The Houston school district, desperate to get grades and test scores up, is offering cold, hard cash to fifth graders who do their math homework. A kid who masters a bunch of "concepts" can rack up $440 from HISD.
That can buy a whole lot of....books extolling math as a fun, profitable adventure.
It all seems a little crass, but if you're going to get into the bribery game, jump in all the way. Here are five more programs HISD should be considering:
1. Banana Bucks
Hey kid, you don't want some sugary, fatty candy bar, do you? You want a banana!! Oh -- you'd rather have the candy bar? There's five bucks in it for you if you go banana....Come on, it almost tastes like candy. Okay, ten bucks? Fifteen?
2. TAKS Twenties
If you've got a kid who can ace the TAKS test, and a couple of others who can't, how's that helping your school win teacher and staff bonuses? Answer: It isn't.
So why not let that smart kid, say, offer his generous help to colleagues who may need it? Nothing special, just filling in a bubble or two. Let's say twenty bucks for each passing test and we'll call it even, all right?
3. More than Money
HISD also proposes to pay parents for attending parent/teacher conferences, which only makes sense since you go to three or four of those and it's hours of "blah blah blah not handing in assignments blah blah late for class blah blah setting classmates on fire" and you can't help but tune out.
Money would be great, of course, but why not go one better? Throw in a 57-inch HDTV in the corner, some Buds in a bucket and ESPN. You and the wife can then yap all you want about "read to her every night" and all that educational mumbo-jumbo. A little pizza wouldn't go amiss, either.
4. Pay the Players
Every year HISD sends lots of football players to schools in the SEC and Big 12. They're going to be getting plenty of cash handouts in Baton Rouge and Austin, so why not start now? HISD, you're always talking about having a "college culture" to prepare kids for the higher education experience. What better way than to get them used to the ins and outs of a no-receipt lifestyle?
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5. Bonus Tuesdays
A lot of people will hear about paying kids to study, or parents to show up at a meeting, and say "Isn't that paying someone for something they should be doing on their own?"
You could argue the point all day long (we guess), or you could just run with it.
Tuesdays: Does the kid come in with both arms properly inserted into shirtsleeves? Five bucks. Sneakers on his feet, not tied around his wrist? Buck fifty. Gets through the entire day without eating his boogers? A tenner. Without eating someone else's boogers? Slip that sophisticated gent a Hamilton.
Think big, HISD. Run with this for all it's worth.