Finances and Spending
What is the Cost of a Great School?
Let's start with a very basic, important question:
What does it cost to provide a terrific education? It certainly is possible to spend
a huge amount of money. But what is a reasonable baseline?
Here are examples of public schools, a private school and a Catholic school
offering wonderful educational programs at reasonable costs ...
|Cost of a GREAT Education|
|Type||School||What Makes It Great||Cost / Student|
The Classical Academy
public school district #20,
Colorado Springs, CO
|Core Knowledge and Saxon Math.
Features a Trivium (Classical) design, emphasis on background knowledge,
student accountability for knowledge of concrete factual content, providing
a substantive foundation for higher-order "logic" thinking.
||$7,200 per student (approx., 2006-07)|
Princeton Charter School
Princeton Regional School District,
American Academy for Liberal Education acceditation.
A sequential and cumulative
curriculum, with a significant focus on skills and knowledge.
Emphasis on grammar, word roots, writing, measurable accomplishment.
||$7,500 per student (compared to $11,300 for conventional public schools in same district)|
|Observes the Hillsdale Academy Reference Guide,
strong use of phonics, Saxon Math,
many classics in literature
Sacred Heart Academy
San Diego, CA
|A Catholic parish school with a full
Core Knowledge implementation, plus solid phonics and
||$6,215 general, $4,425 for parishioners, (2005-06)|
A Primer for Making Cost Adjustments in Education,
National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
For a variety of reasons, the cost to provide a school program in one area can be
different from the cost of the same program in another area.
But how much different? This page is an overview that raises various issues,
and describes approaches that have been used. At the very bottom of the page are
links and info on getting a more complete report.
Does More Spending Help Education?
There is little evidence that increasing spending, on its own, does very much to help schools.
More Spending Is Not Answer
by Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education, USA Today, January 10, 2003
"What determines a child's future isn't how much is spent, but
how wisely that money is spent. If there is no accountability,
or schools use unproven fads for instruction, it doesn't matter
how much money is thrown at a problem; it will be wasted."
Spending Increases Don't Improve Student Achievement: Report
by Lori Drummer, School Reform News, May 1, 2006.
"Dollars Don't Yield Success:
As has been the case with previous editions, this version of the
Report Card found no evident correlation between improved student
achievement and increasing education spending or lowering
Excerpts from Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids, ABC News, January 13, 2006.
"While many people say, 'We need to spend more money on our schools,'
there actually isn't a link between spending and student achievement. ...
Jay Greene, author of Education Myths, points out that 'If money
were the solution, the problem would already be solved ... We've
doubled per pupil spending, adjusting for inflation, over the last 30
years, and yet schools aren't better.' ...
Ben Chavis is a former public school principal who now runs an
alternative charter school in Oakland, Calif., that spends thousands
of dollars less per student than the surrounding public schools. He
laughs at the public schools' complaints about money.
'That is the biggest lie in America. They waste money,' he said."
Myth: Schools Don't Have Enough Money
By John Stossel, January 18, 2006.
"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."
by Jay Greene, American Enterprise, July/August 2006.
It is just about impossible to uncover what's ailing the education system
without tackling its most pervasive myths. This article
identifies seven common myths that dominate established
views of education these days. Dispelling these misconceptions could
open the door to long-awaited improvement in our nation's schools. They include:
- The money myth
- The teacher pay myth
- The myth of insurmountable problems
- The class size myth
- The certification myth
- The rich-school myth
- The myth of ineffective alternatives
A Smart ALEC
by David W. Kirkpatrick.
"...per-pupil spending in constant dollars has increased significantly over recent decades. ...
[A report] notes 'We cannot simply spend our way to better grades,
but must make sure that we are making the right kinds of investments
in our schools to promote high student achievement.'"
- Remedial Education
by Clint Bolick, Wall Street Journal,
July 12, 2006.
