Saturday, February 28, 2009

Go to for the rest of this column on how to reform public education before plowing more unnecessary money into it

For your state and local tax dollars, the largest expense is public education. And I use "expense" on purpose.

If we follow the Whitney Houston song about children being our future, one would believe that public education spending is an investment.

But from what I have witnessed in classrooms in Nashville, and from the largest per pupil spending in the District of Columbia where achievement is the worst, taxpayers are not getting their money's worth.

That's because the bureaucracy surrounding public education in Nashville and around the nation gets first crack at your money. And your dollars go to administrator salaries, large support staff, high central office salaries and programs that simply don't work.

By the time the money gets to the classroom, a big share is missing.

My credentials come from three national reporting awards from the Education Writers Association in Washington, D.C. and two national writing awards from the Casey Journalism Center at the University of Maryland.

I also used my column to help force through charter public school-authorizing legislation in Tennessee earlier this decade.

Consider that from your state tax dollars and the local ones in Nashville, a whopping $8,176 is provided annually there for each child. In a classroom of 20 students, that's an incredible $162,000.

Yet Metro schools have failed to meet No Child Left Behind Act standards for five years. This failure will result in the state of Tennessee taking over the schools, and the expense will be paid by everyone, including you in Williamson County.

There is a better, immediate way. It is called school choice -- creating competition for the public school bureaucracy. And there are two ways you can make a difference now.

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