Tom Roeser's always well-written Saturday Sun-Times column praises Joe Birkett's campaign platform to require 65% of all Illinois education dollars to be spent on classroom expenditures, as opposed to administrative uses.
Here's the heart of the column (which you can read here)
Under a Gov. Birkett, legislation would be prepared to require every Illinois school district to spend at least 65 percent of expenditures directly on K-12 classroom instruction, a marked increase from the 58.4 percent now expended. Educational reformers have long been critical of the bureaucratic overload that hobbles teaching because of top-heavy administrative staffs. Illinois has 881 school districts, each with a superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal and assistant principal. Some administrators in Illinois are earning as much as $300,000 a year along with lavish pensions. It's amazing when you consider that almost half of the 881 districts have fewer than 150 students.
Birkett has trained his prosecutor's eye on school reform here, and if adopted, the only ones complaining would be the administrative bureaucracy slashed by the 65 percent rule. The most recent tabulated school year by the U.S. Department of Education (2001-02) shows Illinois' revenue for K-12 was $16.5 billion, of which $9.8 billion went to classroom instruction (or 59.5 percent) and $6.7 billion for administrative (or 40.5 percent).
Wow. That's about $1400 per person in Illinois spent on K-12 education (which is probably not enough if we want to compete with China and India for the best-paid jobs in 2020 and 2030). But the shocker (at least to me) is that more than 40 percent of the dollars are spent on administrative uses.
Of course, 'administrative' doesn't mean 'wasteful high-paid navel-gazing bureaucrat' -- that figure includes (I'm sure) the cost of the buildings, the cost of maintenance and other absolutely legitimate costs. But it sure does seem very high.
There are way too many high-paid bureaucrats in Illinois in education.
This is a great issue for Birkett.
Fortunately, Governor Blagojevich was on this one from the start as he worked to abolish regional superintendents but got held up in the General Assembly. I think Birkett's solid platform is a good reason for Dems to renew their commitment to squeeze out waste in the 2006 session. We'd also get the kicker of taking the wind out of the sales of a great issue of perhaps the most aggressive GOP gubernatorial candidate.
Eliminating waste or administrative overhead is a progressive position to take. I'm glad Birkett is taking this progressive position, and the fact that conservatives like the idea should not give any pause at all to Democrats in Illinois who are, after all, in a position to implement this reform and get more teachers hired.