The DeHavilland Blog

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Doing more with less

There was an interesting article in the Baltimore Sun by Andrew Rotherham of Education Sector on January 4 about the mistaken idea that we'll be able to keep increasing funding to public education like we have in the past.

He notes that from 1970 to today, we have increased spending on education from $3500 to $8000 per student (those numbers are inflation-adjusted), but that we will realistically not be able to continue increasing spending for three reasons:

1) Demographic Changes. Our population is getting older: in 1995, 13% of the population was over 65, and by 2030, that will grow to 20%. Not only will that reduce tax inflows, it will also raise costs to federal and state governments as they cover their obligations for social security, medicare, and other entitlement programs. What's more, this older population will not have a stake in education, making bond issuances and other sources of public money harder to come by.

2) Policy Decisions. Even in this time of large deficits, and even as the fiscal crunch referenced above looms large, tax cuts and low taxes are very popular, which severely limits the ability to increase state and federal money going to public education.

3) Political Shifts. Persistent achievement gaps, coupled with the poor conditions and performance of many urban schools, are causing some minority parents to look outside the traditional Democrat/teachers union bloc for political options. This, according to Rotherham, has the potential to shatter the political coalition that has supported greater funding for public schools.

I've heard from many others about the impact that demographic and political trends are going to have on education in the future, and Rotherham offers a concise summary in this article. Whatever the solutions, they better not require more money...

PS - Note that Rotherham is also the force behind
EduWonk - one of the best edublogs around.


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