It aggravates me when politicians and educators plead for the simplistic fix of throwing more money at their dilemma of how to fix the broken public educational system. Certainly in the business world you don’t reward poor performance by just investing additional money in the same failing tactics. But the monopoly system that is public education continues to lobby against providing more choices to parents and against any type of fundamental reform of basic tactics.
It should not be surprising that the homeschooling alternative has proven so successful and is rapidly gaining new adherents every day. Here is where less spending can truly bring greater results since some of the root problems can be aggressively addressed:
need for greater parental involvement and supervision
need for greater discipline
need for emphasis on values and character
need to drill on the basics while not restricting the student to the level of mediocrity of the majority
The disconnect between increased spending on education and measurable results has been demonstrated many times over.
Although declining standardized test scores usually bring calls for more state, local and federal financing from the education establishment, at least one prominent academic remains skeptical that increased government subsidies will solve the problem.
“One idea that clearly won’t work is across-the-board funding increases,” Richard Colvin of Columbia University’s Teachers College points out in an article in the September issue of State Legislatures. State Legislatures is the official magazine of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In like fashion, he sees further spending increases yielding little in the way of more literacy or computational skills. “Neither is it clear that simply giving low performing schools extra money is a solution,” he writes. “Schools will tend to spend additional money in the same way they’ve spent existing dollars.”
“If anything is to change,” he concludes, “schools have to spend money differently, not just spend more.” Colvin points out that spending on education went up by more than 90 percent over the past three decades. At the same time, elementary and high school test scores on exams given by the U. S. Department of Education showed little improvement.
President Bush is constantly criticized for putting military spending ahead of education funding. No matter how much is spent, the appetite can never be satisfied. No one wants to address the more difficult and significant issue of accountability and productivity. A failed process requires process reform rather than extended support.
The situation is no different at the state and local levels. Governor Ehrlich’s proposed budget certainly promises substantial increases for public education. But you can bet that poor test results and documented failures will just lead to the cry to ramp up the spending even more.
We might not be able to say what the answer is … but we can say that it is not simply more money. The powerful teachers’ lobby might respond with a push for more stringent teacher certification (feeding their own system of formal educational classes and undermining the inherent rights of homeschooling parents). But once again the data does not support such a direct relationship between certification standards (which fail to measure teaching effectiveness) and results in the classroom. (But this would have to be the subject of a blog for another day.)