The Failure of "Public" Education


#1

The United States Department of Education has admitted that the average cost of public education per pupil is slightly more than double the cost per pupil of a private education, even though public schools have more students per teacher. Thus, there was no economy of scale as the per pupil cost should theoretically decline the more students there are per teacher.

Our total cost per student in our Catholic school, before any payments or subsidizations, is in the $4K range. That is less than half what the state is paying for one of the neighborhood kids.


#2

I’ll tell you what.

Take out the public school cost for mandated ESL classes, mandated classes for LD kids, mandatory school for the profoundly retarded, and the cost for the alternative schools, and then see what the comparison is.


#3

So you’re equating the “failure” of public schooling based just on the costs per student? Seems to me if you want to say public school is failing, you need more criteria to back that theory up such as test scores, extra curricular activities and the overall school environment between public schools and private schools.

I can tell you from personal experience, the cost per student at our parish school was significantly lower than our public school but it showed. The test scores were lower, the school building was deteriorating, general school supplies were lacking. If more money was spent per student at the school, we might not have left.

The local Catholic high school though, the costs per student is at the same level as the public school.


#4

That’s a good point. Private schools can pick and choose who they want to teach.

If you pull all of the normal and above average kids out of the public schools and send them to private schools (which is essentially what happens when parents are choosing to send their normal and bright children to private schools), the cost per student will go up in the public system, because it is dealing mostly with children who have special needs of one kind or another.


#5

While I agree that there needs to be some normalizing of the data [like the cost of busing PS students can’t be insignificant], your post paints what I think is an inaccurate picture. I suspect the student intelligence forms a bell-curve and, consequently, nowhere near all the normal and bright children are in private schools. While they might have a measurable effect on the numbers, they would have only minimal impact on why public schools are failing. I have never seen any numbers that prove the assertion that children who have special needs of one kind or another are that much of a drag on public schools. The most compelling evidence that they are failing is the cases of teacher cheating. Another question that might be asked is if all the private schools were closed and the PS had to take in their students, would that make the PS schools succeed?


#6

I don’t really know the situation in the States. My experience here in Calgary is that the public schools are not failing at all. The vast majority of public school children are fully literate, well behaved, polite, and good at critical thinking, for the most part.

Qualified teachers who know how to make their subject areas seem interesting, and who know how to keep discipline in the classroom, are key to the success of any school. It seems to me that teachers today are much better trained than they were when I was growing up; there are a lot more resources available to them these days.


#7

Catholic schools cannot compete with “free” public education. The answer to better education and higher teacher salaries is competition.

“Public” education does not need more money; it already has too much money, even in poor Louisiana. The United States spends more money per student than most other countries in the world; however, the academic performance is worse than other countries. More money for education is not the answer. “Public” education is inefficient and ineffective.

The answer is to take the power from the state governments and give the power to the parents in the form of universal vouchers. Friedman proposed vouchers as a way to separate government financing of education from government administration of schools. The “public” schools would now have to please the parents instead of the state legislature. Viva la competition!

I see universal school vouchers as inevitable. School vouchers are a 50 year-old idea that is backed by solid economic research. Means-tested vouchers for poor families and failing school vouchers have already been tried with great success. All we need now is a test of universal school vouchers.

The only real opposition to universal school vouchers is the education bureaucracy and teachers’ unions. When people strongly support universal school vouchers, they come up against the teachers' unions and the educational bureaucracy, the government civil service.

Why should the state have a monopoly on education?


#8

It seems to me that the state monopoly on education has made the schools much much worse.

Here is a lesson from Kansas City Missouri, whose schools got so bad their accreditation had to be withdrawn.

cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-298.html


#9

Because we are in a culture war in which the enlightened intelligencia believes the difficulty with our system of representative self-government, as they see it, is that everyone gets to vote, with the result that the views of the unenlightened masses are likely to prevail. The function of their institutions, i.e., unions, lobbyists, etc., in the view of our cultural elite and as it has largely operated in recent decades, is to keep this from happening.


#10

The voucher wars have been fought here many times with good points made on all sides.

My summary of the best ideas on the matter is that vouchers should only be offered in a small amount, probably half or less of what is actually spent on a normal kid’s education. If private school vouchers in the amount of $1,500 per kid, there would be ZERO downside compared to the status quo. The public schools would end up with MORE money per student to spend and more families would have options in where to send their kids.

What voucher opponents fail to address is the consequences of doing nothing. Fewer and fewer people can afford private schools every year. As the number of public school students increases, but the TAX base for them doesn’t, what results? Tax increases. So remember that: anyone opposed to any level of vouchers for private schooling is secretly attempting to raise your taxes in the long run. :slight_smile:

P.S. Many have challenged my math skills in asserting that a partial voucher would INCREASE the per student funding of public schools. Here’s the sample math:

School district has 10,000 kids and spends $13,000 each per year for $130million budget. Same district currently has 700 private school students and those schools could squeeze another 500 kids in if there was that much interest.

New public district budget = (9,500*$13,000) + (1,200 * $1,500) = $125.3 million. Since they already tax at a rate of $130million, they can take the extra $4.7million and now spend $13,495 per student. Sounds like enough to restore music class to the budget to me, maybe art too? Win - win.

