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Educational Spending and Achievement
In the Courier-News Mar 9 edition, you editorialize that what is needed from Springfield is “leadership” in promoting tax increases to better fund education. The unwarranted assumption here is that increased funding for education brings about higher educational achievement. But that does beg the question, does increased spending in education increase student achievement? The answer is a resounding, “No.”
No studies have ever shown such a positive correlation between the two, let alone a causation. Professor E.A. Hanushek, Chairman of the Economics Department at the University of Rochester, has reviewed 187 studies that showed no statistically significant correlation between education spending and academic performance, and, in fact, showed that some of the worst academic performance is found in states with the highest per-pupil spending.
In 1994, the five states with the highest SAT scores—Iowa, Utah, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Kansas, spent significantly less per student than New Jersey, Washington DC, Arkansas, New York and Connecticut, the five states with the highest spending per student. The highest spending states ranged from $9,429 per student in New Jersey with an average SAT score of 893 to Connecticut that spent $7,558 per student with an average SAT score of 886. The lowest spending states ranged from Iowa that spent $5,217 per student with an average SAT score of 1080, to Kansas that spent $5,087 per student with an average SAT score of 1044.
So if higher spending doesn’t cause greater academic achievement, what does? Academic achievement has been shown to be correlated with ability, age, motivation, time spent learning, quality of instruction, home, classroom, social group, out-of-school peer group and out-of-school time.
Most of those situations can be nurtured through parental or local control. But the educational funding proposal that the Courier-News endorses would take away local control. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and if educational spending shifts from a preponderance of local property taxes to state income taxes, then local control also will move even more away from the community and to the power of the state.
And when education quality gets no better, than the education bureaucrats and the teachers’ unions will clamor for even higher taxes from property. The property tax reduction now proposed is illusory, limited and will be temporary. Remember all the other promises of tax relief made by politicians—"The state lottery will fund education," “The state income tax surcharge is temporary.” The Dim Clark Netchger plan that the Courier-News endorses will be no different. It will raise state income taxes right away, and in a few years once again cause a rise in property taxes when they find out that “more additional funding is needed.”
Contrary to the Courier-News assertion, it takes no leadership for politicians to raise taxes. They do it all the time. Taxes from all sources now take up over 50% of the average American income. At the birth of our country, tax burden was less than 10%. Of course, with increasingly higher taxes comes increasing power for politicians and their bureaucrats. It doesn’t take leadership to grab for more and more power.
What does take leadership is for a politician to eschew the lust for power, to say “No,” to the special interest groups clamoring for more hard-earned taxpayer money. What would take leadership would be for a politician to empower parents and individuals by reducing the control of the state by encouraging a system of school choice—through a tax rebate program, tuition tax credits, or a non-regulatory voucher plan that would reward schools that actually provide quality education by winning educational consumer votes in the market place. The marketplace would insure quality. Government schools would have to shape up or lose consumer dollars and ultimately fail.
Socialism has failed throughout the world and it is no different with the public school system in America. Education could only get better with a healthy dose of capitalism.
The (almost) free market has supplied us with a food system in America that is the wonder of the world. Can you imagine instead if we operated our food system the way we operate education? If taxes were collected to provide us with a public food system, what would that system look (or taste) like? Gone would be the myriad of choices of restaurants, let alone food markets except those private restaurants that would cater only to the very rich. And then the food regulators would take over telling us what we could and could not eat. Probably the closest thing I can think of that would resemble a public food system, is what is provided at school cafeterias. Think about it. Mystery meat, anyone?
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