"A world of education reform will change tomorrow when a group of
families files a class action lawsuit in Chancery Court in Newark,
N.J. They are asking for an immediate and meaningful remedy for
60,000 children trapped in failing schools -- by transferring control
over education funds from bureaucrats to parents. ...
One of the defendant school districts in the new suit, Englewood
City, spends $19,194 per student, well over twice the national
average. But at Dismus Middle School, over two-thirds of the students
do not have basic proficiency in math and fewer than half are
proficient in language arts literacy. Newark, a recipient of massive
Abbott funding, spends $16,351 per student and pays its teachers an
average salary of $76,213. Yet in 24 of its schools, fewer than half
the students demonstrate basic proficiency in math or language arts.
At William H. Brown Academy and at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
School, fewer than one of every 10 students demonstrates basic math
proficiency. It's time to try something else for these children."
Texas Ruling Paves Way for Education Reform
by Neal McCluskey, January 3, 2006.
"A few weeks ago, the Texas Supreme Court declared that educational
'adequacy' is not synonymous with 'more money.' ...
According to the majority, 'While the end-product of public education
is related to the resources available for its use ... more money does
not guarantee better schools or more educated students.' The Court
also accurately says that, 'structural changes, and not merely
increased funding, are needed in the public education system.' ...
Yet despite the wisdom of the majority, it was still the minority --
lone dissenting justice Scott A. Brister -- who cut to the chase.
Brister noted that all the plaintiffs in the case were school
districts, not parents, thus disqualifying the suit because the state
constitution's 'education guarantee is a right that belongs to school
children rather than school districts.'
The point was especially important because special interest groups
entrenched in districts -- administrators, teacher unions, etc. --
are too often concerned with their desires, and block what Brister
believes is essential to make education work: competition. 'Even
formerly communist countries recognize how efficiency is produced,'
he observed, 'not by higher taxes, and not be state control, but by
freedom for competition.'"
A Sign of the Times
by Thomas Sowell, May 16, 2003.
"They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That was certainly
true of a recent photo of a little 7-year-old boy holding a sign
demanding more money for the schools and holding his fist in the air.
... The little boy with the sign and his fist raised in the air is
just one of the millions of victims of a shameless education
establishment. It is not just that he is not in class learning the
things he will need for his own mental development. He is out in the
streets learning dangerous lessons for the future.
"The most dangerous lesson of all is that he doesn't need to know what
he is talking about, that what matters is venting his feelings and
being an activist. ... Far too many public schools have far too many
other agendas than providing children with intellectual skills.
Political propaganda is just one. Using the children as guinea pigs
for fashionable notions is another. And, at the top of the agenda is
protecting the jobs of teachers, even those who are grossly
- "If you give the Board of Education more money, you end up with
something like the old Soviet Union."
-- Rudy Giuliani, quoted in Newsday, June 16, 1994
School District Finances
"Never spend your money before you have it."|
-- Thomas Jefferson
- Half of public school employees are not teachers!
School Pay and Staffing Statistics, Education Intelligence Agency, April 19, 2005.
Teachers comprise no more than 50.8 percent of all K-12 public
education employees in the United States, according to this EIA
report. Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia employ more
non-teachers than teachers.
The finding is just one of the tables included in the school pay and
staffing statistics report, updated every three years by EIA using
the latest information from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department
of Education, and National Education Association. The report also
contains tables ranking the top and bottom 25 large school districts
in per-pupil spending, state per-pupil spending, average teacher
salaries, teacher compensation as a percentage of instructional
spending, number of teachers for every district administrator,
teacher salary vs. worker salary, cents spent on benefits for every
dollar of salary, average teacher compensation, and per-teacher
Paying Private Prep School Prices for Public Schools
"[In Virginia,] sixteen school districts spent over $10,000 per student -- a cost
rivaling tuition at elite private prep schools. ... One
school division spends more per public school student ($14,475)
than Governor Warner pays in private school tuition for his
children to attend Burgundy Farm Country Day School ($14,225). "
Schooling's Fiscal Crisis: "It's Deja Vu All Over Again"
by David W. Kirkpatrick.
