Spending and Achievement in Kansas

It’s been a while since we’ve posted here, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. It’s time to blow off the dust and get some blog entries up.

Last week the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy released K-12 Spending and Achievement in Kansas: 2007 Edition (PDF). It lays out the basic facts about performance of Kansas schools over the last decade. Spending has gone up a lot. Achievement? Not so much.

One person sent us a somewhat scathing reply, which included the following: “this is really just about pushing vouchers and not about the truth, isn’t it???”

It is true that if you look at the Flint Hills web site, you’ll find a paper from March 2004 called A Voucher Proposal For Kansas (PDF). It’s no secret: we think that K-12 education could benefit from some choice and competition. The most dynamic parts of the economy are those in which businesses have to vigorously compete with each other. So businesses in competitive industries provide our every day products and services.

We even have some competition in preschool and in higher education. In both cases, in fact, people can use tax credits or vouchers (the Pell Grant, which goes to college students, is a voucher) to purchase services. That’s because in our political system, the country has collectively decided that it’s important for government to help people purchase preschool or university education. But note: our system also recognizes that government does not need to be the only organization in the game.

Opponents of vouchers, and of school choice* seem to believe that what matters is not that children get educated before they enter university, but that if tax dollars are involved, they do so only in an organization controlled by a unit of government. That’s an unfortunate emphasis on structure over purpose.

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