President Clinton is traipsing up and down the land calling for more money for education. This time it's money to hire 100,000 additional teachers in order to reduce class size and hopefully improve public education. The American Legislative Exchange Council has just released its "Report Card on American Education." The facts presented suggest that taxpayers, parents and students are about to be had again.
Let's examine the education establishment's more-money-better-education sham. New Jersey ranks number one in the nation in terms of expenditures per student ($10,900). Washington, D.C. is a close second at $10,300. If educationists are right, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. should have the highest level of student achievement in the land. Think again. New Jersey ranks 29th in student achievement. As for Washington, D.C., the only thing preventing it from being dead last in student achievement is Mississippi.
Minnesota ranks first in nation in terms of student achievement and Iowa ranks second. If we accepted the more-money-better education sham, we'd think Minnesota and Iowa are really up there in per student expenditures. Think again. Minnesota ranks 27th in expenditure per student ($6,300) and Iowa ranks a lowly 30th ($6,000). There is no relation between expenditures and student performance.
You say, "Williams, you're forgetting about reducing the number of students per teacher. That's what our President has discovered is the lynchpin of higher quality education." Let's look at that. New Jersey has a teacher/student ratio of 14 students per teacher, ranking 2nd in the nation. Guess which jurisdiction has the smallest teacher/student ratio in the nation. If you said, "It's the nation's capitol," go to the head of the class. Washington's teacher/student ratio is 13.7. A low teacher/student ratio hasn't prevented Washington's students from being just about the nation's dumbest. Japan, whose students run circles around ours, has teacher/student ratios almost double ours.
You say, "But Williams, you're forgetting something else, teacher salaries. The more we pay teachers, the higher the quality of education." Let's look at that. New Jersey's average teacher salary is $51,000, the nation's fifth highest. Washington, D.C. teachers earn $41,000, making them the 16th highest paid teachers. On the other hand, Minnesota teachers get $38,000, ranked 22nd and poor Iowa teachers only get $34,000, ranking 34th. With an average salary of $54,000, Massachusetts teacher salaries rank number one while its student achievement ranks 14th.
Nothing the education establishment has called for over the years has or will improve American education. More money and more teachers are nothing more than self-serving strategies to enhance the wealth and power of the education establishment. Solutions to our sorry state of education lie in changing the way education is delivered. The increasing number of charter schools is one alternative. There are 1,129 charter schools operating in 26 states and Washington, D.C. and more in the works. Their typically higher than average scores show that student achievement has little to do with expenditures per student, class size and the number of teachers hired. That fact has been amply demonstrated by private black-owned schools that accommodate poor and moderate-income black students. Schools such as Marva Collins Preparatory Schools in Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee and Kenosha, Ivy Leaf School in Philadelphia and Marcus Garvey School in Los Angeles, can boast that nearly all of its students score at grade level and above, and at a cost less than half that of public schools.
The education establishment fights tooth and nail to keep its monopoly and avoid accountability. We shouldn't allow their agenda to destroy another generation of American children.
Walter E. Williams
February 1, 1999Return to Articles Page