School of the Future Part 1: Funding

I am taking certain things for granted even discussing funding when it comes to the school of the future. Mainly, that education will continue to be mandated by the federal government. I certainly hope that as a society we continue to value education and require it of all our citizens, but when thinking of the future maybe this won’t be the case. So let’s just say that in terms of mandated education that things remain the same, well that is not the only thing that has the possibility of altering the way education is funded. If the school of the future is not held in a central location that will change the need for funding, and if location is changed then the teacher to student ratio will certainly change. But those are discussions for later in the series.

The way I look at it, there are really only two main ways to fund education: either you pay for it, or your government does. If the objective of education is equity then we really can’t even consider the former option, right? Or can we? Nope, I don’t think that we can. While being forced to pay for your own education might yield short term results such as students who have more of a stake in their own education, the long term results of that scenario are a nightmare for society at large. So if we discard paying for your own education as a means to further financially stratify our society, what we have left is public funding. Any one of us working in public education in America knows that the way public school is funded doesn’t work. The property tax as inequitable as paying for education yourself. Consider the school that I work for. The major property owner in my school district is the State University of New York (SUNY), because they are a state institution they pay no tax. The second largest land owners in the district are family farmers who own a lot of property. Anyone who has any experience with family farms knows that just because they own a great deal of land doesn’t mean they are growing wealthy on all of that land. So my district is left with a very small tax base, which is filled in by…wait for it…state aid. When state aid goes up, property taxes go up even more, and negative sentiment for the educational system increases.

Why couldn’t the school of the future be funded by a flat tax? Or an income tax. It isn’t perfect, but I think it is more fair. At least people and districts would no what to expect in terms of their responsibilities. What do you think? How should the school of the future be funded?

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5 thoughts on “School of the Future Part 1: Funding

  1. It seems to be that the biggest problem with funding is misspend and poor priorities at both the government and school levels. How many unnecessary office positions are in schools that could be used for another teacher, aide, or supplies? How much do we waste on Windows and MS Office, when free Linux or Open Office would suffice fine? At the government level, billions were spent on a bank bailout; barely a fraction is spent on education. If we, as a society, make education a priority, I think that the money would mostly be there.

  2. Sue Densmore says:

    While I agree that there are improvements in spending priorities to be made in terms of software licensing and such, I don’t think this is the biggest funding problem.
    I believe that our general population feels entitled to things being free of charge.  Look at the flack being given to newspapers who suggest they might have to charge people to read their stories.  It costs money to run those internet sites.  Why do we not expect to pay?
    This carries over into everything, and suddenly “the government” is some separate entity with its own bank.  WE are “the government.”  And if WE want quality education, WE have to pay.  That’s just the way it is.
    The schools are not seen as essential institutions that have to be kept going or everything will fall apart.  Banks are seen that way – hence the bailout.  Schools are seen as failing.  So on top of the funding issues, or maybe underlying them, we have a PR problem.
    People say not to “throw money” at the problem.  But more money is exactly what education needs – to double the teaching staff and halve the class sizes, to provide proper tech and materials, and all those other things educators know we should have.

  3. Andrew says:

    There’s a few systemic issues that aren’t covered by a simple flat tax.
    First, locality and local control are central to the current conception of American public schools.  The choice to fund them through property taxes is meant to enforce that notion, creating stakeholders out of the population served by the schools.  A flat tax or income tax moves away form that model – either to a centralized “money pot” where each district is doled out a fixed budget (per student?  per school?  by residential population?), or a a smaller version of the same system (by state?  by county?)  If you walk too far down that chain, you’re back at the fundamental inequity of wealthy residential areas working from budgets that are orders of magnitude larger than poorer, more rural or more industrial areas.
    The other major issue  comes from the  battles sure to be waged by localities and school boards over their rights to control the structure and content of a local school system.  Moving funding away from localities moves the locus of curricular control.
    There are many benefits to parents personally funding schools (either via vouchers or raw tuition), although equity and democracy are not among them.  But my best hopes for restructuring how schools are funded involves a moves to smaller academic bureaucracies and some method for increasing parent/student mobility.  Unfortunately I haven’t come across a method for doing that which doesn’t marginalize the students most in need of a robust public education system.


  4. Andrew says:

    Jason –
    While I agree that there’s a large dollar amount of waste in public school budgets, and I’d be more than happy to see the back of Office and Windows, focusing on those elements is like focusing on foreign aid as component of the federal budget.
    The big cost drivers for schools are schools – buildings, transportation, personnel.  Reducing those costs will require fundamentally changing how schools operate.  I’m not of the mind that a teacher aide is more essential to a successful school than office staff or maintenance, and significantly reducing operating costs will require a reduction in all three, plus teachers, administration, etc.
    Clearly this is a question of priorities, but to recognize the systemic problems in school systems and then call for more money into the same systems (aka the California model) is dangerously short-sighted.

  5. ktenkely says:

    I am totally dreaming here but what if a portion of school funding was paid for by a product that schools produce?  This would provide community buy in as well as student buy in to their education.  I am thinking about a school that grew plants in the school garden as part of classroom learning.  The vegetables, flowers, and fruit were sold to the community to raise money for the school.  In a year the school raised $4000.  What if every school offered a product as a result of learning experiences?  What if we gave students $10 each and asked them to be creative and turn it into as much money as they could?  We need to think way outside the box on this one.  Our current system just isn’t going to cut it!

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