3/22/2007

All play and no work makes Luke a dull boy



Drivers’ heading into New Richmond on Wisconsin Route 65 from the south probably noticed this license plate on a car parked by a large sign on the property to be purchased with voters approval of a $93 million referendum ballot question on April 3. A tentative purchase price of $3.3 million for the 110 acres land has been agreed to by the District staff and the seller.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Early communism
Main article: History of communism
Karl Marx saw primitive communism as the original, hunter-gatherer state of humankind from which it arose. For Marx, only after humanity was capable of producing surplus, did private property develop.

In the history of Western thought, the idea of a society based on common ownership of property can be traced back to ancient times.[1] In his 4th century BCE The Republic, Plato considers the idea of the ruling class sharing property. [2] In The Republic, the ruling or guardian classes are committed to an austere and communistic way of life, with the aim of devoting all of their time and efforts to public service. [3]

At one time or another, various small communist communities existed, generally under the inspiration of Scripture.[4] In the medieval Christian church, for example, some monastic communities and religious orders shared their land and other property. (See Christian communism) These groups often believed that concern with private property was a distraction from religious service to God and neighbor. (Encarta)

Communist thought has also been traced back to the work of 16th century English writer Thomas More. In his treatise Utopia (1516), More portrayed a society based on common ownership of property, whose rulers administered it through the application of reason. (Encarta) In the 17th century, communist thought arguably surfaced again in England. In 17th-century England, the Diggers, a Puritan religious group known as advocated the abolition of private ownership of land. (Encarta) Eduard Bernstein, in his 1895 Cromwell and Communism [4] argued that several groupings in the English Civil War, especially the Diggers espoused clear communistic, agrarian ideals, and that Oliver Cromwell's attitude to these groups was at best ambivalent and often hostile.[5]

Criticism of the idea of private property continued into the Enlightenment of the 18th century, through such thinkers as Jean Jacques Rousseau in France. (Encarta) Later, following the upheaval of the French Revolution, communism emerged as a political doctrine.[6] François Noël Babeuf, in particular, espoused the goals of common ownership of land and total economic and political equality among citizens. (Encarta)

Various social reformers in the early 19th century founded communities based on common ownership. But unlike many previous communist communities, they replaced the religious emphasis with a rational and philanthropic basis. (EB) Notable among them were Robert Owen, who founded New Harmony in Indiana (1825), and Charles Fourier, whose followers organized other settlements in the United States such as Brook Farm (1841–47). (EB) Later in the 19th century, Karl Marx described these social reformers as "utopian socialists" to contrast them with his program of "scientific socialism" (a term coined by Friedrich Engels). Other writers described by Marx as "utopian socialists" included Charles Fourier and Saint-Simon.

In its modern form, communism grew out of the socialist movement of 19th-century Europe. (Encarta) As the Industrial Revolution advanced, socialist critics blamed capitalism for the misery of the proletariat—a new class of poor, urban factory workers who labored under often-hazardous conditions. (EB) Foremost among these critics were the German philosopher Karl Marx and his associate Friedrich Engels. (EB) In 1848 Marx and Engels offered a new definition of communism and popularized the term in their famous pamphlet The Communist Manifesto. (EB) Engels, who lived in Manchester, observed the organization of the Chartist movement (see History of British socialism), while Marx departed from his university comrades to meet the proletariat in France and Germany.


The emergence of modern communism
Main article: Marxism

Marxism

Karl MarxLike other socialists, Marx and Engels sought an end to capitalism and the systems which they perceived to be responsible for the exploitation of workers. But whereas earlier socialists often favored longer-term social reform, Marx and Engels believed that popular revolution was all but inevitable, and the only path to socialism.

