I know that I'm probably not going to get any "friends of education" award for what I am about to say, but in light of the recent fiscal disaster that the Cobb school district has been engaged, I would like to consider a perspective that has not generally been mentioned during this crisis. I will preface my remarks by saying that I truly admire most of the teachers and administration of the CCSD and my children have received a good education.
That said, I can't help but wonder whether many of the financial problems with public schools has at least something to do with the almost radical expansion of public education over the past 30-35 years beyond what we as a society can afford. I graduated from a high school of 2,000 students in 1978 which has a long track record of sending quality students to college and looking back at my yearbook, we had 80 teachers in my school my senior year.
In contrast, my children's high school of similar size had over 140 teachers at the beginning of the year. Looking past personal preferences, I can honestly say that all of my children's teachers teach valuable courses. Things are offered that I couldn't even dream of including 18 AP courses where college credit is available, a magnet program, greatly expanded PE classes (a student can lift weights one quarter of his day now), and multiple additional opportunities in English, Math, Science, Social Studies and elective courses. All quite valuable, but I can't help but think that perhaps we can't afford all of this anymore, especially during a recession.
Perhaps parents should have to pay for Advanced Placement classes like others have to pay college tuition. Maybe magnet programs are not the role of public education. I really don't know but I just raise the question.
When I started college at a major state university in 1978, the wrap around cost for a year of college was about $3,000. That same cost in 2010 is about $14,000. Even accounting for inflation, it's still more than double what I paid (and they were cutting state funding back then too). Maybe we need to do some philosophical thinking regarding the intent of public education at the K-12 level and back off of this expansion a bit, for the sake of not going bankrupt.