The Problem With Public Education Is Not The Money

This article from CNS News hammers home a point I’ve been making for a long time — the problem with our education system is not money…

“According to recent testimony by Heritage Foundation scholar Krista Kafer, despite “considerable” increases in federal education spending, nearly six in 10 high school seniors “lack even a basic knowledge of American history,” more than half of the nation’s low-income fourth graders cannot read at a basic level, and American kids lag behind their international peers on standardized tests.

…A 2002 Standard & Poor’s study found that in Pennsylvania, 60 percent of the state’s high-scoring school districts had below-average education spending. And conversely, about a third of school districts with higher spending had lower-than-average scores.

In California, a new study by the Pacific Research Institute found that the state increased education spending by 29 percent over the past 10 years (in inflation-adjusted terms), yet school children in the state rank near the bottom of performance.

…Izumi speculates that lawmakers are less concerned with “whether the programs they enact actually improve student performance” than with matters like class size.

For example, Izumi said, the state spends nearly $2 billion a year in reducing class size. That’s “popular amongst many people, including politicians; but research shows reducing class size is not related to student performance.”

…According to Barton, for 1999-2000, the average American with a bachelor’s degree earned $42,225. Yet the average teacher earned $43,768 and enjoyed a lengthy summer vacation to boot.

In fact, Barton said, average teacher salaries rose more than 11.5 percent in real dollars since 1980, outpacing the national average there, too.”

We are not going to solve our public education problems by throwing money at them. So what should we do?

“Instead of spending more money, Izumi believes his state needs to make some changes, including: utilize research-based curricula and teaching methods; use state academic standards as goals for student learning; reform the state’s accountability system (making all low-performing schools subject to those standards); reform collective bargaining; and adopt a school-choice plan.

Barton would like to see more of the resources spent on hiring as teachers professionals with expertise in their field who don’t necessarily have college-issued teaching certificates – something unions have vociferously opposed.”

All those ideas would certainly help improve public education, but none would make as much of an impact as making public schools compete for dollars with private schools through voucher programs. If public schools had to compete, either they’d improve or be replaced by more effective private schools. But whatever we decide to do, it’s time to stop buying into the idea that our public school system is mediocre because it’s underfunded since that’s just not true.

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