Ron Isaac’s Commentary: Cliff-Hanging

Sep 21, 2021 by

Can a risk/benefit analysis conclude that falling off a cliff is a chance worth taking?   As a viable alternative to what?

According to an audit of the New York State comptroller, New York City will be on a “fiscal cliff” a few years from now, when Covid-related federal aid, currently used for programs to combat student learning loss runs out.  Will taxpayers be pushed? 

The New York Post warns of an economically fatal jump if we continue to nurture kids so recklessly.

It will take years to reverse the educational decimation wrought by the Virus.  Policy-makers must allocate resources based on triage.  Unfortunately the Department of Education is not good at triage. 

Tons of dollars are automatically set aside for patronage gigs for a bloated superfluous administrative staff. That wouldn’t change even if they had a trillion dollar budget.  It’s historically part of the DOE’s culture, arguably its cornerstone.

But how high does “learning loss” actually rank among education’s most pressing endemic problems?  Some researchers insist that “learning loss”  is over-rated,  can be rapidly corrected or doesn’t even exist.  Like aircraft whose flight path is delayed or adjusted because of headwinds so that they still reach their destination on time, students can compensate similarly. 

Perhaps the curriculum mandates are a bit arbitrary anyway.

Given its track record of travesty, who would trust the DOE as air traffic controllers for our kids’ flight to achievement?  

Although they have many sublimely-motivated and capable employees, preponderantly classroom instructors, the DOE is more prone to exploiting children than shepherding them.  The DOE is a cash cow in perpetual milking mode.  Retired principals get DOE gigs on demand.  They are routinely solicited to come on board as “mentors”.  There are more such mentors than there were locusts in the Biblical plague. 

The DOE is chockablock with untouchable and unquestioned sinecures.

As their annual  DOE budget approaches a figure exceeding the funding of all our combined foreign wars, decisions must be made with many contingencies in mind, including the depletion of copious federal aid.  The price tag for 18 months of upheaval defies calculation but may not be as staggering as feared.   How are “learning loss” and other collateral damages to be affirmed?  How do we calibrate “value for money”?

There may be no “deep state” in Washington, but there certainly is one on Chambers Street. Can the DOE keep vital instructional services while maintaining sound standards of bookkeeping?

That’s no cliffhanger!

Ron Isaac

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