Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wasteful spending??

Today's headline in the Dallas Morning News: DISD Misused Federal Grants.

My first reaction to this article was irritation.

No wonder our kids in DISD aren't doing well when the principals and teachers are spending money on flowers for their secretaries, playstations for the kids, and cute throws for the teachers...all in the name of "encouragement!"

I do not agree with incentives in the first place. I believe that too many people work too hard trying to buy a child's (and parent's) interest in education rather than making the education process interesting and meaningful enough so that kids (and parents) have internal motivation and incentives to participate.

I think this is especially bad in the inner city. I hear people say all of the time, "That's the only way 'these' kids will want to learn." or, "That's the only way 'these' parents will participate is if we feed them or pay them." I don't buy it. I have a full staff of parents in our After-School Academy. I truly believe they work so hard because the After-School Academy is a meaningful way for them to participate in their child's education. I'm sure it's not for money because they could go other places and get more hours and probably make more per hour.

I wish people would work hard to figure out how to spend that extra grant money on cool, educational things that could pique a child's interest instead of trying to bribe them into attending school by offering them a playstation.

My second thought was indignation.

How could they possibly take grant money allocated for the kids and spend it on employees and themselves??

Yet, I quickly thought of the times that I, too, have wanted to let the employees of our After-School Academy (ASA) know that they are appreciated. Though there are times I purchase things out of pocket, there are times where I take liberties to purchase things using our ASA budget as well. Maybe I, too, should be more careful.

My final thought was about inequity.

I have friends who work for corporations and companies that use incentives and give their employees business credit cards. My friends have been given jump drives (that cost about $60+ in the store) and backpacks designed for laptops. They have been given Treos and Blackberries complete with unlimited text messaging, email, and whatever other amenities are possible. Not too long ago a friend came through Dallas on business and took me to eat. He assured me his company would pay for it and wouldn't mind a bit. We even went up the street after dinner to enjoy ice cream on the company. Several years ago, a friend of mine worked for a large accounting firm in Chicago. He and a couple of his co-workers purchased Bulls tickets on the company's credit card.

Why is it that when a public company provides these "extras" no one says a word? For companies and corporations, these "extras" are so common that I think the employees would probably be offended if they weren't included.

Yet, when someone works with children or in the social service sector, perks are seen as frivilous and mis-spent money. I suppose "civil servants" are supposed to be sacrificial in every aspect of their job and life. A pat on the back should be sufficient.

It is somewhat humorous to me that it is our money being "wasted" in private companies just the same as it is our money being "wasted" in publicly funded companies. We are willing to look the other way in a private company, yet we want to stand up, bang our fist on the table, and demand that they re-think giving our money away to "wasteful" venues when we talk about our tax dollars (especially when what those tax dollars are being spent for doesn't directly benefit us!).

I'm actually not defending DISD. I would like to see DISD's money used appropriately--and I don't think it always has been. DISD has a lot of work to do, in my opinion. But before I jump on the bandwagon of condemning DISD, I have to think through the accusations and realize that theirs may be no different than any company. They're just an easier target.
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