As I have watched the progression of Senator Rollie Heath’s tax increase to fund education, I have been thinking a good deal about investing in the character and knowledge of the coming generation. Indeed, I am not sure that there is a more important investment.
From 1992 to 2009, per-pupil education spending in Colorado has increased nearly 140%. This spending increase corresponds to a 4% increase in reading scores and a 10% increase in math scores. I have talked to some who teach in our schools (my wife included, who taught in a public elementary school in our neighborhood) who would even argue that this increase in scores is not a real increase, but a lowered expectation and easier tests.
The Proposition 103 tax increase that voters rejected in November 2011 was projected to raise $3 billion over 5 years. Optimistically, this would have increased the per-pupil funding by another 10%. What results are we going to get for our $3 billion? Expecting something substantial to come from this is like increasing the cost of a stamp from 44 cents to 48 cents on the assumption that it will fix all of the problems in the US Postal Service. Blindly increasing spending is not the solution to the failings in our educational system.
The problem we are facing is that we are trying to build upon an outdated way of doing things. Rather than throwing more money at a failed top-down solution, let’s invest in a transformational approach to education and continue to examine ways for schools to compete to provide the best educational experience that fits the needs of our children.
G.K.Chesterton said that “[e]ducation is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” Let’s pass on our soul of local communities and local families choosing the the education experience that is best for their own children and stop spending money where it does not produce results.
Article IX, Section 2 of the Colorado Constitution requires that we provide for the “establishment and maintenance of a thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state.” I am convinced that a combination of increased public school options (including charter schools) and vouchers will transform our education system in the state with very little additional money. Here is a great article about some of the “innovation” schools that have made a huge difference in Denver. We have opportunities like this all over the state.
At the same time, there are those who don’t flourish in a public school environment and can benefit from a voucher system that helps defray the cost of the right education experience. Kaiden and Miette are perfect examples of this. Kaiden read 140 pages yesterday afternoon. He does not do well in large groups–always disrupting others, talking, etc. Miette on the other hand loves the “school experience”. The structure, other students, organization help her to flourish. So where Kaiden founders, Miette flourishes and vice versa. A combination of vouchers and public schools would really help me if I want to give them both the experience they need to thrive and many I have spoken with are similarly confident.
With all the advances we have had in determining children’s learning styles, the way forward seems obvious to me as a chance to tailor the education experience to the child’s needs using a competitive offering of internet resources, in-class teaching, and extra-curricular activities. Throwing more money at the one-size fits all agrarian model for educating our children just doesn’t make sense to me anymore.