Former Commissioner Dennis Linthicum

Apr 1, 2013 — by: Commissioner Linthicum

Cracked concreteIntroduction

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about the $31.5M School Bond Measure at the Republican Central Committee. Before that, I spoke at Klamath Homebuilders Builders Association, Klamath County Association of Realtors and the Chamber of Commerce.

First, as a member of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners, my purpose is to encourage open dialog and debate regarding issues concerning Klamath County. Second, in this commentary I am not speaking for the commissioners, but rather, I am speaking as an individual. Third, as a pro-education advocate, I have several reasons for airing opposition to the current government model for allocating tax dollars to our education community.

In several of my presentations I received over-whelming support for my fundamental claim – that the “public education system” is broken. People would tell me, “I completely agree with you...”.  However, that statement was occasionally followed with, “But, I feel we should support our kids...”

I agree.

The best way to support our kids is by giving them a real opportunity for a quality education. Our current government delivery model does not do that. The problem is not teachers or lack of school infra-structure, the problem is Federal and State control over how our dollars are allocated back to our children.

The Problem

The chart below shows that over $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million dollars) gets spent annually on education in Klamath County. As can be seen, there is little regard for facilities and capital infrastructure. Why does this gross misallocation continue? Why isn’t more money allocated to building maintenance, repair, construction and enhancement?

 

Ed-budget-chart

Here is a bit of the data shown graphically.  The graph is color-coded to match the 20 Year Total columns which are in the summary table above.

Ed-budget-graph

Review the graphic comparison between Capital Allocation and Total Budget. This shows that over the 20 year life of the Bond Measure taxpayers will contribute $2 billion to education in Klamath County. Yet, our legislators “don’t permit” it to be spent on capital infra-structure.

This graph also illustrates that despite the rhetoric, the $31.5M Bond Measure won’t even begin to fix this gross misallocation of resources. This is not “lack of pride” in our local schools; this is not a lack of funding problem; this is a broken system.

Again, why don’t these precious resources get spent on building maintenance and repair or capital construction and facility enhancements?

Because, legislators and administrative bureaucrats always declare, "We just need a little more money!" Yet, these these problems are never solved and more funding is always needed. In reality using taxpayer resources wisely is the only legitimate solution.  

Unions also mistakenly promote this misallocation with their myopic focus on their own members’ needs. This means member retirement plans, medical benefits and pensions will create conflicts with other fiscal priorities.

Legislators have a moral obligation to balance competing priorities in a fiscally responsible manner. But they don’t. After all, buildings can’t negotiate, plead or contribute to any legislator’s campaign fund. Buildings only crumble, decay and deteriorate over many years of fiscal neglect.

Is your school board satisfied with this unbalanced approach? Are you?  

If you’re not satisfied, mount a campaign to change the system. Remember, over the next 10 years $1 billion will be poured into education, but not for any of the common-sense solutions you want. Instead, the bureaucrats, administrators and unions, along with their cronies at the legislature, will get their priorities addressed.

My Specific Suggestions

  1. Combine School Districts – Remove and reduce overhead and duplicated efforts. Share school facilities, resources, staff and ideas to improve efficiencies and economies of scale.
  2. Promote Educational Free Choice – Disband the current School Attendance Zone concept that forces children into a school by their Zip Code, instead of their families preferences.
  3. Promote Educational Competition – Competition can be promoted through school choice initiatives (e.g., freedom to choose a private or charter school instead of a public one),  educational credits and vouchers (parents given resources  to help pay for the school of their choice), and home education opportunities.
  4. Get Involved – Have teachers, administrators and volunteers join with citizens to demand changes from Salem and Washington. Hold the Legislature accountable for their gross misallocations of our tax dollars.

Klamath County must set the standard for a new educational system by using resources wisely and investing our most valuable resources for our children – our wisdom and our time.  Only these types of efforts will provide the competition and free choice that made America the “Land of Freedom, Opportunity and Liberty.”

4 Comments

  1. Dani ~ Apr. 6, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

    Hear, hear! I love the specific suggestions and the positive, hopeful way that you've laid out the problems and solutions. Thank you! #
  2. Shirley ~ Apr. 6, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    Dennis: I completely agree with you - we need vouchers where parents can choose which school their child attends. Competition and the free market are part of the answer. The other is parent involvement which is too often lacking. But if they can choose, the best schools will thrive, the others may be gone. I have always been in favor of one district - just makes sense. The best thing that could happen, of course, is to get the federal and state governments out of education and let local communities decide what is best for our students. Who cares more for our children - local people or the fed. gov.? #
  3. Carol ~ Apr. 6, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

    But if the school bond is voted down, how will the repairs be made? We can't have children in schools where fire alarms don't work properly. #
  4. Bill ~ Apr. 8, 2013 @ 12:04 am

    Dennis, I agree that it is a fundamental misallocation of funds that places schools districts "underfunded" in the areas of capital maintenance and improvements. There are two root causes for this misallocation of funds: 1. Public schools are a monopoly and as such they keep your contributed funds in the event that you find sufficient cause to leave the collective. As a result there are no penalties for kicking the infrastructure can down the road until a bond can be sold to the tax-payers. 2. Unions are really calling all of the shots in public education. No matter what dollar figure is spent per student, they currently have the political might to allocate all or nearly all available funds to the compensation of their members. They simply do not need to allocate sufficient funds for infrastructure, because the tax-payer will eventually "solve" the problem with the only solution offered, a bond. We recognize the inherent dangers of monopolies in other areas, but seem gloss over the root causes for the predictable shortcomings in government education monopoly. School choice is the answer. #

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Commissioner Dennis Linthicum

For current postings by Dennis Linthicum, visit the Dirt Road Economist website.

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