The 65% Solution to Funding Public Education

I read a great article today in the Christian Science Monitor discussing the implications of the 65 % percent solution by which school districts would be required to spend at least 65 cents on every dollar goes directly into the classroom - on books and teacher pay – by the end of 2008.

A great public school education doesn’t require a school district to spend exorbitant amounts of money on books and teacher pay, but let’s face it, money talks. And Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com came up with this idea and he found out how much of a difference pennies appear to make in different school outcomes. After Byrne “crunched data from the NCES, he found that the five states with the highest student standardized test scores (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota, and Connecticut) on average spent 64.1 percent in the classroom. The five worst- scoring states (Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia) on average spent 59.5 percent in the classroom. Georgia ranked 13th, spending about 63 cents on every dollar.”

Of course, school funding is complex, not every city has the same tax base, too much bureaucracy, ya di ya di yah. Joydeep Roy, of the Economic Policy Institute said, “I have not seen any solid evidence as to, if all other things are equal, that a school district spending 70 percent in the classroom as opposed to a school district spending 60 percent has higher performance”. Maybe Roy hasn’t seen any solid evidence because “the average US school district now spends 81 percent of its budget on personnel, including teachers, support staff, and administrators,” so that by the time you get to the students, there is no more money left to spare.

And you know the giant education bureaucracy that cries for more funding? This plan will give them the tools that they need to actually do their job. And once you do that, we can really start to talk about accountability and seeing results. How can you expect accountability when you have teachers that don’t have books? Please someone, tell me. That’s like someone telling you to do your job without a computer and then you get chastised for slow productivity. And granted, there are bad teachers in America but I am inclined to believe that the majority of them are highly qualified and genuinely want to help their students achieve. But teachers are people too and they deserve higher pay that is commensurate with the vital service they provide by educating your snot-nosed kids.

And what burns me is that some “education researchers are not sure whether the plan will work”. I mean for real, is anybody really sure? If there was a student achievement genie, don’t you think we would have rubbed that oil lamp by now? It’s almost like some educational researchers enjoy being voyeurs of the educational system more than getting their wing-tipped shoes dirty and working with people who have fresh ideas.
In any event, 17 states have passed legislation that meet the sixty-five percent threshold including Texas, Georgia, and Kansas. Byrnes goal is to have all fifty states adopt similar legislation and my hope is that the states that have passes this legislation will see improvement in the achievement of their students. And hopefully this will in turn inspire or shame the other 33 states into getting on board.

Because for as much as politicians, pundits, corporations, and the public-at-large, you could get skate by in America with an average education and still manage to live comfortably. And now that our economy is being squeezed by globalization, pensions are drying up left and right, increasingly high-skilled labor is being out-sourced, and just going to college is not enough. Therefore, parents are realizing more than ever that tired adages about education just won’t cut it anymore. Because if Mommy and Daddy are living longer but don’t have enough saved in retirement for themselves, guess who won’t be able to pay for their children’s college education? And before you talk about scholarships, unless you have a full ride, college is still financially stressful if you have scholarships.

But I digress. I am a firm supporter of the 65% solution and will be monitoring its progress as more data is collected. Funding K-12 education is not easy but at least we should start with every student having enough resources to make it in this world. Isn’t it funny how most of the people that say, “we have to have janitors and burger flippers,” are not the janitors and burger flippers. So if you are one of those people who don’t understand why all students deserve an equal opportunity to succeed, talk to this lady who said, “The 65 percent solution is the equivalent of a chicken in every pot,” says a disapproving Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform (CER).

God forbid every student could get a piece of chicken. People die in poor countries because of starvation and people die in this country because they eat too much. In short, education is like food and should not be delivered disproportionately based on where you live.

Shout out to Patrick Byrnes for adding fresh ideas to help improve school funding in America.

Stay up fam,

Brandon

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4 responses to “The 65% Solution to Funding Public Education”

  1. Anonymous says :

    The 100% Solution to Education

    I don’t think improving achievement is that easy by just pouring money into schools. I think money helps, as with most problems, but it does not completely solve the problem. Consider Black students in financially resourceful schools….although they attain higher achievement scores and grades then Black students at poorly financed schools, those same black students enrolled in those financially stable schools STILL lag behind their White peers scholastically. Why is that?

    There are other factors that come into play when considering the achievement of students such as quality of teachers and education administrators; the motivation and aspirations of students; support and involvement of the parents/family in students’ school lives; the community stressing the importance of attaining not only an education, but a quality and great education.

    So money is not the end all, be all because I see kids in what many people call “third world” countries with less money than the poorest people in America, where they have classes outside because they don’t have enough space in the school building, they don’t have any desks, no pencils to write with, AND they still go to school and learn. But I am not saying that is right, but these students still have the motivation, the involvement of their parents, the backing of the community, and teachers who are committed to see their students succeed. This was even the case for Blacks before the civil rights movement. We had far less financial resources then, but we had quality teachers who were committed to see their students succeed, families involved in their children school lives, and the backing and support of the community to go to school to learn and succeed.

    But when we did get money, more money than we had, the quality of teachers declined, some students were not motivated to learn, parents were not as involved (and don’t give me that parents are working and don’t have time –you do! My parents are an example….my dad will come home from work sometimes at 9pm and stay up with me until 2am to help me with my homework).

    So in a nut shell, I am not saying money won’t help, because it will, but it will not solve all educational problems. There is a lot more that comes into play for which we must consider. So, let’s start by getting the parents and community more involved, and hire more quality teachers who not only can teach but who can respond and teach effectively to students of color and who are deeply committed to seeing them succeed rather than having their paychecks being their main motivational drive to teach. So that if or when more money comes into the district and it is spent wisely, we can see our children succeed to their greatest potential because then all factors will be in sync to seeing that child succeed….student, family, community, and yes, money. So let’s reconsider the 65% solution and look for the 100% solution to solving the educational crises.

  2. Dumi says :

    So maybe I’m one of those nay-saying ed researchers that you’re talking about Brandon ;) So first, could the 65 percent plan hurt? Not that much in my eyes, yes it does structure spending in ways that may negatively impact some schools (i.e. think of an inner city school that has a huge insulation issues, students and teachers are freezing, but with the mandated structured the school would not be able to allocate the appropriate resources to fix the physical conditions) but stands to benefit a lot. Now the most important question would be, how does the 4 cent difference help? I bet you the Overstock.com man couldn’t tell you that, because he doesn’t know. Think about class size reduction intiatives, have net positive effects but can’t always be replicated because most research tells us the relationship but not how that the path through which it works. Not to mention the 65 percent plan will like have a rising tide effect, everyone increases, but if students in the worst performing states rise at the same rate as students in the best peforming states we will likley still see large gaps and marginal gains (hopefully at the bottom of the distribution). I somewhat agree with Anon about resources not being a panacea. But I do think there are different historical and contemporary conditions that affect that ways African-Americans address the educational system. Unfortunately some parents are busy and some parents are shitty, those two things happen at the same time. The question is how to capture the busy and the shitty parents. I’ve been and will be watching the Harlem Children’s Zone possibly for some answers.

  3. sorryimlate says :

    Patrick’s intention her is a political agenda. In Utah they spend 69% for the classroom, but Byrne seems oblivious to that and is still pushing the 65% solution as part of his greater campaign for liberal things like vouchers and the elimination of the public school system.

  4. onlythetoilet says :

    her=here

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