To the editor:
Gentle readers. Few of us could help but notice the lurid headline that appeared in the Friday, Feb. 15, edition of The Standard Times — “How can UMD wipe out its $13.2 million deficit?” with the above-the-fold photo of Chancellor Divina Grossman and the page three article entitled “UMD chancellor has ‘strategic’ plan to erase $13.2M deficit”.
Then on page 4, the Times editorial board in “Our View” portentously expounds, “This means of course that Grossman’s first and most important challenge is to muster the power of the individuals who people the myriad offices, classrooms, labs, civic engagement centers, colleges and satellites at UMass Dartmouth … and get them on board with the plan.” But therein lies the rub and the subterfuge. For the real strategic plan is already in place and has been for many years. UMASS-Dartmouth, with 9,155 students, is a medium-size university with a budget of $245 million, or about $27,000 per enrolled student, and an over-size payroll.
And that brings me to the “strategic plan” that runs UMASS-Dartmouth and other public institutions and campuses of higher learning in our Commonwealth. We have all heard and read about how the cost of public education is out of control because of federal and state “mandates.” These are laws that result in regulations and policies promoted by public sector unions, abetted by “educrats” and handed down from on high (by our elected and appointed “public servants”) that public schools at all levels K-20 must enforce as the quid pro quo for federal funding in all its forms ( loans, grants, financial aid, etc).
“Mandates,” so called, are created by legislatures and voted by legislators, whether in the U.S. Congress or the esteemed “General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” When the mandates are created, it is necessary for the legislatures to appropriate vast sums of taxpayer money in order to fund the permanent bureaucracy and pay the functionaries who execute the mandates.
Thus, the top ten officials presiding at UMASS-Dartmouth compensated at between $200,000 and 300,000 per year, the 173 making more than $100,000 per year, most of whom are administrators, the 50 toiling at a salary between $50,000 and $100,000, many of whom are administrators who do not teach, are there and are needed only because the U.S. Congress or the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has mandated that they be there.
Administration in public education has become the tail that wags the dog that teaches our youth to love government and to revile the source of wealth that pays for it. So why then would any rational society tolerate the endless proliferation of mandates and why do we not streamline public education to deliver best-in-the-world instruction to students at an affordable price and at an affordable cost to society?
Because “retiring” congressmen, ex-or-soon-to-be ex-state legislators, and their kindred elected officials in search of an expedient boost in their prospective pension income prior to actual retirement, must first have their sinecures created by themselves before they can dedicate their last few productive years filling the positions they have themselves created for feeding at the public college or university trough. It is our distinct privilege and duty, dear readers, as taxpayers, as parents and as students coping with soaring tuition and fees and the poorest job prospects since the Great Depression, to pay for them.
In order to eliminate these positions, we must first convince the legislators to eliminate the mandates, and a “strategic” plan to eliminate or even reduce the number of unnecessary mandates, albeit essential, is nowhere to be found. If I were making the decision, my strategic plan would be to first clean the Augean stables, federal and state, and then redirect a much larger share of resources where they are most needed, to the teachers and students.
Gregory N. Jonsson, Esq.