20 November 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 003: Raúl Colón

Serial entrepreneur and young father Raúl Colón has a varied background. On top of that, he is a passionate advocate of and for Puerto Rico. Our Solving Puerto Rico vidcast crept over the 30-minute mark because Raúl unleashes ideas a mile a minute and I saw no need to stem such a favorable tide.

You can see the the interview here, or click below.

For Raúl, a social change is needed, a building of trust between individuals and organizations, so that We come together rather than dedicate Ourselves to wretched in-fighting. It's about time We realized that We don't live in a zero-sum world, but We are responsible for the zero-sum society We live in.

[In strict order, Raúl's was vidcast 004, but I want to bookend Marcos Polanco and Ramphis Castro over the next two weeks. Continuity-obsessed fans can watch them in chronological order, to avoid any severe and debilitating stress My decision may cause them.]


As a follow-up to Solving Puerto Rico 001, with Luis Herrero, his idea was to change the incentives in the education system to provide a greater level of support to school principals. It is beyond discussion that the educational system We have is a failure. And yet as a system, it sustains itself, so whatever incentives the system has must be working. That the system's goals are not what We want them to be is the issue, so I start by asking: who benefits from the current (fetid) educational system's incentives?

At a general level, the Department of (Mis)Education's personnel structure is about a 51/49 ratio, with the higher number being administrators or some such crap. (I'm taking the high road here, obviously.) That looks pretty bad, when one considers that an educational system should have more educators than a mere "less than half."

But a closer look reveals that in terms of personnel compensation, the ratio in percentages is closer to 66/34, in other words, the pay scale for crap exceeds that of teachers/ (Again, I'm on the high road here.) Even a third grade (math teacher) student can see that 51/49 does not equal 66/34.

Drilling a little deeper, with what little statistics the department provides (data from 2009 and not online as far as I could find), you'll see that on the administrative side, almost 23% of the total payroll goes to "consultants." A simple calculation (66 X .227) will show that almost 15% of the department's total payroll goes to outsiders, folks who neither teach in a classroom or directly support those who do.

"So what?" you say. "Teachers can't work alone." Granted, but when the average teacher salary barely cracks $21,000 on average, you'll note that the average consultant salary averages $79,000.

Uh-oh. Crap be expensive.

So Let's just look at that angle. The system knows it gets many millions of dollars, from both local (it is the largest single departmental budget in PR) and federal funding. Instead of focusing the department on education, the system looks inward to create boondoggles for political cronies. The incentives are not geared to "education," but "profiteering," on the form of increased bureaucracy (more people doing crap) and sweetheart deals, which include consulting and "services." Have you ever wondered why the local department of education doesn't keep accurate statistics? Now you know why.

You want proof? Our educational system was pretty much under federal government control for several years because from 1992-2008, it was a morass of corruption and fraud. It isn't much better now, but at least We no longer have the feds probing every orifice.

When education spirals downward year after year, and corruption and fraud rise over the same period, it is obvious what the incentives of the system support. So Luis Herrero's idea of changing the incentives of the system to foster stronger community schools is a great idea. It aligns the system's goals with its primary mission, whereas before the goal was "lip service to education" and the mission was "grab as much as you can before they catch on."

The educational system works as a partnership platform for back-scratching-cum-profiteering, acronym F.E.L.O.N.S. Seems appropriate that the acronym begins with the exact letter grade the system has earned for over two generations of ill-served students, parents and teachers.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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