Thursday, December 09, 2004

It ain't about the money

Education leaders -- especially those from the business community -- like to say that the problems with schools isn't fundamentally about money. They'll then proceed to tell you what it's about. But I'm reminded of H.L. Mencken's words: Whenever somebody tells you it isn't about money, it is.

And so the flurry of trials over school funding continues:
  • In South Carolina, a lawsuit brought by the state's poorest districts ended yesterday with closing arguments. It began in the summer of 2003. There were over 100 days of proceedings and 70 witnesses. The Judge is expected to rule by next summer.
  • In North Carolina, the State Board of Education has provided $20 million for the state's poorest teachers and students in response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling that they must provide "a sound education" to all children. The Court ruled that they would need to provide $220 million. I'm no math teacher -- oh, yes I am -- but I think they're about $200 million short.
  • I wrote last week about a Texas District Judge's ruling that Texas schools must be closed on October 1, 2005 if the Legislature doesn't fix the school funding formula. The Austin Chronicle's Mike King has a nice summary in this weekend's edition.
  • The Montana Supreme Court got in on the act, too, and ruled that the Leg of that state must provide more than $150 million in additional funds -- again, to meet the constitutional mandate for adequate education.

Do you sense a trend here?

Now, I'm not saying the business leaders are totally wrong. Clearly, no matter how much money goes to schools, if it's spent unwisely no good will come from it. But on the other hand, no matter how good your teachers are, no matter how good your instructional programs are, no matter how rich your curriculum is, if your school is falling apart, if you can't heat or cool your building, if you can't afford to buy instructional materials, it's going to be very difficult to provide anything approaching an adequate education.

Kudos to the courts for calling foul on negligent legislatures. Remember, if they say it's not about money, it most definitely is.


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