Mo’ Money for Education: How Much is Enough?

The GOP transportation package has severe deficiencies that warrant chopping off its head and mounting it on a spike, but the notion purveyed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and others that it would short-change Virginia’s school children is not one of them. The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance has produced the following chart that compares K-12 spending, adjusted for inflation, to school enrollment.

Does anyone seriously think that dumping more money into this system will improve it? C’mon. Get real. The problem is that our educational system, like our transportation/land use system, is a relic of a past era that can not keep up with the demands of a fast-changing, globally competitive Knowledge Economy. Education, too, needs Fundamental Change.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


26 responses to “Mo’ Money for Education: How Much is Enough?”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Did someone say .. let’s compare increased funding verses testing scores?

    oh my gawd… heresey…

    there .. now I’ve done it.. I’m clearly anti-education…


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    The trouble with you damned Republicans is that you want great public education but don’t want to pay for it!

  3. I have to disagree with the anonymous commenter above me, and I’ll also point out that I’m as far removed from republican as one can get. The problem isn’t wanting education without having to pay for it. What all parents want, regardless of political leanings, is an education that is, in terms of value, on par with the cost. It’s odd that, wanting to get what you pay for.

    The suggestion in the blog posting isn’t that people don’t want to pay. Throughout the US the same holds true. The schools get more and more money, yet the education they provide is worth less and less.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    The curve would be very different if you tracked the money that actually found its way into my wife’s mast classroom. She has taught for 30 years and I am not without some observation and analytical skills and I don’t have a bleeping clue where all the money goes — except it doesn’t get to her classroom.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Math classroom. Math. My typing skills continue to deteriorate….

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “I don’t have a bleeping clue where all the money goes — except it doesn’t get to her classroom.”


    My wife teaches her fanny off for more than 20 years… and in the end she still has to deal with bottom acheivers, top achievers, and discipline problems – all in one class where she is expected to get them all on grade level and passing the SOLs.

    Next – I’m NOT a Republican but Education is like Transportation – we think more money is always the answer and that doing MORE with the same money is not possible.

    That was my point about plowing more and more money into education and hardly seeing any improvement in test scores.

    They blame it on teachers but it’s the institution … the folks that are charge of the enterprise… not about to change – not about to find out what’s wrong – if left to their own devices.

    The teachers, bless their souls, are busting their butts to make up for an institutional failure.

    If our local school board recommended a budget that included increases in money on SOLs and at risk kids AND were suggesting… accountability for the expenditure of those funds for that purpose – we’d be one happy group.

    But.. they want the money and and don’t want to talk about results.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    The money goes where most of it usually goes, to support the administration – which in the case of Richmond City Public Schools – is scant more than a glorified jobs program. A horse theory that is a thoroughbread when one reads the lack of cooperation from said jobs program with the recent city audit.

  8. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    As part of a larger community group, I met last week with some officials from Fairfax County schools to discuss the proposed budget. The education people were open and responsive, except when it came to any suggestions that the schools could adopt different priorities.

    For example, some within the citizen group recommended increasing preventative maintenance for the schools and funding this by contracting out for support services. Can’t be done says the school people. Bringing in contractors would put the students at risk. Only school employees can be trusted. Meanwhile, my wife received an email from my daughter’s high school principal informing that a school custodian had been suspended for allegedly touching another employee improperly.

    Questions were also raised about the relatively high levels of funding and staffing for the school’s programs for children with autism. No one argued against providing services to these children, but some did ask about the equity of devoting so many resources to a few students. The education folks responded that these services were mandated, only to be confronted by data that show FCPS substantially exceeds state requirements for Type II services for children with autism. Yet, few, if any other programs for both general and special education students are staffed so far over state standards. Silence from the education folks.

    There’s more effective oversight over federal covert activities than there is over how our schools spend money.

  9. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Something I’ve wondered about.

    A kid goes through the education process, with a dedicated college trained teacher and hands on teaching methods, but still has problems passing basic english and math.

    That same kid joins the military, goes through a training process of computerized curricula and simulation, with a NCO who learned to be an instructor in a one month long training course. Yet very few kids fail their assigned courses, even when engineering level information is presented.

    How did those kids, who were so dumb in high school, become so smart in the military schools?

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    It’s called accountability.

  11. It would be interesting to see the age of the average teacher in Virginia and compare that to where they are on the pay scale….obviously those that have worked longer make more money…..but what do we have more of….young, middle aged, or old teachers?

    Me thinks our public schools here in Virginia are “top heavy”. In other words there are a disproportionate amount of people at the top of the pay scale…..oh and don’t forget all of the $$$ paid to retired teachers.

    Also, when I say teachers I am also referring to administrators and everyone else who works at the local school board office…..I know the local superintendents where I live make well over 100K per year….and there are two of them working in offices that are located less than a mile from each other that oversee two separate school districts (city schools and county schools).

