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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The 65% Solution

Delegate Frederick has offered HB481 that would require local school districts to allocate 65% of its operating budget to instructional spending. This bill follows a wave of states that have proposed similar measures - Gov. Rick Perry of Texas actually mandated it through an executive order.

The issue is simple. In many school districts between 40 and 50 percent of education funding never makes it into the classroom. It either goes to administration or into business operations like transportation, food services, building maintenance, or other support functions. While non-instructional services are vital to the success of American schools, they take money away from the ultimate goal—educating our children.

I was in Indiana today testifying to both the House and Senate Committee on Education on a bills (Indiana SB323) that would enable local school districts to enter into shared services agreements for everything from back office funcations to instructional opportunities. In addition, it encourages cooperative purchasing agreements for everything from pencils to buses.

A Reason Foundation study found numerous examples with tremendous savings. I'm sure that some Commonwealth districts may already be doing this - but have they exhausted the envelope? Is there more they can do?

We need to fully identify and implement tools to reduce operating expenses to deliver those savings into the classroom - including these and privatization.

10 Comments:

  • Interesting proposal. I am concerned about even greater state influence into local school districts ... perhaps with more funding, though, comes greater influence.

    Nevertheless, only 21 school districts in Virginia of 132 meet this 65% cut off for instructional expeditures. Del. Frederick may have some research to prove this, but I'm not entirely sure those 21 school districts have higher SOL scores than those without the 65%.

    By Anonymous RD, at 1/19/2006 12:55 PM  

  • The proposal is about spending money more effectively. Too many schools spend too much money on functions other than education. We need to find savings in maintenance, transportation, and purchasing before we add more and more money to the education establishment.

    To my knowledge there is no evidence that suggests once you hit 65% that you magically become better. In fact, the national average is 61.3%. The goal, again, is to become more efficient in the non-instructional arena so that money can be freed up to go into the classroom.

    By Blogger gfsegal, at 1/19/2006 2:00 PM  

  • This is a real good start. One of the biggest problems in education has been the $$ disappearing in the bureaucracy. My question is that if teacher salaries would be part of the 65%? Good way to raise teacher salaries.

    By Anonymous George Templeton, at 1/19/2006 3:05 PM  

  • I think Rd is correct, more oversight from the state in regards to fiscal mattes, which isn't inherently a bad think - I think the assumption here is that (some) school districts are squandering fiscal resources which could be spent on direct instruction, and this might be true.

    But wouldn't it make sense that the City of Richmond's schools would have more non-teaching (e.g. repair and maintanince, compliance to Special Educaiton regulations) expences than say a affluent suburban district?

    I appears that bill makes great political sense, but the jury is out if it will make practical sense...

    By Blogger Will Vaught, at 1/19/2006 3:20 PM  

  • Yes, teacher salaries is considered a direct instructional cost so it would (in most cases) be included in the 65%.

    By Blogger gfsegal, at 1/19/2006 5:08 PM  

  • yea, let's just privitize our "public" schools, let me guess you'd outsource this to Halliburton? do you people ever have any real ideas of how to reform education, or do you just use to same old refried arguments over, and over?

    why don't we send every school kid in the state to exeter, choate, or collegiate?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/20/2006 9:42 AM  

  • Anonymous 9:42,
    We are trying to foster a constructive dialogue here as for ways that we can improve the way our state government operates. If you have constructive suggestions, please feel free to share them, instead of simply attacking the ideas being discussed.

    There has been no mention of privatizing the public school system. The 65% solution Geoff is discussing is about making sure that schools are being held accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars. The goal is to make sure that those tax dollars are getting into the classroom to benefit the students, rather than further bloat overhead and administrative bureaucracies.

    The same old argument would just be to dump more money into the system without accountability. But, as we have seen in Virginia, funding growth has far outpaced the increases in student enrollment in public schools, yet there is little evidence to show that those increases have produced any measurable benefits.

    The concern is that a large percentage of funding never makes it into the classroom. If we do not guarantee those dollars are actually making any significant difference, simply investing more money is not in the best interest of students or taxpayers.
    ~whitney

    By Blogger AFPVA, at 1/20/2006 10:38 AM  

  • While there is a link to privatization, it refers to food services, transportation, and maintenance functions -- if you had followed the link and read the article, you would have seen that.

    With that said, both public and private schools play an important role in educating our children. The number of options, and success, of private education has been well documented.

    Finally, what is your solution? Raise taxes and spend more money? We're spending more than 5 times per pupil what we were 50 years ago, and more than 3 times what we were just 20 years ago - when test scores started to slide. Perhaps, competition between schools will bring about dramatic reform and improve our schools. A voucher system would enable that. Unfortunately, teacher unions have stonewalled most efforts around the country, including here in the Commonwealth.

    By Blogger gfsegal, at 1/20/2006 11:13 AM  

  • Ben Cline's HB1122 looks like a good vehicle for privatization. I hope the contributers highlight that bill on the VCC. I would like to learn some more about that legislation.

    On the face of it "all state agencies should procure from the private sector" (paraphrase from the bill text)

    This would seem especially helpful for any "new initiatives" in government spending....

    Whatever happened to "Sunsetting" All new government spending appropriated... get's reviewed in two years and "sunsetted" killed if deemed ineffective or inefficient???

    as for anony 942 if you need someone to argue with come on over to the "donkey" I'll be your "Huckleberry". Keep it off VCC :D

    By Blogger spankthatdonkey, at 1/22/2006 8:02 PM  

  • Good point on "sunsetting." Actually, Delegate Jack Reid has introduced this legislation this year as HB1052.
    (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?061+sum+HB1052)

    This bill requires a sunset date(though the specific length of time is not specified in the bill) on all taxation bills that add new taxes or increase tax rates. The bill will be heard by the House Rules Committee.

    ~whitney

    By Blogger AFPVA, at 1/23/2006 8:35 AM  

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