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The debate about funding a new high school building for Cedar Falls revealed a number of interesting opinions and concerns, most of which missed the point.

If an excellent building equals an excellent school, why were so many people against it?

The same question can be asked about higher education. If more revenues equal better universities, why are so many people and legislators opposed to allocating more money?

The answer probably is related to why Donald Trump was elected president. Do Americans love Trump? I would suggest that they do not. But they do have a notion that bureaucratic structures are out of control and producing very little excellence.

They also believe the traditional methods of expressing their discontent no longer work. So, they elect an outsider who will hopefully “drain the swamp,” and when local bureaucracies come begging for more money, they can say no.

They will be told they are selfish, ignorant and stupid, but what else is left?

The truth is education in America is a mess. It is not only a mess; it is an extraordinarily expensive mess.

It now costs more per year to send a 10-year-old to public school than it costs in tuition to attend the University of Iowa. What does our 10-year-old get for that? What does her teacher get? Does that improve if they are both housed in an expensive new building?

The average teacher in Iowa makes about $54,000 a year. If she had 30 students and received half of what it costs taxpayers for those students, she would make $165,000 a year.

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Please don’t assume any disrespect for teachers in what comes next. I come from a family of teachers, and I know how hard they work and how much they care.

However, why do the best students in college go into medicine and some of the worst (by standardized tests) go into teaching? Why do pre-med students take the hard courses, and education students take the puff classes where almost everyone gets an A? Is medicine more important than education? Do both not work with people for a better cause?

The difference is pay. As hard as it is to say, on average students are going to be better educated by teachers being paid $165,000 than by those being paid $50,000.

On the other hand, other than wishful thinking, there is little to suggest students will learn more because they are housed in an expensive new building.

In a current research project, I could find no agreement on the definition of “effective teaching.” One writer commented that educators, in fact, will go to great lengths not to define it.

If effective teaching, as the average person would understand it, is not the goal, what is? More money? Newer buildings?

More buses, more secretaries, more regulations, more paperwork, more frustration and wasted hours for those who really wish to teach?

It is an overly expensive mess, and occasionally some of the people paying will speak their minds.

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Dennis Clayson is a marketing professor at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.

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