Enough Money for Education?
"Stossel is an
idiot who should be fired from ABC and sent back to
elementary school to learn journalism." "Stossel is a right-wing
The hate mail is coming in to ABC over a TV special I did Friday (1/13).
I suggested that public schools had plenty of money but were squandering
it, because that's what government monopolies do.
Many such comments came in after the National Education Association
(NEA) informed its members about the special and claimed that I have a
"documented history of blatant antagonism toward public schools."
The NEA says public schools need more money. That's the refrain heard
politicians' speeches, ballot initiatives and maybe even in your child's
own classroom. At a union demonstration, teachers carried signs that
said schools will only improve "when the schools have all the money
need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."
Not enough money for education? It's a myth.
The truth is, public schools are rolling in money. If you divide the
U.S. Department of Education's figure for total spending on K-12
education by the department's count of K-12 students, it works out to
about $10,000 per student.
Think about that! For a class of 25 kids, that's $250,000 per classroom.
This doesn't include capital costs. Couldn't you do much better than
government schools with $250,000? You could hire several good teachers;
I doubt you'd hire many bureaucrats. Government schools, like most
monopolies, squander money.
America spends more on schooling than the vast majority of countries
that outscore us on the international tests. But the bureaucrats still
blame school failure on lack of funds, and demand more money.
In 1985, some of them got their wish. Kansas City, Mo., judge Russell
Clark said the city's predominately black schools were not "halfway
decent," and he ordered the government to spend billions more. Did
billions improve test scores? Did they hire better teachers, provide
better books? Did the students learn anything?
Well, they learned how to waste lots of money.
The bureaucrats renovated school buildings, adding enormous gyms, an
Olympic swimming pool, a robotics lab, TV studios, a zoo, a planetarium,
and a wildlife sanctuary. They added intense instruction in foreign
languages. They spent so much money that when they decided to bring more
white kids to the city's schools, they didn't have to resort to busing.
Instead, they paid for 120 taxis. Taxis!
What did spending billions more accomplish? The schools got worse. In
2000, five years and $2 billion later, the Kansas City school district
failed 11 performance standards and lost its academic accreditation for
the first time in the district's history.
A study by two professors at the Hoover Institution a few years ago
compared public and Catholic schools in three of New York City's five
boroughs. Parochial education outperformed the nation's largest school
system "in every instance," they found -- and it did it at less
half the cost per student.
"Everyone has been conned -- you can give public schools all the
in America, and it will not be enough," says Ben Chavis, a former
school principal who now runs the American Indian Charter School in
Oakland, Calif. His school spends thousands less per student than
Oakland's government-run schools spend.
Chavis saves money by having students help clean the grounds and set
for lunch. "We don't have a full-time janitor," he told me.
have security guards. We don't have computers. We don't have a cafeteria
staff." Since Chavis took over four years ago, his school has gone
being among the worst middle schools in Oakland to the one where the
kids get the best test scores. "I see my school as a business,"
"And my students are the shareholders. And the families are the
shareholders. I have to provide them with something."