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Finance & Taxation        < Previous        Next >



'Finding' Extra Millions of Dollars


Q. Our taxes just keep getting raised over and over for education. Yet it appears that a lot of the money is being siphoned off to pay for things other than teacher salaries and curriculum. In the days of the one-room schoolhouse, I bet 95% of the spending went for the teacher, books, chalk and other items actually used in the classroom, and 5% went for administration, coal for the pot-bellied stove and everything else. What's the ratio today?


Nationally, 61.5% of the money flowing into the public schools actually winds up covering classroom expenses, according to a national organization, First Class Education.


It is attempting to increase that percentage with a national push toward state laws that would mandate more in-classroom spending and less available for non-teaching activities.


Utah-based entrepreneur Patrick Byrne is pushing "The 65% Solution," which would require that 65% of every school district's operating budget has to be spent on classroom instruction. Even though 65% is just a few ticks higher than it is now, Byrne's solution would add up to $13 billion that would suddenly be available for the nation's classrooms, without new taxes.


It figures out to 300,000 new teachers making $40,000 a year, significant raises for existing teachers, or tons of new books and computers and other learning aids.


The 61.5% figure is from June 2004 reports of the National Center on Education Statistics. It's down from 61.7% the year before. Byrne's group reports that only four states - Utah, Tennessee, New York and Maine - now spend 65% or more of their education dollars in the classroom. Last year, there were seven such states, the group says. In 15 states, the instructional budget is less than 60%.


Where is the money now allocated in non-classroom areas, where cuts would have to be made to come up with the 65%? Most popular suggestions:




         plant operations and maintenance


         food services




         instructional support including excessive aides


         teacher training and curriculum


         student support such as nurses, counselors and social service workers


Homework: Check out your state's level of in-classroom spending:


By Susan Darst Williams Finance & Taxation 11 2008


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