According to the Marxist argument for communism, the main characteristic of human life in class society is alienation; and communism is desirable because it entails the full realization of human freedom.[7] Marx here follows Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in conceiving freedom not merely as an absence of restraints but as action with content. (McLean and McMillan, 2003) They believed that communism allowed people to do what they want, but also put humans in such conditions and such relations with one another that they would not wish to exploit, or have any need to. Whereas for Hegel the unfolding of this ethical life in history is mainly driven by the realm of ideas, for Marx, communism emerged from material forces, particularly the development of the means of production. (McLean and McMillan, 2003)

Marxism holds that a process of class conflict and revolutionary struggle will result in victory for the proletariat and the establishment of a communist society in which private ownership is abolished over time and the means of production and subsistence belong to the community. Marx himself wrote little about life under communism, giving only the most general indication as to what constituted a communist society. It is clear that it entails abundance in which there is little limit to the projects that humans may undertake. In the popular slogan that was adopted by the communist movement, communism was a world in which each gave according to their abilities, and received according to their needs.' The German Ideology (1845) was one of Marx's few writings to elaborate on the communist future:

"In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic."[8]

Marx's lasting vision was to add this vision to a positive scientific theory of how society was moving in a law-governed way toward communism, and, with some tension, a political theory that explained why revolutionary activity was required to bring it about. (McLean and McMillan, 2003)

In the late 19th century the terms "socialism" and "communism" were often used interchangeably. (Encarta) However, Marx and Engels argued that communism would not emerge from capitalism in a fully developed state, but would pass through a "first phase" in which most productive property was owned in common, but with some class differences remaining. The "first phase" would eventually give way to a "higher phase" in which class differences were eliminated, and a state was no longer needed. Lenin frequently used the term "socialism" to refer to Marx and Engels' supposed "first phase" of communism and used the term "communism" interchangeably with Marx and Engels' "higher phase" of communism.

These later aspects, particularly as developed by Lenin, provided the underpinning for the mobilizing features of 20th century Communist parties. Later writers such as Louis Althusser and Nicos Poulantzas modified Marx's vision by allotting a central place to the state in the development of such societies, by arguing for a prolonged transition period of socialism prior to the attainment of full communism.


Other currents
Some of Marx's contemporaries espoused similar ideas, but differed in their views of how to reach to a classless society. Following the split between those associated with Marx and Mikhail Bakunin at the First International, the anarchists formed the International Workers Association.[9] Anarchists argued that capitalism and the state were inseparable and that one could not be abolished without the other. Anarchist-communists such as Peter Kropotkin theorized an immediate transition to one society with no classes. Anarcho-syndicalism became one of the dominant forms of anarchist organization, arguing that labor unions, as opposed to Communist parties, are the organizations that can change society. Consequently, many anarchists have been in opposition to Marxist communism to this day.

In the late 19th century Russian Marxism developed a distinct character. The first major figure of Russian Marxism was Georgi Plekhanov. Underlying the work of Plekhanov was the assumption that Russia, less urbanized and industrialized than Western Europe, had many years to go before society would be ready for proletarian revolution could occur, and a transitional period of a bourgeois democratic regime would be required to replace Tsarism with a socialist and later communist society. (EB)


The growth of modern communism
Main article: Marxism-Leninism

Vladimir Lenin following his return to PetrogradIn Russia, the 1917 October Revolution was the first time any party with an avowedly Marxist orientation, in this case the Bolshevik Party, seized state power. The assumption of state power by the Bolsheviks generated a great deal of practical and theoretical debate within the Marxist movement. Marx believed that socialism and communism would be built upon foundations laid by the most advanced capitalist development. Russia, however, was one of the poorest countries in Europe with an enormous, largely illiterate peasantry and a minority of industrial workers. It should be noted, however, that Marx had explicitly stated that Russia might be able to skip the stage of bourgeois capitalism. [10] Other socialists also believed that a Russian revolution could be the precursor of workers' revolutions in the West.

The moderate socialist Mensheviks opposed Lenin's communist Bolsheviks' plan for socialist revolution before capitalism was more fully developed. The Bolsheviks successful rise to power was based upon the slogans "peace, bread, and land" and "All power to the Soviets," slogans which tapped the massive public desire for an end to Russian involvement in the First World War, the peasants' demand for land reform, and popular support for the Soviets.

