There Are No Dumb Questions

(Because of a technical malfunction that crashed this site on April 4, and took down every post and comment after March 14, the following has been re-posted. It was originally written April 3, 2008.)   All good educators encourage questions. It's an age-old adage, and a good one, that there are no dumb questions. One can't learn if one doesn't ask. So, in that spirit, I have one! Teacher! Teacher! Pick me. I have a question!

Okay, here goes (to be honest, this actually is directed to Dr. Superintendent of Your Local School District):

Dr. Super, why are your schools failing so miserably? I mean, if you guys are doing such great work like you say you are? Such great work that a little reform isn't need, not even just a tad bit of competition? You see, almost every few months we get damning reports on just how bad you're performing, but there's never any change. Now comes a new report earlier this week, so says the Washington Post, that 17 of the nation's 50 largest city school districts have graduation rates of less than 50 percent. What it's it gonna take, doc?

Sorry, doc. That was more like a college kid kinda rambling question/comment, but hey, you got us to college, right?

But the point is fact, according the report by America's Promise Alliance, and that's just the largest 50, and just for rates at 50 percent or less, as if 60, even 70 percent is acceptable. Virginia has its own problems. Here's a story on the condition of Roanoke's school system, for example, from the Roanoke Times, where only 57 percent are graduating high school.

Oh, and Dr. Super, can I follow up? Exactly how accurate are your statistics? I mean, I was reading the Richmond Times-Dispatcheditorial page, and if Murrah High School in Jackson, Miss., can report a 99 percent graduation rate, when less than half of its freshmen are around four years later, is that a sign most schools fudge a bit? How do we know that even the 50 percent rate is true? 

In another sign that our schools are doing so well, the Times-Dispatch reports today that the Richmond city school system wastes at least $6.7 million a year! This from the city's own auditor and includes such mismanagement as $1.2 million spent over the past two years on buying more textbooks than students! If this was a private enterprise, anyone involved in this incompetence would be sacked post haste. Doubtless, the educrat bureaucracy will come to the Richmond School District's defense with every excuse manageable and likely blame someone else to boot. But if the Richmond school system is blowing through that kind of dough, imagine what larger school districts are doing - even smaller districts. Where are the school boards in all this? Where's the accountability?

If people were drawn into shopping districts and allowed to shop for groceries at only a single grocery store, exactly how good would the service, prices and food be? Exactly. It's the same with our government-run education system. Competition and reform is needed now.

So, Dr. Super, how about HB 60, the 65 Percent Solution bill? How about real charter schools? Real school choice? Some oversight? New management techniques? Some new ways of doing things? What's that doc? Oh! You say these are dumb questions?