Bold Action Could Slash Education and Health Costs

When a school superintendent in a rural Florida county makes nearly twice as much as a United States senator, taxpayers should stop and ask themselves, “What the hell is going on?”

That’s right. In Polk County, where I live, the school superintendent’s salary is close to $300,000 a year. Of course, the bucks stop there. Teachers don’t share in the largess; their salaries start at around $30,000 a year.

In the United States, costs have spiraled out of control in both education and health care. And with all due respect to politicians who promise more financial aid for students and patients, that’s just putting another band aid on a wound that’s hemorrhaging tax money.

To stem the torrential cash flow, governments would have to take a completely new approach.

First, the top-heavy bureaucracy would have to go. Administrative costs are way out of line. Let’s get rid of the administrators and use the savings to pay teachers decent salaries. That’s a broad-brush way of putting it, but you know what I mean. The bureaucracy is way too bloated and could be pared down without losing anything of value.High School

Second, there’s no way to keep up with the demand for buildings (like the one pictured at right). As the population swells and construction costs soar, those sprawling high schools will become too expensive to build and maintain. Educators must find ways to deliver more learning to students in their homes. I know that will take away a source of daycare on which millions of parents depend but daycare is not education and the government should fund the two services separately.

One method of cutting education costs is online delivery. Surely, most high school and college courses could be taught online, with provision for field training where necessary. I would vastly expand the current trend towards combining internships with computer-based courses, for example.

As well as eliminating the need for bulky school buildings, that approach would also save on busing costs, which – trust me – will continue to soar as oil supplies diminish worldwide.

Millions of Americans already consult the Web for answers to health problems, so that’s one area to be exploited in delivering preventive medical advice. And those huge, expensive hospitals could be replaced to a large extent by mobile clinics. I would also investigate the possibility of expanding the paramedical profession to provide a wide range of services, which could be delivered at patients’ homes (another plus!).

The problem with cutting health care costs is that society has lost control of this vital area. For-profit companies have taken over the hospitals and the health insurance industry. Their first responsibility is, naturally, to their shareholders, not to patients or taxpayers. With the federal government subsidizing them through Medicare and Medicaid, the health care entrepreneurs have no incentive to reform the current system. They make buckets of cash the way things are.

EdwardsJohn Edwards (photo at left) was the only presidential candidate who proposed the kind of action that could possibly turn health-care around. He wanted the government to take over the system. Both John McCain and Barack Obama have a more timid approach. Their plans boil down to giving more handouts to health insurance providers – Obama’s from taxes, McCain directly from taxpayers’ pockets.

But Edwards has been a naughty boy and we probably won’t hear from him (in public life) again. Too bad.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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