It occurred to me recently as I read an article by Cole Lauterbach of the Center Square entitled “Illinois education officials hint at funding shortages, need for more revenue above increased spending,” that increased spending does not mean we’ll get better results in education.
There is an assumption that if we spend more money, we’ll get a better outcome. This thinking affects education at least two ways. It says that schools with more substantial budgets get better results. Therefore, we need to have better equity in school budgets. Yet have we ever stopped to ask where the evidence is? I mean, how did our parents and grandparents ever learn without computers, the internet, and new math? Did we learn better with new textbooks or more dedicated teachers? And do we get better teachers because we pay them more or should we pay them more because they are better teachers?
Call me old fashioned, but I believe we have always paid people based on their value to a company, sports team, or because of innovation. Michael Jordan didn’t get paid 30 million dollars, so he’d play better. He was paid 30 million dollars because he was already performing better than everyone else. People across the board are paid for what they bring to the table currently. So why do we thinking that when it comes to education we’ll get better production if we pay teachers more money? Or if we spend more on education without knowing where the money is going?
A bad teacher is a lousy teacher, no matter how much we spend on them. Just like an average NBA player is an average NBA player no matter how much you pay them unless they work on their skill-sets to become a better player. We’ve watched athletes over the decades from football, basketball, and Olympic sports improve in their sport and receive the fame and fortune that comes with the mastery of their game. However, when it comes to education, teachers’ unions and education advocates like those mentioned in the article seem to believe that education funding equity is some magic formula that will increase the production of the classroom without requiring the advancement of the teachers’ skill set.
The idea of getting better results by throwing more money at a problem is like taking aspirin and increasing the dosage for every ailment in your body but never going to the doctor to diagnose what is causing the illness. Better education results come from better-equipped teachers, students, and engaged parents, and no amount of money that you throw into the system will fix it if mediocrity is the norm. We are only fooling ourselves and sacrificing our children’s education if the only standard of measure is what we are spending per school district or child. New buildings, computers, and books don’t make up for lousy instruction or teachers who have given up.
Many years ago, when my eldest son graduated from High school, it was announced that an individual teacher was retiring. There was thunderous applause from the student body, which caught me off guard. I later asked my son the reason for all the hand clapping? Was she an outstanding teacher? I thought. “No,” he said. “She was terrible, and we are all glad that she is leaving even though we’re all graduating.”
The larger question is, why do we treat teachers differently than we treat other professionals? Why is the general public held hostage every time the unions want a pay increase? Are the teachers teaching better? Have they increased their skill set? Are the Children they are teaching reading, writing, and doing math at or above grade level? All I hear are complaints and excuses as to why teachers can’t do their jobs. In any other profession, excuses would not be tolerated, and they’d be fired.
I think it’s time to reevaluate the way we do education. We could start by encouraging school choice for parents and students. We could start by encouraging competition, and I bet we’d have better results. And I’d imagine we wouldn’t mind paying teachers more money if they gave us better results. We only get one chance to help Jimmy or Melissa master third grade then move on to fourth. Whatever class my son had with the incompetent teacher was wasted time. I’m sure that very little knowledge was shared except for how poorly the teacher communicated the subject matter.
I also think it’s time to take a long hard look at the teachers union the next time they strike for higher pay. Maybe it’s time for the parents and students to go on strike against the teachers, their unions, and the politicians that empower them until they produce a better outcome. In the meant time our property taxes continue to increase, our children learn less and less, and the education gets more and more for doing less. It’s time that we R.I.S.E. for a new beginning to demand a new system and better accountability.