GLEN COVE, NY — Although Wisconsin doubled its
spending on public education over a 10-year period, test scores went
down. This kind of thing happens all the time. Can anyone read the
Federalist papers and believe that today’s
politicians are as well-educated as Hamilton, Madison, and Jay? Can
anyone argue that the education of our founding fathers was expensive?
A hundred years ago, single-teacher (“one-room”) schools
turned out students fluent in Latin and Greek. Despite all the evidence
to the contrary, many persist in believing that more money will improve
Often, putting more money into an enterprise does improve the output.
If one hires more widget makers in a factory, the factory will produce
more widgets. Assuming the market for widgets is not saturated, the
additional investment will pay off. Education, however, is a saturated
market. Virtually every person in the United States between the ages
of 6 and 16 is in school. Even if we spent 100 percent of our gross
domestic product on education, we could not significantly increase
the number of students.
Some will object that we can increase the number of students attending
college, or at least earning high school diplomas. While this may be
true, doing so does not necessarily constitute an improvement. Most
junior and community colleges offer remedial courses to teach skills
that a hundred years ago were required before students would be promoted
from the fifth to the sixth grade, or even from the fourth to the fifth.
If someone is impermeable to reading and arithmetic, they would still
be analphabetic and need all their fingers and toes to count to 20,
even if we moved them up all the way through a Ph.D. Even so, adding
two years of community college to the education of every young person
in the country cannot conceivably require a 10-fold increase in funding.
The real purpose of keeping the stubbornly uneducated in school longer
and longer is to protect the jobs of unionized workers from younger
competition by keeping the young in school and out of the job market.
If increasing spending on education does not increase the number
of students and only marginally increases the amount of education they
receive, where does the money go? Some of it may go toward decreasing
class size. There is no evidence that reducing class size actually
improves educational outcomes. In the 1950s, for example, parochial
school classes of 50 or 60 outperformed public school classes of 30.
What decreasing class size does improve is the employment of marginal
teachers who would not be hired if class sizes were larger.
Some of the additional money goes to hire temporary teachers to cover
for teachers out of the classroom on union duties. Does anyone believe
this improves education? Much of the money goes to hire more assistant
superintendents, vice principals, vice deans, assistant vice deans,
coaches, and counselors. This is a little like answering a crisis in
vocations and baptisms by consecrating more bishops. It is also like
pulling riflemen out of rifle squads to increase the size of support
elements of an infantry brigade.
Of course, if you think public education is all about winning varsity
games and providing the best senior proms in the state, then by all
means you should keep feeding money to your school district. If not,
you can safely vote against any school district budget put before you
and cut state and federal aid to education to a fraction of its present
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2011
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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