Some people have certain presumptions -- for example, that government is better suited to handling problems than individuals or private entities. And then there are the accompanying assumptions that government, for those who have faith in its supposedly superior capabilities, will always produce the desired outcome.
Nowhere has the failure of presumptions to produce results from assumptions been more evident than in public education. In an essay for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), excerpted from their book "Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America's Public Schools," Eric A. Hanushek and Alfred A. Lindseth write that many, including the courts, have blindly accepted the assumption that more money will improve student performance. "Almost no one has seriously examined the empirical evidence to determine its validity." They have.
The authors look at four states -- Wyoming, Kentucky, New Jersey and Massachusetts -- where courts ordered the legislatures to appropriate more money for public schools on the presumption that increased spending would improve performance. Their conclusion: court-ordered funding does not necessarily improve test scores and African-Americans, despite the increased spending, are even worse off.
The authors write that, "Even when judging the effectiveness of their own previously ordered remedies, courts rarely examine the remedy's effect on student achievement." They cite the Wyoming Supreme Court's dramatic 1995 ruling that the state's education funding system was unconstitutional, ordering the legislature to spend whatever it took to make education in the state the "best." "Despite these unprecedented increases in school funding," write Hanushek and Lindseth, "the achievement of Wyoming's students has largely failed to keep up with the nation or even with its much lower-funded, although demographically similar, neighboring states." The court has paid little attention to the outcome of its spending order, apparently because it just assumed it would work.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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