In an era of Kentucky history where a stalled economy is not likely to produce additional resources for our failing public school system, education leaders in the commonwealth now have no choice but to do what they should have been “shooting” for all along: increasing the bang for the buck for Kentucky school children.
In fact, since the Kentucky Education Reform Act was passed in 1990, inflation-adjusted spending on public education has nearly doubled while Kentucky kids’ math and reading performance on standardized tests has remained largely stagnant.
The problem in Kentucky’s public schools is not a lack of resources, but an inability to channel these resources toward improving the education of our young people. The only bang made by the growing amount of money thrown at public education in the commonwealth is the sound of coins landing uselessly at the bottom of a wishing well.
Throwing money at the system and wishing for the best is not going to cut it anymore. But real solutions have been proposed.
In a recent release from the Bluegrass Institute, author Richard Innes explores how some schools in Kentucky have managed to stretch each taxpayer’s dollar going toward public education to the max. According to the report, titled “Bang for the Buck: How Efficient Are Kentucky Schools?” those schools generating the greatest student scores per dollar received by the school district actually cite many of the same strategies for maximizing bang for the educational dollar.
And guess what – theses schools are not citing effective lobbying techniques to snatch more money for the school district, teacher union restrictions, or one-size-fits-all requirements from Kentucky’s Department of Education.
Instead, these schools focus on treating our young people and their parents as customers. These schools cater to the demands of the parents, and in some cases even offer professional development courses for teachers where the students are the instructors!
What better way to maximize teacher performance than learning what works and what doesn’t work straight from the customers’ mouths?
And in stark contrast to what certain state teachers unions would have you believe, the customer in public education is indeed the students – not the teachers.
Take the case of the Chicago Teacher Union (CTU) for example. Although the strike between the CTU and Chicago’s school district recently came to a close this week, the settlement is not likely to help students eager to return to a classroom where educational efficiency is maximized.
Among the concessions of Chicago’s school district include:
- Backing down on stricter teacher evaluation standards.
- Failing to implement merit pay – a pay system that incentivizes teachers to become superstars for our kids and weeds out incompetent or lazy ones.
- Caving in and accepting an increase in pay of 18% for teachers over the next four years – a complete denial of the need for educational efficiency.
But the problems arising from putting the interest of teachers ahead of their students is not exclusive to the thugs in Illinois. Largely because of teachers unions, Kentucky has some of the least school choice in the nation, and is one of only ten states that has yet to enact charter schools – a type of public school that would cater to children most in need like low-income and minority students.
Kentucky is not alone in its battle to give brighter futures to our young people. But real solutions have been offered, tested, and have succeeded.
It’s time our education officials took their head out of the sand and do what many school districts already have: stretch that educational dollar for all its worth.