Americans Discern Correctly Public Schools are Poor “Investment”

Kyle Olson
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Posted: Apr 30, 2011 10:45 AM

We continue to hear the rhetoric from teachers unions and others in the education establishment that we need to “invest” more in America’s public schools.

Want smarter, better-prepared kids, the teacher unions ask? Give us more money! (And get the “rich” to pay for it.)

That’s been the nation’s approach to public education for, oh, the last 50 years.

But after decades of increased education spending, it’s time to ask the obvious question: What kind of return are American taxpayers getting for all this “investment”?

The answer: not much.

According to a new survey by Rasmussen Reports, a whopping 72% of taxpayers say they “are not getting a good return on what they spend on public education, and just one-in-three voters think spending more will make a difference.”

Americans are correctly discerning that simply spending more money will not improve educational outcomes.

Sure, throwing more dollars at education helps shore up the teacher unions’ Cadillac health insurance and pension plans. The money also helps cover automatic step raises for teachers. The problem is, none of those things help children read better or compute a calculus equation. Not one iota.

Think of it this way: If you owned stock in a company that was producing a lousy, inferior product that the public was unhappy with, would you buy more stock in that company?

If you’re a savvy investor, you’d demand new leadership that has a clear plan for producing a better product before you gave them a single dollar more.

Why shouldn’t the same principle apply to public schools?

For years, the teachers union and their surrogates in elective office could get away with guilting Americans into spending more on public education. It was for the children, after all!

It was a cozy setup. More education dollars meant more union dues and more union political contributions for Democrats (and the occasional incompetent Republican who bought into the teacher union propaganda). Everyone benefitted. Except the students.

This Rasmussen poll indicates that Americans are catching onto this racket.

If the nation’s public schools were producing college-ready, workforce-ready graduates, there is little doubt that Americans would be willing to spend even more money on public education.

But our education system is graduating many students who are lacking in basic skills. The number of college freshmen who have to take remedial English and math classes just to get up to academic speed is an indictment of the entire system. “Kids Aren’t Cars” told the story of a graduate who couldn’t read his own diploma.

If leaders of the education establishment want more of our money, they must show a commitment to quality. That means holding teachers accountable (merit pay, ending tenure) and providing students with greater choices in education (charter schools, online learning). Do those things, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, and then we’ll talk about more spending.

Until that happens, 72% of Americans understand that more school spending is simply throwing good money after bad.