Thursday, February 17, 2011

More money not the answer to education woes

Below is a comment from the Denver Post blog site in reaction to an article entitled, “Colorado educators decry Hickenlooper’s proposed cuts.”

Every US citizen reading this has benefited from the public education system and opportunity to receive a free education in our country. We should be doing everything possible to support it.

Or, we save our $50 per capita in taxes and end up like Mexico or Egypt where hundreds of thousands of people cant (sic) read or write.

We're supposed to be holding ourselves to higher standards than that. I'm sure whomever immigrated here originally from each of our families would be ashamed

Happily, this person received a minus one on votes out of seven, although that means three people did agree. I assume the $50 per capita (person?) tax savings is referring to the estimate that schools will receive $500 less per student. Despite the obvious exaggeration (we will end up like Egypt because of this cut!), I would like to challenge the poster’s premise that spending cuts will hurt the education of our children.

Does this poster think the flip is also true – that $50 in additional taxes per person would solve all our educational problems? I wish; if so, that is an extra tax even I would agree to pay. But I doubt it is that simple. I heard a lecturer once state that if more money spent on education resulted in better quality, Detroit would have the best educated children in the U.S., with Washington D.C. not far behind. Since that is not the case, there must be other factors at play. Actually, with the passage of Amendment 23 in 2001, Colorado tried spending more money on education. (an additional 1% above inflation for 10 years). It must not have worked, as the educational establishment still complains about lack of funding. While more money most likely does not affect student achievement, it probably does help with higher teacher pay, which is a good thing, to a point.

Does anyone else get the idea that no amount of money would ever be “enough” to satisfy the educrats? A statistic often quoted is that “Colorado is 35th (or 47th, etc.) in per pupil funding for education. (As if that’s a bad thing! We also are not as much in debt as many other states). A statistic not often quoted ranks Colorado at 14th (along with four other states) for percent of fourth grade students above basic reading literacy. ( I just picked this statistic at random, but I bet it’s fairly indicative of student achievement across the board. 35th in funding, yet 14th in proficiency - maybe Colorado kids are just smarter! Or, are there other factors besides amount of money spent that influence educational outcomes? Of course, and I would contend that the other factors are more important, so simply “throwing more money at the problem” will just result in more wasted money.

Another statistic quoted to me years ago that I fervently did not want to believe, (because I come from a “poor” family”) is that in general, socioeconomic status correlates to educational achievement, i.e. poor kids don’t do as well in school as their more affluent peers.

Next week I would like to explore reasons why poor kids in general may not do as well in school (hint – it’s not because we’re dumb!) And, as I disagree that more money is the answer to our educational woes, some steps that I think would make a difference in improving educational outcomes.


  1. Thank you for your comments. I appreciate it. Enjoyed your column as well. Keep up the good work!

    Robert Harkins

  2. Great article, but...why not abolish public education. Marx and Engels called for "10.Free education for all children in public schools."

    Government-run schools certainly appeals to the Utopian/Collectivists in our country.

    Randy Randall