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,