The usage of the terms "communism" and "socialism" shifted after 1917, when the Bolsheviks changed their name to the Communist Party and installed a single-party regime devoted to the implementation of socialist policies under Leninism. The Second International had dissolved in 1916 over national divisions, as the separate national parties that composed it did not maintain a unified front against the war, instead generally supporting their respective nation's role. Lenin thus created the Third International (Comintern) in 1919 and sent the Twenty-one Conditions, which included democratic centralism, to all European socialist parties willing to adhere. In France, for example, the majority of the SFIO socialist party split in 1921 to form the SFIC (French Section of the Communist International). Henceforth, the term "Communism" was applied to the objective of the parties founded under the umbrella of the Comintern. Their program called for the uniting of workers of the world for revolution, which would be followed by the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat as well as the development of a socialist economy. Ultimately, if their program held, there would develop a harmonious classless society, with the withering away of the state.

During the Russian Civil War (1918-1922), the Bolsheviks nationalized all productive property and imposed a policy of "war communism," which put factories and railroads under strict government control, collected and rationed food, and introduced some bourgeois management of industry. After three years of war and the 1921 Kronstadt rebellion, Lenin declared the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921, which was to give a "limited place for a limited time to capitalism." The NEP lasted until 1928, when Joseph Stalin's personal fight for leadership, and the introduction of the first Five Year Plan spelled the end of it. Following the Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks formed in 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or Soviet Union, from the former Russian Empire.

Following Lenin's democratic centralism, the Communist parties were organized on a hierarchical basis, with active cells of members as the broad base; they were made up only of elite cadres approved by higher members of the party as being reliable and completely subject to party discipline.[11]

The Soviet Union and other countries ruled by Communist Parties are often described as 'Communist states' with 'state socialist' economic bases. (Scott and Marshall, 2005) This usage indicates that they proclaim that they have realized part of the socialist program by abolishing the private control of the means of production and establishing state control over the economy; however, they do not declare themselves truly communist, as they have not established communal ownership of property.


Stalinism
Main article: Stalinism
The Stalinist version of socialism, with some important modifications, shaped the Soviet Union and influenced Communist Parties worldwide. It was heralded as a possibility of building communism via a massive program of industrialization and collectivization. The rapid development of industry, and above all the victory of the Soviet Union in the Second World War, maintained that vision throughout the world, even around a decade following Stalin's death, when the party adopted a program in which it promised the establishment of communism within thirty years.

However, under Stalin's leadership, evidence emerged that dented faith in the possibility of achieving communism within the framework of the Soviet model. Stalin had created in the Soviet Union a repressive state that dominated every aspect of life. Later, growth declined, and rent-seeking and corruption by state officials increased, which dented the legitimacy of the Soviet system.

Despite the activity of the Comintern, the Soviet Communist Party adopted the Stalinist theory of "socialism in one country" and claimed that, due to the "aggravation of class struggle under socialism," it was possible, even necessary, to build socialism in one country alone. This departure from Marxist internationalism was challenged by Leon Trotsky, whose theory of "permanent revolution" stressed the necessity of world revolution.


Trotskyism
Main article: Trotskyism

Trotsky reading The Militant.Trotsky and his supporters organized into the "Left Opposition," and their platform became known as Trotskyism. But Stalin eventually succeeded in gaining full control of the Soviet regime, and their attempts to remove Stalin from power resulted in Trotsky's exile from the Soviet Union in 1929. After Trotsky's exile, world communism fractured into two distinct branches: Stalinism and Trotskyism. Trotsky later founded the Fourth International, a Trotskyist rival to the Comintern, in 1938.

Trotskyist ideas have continually found a modest echo among political movements in Latin America and Asia, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Sri Lanka, and The Philippines. Many Trotskyist organizations are also active in more stable, developed countries in North America and Western Europe.

However, as a whole, Trotsky's theories and attitudes were never reaccepted in worldwide mainstream Communist circles after Trotsky's expulsion, either within or outside of the Soviet bloc. This remained the case even after the Secret Speech and subsequent events exposed the fallibility of Stalinism and Maoism. Today, even given the fact that there are areas of the world where Trotskyist movements are rather large, Trotskyist movements have never coalesced in a mass movement that has seized state power.


