The amount of money that is spent on the education of our children is always a hot topic that finds folks usually in one of two camps: those that think we spend too much on education and those that think we don’t spend enough. But does the amount of money we spend on the public education really yield either positive or negative results for our children? Or is their more at play here? I think so, because throwing money at the problem does not seem to work, as I will discuss below.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Dept. of Education, in the 2010-2011 school year American taxpayers spent on average about $10,000 per student per year in education, $6,500 of which was devoted to instruction. The funds come from a combination of local, state and federal tax revenue. While as a nation we rank 4th in the developed world for that amount we spend on education, we only rank 17th when it comes to academic excellence. The end results don’t seem to point to the fact that money (or the lack of it) is the sole source for determining educational success. For instance, using that same school year, the District of Columbia spent the second most per pupil than anyone else ($18,000), with the most aligned to student support ($8,800) yet has the lowest graduation rate in the nation (59%). Conversely, the state of Utah spends the least per pupil ($6,200), spends the least in both instruction and student support, yet their graduation rates are far higher than the District of Columbia, as well as over half the other states (76%). New York spent the most per pupil ($19,000), with more than twice the national average for instruction ($13,200) and the lowest percentage of its budget devoted to student support (3%), yet their graduation rate was only slightly better than Utah (77%). Iowa had the highest graduation rates in the nation (88%), spending around the national average ($10,000) with over 70% allocated towards instruction support. So, based on these examples, money alone does not seem to be the solution (although keep in mind that graduating does not guarantee learning).
So what then? Money is still necessary in public education. Teachers, staff, curriculum, buildings, unfunded state and federal mandates (i.e. “hoops”) – all require taxpayer money. And our government learned long ago that if they just tug enough on the heartstrings of the American people, “for the children”, we will continue to open our wallets, sacrifice our own family priorities, and pay for something that is hardly close to being “for the children”. In fact, it has been far more “for the educational bureaucracy” than it has been for our kids or their families. Should we really continue to fund something that is so bloated, so inefficient with funds, and yields such poor results in so many cases? If this was a business, would you invest, given returns so poor and a P&L statement so inconsistent?
The problem here is that this is not a business, and the return is far more precious than you can imagine. This is our children’s future, our nation’s future, and we should be appalled that so much of the fruits of our labor have been squandered by those entrusted with it. We should be offended by those who continue to emotionally manipulate us by using our children as props in order to hold up what is clearly a failed establishment. And we should be angry that those who seek to secure their power, income and prestige in the educational cartel have outmuscled those gifted teachers who just want to teach and parents who just want raise their children as they see fit. These government sponsored busybodies think that they know best; they don’t.
We would not reward a failed business with our money, so why can’t Americans be free to do the same with their educational dollars? We should choose where to put our tax money when it comes to the education of our own children, not the politicians, bureaucrats or most-favored lobbyists in Des Moines and Washington DC. They have clearly proved that they don’t know what they are doing, and they don’t really care because it’s not personal; it’s not their children or their money. Not so with parents. For them it’s quite personal. The hearts and minds of their children are the most precious thing a parent could entrust to the care of another, so they have a unique vested interest in that they be treated and educated in the manner of their parents choosing. The government’s solution has been both a financial and educational failure, with so many of our God-given national treasure – our children – paying the price. It’s time to invest in a new way of doing things; this time we the people should be making the choices on the who, the what, the where and the how regarding the education of our children. More on this next week.
“I consider knowledge to be the soul of the republic, and as the weak and the wicked are generally in alliance, as much care should be taken to diminish the number of the former as of the latter. Education is the way to do this, and nothing should be left undone to afford all ranks of people the means of obtaining a proper degree of it at a cheap and easy rate.” ~ John Jay (1745-1829), one of the authors of the Federalist Papers and the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court