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DayeTime: Televised teachers

Although nobody has even mentioned the possibility of replacing local flesh-and-blood teachers in the classroom with televised teachers being broadcast to the students from many miles away, such a program is being used to address an immediate emergency vacancy at Avoyelles High.

The “privatization of public education” has been discussed elsewhere as a threat -- or alternative -- to the traditional school system, but has never been presenteed as a possibility here.

Some aspects of public education have been “farmed out.”

A few nearby school systems contract with private companies to provide school bus services for students. In some districts, the bus drivers own their own buses and are private contractors -- not employees -- of the school system.

Some school districts in other states -- maybe even in this one -- have replaced district-employed custodians with a commercial cleaning service.

Contracted lunchroom service is a fact of life for many private and charter schools, and even for some public school systems.

But replacing the instructional staff with a private company’s employees -- either in-the-flesh or over-the-airwaves -- would be taking “downsizing” to a new and extreme level.

What would be next? Firing the Central Office staff and administering the district from a call center cubicle in St. Louis?

The Elevate K-12 company provides live remote online teachers for tutoring, remediation and regular classroom instruction.

Teachers can communicate with the students almost as if they were standing in the classroom in front of them.

How much would it cost to staff a school solely with remote teachers?

Nobody has taken the time to answer that question -- and probably shouldn’t -- because it wouldn’t matter.

Barring a calamitous disappearance of current and new teachers, I can’t see a local public school district taking the dramatic step of having a teacher-less school.

Such an arrangement might save money due to the fact that the district wouldn’t have to pay payroll taxes and benefits on the private company’s employees. However, it would seem those costs would have to be included in the contract price the company charges the district.

Then, of course, there would be the profit margin. A private company wouldn’t be doing this as a public service.

The Elevate program seems to be a good alternative to a long-term, uncertified substitute teacher in an important core subject class. Because it is an emergency, the additional cost to provide that program can be justified.

If the experimental use of the program at Avoyelles High this semester is successful, it might be used in similar circumstances in the future.

That caused me to wonder: What happens if a remote teacher is named “Teacher of Year” at the school or is voted as “favorite teacher” by the student body? Why couldn’t they be?

Another possible variation on this theme -- assuming the desire for charter schools has not been sated -- is that a charter school could be established using only remotely broadcast teachers and contracting for transportation, lunchroom, janitorial and administrative needs.

Imagine a school with a secretary to answer the phone, an on-site administrator to maintain a semblance of discipline, a handful of classroom monitors and several hundred students.

Maybe I’m just not forward-thinking enough, or too old-fashioned, but that scenario is a bit scary.

Such a school would basically be an educational experiment with children little more than lab rats. There are some cases when I would agree to take a chance and hope for the best, but a child’s education isn’t one of them.

The emergency use of a televised teacher is beneficial to the district and the students.

However, just like in municipal government, if a mayor makes an “emergency appointment” every month, it ceases to be an emergency and becomes a regular procedure.

I hope the School Board keeps this particular tool in its “emergency tool box.”

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