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Me thinks our public schools here in Virginia are “top heavy”. “

    Nada in high growth areas.

    Spotsylvania and other growth counties actually have to recruit out of state to get enough teachers.

    The administrators ARE “top heavy” old dogs .. resistent to change and very resistant to accountability.

    The problem is that we have many, many brand new teachers who basically are thrown to the wolves with little in the way of an institutional approach to what and how to teach – especially with regard to SOL curricula and classroom discipline.

    Every experienced teacher knows that if you cannot control the discipline situation that you are toast but most School Systems don’t have a formal institutional process for preparing new teachers to deal with disruptive behavior – it’s learned “on the job” through much pain and trial and error.

    Second, and even worse.. there is a lack of Institutional processes for teaching the SOL Curricula.

    Again – new teachers are not adequately prepared… They hire them and throw them into the classrooms… trial by fire….

    Teachers are NOT rated as “highly qualified” with respect to the training they receive in teaching SOLs .. because most systems do not train them to start with and so their “accountability” focus on what the teacher her/himself have done as individuals.

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    In Virginia – 4th graders are pretty much on grade level but by the time they start the 9th grade there are big problems and a clear “divide”.

    Some data:

    SOL’s are AVERAGED across race and economic status and thus a school with “good” SOLs can and often have a big “divide” with substantial numbers of minorities and disadvantage who score much lower.

    It’s only the much higher scores of the one that do well that result in “good” averages.

    No Child Left Behind required the States to break-out the data and the results in Virginia are apparent.

    People complain about NCLB and among the biggiest critics are the schools themselves – because – they don’t like the idea of breaking out the data and being judged with respect to every category and not just averages.

    Standard and POORs has an excellent website where you can see this divide in Virginia for yourself for your own school system… URL upon request

    National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) rates student profiency in reading and writing.

    Some might find it shocking that Virginia’s SOLs claim twice as many students are proficient than NAEPs testing shows.

    Not suprisingly.. School Administrators don’t like to talk about the NAEP results either much less talk about changes that would be necessary to improve those scores.

    I don’t have a problem with paying more for schools if I KNOW that it WILL actually produce results.

    But I do have a problem with paying more with no accountability for improving results.

    It’s sort of my same attitude towards paying VDOT to reduce congestion rather than just to build more roads.

    In both cases – we have huge taxpayer-funded beauracracies that operate like they are independent from the folks paying for their operation.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Darrell — why does the kid learn once he is in the Army? Well, different methods work with different kids, but the schools are often one-size-fits-all, but I’ll bet the real reason is that the drill instructor provides a little bit more, um, focus than the parents did. Hoo rah.


    When are we going to get serious about school vouchers and SCHOOL CHOICE for parents.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Actually, I would favor that as long as any “choice” school would have to abide by the SOLs and NCLB.

    Then we would have a level playing field and legitimate competition on an apples to apples basis.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    “How did those kids, who were so dumb in high school, become so smart in the military schools?”

    The military isn’t obligated to take everybody who shows up and wants to join. The public schools in the US are. If you have a low IQ and/or a discipline problem, the military will not take you or will quickly wash you out. Not so the public school system.

    It is considered to be bad form to bring up the simple fact that not all students are capable of doing school work at their age level and no amount of passing laws will change this. It has always been true.

    Things will become worse if the US continues to add less educated immigrants. There was a time when immigrants to the US had more education than the native-born population. This is no longer true. The 2000 census reported that 57% of foreign born adults had a high school education or less compared to 49% of native-born. Even more alarming 33% of foreign born adults had LESS than a high school education compared to 16% of native-born adults. I suspect that these statistics have only gotten worse since 2000.

    There was a recent WaPo story with several letters to the editor regarding the fact that Fairfax County refuses to test ESL students with the regular NCLB test until they can read English well enough etc etc. It is as transparent as glass that what FC is doing is trying to protect its reputation for great schools by not testing the weakest students. I understand FC fully but businesses and people looking at locating there should have an accurate picture of its schools, which I suspect are not the schools of 25-30 years ago.

    Deena Flinchum

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “It is considered to be bad form to bring up the simple fact that not all students are capable of doing school work at their age level and no amount of passing laws will change this. It has always been true.”

    Then I presume.. using this kind of reasoning, that we should all be prepared to pay every increasing taxes for welfare and prisons?

    I don’t pretend to know all of the answers but I do know that a 2 year old is not destined for prison until we decide that he is.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    “Then I presume.. using this kind of reasoning, that we should all be prepared to pay every increasing taxes for welfare and prisons?”

    No. We should be prepared to look at education options outside of the traditional classroom and perhaps even outside of the public school system entirely, such as hands-on vocational education and apprenticeships. And these should begin early in the education system, not wait until students are frustrated by years of being behind their age peers. Not everybody is academically inclined and we set children who aren’t up for failure when we pretend otherwise. When these children drop out of school because they can’t keep up, they don’t usually drop into any other educational system. That is when your welfare and prison systems often come into play.

