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School funding woes

July 28, 2009 - Steve Murch
It doesn't come as a surprise to anyone that spending on schools is down. We've all seen the stories from Lansing, the effects reported by our schools, and the national headlines of stories about some of our nation's largest school districts.

While it shouldn't be shocking, it is a bit disturbing nonetheless that a Census report released Monday states that only 8.3 percent of K-12 funding comes from the federal government.

The report is from the 2007 school year.

According to the Associated Press, the report showed that Louisiana received the most in federal revenue that year -- 17.6 percent of the state per pupil revenue, while New Jersey had the smallest percentage of federal revenue with 4 percent.

The report also showed public schools across the country spent an average of $9,666 per pupil –- an increase of 5.8 percent over 2006.

"It frustrates me that we are not banking on the future in terms of our children. If we spent more, maybe we attract more talent in terms of teachers," Margaret Fraissinet, a Houston mother whose children include a 14-year-old just entering high school in the Humble school district and another child entering pre-K, told AP.

Now remember, this was 2007. George Bush, the architect of No Child Left Behind, was still the president. He's the one who made the government the watchdog over education. It's tough to educate when there isn't any money. Yet there was always the threat of less money if you didn't educate properly -– according to the rules of No Child Left Behind, though those were modified, too.

Funding on education is going to vary from district to district and state to state. There's no avoiding that. Districts in more affluent communities will always have more money available to them, while schools in downtrodden areas won't. There's also no guarantee that increased spending will improve the quality of education, as Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told AP.

"The relationship is weak to nonexistent between levels of expenditure and student achievement," he said. "That doesnát mean money is not important. You just have to ask what money is being spent for." That's true. However, wouldn't it be nice to have an abundance of funding for schools. It sure beats the alternative.

Would you rather schools have an embarrassment of riches and maybe screw up some small things, or not have funds and have to cut or reduce the important things?


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