Friday, August 24, 2007

DC Schools spends millions for people with no work to do.

Here is a perfect example of the point I was making yesterday about the problems of having schools run by unions and politicians.

Washington, DC, has one of the most expensive state run school systems in the world. And the more money it gets the worse it seems to run. People wonder why that is. First, remember that politicians tend to throw money at problems. The worse a school does the more “in need” it becomes and thus the more funds it requires.

Markets reward solutions with profits. Politics is used to address “problems”. The more problems you have the more programs and subsidies that you qualify for. The nature of political financing is perverse. It rewards dysfunctionality far more than efficiency.

Now we learn that the cash rich, results poor, DC school district is going to spend $5.4 million on staff who have no actual function under another set of reforms they are pushing.

These individuals actually have no job to perform at all. But the school district says that union contracts require them to keep these people employed. If they must fire someone they have to fire someone they need in order to keep someone they don’t need. As the morons at the union see it the only qualification for employment is seniority.

Chancellor Michelle Rhee says she could fire newer teachers who are needed but that sends the wrong message to people applying for work with the District. She says that tells other teachers that are thinking of working for the district to think a second time before actually taking the job. So the school will waste $5.4 million to keep people who have no work to actually do. That is union mandated efficiency.

And the problem becomes worse. This report notes that the DC mayor was “swept to power thanks in part to the legwork of activist unions, such as the Washington Teachers’ Union” and that the unions expect him to give them what they want -- screw those whining kids.

So we have a school district flushing $5.4 million down the toilet to employ people they don’t need because the coalition of unions and politicians demand such inefficiency.

The school budget in DC comes to about $20,000 per student. So, how do private schools do in comparison? St. Gabriel School has a tuition of $4,500. The more prestigious German School in the suburbs charges $10,000 per year. The most expensive, elite private school in the city, St. Albans charges $26,500 per year, not that far above what DC residents are paying for a school system that is in perpetual crisis.

The Washington Post reports that there are 300 private schools in the DC and that most “cost far less than St. Albans”. I have no doubts that is the case. That would mean that most private schools in DC are far cheaper than the DC schools themselves. In fact I suspect that most private schools in this area would be around $5000 to $6000 per year.

Strictly speaking the DC city council could send every child in the District to a private school and pay the full tuition and still save $14,000 to $15,000 per pupil in the process.