Matthew J. Franck
Robert P. George
William J. Haun
David T. Koyzis
Robert T. Miller
James R. Rogers
Russell E. Saltzman
Note: Family Facts in an occasional series of data presentations about family and religious practice and analysis of their role in maintaining civil society.
Let’s assume I’m reading this right. (I might not be & would love to be corrected.)
(1) According to the note, more than $1,500 “per student” is going to capital outlay and interest on debt. That’s 15% of our K-12 spending.
(2) Considering merely “current spending”, which has increased a more modest 20% since the mid-90s, we’re looking at an increase of approximately 1%/year on average. That’s lower than the overall trend since 1970, which is an approximately 2%/year on average. These are genuine increases (after inflation), but not as much as one might think from seeing “30% since the mid-90s”.
(3) I would be interested in seeing whether teacher salaries had increased correspondingly, and how much of the increase has gone to non-instructional operations, special education, etc. (I am not a K-12 teacher myself.)
How is the money spent is an excellent question. Another is whether this has somehow helped the children in general.
An interesting factoid. More interesting is why is this on First Things’ blog. Since Neuhaus’ death has the once proud journal simply become a tool for regurgititating uncontextualized data provided by conservative think tanks?
Bobby Winters Since Neuhaus’ death has the once proud journal simply become a tool for regurgititating uncontextualized data provided by conservative think tanks?
If you mean, has the blog become a place where we present data that allows people to draw their own inferences, then the answer is “yes.”
I think the first question should be, why should the real (ie, adjusted for inflation) cost per student increase at all? OK, yes, we have more high-tech stuff. But on balance, those things should be saving as much as they are costing.
The real question, though, is this: when we are sinking more money per student per year into “education”, why are our students increasingly less-well-educated than in the past?
I think I know the answer, and it’s not pretty. The answer is that a culture gets the education it deserves, according to its mores and values.
Our broken culture cannot produce anything in a public education system other than a broken system. Spending more money only helps us screw up the education of the young more effectively.
Only fundamental reform of society’s morals and mores could possibly turn this tragic and dangerous trend around.
Thus, for the sake of the common good (incidentally, for salvation too) the Church must find a way to fulfill its mission. Insofar as our Church is simply an agent of the culture (see a related post nearby), the Church remains part of the problem, when it should be part of the solution.
I think you are pretty much spot on, but one matter does concern me:
I think the first question should be, why should the real (ie, adjusted for inflation) cost per student increase at all?
Quite frankly, teachers in many parts of the country have been grossly underpaid for decades. The fact that someone with a Master’s or Doctoral Degree in a scientific field (not an education degree, but a degree in the field) can expect to find a job in high school paying, oh, around $35-$40k/yr disturbs me. Even less, in some places.
On the other hand, considering how high school football coaches’ salaries have increased, maybe 1% a year is a bargain. In my area, some coaches are pulling in substantially more than twice what a regular teacher makes. It’s not as bad as the disparity at the university level, but still.
I want qualified, educated people giving my children an education. I realize the situation is quite complicated (turnover among teachers is quite high in the first 5-10 years of employment, which drives average salaries down) and it may be infeasible to pay them salary+benefits equivalent to what they might make in the private sector, especially given our method of allocating public funds (property taxes). And yes, in some places of the country teachers are doing quite well, relatively speaking.
But in many (esp. back in 1970), they are viewed with disdain and paid accordingly. Remedying that costs money.
You raise what is indeed a troubling issue. The teaching profession is a very difficult calling–one that I cheerfully admit with all my credentials (MS – chem engineering) that I would be a failure at!
Yet I remain totally unconvinced about the teachers’-salary argument, for a number of reasons. First, in general we don’t need masters and PhD’s teaching our K-12 graders. Once a person has a bona fide bachelors degree, he has all he needs by way of university education to teach in school. The idea that more formal education qualifies people more, and earns them more in the education industry, is one of the broken parts of the system.
