Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why too much spending sometimes isn't enough

From Andrew Coulson of The Cato Institute:

The Washington Times reports today on a candle-light vigil beseeching the federal government for extra cash for new computers. The group organizing the vigil, OurDC, shares this “horror story” from former technology teacher Toval Rolston:

I’ve been in D.C. schools where the computers are so antiquated that you can’t even download a basic pdf file; our children don’t have the tools to compete in today’s high tech world.
The twin implications of this plea are that DC schools are underfunded and that more money will actually be spent wisely. The first statement is false and the second is decidedly unlikely. The last time I calculated total spending on K-12 education in DC, from the official budget documents, it came out to over $28,000 per pupil  (the linked post points to a spreadsheet with all the numbers).

How do you manage to spend $28,000 per pupil and not manage to keep your computer hardware up to date? Or, for that matter, manage to have among the worst academic performance in the country? Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with not being capable, or perhaps even inclined, to spend the money on what works.

The Washington Times, by the way, points out that OurDC is headquartered at the same address as the Service Employees International Union. Go figure.

This one is easy.  They're spending $28,000.00 per pupil in the D.C. public schools.  Multiply that by the number of kids in a typical classroom (let's call it 20), and you'll get $560,000.00 per classroom of kids. 

The kids aren't doing well in the D.C. schools. 

This is very similar to the problem that we had with the last Stimulus Package.  We spent $750,000,000,000.00 (that's $750 billion) to revive the economy and it didn't work.  Economist Paul Krugman explained the poor results:  The stimulus was too small. 

That is obviously the problem with the D.C. schools.  We're spending enough to hire someone from (ahem) "The 1%" to teach each classroom of kids.  But it's not working.  The results are horrific.   

Therefore, more spending per child is necessary.  We need to be spending enough to hire someone from The 1% of The 1% to teach each classroom of kids.   

Anytime the nation needs someone to explain these things, I provide this service at no charge. 

The picture of the Memphis Jr. High School's "Literacy Night Tonigt" came from Memphis resident Scott Moore's Facebook page. 


Nick said...

Rule No 1 of government budgeting: Spend on what you want, then beg for what you need.

Rule No 2: Use it or lose it.

The vast majority of the DC school budget is payroll, benefits, and administrative costs.

I learned three computer languages in high school without access to a computer that could run the code. We wrote programs and the teacher graded them by running the procedures in our head.

When we got microcomputers, it was a luxury.

We sent men to the moon using slide rules.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

But with what they're spending on (???) we could buy everyone of them a Dell. Or a Thinkpad. Or we could buy each classroom an IBM Mainframe.
But helping the kids isn't what this is about anymore, is it?

Sam Duncan said...

According to Google, $28,000 is about £17,000.

My old school, one of the best in the UK (though I say so myself, but the results bear it out), charges a little more than £3,000 a term: with three terms in a year, it works out at less than £10,000. Call it $15,000.

So much for the “privileged” private school kids.

Okay, perhaps comparing the US system and a UK independent school is a little apples-and-oranges. I don't know what school fees are like on your side of the Atlantic.

But the same is true here: the amount spent per pupil in the state system, while not yet at DC levels, could by a better-than-average education in the independent sector. So why is the state system so poor - in both senses of the word?

Sam Duncan said...

Sheesh. Buy. Cue the cracks about private education...