"The news is full of stories about an urgent and growing fiscal
crisis in the state budgets in general and the funding of public
schools in particular. ... [One educator] said,
'...somebody's got to figure out how we can to it
better.' ... Somebody has, but the status quo forces
continue to prevail. What [does the establishment] propose to do to
meet this crisis? It's clear what they are against -- virtually every
reform that has been proposed for at least 30 years. What are they
Businesses Not Feeling So Charitable Toward Schools
by Del Jones, USA Today, September 17, 2002.
"Many businesses and corporate foundations say they have grown so
frustrated with the pace of public education reform that they are
ready to cut back on contributions to public schools."
Schooling's Fiscal Crisis
by David W. Kirkpatrick, September 4, 2003.
"Public schooling is said to face a financial crisis. ... Among the factors involved, two stand out.
First, like many private corporations that have failed, school
districts seem incapable or unwilling to change the way things are
done despite the severity of their problems.
Second, they blame everyone for their problems but themselves, and
these excuses are reported as if they are sufficient explanations."
Fiscal Indiscipline: Why School Districts Can't Downsize, Education Next, Winter 2004.
"A movement to decentralize budgeting decisions to the school level
has taken hold in a number of districts including Edmonton, Houston, and Seattle.
Coupled with school choice, decentralization promises to encourage innovation
while reducing the need for large, expensive central-office staffs.
Here too, however, even reform-minded districts find it difficult to
furlough employees or to redistribute resources.
In the following [articles], political scientist Jon Fullerton and
business professor William Ouchi discuss the political and
organizational obstacles school districts face in trying to manage
their finances and promote efficiency."
Jon Fullerton ["
Mounting Debt"] thinks the problem is more political than financial
William Ouchi ["
Academic Freedom"] details the benefits of decentralization
Broken Bonds: Big Money, Unspoken Practices -- The Costly World of School Loans
: links to a series of reports on school bond issues run by the Daily Herald
in February 2006.
"A typical home loan will cost you twice what you borrowed when it's
paid off with interest.
Governments can get better deals. ... Yet not all governments avail
themselves of lower cost loans -- at greater cost to taxpayers. A
Daily Herald analysis of 206 suburban school district loans reveals
many taxpayers repay those loans at rates higher than they would on
The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts (PDF doc)
by Kirk A. Johnson Ph.D. and Elizabeth Moser, December 3, 2002.
School Building Costs: Public vs. Private,
School Reform News,
Illinois Districts Setting Sights on Sales Taxes, Too
- A new law adopted by the Illinois legislature in October 2007 gives school districts
a whole new avenue for raising even more money, namely, local sales taxes.
To do this, school districts accounting for at least 51% of the enrollment in a county
can ask their county board to place a referendum on the ballot for a new sales tax.
Sales tax money raised this way would only be available for capital expenditures.
Weirdly, all districts would benefit if such a referendum passes -- a district cannot opt out
and not take the cash.
This new scheme is available to all districts in all counties, with the single exception of Cook County.
Illinois Taxpayer and Watchdog Organizations
Illinois taxpayer and watchdog organizations interested in education issues:
Information a School District SHOULD Provide
Federal Spending on Education
- The amount of money that the federal government spends on
education has skyrocketed, particularly since the passage of No Child
Left Behind. Even just looking at K-12 alone, USDOE spending is
budgeted at $36,276,140,000 for 2007, a leap of an astonishing 67%
since the $21,693,965,000 for 2000.
- That and other details on spending trends by the federal government can be found in these
Budget History Tables on the website of the U. S. Department of Education.
Detailed information by program, for 1980 through today (Excel format)
- Stunning expansion of spending by U. S. Department of Education, charted using data from the above source:
A Lesson in Waste: Where Does All the Federal Education Money Go?
by Neal McCluskey, Cato Institute, July 7, 2004.
full text of this policy analysis (PDF).
