Mike. The crumbling of our public schools. Honolulu Advertiser.
October 8, 2000. Focus Section.
See 1998 State
Data Book, Table 3.09 and the 1991 State Data Book, Table 82 and
Historical Statistics of Hawaii, Table 9.3.
Pers. comm. HAIS staff. People views of private school costs are strongly
influenced by Punahou and Iolani. These are the most expensive schools
averaging $10,000 annually but these two account for only 12% of the
state’s 36,702 private school students. (See the HAIS website for individual
school tuition and enrollment and the 1998 State Data Book
for total private school students.)
See Historical Statistics of Hawaii, pp. 641-2.
See Historical Statistics of Hawaii, p. 642.
(7) See http://www.lava.net/cslater/HEDSTATS.gif
As of 1997 special ed. teachers were 13% of Hawaii’s 11,500 public school
teachers. For 7% less students, there were only 7,700 teachers in 1975.
(click on endorsement postcards)
crumbling of school facts
blame private-school enrollment or state spending
for the decline in public education. Blame the unions.
Mike Markrich sheds
valuable light on the difficulties public school teachers face in his
“The crumbling of our public schools” (10/8). However, some of his conclusions
He tells us that
the upper and middle classes have largely abandoned public education
in Hawaii and that their offspring have the best of everything in exclusive
private schools while the majority of schoolchildren study in crowded,
largely under maintained public school buildings. (1)
However, for nearly
the last 100 years private school enrollment in Hawaii has varied between
15% and 18% and is currently 16.3% according to the State Data Book
and historical statistics. (2) There has been no abandonment.
And aside from
such schools as Punahou and Iolani, private schools are generally far
less costly than public ones. The Hawaii Association of Independent
Schools calculates that the statewide average private school tuition
paid is $6,130 per student. (3)
We should dwell
awhile on the idea that these private school students can have the best
of everything for $6,130 per student while the rest study in crowded,
largely under maintained public schools for $6,300 per student. Hmmm.
He also finds that
former Governor Jack Burns was so supportive of education that in 1970
it was 50 percent of the state budget. But after Burns died in 1975,
there was no longer a Democratic Party leader willing to put education
first. He concludes that by the 1990s public education reached rock
bottom because public education had sunk to an indifferent 31% of the
overall budget. From this he concludes that we need much more money
spent on education.
However, only 37%
of Gov. Burns’ 1970 budget was spent education—not 50%. And while this
has subsequently declined to 28% it is an error to conclude from this
that education is under funded. (4) What has happened is that the rest
of State government spending has bloated even faster than it has for
Public K-12 education
spending has increased from $134 million in 1970 to over $1.2 billion
today—for just 8% more students. (5) But the key statistic is what we
have spent per student after allowing for inflation. It was $3,300
in 1970 and by 1995 had increased by 73% to $5,760. (6)
So rather than
blaming those governors after Burns as being unwilling to spend on education
we have to find something else to blame.
The biggest gains
in teacher salaries were during what our high school textbooks refer
to as The Oligarchy. Between 1920 and 1955 teacher salaries increased
300% even allowing for inflation. Compare that with the 15% decline
since teachers were unionized and gained collective bargaining power.(7)
So—how could we
be spending 73% more per student yet pay teachers 15% less? By bloating
up on more staff and more bureaucrats (special-ed teachers are only
a small part of it). (8)
This has happened
because public worker union leaders are more interested in gaining members
than they are in what those members earn or how qualified they are.
More members mean more dues. More dues mean higher salaries for union
leaders. This is what has stopped any real reform of public education
including any real charter schools.
And as long as
parents keep electing legislators endorsed by these union leaders nothing
will change. (9)
Slater is a regular columnist whose footnoted columns are at www.lava.net/cslater