Imagine Texas without government schools

Part I

I know it is hard to do, but try to imagine living without the U.S. Post Office. Not so hard to do, is it? In the 1960s the U.S. Post Office was the only service that people had to deliver mail and packages. That has all changed. Now we get our important deliveries from UPS and FedEx, and 1 and 2 day deliveries are the norm. Now, our postal worker is just that person that stuffs our mail box (located down the block) with junk mail. How did all of this happen?

The term in the tech world is “disruption.” Tech disrupters are seen as good by most consumers. In the 1970s the disrupters were UPS and FedEx. The unions either did not see them coming, or thought they were protected to the point that they did not need to worry. That attitude did not work out so well for them, did it? Because of that miscalculation we now have companies like Amazon–  a perfect example of what can happen when disruption provides a path for free market ideas.

Now it’s 2015 and “Charter Schools” are the new disrupters. But the teacher unions and all the bureaucracy that supports them have learned from the U.S. Post Office’s mistakes. They are in a full-fledged battle and they know it. They need to maintain their “likeability quotient.” They want us to think of them in the image of Ms. Smith, our loveable third grade teacher that helped us learn to read. Well, now Ms. Smith is marching on a picket line for wages, benefits and retirement that already surpasses most private sector jobs. Make no mistake about it - School Districts are run for THEIR benefit, NOT YOURS.

 The school buildings themselves signify that ISDs in Texas are out of control. Did you see the football stadium complex named “The Richard E. Berry Educational Support Center” on TV as the venue for American Ninja Warrior? Cost to build: $72.9 million dollars. My guess is that’s why it is called an “Educational Support Center” and not a football stadium. Taxpayers would be less likely to approve such a costly bond measure if they knew it was only for football.  But sneaky tactics like this are rampant across the state. The total tax supported indebtedness of all the 1027 Texas school districts is $64,786,791,912!

“Well,” you may be thinking, “if we have all of these buildings to justify, we must at least be making every effort to use them to their maximum potential.” False. Most schools are closed down when not in use. Can you imagine Macy’s and Target closing down on the weekends and three months out of the year? I am sure your ISD can come up with all kinds of reasons why they are not put to use producing revenue during those periods. One reason is that they are built only to be schools. No effort is made to design them so that they could be rented out when they are not in used to help defray their costs. Each district should have a department devoted to maximizing the revenue from underutilized infrastructure.

Then there is the school year- another major part of school structure designed for the benefit of the school district. Why do most ISD employees only work nine months out of the year? This system causes the district to spend the last month of the school year getting ready to shut down, and the first month teaching the students what they forgot during the summer. Take that business model to the “Shark Tank” TV show and see if you can sell it!

This is the end of part one. In part two we will discuss what the school YOU would design can look like.

Bill Brenza