Local opinion columnists

Keep an eye open for wasted school resources

By From page A9 | May 18, 2014

Education is a vital and noble cause that requires hearty investments of money and time.

Measuring the efficiency of the money poured into the “black box” that is our education system is a subjective but necessary metric. There are those who feel that “any dollar spent on education is a dollar well-spent,” but education performance does not necessarily rise with the education budget.

One notable example of this phenomenon is ongoing in New Jersey. The Newark school district, already equipped with a billion-dollar budget, has a 67 percent graduation rate. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, in conjunction with then-Mayor Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie, offered to donate $100 million of his wealth to the school district over five years, provided that matching funds were developed. This would provide $40 million a year to a needy school district.

Yet, after a few years of this resource infusion, the school district has nothing to show, other than a pile of invoices from a herd of consultants.

Locally, the same questionable allocation of resources afflicts our school districts. This week’s proposal to spend about $50,000 on a “recess consultant” triggered much backlash from the community and became the fodder for media outlets outside of our county. Who needs a consultant – just about every parent is a “recess consultant.” It ranks up there with a “bicycling consultant” or a “shoe tying consultant” in terms of frivolousness. Here’s my free consultant report concerning recess: “You have a field, you have assorted balls and you have things to climb on . . . go play.”

This request was fortunately dropped from the agenda, although I’m curious if it was due to a displeased mob reaching out to the elected school board or if common sense reared its head. I’d like to know some details behind this request, such as who suggested this $50,000 expenditure and did they have any relationship with the consultant agency? This expenditure is not an isolated occurrence. How much money is spent on junkets (sorry, “educational summits”) that always seem to take place at a resort of some sort?

If books, films and Internet sources are adequate to teach our children the basics, they should be more than enough to educate the adults.

Common sense cannot rest on its laurels. For every one of these unbelievable requests that gets shot down, another one squeaks through. The mentality still remains – people or groups think that piddling away scarce resources on consultants is a suitable use of education dollars. To flaunt or even consider expenditures like this while they investigate the need for more revenue through tax increases or bond measures shows how tone deaf the administrators of our school systems are.

Every time I hear of one of these very questionable expenditures, it is difficult for me to believe that there is a shortage of financial resources in our school system. Next time you hear tales of woe from this school district, along the lines of “we don’t have books and paper,” please remember they apparently had $50,000 to drop on a recess consultant.

If nonessential expenditures are not curtailed, we may be living the fable of “The administrator who cried wolf.”

Schooling is an interesting industry where the students are not only the customer, but also in many regards, the “product.” We entrust our most valuable asset to this industry, our children. Let’s get our resources to the front lines, where the teachers interact and inspire our children and keep the resources away from the back office administrators and consultants.

Brian Thiemer is chairman of the Solano County Libertarian Party. He can be reached at [email protected]

Brian Thiemer


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