Maoism
Main article: Maoism
After the death of Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union's new leader, Nikita Khrushchev, denounced Stalin's crimes and his cult of personality. He called for a return to the principles of Lenin, thus presaging some change in Communist methods. However, Khrushchev's reforms heightened ideological differences between the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union, which became increasingly apparent in the 1960s. As the Sino-Soviet Split in the international Communist movement turned toward open hostility, China portrayed itself as a leader of the underdeveloped world against the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.

Parties and groups that supported the Communist Party of China (CPC) in their criticism against the new Soviet leadership proclaimed themselves as 'anti-revisionist' and denounced the CPSU and the parties aligned with it as revisionist "capitalist-roaders." The Sino-Soviet Split resulted in divisions amongst communist parties around the world. Notably, the Party of Labour of Albania sided with the People's Republic of China. Effectively, the CPC under Mao's leadership became the rallying forces of a parallel international Communist tendency. The ideology of CPC, Mao Zedong Thought (generally referred to as 'Maoism'), was adopted by many of these groups.

After the death of Mao and the takeover of Deng Xiaoping, the international Maoist movement fell in disarray. One sector accepted the new leadership in China, a second renounced the new leadership and reaffirmed their commitment to Mao's legacy, and a third renounced Maoism altogether and aligned with the Albanian Party of Labour.


Other anti-revisionist currents
After the ideological row between the Communist Party of China and the Party of Labour of Albania in 1978, the Albanians rallied a new separate international tendency. This tendency would demarcate itself by a strict defense of the legacy of Joseph Stalin and fierce criticism of virtually all other Communist groupings. The Albanians were able to win over a large share of the Maoists in Latin America, most notably the Communist Party of Brazil. This tendency has occasionally been labeled as 'Hoxhaism' after the Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha.

After the fall of the Communist government in Albania, the pro-Albanian parties are grouped around an international conference and the publication 'Unity and Struggle'. Another important institution for them is the biannual International Anti-Imperialist and Anti-Fascist Youth Camp, which was initiated in 1970s.

Under the leadership of Hardial Bains, general secretary of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) a small current emerged in the 1970s of Marxist-Leninist groups in several countries. This tendency aligned with Albania politically, but remained somewhat separate from the main pro-Albanian camp.


Cold War years
By virtue of the Soviet Union's victory in the Second World War in 1945, the Soviet Army had occupied nations in both Eastern Europe and East Asia; as a result, communism as a movement spread to many new countries. This expansion of communism both in Europe and Asia gave rise to a few different branches of its own, such as Maoism.

Communism had been vastly strengthened by the winning of many new nations into the sphere of Soviet influence and strength in Eastern Europe. Governments modeled on Soviet Communism took power with Soviet assistance in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Romania. A Communist government was also created under Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia, but Tito's independent policies led to the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Cominform, which had replaced the Comintern. Titoism, a new branch in the world communist movement, was labeled "deviationist." Albania also became an independent Communist nation after World War II.

By 1950 the Chinese Communists held all of Mainland China, thus controlling the most populous nation in the world. Other areas where rising Communist strength provoked dissension and in some cases led to actual fighting include the Korean Peninsula, Laos, many nations of the Middle East and Africa, and, especially, Vietnam (see Vietnam War). With varying degrees of success, Communists attempted to unite with nationalist and socialist forces against what they saw as Western imperialism in these poor countries.


Communism after the collapse of the Soviet Union
In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union and relaxed central control, in accordance with reform policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). The Soviet Union did not intervene as Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary all abandoned Communist rule by 1990. In 1991, the Soviet Union itself dissolved.

By the beginning of the 21st century, states controlled by Communist parties under a single-party system include the People's Republic of China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam. President Vladimir Voronin of Moldova is a member of the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova, but the country is not run under single-party rule. Communist parties, or their descendant parties, remain politically important in many European and Asian countries.

