Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Arkansas tops per-student spending

With thanks to State Rep. Steve Harrelson for pointing this out in his excellent "Under the Dome" blog, here is the scoop.

When states were ranked by school spending as a percentage of personal income, Arkansas’ proportion was the highest, followed by Vermont, West Virginia, New Jersey and New York.

One (deceitful) interpretation of this news might be that Arkansans are over-taxed on education. If that were true, we would today have the very best schools with the finest facilities. Since we know that simply is not so, these numbers must mean something different.

Could it be that Arkansas, being way behind in personal income and academic attainment, is rushing to catch up. It takes more of our behind-the-curve personal incomes to provide the funding for public schools.

Enemies of public education will make a lot out of this information. Some thoughts.

Students deserve to attend classes in clean and safe buildings. That is still not the case in every district.

Students deserve to have libraries and labs which meet some sort of minimal standards.

Students deserve teachers that are being paid a wage that somewhat reflects the responsibility of the job.

All of this takes money, something that is in short supply in Arkansas. We have made a deliberate, and wise, decision to invest in young folks. Improving grades seem to suggest that this was the right choice.

The New York Times article is full of good information. Overall there is an argument that can be made to disconnect spending levels from academic performances. That would only hold true when your districts are already successful. Case closed.

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