Media Mashup: Friday, August 21, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 5.26.06 AMEducation: Tenure and Poor School Management 

As the opening of schools looms across the nation, it has become clear that two major components of out-of-control education costs must be fixed: tenure and poor administration.

Tenure no longer protects academic freedom in the U.S. education system. Instead, the lifetime guarantee of a job has become a political litmus test that often excludes good teaching and promotes liberal bias in the classroom.

I have tenure. I am not going to give it up, primarily because I am a conservative in the liberal bastion of higher education. I lost one job because of my political views when a leading donor, with a leftist agenda, had me removed from my job.

The call for tenure protection usually comes from the left, who want to perpetuate their ideology in K-12 and colleges. As a result, many students leave the education system with a viewpoint tilted toward the liberal side of the ledger.

Moreover, tenure, which in some cases comes after only two years in elementary and secondary schools, prevents any ability to regulate the amount residents have to pay for local education. For example, I lived in two New York communities in which the public voted down budget increases in local education. But the local authorities threatened to cut back popular programs, such as sports, which ultimately led to the approval of massive increases in taxes.

That brings me to another key component of soaring education costs, which leave many college students with massive debt. Many school administrators have little understanding of how to run a business. Although some have had training in management, most schools of education are run by similar people with little financial background. I have met only a few people in higher education in the past 20 years who could properly balance a checkbook, let alone a multi-million-dollar budget.

As a result, the administrators hire massive staffs to implement programs, which raise the cost of education. Over the past few years, I have seen a doubling down of expanded bureaucracies in virtually all phases of higher education. Few of these changes have little to do with improving learning in the classroom. Instead, the administrators have expanded social programs, built nicer dorms and plowed money into sports teams.

I don’t begrudge teachers’ unions from trying to expand their power base. But the union at my university has done virtually nothing to improve my pay and benefits. My salary has improved because of the quality of my research and my teaching based on merit. I also teach more classes and do private consulting work to put more money in my pocket.

Simply put, I don’t trust teachers’ unions or education administrators. It’s time for the public to demand that education become more accountable to those who pay the bills: the public.

Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist, who reported in Europe and the Middle East. He teaches media law and international journalism. Send suggestions and tips to charper@temple.edu

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