The US Post Office has been an American Institution. Mail delivered in rain, sleet and snow. Union represented. Well paid people. Nice pensions and healthcare. Postal workers (prior to 1984) DO NOT participate in Social Security…they are part of the federal pension plan. They contribute 7-8% of their earnings into the plan. Post 1984 new employees participate in both the Federal Plan (at a reduced rate) and Social Security.
In 2017 the Postal Dept lost $2 billion. It is $15 billion in debt and has over $100 billion in unfunded pensions and healthcare obligations. You may find the report in this link of interest: https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Postal-Reform-Final-Short-No.-54.pdf As society and technology have changed email has replaced letters. UPS and FedEx and a host of other delivery services have stripped the Postal Department of a large share of the package delivery service because they perform better, faster and at a lower cost. The US Postal Service hasn’t adapted and is failing. There is a real question of its ability to survive.
Newspapers have been in decline since the internet started to roll out. News is delivered in minutes rather than days. Ads used to cost a fortune but the internet (through Craigslist; Facebook and other outlets) has reduced that cost. Newspapers regurgitated agency news source articles (AP, Reuters and others). Blogs started to eat into newspaper spaces. Website news services began to proliferate stealing business from newspapers. This article profiles the changes and decline: http://www.journalism.org/fact-sheet/newspapers/ Digital’s impact has been and continues to be pronounced in both Newspapers and the Post Office. Neither have been able to adapt to change.
Let’s jump over to Public Schools. The started at local levels to educate children and prepare them for the workforce. Here’s a link to some history about public schools: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-was-school-created Around the time of the American Revolution states began to create public schools. The first schools appear to have come out of Massachusetts in 1637. By 1918 every state required students to complete elementary school. Business needed educated workers. Leaders determined it in the best interests of society to have the public fund and provide the education services.
This article provides details about K-12 education numbers in 2018: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372 Here are a few of the salient facts:
- In the fall of 2018, about 56.6 million students will attend elementary and secondary schools, including 50.7 million students in public schools and 5.9 million in private schools.
- Of the public school students, 35.6 million will be in prekindergarten through grade 8 and 15.1 million will be in grades 9 through 12.
- In fall 2018, about 1.4 million children are expected to attend public prekindergarten and 3.6 million are expected to attend public kindergarten
- Public school systems will employ about 3.2 million full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers in fall 2018, such that the number of pupils per FTE teacher—that is, the pupil/teacher ratio—will be 16.0. This ratio has remained consistent at around 16.0 since 2010.
- A projected 0.5 million FTE teachers will be working in private schools this fall, resulting in an estimated pupil/teacher ratio of 12.3, which is similar to the 2017 ratio of 12.2, but lower than the 2010 ratio of 13.0
- Current expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools are projected to be $654 billion for the 2018–19 school year. The current expenditure per student is projected to be $12,910 for the 2018–19 school year (source).
- In Washington State ~52% of the entire State budget now goes to education…and educators are demanding more.
Alternatives to public school have grown. The digital age has brought the opportunity to disconnect the physical presence from education. Let’s look at the alternatives to public education and see what we find:
Home Schooling: (https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/)
- There are about 2.3 million home-educated students in the United States (as of spring 2016). This is up from one estimate that there were about 2 million children (in grades K to 12) home educated during the spring of 2010 in the United States (Ray, 2011). It appears the home school population is continuing to grow (at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum over the past few years).
- Families engaged in home-based education are not dependent on public, tax-funded resources for their children’s education. The finances associated with their homeschooling likely represent over $27 billion that American taxpayers do not have to spend, annually, since these children are not in public schools
- Taxpayers spend an average of $11,732 per pupil annually in public schools, plus capital expenditures. Taxpayers spend nothing on most home school students and home school families spend an average of $600 per student annually for their education.
Charter Schools: (http://www.uncommonschools.org/our-approach/faq-what-is-charter-school)
- What is a Charter School?
- A charter school is an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations, in return for greater accountability for performance. The “charter” establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment.
- What’s the difference between Charter and Public Schools?
- Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children. They operate with freedom from some of the regulations that are imposed upon district schools. Charter schools are accountable for academic results and for upholding the promises made in their charters. They must demonstrate performance in the areas of academic achievement, financial management, and organizational stability. If a charter school does not meet performance goals, it may be closed.
