Is the Problem with Education a Lack of Funding?

Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder doesn’t think so. Here’s what he said in his column published this morning in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Those who continually cry about lack of funding won’t acknowledge that Richmond is the best-funded system per pupil among its peers (Roanoke, Hampton, Lynchburg, Newport News, Portsmouth, Petersburg, Hopewell, Danville, Norfolk), and sits among the top 10 of all systems in Virginia.

Richmond is at the top of the list regarding truancy and drop-outs. Average daily attendance is well below the state average, even though many schools don’t take roll call until after 11:30 a.m. The student population is in steady decline, falling from 26,136 in 2002-03 to an expected 23,400 in 2005-06. We’re spending twice as much for half the student population that once numbered 50,000 students. Even allowing for inflation, that makes no sense at all.

I cannot merely say, ‘Leave it to others to see the job through.’ It is your job and mine. Every part of our society must demand what is right and criticize what is wrong. We must instill the pride in the community, the professionalism in those who teach and administer our children, [and] recognize and … instill in our youngsters the intrinsic value of education.

As long as we define the “problem” with public schools as a lack of money, we’ll never solve the problem, and we’ll never have enough money.

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  1. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I had the good fortune to attend a public school that basically had all the money it could use.

    Even so,I thought the system was broken then, and it is worse now.

    Money is clearly not the answer. If you follow the idea that “If you can find it in the phone book, maybe government should not be doing it.” Then schools are a premium place to start. The success of home schooling and the growth of private schools is evidence that many feel the same way.

    The problems we face are how to face up to the facts, depoliticize education, de-bureaucratize education, and allow everyone the alternate options which are now available only to a few.

  2. This is sillyness. The cost of educating a student in an inner city area is much higher than suburbia. Wilder knows this, but you know what Mark Twain says about statistics

  3. It’s suck a simple theory:

    You pay teachers a competitive rate, then you have more people studying to be teachers and applying for teaching positions. You then get better teachers…some might even have PhD’s!

    Republicans are against paying teachers because (1) public schools cannot violently cram religion down our throats and (2) teachers associations have political ties to democrats.

    All of this “money won’t solve the problem” talk is silly. You know basic economics. When pay is crappy (it’s been going down in REAL dollars for years), you’ll hire crappy teachers.

    When you pay them well, you’ll create competition for teaching jobs.

  4. Let me finish my 3 post rant by saying, yes, we need to look outside of the box on education reform. But part of that solution is to get teachers more pay.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

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  6. Ray Hyde Avatar


    Some people claim services in more densely populated areas cost less, not more.

  7. GOPHokie Avatar

    However you slice it, we have been puring more money into education for years now and everyone says its getting worse. You libs out there need to realize money is not always the answer to everything. Throwing more money at education is not going to fix it.
    Our teachers we have now are good, but we can’t expect them to motivate people. When we have a system where the hell raisers must be in the same class as people who want to learn, we will never have a good system. Private schools only work “better” because the students actually want to learn. Public schools will work fine if we put all the students who give a damn in the same class and put the drop-outs-to-be in a class by theirself too.

  8. victoria Avatar

    Competition in a free market raises performance and lowers costs. Just ask American and Delta customers at RIC – thank you Air Tran. It works in education as well. It also benefits teachers pay – see Milwaukee results. Monopolies never provide better services at a lower cost because there is no reason to change. School choice exists in Virginia if you can afford it.

    Many teachers join the VEA for the litigation protection not for their political leanings. NEA just announced their opposition to CAFTA, support of pro-gay curriculum and other important education issues. VEA last year listed gay marriage as one of their top ten educational issues. I think they would be better off embracing what liberals really hate – parents involved in the education of their children by actually choosing where their tax money should go.
    Odd concept. There are how many different sodas to choose from? How many cell phone companies? How many cars?
    School choices? That depends on where you live unless you make a lot of money to buy your way out – but you probably wouldn’t live in bad school districts anyway. First question out of any parent’s mouth when buying a house – how are the schools here?

  9. TheModerate Avatar

    More money is not the answer.

    My mother works in a public high school – with the “at risk” kids. Sadly, public education has become the most expensive day care system in the world. Yes, it works well for many kids but it also under serves a great majority.

    Furthermore, to elaborate on GOPHokie’s point of dealing with the slackers – bring back vocational education. Not every student is college bound.

