Spending our Way to Failure

The General Assembly has advanced key elements of Governor Bob McDonnell’s incremental reform for K-12 education, including one measure that would overhaul teacher accountability and another that would provide for an A through F rating system for schools. But the legislature has shot down any bill that would challenge the status quo, such as provisions to foster more charter schools and create a virtual public school alternative.

Totally unaddressed is the underlying cause of the stupefying increases in education spending with barely noticeable results in educational achievement. This chart from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice says it all:

Where has the money gone over the past 20 years? Not to teachers but to administrators and staff. Attaway, Virginia. Keep on spending, baby! It’s getting us nowhere.


Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


15 responses to “Spending our Way to Failure”

  1. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    This chart breaks one’s heart. Imagine if all that money was going to those who educate our kids instead. Those who teach, the teachers.

  2. Don’t the local school boards make personnel decisions? How would the General Assembly control that? In my opinion a lot of the impetus behind charter schools is cost – presumably they’re cheaper to run as they’re set up now because there is no transportation, no cafeteria, no sports fields, no expensive extracurriculars, such as athletics and band, no remedial programs, and no help for disabled students. As students move to charter schools, funding moves from traditional schools that provide all that extra to charter schools that don’t. Will this lead to a phenomenon similar to the “flight to the suburbs” – with traditional schools dealing with the poor and those who need the most help and charter schools taking the easiest, best-prepared students off the top? Most counties are proud of their public schools, and are justifiably afraid of meddling by the General Assembly.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Is not the only thing that truly matters is a sharp focus on educating our kids (including those disabled and those requiring remediation)? Should not all our moneys be concentrated intensity on this overarching goal. And should not this exclusive focus continue until we are confident by objective evidence that they’re receiving the best education possible?

      Surely there are schools and programs that achieve this every day for all our kids whatever their circumstances. What is standing in our way? I suggest the above chart offers some insight into the obstacles standing between our children and their absolute right to the best possible education. These abhorrent allocations of our public monies per this chart speak far louder than words.

  3. One thing to look at when talking about spending in Va is where the money comes from and what the state mandates as a local match.

    What you’ll discover in many of the richer counties is 5K or more of local funding that is NOT required as a match for State SOQ money.

    you might ask yourself what this extra local money is used for if not mandated by the State and the Feds?

    The answer is that it is for things that are discretionary and not mandated but in many of these school districts, it essentially doubles the amount spent per kid.

  4. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    That is a good point. Much devil likely is in the details of different counties or districts budgets.

    Also, if a seriously enforced, the proposed A through F grading system might be a very good start toward putting “seriousness” back in the school system.

    Grade inflation is high corrosive. It’s a key obstacle to educational reform. Removing it, and enforcing an honest grading system, could do wonders. (this includes higher education as well)

  5. I don’t think the new rating system has much to do with the grading system used for students.

    It’s a rating for the school itself based on how the school did on the SOLs, I think.

    The schools fear this will hurt the students if the school ends up with a C, D or F – that even the “A’ students and top teachers will feel stigmatized but the logic is the parents will bring pressure on the school to bring it’s grade up.

  6. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    What claptrap. Very disappointing should that be the case. Students need not and should not ever be identified.

  7. no no… the students are not identified. The school gets the bad grade and all I was pointing out was that even the students that got A’s would feel bad if their school got a D – at least that’s what those opposed to the bill said.

    The proponents say that the current rating systems for schools is not as easy to understand as the A, B, C, D, F would be and that schools that got lower grades would be more quickly recognized as such by parents who would then put pressure on the schools to improve their grade.

    I’ve got mixed feelings about it but if they delegate the implementation to the DOE .. not going to surprise me if it ends
    up pretty watered down… like maybe an A would be 75-100, B 55-75, etc… 95% of the schools would be rated “A”.


  8. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    I’d suggest we’ve developed the mindset that people do not fail. Which of course is not true, they do fail. But in order to dodge that inconvenient truth, we declare that schools fail. You can more easily fail a school. Because schools don’t fail. People do. To avoid it, we’re caught in political circles spinning in a world of make believe. Claptrap galore.

    Why not focus on the kids? Give them real grades on a curve, serious honest grades. Then work hard with each kid to bring his or her grade up. Work where the rubber meets the road, a kid at that time. Make the kid earn it. Insist that the teacher do their job, teach, and prove it.

    Why? Because a child’s future is at stake. And this is not rocket science.

    We need just do what teachers did in 19th century one room schoolhouses. What do you think that cost?