Second, if these people are truly qualified to make twice as much in the private sector, let them go make money in the private sector. But their calling is education, you say. OK, it’s their choice. They know what they’re getting. If they choose to go into an overcrowded field, and thereby make a lower salary, it’s their choice. We all make choices based on a complex mix of values. I would not take that away from anyone, including teachers. There are many non-monetary perks in education, as you know. I’m not saying it’s an easy vocation, but we both know that many people prefer to work in that environment.
But, you say, those jobs were the only openings. To which I reply the free market in careers is still the best and most humane system. They still chose. Let them prepare for a more lucrative career, if that is where their values lie. The are grownups–and if they are not, the education industry is no place for them!
One of the broken parts of the education system is lack of choice, and the NEA is determined to keep it so. Parents who can’t afford to pay twice for education have no choice but to send their kids to failing public schools. It’s an abomination.
Until this structural issue is changed, I will disagree vehemently with the statement “remedying that costs money.” If a freer market in education ends up rewarding teachers of the more-demanded subjects, like math and science, who have excellent teaching skills (as opposed to more educational “qualifications”), then I am all for it. But with the current perverse government-monopoly system, I am convinced that more spending gives us worse results.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of the NEA. I agree it’s more part of the problem than of the solution. I also believe in school choice and vouchers so that parents can send their children to the school of their choice. Indeed, I send my oldest child to private school, at substantial sacrifice, and don’t understand why I shouldn’t receive at least a partial refund for relieving the public schools of their obligation.
That said, I emphatically disagree with this:
Once a person has a bona fide bachelors degree, he has all he needs by way of university education to teach in school. The idea that more formal education qualifies people more, and earns them more in the education industry, is one of the broken parts of the system. The idea that more formal education qualifies people more, and earns them more in the education industry, is one of the broken parts of the system.
I did not assert, nor would I, that a K-12 teacher needs to have an advanced degree. What I do assert is that it adds value to the individual, inasmuch as they have more experience with the material that they are teaching, at a deeper level. That’s the same argument used in other lines of work to justify paying more to people with more seniority, more degrees, more results, and so forth; I don’t see why it shouldn’t hold in education. After all, part of education is learning how to do what people in a certain field do.
You have a Master’s degree in Chem Engineering. To obtain that, you had to do qualitatively different work from what you did in your undergraduate degree. If you disagree, I am very surprised — that was certainly my experience with both a Master’s and a PhD in mathematics, and I’d say it’s the experience of most people I’ve known.
Second, if these people are truly qualified to make twice as much in the private sector, let them go make money in the private sector.
You’re right. Good, honest teachers should be willing to work for pennies on the dollar. If they can’t feed their families, pay their mortgage and college loans, go on an occasional vacation, and save for retirement, then they ought to go into the private sector, where their colleagues who work fewer hours at jobs requiring less intellectual engagement routinely make more money. That’s what you’re advocating.
On the other hand, my wife is Russian, with an advanced degree. She used to teach Russian high school, and her sister still does. They have seen what the theory you advocate has done to Russian education over the last twenty years. It is not a pretty sight. The vast majority of teachers are wives or women who live with their parents. (Men can’t afford a Russian teacher’s salary.) Many teachers take bribes, at all levels of education. Qualified teachers with results who refuse to play by the rules of a headmaster’s game are often discriminated against. But, hey! If they could make more money elsewhere, they would, right? That alone justifies paying them little more than the cost of food!
I would not take that away from anyone, including teachers.
You have just compared raising teacher salaries to taking away their complex mix of choices. I doubt you mean that. If not, would you say that is true even in the private sector? Raising salaries takes away a complex mix of choices?
There are many non-monetary perks in education, as you know.
This is true about any profession. Managers who use it on workers to deny a raise often find that their employees exercise their options and leave. The same happens in education: there is an extremely high turnover rate in the first few years. I doubt that this is because they were unqualified and are being dismissed.
To repeat: I don’t disagree with many of your main points. Improving teacher salaries is not the solution. Rather, I object strenuously to the notion that improving teacher salaries has no part in the solution.