Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Better Way to Fund K-12 Education

There have been research efforts evaluating a form of this proposal. They don't endorse this idea. I don't care. It still makes sense.

In K-12 education, to deliver the education service, most of the costs are fixed: facility, equipment and the teacher. The cost is the same whether there are 15 kids in the classroom or 35 kids. The only variable costs are textbooks and other class materials, like paper.

Our state, however, like many states, funds education on a per-pupil basis. For every kid in the district, the school gets $4,000 to $5,000.

This model works if the school district is growing. It does not work if the district is losing students. If the school population decreases by 30 students, they've lost less than 3 students per grade. This isn't enough to decrease one whole classroom or layoff a teacher. However, because the school district has lost $120,000, they have to fire 3-4 teachers. A few grades will have to consolidate classes, which will increase the students:teacher ratio and decrease some effectiveness in teaching. (There are some studies that show this isn't true, too.)

States should fund schools by classroom-equivalents. They could provide $40,000/classroom for every 20 students in grades K-3, for every 25 students grades 4-8, and for every 20 students grades 9-12.

I once proposed that a party be thrown for legislators and their aides. We invite them for food and drink at a cost for $1. We can't let anyone into the party until there is a full group of 50 people in any particular half-hour to cover the fixed costs. They can wait, or they can pass a levy and each pay more until it's a total of $50. This way, they'll get an idea of how the funding needs to be put together in order to cover the fixed costs of education.

Look. School districts need all the help they can get. It's a business that can't send defective raw material back to the supplier.

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