July 23, 2004
Over the past 40 years, taxpayers have provided the public education system with steady improvements in funding, teacher pay and lower student-teacher ratios, but student outcomes haven't improved measurably, says Peggy Venable, Texas director of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
New solutions are needed to improve public education without dramatic increases in funding:
- School district officials must set spending priorities and direct money to the classroom first.
- Expenditures on teacher pay must be tied to student outcomes, which means merit pay or incentive pay initiatives.
- Bold ideas can work: New Zealand eliminated school boards, made every public school self-governing and allowed school choice -- and student performance improved.
If a complete overhaul of a state's education system isn't possible, incremental changes are needed. For example, educational options like tutoring or extra course work can be offered to lagging students, while high achievers can learn from a more challenging curriculum, says Venable.
Another idea, she says, is to appropriate state funds to schools for teacher pay only, while local dollars fund administrative salaries, facilities and other expenses.
Source: Peggy Venable, "Spending what we have now," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 20, 2004.
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