    80% of every dollar spent on education goes to salaries, benefits, etc. School superintendents make over 100K a year and principles make 80K with excellent benefits.

    Classroom teachers might not make the most money of any profession in society but they have very good healthcare plans and a very secure retirement system plus job security. Many working professionals don’t have either of those things any more.

    The more, more, more argument for Public Ed. is getting old.

  10. A Lynchburg High School recently rated as 412 in the top 1,000 schools in the US according to a Newsweek article. While this sounds great, only 1032 schools were evaluated. The Lynchburg School system touted this as a great achievement, but looked at another way they ranked in the lower 40% of all schools

  11. subpatre Avatar

    Paul said “You pay teachers a competitive rate, then…
    I happen to agree. Unlike your position, I realize that true competition can’t happen in the vacuum of unionized government employment. Insanity is doing the same again and again, expecting to get a different result.

    …” Republicans are against paying teachers because….
    Cites? Republicans claiming teachers shouldn’t get a salary? More inflammatory rhetoric from the people who brought you repeated failure.

    … “ cannot violently cram religion down our throats
    Are we to assume that the status quo is to ‘violently cram secularism down students throats’? The issue of religion in public school is a problem. So is the issue of religious removal, mandating attendance in a moral void.

    teachers associations have political ties to democrats
    The political party is unimportant. NEA/VEA’s history has been “more money, less accountability”. If the Democrats buy that, shame on them.

    Our commitment is to competently educate Virginia’s students. More money’s been tried repeatedly; no improvement the repeated result. Opening the process to real competition is one part, but only one part.

  12. Jeremy Hinton Avatar
    Jeremy Hinton

    Subpatre said “The issue of religion in public school is a problem. So is the issue of religious removal, mandating attendance in a moral void.”

    Moral: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior

    Religion: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    Please do not equate religious with moral. To state a lack of religion results in a moral vacuum is just plain wrong. Yes, religious teachings can help foster the development of a strong moral system, but religion is by no means the only route.

  13. Jeremy Hinton Avatar
    Jeremy Hinton

    Regarding the issue of accountability mentioned previously in this thread, there’s a but of an interesting storm brewing here in Newport News. From the daily press:

    Happy teachers, high test scores?

    The situation at Riverside Elementary was also covered by some of the local TV stations as well, if i recall.

  14. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    The problem with education isn’t money. Money makes good politics in bidding for teacher and family votes.

    Several points if I may:

    My wife is an elementary school guidance counselor. Her school passed the SOLs first and every time since. It had nothing to do with money. They have a 10 to 20 (I forget the exact number) of ‘at risk’ kids in their terminology. But, they did something cool from the start. They assessed each child as an individual and taught that kid – including volunteer tutoring, extra work in the school day etc to improve that child’s basic building blocks of knowledge and skills. They didn’t teach the test because they didn’t know what was on the test.

    Other examples of good teaching and sound administration across the country abound. It has nothing to do with more money.

    A few years ago, Poquoson – where I invested 3 kids in government schools – was number 2 from the bottom in per capita spending per student and number 3 from the top in acheivements in the Commonwealth. We’ve increased spending thanks to property taxes so we’ve slipped from second cheapest in Virginia.

    More Money = Better Education is a false equation.

    On the public policy side, I’ve heard the school teachers’ complain, envy, resentment and self-pity on pay. I’ve heard their pride and love of teaching. They (I’m generalizing here) haven’t studied economics and don’t know the first thing about it. But, regardless of the holes in their education, the fact is that public servants are paid what the taxpayers can afford, not what they deserve.

    The pay scales for police, sheriff’s deputies, fire fighters, EMT, teachers, forest service, marine and parks, and scientists in government bureaus – and the armed forces are not state secrets. Everyone knows from day one the pay, the pay increases and life time expectations.

    Sidebar – a class mate and teaching peer in our department at West Point (U Chicago Econ masters) gave a tutorial on life time earngings, present value dollar theory, etc. So, I knew and can quantify how much money I didn’t earn and lost in moves in my 20 years in the Army. But, I don’t snivel. Loved being a soldier every day.

    The public policy obligation is to keep public service jobs protected from inflation with raises adequate to meet inflation. Furthermore, the communities of commonweal I write about in Bacon’s Rebellion op eds, and personal Virginia Commonweal or Trust accounts for education, health, retirement etc could provide a security net for some of life’s biggest financial challenges.

