More Money Would NOT
Buy Us Better Schools
the real problem that our society refuses to invest enough money in our schools
to help them do all the things kids need them to do for them today?
No. It's a paradox, but the truth
is, more money does NOT guarantee a better education. The quality of the use of
the money is much more important than the total sum allocated for education,
after a sensible amount for teacher pay and benefits, some support staff and
administration, materials, utilities, and so on.
the most important principle of economics -- the law of diminishing returns -
is as active in the world of K-12 education as anywhere else. In fact, the more
money we devote to education, the less satisfied we are becoming, as a nation.
same paradox is true, say, of eating chocolate. When you eat just enough, it's
great. But when you decide to eat 'way more than that, you get sick. That's
what is happening to our educational systems: they are literally taking in too
many "calories" in the form of revenues, and spending the excess on things that
don't help the learning curve.
Of course, the unions and the
politicians they bankroll will squawk that that isn't true, that what we need
to fix the problems in our schools is a bigger taxpayer investment. That's what
leaders of companies that - surprise! - sell products to the schools are
trumpeting, too. But the facts simply say otherwise. Consider these points from
the book, Education Myths by Jay
the past 60 years, spending per pupil in the United States has increased from
$1,214 to $8,745 in 2002, adjusted for inflation. That's an astounding real
increase of 800%.
to 40 years of standardized testing in the National Assessment of Educational
Progress, test scores and dropout rates remain unchanged, despite the immense
increase in spending.
other hand, students in private schools have always done better than students
in public schools, yet nowadays, private schools spend just over half as much,
or in the case of Catholic Schools, less than half as much, as public schools
do, per pupil. So much for the claim that more spending yields better results.
Greene is among those who have attacked the claims of
education advocates such as author Jonathan Kozol and university educators David
Berliner and Bruce Biddle, who contend that today's tougher-to-teach students
demand more resources than the student body of yesteryear. Ironically, though,
there is less poverty today than a generation ago, more home ownership, higher
levels of parental educational attainment, and better health, including much
lower child mortality.
As for more money being the answer, that's easily refuted
by pointing to a couple of the high-profile, multi-billion dollar debacles that
have taken place in our nation's schools - including the de-accreditation of
the Kansas City schools after massive infusions of cash failed to improve
student achievement, and the fact that the Washington, D.C., schools
consistently spend close to the most in the nation on K-12 education but have
close-to-the-worst academic results.
and others contend that the education establishment has let self-interest blind
itself to the facts and rely on spotty anecdotal evidence and amateurish,
overemotional generalizations, instead of really crunching the numbers. In
fact, Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom of the Manhattan Institute have
demonstrated that in the 1990s, a good deal more money has gone to serve
high-minority, high-poverty schools than schools with average and high incomes,
and yet the race- and income-based achievement gap persists and, in some
places, is widening.
parents, taxpayers and educators could grasp this concept, we'd go a long way
toward being in a position to work out a better solution which would do
everybody's two favorite things: educate kids better, and for less money.
Homework: The go-to guy on school spending is
Eric Hanushek of the
Hoover Institution, part of Stanford University, whose career has been spent
debunking the "money myth" about schooling. His research shows that the answer
isn't more money for schools - it's being smarter about spending the generous
educational resources that are already in place.