    Now our grade 1-12 are controlled by DOE. If so we’re doomed.

    1. Reed, kids DO get grades and some of them do fail and the grades for the schools are an indication of how many fail relative to the total enrollment.

      The schools are not “controlled” by DOE. DOE sets standards like SOLs and SOQs.

      19th century schools did not educated the disabled and if a kid had learning deficits, no special help… now days.. we educate the disabled and we provide specialized help for kids that are behind and/or have deficits. In the 19th century, these kinds of kids just stayed home.

      1. reed fawell III Avatar
        reed fawell III

        I am intimately familiar with learning disabilities. I’ve worked to help kids overcome them. The 19th century one room school house model applies equally to all children, because it teaches to each child’s needs. Each child is an exceptional child. Each child is a special needs child.

        All each child needs is a fine teacher (attuned to that child’s needs) in a warm safe place, and you’ve got a great one room schoolhouse.

        It’s akin to Mitch Daniel’s recent quote. “Collect Purdue’s faculty into a tent and you’ve got a great university.”

        I supported the No child left Behind law, and other DOE initiatives. I now have severe reservations. These “setting standards” and funding programs are now rapidly taking control of our schools. That likely is a primary mover behind the Chart that heads this article.

        Many of these federal programs prove that the best of original intentions far too easily morph into highly unfortunate, never intended results. Even programs that initially work often grow into programs not only fail. Many not only fail, they work to harm the people and institutions they were designed to help.

  9. Reed the SOL standards are related to NCLB. The SOQs underpinnings are in the Va Constitution.

    AND you’ll find that the motivation to have a State directed Virtual School will also involve the DOE (who else would do it?) and if they can get to agreement – state funding for the virtual school – which in my view will be a boon to kids who for various reasons cannot attend physical public schools but because the virtual schools will use the same SOL standards it will be the same education.

    I see that a a very good thing but without standards a bad thing.

    re: Federal Programs – of the 10K that kids get only about 1K comes from the Feds and the vast majority of it is specifically targeted to at risk and other kids with learning, mental and physical deficits. Many schools in the US and Va would not be funding specialist teachers for the “chapter” programs if it were not for the Feds.

    You might want to bone up on some of this…

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      You’re right Larry – I am not reacting based on specific research on 1-12 education. My words come from impressions recently gained looking into higher education. From that several broad conclusions seem reasonable.

      1/ vast numbers of our recent HS graduates have very little education. Far too many are functionally illiterate. Far too many of the rest read far below the 12th grade level. Indeed huge amounts of high school graduates today drop out of learning in their schools long before they graduate.

      2/ We’ll thrown huge amounts of money at the problem. Many local heroes fight this cause daily. Some few schools show improvement. But the mayor overall trends still worsen, irrespective of the vast sums of money invested in schools systems that have been failing for decades. (Indeed, even schools and school systems offering proven solutions for those at particular risk are being forced to close, yet another huge misapplication of resources.

      3/ The causes for this are surely very complex, but we’ve become so disoriented, lost in the forest, we do nothing by bump into trees. We’ve lost the capacity to do even simple things could have huge impact.

      Recall comment 29 on What’s agendas to attack on UVA. To paraphrase a apt comment regarding college students:

      How many ways grade inflation damage students? Here are two:

      How can C and D students getting “all As” learn anything? Education requires that one see one’s mistakes. Then it demands that one learn to overcome those mistakes, and gain mastery over the task. If this be true, then a school that gives C and D students all As guts their ability learn.

      It also commits a fraud on its students. Many think they are getting educated, getting prepared for the real world. Imagine the shock after graduation. The damage it does. How many can recover? Their education’s been stolen from them. It’s left them uneducated and highly vulnerable.

      It appears that we cannot even summons the courage and common sense to properly and honest grade and test most of our students. How fundamental is that? How then do they have any chance to learn?

  10. I cannot argue with some of what you say. About 20% do not graduate and another 20-30% barely make it – to the point that about 30% cannot even qualify for our own Armed Services.

    But we are gradually doing a better job in the earlier grades by catching and re-mediating at earlier ages before they are lost in the later grades.

    If not mistaken, Virginia does rank 4th in the country but we still rank 15th and worse in International comparisons.

    What we can’t do is walk away from the public school system because we know it CAN work. Every one of the other countries that clean our clocks academically are ALL public schools with national curriculums – much more top-down govt than ours even and apparently it does work with other countries.

  11. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    “What we can’t do is walk away from the public school system because we know it CAN work.”

    Which is my point. So we agree.

Leave a Reply