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    we agree.

    Unfortunately the traditional public school system is oriented to serving the kids who are in generally good circumstances – often at the expense of kids who are clearly at risk from the time they first enter school.

    When a 1st grader lives with a grandmother.. and dad is jail and mom is off doing 2 jobs and herself not well educated… that kid … right now … through no fault at all of his/her own is spun off to the side – with terrible consequences for him/her as a human and collateral consequences for society.

    Where I disagree with you is that you seem to think that this kid cannot learn… and therefore needs to be delt with like he/she has an “IQ” problem.

    Nothing could be further from the truth in most cases.

    I hear daily about young un’s who are BRIGHT and fully capable but are in bad parental circumstances and will … eventually come to grief because that kid has no advocate… and the school system will turn it’s back on him/her when he/she starts having problems… like being moved from one school to another… and starting to have serious gaps in what they have not had the opportunity to learn because of poor parenting.

    I agree on different/better approaches but I don’t agree that we should start out treating these kids like they inevitably will fail.

    Not when they are 6 years old and just as bright as their classmates who are in much better circumstances.

    Not quite racism. Not quiet classism but something that IS UGLY if we feel that bright kids deserve to fail.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, I grew up poor as a churchmouse in SW VA, orphaned at 9 and raised by a step-mother that was, at best, a semi-sociopath. I also graduated first in my class with a 4.0 average and went on to college and a career in IT back when women were scarce in IT. Believe me, nobody wants to see children from poor families succeed more than I do. I fully support free meals at school, better health care, tutoring, earlier intervention in bad family situations, etc. AND I am willing to pay for these things via taxes AND to spend my private time and money to further these causes even though I don’t have children myself. Here in SW VA, I have helped Second Harvest with food banks, the Salvation Army with back-to-school book bags for poor children, and contributed money freely to a lot of other similar causes. When I was in NoVA, I did eveything from organizing Thanksgiving dinners for the poor to taking books around to inmates in a local jail, so please, drop the racist, classist crap because it doesn’t float.

    My point is that “education” doesn’t have to be Beowulf and Algebra II and for some students, it will never be that even if they get exposed to it. I am not advocating pegging 6-year-olds as low IQ losers. But I AM in favor of providing children who may not be thriving in a traditional class room an opportunity to learn – in another setting – skills that will enable them to earn a living and pay them a decent wage instead of importing armies of third-world people to “do the jobs US citizens won’t do.” That is as bogus as a 3-dollar-bill.

    When we built our house in 2003, our builder hired a lot of local 20-something young men to do a lot of the work. Some of them had been in a little trouble with the law (probably drugs). We thoroughly approved of this. The only one with college was a talented carpenter from Richmond whose well-off parents were going to set him up in the construction business when Dad retired. He was there getting ON THE JOB EXPERIENCE.

    Our plumber had to make an adjustment after the house was completed and cut a hole in the ceiling of our mudroom, which he expertly repaired. I complimented him on his non-plumbing skill and he allowed as how, well, he started at the bottom, learned construction from the ground (actually) up on the job. Now he is a successful businessman – owns his own business and is by most folks’ standards, a success. I have no idea what his educational background is and it doesn’t matter to me. He is a highly skilled craftsman and doing well.

    There is nothing wrong with learning a trade. It beats the hell out of social promotions until the student drops out or graduates unable to read his diploma. I don’t think that second student will thank us for keeping him/her in a traditional school environment. In fact, if he’s smart, he’ll get a lawyer and sue for malpractice.

    And for the record, it is far more classist and racist to assume that the traditional 12 years of “middle-class classroom” schooling is the only “education” that counts.

    Deena Flinchum

  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “so please, drop the racist, classist crap because it doesn’t float.

    “so please, drop the racist, classist crap because it doesn’t float.”

    My point is that “education” doesn’t have to be Beowulf and Algebra II and for some students, it will never be that even if they get exposed to it. I am not advocating pegging 6-year-olds as low IQ losers. But I AM in favor of providing children who may not be thriving in a traditional class room an opportunity to learn – in another setting”

    Denna – I think we agree more than we disagree but I invite you to take a look at the No Child Left Behind scores and they should clearly demonstrate that as early as 3rd grade – we have entire classes of kids… economically disadvantaged and black that score lower – and it gets worse as they get older.

    I’ve very hard for me to believe that 8 year old poor kids and blacks are – as a group – inferior to their classmates.

    You are right.. once they get older, the correct path for some is something other than college.

    But there are two big problems:

    1. – we don’t get the kids that are in need of help in the 3rd grade

    2. – once they are on a bad track – we abandon them… and pour the resources into college-bound kids.

