Just when you thought every single idea to waste taxpayer money had been exhausted, the innovators in New York City find a way to make the magic happen yet again. That's a bold statement. Especially when you take into account that NYC already spends somewhere between $30-35 million dollars a year paying teachers NOT to teach. So how does a school system top that kind of waste and abuse? By rewarding bad behavior.
New York City's schools have a truancy problem. When a student misses 20 class days in a school year they are considered to be "chronically absent." And there are several city schools where the chronically absent students make up 40% of the population. The school's answer to this is not to press parents into making certain their children go to school, or to do as my grade school and high school did - offer incentives to those with perfect attendance. No sir, New York City has decided to reward the chronically absent students with celebrity wake up calls.
"WakeUp NYC" started yesterday, delivering automated wake-up calls from R&B singer Trey Songz and NY Mets star Jose Reyes to the chronically absent from 25 different schools. Just a bit of speculation here, but it seems as if we are giving kids an incentive to achieve "chronic absentee" status.
If you are wondering how much could it cost to operate an automated auto-dialer? Let's break this down. Someone is charged with the recruiting of celebrities, and they must be recorded, edited and loaded into a system. Another person or two or three is needed to gather the lists of truants and schedule their calls. The positive news here, this is creating jobs!
How I long for the "good old days" when cities had Truant Officers, charged with tracking down slackers and bringing them to school.
By the way, if you were curious about the school system's $30-35 million dollars annual waste mentioned at the top of this column, read on.
How does a city waste that much money paying teachers not to teach? It happens when unions make it virtually impossible to fire a teacher and the city ends up with about 600 (more or less) accused teachers sent to reassignment centers fondly known as "Rubber Rooms." In the Rubber Rooms they do whatever they wish to do, but they are not doing what they are paid to do, teach. These accused educators stay on the payroll, some of them for almost a decade, earning their union-guaranteed salaries, with regular raises, benefits and pension contributions continuing until a mandated investigation can be completed and a judgement made. The six hundred or so teacherless classrooms must be covered by substitutes, effectively doubling the costs of educating those students. And then there is the cost of space for the reassignment centers, plus staff to monitor the attendance and security guards to protect them (from?).
Despite the constant media attention and promises to eliminate the rubber rooms, they continue.