[Vision2020] Education spending

Robert Dickow dickow@uidaho.edu
Mon, 13 Jan 2003 16:34:35 -0800

> More spending is not answer
> By Rod Paige, US Secretary of Education.
> No idea in politics has hurt children more than the false and misleading
> idea that the quality of education is determined by how much we spend.
Who in their right mind would have literally believed this to begin with?
Spending is
just part of the equation. No idea in politics has hurt children more than
false and misleading idea that the quality of education is aided by
how little we spend.

>What determines a child's future isn't how much is spent, but
> how wisely that money is spent.

How could anyone disagree? Cut the clichés, let's get to real
substance here. These little aphorisms actually are false, because the
truth is that the amount that is spent WILL have some effect on
a child's future. The 'but' in these kinds of gimmicky phrases is
very misleading. And just what is this 'wisely' supposed to mean?
Does it mean that if I spend $10 wisely on lab equipment that it means
more than if I spend $30,000 spent foolishly? (Yes, I could spend the
$30,000 foolishly on toothpicks for the frog dissections, but let's get real
Isn't the reader of such lines lead to infer, erroneously, that 'the less we
spend the better for our kids?' What can we make of this 'wisely' bit?
What is wise? Isn't another persuasive but irrational implication that maybe
if government cuts back, educators will then be forced to spend more
'wisely?' Maybe this works to a point, but what point? We're way passed
that point. Don't be fooled, my friends.

> More than 35 years after Congress passed the first Elementary and
> Secondary Education Act, public school spending per pupil has more than
> doubled - even when adjusted for inflation - from $3,331 in 1965-66 to
> $8,194 in 2000-2001.

Spending >doubled because people expected and wanted more than the
'old days' of simple reading/writing/rithmetic. They began to want
computers, science labs, field trips, multimedia. Not because of waste. It
SHOULD probably have more than doubled, given the expectations.

> In fact, the federal government has spent more than $321 billion on
> education programs since 1965. Every year, spending on K-12 education by
> all levels of government exceeds $400 billion.

So why is government failing one of its primary mandates--- supporting
Give more money. Duh.

> Yet, citizens must ask, what have we gotten for all this?

A surprising amount. Think about it.

> Fewer than a third of fourth-graders can read proficiently, according to
> the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That trend has been
> stagnant for two decades.

Uh... I had trouble making out that last paragraph. Pontificate more slowly,
please. If the trend has been stagnant, isn't that a very healthy sign? At
least it's not increasing. Anyway, take heart; fewer than 20% of people
could read at all 120 years ago. (Look in the Farmer's Almanac or
WorldBook for the accurate figures on this. ;-)

> As a recent Americans for Better Education survey shows, 66% of
> registered voters believe that high standards and accountability are more
> important to improving our schools than increased funding.

I'm glad that high standards are expected. That's good values.

On the other hand,

'Accountability' is a buzzword that gets lots of support but few people even
know what it means. At the UofI, and in my 25 years of teaching, being
accountable means more reviews, more reports, more peperwork, and
tons of time, every increasing, more pressure, for less and less
taking away from the time I could be productive, actually making real
product for the money it costs the state and its citizens. This is waste, my
friends. This is waste. Every two weeks on average the UofI departments
and Deans have to do some kind of accountability paperwork or report, or
fill out a form, and meet some deadline. Some of this goes to
the state. There are some reports that were well known to NEVER BE
EXAMINED by the state officials. They keep getting cut, so the don't
have the manpower to service all the accountability stuff that gets pushed

Yes accountability is necessary. It has always been there. 'Accountability'
a political/economic concept is becoming a bizarre cliché that really means
something entirely different that the dictionary definition. Accountability,
all its necessity and its value, has become a buzzword for politicians to
the wave of spending cuts at the same time they can place blame.
Point the finger. Accountability, my friends, now means BLAME. Doesn't it?

Bob Dickow (with a moment of free time to rant. A rare event. Let me
enjoy it.)