Ozzie and Harriet School Funding

Bacon’s Rebellion

columnist Chris Braunlich has pinpointed a fundamental problem with the education systems in Virginia and most other states: Funding formulas are based on the wrong metrics.

Education funding is designed for “Ozzie and Harriet.” The stars of that old ‘50s-era TV show were not poor, they spoke English, their children rarely had acknowledged disabilities. Furthermore, they and their neighbors never moved out of the neighborhood and always attended the nearest school. If some kids didn’t do as well as others, if there were achievement gaps … well, people just looked the other way. Guys named “Lumpy” could always make a decent living as an auto mechanic.

But in a standards-based era, achievement gaps are not, and cannot, be tolerated. The jobs of tomorrow, whether rocket scientist or auto mechanic, demand a higher level of skill, training, and education than those required to fix a 1955 Chevy.

Citing the bi-partisan work of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Braunlich suggests that school funding should “follow the child.” This is similar to a voucher program, but it sidesteps the ideological divisions of vouchers because it applies only to public schools. It also differs from vouchers in that children with with disabilities or limited English proficiency would bring more money with them. Such a system, writes Braunlich, would:

Drive those dollars down to the school level, empowering school-based leadership to decide how best to spend the funds educating the students. By putting resources for decision-making at the school level, principals can do for kids what’s needed at their particular school, not what’s decided at the district level. If one school needs more tutoring, or another needs an additional aide, or a third needs more teacher training for new teachers – the school chooses, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” central office decision.

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One response to “Ozzie and Harriet School Funding”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Couldn’t we just as easily sidestep the ideological divisons by simply eliminating the public schools? It is clear that they cannot meet every idvidual need. And anyway, much of the ideological division is ideology on the part of the NEA. With vouchers, the money alreaady follows the child, all this does is water down the benefits by restricting the money to public schools.

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