The People's Republic of China has reassessed many aspects of the Maoist legacy; and the People's Republic of China, Laos, Vietnam, and, to a lesser degree, Cuba have reduced state control of the economy in order to stimulate growth. The People's Republic of China runs Special Economic Zones dedicated to market-oriented enterprise, free from central government control. Several other communist states have also attempted to implement market-based reforms, including Vietnam. Officially, the leadership of the People's Republic of China refers to its policies as "Socialism with Chinese characteristics."

Theories within Marxism as to why communism in Eastern Europe was not achieved after socialist revolutions pointed to such elements as the pressure of external capitalist states, the relative backwardness of the societies in which the revolutions occurred, and the emergence of a bureaucratic stratum or class that arrested or diverted the transition press in its own interests. (Scott and Marshall, 2005) Marxist critics of the Soviet Union, most notably Trotsky, referred to the Soviet system, along with other Communist states, as "degenerated" or "deformed workers' states," arguing that the Soviet system fell far short of Marx's communist ideal. Trotskyists argued that the Soviet state was degenerated because the working class was politically dispossessed. The ruling stratum of the Soviet Union was held to be a bureaucratic caste, but not a new ruling class, despite their political control. They called for a political revolution in the USSR and defended the country against capitalist restoration. Others, like Tony Cliff, advocated the theory of state capitalism, which asserts that the bureaucratic elite acted as a surrogate capitalist class in the heavily centralized and repressive political apparatus.

Non-Marxists, in contrast, have often applied the term to any society ruled by a Communist Party and to any party aspiring to create a society similar to such existing nation-states. In the social sciences, societies ruled by Communist Parties are distinct for their single party control and their socialist economic bases. While anticommunists applied the concept of "totalitarianism" to these societies, many social scientists identified possibilities for independent political activity within them, and stressed their continued evolution up to the point of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe during the late 1980s and early 1990s.[12][13]

Today, Marxist revolutionaries are conducting armed insurgencies in India, Philippines, Iran, Turkey, and Colombia.


Criticism of communism
Main article: Criticisms of communism
A diverse array of writers and political activists have published criticism of communism, such as Soviet bloc dissidents Lech Wałęsa, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Václav Havel; social theorists Hannah Arendt, Raymond Aron, Ralf Dahrendorf, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Karl Wittfogel; economists Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman; historians and social scientists Robert Conquest, Stéphane Courtois, Richard Pipes, and R. J. Rummel; anti-communist leftists Ignazio Silone, George Orwell, Saul Alinsky, Richard Wright, Arthur Koestler, and Bernard-Henri Levy; novelist Ayn Rand; and philosophers Leszek Kołakowski and Karl Popper.

Most of this criticism is focused on the policies adopted by one-party states ruled by Communist parties (known as "Communist states"). Some writers, such as Courtois, argue that the actions of Communist states were the inevitable (though sometimes unintentional) result of Marxist principles;[14] thus, these authors present the events occurring in those countries, particularly under Stalin and Mao, as an argument against Marxism itself. Some critics were former Marxists, such as Wittfogel, who applied Marx's concept of "Oriental despotism" to Communist states such as the Soviet Union, and Silone, Wright, Koestler (among other writers) who contributed essays to the book The God that Failed (the title refers not to the Christian God but to Marxism).

There have also been more direct criticisms of Marxism, such as criticisms of the labor theory of value or Marx's predictions. Nevertheless, Communist parties outside of the Warsaw Pact, such as the Communist parties in Western Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, differed greatly. Thus a criticism that is applicable to one such party is not necessarily applicable to another.

Anonymous said...

Shit, shit, shit- That's all that Bob Muchlinski wants to talk about. He's worried about shit at the end of the dike. He's worried about shit at the new school. He even had a website devoted to SHIT! Is there something you want to tell us Bob?

Anonymous said...

Ongoing news reports from across the country indicate incidents of corruption and mismanagement in the public schools occur frequently, often on a massive scale. Ignoring the scale of the problem not only costs taxpayers millions of dollars but also hinders school reform efforts, according to New York University law professor Lydia G. Segal.

In her recent book, Battling Corruption in America's Public Schools (Northwestern University Press, 2003), Segal argues, "one impediment to reform that no one is seriously studying in the debate over how to improve public schools is systematic fraud, waste, and abuse." Her careful documentation of the pervasive corruption and waste in the nation's three largest school districts--New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles--leaves little doubt the problem merits serious study.

