Often the political debate on education gets lost on one argument - money. There are those who claim the answer to all of education’s problems is simply more money. In reality that has not worked, and all of us now are being asked to do more with less. Over the past 20 years educational spending, when adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled while performance has flat-lined. There is no better time to look at the way we deliver on the promise of education and the effectiveness of our investments than now.
One of the challenges we face is in the expansive and growing rate of adult administrators to children. In his speech to the National Association of Governors, Bill Gates talks about the growing number of school staff per student. We have tripled the amount of adults per student while our outcomes have remained marginal.
Investing in our schools is essential, but the key to success is the measured and effective use of our limited tax dollars. Expanded state and federal roles in education have siphoned more dollars from our classrooms in the name of education. We need to reduce bureaucracy and increase teacher empowerment and local controls. How do we get more of our dollars back into the classrooms? Watch for politicians who make the “more money” argument as they are likely pandering to special interests and lack the clear understanding of the complexities to actually improve education.
Ultimately, it makes good sense to invest in education. Building an educated workforce is vital to our future. The more effective we are with the $8,500 we spend annually per student in the classroom the less likely we will need to spend $35,000 a year to incarcerate a man. The key is to get more of the existing dollars spent in the classroom. When taxpayers see leaders more responsible with their dollars and producing measurable results they will want to support our efforts in education. Our goal should not just be to spend more, but to produce better results for all students and a better rate of return on our investment.