As Max C. Eden aptly states (National Review, July 30, 2019) when it comes to education, “money matters, but not if it’s simply tossed into a dysfunctional district.” He cites a recent Johns Hopkins University study regarding the dreary conditions of public schools in Providence, R.I, despite the fact that Providence spends $17,192 per pupil every year.
Spending has increased significantly for the American public education system—to almost three times more per child, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than in 1970. Eden also points out that “Although education spending took a hit during the Great Recession, it has been climbing steadily over the past five years and is at an all-time high in most states.”
Switching to teacher pay (which Democratic presidential candidates consistently claim is simply not enough), Eden points out “transferring from the private sector into teaching is associated with an 8 percent salary increase[!], while leaving teaching for the private sector is associated with a 3 percent salary decrease.” Yet private schools continue to out-perform their public counterparts.
So the issue here is not necessarily that teachers are underpaid, but that we hire too many non-teachers. As just one example, Don Nielsen, author of Every School, notes that “in the New York City Public School system…the school system employs more administrators than the entire nation of France and, at the state level the State of New York education department has more education administrators than all the nations in Western Europe combined.” To put it in numbers, the New York City Public School system, with 1,000,000 students, has a central office staff of 6,000. The Archdiocese of New York, which operates hundreds of Catholic schools and serves over 200,000 students, has 35.
Eden backs the claim that excessive non-teaching staff causes a “legitimate gripe” for teachers. He makes the remarkable observation regarding the impact of the rise in non-teaching staff: “if the share of non-teachers to students had stayed constant from 1992 to 2014, the money saved could have provided every American teacher with an additional $11,128 in compensation.”
Eden ends with a well-aimed criticism of politicians: “[they] are taking the easy way out by speaking only of spending. For the sake of America’s students, it’s time to turn our attention to devising policy solutions, not further cash infusions.”
As Nielsen summarizes, in school funding “we have witnessed that investing more money into a failed system will simply produce a more expensive failed system.”
The American Center for Transforming Educationcontinues to fight alongside of advocates of reform, such as Eden. We need real and significant policy changes to recreate public education as we know it. These policy changes are laid out in Every School (for a brief overview of our approach, click here).