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President Obama says we need more money for education, and has doubled down on it through his Race to the Top program and District Race to the Top.  He also provided a lot of stimulus money to states to help “keep teachers in the classroom.”  The teachers’ unions definitely cry out for more education spending.  Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation authored a report that shoots a huge hole in the “we need more money for education” argument.  Key points:

  1. The Obama Administration proposes spending $25 billion specifically to “provide support for hundreds of thousands of education jobs” in order to “keep teachers in the classroom.”
  2. But, over the past 40 years, both teaching and non-teaching staff positions in public schools across the country have increased at far greater rates than student enrollment.
  3. From 1970 to 2010, student enrollment increased by a modest 7.8 percent, while the number of public-school teachers increased by 60 percent.
  4. Since 1970, the percentage of teachers as a portion of school staff has decreased by 16.5 percent.
  5. Rather than spending $25 billion in taxpayer money through yet another federal education program, the government should empower states with more flexibility and control over how existing federal education dollars are spent.

A couple of charts that illustrate this:

education-spending

The growth we have seen in education jobs that don’t involve classroom teaching is appalling.  Responsibility for education funding belongs at the state and local levels.  All the federal government does is increase the bloat of staff that doesn’t help students learn.  Any federal money spent should be in the form of a block grant to the states.  Burke made some suggestions for the state and local levels as well which I agree with and have advocated for in the past:

  • Reduce the number of non-instructional and administrative positions in public schools.
  • Eliminate “last-in, first-out” policies… sometimes schools end up laying off their best and brightest because of seniority rules with unions.
  • Avoid across the board pay raises.
  • Allow alternative teacher certification and reciprocity of teacher licensure.

All this federal spending does is provide a disincentive to real reform.

Be sure to read the rest of the report.

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