When Wendell Berry addressed us at the Circe Paideia Prize banquet this past July, he mentioned in passing his view that “the problems of education were so big that only a lot less money would solve the problem,” and then he dropped the jewel that I have used to title this blog post.
And then the candidate debates came along. In rather lock step fashion everybody believes it is money that will solve the educational problems in our land. I whole-heartedly disagree. I say such from a position of unemployment in the field of education. I say this because I see the issue from a much different perspective. Money does not solve problems. Wisdom in how money is spent is perhaps a road to solving problems, but simply spending more money does not typically do more than simply exacerbate the problem.
I would ask someone who is running for office to join me in believing that less money would actually move us a long way toward solving our issues in education. Before I spell out this audacious platform, let me state what I am not saying:
A. I am not calling for the demise of public education per se. I do think that if all schools, public or private, had to compete in a real way they would improve.
B. I am not saying that fiscal issues even address the most fundamental issues of purpose, calling, means, and ends. I think my views on those issues are what get most of this blog’s time.
C. I am not suggesting that my thinking would a candidate any points in an election – our people are too entitled for that to be the case.
But what I am saying is this: we now spend on average over $10,000[i] per child per year in the public schools of our land. We exceed an average of 20 children[ii] in a classroom as well. So each classroom of children has an average revenue of $200,000.00. In addition, these public monies go only for what is considered educational costs. They do not pay for the public buildings and in many cases for furnishings, equipment, and support materials that used in those buildings – these come from other sources of tax income.[iii]
The median teacher income in our public schools is $50,000.00. So one fourth of the income is going to teachers. Where is the rest going? What is being done with it? I will not bore you with the list that I could make, because most of you already have your own suspicions. Testing companies are rolling in dough. So are the curriculum makers. Then there is the unions, administrative and support staff, special programs, sports, food services, janitorial, oooops, I said no list. Sorry about that.
Poverty, or let us say, a whole lot less money, would do public education some good. Is it the person with too much money or the one with limited funds that must choose wisely, carefully, and even creatively when spending their money?
One candidate makes another one look “evil” for suggesting that in our current indebtedness we actually cut back on educational spending. I think it makes perfect sense. Maybe that kind of thinking is why I am looking for work.
[i] Gumbrecht, Jamie. “Which Places Spent Most per Student on Education?” Schools of Thought. CNN, 21 June 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. <http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/21/which-places-spent-most-per-student-on-education/>.
[ii] SASS. “Table 8. Average Class Size for Public School Teachers in Elementary Schools, Secondary Schools, and Schools with Combined Grades, by Classroom Type and State: 2007-08.” Table 8. Average Class Size for Public School Teachers in Elementary Schools, Secondary Schools, and Schools with Combined Grades, by Classroom Type and State: 2007-08. National Center for Education Statistics, 2008. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. <http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/sass0708_2009324_t1s_08.asp>.
[iii] Public tax bonds, school fundraising, and alternative government funding.