Money can’t solve all of our problems – especially in the education system. No matter what side of the coin you are on, it’s hard to deny that the education system in this country is out of control. Spending is at an all-time high (and only getting worse) and districts are trying to cut spending any way they can. With the proposed 9% budget cut potentially taking place next year, superintendents all over the country are preparing to tighten the belt on educational spending. The sad part is, our kids are the ones who will suffer from such policies.
More Spending ≠ Better Outcomes
Recent articles published in both The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post reference a study that was led by Nathan Levenson, a former school superintendent. This study analyzed the staffing systems in over 1,400 school districts and took an even closer look at 10 pairs of comparable districts in five states. What they found was, if the above-average special-ed staffing were staffed at the national median level, more than $10 billion annually would be saved. In this study, the higher-spending, lower-achieving districts had 25% more teachers and paraprofessionals on their payrolls. Levenson said that this research proves that more spending does not necessarily mean better outcomes.
“General education has focused more in recent years on accountability; special-ed is still judged mainly by ‘inputs’ or how much is spent” – Wall Street Journal
Let’s get one thing straight, by no means am I saying that we need to cut special education funding. I am saying that the leaders of the school districts, superintendents, administrators, need to spend money more efficiently. They need to invest in resources and programs that can be tools to help deliver appropriate assessments and curriculum. The Wall Street Journal article acutely stated that, “general education has focused more in recent years on accountability; special-ed is still judged mainly by ‘inputs,’ or how much is spent.” Instead, schools should be focused on preparing these students for life when they leave a special education program, not on maintenance-of-effort to keep spending at current levels or higher. It’s up to us to give these students the opportunity to go on and contribute to society just like everyone else, because that’s what they want. We as consumers have been forced to think and act differently since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008, shouldn’t schools too?