Saturday, March 01, 2003


There is no systematic relationship between increased school spending and better student learning. Nor is there any connection between equalizing funding between the richest school districts and the poorest ones, according to a report issued on the 20th anniversary of "A Nation At Risk" whose major finding is that we still are.

The Koret Task Force on K-12 Education of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, reported in "Our Schools and Our Future . . . Are We Still At Risk?" that major impediments to school improvement appear to be the teachers' unions and parents who are disengaged and think of school merely as all-day babysitting service.

The report says that the education establishment has worked to dumb down schooling in order to artificially inflate test scores, make teachers' unions look good, and make it appear that schools deserve more money.

For more, see the study at the Hoover Institution and don't miss a look at the ebook available there, "A Primer on American Education," by several of the nation's leading education thinkers. See especially the chapter on school spending by the guru of that subject, Eric Hanushek, who wrote, among other things, that ". . . there is no reason to believe that equalizing expenditures also tends to equalize student performance."

Hanushek and others who have studied the relationships between spending patterns and student achievement have repeatedly said that there is no "bang" to be gotten from extra bucks devoted to extras in public schools or to "educational adequacy" strategies such as are now being considered in Nebraska, and that a strong, solid core curriculum and competent teachers will do the job at much less expense.

Nationwide as in Nebraska, student achievement measurements have basically been flat over the last 20 to 30 years, while spending on K-12 education has more than doubled in real dollars adjusted for inflation. Hanushek points out that major federal education expenditures for nonmedical special education, Title I and Head Start all have shown zero positive impact, or at the very least, no demonstrable long-term advantage, for the students intended to be served.

What does that mean for Nebraska?

Pull out of federal funding . . . it's making things worse, not better.

Forget any idea of further equalization in Nebraska between property-rich districts and poor ones . . . it's not the difference in funding that school districts have available to us, it's the lack of a focus on the relatively cheap-to-deliver basics that is holding the poor kids back, and driving education costs too high.

Cut spending across the board in K-12 education and force a return to the basics.

Put the attention where it belongs . . . on curriculum and instruction, not "programs" and "strategies" that cost a lot of money but have been shown to do practically nothing for kids.

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