Focus Point - Throwing Money at Schools

Commentary by

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Some people assume making education just means throwing more money at it. But according to an article in the American Economist, it doesn't work that way.

Philadelphia's schools had a bad reputation, so the city increased spending in the '94-'95 school year to more than $6,200 per pupil.

Increased spending improved test scores for a quarter of the students, but a decline for seven percent -- and had no effect on the test scores of the majority. In fact, in the 10 states that consistently rank at the top on various achievement tests, only one is in the top ten in per pupil spending.

According to the study, poverty is the most significant factor determining student success. And while there's no proof that increased spending increases student achievement, it is possible that the education bureaucracy diverts those additional dollars from the classroom, where they might actually help. School choice, in the form of vouchers and charter schools, and accountability for performance on the part of teachers and principals, is the only effective remedy.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, the optimists' century.