Education Reform that Might Actually Work!

There is quite a bit of attention put on the Federal government when it comes to education reform. It is a hot topic for every Presidential and Congressional debate, yet less than 10% of education funding that reaches the schools actually comes from the Federal government.

image from peoriapublicradio.org
The highest contributor to public education is the state government, which provides anywhere between 48% and 70%, depending on who is doing the arithmetic. Next is the local government, which gives between 20% and 40%. The biggest sources for state funding are sales and income taxes. Local governments derive their funding from property tax.

The more money that the citizens in a state make, the more they are paying in income and sales tax and the more money the local governments get from their property tax (assuming that people with more money buy nicer houses). The problem is that education is a catalyst for future income. If schools have low performance, their local citizens will likely grow up and have lower-income jobs. This means that they will not pay as much in income tax and will likely not be able to afford to buy a mansion, adding to local property tax revenue. Thus, it is all an endless cycle of education success or education failure, which is directly tied to the local community and culture (if you want to dig that deep). This is why education should be of great concern to everyone.

Although the Federal and local governments have their hands tied in approaches to education reform, the state governments are in perfect position to effect positive change. The biggest driver in the system I am proposing is standardized test scores. Before I get a stream of public outcry over standardized tests, hear me out. Standardized test scores should not be used to determine who gets the money in a particular state, or how much. Instead, all state money should be divided equally between schools and test scores should be used as a tool to determine where the bulk of that money will go. In other words, if an elementary school has substandard test scores for reading, they should be required to prove that a good portion of their annual budget goes directly into the English department.

If schools want to purchase a new gymnasium, auditorium, or other “niceties”, they have to make sure that their test scores stay above the minimum for all areas of study.

What do you guys think?

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