From an article at Johnley.us – Author is John Ley
As Washington state citizens enter the fall 2016 election cycle, one of the big issues discussed will be “how” the legislature will finish “fully funding” K-12 education. This is in response to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, whereby the court said the state had not honored the constitutional requirement to amply provide funding for “basic education”. (How you define “basic education” should be a critical part of the discussion, but that’s for another day.)
Shouldn’t the discussion truly be about improving the QUALITY of our children’s education? One overwhelming fact stands out — nearly one out of four of our children do NOT graduate from high school. From our state Superintendent of Public Instruction.
And yet McCleary, and the overwhelming press coverage, talks about money. So here’s some background.
Local citizens have picked up an increasing share of K-12 education funding, via local levies. Until 2014, for the past 30 years the legislature (under democrat control), had increased NON-education spending by $2 for every additional dollar they allocated to K-12 education.
The total taxpayer money Washington state has taken in, has increased far beyond the rate of population growth and inflation.
With Republican’s taking control of the state Senate, coupled with the McCleary decision, a significant change occurred. Beginning with the 2013 budget, $4.5 billion in new funds has been allocated towards K-12 education — the largest increase in Washington state history. Almost half the state’s budget is now spent on education.
And on a per student basis, taxpayer money spent on K-12 education also increased significantly.
According to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, two thirds of our K-12 teachers have Master’s degrees. Clearly, we’ve got some of the best educated teachers in our classrooms.
What are we getting for our money?
Yet largely unaddressed in the McCleary discussion, is “educational outcomes”. Sadly, one out of four of our young people do NOT graduate from high school today. And so far, the increase in spending hasn’t changed that reality. But it “may” be too early to tell.
The teachers and the WEA championed a ballot measure to reduce class sizes. The legislature delayed acting on that in the most recent session. But rarely discussed, is the fact that we ALREADY have a statewide student-teacher ratio of less than 20:1.
With a student teacher ratio of less than 16:1, the Tacoma school district has one of the worst graduation rates in the state. Contrast that fact with Richland. They have a 21:1 student-teacher ratio and they exceed the statewide average for graduation rates.
How are students performing on standardized tests? How are we doing in student achievement?
Sadly, the news isn’t good. From our Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website:
Clearly, we must do better.
A July 2016 column by George Will highlights the problem on a national scale. A significant 50-year increase in education spending has not improved student achievement on standardized test scores.
“The consensus then was that the best predictor of a school’s performance was the amount of money spent on it: Increase financial inputs, and cognitive outputs would increase proportionately. As the postwar baby boom moved through public schools like a pig through a python, almost everything improved — school buildings, teachers’ salaries, class sizes, per-pupil expenditures — except outcomes measured by standardized tests.“
The CATO Institute showed the results:
The CATO Institute: “Politicians, experts, and the education establishment still aren’t willing to accept the lesson demonstrated by this chart.
But if money doesn’t work, what does? Coleman emphasized cultural factors, notably strong families. Coulson believed that schools could improve, and that competition could help us discover best educational practices. This fall, public television stations will broadcast his documentary asking why educational innovations are so rarely tested and replicated.”
George Will continues:
“Coleman documented how schools are reflections of, rather than cures for, the failure of families to function as the primary transmitters of social capital.”
“Coleman’s evidence that cultural rather than financial variables matter most was not welcomed by education bureaucracies and unions. Similarly, we now have more than half a century of awkward, and often ignored, evidence about the mostly small and evanescent effects of early-childhood education.”
As we move into the fall 2016 elections, let us demand our state elected representatives focus on OUTCOMES rather than dollars. Let’s demand RESULTS for the money we’re already spending. Let’s demand higher graduation rates. Let’s demand improved test scores on standardized achievement tests.
Let’s focus on the children and their learning in the classrooms. Not on the money.