One of the biggest news stories of late has been the funding “crisis” experienced by Illinois public schools. The single most amazing aspect of this story has been the total lack of debate about whether there really is a lack of funding. Instead of the proper coverage of two or more viewpoints, the news articles typically read much like school district press releases.
We’re still waiting for some proof to be offered that $20 billion dollars of taxpayer money isn’t enough to cover the costs of educating two million Illinois public school students.
My guess is that if anyone claims to have such proof, it’s instead evidence of a tax dollar distribution problem – not a tax dollar collection problem. Taxpayers have been – and continue to do their part. Illinois public schools don’t have a funding crisis; they have a spending crisis.
In the private sector, businesses have to please their customers. The government run public schools are now in the habit of threatening their “customers” with unnecessary cuts in services if taxpayers don’t give them more money. It’s called electioneering, and the first County States Attorney who does something about it will be a hero to anyone who cares about the rule of law and the misuse of tax dollars.
In the private sector businesses have to compete for customers. The government run public school system owns the children who live within the boundaries of their district plantation. The reason slavery was so hard to abolish in the nineteenth century is the same reason school choice is hard to institute today. Those slaves – like the school kids of today – are property, meaning dollars. Every kid who lives in a district is money to that district, and money equals power.
In the private sector, businesses have a bottom line that must be met. In the government run school system there’s a bottomless pit of tax money for the taking. When getting referendums passed becomes too difficult, the solution is to seek an income tax increase, which is what HB750 is all about.
In the private sector, businesses the size of Illinois school districts are managed by CPAs or individuals with MBAs – or at least those who understand basic economics. In the government run school system, there exists a management culture that is shoddy at best and criminal at worst.
The public is wising up to the myth that more money equals better schools. Parents and community leaders are increasingly aware that rather than the money being “for the kids,” it winds up in enormous pay increases for administrators and teachers and has zero impact on the quality of education.
Government run schools are sheltered from free market competition, the very thing that produces efficiency and excellence. Command and control rarely works well with human nature.
If there’s one word that can be used to describe the global economy in this new century it is competition. The rising generation cannot be adequately taught about the harsh realities of competition by teachers who are insulated from it.
The solutions are not complicated. Some are found here. Others are as simple as requiring detailed disclosure of revenues and expenditures – and thus bringing sunlight onto spending habits and then increase accountability. Another solution would be to bring in people to manage the schools who have real life business experience and who can comprehend non-governmental management concepts.
As far as the state paying “its fair share,” this argument wants us to ignore that all local tax collection is authorized by state statute. To cry about which pocket the tax money comes from is to detract attention away from what the real problem is: the lack of effective incentives for wise spending.
There is a well developed and growing school reform movement in America made up of education experts and grassroots activists. From the Fordham Foundation to the Friedman Foundation to all the leading think tanks, a reoccurring theme is found: the only genuine solution is the deconstruction of the government run school system.
Taxpayers (through their government) provide food stamps instead of opening up grocery stores. Taxpayers pay medical bills via Medicare and Medicaid instead of hiring all the doctors and owning all the hospitals.
So the idea of school vouchers is far from revolutionary. Taxpayers pay for K-12 education, so it’s unnecessary to have a government run school system.
The only fix to the cost problem is the introduction of market forces. There is absolutely no reason why taxpayers should bear the burden of paying salaries, health care benefits, and pension plans in most districts that are not only far out of line with those received in the private sector, they have no correlation to performance.
The discussion about school funding reform isn’t “for the children,” it’s for the adults.