Mo' money for schools

The school funding crisis is “phony,” writes James Guthrie, a professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt,  in Education Next. Chicken Little reporters highlight “budgetary shortfalls, school district bankruptcies, teacher and administrator layoffs, hiring and salary freezes, pension system defaults, shorter school years, ever-larger classes, faculty furloughs, fewer course electives, reduced field trips, foregone or curtailed athletics, outdated textbooks, teachers having to make do with fewer supplies, cuts in school maintenance,” etc. But real spending on education keeps going up, even in recessions, while the number of students stays about the same.

For the past hundred years, with rare and short exceptions and after controlling for inflation, public schools have had both more money and more employees per student in each succeeding year. Teacher salaries have increased more than 42 percent in constant dollars over the past half century, while educators’ working conditions, health plans, and retirement arrangements have become ever more commodious.

In the last 40 years, as school funding increased and teacher-pupil ratios decreased, reading scores and graduation rates have not improved, Guthrie writes.

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Comments

  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    Teacher salaries have increased more than 42 percent in constant dollars over the past half century, while educators’ working conditions, health plans, and retirement arrangements have become ever more commodious.

    There is one major exception to that statement. “Educators’ working conditions” include the students you teach. Years ago students were expected to listen and keep quiet, to “shape up or ship out.” If a student didn’t succeed, it was the student’s fault. Nowadays, teachers are expected to involve the students in lots of activities–to make them be interested. The fault for failure is considered to be something shared by the teacher and student. And the goal is that no student ever “ships out.” Acconmodations must be made.

    In some ways, this is better–but it is definitely harder for the teacher. And when it is implemented the wrong way, it can be awful.

  2. And which district, from a rich assortment of possible candidates, gets called out for special attention? Why the Detroit Public Schools!

    Yes, when it comes to irresponsibility at every level – teachers, administrators or school board – the DPS is second to none. Whether squandering a billion and a half dollars of bond money or squandering the lives of children the DPS leads the way.

    Detroit! Number! One!

  3. Looking at overall spending is misleading because prior to the passage of the Federal special education mandate in 1975, most public schools did little in the way of educating handicapped children. It’s estimated that in 1970, only 20% of handicapped children attended school (public or private). Those who did tended to be the less severely disabled. There was another major expansion of special education in 1990. There are also more children using special education- for good reasons (preemies who previously would have died now survive but with disabilities) and not-so-good ones (overdiagnosis).

    The increase in spending on regular education is not nearly as dramatic. I do agree with Professor Guthrie’s questioning of whether the money has been wisely spent, but first we need to look at the right numbers…

  4. But not misleading enough to undercut the main point which is that public education isn’t underfunded by any reasonable estimation. Of course by *unreasonable* estimations it is and always will be underfunded.

  5. I graduated in 1981 before the US Dept. of Education could really get going and brainwash me with their idiotic claptrap. That being said, I remember in school that you were pretty much there for one reason, and that was to LEARN. If you got into trouble, you can bet your a** that mom and dad would find out about it, and you got more trouble when you got home.

    Habitual troublemakers were sent to alternative schools, and we didn’t waste time tracking down habitual truants, once they turned 16 (18 now), they could legally drop out of school.

    I went to school with some kids who had handicaps, but for the most part, the severely handicapped weren’t attempted to be mainstreamed when I was in school (these days I know it’s a LOT different). Another thing we got rid of was grouping students by ability rather than by age (more political correctness here folks).

    Sigh

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