One can only chuckle at the bumper stickers on SUVs whose drivers look forward to the day when schools get all the money they need and the Defense Department has to hold a bake sale. Bake sale indeed. Annually, public education is a $446.3 billion enterprise. That’s a whole lotta cookies.
Now, the Idaho Education Association wants taxpayers to pony up $180 million more each year for increased funding for education through a 1 percent sales tax hike. A penny here and a penny there, and soon, as the late Senator Everett Dirksen might have said, you’re talking about real money.
You’ve gotta hand it to the teachers unions. They’ve made sure that when the public pie gets sliced, the profession gets its “just desserts”—and then some. In 1960, annual spending on public education nationwide was about $3,000 per student. In the years since, that amount has swollen to over $9,400 per student. Those are inflation-adjusted dollars, so spending on public education in real terms has more than tripled, with dubious results.
For years the teachers unions have sustained a PR campaign that should be the envy of corporate CEOs everywhere. Take the issue of charter schools. Charters expose the cost bloat and inefficiency of the typical school system by doing a better job for about a third less money. They do so primarily by reining in administrative costs, in contrast to school systems generally. In 1960 American public schools limped along with one administrator for every 13.6 students; by 2002 they apparently needed one for every 8.1 students.
The unions, predictably, maintain ongoing jihad against charters, wanting the public to believe they siphon money away from “real” public schools—though maybe it’s the “real” schools that are siphoning money away from charters and other alternatives that would provide taxpayers and