Thursday, December 16, 2004


I just love it when I find someone who really ‘’gets it’’ about school finance and how we can use public tax dollars to reshape education, like a potter with clay.

My latest crush is a Texan who wrote, ‘’Stupid Is As Stupid Does: So Goes School Finance,’’ on the website of that most excellent organization, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (www.tppf.org). Byron Schlomach is a Ph.D. economist there. He points out that we’ve tripled real spending for public schools in the past 30 years, while our kids’ basic performance has fallen flat on its face compared to other nations with far more poverty and multilingualism.

His words are powerful ammo against that ‘’equity’’ lawsuit that the Omaha Public Schools and confreres filed against Nebraska taxpayers. They’re trying to shake down more of our tax dollars in state aid to education since, as their claim goes, they have more low-income and immigrant children to educate and it takes more money to do that.

Suuuuuure it does. Read Byron’s article.

Then ponder this: how come student achievement is just fine and relatively equal at private schools across this state, where tuition can ping between $1,000 or less for an inner-city parochial school, to more like $10,000 for the tony Brownell-Talbot? Costs that vary by 90 percent? THAT’S not ‘’equitable.’’ But kids in both extremes are getting a pretty good education. How can that be?

It’s because more spending does NOT produce better achievement. Does not, never has, never will. And schemes to sock more and more taxpayer cash into schools that have already shown that their methods and curricula aren’t effective are not only boneheaded, they’re unfair and inequitable . . . to us taxpayers!

Instead of granting more money to schools with kids they say are harder to teach, we should be demanding that the public schools mimic what the private schools are doing with those same student populations, at less cost and with much better results.

Look. We’ve been redistributing school funding for more than a decade now, and what has happened? In OPS, the achievement gap between black and white, rich and poor is just getting bigger, not smaller, the more money we invest. Meanwhile, the private schools are bringing kids with the same demographics to a higher plane at considerably less cost per pupil than the public schools.

That’s the same thing this Texas economist has noted.

We both seek the same kind of equity: equity of outcome and opportunity. What kind of schooling gives that to kids of all income levels and backgrounds, across the state? Private schools, not public schools.

If we really seek equity for our neediest children, we’ll do the Texas Two-Step away from the communist philosophy we’re now following – ‘’ from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’’ – and enact public policies that will put as many kids as possible into private education.

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