NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla -- Parents and children in places like Samsula and Oak Hill are justifiably angry over the proposed closing of their small, well performing student- and parent-friendly schools to send the students to much larger, impersonal and potentially dangerous schools.
It has been established that students learn better and are safer in small schools that in large, impersonal schools with ever-shrinking parent participation.
Another often overlooked problem is that the percentage of kids that can play varsity sports goes down as the size goes up. Compound this with the inconvenience of transporting the students farther away from their homes into communities with which they don’t even belong such as Deltona and parents really become angry as they did at a school board meeting Tuesday, some saying they felt the district is forcing them to consider private schooling.
This is bad news, but even worse news is that the public school problems will grow progressively worse with time.
The most visible problem with the school system is that it is growing horribly more expensive while delivering little or no educational improvements. Right now the schools of Volusia County are spending about $20,000 per student per year on the k-12 program.
In the wake of this obscene spending it is very difficult to understand why some neighborhood schools are being closed. Public school costs are about 3 to 4 times the cost of most private schools. What makes the public schools so expensive compared to private schools?
First, public schools employ about one person in a non teaching position for every person actually teaching. In a typical private school there is one non teaching position for every 3 to 4 teaching positions.
The second reason is that personnel in private schools are lower paid than in the public system. (The incentive to teach, unhindered by government bureaucracy, appeals to many very talented teachers.) A third reason is that so much money is poured into buildings and real estate. A survey of Volusia County Schools reveals structures that look like the Taj Mahal or Minoan palaces with huge amounts of real estate surrounding them. This phenomena applies to other states as well.
In Palo Alto, we visited a high school campus that was so large we had to get directions to find a baseball field that was on the school grounds. There are other factors driving up the cost of public schools but these will suffice for this discussion. The crowning insult of to the taxpayer is that the private schools are, in general, delivering much better results. To help accelerate the cost problem the people of Florida were duped into voting to limit the class sizes.
The idea that having fewer students in class would somehow overcome the basic problems of public schooling was sold to the public by the education establishment. One of the results of the ensuing building boom has been the erection of huge school buildings which the school board feels must be filled with students from smaller schools. Undoubtedly the small school buildings will be abandoned. If the student overcomes the problems of the unfriendly more dangerous schools then he is left with the problem of getting an education.
This is not an impossible problem, but it has been made more challenging by a number of factors. Discipline is non existent in some of the classes. The powers that be have made it very hard to discipline anyone. The standard “terror tactics” that worked so well in the past have been outlawed.
The newer more subtler techniques are much harder to master; School texts have been “dumbed down” so that typical American History texts are written at a seventh- or eighth grade level. Worse yet, the history texts have become books for liberal indoctrination.
Some of the ideas I noticed were Government is all good, more government is even better, business and markets are evil, all Democrats are good and all Republicans are bad. The list goes on and on.
Quite often, the student disagrees with these ideas his grades suffer so students quickly learn not to express contrary ideas. If you like this type of education then you will be made happier with time because it will only increase. In closing it should be emphasized that all of these problems and many more can be overcome with personal effort and initiative. In fact it is done all the time.
My children were schooled right here in New Smyrna Beach in the 1970s. Why should it be any different now?