Tuesday, January 10, 2006

65% solution or 65% delusion?

Around the nation, many governors and legislators are falling all over themselves to trumpet the "65% solution" as a way to hold down costs in education. The "65% solution" simply argues that 65% of all funds going to education should be oriented to instruction. Indiana has been reported to be at 61% but that figure is debatable, as they all are. Politicians undoubtedly see this as a political winner. Who could be against "driving more money into the classroom?"

At least our Indiana governor was smart enough not to attach a specific percentage to it as an absolute target. There is no research to support 65% as the "ideal" public funding level for instruction! Of course he couldn't resist suggesting maybe we could get that up to 70% or even higher.

Here is an article discussing the 65% solution in Texas. Evidently in their current plans football coaches salaries would be considered "instruction" but librarian salaries would not. After winning the Rose Bowl and finishing the BCS as #1, this might actually fly in Texas!

This simple illustration shows that the simplest concepts can be amazingly complicated.

In order to make such state-by-state comparisons about the level of "instructional" funding, clear definitions are required - never an easy task. This only seems simple to people who have no clue.

Here are a few examples:

Are librarians instructional expenses? Maybe it depends on whether they only check books at the counter or whether they purchase your child's reading materials.

Is a teacher aide instructional? Maybe it depends on whether they put up bulletin boards or whether they tutor kids.

Is a computer technician instructional? Maybe it depends on whether they repair your hard drive or whether they work with students and help make instructional software purchases.

Is air conditioning instructional or operational? Maybe it depends on whether or not you ever served as a teacher on a 90 degree day with 90% humidity in a school without AC.

Is a football coach instructional? Maybe it depends on whether your child learned about sacrifice, teamwork, self-discipline and goal setting or whether they learned how to cheat to win.

Is the bus driver's salary instructional? Maybe it depends on whether or not the child would be at school without the bus.

Is the cook's salary instructional? Maybe it depends on how well you learn when you are hungry.

Sorry - but 65% solutions are 95% delusions.


At Tuesday, January 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Education needs to be more cheap and affordable in this great country of ours ... especially higher


At Tuesday, January 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is how the National Center for Education Statistics answers your questions -- and the division by which the "65 percent solution" is based. (see below) Whether you agree or disagree, it seems like a decent place to start the discussion. One thing this debate certainly has done is to destroy the myth - perpetuated by school administrators - that 85-90 of their funds are spent on teacher salaries. Obviously, that has been a blatant lie; otherwise, every school district in the country would have already surpassed the "65 percent" goal.

“In the Classroom”
Classroom Teachers, Personnel
General Instruction Supplies
Instructional Aides
Activities -- Field Trips, Athletics, Music, Arts
Tuition Paid to Out-of State Districts & Private Institutions for Special Needs Students

“Outside the Classroom”
Plant Operations & Maintenance
Food Services
Instructional Support Including Librarians
Teacher Training & Curriculum
Student Support -- Nurses, Counselors

At Tuesday, January 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indiana ranks 50th in the percent of K-12 employees who are teachers.

Every 1% moved from overhead to instructional spending would free up $100 million for student learning.

Every 1% shift could hire 1,500 new teachers, reduce class size, or improve classroom technology.

Yet, how many adminstrators have committed to finding one measily percent???

At Tuesday, January 10, 2006, Blogger Indiana Public School Superintendent said...

There is no myth perpetuated by administrators that 85-90 percent of all their funds are spent on salaries. I've never heard one superintendent in all my years in the business ever claim such a thing.

What they DO say is that 85-90% of General Fund money is spent on salaries. And the General Fund is the only place instructional salaries are permitted to come from.

However, loosening these rules MUST come with greater freedom from collective bargaining laws.

In my humble opinion.

At Tuesday, January 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that neither you nor any of your colleagues have made such claims. Unfortunately, I have heard such claims on multiple times. They have NOT drawn the distinctions between source of funds and salaries, as you have done. They have said SPECIFICALLY that 85-90% of their "budgets" are spent on "TEACHER salaries."

In a similar vein, I have seen superintendents make regular claims that their school districts spend only $5000 to $6000 per student. Unfortunately, I have seen such statements made so regularly that I must conclude that they are intentional.

At Wednesday, January 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. I have never heard a superintendent ever state that 85-90% of their total funds were spent on salaries. Whoever you have heard make such a claim was either lying or misinformed. You know the truth. What will your response be? Will you perpetuate something you know to be false or will you go back to your misinformed friends and let them know the truth?

2. Your 1% comments are ill-informed. As I understand, state laws are very strict regarding the use of revenue from the various funds. Your "measly 1%" is constantly eaten up by increased health insurance, energy and other costs despite repeated measures to mitigate those increases. If your suggestion is to fire a bunch of bus drivers to find a "measly 1%", or to reduce maintenance on the boilers or the roof, that is simply not allowed under the law. If you didn't know that before, you know it now.

3. I am going to contact my local superintendent and suggest that we fire all of the librarians and their aides and use the savings to hire more football and basketball coaches so that we can drive more dollars into the classroom, Republican style.

Next, I will suggest that we fire all of the nurses and school counselors and spend that money on additional field trips for students. With the money that would be re-directed, we could make sure that every student would be out of the classroom on field trips as much as possible.

According to your post, the suggestions listed above would drive more dollars into the classroom of my local school. Would such a school receive commendation from you for such actions? If not, why would you make the suggestions that you do?

Your response will determine whether you are serious about productive debate or merely a site pest.


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