In today’s Denver Post column, David Harsanyi brings attention to the new America’s Promise Alliance (APA) report on the dropout “crisis.” Knowing the report will fuel the cry for more money to solve the problem, Harsanyi explains:
Teachers unions place culpability for education woes on a lack of funding and “cuts.” This is a myth. Obviously, schools could always benefit from an infusion of cash but, in most of the failing systems, funding per pupil is at an all-time high.
According to a study by the right-of-center Hoover Institution, in 1982 per-pupil spending was $5,930 and rose 60 percent by 2000 to $9,230 in inflation-adjusted dollars (in high-population districts, the number is far higher).
In Utah, a recent school-reform initiative failed after the National Education Association pumped $3.1 million (allied groups even more) into a campaign to mislead voters. What the NEA never mentioned was that the proposed initiative would have increased per-pupil spending. The sin? It would have allowed parents to choose where they spent the money.
In America, you are free to choose your church, your hairdresser, your employer, your neighborhood . . . yet you’re prohibited, in most places, from picking a school for your kids. For parents in urban areas, this can prove tragic.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has made a 10-year promise out of cutting the state’s dropout rate in half. To see that happen, he’s going to have to make a big dent in Denver Public Schools, which educates about 1 in every 11 of the state’s public school students. According to the APA report, Denver ranks 37th out of the nation’s 50 largest cities with a miserable graduation rate of 46.3 percent.
Realigning standards and assessments, if done right, definitely will help to some extent. But unless Colorado also empowers parents with greater choice, strengthening the system through competitive pressures, Ritter may have to revise his goal downward.