Federal Spending by State and Program
U.S. Department of Education tables by state
for 2001-2008. This site has current links for tables by state and by program,
in both Excel and PDF formats.
Federal Funds to Illinois
- Illinois received $959,207,185 from the USDOE back in 2001.
This windfall exploded to $1,472,202,224 by 2007, a huge jump of 53%!
Federal Spending and NCLB
Has this huge increase in federal spending done much good? Read a variety of perspectives about this
on our page about No Child Left Behind.
Spending by State
Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education,
National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
This annual publication is a gold mine of revenue and expenditure data
by state for public elementary and secondary education.
It contains state-level data on revenues by source and
expenditures by function, including expenditures per pupil.
Illinois Spending on Education
How Does Illinois Compare?
- Spending by State, Source of Fundings, Key Expense Categories,
and Per Student
prepared by Kevin Killion,
Illinois Loop, September 2, 2008. This is a comprehensive table that shows how the states rank
by a variety of spending statistics. The source is the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
for fiscal year 2006. Here is how Illinois ranks in these statistics:
- Illinois is a large state, and our spending proves it
- Illinois ranks #7 in total K-12 education spending
- Illinois ranks #4 in local funds spent on education
- Illinois ranks #11 in state funds spent on education
- Illinois ranks #5 in federal funds spent on education
- Illinois ranks #7 in instruction spending
- Illinois ranks #5 in administration spending
- Illinois spends a larger portion on administration, and a lower portion on actual instruction
- Illinois ranks #34 in the portion of spending devoted to instruction
- Illinois ranks #5 in the portion of spending devoted to administration
- Illinois is about average in spending per student
- Illinois ranks #22 in total spending per student
- Illinois ranks #24 in instruction spending per student
- Illinois ranks #18 in administration spending per student
- Illinois is different in the degree to which local schools depend on local taxes
- Illinois ranks #3 in the portion of spending paid by local taxes
- Illinois ranks #49 in the portion of spending paid by state taxes
Illinois Schools' Spending Gap No Mystery
by Greg McConnell, School Reform News, October 2005.
"Periodically ... the media report a story in which the spending gap
between the highest- and lowest-spending districts in the state is
presented as a meaningful statistic. ...
"Unfortunately, the way the education establishment uses this data is
often misleading. Moreover, there are factors unique to Illinois that
make these spending gaps appear more pronounced than they truly are. ...
One of Illinois' unique factors is its 887 school districts. By
comparison, Florida has just 67 school districts, even though it has
more students. ...
Another factor is the cost of living in different parts of Illinois.
When an adjustment is made for the cost of living ... [there is] a 25 percent decrease in the spending gap."
Tribute for a Light: Public Education Finances & Staffing
(PDF doc) by Mike Antonucci, Education Intelligence Agency, May 2001.
This fascinating report prepares some unique and revealing ways of looking
at public school finances. Here are some tidbits about Illinois from this report:
- Among the 50 states, Illinois ranks #11 for public school teaching salaries
- Salaries for Illinois teachers compared to all workers are better than average:
In Illinois, teacher salaries are 31% higher than the typical worker's,
a bit better than the national teacher average of being 27% higher.
- On the other hand, benefits are lower in Illinois: About 21 cents is paid out
in benefits per dollar of salary, lower than the national average of 25 cents.
- Illinois is burdened with administrators, ranking #44 in the nation!
Nationally, there are 56 teachers for every
administrator, but in Illinois there are only 33 teachers per each administrator.
Growth In Spending
In 2013-14, Illinois spent about $29.8 billion on K-12 schools:
Illinois now spends an astonishing $14,300 per K-12 student per year!
(Compare this to the tuition at your local Catholic and other private schools.)
(For the numbers behind these charts, see
Illinois State Board of Education, Annual Reports.)
Illinois Spending Issues
- Chicago spending:
For the year 2012-2013, the Chicago Public Schools system had 354,000 K-12 students and total expenditures
of $5,723,359,282, or $16,190 per student. Operating expenses were $4,875,165,421, or $13,791 per student.
