While Rome burned

P.J. O’Rourke has just learned—some of us were there a while back—that not only is it expensive to send kids to school, but it isn’t yielding much bang for the taxpayer’s buck. He explains: We’re spending on average a reported $11,000 per pupil—and more like north of $20,000 in reality. The teacher-pupil ratio is roughly 15:1. We’ve got 4,615,000 employed “full time” education employees (“although if school districts used the same definition of ‘full time’ as the rest of us the number we’re talking about would be zero,” he quips); of these, at least half are not teachers. (Or as he puts it, “the people-doing-who-knows-what/teacher ratio is getting close to 1:1.”) Yet NAEP proficiency averages sit in the low 30s in both math and reading. O’Rourke’s had enough. His simple solution: “Close all the public schools. Send the kids home. Fire the teachers. Sell the buildings. Raze the U.S. Department of Education, leaving not one brick standing upon another and plow the land where it stood with salt.” O’Rourke’s version is clearly extreme, but his underlying message is not: After all the money we’ve spent to see achievement stagnate, shouldn’t we, too, be outraged?

Opinion: End Them, Don’t Mend Them: It’s time to shutter America’s bloated schools,” by P.J. O’Rourke, The Weekly Standard, June 21, 2010