- Are Charter Schools all the same?
- No. Charter schools can vary a great deal in their design and in their results. Uncommon Schools creates schools based on the principles and practices that have proven successful in producing significant academic gains at high-performing urban charter public schools across the country.
- How are Charter Schools funded?
- As public schools, charter schools are tuition-free. They are funded according to enrollment levels and receive public funds on a per pupil basis. In some states, such as Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, and New Jersey, they receive less than 100% of the funds allocated to their traditional counterparts for school operations. In other states, such as California, additional funds or loans are made available to them. In most states, charters do not receive capital funds to support facility expenses. Charter schools are entitled to federal categorical funding for which their students are eligible, such as Title I and Special Education monies. Federal legislation provides grants to help charters to manage start-up costs.
Private Schools: (http://www.capenet.org/facts.html)
- As of 2015-16 5,751,000 (10% of all US students) were enrolled in private schools
- There are 34,576 private schools in the United States
- Private schools account for 25 percent of the nation’s schools
- Most private school students (78 percent) attend religiously affiliated schools
- What is the average tuition for k-12 by state? https://www.privateschoolreview.com/tuition-stats/private-school-cost-by-state Washington State is $9621 while Oregon is $7308
- How do Private compare to Public? https://www.fatherly.com/educational-and-development-toys-for-babies-and-kids/private-school-vs-public-school-facts-benefits-statistics/
- Public vs Private class sizes: 25:19
- Public vs Private teachers: Less than 4 years experience 11% vs 16%. MBA’s 48% vs 36%. Continuing professional development 85% vs 67%. Average experience 14 years vs 14 years and both spend ~52 hours/week.
- Course diversity – Private have a larger latitude
- Test scores – Looking at national test scores, private schools come out on top. A recent recap of high school graduates showed private school students scoring 3.1 points higher on the ACT test. The same disparity is found in primary and middle schools according to the NCES. A comparison of mathematics tests showed private schools scored 18 points higher for eighth graders and 8 points higher for fourth graders. Reading had the same results with the private schools outscoring their public counterparts by 18 points in eighth grade and 15 points in fourth grade.
Virtual Schools: (https://www.k12.com/facts-about-k12-public-virtual-schools.html)
- Are virtual schools public or private? They are public
- Are virtual schools homeschools? No. They follow the same rules as public schools
- How are virtual schools funded? With public funds (although at lower rates)
- How do Virtual schools perform vs. public schools? The study in this link (which is a compilation of other studies) suggests that Virtual students don’t perform as well as traditional public students (https://www.edweek.org/media/georgia%20virtual%20schools%20study%20for%20scsc%20of%20ga_final_3.25.15.pdf)
The challenges facing Public Schools going forward:
- Costs continue to escalate. Wages consume ~2/3rds of the budgets
- Test scores under Common Core (SBAc and PARCC) continue to decline. See our article on 10 districts in Southwest Washington State for 2015-2017: https://swweducation.org?p=5241
- Legislators continue to heap more and more demands on schools and in so doing increase the cost and reduce the amount of education time
- Teachers have less and less control in their classrooms and are saddled with paperwork and forced programs that can do more harm than good
- We are testing kids to death in an attempt to either show improvement or make a case for more money
- Voucher programs now exist in 16 states and the movement is growing. More parents want choice.
- Public schools are increasingly becoming daycare services with a strong social component. Feed, clothe and provide medical care and mental health services.
- The scope of education has moved from primary skills (reading, writing, math, history and arts) to quasi raising children
- There are a growing concern that the government wants to train the good obedient workers of tomorrow and some parents want out but feel they have no options
- The ESSA is a massive boondoggle
- The US Dept of Education provides ~10% of the money but tells the dog what to eat, where to sleep and threatens obedience training if states don’t comply. Indeed, the US Secretary of Education recently signed on to a global initiative that you may want to read about: G20 Global Education
There are a growing number of choices in K-12 education. There is a movement out of public schools. Will Public Schools follow the paths of Newspapers and the Postal Service? Will the costs kill the Golden Goose? You, the parents, will decide. What say you?
Finally, here’s an article you may enjoy reading: https://pjmedia.com/trending/the-end-of-education/