However, fraud, waste, and abuse are not limited to large urban school districts, as the following recent examples demonstrate.

$8 Million in Undocumented Expenses

In New York's affluent Roslyn School District on Long Island, former school superintendent Frank A. Tassone and senior administrator Pamela C. Gluckin were each charged recently with stealing more than $1 million from the district. Gluckin allegedly used the funds to finance four homes, a Lexus, and other luxury items. Tassone allegedly used his $1 million for airline travel, cruises, dermatology treatments, furniture, and jewelry, and to give his roommate's company more than $800,000 in no-bid contracts. Both Tassone and Gluckin pleaded not guilty.

The Roslyn school board is still reviewing more than $8 million in undocumented expenses. According to the New York Times, those expenses include:

$736,000 paid to an Oklahoma publishing company that has no record of doing business with the district;
$600,000+ spent in delicatessens and specialty food stores;
$100,000+ spent on limousines and car services;
$50,000 paid to restaurants;
$21,000 charged for a BMW lease or purchase;
$3,800 spent to reserve space with Manhattan Mini-Storage, a long way from Roslyn;
$1,485 spent for an Equinox gym membership.
Gluckin previously worked for Long Island's William Floyd District under former treasurer James Wright, according to Suffolk Life. In June, Wright was charged with stealing more than $750,000 from the William Floyd District simply by writing checks to himself.

$15.9 Million in Kickbacks

In Fort Worth, Texas, a school construction scandal ended in June with the former executive director of maintenance for the Fort Worth School District, Tommy Ingram, and contractor Ray Brooks being sentenced to eight years in prison each for a kickback scheme in which they defrauded the school district of an estimated $15.9 million.

Payroll Scam

In July, eight employees of the New Orleans school system pleaded guilty to stealing more than $70,000 in a scheme in which payroll clerk Louis Serrano wrote fraudulent checks to seven other employees in exchange for half of the face value of the checks. A ninth employee, payroll clerk Terri Smith Morant, admitted stealing $250,000 by printing checks to herself using her maiden name.

According to a recent report by the state legislative auditor of Louisiana, school system employees have cashed an estimated $3 million in paychecks that administrators sent out either in error or with criminal intent.

Fighting corruption in the school system is like "eating an elephant," New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass told The Times-Picayune. "We just took the first bite."

Mismanagement

In addition to losses from outright fraud, taxpayers also have lost millions due to mismanagement and incompetence.

For instance, in a June 2004 audit of California's Oakland Unified School District, state auditors could not determine if in 2002-03 the district had appropriately spent millions of dollars and properly complied with scores of state and federal mandates. As a result, the district could be forced to repay $163 million to the state and federal governments. In addition, district bonds worth $322 million are in jeopardy of losing their tax-exempt status because the funds have been inappropriately spent on general education rather than on specific projects.

According to the audit's findings, the district's shortcomings included:

Failing to hold competitive bidding for $18.4 million in contracts;
Inappropriately using $650,000 in bond funds to pay a lawsuit settlement;
Issuing payroll checks to employees when they no longer worked for the district;
Failing to maintain attendance records at some schools and overreporting attendance at others;
Inappropriately carrying over unused funds for federal projects from one year to the next.
Also in June in southern California, the Los Angeles School Board continued the saga of the most expensive high school ever built by voting to do further work on the Belmont Learning Complex. When completed, Belmont will have cost about $270 million--$175 million of which has already been spent to produce a school that currently is unusable.

In June in south Florida, auditors delivered 650 pages of backup documents to support the findings of an April 2004 forensic audit that charged the Miami-Dade school district with wasting more than $100 million in its school facilities program. The audit alleged there was massive disorganization and waste in the program as well as "probable malfeasance, misfeasance, and potential for fraud."

