Is said to be the most intractable policy problem in the state of Texas. In 1984 the Edgefield School District sued William Kirby, the Texas commissioner of education, to equalize school funding between districts with greater and lesser property values. The cause of action was that school spending was uneven and effected the quality of education. Nine years of litigation and legislative action followed. Since 1993 the “Robin Hood” program has redistributed property tax revenues from “rich” to “poor” districts in order to equalize funding. There is a very complicated formula to determine the redistribution.
School spending varies widely. The national average is $11,598./student/year. Washington, D.C. spends the most at $19,903. Utah spends the least at $6,922. Texas is just a bit below the average at $10,021. From 1970 to 2010, the total cost of K-12 education nationally per student increased from $57, 602. to $164,426 AFTER INFLATION! Student achievement did not improve significantly in this 40 year period in spite of this massive increase in spending.
So what does Texas get for $10,021./student/year? Statewide, 89% of students graduate. 49% are rated proficient in mathematics. 45% are rated proficient in reading. However, there are huge differences between school districts in both spending and results.
Webb County Independent School District has the honor of spending the most per student per year at $54,469. Laredo Independent School District, inside the city limits, spends $10,538. What do the taxpayers get for their money? Webb County has a student-teacher ratio of 10:1. Laredo has a student-teacher ratio of 17:1. 45% of Webb County students are proficient in mathematics, 40 % in reading. Laredo, on the other hand has 50% proficiency in mathematics and 50% in reading. 97% of Webb County students are Hispanic, versus 99% in Laredo. 80% of Webb County students graduate, versus 94% in Laredo. In short, Laredo Independent School District gets noticeably better results than Webb County while spending less than one fifth the money.
Two scholars from the Brookings Institution (Emiliana Vega and Chelsea Coffin) found in 2015 that when education systems spend above $8,000./student/year “the association between student learning and per student spending is no longer statistically significant.” (Comparative Education Review)
Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing time after time and expecting different results. Our current system of public schools is hugely expensive, yet fails to educate the majority of students.
Many parents have turned to private schools or home schooling after the public schools suspended classroom teaching this spring. The majority of private schools spend less money per pupil than our public schools. A school voucher of $8,000./ student/year would allow many more parents to choose either a private school for their children that would better meet their children’s needs and the parents’ expectations or home schooling. This voucher amount is over $2,000. less than the public schools spend per student now. I would not wish any state requirements for the use of the voucher, except for annual testing. Individual test scores should be available to the parents and school scores (median, average, high and low) should be published. This way parents would know how well their children are progressing. I believe that the same voucher amount should be available to home schoolers with the same testing requirement.
Private schools have proven to be more efficient all over the world. The children of the Chinese Politboro attend private schools, as did Chelsea Clinton, the Bush daughters, and the Obama daughters. I believe that ordinary parents and children should have the same choices.