  15. S. Haner Avatar

    My mother and one of her brothers were teachers, one grandfather was a principal, my wife starts her 30th year this month and three of her sisters have Virginia teaching certificates. There is no correlation between school spending and results. There is a correlation between teacher salaries, class size and quality instruction and higher standards for the teaching staff. What is missing from this equation? Little correlation between total spending and teacher salaries and class size!

    My observation over the years: too much bloat and bureaucracy, too few dollars reaching the classroom, hugh amounts of money invested in kids with marginal or zero chances of academic success (special ed, truly mentally handicapped, behaviorial lost-cases). We can keep spending huge dollars at the margin if we want, but at some point it becomes a fruitless waste of money, and now the jobs these folks often ended up with are being done by illegals. Thousands of dollars are spent on semi-literate football coaches training future felons for Virginia’s university teams and my wife gets zip, zilch, nada for coaching regional championship Mathcounts teams.

    I need both hands and both feet to count the incompetent, bonehead teachers and administration I personally know of who have been kicked upstairs and allowed to keep fat salaries doing nothing because nobody would FIRE THEM. I recently heard of a principal who struck a teacher and is still working in the central office (but will never supervise a soul again.) When in the last time you heard a new superintendent or principal praised for whacking away the dead wood? When folks wash out in administration they should be sent back to the classroom and if their pride dissallows that, boot them.

    Then there are today’s parents. Another posting another time. We spend alot of time and money diagnosing the problems of kids and writing massive IEPs filled with psychobabble and trust me, it is mostly LEARNED behaviors. Think I’ll sign this rant.

  16. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    S Haner. Amen and Hooah.

  17. Jerminator Avatar

    S.Haner, excellent points. But what do you think the actual chances of dead wood getting cleared away? As you observed lots of teachers are older and care very little about the actual teaching. They just want their pay check. What the schools need to do is a)decrease classroom sizes and b)hire teachers who actually have degrees in the subjects they are teaching instead of just “education” majors. But at the present time the only way to expose a student to either of those to elements is to send him to a private school. And do you really expect any polititician to campaign on “whacking away the dead wood”? Not going to happen.

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m one of the people who is “JUST” an education major. I teach elementary school and I teach ALL subjects. Perhaps I should just have a degree in math, and then try teaching your child English? That’s the scenario you have suggested. Or perhaps I should have majored in British Literature or such, and then I can try to teach 4th grade Virginia Studies???

    The classes I took for my “JUST” education major –

    7 English classes
    7 History classes
    3 Geography classes
    2 Economics classes
    4 Math classes (at algebra and above)
    5 Science classes
    4 Government/Political Science classes
    2 Religion classes (ie, religions of the world)
    Child psychology
    Child growth and development
    Special education

    And legislatively mandated classes dealing with child abuse and neglect and “technology”.

    And my classes to teach me “how” to teach (I happen to believe that the ability to teach is a gift) and “how” to comply with all of the legal requirements.

    I guess I’m a real threat to the average elementary student. Clearly, I am a dumb-bell because I am “JUST” an education major.

    And FYI – for subjects like high school English – a teacher cannot major in “JUST” education – they MUST have a degree in English or the appropriate number of hours of coursework.

    As a matter of fact, my “JUST” an education degree has rendered me so stupid, that I will begin teaching classes at the community college this fall. I’m going to be a professor, teaching developmental English and Math to college students – and I’m “JUST” an education major! Egads!

  19. subpatre Avatar

    Anonymous12:21 – you might climb off your high horse and explain –if education majors are as gifted as you claim– why you’re teaching developmental english and math at a community college.

    Jerminator may have over-reached, but a point is that gifted chemists, biologists, technologists, engineers, writers, aren’t “teachers” due to the lack of an education major. Feynman, Hawking, and almost every tenured university professor’s “not qualified” to teach in public school. Something’s wrong there.

    There’s also a problem with deadwood in public schools, some in the classroom and some useless overhead. It might look if Anonymous12:21 had listed accomplishments (teaching) rather than degree contents meeting state minimums.

    Is the problem with education a lack of funding? No, more funding’s been repeatedly tried with no effect. So the question remains: Why is there a problem with education?

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