My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Genuine Education Reform

Colorado voters could be asked next year to mandate that 65 cents of each education dollar go to the classroom or athletics, leaving 35 cents for everything else. . .

Currently, Colorado schools spend about 58 percent of their School Finance Act dollars on direct classroom costs, ranking 47th highest in the nation for such spending, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

That's the lede from the Rocky Mtn News article today. This whole idea follows a trend of such proposals all across the country, an idea that I first heard about in a George Will column a couple months back. What's the argument against?

"Low-income school districts have to provide additional services outside the classroom to ensure academic success," said Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver. "There are counselors, mental health professionals, nutritionists, tutors."

And yet, with all that support, so-called low-incom school districts perform abyssmally in the classroom. I know, I know--imagine how bad they'd be without all the support. Or, maybe it's because their priorities are so far-flung, and we in the education profession have been asked to be all things to all people, but only rarely be real teachers.

How are Colorado school districts doing so far?

Just seven of Colorado's 178 school districts reach or exceed the 65 percent mark. Cherry Creek school district is just below it at 64 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

And Cherry Creek is one of our best and brightest school districts, and the others on the list of seven are not (well, except, I suppose, Aspen)what I would call other havens of high-income people.

Just for balance, here's the Denver Post lede:

House Minority Leader Joe Stengel wants Colorado voters to consider a national conservative-backed measure to increase classroom spending by diverting money from buses, buildings and lunches.

Stengel, R-Littleton, said he and several other Colorado Republicans will announce today their plan to require school districts to spend 65 percent of their funding on teacher salaries and other classroom expenses.

First off, to take the easy one--SCHOOL LUNCHES ARE EITHER PAID FOR BY THE STUDENTS THEMSELVES OR HANDLED BY FEDERAL PROGRAMS. In other words, not to effected by this at all.

Secondly, I'm not sure how this is a conservative plan, other than that it's being carried by Joe Stengel and first came to my attention via George Will. It's not mandating lower spending, it's not calling for greater accountability in performance, and it's not putting more power (or less, for that matter) into the hands of local units of government. All it's saying is spend the taxpayer's money in the classroom, not in the administration building or elsewhere.

And, to put it rather succinctly, as my friendBen put it in an e-mail: "would you give your money to a charity if you knew that less than 65 cents of every dollar was actually going to those served by the charity?" I wouldn't.

Keep your eyes on this one--it could be very interesting.

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