The Myth of Underfunded Schools

I came across an article from 2004 when Finland's schools were ranked best in the world by a new study.  There were a number of things that stood out.  First, is that they only spend about $5,000 per year per student.  Second is the rigorous requirements for becoming a teacher - a master's degree is required.  Third is that teacher pay is comparable to what it is elsewhere. 

All by itself this really ought to shred the argument in the U.S. that we underfund education.  For example, the Washington D.C. schools spend over $24,000 per year per student yet they are as bad as it gets.  The examples could go on ad nauseum.

So how is Finland doing it?  I'll wager it is the small, fairly monolithic population.  If everyone buys into a culture that promotes the value of learning and education, then you are going to see higher achievement. 

Here in the U.S. we have middle and upper class parents who value exactly that.  The schools their children go to generally reflect those beliefs.  Then we have other segments that don't.  But rather than focusing on showing those people why education is so valuable, we have a huge number of people whose intellection framework is focused on victimization.  They earn their livelihood by perpetuating the belief among the poor that the world is unjust, that they'll never have a fair shot and that the government and society owes them something.  The results are predictable.

One Response

  1. The public schools are controlled by the teacher’s unions. My sister, who is a teacher in New York City was [i]forced[/i] to join the union…and if she didn’t, her pay was reduced by the amount of her union dues. By law.

    First, the notion of a labor union (an institution designed to protect commodity labor) being applied to teachers (who style themselves professionals) is a very poor idea on its face. But it has the direct impact of promoting mediocrity in the teaching profession. School administrators cannot reward effective teachers (due to pay scales) and they cannot punish poor ones (pay scales, and the tenure system, which makes it essentially impossible to fire teachers). This is a recipe for disaster. Education is the only industry that is rewarded for poor performance…when school performance goes down, we give them more money!

    There are three things we as a nation could do immediately to improve the quality of education and lower the cost:

    1) Eliminate the tenure system. Tenure exists in the university system to ensure that professors can conduct unpopular research without fear of reprisal. I don’t see a lot of schoolteachers writing journal articles.

    2) Eliminate silly union rules and allow local administrators discretion in pay. Pay your good teachers more money and your poor teachers less. Allow performance to improve pay, not just time on the job.

    3) Apply the same hiring policies for new teachers as the ones currently “in the system”. If you require a Masters and a Praxis from your new teachers, current teachers should be held to the same standards. Current hiring rules make it difficult for new teachers to enter school systems…but the human flotsam that has been floating along for 25 years gets grandfathered.

    These three things would improve the quality of your teaching corps overnight.

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