Time for Education Reform
- 6 February 2011 by Author 0 Comments
Time for Education Reform
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 02/06/11
Sounding the call for education reform, several notable organizations have courageously weighed in on the much-needed repair of our arguably broken educational system. The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, The Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence, the Boise Chamber of Commerce, and Melaleuca Inc. are calling for a renaissance of Idaho education. Most notably, the J.A and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has explicitly called for reform.
The Albertson Foundation proclaimed in a full-page ad in last Sunday’s Idaho State Journal, “For the first time in our history as a supporter of Idaho’s education system, we are compelled to sound the alarm – loudly and widely. Given the current economic climate and our poor position in the global workforce, the status quo is not an option and will only harm Idaho.”
They continued, “We don’t take this stand in support of the Governor and the State Department’s education plan lightly. As a friend and supporter of education we wade into this issue circumspectly, but we wade in nonetheless. The reform efforts we’ve funded have not worked, have had limited impact, or were never systemically adopted. At all levels and repeatedly, we’ve met with political indecision, territorialism, and a lack of political will. The historical focus on barriers, challenges, excuses and maintaining the status quo permeates our education system and stakeholder groups.”
Our educational system is not producing the results required to meet the needs of an increasingly global workforce, where Idaho school children are prepared to compete with kids around the world. The Albertson Foundation cited some disturbing data to illustrate. “Only 1 in 4 high school graduates is deemed college ready, and many will require remediation after high school. (ACT Profile Report, Idaho Graduating Class, 2009) Idaho is in the bottom 10 states for college-going rates and dead last in the nation for our postsecondary retention rates. (National Information Center for Higher Education Policy and Analysis). In the future, most jobs will be either for highly skilled workers or the low-skilled working poor. Our system prepares students for the latter. (Lumina Foundation, Increasing College Success: The Economic Imperative). By 2018, 61% of jobs in Idaho will require postsecondary credentials. 146,000 skilled jobs will be waiting, but Idaho students are not on track to be qualified to fill them. (Lumina Foundation, A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education, Sept. 2010, Idaho Profile).”
More money or continued funding at current levels is not the answer. As the Albertson Foundation, which has invested over $400 million into Idaho schools, declared, “While money matters, it is NOT the solution. Now is the time, while resources are scarce, to end inefficiencies, remove contractual roadblocks, incentivize collaboration and results, and get rid of policies that perpetuate silos, territorialism, and the duplication of services.”
As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We’ve been doing the same thing over and over again with our educational system, even pumping more and more money into it, while expecting different results than we’ve been achieving. It’s time for a paradigm shift where we think differently and enact a system that produces different results. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s plan seems to do just that. It challenges the status quo which means we’ll be excoriated by cries from the special interest groups, primarily the teacher’s union, over how devastating it is.
That raises a critical point about unions. Their primary objective is not superior end-product results, but rather union jobs. United Auto Workers’ primary goal is not to produce quality vehicles any more than the Idaho Education Association’s primary goal is to produce well-educated children. Their primary objectives are teacher jobs, contracts, and benefits which may have an affect on our children’s academic performance and job preparedness, but have proven to be causally impotent. After all, look at the results.
Alan Mulally, President of Ford Motor, refused a government bailout. He changed policy, implemented a paradigm shift that challenged the UAW and the status quo, changed policies and the culture within Ford, and now produces some of the best automobiles in the world. He did that with less, having not taken the proffered bailout, and produced exceptional results.
Tom Luna’s plan offers a similar opportunity for retooling our education system to reshape results, as Alan Mulally’s changes at Ford yielded superior end products.
The Albertson Foundation ad concludes, “We can either choose to support education reform, or the choice will be made for us when we can no longer supply innovators or a workforce capable of fueling a vibrant, innovative and globally focused Idaho economy.” Is Luna’s plan the elixir to all that ails our schools? Perhaps not, but it’s a start. What we have is not working. And just like in investing, throwing good money after bad is illogical.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.