April 13, 2005
George Will examines an Arizona referendum called the "65 percent rule," which reallocates school district budgets from bureaucracy to classrooms. If passed, it would require that at least 65 percent of district operational budgets be spent directly on "in the classroom" instruction - a worthy goal. But the proposal (read more here) would allow "each school board . . . to decide for itself how to spend the additional funds for the classroom," and supporters have a few suggestions: more teachers, smaller class sizes, and computers for everyone! Bad as those ideas are, we shudder to think what activities or programs many local school boards would decide are "instructional." (For the list of NCES-defined "in the classroom" activities, click here.) As savvy Gadfly readers know, hiring more teachers, not more qualified teachers, is self-defeating (see "Teacher can't teach"). Of handing out laptops like backpacks, the less said the better. The sensible George Will acknowledges that "there is scant evidence that increasing financial inputs will by itself increase a school's cognitive outputs. . . . Or that adding thousands of new teachers would do as much good as firing thousands of tenured incompetents." Exactly right.
"One man's way to better schools," by George F. Will, Washington Post, April 10, 2005.