Who consulted taxpayers?

Who consulted taxpayers?

July 24th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

If anybody needed another reason to get Washington out of public education, the ludicrous, federally funded contract for 11 days of consulting services at Clifton Hills Elementary School should suffice.

The Hamilton County Department of Education plans to spend almost $28,000 to have an educator from Cumming, Ga., do some literacy work with K-5 teachers at the school. A small portion of that fee will go toward travel and lodging. The rest will go straight in the pocket of the trainer for roughly two weeks of work.

To make matters worse, the money will come from federal Title I funds set aside for schools where many students are from poor families.

But the total cost will be even higher than the hefty price tag. The school will have to pay substitute teachers for days when full-time teachers at Clifton Hills are pulled out of their classrooms to participate in the training.

The eye-popping contract appropriately generated debate at a school board meeting, though the back and forth availed nothing.

"Twenty-seven thousand dollars -- that's more than some people in this community make in a year. And that's in 11 days," board member Greg Martin correctly noted -- before going ahead and voting for the contract.

In fact, only budget hawk Rhonda Thurman voted against the spending.

"I'm a lot more worried about the education of the students than I am with the education of the teachers," Thurman said. "We get paid to educate students, not to educate teachers."

But hey, when Uncle Sam is picking up the tab, why not go ahead and splurge, even when it makes no sense?

In a further sign that the local school board's priorities are somewhat askew, the pricey consulting contract was originally placed on the board meeting's so-called "consent agenda" -- which is supposed to be reserved for items that are not considered controversial.

Martin had to pull the item from the consent agenda to open discussion about what works out to be a $2,500-per-day fee for the consultant.

It is hard to say which is worse: that someone knew such a contract was controversial and therefore might have tried to slip it past the board on the consent agenda -- or that breakneck government spending is so commonplace that it truly might not have occurred to some on the board that the contract was even worthy of discussion.

Take your pick.