"ILEARN" (Illinois Local Education Agency Retrieval Network))
Are Illinois Schools Underfunded? by Lennie Jarratt, Education Matters, May 2, 2006.
It's Not "For the Children," It's For the Adults
by John Biver, Family Taxpayer Network.
"One of the biggest news stories of late has been the funding
'crisis' experienced by Illinois public schools. The single most
amazing aspect of this story has been the total lack of debate about
whether there really is a lack of funding. Instead of the proper
coverage of two or more viewpoints, the news articles typically read
much like school district press releases.
We're still waiting for some proof to be offered that $20 billion dollars of taxpayer money isn't
enough to cover the costs of educating two million Illinois public school students,"
"total lack of debate about
whether there really is a lack of funding"
- The Public School Money Drain:
Chicago Tribune, January 3, 2002.
"Too many school districts--including ones that run consistent
deficits and borrow from year to year to cover their financial Grand
Canyons--are unwilling to change the spending style to which they've
become accustomed. They resist adjusting the often extremely generous
and comprehensive benefit packages offered to teachers, and are loath
to demand more rigorous work schedules or restructured curricula for
the higher pay."
End State Subsidy of the TRS, by Jim and Cathy Peschke, CRAFT
"Little known to most taxpayers is the financial time bomb ticking in
the State run Teacher Retirement System (TRS) fund. In recent years,
Illinois has contributed almost $1 billion annually (above and beyond
district-level contributions) to curb huge shortfalls in the TRS.
Yet despite this huge influx of taxpayer cash, the TRS continues to lose ground.
"In 2004, the long-term liability of the TRS hit $46 billion, over
twice the total TRS assets! The deficit in the TRS climbed by $3
billion in 2003 alone, even after $930 million in state taxpayer aid!
"This should come as no surprise, since many school districts boost
salaries just prior to retirement to increase employee retirement
"Illinois should get out of the teacher retirement business. If
school districts drive the TRS into bankruptcy, taxpayers should not
be left holding the bag. Why should teachers be granted a retirement
benefit so much more generous than that given to the people who pay
- Deficits Rack School Districts:
Expenses Exceed Revenue At Nearly Half Of Them In State, Data Show
by Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune, January 2, 2002.
Excerpt: "... teacher salaries, pensions and health care costs have
continued to rise, often at a rate higher than inflation. Tax
opponents and other critics argue that educators have allowed the
spending to grow faster than taxpayers can afford. Some say
administrators would rather create a crisis to push through new taxes
than curtail expenses."
- Schools Rake In More Than Voters OK: Want to understand "tax caps" and school tax hikes?
There is no better place to start! The Daily Herald won accolades
for this probing and detailed package of investigative articles written by Catherine Edman and Jeffrey Gaunt.
Here are links to the individual components:
Schools Rake In More Than Voters OK
by Catherine Edman and Jeffrey Gaunt,
Daily Herald, April 10, 2005.
"Voters who authorized school tax increases have paid hundreds of
dollars more each year than they were led to believe, a Daily Herald
A study of 25 tax-rate increases approved by suburban voters during
the past five years shows homeowners routinely paid more than most
school officials had projected -- as high in one case as $435 a year
for the owner of a $300,000 home.
That extra comes on top of the hundreds of dollars homeowners already
paid after agreeing to a tax increase. ...
'Certain taxing districts reaped a harvest of additional dollars in excess of what the voters approved.'
For example, one district the Daily Herald examined -- Libertyville-Vernon Hills High School District 128 --
boosted its operating funds by 85 percent in three years after voters approved a tax increase. ...
In all, the 25 districts examined by the Daily Herald collected
$204 million more than most school officials would project."
Navigating a Tax Hike (PDF). The Daily Herald observes,
"Learning how school districts collect money from a tax-rate increase
is a lot like learning calculus: complicated, but useful." But they provide this
valuable page of examples and graphics to make it as approachable as possible!
