The bottom line to that question is yes BUT no one seems quite sure what is the best bang for the buck and many legislators are loathe to give out extra dollars if there is uncertainty about what to do. (But more on that in a minute.)
That's a super broad question. Does it mean:
- if we paid teachers more, would we have better teachers? Overall, I'd say probably because if teachers were in a well-paid profession, more of them might stay in the profession. But getting more money might make teachers feel more respected but if they are still in buildings where they don't get the professional development or supports they need to teach, I'm not sure it would make a difference in outcomes for kids.
Senator Michael Baumgartner, who sat on the panel of last week's Seattle Channel Seattle Speaks discussion about money and education, issued a challenge to teachers. He said that "they" would pay teachers $100,000 a year - every single teacher - if the teachers would change their pensions to a 401k, get rid of "teacher tenure" and work year-round. (He also said that the class size initiative was just a way for teachers to get more money and that districts were "bargaining away" dollars that could go in the classroom. It was a bit confusing.)
- if we rebuilt the infrastructure of our nation's schools, would we get better results or just happier, safer kids and their school communities? (The opening story about kids trying to get to class early, not for a seat but a blanket is just wrong.)
- if we provided more pre-K, would that create better outcomes? According to the story, most studies say the bump up for kids who attend preschool flattens out in time. But is that because many students need the smaller class size that a pre-k has or would that be the effect anyway?
- what about wrap-around services for at-risk kids? Probably but are those supports sustainable for the complete career from pre-k to grade 12?
One other question might be, if money really doesn't matter, then why are all the highest scoring states those that spend the most?
One quote from the story caught my eye:
"Use the money you have more wisely and educate our children," says Jon Caldara of Colorado's Independence Institute, a free-market think tank.When I hear this, I always ask, "Okay, how would YOU spend the money differently? I rarely hear an answer as it relates to our existing schools. The answer I hear is we need charter schools and vouchers as if you could throw an entire system of schools out.
NPR starts at the start of modern-day thinking on education - via the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and sociologist James S. Coleman's report on public education in 1966.
"It was the most comprehensive data set, that was nationally representative, ever collected," says Kirabo Jackson, a researcher at Northwestern University. "It's actually the first time anyone had collected data that linked the characteristics of children in the home to their outcomes in school."
What did Dr. Coleman say:
"Coleman explicitly said families are important and, after that, schools contribute very little," recalls Hanushek, now a senior fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. "And also that resources contribute very little."I don't have much right now to say on this point but I think there's a discussion in there about the role of families and their child's education in 2016 versus what Coleman said in 1966.
Lots of case studies then follow in the narrative of the story. We read about New Jersey where even topped up spending could not fight the issues of poverty for outcomes. In North Carolina where a judge said this:
"At-risk children, who are not presently in quality pre-kindergarten educational programs, are being denied their fundamental constitutional right to receive the equal opportunity to a sound basic education."That's a big statement but there then is the question - what if a parent doesn't want their child in pre-school? Or believes they want a pre-school that may be less academic than the newer city-run types? I've heard from several immigrant parents that they want their young child with their community. Since you cannot force parents to sent their child to pre-k, won't we always have some percentage of kids coming into kindergarten at a different level than others who did go to pre-k?
Then there's Indiana where you hear some tough talk:
At a press conference last year, as the Indiana General Assembly was re-writing its school funding formula, state Rep. Tim Brown, a Republican, put it this way:Right there, Rep Brown opens up a mighty big can of worms. Because we all know that when a school has a counselor or family support worker, there is person at the school who does care about what may have happened the night before or if a child doesn't have shoes or glasses. It might be fine to wait for an "outside organization" (maybe he means a church group) but that would probably take more time to get help to a student than a person on-site.
"You know, one of the things about education is money to help those kids who are outside the educational problem. You know, did Mary's mother get arrested the night before? Did Johnny not come with shoes to school? Those aren't to me core issues of education."
They affect education "a lot," Brown said, but help should come from outside organizations, not necessarily schools.
But is helping at-risk kids with their lives a "core issue of education?" I don't even know how it couldn't be. Because you either help them now - because of whatever issue there is in the lives - or you will be sorry later. I think what legislators like Brown forget is that it would be far cheaper to help a child during their school years than incarcerate an adult.
Then there's Massachusetts (which we all read about in the Times' article comparing Washington and the Bay state. Speaking of money:
That magic wand did many things, but chief among them, it gave more state money to districts that educate lots of low-income kids.Oh and Massachusetts also spent money on curriculum, reading coaches and a longer school day.
In places like Revere, north of Boston, where nearly 80 percent of students come from low-income families, many of those dollars were spent on people: to hire and keep good teachers and give them better training.
This is key, says Bruce Baker, who studies school funding at Rutgers. "If you have enough money to hire enough people to have reasonable class sizes and to be able to pay them sufficient wages so that you're getting good people coming into the profession, that's most of the battle of providing quality schooling."
Today, the district says nearly 90 percent of its high school graduates go on to some form of postsecondary education. That's up from 70 percent in the early '90s.Their wrap-up:
Takeaway #1: The money reaches students who need it most.My takeaway is that our state has not fully funded education for a long time. I don't want to hear about any so-called "new" dollars (which really aren't many given the cuts from the recession.) Increased and steady spending - targeted - is what we need in Washington State. There is really no reason we couldn't have the same outcomes as Massachusetts, given our state's relative good economy health.
Takeaway #2: The increases come steadily, year after year.
Takeaway #3: The money stays in the classroom: paying, training and supporting strong teachers, improving curriculum and keeping class sizes manageable.
Takeaway #4: How do we define success?