Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Myth of Short-Changing Education

If there is what they call the "third-rail" of Indiana politics, it would be education, or more particularly K-12. A politician who dares to "cut" education could will be attacked as "short-changing" education. That's why I viewed with interest he story that Governor Daniels has asked K-12 schools to make $300 million in emergency budget cuts after a new projections showed Indiana will take in $1.8 billion less than expected just 9 months ago.

In 1996, I was involved in developing education policy for gubernatorial candidate Rex Early. I met with educators all over the state. It became clear to me that the problem was not how much money the schools were receiving so much as how that money was being spent. Administrative and building costs were consuming more and more of the dollars spent on education.

I also ran across a figure that I thought interesting and confirmed it was true with the Indiana Department of Education . In the two previous decades, approximately 1976 to 1996, spending on education had increased by 47% above the rate of inflation. I'm not sure of the figures from 1996 to 2009, but my guess is that spending on education has not slowed.

It is a law of bureaucracy that the more money you shell out for a particular program, the greater the inefficiencies there will be in that program. Look around the state, you will find a lot of highly paid administrators and nice buildings with wonderful athletic facilities. Up here in Pike Township, they paid off a construction loan so what did they immediately do? They decided to build new Guion Creek elementary school even though the current one only dates from the 1970s and is perfectly functional. The school board out here has taken a page out of the Wishard handbook - promising there won't be a tax increase.

While I've been critical of Governor Daniels' on bad appointments and inattention to the supervision of agencies underneath him, I applaud wholeheartedly his leadership during this budget crisis. Rather than sock this state with the tax increase, he's looking at cutting the part of the state's budget that accounts for 50% of spending. It is the right thing to do.


Cato said...

"Education" is not the same entity as "Funding for Education." Indeed, "Funding for Education" has no statistically significant positive correlation with "Education."

"Funding for Education" is, in toto, another way of saying "teacher salaries."

As Education is the easiest degree on campus, these are precisely the people who should be barred from gaining employment as teachers.

Education graduates should have no greater or easier access to the teaching profession than, say, a French or Engineering major.

Anonymous said...

I have a Ph.D. in computer science and I wouldN'T be able to teach in a public school because I don't have an education degree, right?