Education Spending or Education Results
In an article about how a Rhode Island tech company was just bought by Microsoft, it is asserted that we need greater school spending not tax cuts to grow and attract business. After all, the creative economy needs those who can, in fact, think…Actually, nothing in the Projo article cited by Mr. Jerzyk implies that greater school spending is the answer to improving Rhode Island’s poor educational performance. By now, only the economic determinists who dominate the contemporary progressive movement equate increased spending to education improvement, despite ample evidence that they shouldn’t.
You’re probably familiar with the statistics that show if all it took to produce education results was high levels of education spending, then Rhode Island would already be a top 10 state in education quality, but for the benefit of those who haven’t reviewed the data in a while, let’s go through it one more time. According to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s most recent survey of state education inputs and outputs (slow-opening PDF file), based on data from 2003-2004, Rhode Island ranks 35th in academic achievement. The next worst New England state is Maine at 18th. Is the problem lack of spending? Well, according to the ALEC report, Rhode Island was 9th in educational expenditures per-pupil, 9th in the average salary of instructional staff, and 9th in student/teacher ratio in the period studied. So if spending is the answer, why isn’t Rhode Island already 9th in educational achievement? What would infusing new money into the existing educational structure do that the old money hasn’t?
Clearly, Rhode Island’s top-down educational bureaucracies don’t have a clue as how to spend education money in a way that produces a quality education.
But if Mr. Jerzyk and others of like mind really do believe total spending is the primary issue, they should be willing to consider a compromise. The state of Utah recently increased education spending by about $10 million dollars per year as part of their new statewide public voucher program. (AR on the subject here; Projo op-ed on the subject here). Would Rhode Island’s progressives be willing to support implementation of a similar program here, if it would help them direct more money to education? Or do Progressives believe that maintaining strict bureaucratic control of public resources, rather than improving education results or even increasing education funding, should be the top priority of education policy?