Money matters

Money matters, concludes a Shanker Institute report (pdf), which looks at ways that school spending improves student performance. When schools have larger budgets, they’re empowered to spend more opportunistically and productively, concludes Bruce Baker, a Rutgers education professor.  “In short, money matters, resources that cost money matter, and the more equitable distribution of school funding can improve outcomes,” Baker writes.



Just go read.  Here’s a teaser:

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city’s premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan’s office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan’s tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley’s office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Really… whoever could have guessed that the best of publicly funded resources would go to the powerful?  It’s bad enough that the rich can fund their own better schools.  It’s even worse when they demand that the middle and lower class do it for them.

(H/T to Instapundit and Hot Air.)

Reform for money

It’s not just the money, said President Obama, answering a question a his town hall meeting yesterday at a Los Angeles high school.

. . . you can’t just be talking more money, more money, without also talking about how are we going to reform and make the system better. (Applause.) There’s got to be a reform agenda in exchange for the money. (Applause.) There’s got to be a reform agenda in exchange for the money.

So don’t just say, give us more money or smaller classrooms — but you’re not willing to consider, for example, how are we going to do better assessments; or how are going to — how are we going to work to improve teacher performance; and if a teacher is not improving, how do we get them to choose a different career, right? (Applause.) I mean, there’s got to be — there’s got to be some serious conversation about that.

. . . Parents — (applause) — you can’t complain about the schools and complain about the teachers, but when your child comes home, they’re playing video games and not doing homework, and you don’t have time to go to your teacher and parent — teacher-parent meeting. Our parents have to instill a sense of excellence and a thirst for knowledge.

Chinese and Indian students “don’t have better facilities, but they’re out-performing us in math and science,” Obama said. Parents need to demand “higher performance from our kids,” he said.

To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, show me the reform! Show me the reform! In legislation, not just exhortation.

Obama spoke at Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, “touted as a model of urban-education reform” for its smaller classes, increased autonomy and innovative programs,” notes the LA Daily News.

The school is also set to lose half of its teachers and a large portion of its administrators next year, and only half of its seniors graduate in four years.

. . . Opened in 2006, Miguel Contreras is an experiment in creating small learning communities out of large urban campuses. Serving about 2,000 students, teachers work under modified union contracts that give them more decision-making power. The school also has more flexibility on how it spends its money.

Such innovation drew young teachers and administrators who ironically are now targeted for layoff for lack of seniority.

In its first two years, the school didn’t meet performance goals:  “Three percent of the student body is proficient or better in math, according to the district’s school report card, while 21 percent scored proficient in English.”

However, the school is “newly upgraded and beautiful looking,” writes Alexander Russo.