Exploiting a Loophole

Unethical behavior and taxpayer abuse by school employees is not always illegal. In June, thousands of teachers in Texas rushed to retire before a lucrative loophole in Social Security law closed. Although most Texas teachers participate in a state pension fund rather than paying into Social Security, the loophole allowed them to receive Social Security benefits if their last day of work before retirement was in a job covered by Social Security.

In 2002, one-fourth of all public school retirees in Texas--3,521 people--took advantage of the loophole, according to auditors. Congress moved to close the loophole in spring 2004 when auditors estimated leaving it open could cost the Social Security system $450 million.

School districts around the state helped retiring teachers meet the one-day requirement by hiring them to work janitorial or maintenance jobs on their last day of work. Teachers paid the districts a small fee for this privilege, generating substantial revenues for some districts. For example, the Lindale Independent School District made about $700,000 helping teachers beat the deadline, according to assistant superintendent for business Mike McSwain.

"We just couldn't look at our taxpayers and say we passed up this opportunity to get this kind of revenue into the district," McSwain told the Associated Press.

Anonymous said...

A new study by the Cato Institute takes an in-depth look at allegations of corruption and abuse of assets in the nation's public schools, a system built upon the expectation of public accountability. The proper response to such mismanagement, the study's author says, may be found in providing parents with the opportunity to choose the schools that best meet their children's needs.

In Corruption in the Public Schools: The Market Is the Answer, published April 20, author Neal McCluskey (a contributing editor for School Reform News) tackled an issue that affects every American in one way or another: public school systems' efficiency and accountability.

It isn't that the government isn't interested in ferreting out corruption in the education system, McCluskey concludes--it's that the system itself has become so encumbered with rules and regulations that it is more difficult for teachers to educate kids, and much easier for criminals to get away with exploiting loopholes for their own financial gain.

"Regulations governing almost everything a school can do have failed to stop fraud, waste, and abuse but have rendered school districts cripplingly inefficient," he writes.


Disturbing Examples

Though McCluskey was careful to point out the corruption isn't universal, it is widespread. He examined hundreds of fraud allegations in his report, ranging from Floridians who misused scholarship money and school vouchers, to New Yorkers hiring at least 25 special-education bus drivers with criminal records, to a Maryland high school giving two A's and an NC (for noncredit) to a student who wasn't even enrolled there. Other reports included school officials embezzling money to buy cars and vacations.

Although per-student spending by public schools has nearly tripled in the past 40 years, students' test scores have continued to decline. While McCluskey admits many factors contributed to that trend, he says the bottom line is that public education is failing students, parents, and teachers alike. In reality, he says, public accountability is largely a myth.

"Public accountability requires that formal rules and regulations be instituted to make sure the people who run and work in the schools know what they can and cannot do and in addition, some sort of apparatus has to be erected to do the watching and enforce the rules and regulations," he explains. "And it's not like the rules and regulations remain static; people will always look for loopholes to commit malfeasance if they are so inclined, or to make their jobs easier.

"When people exploit those loopholes, it precipitates the creation of more rules and regulations to cover what the first rules and regulations missed, typically through standardization of procedures and systems. More bureaucrats are then needed to monitor the rules and execute school district functions," he continues. "Eventually, the maze of rules and regulations becomes so complicated that it's easy for those who'd do wrong to hide in it, while those who simply want to teach have to struggle mightily to get anything done."


Competition for All

The answer to that structural problem, McCluskey says, is found in models used by successful schools: choice.

When parents and students have choices, he notes, schools must prove themselves in order to maintain enrollments. Though private schools are not free of corruption, choice creates a built-in mechanism for weeding it out. It's called, "I'm taking my business elsewhere," McCluskey notes.

By definition, any school that must attract and keep a student body must make sure it is an effective instrument of education, McCluskey points out, or it will simply shrivel up and fade away, making way for other institutions that can rise to the occasion. School choice makes that happen.

"Choice would provide better accountability because parents would be able to exercise the ultimate sanction: They could pull their kids out of a school that's been ripping them off or doing a poor job of educating their children," McCluskey writes. "Not only would that provide swift justice, it would eliminate the need for cumbersome rules, regulations, and bureaucracies that keep our schools--especially our worst schools--from being able to change."