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Old 06-19-2011, 06:43 AM   #1
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State Budgets & Schools

I thought this was an interesting article, but the last paragraph seems to bring the whole article preceding into question?

Sounds like "cuts" once again means reductions in spending increases (but still increases) instead of what most of us think of as cuts - actually spending less than current.
School funding: Public good, public cuts | The Economist
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  • ...many cities and states, struggling to make up budget shortfalls, have put schools on the chopping block.
  • Last month a New Jersey judge issued a report declaring that 36% of the state’s schools are inadequately funded, given the obligations laid out in the state constitution.
  • Despite these efforts, most states will see at least some cuts, adding up to billions of dollars around the country. These will come from thousands of minor economies, which will be readily apparent when schools reopen in the autumn—among those that do reopen, that is. Classes will be more crowded, school-bus rides longer. Baseball may be cut to keep football going. Latin will be even rarer—and forget about adding Mandarin this year.
  • Some schools are now charging fees for certain classes or activities, a startling trend that violates some basic ideas about what public schools are supposed to do.
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A broader question is whether money is the best way to improve schools. A 2008 study from the Centre on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington found that spending on schools, adjusted for inflation, increased by 29% between 1990 and 2005, without a commensurate gain in pupil achievement. Better strategies may not be more expensive. The cuts may force states to think creatively. That would be some consolation.
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Old 06-19-2011, 06:51 AM   #2
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The cost of education in the US has spiraled out of control... much like health care costs.

Part of the problem seems to be that schools are trying to do social engineering and social care. Colleges have turned into marketing machines with ever larger building and expansion projects.... much of which has little to do with basic education.

IMO - they need to cut their spending on things that are not critical to the core mission: Education!
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Old 06-19-2011, 07:41 AM   #3
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Interesting article.

I don't know how other states work but in NY each school is determined to be a certain percent aidable. In my district they are building big houses like crazy (I have no idea where all these people work to afford these houses) and we have a huge property tax base. When I attended the budget meetings this spring we saw minor cuts. We still have four languages in the high school.
My friend who works in a neighboring poor district will see drastic cuts as they are 80% aidable. They offer Spanish only for a foreign language for instance. But they also have a huge population of kids that need the extra help in reading and math if they are ever to break the cycle of poverty.

take a look at your district and state free lunch statistics. The amount of kids who qualify (the federal guidelines say an income of about $28,000 for a family of four) is staggering.
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Old 06-19-2011, 12:18 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by chinaco
The cost of education in the US has spiraled out of control... much like health care costs.

Part of the problem seems to be that schools are trying to do social engineering and social care. Colleges have turned into marketing machines with ever larger building and expansion projects.... much of which has little to do with basic education.

IMO - they need to cut their spending on things that are not critical to the core mission: Education!
As a retired educator, I agree with you 100%. Money itself, will not change the problem. It all begins in the homes of the children. Generally speaking, show me parents who truly value education and make their child understand this concept, I will show you a child who behaves and graduates! If this was universal, you could have a lot larger class sizes reducing the need for teachers, because teachers would be teaching instead of disciplining. You also wouldn't believe how many children there are that want to pass with the D minus and not try to achieve more. I have seen an anecdotal trend of the parent who care, can't afford to have many children and the ones who don't seem to produce more! As you get to know some of these kids, it's amazing they even show up to school, because no one at home does. "Bucket" accounting doesn't help either, where money has to be wasted in area "a" which is of little need, but most be spent, but cant be used in area "b" where it is needed. I agree on the colleges, too. Especially the small private ones and out reach satellite programs. They recruit to attain enough for a cohort group then promise easy classes to keep them coming and paying their tuition. This is especially bad in the graduate programs.
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Old 06-19-2011, 01:47 PM   #5
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I work at a nonprofit childcare agency and we mostly serve lower income families. Some of the parents are unbelievably bad. These children look like they don't have a chance. It's just so sad. The schools can't be blamed when conditions at home are so bad.
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Old 06-19-2011, 02:46 PM   #6
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Money itself, will not change the problem. It all begins in the homes of the children.
I don't agree -- money helps with many problems. And it better help with education, because we can spend more, but we can't trade in parents for better ones. True though it is that with better parents, children would be more educable, improving home life is just not a useful prescription. We can't do it.
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Old 06-19-2011, 04:30 PM   #7
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Money might help with education if it were used for education. What I see is schools starved for textbooks, using tattered out of date materials with sometimes not enough for a class. With lots of networked computers they do not use. In recently remodeled buildings that are expensive to operate. All supervised by countless central office administrators at very high salaries. Lots of waste, including community outreach programs that have nothing to do with education and back office contracting processes that are arguably criminal. More money will not help that system.
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Old 06-19-2011, 05:29 PM   #8
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A broader question is whether money is the best way to improve schools. A 2008 study from the Centre on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington found that spending on schools, adjusted for inflation, increased by 29% between 1990 and 2005, without a commensurate gain in pupil achievement. Better strategies may not be more expensive. The cuts may force states to think creatively. That would be some consolation.
Someone's doing the math without thinking about the data input.

