Friday, September 28, 2007

Money for Nothing

A great WSJ editorial yesterday about the disgrace in Connecticut, which is spending money like crazy yet has the widest achievement gap in the nation.  Its solution -- SURPRISE! -- is to spend even more money, rather than fixing how it's spending the money.  Kudos to ConnCAN for its work on this:

Some Connecticut lawmakers, egged on by the teachers unions,  will doubtless use these results to argue for throwing still more tax dollars at education. Earlier this year, Republican Governor Jodi Rell pushed  (unsuccessfully) for a 10% personal income tax rate hike, which she said was necessary to fund additional school spending. But here's a better idea: Try  focusing on how money is spent instead of merely how much.
Public charter schools in Connecticut regularly outperform traditional public schools, and do so on significantly smaller budgets.  Hartford's lone charter school, Jumoke Academy, receives $8,000 per student  from the state, while surrounding public schools receive $13,600 per kid. On  the most recent state assessment test, 60% of Jumoke's students scored proficient in math, 70% scored proficient in reading and 95% scored proficient in writing. The corresponding results for the surrounding public schools were  22%, 30% and 27%.
Connecticut has only 16 charter schools operating today, thanks to political limits imposed in Hartford. Governor Rell's high job-approval ratings put her in a position to push for creating more, but she's been  unwilling to take on the unions that oppose school choice for the underprivileged.
"The politicians are much freer with financial capital than with political capital," says Marc Porter Magee of ConnCan, an education  reform group based in New Haven that has called for more charter schools.  "They'll spend as much money as they can get through, but they won't take on the tough reforms when push comes to shove." The biggest losers from Ms. Rell's lack of political courage are the poorest kids in the state.


Money for Nothing
September 27, 2007; Page A16

If any state has taken to heart the claim that more money is the key to improving public education for low-income students, it's Connecticut. The Nutmeg State, which ranks first in per capita income ($47,800), also leads the way in average teacher salary ($58,700) and is third in per-pupil spending ($11,000). Yet according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress released this week, Connecticut has the nation's largest achievement gap between poor and non-poor students.

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