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Tuesday, April 4, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 125

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More money won't help education problem

R. Alex Whitlock

One of the few things that liberals and conservatives agree on is that our school system needs improvement. Another thing that Vice President Gore and Governor Bush agree on is that more money may help. While more money probably wouldn't hurt, I am reluctant to throw money at the problem and hope it will get better. Thus far, it has not worked. Consider the following facts:

The average private school in this country spends between $3,000 and $5,000 a year per student, closer to the lower end than the upper. Private schools that specialize in at-risk kids such as the Marcus Garvey school in California fall within this range.

The state (or district) that spends the most per student on education is Washington, D.C., which spends around $10,000 per student per year. Washington, D.C., also has the worst education system in the country.

Clear Creek ISD, where I was educated, spends around $5,300 per student per year. Houston ISD spends around $6,300 per student per year. CCISD is a significantly better-rated school district than HISD, despite the spending difference.

Edgewood ISD, known throughout Texas as one of the powers behind the Robin Hood Plan, successfully sued for equitable funds with nearby school districts. Despite now receiving comparable funds with nearby school districts, Edgewood has not even marginally improved.

There are many reasons and excuses for why the above things are true, but more money may not be the answer. There are so many other factors that matter, such as parental involvement and the nature of the school, that throwing money at the problem has proven to be wildly unsuccessful. There are certainly things that money cannot buy, such as interested parents who make sure their children do their homework.

Many ask, "Well, shouldn't we try? If we fail, it's only money ... "

We've tried. It hasn't done very much good. We spend more money now than when our schools were the best in the world, yet we still lag behind. What we need to do is look at what makes private schools so much more efficient. Many deplore for-profit education, but when they do more with less, it bears looking into.

Some of the differences are touched upon by many who argue against the use of vouchers. For instance, private-school teachers are not required to be certified like most public-school teachers are. This is a bad thing, right? Well, if certified teachers are so necessary, then why are schools where certification is required doing so much more poorly?

My space is limited, but let it suffice to say that colleges of education do not attract the best and brightest students and draw disproportionately from the bottom half of graduates. That they are being outperformed by many uncertified teachers in private schools and uncertified home-school parents should be cause for alarm. 

While one could argue that we will continue getting inferior teachers as long as they are paid so poorly, it is worth noting that improved teacher salaries and signing bonuses have not met with much success. In fact, teacher pay is only one of three major reasons why teachers quit their jobs. The other two are excessive bureaucracy and lack of control over the classroom.

The problems with our system are too numerous to address in such limited space. Before we throw more money at a failing system, we ought to reconsider how our money is being spent. In the private sector, when a company doesn't adequately perform a service, it goes out of business. When it comes to public education, schools simply get more money. If liberals really want to prevent us from moving to a voucher system, it's up to them to come up with a better alternative than throwing money into a bottomless pit of failing institutions.

How much money must we throw into a leaking pool before we admit that there are cracks in the foundation?

Whitlock, a junior IST major, 
loves to hear reader responses at me@pariahsight.8m.com.

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