At California Insider, Daniel Weintraub continues to offer helpful suggestions to California's next governor. Responding to a rumor that former Los Angeles mayor (and almost-candidate in the gubernatorial recall) Richard Riordan may be the choice for California's next Secretary of Education, Weintraub suggests an alternative: eliminate the position altogether:
In California, the education secretary is a glorified adviser to the governor with few real duties and only a handful of education programs to administer. We already have an entire department full of bureaucrats run by an elected superintendent (Jack O'Connell). And we have a policy-setting state board of education whose members are appointed by the governor. The job of education secretary was created by Pete Wilson in 1991 to prove that he was a pro-schools Republican and to give him more bodies in the battle against the bureaucracy. The office has grown steadily since then, even as its authority remains fairly limited. . . . The move [to eliminate the office] would save only about $1 million and would be criticized by status-quoists who equate government departments with concern about an issue. But it would be a gutsy step showing that the new gov is not wedded to the old way of doing things.Extra levels of bureaucracy are rarely a good thing, and public education is notoriously rife with such levels. Next exhibit: this Washington Post report on a study finding that systemic flaws in many urban school districts actively thwart the hiring of better qualified teachers for high-need schools. For example:
It was standard procedure to let impressive applications sit in file drawers for months, the researchers found, while the candidates, needing to get their lives in order, secured work elsewhere. One district, for example, received 4,000 applications for 200 slots but was slow to offer jobs and lost out on top candidates.And so on. Plentiful cooks credited with this unsavory broth. [Post link via Hit & Run.]
In some cases, the report said, big-city school boards -- with teachers union support -- approved vacancy notification policies that allowed veteran teachers to announce retirements or resignations late in the summer, long after many good potential replacements have given up and accepted other jobs. Three school districts in the study had either a summer deadline or no deadline for notification by departing teachers.
State lawmakers and budget officials also were notoriously late with the projections that school superintendents needed to figure out how many teachers they would be able to hire, according to Levin and Quinn.
It is a continuing scandal that not one state requires background checks to determine whether their education administrators have a lick of sense.