Friday, September 15, 2006

Performance Gap

Another big election year push for changing how public schools are funded. Stories in the Wilmette Life print edition this week, with tendentious headlines--- "Money gap:Tied to property taxes, funding unequal" and "Illinois Education Funding: Seeking fairness for all students". (How about "Public schools: performance gap" or " seeking excellence in education"?) Also an online poll.

We have heard this Dem drumbeat for years, but most in Illinois have failed to be convinced. Here's one among the questions raised by Steve Huntley, in the Sun Times, "Lots to answer before schools get more money":
They look at reports like one done by the Tribune in 2004 that compared the district with the highest per-pupil spending, $20,173 in a Lake Forest district, with the one in the state with the lowest figure, $4,829 in a Will County district, which described itself as an efficient operation, not an area of poor families. Despite that $15,000 gap, kids in the two districts passed state tests at similar rates. To the skeptics, these examples raise social issues related to marriage and parenting and pose the question of how much difference can money make against cultural factors outside the classroom.
Huntley also mentions concerns about allocation of teachers and resources within Chicago schools. And urban and suburban parents alike are concerned about a documented gender gap that is failing the boys in our schools, and a dumbed down curriculum.

Some of us would be willing to look at such a funding shift if school choice came along with it. That is the best way to ensure funding fairness, by assigning the funds to each child, and letting them choose the school that is best for them. Schools will have to compete and improve, or lose their students.

Otherwise it's just throwing good money after bad.

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