(Guest post by Greg Forster)
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit dousing piles of cash with gasoline and lighting them on fire. OCPA carries my second new article of the week, this one on a theme all too familiar to JPGBers:
This January, the Tulsa World suggested a new year’s resolution for Oklahoma’s state legislature: “fund public schools adequately.” The paper declares that “we’ve never actually tried it, or at least not for long enough to make a difference.” So “let’s make 2020 the year.”…
From 1970 to 2016, current spending per student in Oklahoma public schools shot up from $3,637 to $8,426, in today’s dollars (adjusted for inflation). Are the schools twice as effective? Or let’s make this even easier. As spending doubled, did educational outcomes improve at all—by any amount? No. And the Tulsa World would seem to agree, since it asserts that the spending increase from $3,637 to $8,426 was not “enough to make a difference.”
How much money would be enough for the schools to finally provide the quality of education we have a right to expect of them? Curiously, The Blob always talks as if there were an objectively correct answer to that question (if what we spend now is “not enough,” they must know how much “enough” is), yet we never learn that answer.
Could it be that they themselves don’t know the answer? If not, why not?
Since my previous OCPA article this week had a Russia connection, I thought I’d find one for this article, too. And this time, I decided to class up the joint with some highfalutin literature:
Leo Tolstoy once wrote a short story called “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” Pahom, a peasant, is convinced that he would be completely happy and content with his life—and thus immune to temptations from the devil—if he only had enough land. But each time he acquires more land, he discovers that it isn’t enough; he always needs more. His quest for “enough” land destroys him.
Something like that has happened to the government school monopoly. Generations of demanding more and still more funding, promising to deliver results as soon as they have “enough” money, have slowly eroded the system’s cultural prestige and middle-class political support. The rising star of school choice can be traced, ultimately, to the monopoly’s stubborn refusal to ask itself Tolstoy’s question. How much money does a school system need?
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