An education on “All this money and we still don’t have the results we want.”

You want something nice. Let’s say it’s a car, costing $20,000. Every year you save a little more, and a little more. Then, after a few years, you make a big complaint. “I’ve been saving more and more and I still don’t have enough for the car! You have, say $17,000. “Doggone! I’ll never get a car!”

What can we say about education?
1. It’s expensive. Teachers are not paid enough, and schools are constantly struggling for money.
2. It’s less expensive than ignorance.
3. It’s the single most effective method to give opportunity to any person from any background.
4. Every great nation has a great education system.
5. America’s system is good, but we all generally agree it needs to be better. We are constantly in search of new methods and reforms.

What is with these people who complain, “We’ve been raising the tax money sent to education for years, and we don’t have the education we want. We need to stop throwing money at the problem!” The evidence would solve this dilemma; it’s just like the car. Politicians always think they know best, applying their knee-jerk reactions as if they are the first person to reform anything.
We can ask education experts; how much would it cost to do it right? Maybe it really does cost that much.

The average tuition per student for a private school in 2007-2008 was $10,047 (Council for American Private Education). Remember, private schools accept select students. Most private schools have substantial donated funds. In general, these are the wealthier families who can afford more parent involvement. Private schools also tend to have way fewer special needs students. Most private schools are in the business of keeping the next generation of wealthy. The national average per pupil spending for public school (from the US Census Bureau) was $10,259 ($8,507 in my state, TX).

Remember, public schools cannot choose who they educate. Federally mandated special education is one huge portion of that. Public schools spend an average of two to three times on each student eligible for special education as they do for students without disabilities (Center for Special Education Finance). In some states, that translates into as much as $30,000 a year per student, taking multiple types of disabilities into account.

So, for $212 per student more, we educate pretty much everyone.

From a Time magazine article in 2007: “…a well-designed study released today by the Center on Education Policy that challenges decades of research on the advantages of private schools. “Contrary to popular belief, we can find no evidence that private schools actually increase student performance,” said Jack Jennings, the center’s president and a former staffer in the Democratic-controlled House, in a press release. “Instead, it appears that private schools simply have higher percentages of students who would perform well in any environment based on their previous performance and background.” The article goes on to say that parochial schools do score slightly higher on SAT tests and in critical thinking, despite socioeconomics.

To boot, technology is changing very fast, and that is expensive. I am referring here to not only the dollars involved, but the education reforms implied too. Schools not only need to buy the equipment, they also need to adapt methods of learning to technology. Learning is different these days than the past; Google and mobile computing being the prime examples.

The good and the bad about education is that it educates everyone. It’s the leveling force, allowing even those who make a few bad choices to have good opportunities. Vouchers reduce that good, private schools reduce it more. The best private schools are above that $10,047 average, any way above that. And most private schools have not discovered the best way to educate.

Education reform had better be a process, not a single revolution. Starving the patient is not the best way to get it healthy. It just plain costs money, like a car.

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About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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