For years, I have heard this refrain from legislators and members of various administrations. “We have given you more money, what did you do with it and why are you asking for more?” For some reason, this has some play among those in charge of state budgets and members of the administration in power.
For most people who hear this, it seems like a logical question that deserves and an answer from the poor and rural school districts that are getting more money per student than the premier school districts. For most of those people out in the field, mostly superintendents and school board members, this is like a knife under the ribs.
To answer this kind of question, one must understand that it is more difficult to deal with students who are poor, mentally or physically challenged, large swaths of geography and many other factors. The simplistic answers to these questions by those in charge is; consolidate, work with contiguous districts so you can share staff, and become more efficient.
As a matter of fact, just to show you how it is done, we will take over some school districts and run them in an efficient manner and even keep taxes down. Guess what, the track record of states taking over school districts is- they leave the districts in even worse shape than when they took over.
Most of the takeovers result in the same performances on state tests and SATs and ACTs. Other than the fact that the state, in many cases, gives over control of the districts to management firms who run charter schools, the scores remain the same or worse. If your sole idea is to keep taxes down and not really to change anything, while saying that you are changing things, what happens to the kids is irrelevant.
What did you do with all of the money that I gave you last year? Where did it go? Anyone ever hear of inflation? How about increases in costs for everything including pencils? What about all of the new programs we have started to help you? Why aren’t you doing better? Do you really think that it will take one year, two years, or even 5 years to remediate the collective poverty of the community and the kids that are spawned by them? You are out of your mind.
How come there are districts that spend less money than you and are doing better on these tests than you do? Can you even imagine what an answer to that might be? Let’s take a look at the students that are going to each school and then figure out why some kids do better.
How about teachers. Would you believe that in some districts, it is impossible to get regularly certified teachers because they don’t want to teach in a place with grinding poverty? Even those that go for a year or two leave as quickly as they can for a wealthier suburban district.
So what do we do, we hire foreign people to fill those roles. Some of these people can hardly be understood. They get their green card and wind up in a poor and rural district dispensing the information with a pretty bad accent and no understanding of the community’s culture.
So why don’t you use some of your local resources. You have got to be kidding. Some school districts have half of the median personal income than some of the wealthier ones. A recent call by the superintendent of Erie School District for the suburban districts to take his high school students on a tuition basis has raised the ire of those school districts and their legislator. I can almost imagine some of the conversations now. By the way, it has already happened to a small and rural district that closed up its secondary schools in its county and wanted to send the secondary students on a tuition basis to the other county schools. Guess what, nobody would agree to take them. He wound up sending the kids to Ohio (they were a PA school district).