Friday, May 11, 2018

Invest education dollars wisely

Teachers are striking for higher salaries and more resources again. Some say spending more on education is simply a matter of good economics, because better education means a stronger workforce. But given our nation’s track record — and the empirical evidence — I am not as optimistic.

Public education spending in the U.S. has nearly tripled over the past half-century while math, reading and science test scores have remained flat.

In fact, Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek reviewed nearly 400 studies on the subject and found that increases in education spending generally do not lead to meaningful improvements in academic outcomes.

Pouring more tax dollars into a school system that does not produce better outcomes is obviously a waste of money. You wouldn’t invest in any company that tripled its operating costs without improving its product in 50 years.

Unsurprisingly, more money doesn’t seem to matter when school leaders do not have strong incentives to change. Indeed, research by Kennesaw State University professor Ben Scafidi finds that most increases in education expenditures go toward administration and support staff. No wonder teachers are striking.

But this doesn’t mean that education dollars never matter. Instead, we should consider where education dollars matter the most. For example, a recent University of Arkansas study I co-authored found that charter schools produced a 53% higher return on investment, in terms of students’ lifetime earnings, than traditional public schools. Further, most of the 17 studies on private school choice programs find positive effects on test scores for some or all students.

To make education investments that improve our economy, we should stop investing in the schools that don’t deliver, until their leaders have stronger incentives to spend wisely. Instead, we should invest in the future — our children — by allowing education dollars to follow them to the schools that best fit their unique needs.


Scotland: Classroom abuse blamed as new teachers quit and move abroad

One in eight newly qualified teachers in Scotland is leaving the profession or the country, adding to classroom shortages, according to new figures.

Almost 1,000 teachers quit or moved abroad to teach over the past three years. Many say they cannot cope with the workload and bureaucracy despite pay of more than £27,000.

Concerns have been raised about salaries, workload and abuse in the classroom driving teachers into other careers. A survey published last month revealed that 70 per cent had suffered “serious verbal abuse” while 19 per cent had been physically assaulted at some point in their careers.

The country’s largest teaching union, the EIS, said it was aware of trainees moving abroad after gaining a year’s experience to earn more money.


Education funds switch  to school safety

Before the ink could dry on Florida Governor Rick Scott’s signature last month, critics cried foul over the bill he signed into law to spend $400 million boosting security at schools across the state following February’s Parkland mass shooting.

School officials, local sheriffs and Democrats opposed different provisions, including one to provide $67 million to arm teachers. Educators, in particular, voiced concerns that the state will strip money from core education funding to pay for the new school resource officers and beefed up buildings.

“We are a very lean state,” said Florida state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat who voted against the bill. “If we’re spending money somewhere, we’re taking it from somewhere else.”

In the wake of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people, at least 10 U.S. states have introduced measures to increase funding for hardening of school buildings and campuses, add resource officers and increase mental health services, according to Reuters’ tally.

Many of the proposals outlined the need for bulletproof windows, panic buttons and armored shelters to be installed in classrooms. Some legislation called for state police or sheriff’s departments to provide officers to patrol public schools.

Altogether, more than 100 legislative bills to address school safety, not all of which have funding components, have been introduced in 27 states since the Feb. 14 shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to data provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But states do not usually have extra money on hand or room to raise taxes. So to pay for the measures, states are mostly shifting money away from other projects, dipping into reserves or contemplating borrowing.

“I would characterize these proposals and the bills that were passed, for example Florida and Wisconsin, as primarily shifting funding from other priorities,” said Kathryn White, senior policy analyst at the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Calls for more gun control and more safety measures have come during peak budget season for nearly all states, whose legislatures spend the spring in debates that shape the coming year’s budget starting July 1.


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