Category: Political Science
A New Contract With America
Study of a specific example of the cause of corruption is readily available by viewing what has happened in Puerto Rico where the one-time honorable and highly esteemed Secretary of Education has now plead guilty to the corruption of stealing money from his departments resources to enable political and personal gain.
What can be learned about how to avoid this? There is a better answer than to hire more auditors and comptrollers as even one of the best in P.R. is likely to agree.
Can Corruption in Government be avoided? Or just minimized?
by Richard R. Tryon
This second article focuses on the mechanics of how major opportunities for corruption can be avoided in P.R.. This can be done, while P.R. uses the funds now flowing so freely from Washington in ways that avoid the chance for massive corruption of the sort being publicized almost weekly, if not daily, in P.R. The prime example will focus on the nation?s third largest School District- that of P.R.- and show why it needs to be redefined in a decentralized way that puts control of schools at the local level, the way it is in all other U.S. geographic sub-divisions. It will suggest the need in P.R. for the development of an active P.T.A. and local school taxes and Boards of Education, with money coming not from the Fortaleza controlled administration directly, but via the parents of school children! Washington money may be partially retained at the level of a P.R. Dept. of Education for program development to be shared with all new districts, if they approve such spending; but most money must be passed on to parents of school children , who must assign such to the school of their choice that is certified locally.
While this approach is valid for every state of the union, the value to P.R. is far greater! For it is the only geographic part of the U.S.A. that has so many students trapped in a system that has but one monolithic school district. The money controlled by the P.R. Department of Education is far too vast for any one Secretary of Education, no matter how principled he or she may be, to control in a way that avoids corruption and equally bad, the consequence of bureaucratic need, to try! Yes, the cost of trying to avoid the problem is just as debilitating. It causes all programs to be subjected to a political process that pits each proponent of any idea against all others for the favor of gaining access to the funds needed!
If P.R. citizens can be offered by a new political party or an existing one in need of a new format, all of the U.S. might see a transformation of the nation?s least accomplished school district- into one that supports both private and public education that uses both local and federal money that comes to P.R. in far greater proportion than to any other political entity. Why? Because on the mainland, American schools started at the local level and have always been supported by local property taxes and local School Boards and Districts. These still hold a strong sense of control, but it is badly eroded now by the State Departments of Education, that increasingly have used State and Federal so-called ?block grants? to worm their way into controlling the local schools. They have been greatly assisted by the conversion of American Professional Teacher Associations into industrial type unions; and further augmented by the simplistic notions that all children deserve to have the same number of public dollars spent for their education each year, no matter where they may be or what it costs to heat the schoolhouse.
So, even with a reduced rate of Federal support to P.R,. because of its unique non-tax paying status, at least in part; P.R. still gets the benefit of another special thrust in politics. Minority based support ideas add to the special programs aimed by well meaning liberals in Washington. Yes, this gives the P.R. Department of Education more money from the federal source than all but two other districts in the U.S.A.!
How can this be changed? If, the laws of P.R. can be changed by a new party coming to power, or by the reformation of an existing one, that is committed to among other things, changing the way that people of P.R. can arrange for the education of their children, a monumental shift in results will occur. If the P.R. central government encourages the formation of local school districts in every town and organizes smaller ones into small districts, with local voters able to select boards of education; and if even a token means of local property tax can be put into place and collected with certainty that the money will get from the C.R.I.M. hands to the accounts of the new districts; and if these new districts own the properties and negotiate the programs and take responsibility for paying for them, they will be ready to compete! Yes, I said compete! Why? Because the key to success in this approach is to take the bulk of the federal money that now comes to San Juan and arrange it to be disbursed to the parents of all registered school children in any and all island public or private school, but in a special way; then a chance exists to eliminate corruption and to greatly improve the educational results. What is the magic that does this?
The secret is to use the device of making all checks to parents of students contain a requirement that they can only be deposited to the account of any registered and accredited school! The rules for accreditation shall start with ?grand fathering -in? all schools with evidence of existence for two or more school years as operating entities. Of course, periodic review is a must, and copying the rules from the mainland, sets that up to avoid political games. This then puts the parents of students in the position of power! They decide which school is offering the right program for their children. All of the schools can share busing via competitively bid contract providers that are subject to public transportation licensing, inspection, and certification; but, it matters not to which school the students will attend in the district. Children will also be free to live with relatives or friends in other districts and their parents can assign the checks accordingly.
Does this creation of local control breed more parental involvement in parent-teacher association type activity? It should, because the mechanism will be in place for communication with the local boards of each school or district to combine with others to see that parental input is heard and turned into programs that draw parental support. The multiple local boards and districts will then have a means of underwriting program development by the central government?s Department of Education in a proportionate manner for those curriculum ideas that can be beneficially enjoyed by all that underwrite them. This means that the top down theory where San Juan dictates what is going to happen and who is going to do it will be replaced by the need to gain support and funding from the districts, at least in sufficient part as to make them partners, not just recipients of whatever San Juan sends.
By the same manner, San Juan can organize competitive supplier sources, but if the local districts find more competitive sources because, for example, there is no ?kick-back? scheme possible without the collusion of all participating districts- not just one man at the top- then guess who wins?
But, given a level playing field, where corruption can be stopped by those districts unwilling to pay the cost, and all bidders can be free of such pressure. Furthermore, their bids can be island wide pricing, but the orders can come from the points where the books and materials are needed. If central warehousing is useful, so be it. But, let the books reflect which district owns and has paid for storage of whatever materials, until it is time to deliver per the local requisition, not the central decision to send.
While this plan is hereby devised as an answer to one of the major sources of funds of PR corruption, the same lessons are just as valuable to every state of the union. Speaking of unions in the labor sense of the word, this too is a major source of educational difficulty. Every industrial union is forced to consider all members equally as interchangeable parts and the only way to allow differences in pay is to base them on artificial considerations like degrees and time in grade. This eliminates the bias of individual performance determinations by local administrators.
If you put the local school administrators in a position of working for the local district Board, then their performance in judged by how well teaching is accomplished and in turn, they had best promote the best and most effective teachers. While this sets the stage for students to evaluate teachers and pass such to the administrators, such evidence is not controlling to a smart administrator, that wants to keep that position. It may take some political time with parents, teachers, students, and board members, but that is a healthy way to gain the best possible results.
You will note that all of this applies to all forms of education and puts the former San Juan, in the PR case, buildings into the ownership of local districts and boards, it also allows that the parents can choose private schools to which to assign their educational checks from the federal programs. It may be that such leaves the private school at a disadvantage as such must pay for their own building construction, land, upkeep, etc., they may well have a history and community support that overcomes this disadvantage.
This leaves only one educational alternative out in the cold- the home school. This program can solve that problem neatly as well. Simply allow that support checks can be deposited into any parent?s special home school account in their local bank of choice. However, the face amount of such is reduced to perhaps 50% because the home school needs no special building or extra external support. If the funds can only be withdrawn upon completion of paperwork to show what educational materials or allowed expenses happened, then the parent is effectively reimbursed in a legitimate way that only needs one annual certification- testing in the local district by a centrally run program to certify learning and promotion of another year of support for a qualified student.
Best of all, this approach not only offers a way to greatly improve the educational system wherever it is used, but it sets an example of how people should depend upon local, not central control, with a new effort to depend upon individual performance and responsibility, and that sets the stage for step three in this series of how a New Contract with America can help us all avoid loss of freedom, and the ability to compete in the global economy.
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