Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Simple math solves the San Diego school district budget problems

Often the simplest solution is the best and most workable.

The San Diego school district is facing a $122M deficit on a $1.1B budget.  They have 7,000 teachers and 118,000 students.  Instead of furlows or new taxes, I propose that each of the 7,000 teachers takes 17 students under their wing and teaches them year round.  The teachers will be paid $115.5k per year and the district will still have $168M to pay for 7,000 rental spaces for the year (at $24k/yr) and there will be no deficit. 

Can my plan work?  Let's do the math.
  • 118,000 students over 7,000 teachers is about 16.85. So 17 students per teacher. Check.
  • $1.1B minus $122M is $978M. Check.
  • 7,000 rental spaces at $2,000/month for 12 months is $168M.  Check.
  • $978M minus $168M is $810M. Check.
  • $810M over 7,000 teachers is $115,714.29.  Check.

There you go, people, no more budget problem, no more large class sizes, and no more bullshit administrators.  Students have buy their own books and bring their own lunch.  That's how it works in higher education, so you might as well get used to it now.

Also note that this plan removes the necessity to maintain large school campuses, and flows $168M into the local rental economy.

Now you may need a small number of administrators, say 100 or so, to manage the instructors and effectively gauge their performance, but adding in 1/70th of the number of employees won't reduce their salaries much.  And, you can add the evaluation procedure I came up with.

Here is how I would change the school system in order to evaluate instructors' abilities:
  1. K-12 changes to year round quarter system with no elevator (Students must take a comprehensive test to pass each grade).
  2. Test the students at the start of the quarter. No curves.
  3. Test the students at the end of the quarter. No curves.
  4. Evaluate their degree of improvement.
  5. Rank instructors from A to F.
  6. Send D instructors to retrain for a weekend every month of the quarter.
  7. Send F instructors to retrain for an entire quarter.
  8. Fire FF (2 Fs in a row) instructors. (No more tenure.)
  9. Send DF (D followed by F) instructors to retrain for an entire quarter.
  10. Rotate classes so all instructors are tested with all students.
  11. Repeat.

1 would prevent students who didn't know earlier material from being pushed into material they won't understand. 2 gets a baseline for every student. 3 establishes their new level of knowledge, and 4 documents their improvement during their studies. 5 ranks the net improvement of each instructor's students against the other instructor's statistics, while 6 & 7 try to salvage failing instructors. 8 eliminates bad instructors and 9 gives failing instructors one last chance to be salvaged. 10 and 11 ensure "good instructors" won't be "stuck with crap students."

You could also sweeten the deal by giving bonuses to AA instructors. This would take time, but continual review on a quarterly basis like this might work.


  1. Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I'm a product of the San Diego school system of the 1990's and though I went to an excellent charter school, your model sounds even better.

    Would never fly though. The teachers unions could never let something that insists on accountability and efficiency live.

    1. I appreciate the positive response. I think there are plenty of teachers that aren't afraid of an honest evaluation, and who are also frustrated with administrators who couldn't be bothered give a crap even if it was their own child. The monetary incentive is pretty good too, if I do say so myself. :)