    Everyone pays for public schools.

    Why should they NOT be provided equivalent and equal educations for kids who are going into technical careers?

    Why is it the job of non-public schools to do this?

  23. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Deena – since you shared your childhood circumstances.. I meant to share back.

    I was not born into a rich or poor family per se. I was born to a Marine Corp soldier.

    We did ok. I never knew that we were considered to be on the lower part of the strata….

    I even went to Catholic schools for a few years.

    But the thing that tripped me up was the fact that my dad got transferred into 2-3 years and I would go to a different school.

    Do you know what it is like for a child to go to different schools that are not teaching a unified curriculum?

    I didn’t realize how much I did not learn until I tried taking college level courses and I was classified as needing “remedial” help if I had any hope of succeeding.

    Now.. I look at kids whose parents are not well off and move around.. and I think what that does to those kids…in terms of them being able to get the material and keeping up….

    Only this year – has the school that my wife teaches in – is actually starting to evaluate each kid to see what they know and what they don’t know.. and trying to set up programs to help them catch up.

    And this school from my understanding is doing something that a lot of other schools are not yet doing.

    When a kid enters first grade and he/she has a normal IQ – why do some of them go on to college and some of them never graduate?

    I’m realistic and pragmatic enough to know that not every kid will make it and it won’t be the fault of teachers or the school system.

    Some kids, for whatever reason, don’t turn out to be what they could have been.

    But when the SOLs identify whole classes of kids who have equivalent IQs that are testing quite differently even in the 3rd grade – don’t you think something is going on that deserves our attention AND the public school systems attention?

    Why in the world, at the 3rd grade level are we recommendation that kids be sent somewhere else for an education.. much less be willing to provide the funding for them to go there?

  24. Anonymous Avatar


    We agree on many things. I’d like to suggest to you a book “The Knowledge Deficit” by E D Hirsch, Jr. regarding closing the education gap. It was published in 2006. One of the things he talks about is the impact of children changing schools often and the fact that because there is no national plan as to exactly what each student should know at each grade level, it is impossible for teachers to assess what their students already know prior to starting the school year. Short book (about 140 pages plus notes) and well worth the read.

    My point is that I don’t think that we can successfully close this gap in a short amount of time. Students with parents who are able to create a home environment where learning is valued and expected will retain an advantage over students who don’t.

    It can take not years but generations to bring people out of poverty and/or familial dysfunction, and often children in the same family react very differently to this situation. John Edgar Widemann grew up in a working class family in PA and became an award winning author and a college professor while his younger brother became a murderer. What gives? Who knows? My older sister responded to our family situation quite differently from me. I saw my out as education and a good job. She saw hers as dropping out of high school, marrying young and become the mother of 2 children in her teens. Does this make me better than she is? Of course not, but IMHO I’d be lying if I told you our decisions weren’t critical in defining how our lives have played out since then.

    The great middle class that has developed in the US did not spring up overnight. The farmer who had a 3rd-grade education became father to the son with a 10th-grade education. He in turn was father to a high school graduate and grandfather to a college grad. The college grad saw his son go to law school. Needless to say a lot of generations didn’t make it that smoothly. Also some slid backwards (Widemann’s son is also in prison for murder). As recently as the early 60’s only slightly over half of US born citizens had a high school education. Now, two generations later, over 80% do.

    I wish you and your wife the best. Test, start pre-school earlier, expand the free meals into the weekends and summer, tutor, mentor, etc. But don’t be surprised when the costs start going up, the quality of education to the average non-special ed or ESL student goes down, and young educated middle-class families start moving farther out to avoid the problems. That is largely what has happened in CA, which was the gold standard in education 30 years ago. More US residents, largely middle class, have moved out of CA than have moved into CA since the early 90’s. IMO that is what is starting to happen in Fairfax County now.

  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I track almost completely what you are saying… almost word for word.

    The problem is that our current policy essentially punishes kids for the sins of their parents and the result is harm to our own society – both in values and dollars.

    We MUST VALUE kids. It is Imperative because when we don’t value them – we are putting out a message that alienates rather than brings together.

    “But don’t be surprised when the costs start going up, the quality of education to the average non-special ed or ESL student goes down, and young educated middle-class families start moving farther out to avoid the problems.”

    Ah.. and that’s the subject of this Threat.

    By approaching the problem as money rather than a flawed business plan – we fail twice:

    1. – we don’t concentrate on what really need to be fixing

    2. – we take more money to spend on the status quo.

    As I said before. I don’t mind paying more money if the agreement is performance metrics that show results for more money.

    It’s the “more money” and kill testing (and a national curricula) that make this an unacceptable bargain.

  26. is this really helping poor childs thn i m from a popor family but all of us 5 r continuing higher studies but no fees.plzzzzzzzzzz help us

Leave a Reply