Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cheating Today's K-12 Students and Tomorrow's Taxpayers ... Public Schools are Twice as Costly as Believed by Most Americans

Much spending for American education is wasted. That's not a popular thing to say, of course, but it doesn't make it untrue. It also doesn't make it easy to address and solve.

The problem of spending more money for less education is very real but not front and center on the political agenda. And that's largely because too many of We the People choose to believe that our local schools are doing a good job. We also mistakenly choose to believe that they are not spending nearly as much money as they are spending. The facts are otherwise.

In fact, our local schools are getting more than 50% of what they spend in the form of "free or happy hour money" from our state and federal governments, money which those governments don't have to spend. As a result, the nation's financial woes deepen while local educational shortfalls escalate. Less education for more money is not a value nor is it a winning formula for America.

And lots of that money is borrowed which will have to repaid with interest by future generations. In other words, the bill ultimately will be paid by today's students. We're not being fair to them.

But too many politicians and school officials distort or even hide the facts and play games and in order to win votes and keep spending money that we don't have. It's sad, but it's entirely in line with what lots, if not most, of politicians and government officials are misrepresenting as truth  to We the People these days. That's a shame too.

So let's take a crack at explaining the real situation and its harmful impact on both present and future generations of Americans. We'll do so by providing facts.

In round numbers, approximately 45% of the K-12 public school funding comes from local residents, mostly from local property taxes. The other 55% consists of two pieces --- ~45% comes from the individual states with ~10% provided by from the federal government.

In addition, as much as 30% of the total is needed to pay greatly overpromised and underfunded pensions for teachers and school administrators. {NOTE: If we assume that 100% of the 45% of the "locally funded" money is used to pay retiree pensions, then a whopping two thirds of local funds raised are going to pay for pensions to retired teachers and administrators and not to educate the local community's students.}

How the Education Spendthrifts Get Away With It is subtitled 'Politicians exploit Americans' sense that local education costs are about half of what is really being spent:'

"Money for schools has again become a campaign issue. In the Florida governor's race, Charlie Crist says that the "first thing [Gov. Rick Scott ] does when he comes in . . . is cut education by $1.3 billion." To which Gov. Scott replies, "The $18 billion in funding for K-12 education funding is the highest in Florida history and includes a record $10.6 billion in state funds."

Pennsylvania's Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Tom Wolf accuses Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of cutting the state's school budget by $1 billion, to which Gov. Corbett replies that spending has actually risen. Similar claims and counterclaims have been heard in Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Kansas and elsewhere.
It's easy to see why candidates promise more money for schools. As long as taxes are ignored and no mention is made of current levels of expenditure, calling for more spending is a political no-brainer. In the recently released Education Next poll of a nationally representative sample of the public, . . . 60% of Americans say they want to spend more. Among parents, 70% want more spending, and 75% of teachers agree.

But if one drills down, much of that enthusiasm evaporates in a cloud of confusion and inconsistency. We discovered this by dividing respondents to our survey into three randomly selected, equally representative groups.

The first group was asked whether they thought school spending "to fund public schools in your district should increase, decrease or stay the same?" The second group, though asked that same question, was first told the level of expenditure per pupil in their district . . . . The third group was given that same information but was asked whether they thought "taxes to fund public schools in your district should increase, decrease or stay the same?"

Support for more spending fell to 44% from 60% when respondents were given information on current amounts of spending. Levels fell further to only 26% favoring more spending among the group asked if they favored tax increases to fund higher spending.

Political debates over school spending also take place in a fog because the public has the illusion that the rest of the nation's schools are expensive but their local schools are a bargain. When asked to estimate per-pupil expenditures nationwide, the public makes an average estimate of $10,155 ... (much) lower than the $12,608 per-pupil figure reported for 2011 by the Department of Education.

But when asked about costs locally, Americans think their schools are giving their children an education at reasonable prices. On average, they say the cost is only $6,486 per pupil in their district, barely half the actual costs of $12,608 per pupil in 2011, according to the Education Department. Local estimates by both parents and teachers are even lower. . . .

Education expenditures may become a local issue if the school board wants to raise local taxes. But, on average, only 45% of school costs come from local revenues, with states (45%) and the federal government (10%) supplying the remainder. Money coming from state and federal governments is usually treated by local politicians as "free" to the local community, and thus attention given to costs target only that 45% of the total borne by the local community.

Whatever the reasons . . . the facts are clear: Parents, teachers and the public at large all think that local schools are giving them more for less—even when that is unlikely. That's why politicians who favor more spending deliberately sow confusion about current expenditures. These are all reasons why transparency in spending should be part of the school-reform conversation."

Summing Up

If $1 is spent, it matters not whether that money comes from local, state or federal taxpayers.

We the People pay all three taxes, regardless of whether we choose to look at or ignore the real situation.

For example, if we spend that $1 and only have available 80 cents of that $1 in our pockets or bank accounts, we will have to borrow that additional 20 cents.

And that 20 cents will have to be repaid with interest at a future time, one way or another.

And the people making the debt repayments will likely be the ones sitting in today's classrooms.

Not the teachers, administrators, retirees, politicians nor the rest of us who are content to sit idly by with our eyes closed and allow the wasteful and needlessly expensive system of "voucherless" public education continue unabated.

That's not fair.

Thanks. Bob.

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