True Cost of a School Tax Vote (PDF):
"Here are three scenarios (in each of the 25 districts studied by the Daily Herald)
showing what the owner of a $300,000 house or business would have
paid in property taxes for the school district. 'Extra' is the amount the homeowner
paid above what most school district officials would project."
Breaking Down School Funding
by Jeffrey Gaunt and Catherine Edman. Daily Herald, April 10, 2005
"So you want to know more about school funding? Let's start with the basics. ..."
Law Takes Aim At Tax Loophole
by Catherine Edman and Jeffrey Gaunt,
Daily Herald, April 11, 2005.
"The complicated tax cap law, however, has allowed school districts -
and other taxing bodies - to collect millions more than they told
voters during referendum campaigns."
- Daily Herald follow-up:
Lawmakers Move Two Bills Aimed At Closing Tax Cap Gap
by Jeffrey Gaunt and Catherine Edman. Daily Herald, May 24, 2006.
"For years, an unforeseen and costly consequence of the state
property tax cap law has quietly chipped away at the bank accounts of
The result: Voters have paid millions of dollars more in property
taxes than they were led to believe they would before voting on
That fact, which went largely unnoticed for more than a decade, is
now hitting home, as lawmakers scramble to plug the hole, and school
officials try to do right by their taxpayers -- or defend previous actions."
'Suspicious' Accounting Error Leads Illinois School District to Seek Tax Cut
by Greg McConnell, School Reform News, October 2005
No Taxpayer Left Behind: Blueprint for Progress
by Jim and Cathy Peschke, CRAFT. In this six-point plan, CRAFT
outlines a way to balance the education budget in Illinois
through reasonable restraint on spending. Follow the link for
the details of these six points:
- No Strike law ... 41 states have laws specifically prohibiting public teachers from striking
- Eliminate tenure ... If tenure were a good idea, ... plumbers, doctors, accountants, etc. would all have tenure provisions. They don't, because tenure is not a good idea.
- Revise collective bargaining laws
- School choice ... Being able to rescue a child from an underperforming school is a basic right that should not be afforded to the wealthy alone.
- Ban forced dues
- End State Subsidy of the Teacher Retirement System
Family Taxpayer Network comments on "No Taxpayer Left Behind":
further analysis of the 6-point NTLB plan.
- Deficit School Budgets Multiply:
Districts' Finances Worry State Panel
by Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune, October 17, 2002.
"At least 8 of every 10 Illinois school districts expect to spend more money
than they take in this year, state officials reported Wednesday,
a dramatic increase over previous years and more evidence of what many
educators believe is a deepening financial crisis.
ED-RED calls itself the "voice of suburban schools"
and has a membership consisting of the superintendents of most of the Chicago
suburban school districts. Not too surprisingly, they are in favor of loosening
achievement goals, giving more money to school districts, weakening tax caps,
and keeping as much authority in the hands of district administrators as possible.
Nonetheless, they do have some goals that are consistent with those
of education reformers: For example, they oppose handing over control of certification to
a board dominated by education unions. The
ED-RED website is an
excellent source of information about current legislation
in Springfield, and about our state legislators and the school districts they
cover and the committees they are on.
Another good source of information about pending legislation in
Springfield is this
Digest of New School Laws, 2004 provided by the
Illinois Association of School Boards. Of course, most of these boards
and the IASB itself are highly oriented towards preserving the status quo,
so don't expect unbiased coverage. However, this does provide a heads-up.
- The Illinois Association of School Boards offers this book:
"Essentials of Illinois School Finance" by James B. Fritts.
The IASB says that this book "provides an effective reference for
anyone who needs to understand the essentials of Illinois school
finance. From the role of the school board ... to the peculiarities of state
funding to the formulas for projecting enrollments and staffing
budgets, this book covers just about everything - and does it in
plain English. The Second Edition is updated with revised laws and state funding
data for fiscal year 2005."
