The economics of school funding: We’re in trouble

George W. Bush (The Dumber) made this classic statement when he was running for president for his first term:

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” —Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

Grammarians laughed. But in the course of a year, he won a heavily contested presidential election (because people couldn’t count) and moved into the White House for the next eight years.

But the following is what has happened since the last year of his presidency:


I can answer his question.


Look at the numbers. Only fourteen states have increased funding for K-12 education. I’m guessing more than half of those increases were below the rate of inflation for that time period, so if I’m being generous, that means seven states have increased educational funding in inflation adjusted dollars. So, 43 states have cut funding (if there’s a zero percent increase, that means funding has been cut because of inflation).

We are going out of our way to raise a confederacy (and a union) of dunces.

Instead of making sure our children ARE learning, we get this Kafkaesque reality show where state officials and millionaire TV news people tell us that the reason state budgets are out of control is because public school teachers make so much money.

So what are teachers making? Let’s go to the National Center for Education Statistics.


The average salary for full-time public school teachers in 2010–11 was $56,069 in current dollars (i.e. dollars that are not adjusted for inflation). In constant (inflation-adjusted) dollars, the average salary was about 3 percent higher in 2010–11 than in 1990–91.

So obviously, since teachers make “SO MUCH MONEY” they must be at the high end of wage earners.

teacher salary

Uh. No.

We don’t pay to educate our children. We don’t pay our teachers to educate our children. We are not going to have smart adults as a result. We are in serious trouble.


Social Class in America

Here’s a film short from 1957 on America’s class structure:

I’m stunned. I thought this would be one of those, “Doesn’t matter what your background is, with hard work and determination, you can achieve greatness.”

Isn’t that the message that’s constantly pounded into our heads? No?!

Back in 1957, the reality was, “doesn’t matter what you do, you were born into a certain class, and you’re always going to stay there.”

That’s totally depressing.

Even more depressing: There are no minorities anywhere in this video. Back then, that meant they didn’t even count and weren’t worth discussing. Oh, yeah. And from what I could see here, women didn’t count either.

I’ve got no love for nostalgia. I don’t think anything in the past was better than things are now. But I do believe in social mobility.

I know plenty of people who’ve come from absolutely nothing and completely tore through class distinctions. In my lifetime, we’ve had at least four U.S. presidents who’ve risen from the bottom of the economic ladder. I can rattle off the names of poor and middle class kids who became successful and are now billionaires.

But there are people who want to go back to the simplicity 1950s. People who want others to stay in their place and not complain. And class divisions are widening now at a faster pace than any other time in my life.

Look at the charts of income distribution. The social structure of ’50s nostalgia is running rampant.

Stupid is as stupid does in the voting booth

In terms of education, how did the past election shape up?

Bobby Jindl says the GOP has to stop being “the stupid party.” His state ranked No. 5 among the worst educated states, and it went Republican. Until you improve the educational environment for your citizens, the base will remain incapable of making rational choices. And if you have to appeal to an irrational base, you come up with irrational policies.

(From What Would Jack Do via Crooks and Liars)


The problem with children’s education

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”
— President George Bush, the dumber

Here’s a great explanation on why they aren’t from Sir Ken Robinson, professor emeritus of education at the University of Warwick in the U.K. via RSA Animate. (The point about ADHD is especially interesting.):

Steve Jobs on life and death

Steve Jobs, from a Stanford University commencement speech in 2005: