Reading, Writing and Rip-Off?

Article excerpt

Diane Sawyer opens the segment with a strong hook for viewers: "If you care about your children's schools and the taxes you pay, we hope you'll listen to this report." She recounts the oft-told problems of education: too few teachers, crowded classrooms, dropping test scores. But she counters the notion that too little money is spent on education, noting that Americans now pay more than four times what they paid in the 1950s for education--and that's correcting for inflation. The difference, she says, is that more money today--almost one-half of money budgeted for education--is spent on administration.

In its five-month investigation, Primetime interviewed teachers, administrators and students from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Palm Beach, Florida. The premise of the broadcast is that waste, bureaucratic bungling and sometimes outright fraud are rampant in the education world.

Early on, Sawyer talks to Yvonne Chang, principal of an elementary school in Los Angeles, who complains about boarded-up windows in portable classrooms and computers that have been years in the ordering.

CHANG (pointing to equipment): All the plugs, all the wires, all the cords, but no system.

SAWYER VOICEOVER: It was 1992 when she started wading her way through the labyrinth of red tape, filling out reams of paperwork. She had to complete 21 steps through eight different departments. It took her almost a year and a half to get to step 14. Then they lost her paperwork.

SAWYER (interviewing): So you had to start again?

CHANG: Right. That was year two. Year three is this year. I believe we are at step 19.

After this exchange, Sawyer says Chang could have gotten a comparable system cheaper--and in only three months--from an outside company. …