Money alone isn’t the answer: newspaper appearances

The Kansas Policy Institute is making its voice known on school-funding matters. For example, the Wichita Eagle published a letter to the editor about school funding:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Money alone isn’t answer for schools

Kansas taxpayers increased their support of K-12 education from $4.3 billion to $5.7 billion between the 2004-05 and 2008-09 school years, but the majority of students still are not proficient on fourth- and eighth- grade national reading and math tests. State assessment results show that only about 61 percent of students have “full comprehension” of grade-appropriate reading material, and even fewer are “likely to perform accurately at all cognitive levels” in math.

Money alone clearly isn’t the answer, and other states are using proven alternatives. Reforms in Florida gave families more options, and skyrocketing national test scores followed. Florida’s fourth-grade reading scores trailed Kansas’ by 15 percentage points in 1998, but Florida’s fourth-graders now lead by 2 points and have dramatically closed racial achievement gaps.

As many Kansas school districts prepare to sue taxpayers once again, it’s important to remember that simply spending more hasn’t meant better outcomes for kids. If we spend more wisely and give kids the opportunities they deserve, the next generation will be able achieve its own piece of the American dream.

JOHN LaPLANTE

Kansas Policy Institute

Wichita

And here’s a short item that ran in the Dodge City Globe on September 27, 2010

Spending more money on schools isn’t the answer

WICHITA —

Suppose you are an investor in an organization that said it needed more resources to achieve a desired outcome. Over the next four years, you and other investors pump $1.4 billion more into the organization but find that the goal still isn’t being achieved.  Would you continue along the same course and hope for better results or try something different?

Unfortunately, this is a real situation and as a Kansas taxpayer, you are an investor. Kansas taxpayers increased their support of K-12 education from $4.3 billion to $5.7 billion between the 2004-05 and 2008-2009 school years, but the majority of students are still not proficient on fourth- and eighth-grade national reading and math tests.  Even state assessment results show that only about 61 percent of students have “full comprehension” of grade-appropriate reading material, and even fewer are “…likely to perform accurately at all cognitive levels…” in math.

Money alone clearly isn’t the answer, and other states are using proven alternatives. Reforms in Florida gave families more options, and skyrocketing national test scores followed. Florida fourth-grade reading scores trailed Kansas’ students by 15 points in 1998, but they now lead by two points and have dramatically closed racial achievement gaps.

As many school districts prepare to sue taxpayers once again, it’s important to remember that simply spending more hasn’t meant better outcomes for Kansas kids. If we spend smarter and give kids the opportunities they deserve, the next generation will be able to achieve the American dream.

Finally, a recent report on spending and achievement was noticed by the National Center for Policy Analysis in its September 29, 2010 Daily Policy Digest:

Kansas has been following the same theory for a long time in hope of improving public education: pumping more money into the same approach to achieve proficiency. Over the last 10 years corresponding to the state’s participation in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Kansans have increased per pupil spending by 79 percent, but the results have been dismal: modest improvements in mathematics, little improvement in reading ability and the majority of students still failing to perform at proficient levels. That is a failing grade by any measurement, says John R. LaPlante, an education policy fellow with the Kansas Policy Institute.

It’s also important to examine how mathematics and reading scores have changed since 2005 — the year before the state began pumping hundreds of millions more into schools as a result of the last school lawsuit.

Total aid to schools jumped $1.4 billion between the 2005 and the 2009 school years ($925 million of which came from the state) but test scores are essentially flat.

The education lobby contends that higher spending causes achievement to rise, but a 30 percent per pupil spending hike over a four year period clearly made little difference in proficiency scores.

Continuing to follow the “more money = greater proficiency” theory would only validate Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. “Just spend more” is not the answer but there are many options that have proved successful, including charter schools and tax credits for private schools, says LaPlante.

Source: John R. LaPlante, “Kansas K-12 Spending and Achievement Comparison,” Kansas Policy Institute, September 2010.

For text:

http://www.kansaspolicy.org/researchcenters/education/studies/d66804.aspx?type=view

For more on Education Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=27

Obviously, schools need money to operate. But if we want to improve student achievement, we’ve got to do more than just spend more. Unfortunately, that seems to be the easiest path.

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