But no, the teacher’s union lobby wins and no vouchers go through. One private school is forced to close and 200 kids move to the public school. The District now has 10,200 kids to educate, so they need to raise your taxes by $2.6million. Enjoy.


#11

I like the idea of vouchers in that it promotes competition among the schools to pay the best teachers well, and to train their less able teachers.

One worry I have, though, is that some schools would forego the more difficult job of finding or training good teachers to improve basic skills, and simply start offering sports programs to attract the kids.

Together with vouchers, there needs to be universal testing (whether administered by the government, or some other impartial body - perhaps the insurance companies - to ensure that every child is reaching their appropriate grade level in reading, writing, mathematics, history, civics, and the arts and sciences. Individual scores would not be made public, but each school’s overall scores would be made public in the newspapers, with detailed reports, but again without naming names - for example, they would say, 35 out of 40 children in third grade achieved less than 50% of correct answers on the grade 3 math exam at such and such school, etc.


#12

It's not a failure in Massachusetts and Minnesota. But besides that it is. Public sector unions have too much power (while private sector don't--but that's for another thread).


#13

How much is it spread out per the total student population. $1000?


#14

I liked hearing the GOP wanted to close the federal dept of education. Not sure how that flows into vouchers but it would move more control back to the states, where it belongs.


#15

Well of course. That’s why we have the Electoral College. It was the last resort “check and balance”. If the people were ever so stupid as to vote for someone that would be “harmful” to the country, there was still a way to override the uneducated masses. At least, that’s what the Founding Fathers were worried about. That’s why there has always been such a focus on public education, and even why we had a “Greek Revival” in this country… to emphasize both democracy and education.


#16

I don’t know. In my school system, there are people, “aides”, that shadow individual kids (for medical issues, as an example) to allow for them get an education. There are whole alternative high schools.

If the cost was not considerable, then Catholic schools would provide the service as well.


#17

Commentary: Free to Choose
Wall Street Journal
*By MILTON FRIEDMAN *
June 9, 2005; Page A16

Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents."

"A Nation at Risk" stimulated much soul-searching and a whole series of major attempts to reform the government educational system. These reforms, however extensive or bold, have, it is widely agreed, had negligible effect on the quality of the public school system. Though spending per pupil has more than doubled since 1970 after allowing for inflation, students continue to rank low in international comparisons; dropout rates are high; scores on SATs and the like have fallen and remain flat. Simple literacy, let alone functional literacy, in the United States is almost surely lower at the beginning of the 21st century than it was a century earlier. And all this is despite a major increase in real spending per student since "A Nation at Risk" was published.


One result has been experimentation with such alternatives as vouchers, tax credits, and charter schools. Government voucher programs are in effect in a few places (Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, the District of Columbia); private voucher programs are widespread; tax credits for educational expenses have been adopted in at least three states and tax credit vouchers (tax credits for gifts to scholarship-granting organizations) in three states. In addition, a major legal obstacle to the adoption of vouchers was removed when the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of the Cleveland voucher in 2002. However, all of these programs are limited; taken together they cover only a small fraction of all children in the country.

Throughout this long period, we have been repeatedly frustrated by the gulf between the clear and present need, the burning desire of parents to have more control over the schooling of their children, on the one hand, and the adamant and effective opposition of trade union leaders and educational administrators to any change that would in any way reduce their control of the educational system.

We have been involved in two initiatives in California to enact a statewide voucher system (in 1993 and 2000). In both cases, the initiatives were carefully drawn up, and the voucher sums moderate. In both cases, nine months or so before the election, public opinion polls recorded a sizable majority in favor of the initiative. In addition, of course, there was a sizable group of fervent supporters, whose hopes ran high of finally getting control of their children's schooling. In each case, about six months before the election, the voucher opponents launched a well-financed and thoroughly unscrupulous campaign against the initiative. Television ads blared that vouchers would break the budget, whereas in fact they would reduce spending since the proposed voucher was to be only a fraction of what government was spending per student.

Teachers were induced to send home with their students misleading propaganda against the initiative. Dirty tricks of every variety were financed from a very deep purse. The result was to convert the initial majority into a landslide defeat. This has also occurred in Washington state, Colorado and Michigan. Opposition like this explains why progress has been so slow in such a good cause.


#18

Instead of vouchers and the like, couldn’t one argue that the failure of a public education isn’t necessarily the education itself, but the lack of encouragement and follow-through by the parents?

I don’t have children, but I attended a public school. School is what you make of it, but my parents also made sure I could read in kindergarten, made sure I could write and write properly in cursive (something that’s not even taught anymore ~ heaven forbid!!) and took interest in my school work and extracurriculars.

I’m sorry, but at some point we have to stop blaming the schools and the teachers and point the finger where it really belongs.


#19

I was living in CA at the time. The proponents did not counter this attack very well. Instead of repeating their claims that vouchers would improve education, they should have used a little reverse psychology and said something like, “Vote against vouchers because we don’t want your riff-raff in our successful private schools.” :smiley:


#20

I somewhat disagree. The educational establishment is in a leadership position. In fact, the word “education” comes from the Latin “e duco” meaning “to lead out”. It is long past the time when it shows some leadership in the right direction.


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