Big Government is Misspending, and Our Children Are Paying

Posted: Jun 11, 2011 8:00 AM

Guest post  by Daniel Doherty

According to the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality, the Los Angeles Unified School District – the second largest school system in the nation – has wasted more than $500 million a year on a failed strategy to improve student performance.

The policy, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, uses 25% of its teacher payroll ($519 million annually) to subsidize graduate coursework, the idea being that higher degrees will translate directly into greater achievement and elevated test scores. Yet the success of the policy has been inconclusive at best.

While the strategy reported by the National Council on Teacher Quality has been ostensibly ineffective, several critics have emphatically disagreed with the report’s findings.  Nevertheless, the story underscores the potentially catastrophic ramifications of implementing failed strategies in our public schools in pursuit of improving student achievement.

Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, asserts that the money would be best spent on teachers who showcase results, thereby creating an incentive for teachers to work harder and foster a classroom that is more conducive to learning. As it stands, a system that rewards teachers in terms of seniority rather than performance is an archaic method that has directly contributed to our stagnant educational system.  

But we can do better.  Since the 1960s, student achievement has faltered to the point that it is now becoming essentially impossible for our children to compete in a continually growing market economy.  

Do we really want to continue down this path?  Merit-based pay, a sensible approach, is one shrewd way to begin reforming our schools.

Moreover, the power and political clout of teachers unions has debilitated many of our school systems.  Apathetic and underperforming teachers cannot be fired, and as always, it is the student that suffers.   One appeal of the charter school movement – and there are many things to like about it – is that it eliminates the perennial practice of tenure and allows the best teachers to flourish.   

Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that our tax payer dollars are perpetually wasted on public education whereas those countries around the world with infinitely less government spending on education are garnering exponentially higher results.   

With so much money wasted, it's clear that it’s not a lack of money that’s the problem, it’s the way we spend it.