We would welcome comments from anyone who has read or used this book.
Spending in YOUR District
Trends in 13,600 School Districts Nationally
Individual Districts in Illinois
Mechanics of a School District Budget, Illinois State Board of Education.
The district budget can be a bewildering stew of tables that fly in the face
of conventional accounting procedures and which omit crucial totals.
Here's the state's ed bureaucracy's attempt to explain the thing.
- Comprehensive information and trends about the financial status
of individual districts, comparisons to all Illinois districts and extremely helpful graphics,
are available here:
Illinois School Report Cards: Get your district's current and past state "Report Cards"
at this site.
- You can get your Illinois district's standardized financial profile
School District Financial Profile page on the Illinois state Board of Ed website.
- The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) provides a website called
"ILEARN" (Illinois Local Education Agency Retrieval Network),
which provides a wealth of financial information about each individual school district.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) financial information: This is from the CPS itself.
Courts and Spending
When Unaccountable Courts Meet Dysfunctional Schools
by Frederick M. Hess, The American Enterprise, July/August 2006.
"Lawsuits to force up school spending outside of the political
process have been filed in more than 40 states, including New Jersey,
Kentucky, Wyoming, Ohio, and Texas. So-called 'adequacy' litigation
emerged in the 1980s as successor to an earlier series of suits
intended to boost education spending and raise taxes. ...
"When billions in local revenues are distributed via dubious secret
formulas and the whims of unaccountable judges, a tremendous
arbitrariness enters the law. ...
"This battle raises the larger question of whether America is failing
to sufficiently fund its schools. 'Adequacy' is of course in the eye
of the beholder. As a comparative factual matter, however, the United
States appears exceptionally generous when it comes to school
spending. America will devote more than $550 billion to public
schools during the 2006-07 school year, more than $10,000 for every
K-12 student. Despite ceaseless claims of tight budgets,
after-inflation school spending has more than tripled since 1960.
"International comparisons show that U.S. per-pupil spending for
elementary and secondary schooling is significantly higher than in
other industrial democracies, including those famous for their
generous social programs. U.S. spending outstrips Germany, France,
and the U.K. by more than 50 percent, and Japan by more than 20
percent, on a per-pupil basis.
"America's massive increases in K-12 spending during recent decades
have not been matched by improved student achievement. Math and
reading scores for today's 17-year-olds are about where they were
during the Nixon administration. ...
"Beyond their undemocratic nature and their tendency to aggrandize the
role of the courts in social policy, adequacy suits not only waste
resources but also create new problems. Adequacy "victories" in
states like Maryland and New Jersey appear to have underwritten
corruption, waste, and incompetence in public schools. A massive
court-mandated program for school construction in New Jersey has been
plagued with "pervasive waste and mismanagement" plus bribery,
according to the state inspector general.
"Experiences like these point to the sad reality that adequacy suits
may actually retard school reform -- by distracting attention from real
productivity, and focusing on dollars instead of badly needed
procedural and structural reforms. Infusions of new money can
actually make it easier to shrug off tough decisions on how schools
are run, and how educators are paid, evaluated, and hired."
Student-Centered Funding (and "Weighted Student Funding")
Stopping School Corruption: A Manual for Taxpayers (article),
May 17, 2006. "The
Yankee Institute for Public Policy outlines strategies to combat
corruption in Connecticut's school districts.
Stopping School Corruption: A Manual for Taxpayers, by Armand
Fusco, Ed.D., is designed to assist Connecticut taxpayers who are
seeking responsible answers from districts about whether school
resources are being protected from abuse.
Fusco's manual lists ten questions school boards should be asked to
determine whether school corruption is being committed. Topics
covered by the questions include asset management, credit cards,
student-activity funds, state/federal grants, contracting, and
Stopping School Corruption: A Manual for Taxpayers (PDF booklet),
by Armand Fusco, Ed.D.
Also, for info on illegal activities by school officials during elections and referendum campaigns:
Go to our page on Elections and Referenda