If only our legislators cared more. If only the public would accept this new levy on their properties. If only we had more money. These are the familiar cries of those who believe the only way education is going to improve is through increased funding.
To kick off this blog, we’re putting our chips on the table for all to see – it ain’t gonna happen! Come on – everyone loves kids! Anybody can get behind learning! So we must consider: if funding for education isn’t increasing, there just might be a reason why. Let’s explore some of those reasons.
First of all, public awareness of waste in education is high. Media outlets love it when they can get their hands on a juicy story about school waste. Students constantly bring home anecdotes of how their school is blowing through the cash. And teachers and unions have been demonized in the public domain for their unwillingness to accept cuts to their benefits. Until the public can see demonstrable improvements in educational outcomes, we can expect them to remain skeptical of accepting increased taxes. Oh, and for those slick school districts out there, it’s unlikely that inflated graduation statistics are going to do the trick.
Next, times are hard everywhere. The public’s own belt-tightening has been rather constant over the last few decades. Individuals in most professions are being asked to work more hours for the same pay, all while having their own benefits cut. Furthermore, there may be little room left for the government to maneuver its budget. Consider: during the last 5 years, the federal government has run deficits between $500 billion and $1.3 trillion. Yet, during the same time, the Department of Education’s spending on elementary and secondary schooling has remained relatively constant between $35 and $39 billion a year. If spectacular government deficits can’t garner increases in national education spending, how’s it going to happen when budgets normalize?
Finally, we already spend more money on education than most developed countries and something called “technology” is reducing costs to operate in every other industry. As a percentage of GDP, the only OECD nations that spend more than the US are: Denmark, Iceland, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Israel, and Chile (and it’s not by much). And on the technology front, the calendar constantly reminds us of a simple nagging fact: it’s 2016. Every other sector of our economy (excluding government) is becoming more efficient with the use of technology. Education should be no different. We can either embrace this fact or be swept away by it.
What’s the good news in all of this? Well, acceptance of the facts is quite liberating. Once we free ourselves from complaining about the forces outside of our control (namely public funding for education), we can focus more clearly on what is under our control – the allocation of that spending. And it turns out this path is incredibly more empowering because decisions at the local level for how our kids learn are ultimately up to us. So, if we can’t make the pie any bigger, at least we can strive to make it taste a lot better!
Stay tuned – the goal of this site is to share the ideas and stories on how to do just that!