It’s Tea Time

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A few weeks ago Pres. Obama went on his economic town hall tour and suggested that we would have to spend money to fix health care, education and other important issues. Government spending is increasingly dramatically, all in the name of economic stimulus and solving critical issues. Any politician that believes that the fundamental problem is lack of spending is naïve at best, for many of these critical issues the problems are more fundamental then just spending. You can continue to increase spending for health care, education and welfare and little will change until we fix some organizational issues.

I few months ago I outlined a plan on health care that would provide universal health coverage in a more efficient and local manner. That is one example of structural changes that need to take place rather then relying on increased spending. Education and welfare are two other important issues that suffer from the same problem.

Over one half of the students in Washington reside in school districts with over 10,000 students. The Seattle school district has almost 50,000 students with another 10 school districts ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 students. For something as individual as learning, it is virtual impossible to provide a reasonable education when you have a school district responsible for that many students. The school district superintendent is reasonable for far more schools then they can manage and therefore multiple levels of management are put in place that separates students and teachers from the superintendent and school board. Before improvements can be made in education, these large school districts need to be divided up to where no school district in the state has more than 10,000 students. This decrease in bureaucracy and hierarchy would put teachers closer to key decision makers and allow more innovation in the schools. I suspect that schools need more money, especially for art and music, but until the school districts are more manageable in size the additional money is going to be ineffective.

Currently welfare decisions and processes are made at the state level; however, each community has their specific needs and available resources. Driving autonomy down to each community would allow for more innovation and better service. Each community (or county) could have a state DHS organization that was governed by a board of directors made up of local and state elected officials, non-profits, and community members. This board of directors would be responsible to local policies and programs and to make decisions on how the money was spent. DHS workers would remain state employees and overall funding could be allocated to each community, but how the money is spent would be a local decision. This would promote more accountability at the local level and increase the innovation in DHS to solve problems. Local communities could then decide whether to outsource work to local non-profits or run programs out of DHS. It would also decrease bureaucracy and increase customer responsiveness (and having dealt with DHS for state insurance they could use some customer responsiveness).

Money is not the primary issue; the issue is how we have determined to organize who does what. Federal and state governments are trying to solve problems better handled at the local level. Government employees are trying to solve issues that are better left to non-profits, and organizations are bigger than is reasonable to manage and still provide good customer service, be innovative, and meet individual needs. Let’s focus on the structure and once we have those solved then we can figure out how much money we can afford. On April 15th many people will be protesting the current direction of government. Their concerns are well founded as the current spending focus is misguided and will not solve the problems. The result of the current trends is financial power is consolidated in the state and federal government to the detriment of local communities and individuals. Remember, buy local, govern local.

About Craig Mayberry

Closed Account • Member since Jan 17, 2008

While writing his articles from 2008 to 2011, Craig lived near Lynden and taught at both Whatcom Community College and Western Washington University. He was active in politics and ran for public [...]

Comments by Readers

Frank E. Ward

Apr 15, 2009

As usual, government is always best when it’s at the local level.  That is where the issues can be addressed. 

It’s a little worrisome when the state spends nearly 10k per student and we have some great private schools here in Whatcom Co. that get by on a mere fraction of that.  What am I missing?