not the children actually learn anything there has become secondary. Just like most every aspect of government-run education, it has been turned on its head.
Here in the State of North Carolina, we have now had competing plans introduced by the State House and the State Senate, to provide up to $2 billion for school construction over the next decade. I just have to ask, “Is this even necessary?” And yes, I also just heard that loud collective gasp that sounded across the State. How dare I even question that this is necessary? After watching how the latest project in my local school district came to pass, that’s why I dare to ask. I have to wonder if other school districts around the State, and across the Country, operate any differently? The amount of “inside baseball” involved in this particular project was just nauseating, especially when it was compounded by the sheer stupidity that was applied at seemingly every step of the way.
From the original introductory planning proposal presented to our school board by their regular “Architect of choice”, to completion of the project, there was no shortage of truly bad decisions and what, in the private sector, would probably be seen as corruption. As we watched the cost curve bent ever upward from start to finish, this project would have never been done in the “real” world of the private sector. But this was government, and public education industry, driven so there was no stopping the stupidity once the crazy train left the station. First, the school district passed on accepting a gift of a “ready to build” piece of property from the County Government, to purchase a piece of property that required well over $1 million in grading costs and dirt purchased to be buildable. This was because they wanted this school, for Special Needs Children, to be located adjacent to an existing school to assist in “mainstreaming” the Special Needs Kids. Then they built a facility with more than twice the capacity necessary for the total number of Special Needs Children in the county. And I have to believe that they were influenced by the ever-present “Architect of choice” for the school district. The punch-line of the story is that a facility which started at ~$10.5 million came out at the end of the process at somewhere north of $15 million, but nobody seems to know for sure what it actually cost, because of how the budgeting and spending operations of the district seem to be designed to confuse anyone who would try to get answers to this kind of questions. But who needs accountability when you have tax money to spend?
So, after watching this project happen, with no real oversight or the appearance of any need for accountability, I have to wonder if it is any different in other school districts around the State, or the Country? From some simple research, what I’ve found is that the average school construction project is anywhere from 20% to 100%, per square foot, more expensive than other comparable commercial construction projects, depending on where they are built. Is there any reasonable explanation for this cost differential? Are schools just that much more complex and expensive to build, or is it that the process is so perverted, that it allows for the exclusive club members in the school construction business to benefit that much? I have to believe that you can find the answers to some of these questions, at least in North Carolina, here- https://www.schoolclearinghouse.org/And I bet if you look around in your local school district you can find cases of similar scope and function.
Going forward, I would just suggest to my elected representatives, that rather than trying to improve “education” through building more “Taj Mahals”, and enriching those in the “school construction club”, that just maybe we can work on returning our Colleges of Education to teaching the “Art of Teaching”, rather than the “Mechanics of Test Taking”? Oh, and start providing the tools and curriculum to teachers necessary to teach the next generation of children, rather than concentrating on educating them. And yes, there truly is a difference. For more about the teaching vs. educating subject please see this previous article- https://www.4pba.com/to-teach-or-to-educate-that-is-the-question/?v=7516fd43adaaWe can only hope that the teaching of children, rather than educating them, and instead of enriching the members of the exclusive school design and construction club, will become the focus of what we spend our taxpayers’ dollars on when it comes to education. Because how many new schools do we really need to help teach the children? I’m betting far fewer than they’re planning on spending our tax-dollars on. But hey, it’s all for the children!
God Bless America! And America, please Bless God again!