According to the US Census Bureau, more than $593 Billion was received by public schools for elementary and secondary education for the 2009-2010 school year. Sources of this capital were federal government 12.5%, states 43.5% and local 44%. Spending of about $602 Billion exceeded receipts by almost $9 Billion.
Spending in our public elementary and secondary schools averages $10,615 per pupil, and varies widely by state. Washington DC spent $18,087 per pupil in 2009-2010 while Utah spent $6,064. The HS graduation rates in DC and Utah are comparable but per pupil spending in DC is roughly triple the spending in Utah.
Obviously, money spent is not a good indicator of quality education. Thus, we must look beyond spending to determine why pupils in US public schools vary in learning and knowledge retention from state to state.
Some of the reasons for the malaise in many of the schools are that some children come from homes and environments where support and educational motivation are lacking. Low self esteem and lack of ambition also may be inherent in some school-age youths.
Other possible sources of learning impairment may be schoolteachers and administrators. Over time, control shifts to the unions when school boards and parents become hobbled with work rules, healthcare and retirement benefits. Many teachers become so absorbed in union activities that their professional outlook is modified to pretense. Classroom focus is often diversity, ecology and harmony, replacing studies about reading, geography, history, mathematics and science. Note that between 1989 and 2011, the NEA and the AFT gave almost $60 Million to the Democratic Party, helping to shape the trajectory of our public school policies.
In addition to the tightening of work rules, abuses have been reported in many school systems. In New York City for example, 97 tenured teachers and employees have been charged with sexual misconduct over the past five years by the Department of Education. In nearly every case, the offending teacher received suspension and/or a fine through union mandated arbitration, permitting the teacher to return to the classroom to continue trolling for vulnerable youths on whom they can impose their deviant desires.
New York Mayor Bloomberg planned to close 24 of the worst performing schools where 3,600 teachers, principals and administrators held sway. The United Federation of Teachers threatened litigation to halt the closings so the conflict was settled by arbitration – in favor of the unions. About 30,000 pupils will continue getting sub par educations.
There are hopeful signs. More than 100 Charter schools that outperform public schools have been opened over the past several years in NYC. Charters are supervised by non-government independent boards and are free of union work rules. About 67,000 kids applied for 15,000 openings in NYC Charter schools this spring.
In Michigan, the cities of Muskegon Heights and Highland Park have turned their schools over to private Charter School operators to save money and improve student achievement.
In a victory for students, a California judge ruled that parents could take over Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, CA by pulling ‘the parent trigger’. This school has been failing for the past six years. Although school administrators had rejected their past input, parents are now in charge of soliciting proposals by charter school operators.
Surveys show that many nations of the world produce better educational achievement than the USA. The future success of education for our children is to wrest control from the unions, assure full participation by parents, create balanced budgets, concentrate on teaching and learning and establish performance measurements for teachers and administrators. Remember this axiom: What can’t be measured can’t be managed.