Here we are again…part of a story on this morning’s MSN homepage. As soon as I saw the tag line: States With the Best (and worst) Schools, I knew which list we would be on and why. It’s easy to blame teachers and testing and parents and even students for our repeatedly poor grade on the national report card, but the real basis of the problem has been the “elephant in the room” since I started teaching fifteen years ago.
Lack of MONEY
Spending of MONEY
Allocation of MONEY
MONEY is one of the primary reasons for this report card:
NO. 4 WORST: OKLAHOMA
> Overall grade: D+
> State Score: 67.6
> Per pupil spending: $8,624 (7th lowest)
> High school graduation rate: 79.0% (21st lowest)
> Eighth graders proficient in math or reading: 25.0% (6th lowest)
“More than 34% of eighth graders nationwide demonstrated proficiency on the NAEP in 2013. In Oklahoma, just 25% of eighth graders did so, one of the lowest rates reviewed. While high education expenditures do not guarantee better performance on national exams, relatively small school budgets in Oklahoma likely played a role in the students’ poor performance. School districts spent $8,624 per pupil in 2012, among the lowest average expenditures. Similarly, children from wealthier backgrounds can often count on more advantages than their less wealthy peers, and Oklahoma residents were relatively poor in 2013. Less than 45% of adults earned incomes at or above the national median, one of the lower proportions in the country.”
Okay, I’ll be the first one to admit that my money managing skills are right up there with my cooking skills. So I’m not going to tell you I have the solution to this problem. But I will use the cooking analogy to remind you that I shouldn’t NEED to solve the problem. Just as I can rely on professional cooks to provide my daily bread, we SHOULD be able to rely on professional financial experts to manage the funds to educate our children. Don’t we elect people to do just that? Don’t we have local, state, and federal funds for that purpose?
What I CAN tell you is how money affects my job and your child:
Lack of money:
Our schools do not have the equipment and supplies needed to keep up with changes in technology and education. Many teachers and parents make up for some of this deficit out of their own pockets, but bigger items, such as computers, are simply absent from the classroom.
I’m not going to make a plea here for higher teacher salaries, because many people doubt the premise that higher salaries will attract or retain a higher caliber of teachers. I’ll save that for another day, but I will tell you that having more money would allow us to hire MORE teachers, thus decreasing class size, allowing the hiring of specialty teachers (art, music) and enlarging some departments such as special education.
Spending of money:
It won’t take you long to ascertain the priorities of most school districts. Buildings, amenities, classes offered, and events scheduled tell a story. Many people point the finger at sports for draining huge amounts of money from the budget, but sporting events also earn money. We think nothing of paying money to watch our own children play basketball, but when was the last time you paid to attend a music program or art show?
The greater waste of money, at least as I’ve observed in fifteen years, is our constant search for the one perfect program or curriculum that will cure our educational woes. Each one requires planning, administration, teacher training, paperwork, new materials, implementation, and testing. And each one that fails, often within a year, represents money lost.
Allocation of money:
If you read any of the financial reports issued by the department of education I guarantee your head will start spinning. Allocation of funds is determined by so many factors that I can’t understand most of it, much less explain it. I’ll just tell you that at some point we need a better understanding of where our money goes and why. I’ll work on that…