If any of the money was spent on the kids at the lowest end of the scale, enabling them to double their achievements in reading & math, it still wouldn't move the needle on overall pupil achievement. And if any of the money was spent on the kids who would've dropped out of school (thus raising the average) thus encouraging them to stay in school, they probably would've dropped the average.

The money's making a difference. The analysts aren't tracking the right factors.
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Old 06-19-2011, 07:15 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Nords
Someone's doing the math without thinking about the data input.

If any of the money was spent on the kids at the lowest end of the scale, enabling them to double their achievements in reading & math, it still wouldn't move the needle on overall pupil achievement. And if any of the money was spent on the kids who would've dropped out of school (thus raising the average) thus encouraging them to stay in school, they probably would've dropped the average.

The money's making a difference. The analysts aren't tracking the right factors.
The adequacy of educational funding is one that probably can be argued from both sides, and maybe even from the middle (it's about right just allocated poorly). There ultimately is a limit on what taxpayers are willing or able to pay however. While I agree with Nords that money spent on the lower end is important, somehow the push to graduate these kids reduces the rigor of the curriculum to make sure the graduation rates are met. It isn't done intentionally but somehow this seems to happen. I wish there were more emphasis on developing a skill or trade for the lower achieving student instead of the general diploma. A lot of these students are interested in working skill knowledge, but are forced into general curriculum classes that they see no relevance in. Having a skill ready, tax paying, productive worker is not the worst education in the world. Not everyone can or should go to college.
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Old 06-19-2011, 08:04 PM   #10
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More money will not help that system.
How do you know that? You say that funds are now misallocated and wasted, but I don't see how it follows that more money won't help. Still less do I see how less money will help.
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Old 06-19-2011, 08:49 PM   #11
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We tried giving more money. Class sizes rose. Schools started charging fees for every extracurricular activity and canceled many art and music programs. Central administrations grew huge and very expensive.

I would much rather allocate money as directly as possible to individual schools and let principals allocate for programs. Then I can see that more money might be helpful. As it currently stands, more money is largely siphoned off for more layers of bureaucracy and boondoggles of bureaucrats. Large current school systems are not about education and haven't been for years. They are political machines and are largely controlled by political operators.

I've reimbursed classroom teachers for materials the school will not provide, and have organized parent committees for similar efforts. Many teachers tell me they are often limited in what they can teach because of lack of materials and are expected to personally augment from their own pocket. In my own highly regarded school system, results have been very uneven and depend almost entirely on teacher quality. School administrations have been completely uninterested in doing anything about poor teachers except keeping complaints quiet.

Less money might break up these political machines and let the money there is go back into education. More money will not do so. We tried repeatedly and it hasn't yet.
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Old 06-19-2011, 09:05 PM   #12
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I would much rather allocate money as directly as possible to individual schools and let principals allocate for programs. Then I can see that more money might be helpful.
Maybe that would improve our system -- I'm not saying it wouldn't. But the problem I see is that it doesn't seem like a practical proposal. We can't make you king of the world so you can fix the system for us. Be modest and assume that you don't get to say how money is allocated -- now, shall we spend more, or shall we spend less?
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Old 06-20-2011, 06:37 AM   #13
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Maybe that would improve our system -- I'm not saying it wouldn't. But the problem I see is that it doesn't seem like a practical proposal. We can't make you king of the world so you can fix the system for us. Be modest and assume that you don't get to say how money is allocated -- now, shall we spend more, or shall we spend less?
You may be willing to pay ever higher taxes without positive results from the money you've already thrown at education, many of us are not. Of course more money can help, but conceivably less (or the same) money used more wisely could also help - wouldn't the latter be more desirable? You have a professional educator giving you insights here and I count 4 career teachers and a principal among my long time friends. Like our health care system where a lot of money is spent on other that health care, a lot of education spending is spent on other than education. Of the 4 teachers we know well, 3 are a credit to the profession, and 1 is a hopeless alcoholic among her other character traits, but there is no chance she will lose her job. I pity the kids she teaches. There are many other dimensions to this, with some great people and ideas being stymied by politicians, bureaucrats and failed parents. More money perpetuates the latter. When you reply, please bring some facts or data along with your generalizations...
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Old 06-20-2011, 10:11 AM   #14
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Not saying this is the best measure of education but here are some stats on state student expenditure in relation to graduation rates.
Top 3 states in expenditures. 1. New Jersey $17,600 85% graduation rate (5th best) 2. New York 71% $16,800 (bottom 3rd) 3. Washington DC ( I know not a state) $16,300 56% (2nd worst)
Bottom 3- 1. Utah about $6k 74% (middle) 2. Idaho a little under $7k 80% (top 3rd) 3. Oklahoma under $8k 77% (top half)
These were 2008 numbers taken from federal education budget project. I was using their scatter plot, so I had to round some of the numbers that weren't quoted in the article. Granted cost of living comes into play, but the top 3 are pretty similar cost of living locations with various results showing. Oddly I found Arkansas to be a high spending state (top 5), with bottom 3rd "performance". I mention that only because it is perceived to be a low cost of living state.
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Old 06-20-2011, 10:42 AM   #15
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An interesting way to look at education and other labor intensive industries was proposed by an economist in the 1960's.
Baumol's cost disease - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The basic idea is that it takes the same labor to play a string quartet today as it did 100 years ago.

