So many progressive “solutions” to public policy problems simply involve dumping money into a hole. Education is no different. From teachers’ unions to New York Times pundits, the answer is always “more money.” Conservatives doubt that solution – that just dumping money into the education system doesn’t actually improve student outcomes. This isn’t a new argument, but a new study out from the Cato Institute [pdf] finds that not a single state was able to improve their education outcomes by increasing the amount of taxpayer money they spent on education.
Author Andrew J. Coulson writes:
Not only have dramatic spending increases been unaccompanied by improvements in performance, the same is true of the occasional spending declines experienced by some states. At one time or another over the past four decades, Alaska, California, Florida, and New York all experienced multi-year periods over which real spending fell substantially (20 percent or more of their 1972 expenditure levels). And yet, none of these states experienced noticeable declines in adjusted SAT scores—either contemporaneously or lagged by a few years. Indeed, their score trends seem entirely disconnected from their rising and falling levels of spending.
I started school in 1965. Back then there were no preschools or Headstart programs where I lived and kindergarten was sort of a free year academically. We didn’t start getting serious about learning until the first grade, and I still remember learning to read starting with “See Spot. See Spot run. Run, spot, run!”
Our teachers were almost all women – some of them blue haired old ladies who had been teaching since the 1930’s and 1940’s. We didn’t have all the benefits of modern educational methods and I don’t remember having lots of homework, but somehow we still learned to read and write and do arithmetic. We also had art, music, and athletics.
I know for a fact that people have been complaining about the quality of “modern” education since before I started school. I know this because I can think of at least two books that were written back then where the characters talk about how the schools aren’t teaching kids right. One of them is Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein. The other is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
It is an article of faith on the Left that the problem of inner-city illiteracy is caused by inferior schools which in turn is due to underfunding because of racism. But the cold hard fact is that those inner-city schools typically spend more per student than schools in the suburbs.
After nearly half a century of desegration, busing, class-size reductions, new programs, new technologies, free lunches, curriculum changes, new teaching methods, the Internet and huge increases in spending, inner-city illiteracy and drop-out rates are as bad as they ever were. On the other hand, suburban schools haven’t improved much either.
I’m just spitballin’ here, but you think maybe we should try something different?