Abello: Where money should be spent

Oscar Abello

You give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime. Imagine that man has a family to feed, so maybe he needs a bigger fish. So what do you do? If you’re George W. Bush, you stand there eating a five-course meal and yell down to him, “Well why don’t you catch a bigger fish?” What good does that do? That is the equivalent of the President’s “No Child Left Behind” Act.

The law sets standards that schools must meet. It is the federal government yelling down to schools across America, “You need to catch bigger fish.” And it is also a massive increase in the already clumsy bureaucracy that school boards across America must deal with. The crux of the program is extensive standardized testing in grades three to eight. From these tests, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and local governments are supposed to pinpoint weaknesses and address them accordingly. While the cause is just and the idea is noble, the government once again has misplaced resources and misguided the country.

Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars testing kids, how about giving that money to would-be teachers who are graduating high school or college and are in desperate need of help funding their education. The NCLB Act is said to cost $22.5 billion. Divide that by the 70 million students in public schools and that means about $321 per student. That’s an extra $300 just to know how good little Johnny is doing in school. But wait, what about report cards? Aren’t those already paid for? Why an extra $22.5 billion? And aren’t teachers already testing students regularly throughout the year? Just what exactly is the $22.5 billion for? Principals talk to teachers about the students don’t they? And teachers talk to parents as well, right? If not, they should, and American taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay extra to know how well or how poorly their children are doing in school. $321 extra per student, multiplied by the average of twenty-three students per classroom, comes out to an extra $7,392 per class. Each of the 3 million classrooms across America now needs another $7,392 for an extra set of report cards. There are millions of would-be teachers in college right now who would love to have $7,392 to pay their tuition. Instead of telling schools to catch bigger fish, the federal government should be paying to train better teachers. Instead of providing an extra set of report cards, and wasting class time and school money on testing, the government might want to spend a little extra on teaching kids to catch bigger fish.

We might want to spend a little extra money on educating better teachers. It is easy to hold a kid back because he can’t read; the hard part is teaching the kid how to read. The fact that the kid can’t read is not the root of the problem; the root of the problem is teachers failing to realize the kid can’t read. A big test at the end of the year is too late to save a kid from failing a grade. Teachers need to be taught themselves; taught to recognize problems before others, taught to communicate with students, their parents, and the administration, taught to address the problem in the classroom. Teachers aren’t just broken record players, repeating the same material over and over again to an increasingly illiterate crowd. Tax-dollars are being paid to teachers who do just that, and that is the root of the problem.If teachers are taught better, they can do more for the same amount of money. The American taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay extra to have some test tell them their kids will fail a grade. Analogous to the war on terrorism and to the Medicare situation, the Bush administration has misplaced resources and misguided the country, this time with regards to public education.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the Administration’s reluctance to admit mistakes. The Bush Campaign Motto is “Steady Leadership in Times of Change.” Although they may be steady, is the administration sensitive at all to change? The president is known for being a likable person, so surely the American public will forgive him if he just admits he was wrong about Iraq, wrong about Medicare and now wrong about education. Admitting your mistakes is also a sign of strength. It seems President Bush is so focused on his misguided agenda that he is blinded to his mistakes. America has been wrong in the past, and we have only moved on after admitting our errors and learning from them. President Bush is a mistake, and we must move on. The lesson is that we must vote with our heads and not just our hearts.