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August 28, 2023

In Brief: Why Public Schools Never Have Enough Money

It’s the same song and dance every year as schools demand more and more money for a worse product.

It’s not like test scores or any other measurable metric of learning has increased over the decades as money spent on schools has ballooned. Why not? For one thing, Teresa Mull argues the money isn’t spent well.

As school begins, she says, “school districts are once again bemoaning a ‘lack of funding.’”

It’s the same story every year. Along with notices advertising the local high school drama department’s production of Grease come headlines announcing the school district is in dire straits and schools will literally fall to pieces if they aren’t pumped full of life-saving funding, stat. Year after year, it’s the same old song and dance: school funding increases, and the next year they need even more. Why is it never enough, though, and where does all the money go?

She tells of her home state, Pennsylvania, where Democrats are trying to wring more money out of taxpayers, “alleging the state’s public schools are ‘unfairly funded.’” Mull has challenged her local school board, but members just tell her that prices are up for everything. No kidding, but virtually no taxpayers are getting 10% raises like PA schools are demanding. She says she agrees in one sense: “The funding is, indeed, ‘inadequate,’ because it’s mostly spent on nonsense.” That’s on top of hiring far more teachers, administrators, aides, counselors, etc. than there are students to match.

Are all these extra administrators worth it? Those plummeting test scores would imply no — but then, of course, increased education funding isn’t about education at all, but about growing the coffers and power of the teachers’ unions.

…The unions really let their greed shine during the height of the Covid pandemic, when the National Education Association (NEA) demanded “policymakers must invest not only in education but also in addressing issues surrounding education: mortgage and rent cancellation for families in economic crisis; school-based community food programs; increased local hiring to provide jobs for unemployed adults; home broadband Internet and computer device access for all individuals; and a more robust public health infrastructure that includes programs like basic health screenings and widespread access to community-based mental health services.”

And you thought the NEA’s administrator army was bad enough.

Ultimately, she concludes, it’s not about the money.

Take it from someone who attended a school where the teachers (most of whom had been there their whole careers) were paid poverty wages, the textbooks were ancient and the computer lab worthy of the Smithsonian: it doesn’t cost that much to provide a child with a great education. Education choice proponents know this. Heck, even the Democrats in bed with the teachers’ unions know this; they’re just unwilling to bite the hand that feeds their campaigns. The good news. though, is that more people are realizing that alternatives exist — and are seizing them with gusto.

Spectator subscribers can read the whole thing here.

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