Baumol's cost disease is often used to describe the lack of growth in productivity in public services such as public hospitals and state colleges. Since many public administration activities are heavily labor-intensive there is little growth in productivity over time because productivity gains come essentially from a better capital technology. As a result growth in the GDP will generate little more resources to be spent in public sector.


I am paying more for a haircut than I did 40 years ago. It takes the same amount of time in the barber's chair. I suspect that it takes the same amount of time to teach a child to read today as it did 40 years ago. If we want to have teachers, or soldiers, or barbers, we have to be prepared to pay enough to attract them into the profession.
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Old 06-20-2011, 11:19 AM   #16
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Of course more money can help, but conceivably less (or the same) money used more wisely could also help - wouldn't the latter be more desirable?
I guess I wasn't clear. Obviously, it would be better to spend more wisely. But how do you do that? You can make proposals to us here, right now, but what good does that do? I'm not in charge; you're not in charge. Spending more is easy -- spending wisely is hard. I'm pessimistic that money will somehow start to be spent more wisely in the future, even if we threaten, rant, and rave. So, we should do what we can do -- not hold schools hostage to an efficient future that is never going to come.
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Old 06-20-2011, 11:46 AM   #17
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I guess I wasn't clear. Obviously, it would be better to spend more wisely. But how do you do that? You can make proposals to us here, right now, but what good does that do? I'm not in charge; you're not in charge. Spending more is easy -- spending wisely is hard. I'm pessimistic that money will somehow start to be spent more wisely in the future, even if we threaten, rant, and rave. So, we should do what we can do -- not hold schools hostage to an efficient future that is never going to come.
I agree that cutting funding will not improve performance, but it does cause government agencies, including schools, to streamline and maximize the
value of each dollar when faced with budget reductions. That is assuming of course they cut in areas that are the least detriment to student learning. A common "trick" many schools will do to increase local tax rates is to cut programs in athletics or other high profile low cost programs.This gets the base motivated to pass the levy. Even though athletics are generally way less than a quarter of one percent of a school budget and have no real bearing on the budget. Administrators know this, and its a lot easier than trying to pass one for school textbooks! Another successful way to pass a levy is using part of proceeds to improve the track so community can walk on it in the evening and things like that. I say that only, not because it's bad, but it gets the support out even though it's not truly part of what one would consider the core academic focus. Right or wrong smaller communities really like to support schools in those matters.
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Old 06-20-2011, 12:56 PM   #18
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I guess I wasn't clear. Obviously, it would be better to spend more wisely. But how do you do that? You can make proposals to us here, right now, but what good does that do? I'm not in charge; you're not in charge. Spending more is easy -- spending wisely is hard. I'm pessimistic that money will somehow start to be spent more wisely in the future, even if we threaten, rant, and rave. So, we should do what we can do -- not hold schools hostage to an efficient future that is never going to come.
You must not be too optimistic about the future of the USA as a whole. With the historically large deficits we're running at the federal (spending was about 150% of revenues in 2010, that's no small problem) and state levels, well beyond what any economic expansion will "fix" - do you also suggest "I'm not in charge; you're not in charge. Spending more is easy --- spending wisely is hard" for the USA in total? Spending more is just not an option (education included most likely), it may be painful but we may have to learn to spend more wisely and probably accept less when all is said and done.

Sorry, I don't accept just spending more because it's easy, and I doubt most of the populace will either.
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Old 06-20-2011, 03:07 PM   #19
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There is no "US School system", The Economist paints too wide a brush. There are local school districts, they receive some State and Federal funds but mostly mandates and regulations. Some of these local school districts do well. That is to say, the schools generate lots of data that show them exceeding whatever standards they are measured by, the students perform well in standardized tests and many go on to higher education. Others do quite poorly, have been doing poorly over the entire period references in the study. It would seem there are other issues in addition to funding.

Top performing schools in wealthy districts may be able to get by with less funding without detracting from the education the students receive. Where schools are performing the worst, with the highest dropout rates and poorest scores on standardized tests, less money will probably have a devastating effect.
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Old 06-20-2011, 03:08 PM   #20
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How do you know that? You say that funds are now misallocated and wasted, but I don't see how it follows that more money won't help. Still less do I see how less money will help.
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You must not be too optimistic about the future of the USA as a whole. ....

Sorry, I don't accept just spending more because it's easy, and I doubt most of the populace will either.
Agree with Midpack on this. GregLee, it is reasonable to take your approach to every facet of our lives, education isn't special in this way. If it's hard to spend wisely, just spend more to help assure we get more. So apply that to police, fire, and why not the private sector as well? It is hard for companies to try to squeak out efficiencies, so why not just give up and every company starts charging more to cover their inefficiency?

Everyone would pay more for everything - how's that going to end?


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