THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION BUDGETS
Now, here’s a subject that pushes some buttons. If you say that you want more funding then you are perceived as a caring and concerned citizen. If you say that you don’t approve of some educational funding then you are a knuckle dragging misfit who doesn’t care and is obviously ignorant.
In reality neither is necessarily true and it is more likely that the exact opposite is true. Those demanding additional funding may well be ignorant or at least trying to “appear” compassionate without examining the issue, while those opposed may actually be well informed and on target.
We devote an enormous amount to educational funding at an ever increasing total per student with absolutely no evidence that it achieves its goal. As costs go up students ability to perform has gone down or at least remained stagnant. There is no evidence that more funding results in BETTER education. There is also no evidence that increased technology results in better education. What there is evidence of is that large sums are dedicated to education without any required improvement benchmarks.
There are several reasons for this trend:
- Parent’s heartstrings are tuned to arguments that appear to benefit their children.
- Administrators have equated their success to “increasing their budgets” and “accomplishing something”. Not to educating children.
- Society has developed the mindset that education is “unique”.
- The NEA and local districts have discovered that a large bond issue can easily disguise a multitude of unnecessary expenditures. (wants not needs)
- Modern technology is complex and adults tend to believe that technology can teach their children or at least help them learn.
- Adults are bullied into believing that they are inferior because they don’t understand all the new technology and that without it their children can’t possibly succeed.
- School budgets ARE NOT approved on a line item by line item basis allowing for hidden “piggy banks”.
- Teachers and Parents alike have adopted a philosophy that focuses on making education an “easy” process rather than a disciplined one; resulting in expenditures to make learning “easy”.
First, parents need to understand that “tough love” is the only true path to better education. Learning is not “easy” it is hard diligent application which becomes easier the more it is pursued.
Second, Administrators must be required to demonstrate results directly connected to their student’s success, not to their ability to get more money or perform some one time great project.
Third, funding and bond issues must be incremental and directed at specific needs that are directed at improving “education” not increasing capital assets.
Fourth, Adults need to realize that technology is a tool. You don’t drive nails with a screwdriver and you can’t expect technology to do a teachers job.
Fifth, money that is “needed” should never be denied, however, just like a child’s allowance any increase should be based on true “needs” not whimsical wants.
As difficult as it is we, as parents, need to question EVERY increase in educational budget requests. Spending must be tied to improved outcomes, not on cosmetic improvements. Technology and technological hardware must be evaluated on its true ability to improve student outcomes, not on its shock and awe. A good example is the belief that “power point” and “smart boards” result in improved student retention. NO, they only result in making presentations easier to prepare and remove the teacher from much of the learning process. Think about the last “power point” you sat through and think about how much interaction and eye contact occurred between the audience and the presenter. Technology for technology sake does not educate but does COST.
Finally, we, as parents, must ask ourselves: “Will this money be used to improve education or, as is often the case, will it be devoted to perpetuating the ineffective and detrimental “singular paradigm of education”. That paradigm stems from elementary school where a student’s attention span is limited so teachers devise methods to “stimulate interest” and make learning “enjoyable”. Sadly, we pass this paradigm on to middle and then high school. While we have segregated our school systems to recognize the three major maturity evolutions we have kept the grade school teaching paradigm. This calls for the teacher to be responsible for student involvement and disregards the student’s responsibility. This also justifies expending enormous sums in the attempt to placate, stimulate, and entertain grown and semi-grown young adults instead of demanding they exert individual efforts. Ask yourself: “Is this money actually improving education?” Is more money on technology reasonable when we are reducing our budget on textbooks? No responsible educator I know will look you in the eye and vow that eBooks are better than texts for student study. Yet, we are replacing texts with eBooks and spending a fortune on the technology to make them available.
I hope I’ve provided fodder for thought.
The Grumpy Old Man