Cover Story

Can't buy success

Most recent numbers contradict the public education "money in, progress out" mantra. But if money doesn't necessarily make a difference in the education of children, what does? Ideas and vision, for starters.

Issue: "Ideal schools," April 28, 2001

For many Americans, the consolation in paying taxes is the hope that the dollars are doing good. Sometimes big bucks do produce big results, but the 20th century displayed the insufficiency of the education bureaucracy's "money in, progress out" mantra. "Can't buy me love," the Beatles sang, and in the 21st century we should still keep in mind a parallel message, "Can't buy success."

Last year's RAND Corporation state-by-state comparison of test scores with annual spending on education per student (scores and amounts adjusted for demographic and cost-of-living differences across states) showed that schools do not thrive on bread alone. Texas ranked 24th among the states in yearly spending per student but first in test results on the 1990-1996 National Assessments of Educational Progress. Iowa was 21st in spending and third in results. On the other hand, Louisiana was 14th in spending but 47th in results, and California was 38th in spending but dead last in scores. (California's poor performance may have been related to the bilingual education fad that swept the state during that period, and current scores may be better.)

Money is important but it can readily be wasted. The writers of the essays that follow believe that ideas are crucial, for without vision from adult leaders, children perish. Following a timeline (pages 8-18) that provides historical context, the articles in our first section (pages 20-43) describe the ideal public school and the varieties among Christian schools, then focus on urban schools and classical Christian schools. Our second section (pages 46-63) shows the practice of homeschooling and showcases some of the available resources. Our third section (pages 64-84) examines crucial public-policy issues.

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What the articles all reflect is a different way of thinking than that apparent among some current education executives. New York's school chancellor, for example, said early this year that he would evaluate a new education proposal on the basis of whether it will "actually help the system." No, our authors thunder: Remedies should help students learn, and the interest of students may be radically opposed to the interests of education czars.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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