Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lowest Common Denominator Schools

An article in the WSJ yesterday describes a suit proceeding in Kansas to enable parents in Shawnee Mission to provide more resources for their schools. The state opposes this saying that it has an obligation to ensure equality at public schools.

The state ensures quantity of resource input as a substitute for achieving a measured quality of student achievement. In so doing it drives all Kansas schools to the lowest common denomenator - the level of all the citizens of the state's willingness to invest in schools - of resource availability. It makes no pretense that such management of spending will achieve equal output.

Alan Cunningham, Superintendent of Schools in Dodge City, says, "If richer suburban districts were allowed to widen their financial advantages, Mr. Cunningham said, 'those who have, will have more." His students, he said, may never be able to catch up.'" So suburban students should not be allowed more resouces to get ahead, make the US competitive and create jobs.

"'We do not want a situation where the quality of a student's education depends on his Zip Code,' said David A. Smith, chief of staff for the Kansas City Public Schools." Why?

Kansas is not alone. Begining in California in 1971, courts in virtually every state, have, under court order, engagee in some form of this penalty box behavior for 'rich suburban schools' in order to address the 'constitutionality' of fuding disparity. Under current law, where the state constitution holds that each child is entitled to an equal education, this despite the fact that most constituions read as Georgia's does, that "The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia." Adequate has been taken to mean equal.

In Public Administration Review, Michele Moser notes: "In recent years, policy initiatives and court cases in many states have focused on other goals, such as eliminating the relationship between local property wealth and education spending or achieving an adequate level of funding for all students. Still, ensuring equality of resources across school districts (often referred to as "horizontal equity") remains a fundamental benchmark in evaluating state education funding systems, and it continues to be an important concern of the public and the broad education community." In other words, it is public policy in the United States, supported by the education establishment to cap and remove resources from schools that can perform and allocate them elsewhere in a forlorne attempt to make those that don't perform do so.

Accurate Reality: There is no way to achieve equality of outcome by redistributing tax revenue away from high income districts with high achieving parents and spending it in districts with less caring and lower performing parents. This lowers the overall educational achievement of public schools and reduce the competitiveness of the US and its citizens. It means less capable citizens, fewer innovations, fewer jobs and less overall resources for the US. If parents in Dodge City want to have better education for their, let them compete for and find jobs and housing in Shawnee Mission. While setting a floor in order to achieve an adequate education everywhere in a state is an acceptable decision, setting a ceiling and driving public policy to eliminate 'excess' resources from our best, most competitive public schools is insanity.

1 comment:

  1. The biggest losers in the equality of inputs strategy pursued by most states are the kids who most need high quality education outputs that come from challenge, self-confidence building, and the freedom to choose another school if yours is failing to meet your kid's needs.

    The lowest common denominator outcome you describe, Dan, has resulted in he dumbing down of our schools and our future work force.

    The answer is simple but the politics are hard. Give parents a voucher for the equal spending the state determines is "adequate and reasonable" and let them shop for a school that works for them. If they want to spend more so be it.