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School Finance at a Crossroads


States are at a crossroads over how they raise and distribute money for K-12 education, according to Quality Counts 2005: No Small Change, Targeting Money Toward Student Performance, Education Week's ninth annual state-by-state report card on public education. Now that they've set ambitious performance goals for their students, the report finds, states are under growing pressure to focus education spending more squarely on academic results.


I am a Spanish Teacher. The low performance of my students caused me to return to grad school. I needed to find a way to design curriculum for inner-city minority students that would actually teach them to read and write. Well I have done that. I have even designed a six week elementary remedial reading tutorial based on pure phonics. It will also reteach English as though it were a foreign language. It will work, but so far I haven't found any princials willing to even look at it. They are depending on the publishers' million dollar programs which obviously are not working. Can someone explain to me why schools are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for ineffective programs, and will not consider experienced teachers that through professional development are finding ways to effectively teach?

I believe that the push for accountability at all levels, creates a panic among teachers and staff to work towards levels that might not be beneficial for our students. Working in an inner city school where many students are bilingual and struggle with the English language, where parents may or may not speak the language and where students do not have additional help at home, creates a sense of frustration for all. Students need to learn at a pace that is beneficial to them, not one that is mandated by the government. Teachers as licensed professionals, should have the knowledge, experience and respect afforded them to use their savvy to figure out what is most beneficial for their students. By creating a panic, where teachers must abide by dicated government mandates, where lobbyists outside the classroom decide what is best for the students, is in my opinion unreasonable. Most public school teachers have many degrees and yet are treated like school children when it comes to deciding what is best for the students that they teach. Most teachers are dedicated individuals, who work at their profession not because of the money, but because they are do-gooders. Teachers need to be trusted more. Outlaying funds for schools that do better on tests is a great disservice to many. Tests do not indicate that a school is better or that the students are wiser. They only mean the school knows how to beat the system. Test taking is the furthest example of what is learned in the classroom. Any automaton can learn how to take a test. It seems that only the privileged few are given the time or freedom to teach their students how to think for themselves in this country.

This may be an old theme, but it's still true... You get what you test for. We need to be insisting, for example, that music, or the arts, or athletics be a part of the assessment of whether or not schools are succeeding. In our parents day some schools required students to learn to swim, and to display a minimum amount of skills in "non-traditional" curriculum areas. Today, schools with well-rounded curriculums are penalized because proficiency in "the basics" doesn't come easy for students entering the system with sub-par skills and poor support at home. Someone needs to ask the question, "Are we testing survival skills, or are we testing each student's test-taking abilities?" Even driving has been dropped from required curriculums (everyone should learn how to drive!) in favor of the so-called "basic" academic skills, some of which will never be used by some of these students outside of the classroom. Make the testing more rounded and the curriculums will follow.

As a parent of a first-grader in the District of Columbia, who attends an excellent elementary school, I am very disappointed in Education Week's failure to look more closely at per-pupil spending. The report shows DC as having the highest per-pupil expenditure of any school district in the country, and technically that's true. But if researchers had bother to look at how much of that money actually goes to schools for teaching children, they would find that DC's per-pupil expenditures on learning actually lag behind other school districts in the DC area. The high costs stem from extremely high facilities and maintenance costs due to aging infrastructure; some of the highest special education costs in the country; and security costs.

Unfortunately, public school critics in DC and in Congress use figures like those in the "Quality Counts" report to cut the budget for DC's public schools -- which ends up taking money away from teachers and schools, which are already underfunded.

As a non-traditional(retired Army with an MBA and other significant private sector experience)Ph.D candidate in Education Leadership, I am researching the lack of business preparation for administrators and what effect this has on school districts. Primarily, public school districts are run by persons with no experience outside of education. Research has shown that over 50% of secondary principals were coaches. Research also shows that a proponderence of principals and superintendents were phys ed, social studies or history teachers. Elementary speaks for itself. Budgeting is a foreign experience. Human relations are brushed over. Strategic planning is completely neglected. Administrators are wholly unprepared to take on a mangerial role. Tax funds are not only wasted by fraud, waste and abuse, but also through bureaucratic purchasing methods, ignorance and meddling school boards. Schools are never going to solve the financing problem as long as teacher's unions are allowed to write the rules and administrators come stright from the ranks of teachers.

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Recent Comments

  • H. Leland Smith - Education Reasearcher: As a non-traditional(retired Army with an MBA and other significant read more
  • Mark Engman: As a parent of a first-grader in the District of read more
  • Bill Bucher, CPA (Central Office Financial Administrator): This may be an old theme, but it's still true... read more
  • Nina Piaseckyj (Special Education Teacher): I believe that the push for accountability at all read more
  • Debra Buffington, B.A. Spanish (teaching), M.A.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction: I am a Spanish Teacher. The low performance of my read more




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