“I’m OK with choice and options for your kids. I’m not okay with public tax dollars going to the private schools,” said Matt Miller, the superintendent of Lakota Schools in reaction to this year’s expansion of Ohio’s EdChoice program. And across town at Hamilton City School’s Mike Holbrook the former Lakota principal and complainer-in-chief who is now the superintendent there, he’s back to complaining about money because this EdChoice challenges his district which has a report card of a “C” into making better decisions instead of just continuing to ask for more and more budget to fund failure. These Lakota school alums have spent some time lately complaining that the Ohio voucher program is getting more aggressive, which I have always said that it would, and its forcing them to control their budgets better, and they just don’t like it. I find their statements amazing because after all these years, we have been told that a school superintendent is like a CEO at a public school. Yet all they really have done is lobby for more money. Anybody can do anything with infinite amounts of money to work with, but only in public schools is it assumed that more money gets better results. Yet in Hamilton City and at Lakota Schools, that clearly is not the case. Those districts are not getting A+ grades and we pay them fortunes. So why not attach the state funding to children and allow competition to make everyone better? A CEO would certainly understand that, and these guys show in their statements on this EdChoice debate that they are clearly not up to the task.
This is what happens to a governing body when they are allowed to inflate their budgets with union contracts and overpay their staff without a funding model that lives within the scope of their resources. I have written about Mike Holbrook before when he was just a Lakota principal, you can see his comments after a levy defeat by clicking here. He has a long history of complaining about money, which public schools have allowed to be the role of superintendents. These guys want respect and to be treated as top managers, but they don’t want to do the work. They coddle the teacher’s union during contract negotiations and drive up their costs then expect taxpayers to bail out their failure. Hamilton certainly isn’t anything to be proud of with their “C” grade report card. But Lakota isn’t much better, and we did pass a levy in 2013 after a lot of debate, and guess what. They did just what I said they would, they gave the money to the teachers in the form of raises and performance went down. The school’s performance worsened. Paying top dollar for the so-called best teachers did not promise Lakota an A+ report card, and it should have.
The best way to secure the best scores is with vouchers, where tax money is attached to the kids. If parents don’t like the school, they should be able to take their tax money and pick another school. And if the schools want to be in business, they need to do a better job. That is the job of a CEO, to make sure that parents want to send their kids to their schools, and to make themselves that choice. They need to work at it, and if you have a six-figure income, that is your job to figure out guys. These token superintendent jobs were never intended to be levy cheerleading positions where you just spend and spend and spend and have guaranteed security due to the kinds of people living in your district. You should want to work for better kids, better parents, and better results. Not some state definition of success, but one that is market driven
Senator Bill Coley, whom I’ve known for a long time and who cares about this voucher issue a great deal, tried to explain it to these superintendents in ways they might understand. The school district still has tax money coming in from every home and business and those values are continuing to appreciate, the revenue continues to increase every year in an area like Butler County. What’s the problem? Well, the problem is they have gotten used to not having to manage the money. That’s the issue. They are used to it always being there and most of the problems have been solved with coffee talks. Schools like Lakota took away busing to save money. Parents have gotten used to driving their kids to school. So why wouldn’t they just drive their kid to school somewhere else if they had a choice? And why should Lakota get all their money just because that student lives in the district? If the money is for education why shouldn’t that money follow the student, and the performance that the customer expects?
Of course, we all know the answer, public schools and their labor unions depend on these fixed numbers to manage their collective bargaining agreements. But wouldn’t the unions get what they want with this EdChoice? Teachers would get smaller class sizes due to declining enrollment in failing schools, those only getting “Bs” and “Cs” are failing based on marketplace analytics. If parents want the best for their students, that would be an A+ on the report card. If a district can’t get that, get rid of the teachers and get better. Oh, you can’t do that because the union contract won’t allow it. Well, there is your problem and so long as the tax money is locked to the school, not the student, we will continue to fund failure.
Only by having such a competitive element, such as EdChoice will school superintendents be forced to do the job they were hired to do in the way that schools need to do it. The word “public” assumes that there is some community right to money and the education of kids. We have seen over the last century that public education is not the best way to teach a kid, and parents who understand that private schools are clearly better for children are already paying for that improvement. Why should their tax money go to appeasing failure? But as Senator Coley has said, Lakota will still get their money, so will Hamilton. They’ll lose a little but they’ll also lose some class size. Everyone should be happy. Property values continue to go up in this Trump economy. A CEO would understand how to make those elements work, but apparently all the Lakota alums want to do is complain that they don’t have enough.
Any real CEO of an organization would love to have the problems of these public schools, they have guaranteed income, they have nice new buildings, and they have sports programs to distract the base and keep team building exercises active in the community. It’s a dream job for anybody with half a brain so it is extremely disappointing to see these guys crying like babies. Manage your contracts, let the complainers leave with their poison to other districts because it hasn’t helped your report card anyway and pull up your bootstraps. Don’t ask for more money with levies because that’s lazy, work with what you have. And work to be better and to make yourself an EdChoice destination instead of a repellant. And if you can’t, cut your losses and be happy being a “B” or “C” player in the world. That’s life. The trend is in choice, choice in entertainment, choice in food, choice in government, and especially choice in education.
Property values unlike what people may have thought ten years ago are not so intricately linked to the public school in their districts. They are linked to choice, the kinds of jobs there are, the entertainment options, the overall quality of life. Most people in Lakota don’t even know that there are football games on Friday nights. They could care less; Netflix has all the options they need and the carryout down the road has dinner. I would suggest to these superintendents that they start acting more like the CEOs they want to believe they are instead of union stooges padding the way for continuous contract increases to their labor rates. Choice in performance will demand them to get with the program, EdChoice is just the beginning.