Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review of The Cartel

The year 2010 had several documentaries on public education.  They ranged from being mildly condemning to very harsh against the public education system.  The Cartel hammered the government schools in New Jersey.  Janine and I watched this awhile back and thought it was well done.

Bob Bowdon, the producer, opens with some scary statistics:  Some 37% of high school seniors are reading at eighth grade level.  A third of high school students drop out.  While the US is tops in spending, we do poorly against much of the rest of the world in how much children learn.

The movie makes the point that tons of money is poured into public schools, but little of it reaches the classroom.  For example when you divide the total amount of money by the number of classrooms you get between $300,000 and $440,000 per classroom, depending on the school district.  But typically only $55,000 is spent on the teacher's salary.  There is little oversight.  Often janitors are making more than the teachers.  One audit showed that almost a third of the money was wasted.  Part of the problem is school boards are very free with taxpayer money.  And even worse than janitors the administrators have high salaries and great benefits. 

Recently New Jersey cut the state budget but was still able to increase school budgets.  Unfortunately over a billion dollars got lost in school construction.  It was completely unaccounted for. The movie went on to share more stories of corruption.  For example there where ghost salaries to people who didn't exist. 

Because of unions it has become virtually impossible to fire teachers, especially once a teacher has tenure.  Unions always fight for the teachers and the students suffer. 

Lots of school boards hold elections on off days because they will get a low turnout and thus have a better chance of influencing who ends up on the school board.

Bob Bowdon concludes with a call for vouchers and charter schools.  By giving parents more options and greater power the government schools will have to improve, or die. 

While the movie is a bit depressing with the constant shock of problem after problem with public schools, I felt it was worth watching.  If you get the chance, check out The Cartel.

Here is the trailer:

After watching a movie like The Cartel, I am so glad we can homeschool.

Update I: 25 June 2011
My reviews of the 2010 Education Documentaries:
Race to Nowhere - Students are kept extremely busy.
The Cartel - Problems with public schools in New Jersey.
Waiting for Superman - Public schools are broken, but no one is powerful enough to save them.
The Lottery - Many oppose a successful charter school and the children suffer.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting your review of "The Cartel"! How sad that the taxpayers spend so much for so little!

Henry Cate said...

You are welcome. I am glad you enjoyed the review.

It is sad. One of the things that greatly pains me is how much the school does that is distructive. It is one thing to take money and waste children's time. It is other to take money and teach children so many lessons that will harm them down the road.