Digging Out by Digging Down

The following aspect of the Rhode Island Department of Education’s approach to dealing with dramatically tightening budgets is wrong-headed for two reasons:

The $1.16-billion budget proposal also doubles fees for teacher certifications and permits, from $100 for a five-year professional certification to $200, for example, in an effort to generate about $400,000 in revenue.

The anti-unionist’s gut response might be gratification that the union teachers are being made to funnel a little of their spoil back into the state’s coffers. The most significant effect of these fees, however, is to keep out new candidates, who (if market forces are ever allowed to work in Rhode Island’s public sector) would drive down the cost of teachers, which would translate into less money needed by the state’s education industry. The solution — which isn’t exactly counterintuitive — to the department’s budget woes is to make it easier for people to become teachers and for good teachers to thrive.
More generally, though, the powers that won’t-be-for-long really must accept the notion that raising more revenue will not solve the problem. Until that frame of mind is broken, the money will just float around in its stagnant pool.

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