Every once in a while, I come across something that I find almost impossible to believe. Somebody sends me a document or a link to an article, and I am stunned.
I have just learned of an official study in the Los Angeles school district that says that, by 2020, the school district is going to be in a fiscal crisis of monumental proportions. Already, Chicago’s schools are also facing this.
Here is what a November report by the Independent Financial Review Panel reveals:
If the District desires to continue as a growing concern beyond [Fiscal Year] 2019-20, capable of improving the lives of students and their families, then a combination of difficult, substantial and immediate decisions will be required. Failure to do so could lead to the insolvency of the LAUSD, and the loss of local governance authority that comes from state takeover.
Exactly what is going wrong? Just about everything.
There is a declining enrollment in the public schools. The primary reasons are these. First, there is a declining birth rate within the city schools’ jurisdiction. Second, there is an exodus into charter schools.
Tax money pays for the charter schools, but the charter schools have considerable independence from the unions and from the school board. Parents exercise more control over the charter schools than they do over the regular public schools. The charter schools are funded by taxes, but they don’t have to take any student who comes in the door. They can be selective. So, they keep out the hoodlums. Parents who want their children educated in an environment in which the hoodlums are kept out enroll their kids in the charter schools.
This has always been why the labor unions and the school districts have hated the charter schools. They say the charter schools “skim off the cream.” They are correct. The theory of democracy dies whenever a parent says, “I want my kids in a good school filled with students who want to learn.” Public school teachers don’t want competition. But the public in Los Angeles is getting its collective way, and the exodus is massive. Something in the range of 100,000 students are now in the charter schools instead of the public schools. This is enormous. I had no idea that it was on this scale.
Furthermore, there are about 17% fewer students inside Los Angeles County today, compared to the number in the year 2000. This is a demographic problem, and the school district cannot do anything about it.
But the spending hasn’t stopped. The students have left the school district, but costs do not go down. Over half of the teachers and administrators in the school district make $75,000 a year or more. The union members are happy, but the school district is going to go bust within five years.
The local school district is paid by the state of California for the number of enrolled students. Declining enrollments have cut the state’s subsidy to the school district by $100 million a year. That is not chump change. But the school district doesn’t adjust. It doesn’t cut salaries. It doesn’t fire teachers. It doesn’t fire administrators. It just keeps rolling along. But in this case, Old Man River is going to go over the falls.
What we’re seeing is simply unprecedented in American history. Los Angeles and Chicago will have to start shutting down schools. Detroit has already done this. There is no hope for the Detroit school system. It just keeps getting worse. Large cities are losing the most important single tool of political control that they have: control over the education of the next generation. This centralized control is now disintegrating.
I want to report on another astounding statistic. Again, I find it almost impossible to believe.
The federal government, every five or six years, surveys the number of homeschool students in the United States. In the latest report, which was released in 2011, the number was under 1.8 million. This had crept up, but it was obviously quite small. The government doesn’t have to worry about this.
Then I got to thinking about the Khan Academy. In recent months, it has stated that it has 26 million enrolled students. This is in 190 countries. So, I went to Alexa.com to see what percentage of the site’s traffic is from the United States. It is approximately 50%. Inside the United States, the site is ranked number 522. This is incredibly high.
I realize that some of their students are in public school settings. But I don’t think many of them are. A few selected schools use the Khan Academy. I am convinced the overwhelming majority of these enrolled students are homeschoolers.
If there are over 26 million enrolled students, and half of these students are in the United States, we are talking about 13 million students. Add these to the two million students who are in the conventional homeschool programs. This gets to 15 million students. There are approximately 80,000,000 students enrolled in K-12 programs in the United States. This means that the homeschool population has moved from under 3% of students in 2010 to over 18%.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)