Throwing Buckets of Money At the Wrong Schools

One of the dumber things I’ve ever heard is the aphorism “You can’t solve problems by throwing buckets of money at them.” This is idiotic: there are plenty of problems that can be solved with buckets of money. Usually when someone is saying this, he is ignoring a commonplace reality: those who need money the most are those who receive the least. Which brings us to the educational system of the Great State of Texas (boldface mine):

But in America we regularly fund schools in zones of economic and social turmoil at significantly less than the funding rate of schools in our wealthy suburbs, where a larger proportion of students come to school well-prepared.

Nowhere in the voluminous writings of Bill McKenzie or Sandy Kress will one find mention of the tragic fact that the average “Unacceptable” school in Texas’s accountability system in 2012 received $1000 less in school funding than the average “Exemplary” school. While testing advocates were busy beating up schools for not jumping high enough, the state funding system was busy hobbling them. Here is the school funding data from the TEA, broken down by accountability level:

Exemplary districts: $6,580 per weighted pupil

Recognized districts: $5,751 per weighted pupil

Acceptable districts: $5,662 per weighted pupil

Unacceptable districts: $5,538 per weighted pupil (1).

Folks in the accountability camp like to say “we can’t throw money at the problem.” In fact, they apparently prefer actively pulling money away from the areas where the greatest problems exist. It is lunacy to believe that a testing program can do anything to help children who are being denied the same educational resources provided to their peers in wealthy communities. And to compare those under-funded students with their better-funded peers is nothing short of cruelty.

Meanwhile on a smaller scale right here in the District of Columbia:

That’s right: at-risk students are much more likely to attend schools with libraries that have far fewer books than schools attended by students not-at-risk. Which might be relevant to this:

The reading proficiency rate for poor students was 37 percent last year, almost unchanged since 2008 despite intensive reforms.

In all seriousness, do I think money will solve all problems? No. But at the very least, let’s provide the neediest kids with equal resources. Let’s try that educational reform and see how it works.

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