By PG Veer
August 3, 2015
With the school year just on the horizon, WalletHub published its annual report on states with the best and worst education systems. What catches the eye in this 2015 report is the failure of the experts to answer an important question: What can state and local policymakers do to improve their school systems without raising taxes?
Considering the severe budgetary constraints most states are experiencing, especially because of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, cost-saving suggestions and solutions would be welcomed.
One possible solution would be to hold ineffective teachers accountable for student performance, even when they have tenure. On that subject, Massachusetts shines, ranking well above the national average, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. At the other end of the spectrum, states like California, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, which Wallet Hub ranks among the worse states, have rather poor standards for firing low-performing teachers – when they do have standards.
Another performance booster that could cut costs is school choice. School choice allows parents more options beyond the traditional neighboring school and may actually improve their children’s education, especially for low-income groups in urban areas. Despite depending on public funds for students, charter schools can end up saving money for taxpayers. Since most states don’t fund charter schools capital improvements, administrators are the ones paying for its upkeep. And since most of their teachers are not unionized, they can keep their costs down.
In the Center for Education Reform’s Parent Power Index, which rates states based on how much each empowers parents to make decisions regarding their child’s education, Massachusetts would do well to improve its school choice options as the PPI ranks the state 30th. Its very limited charter school options and virtual school options weighed the state down.
Wallet Hub does show a weak correlation between spending and outcomes in its 2015 report, it isn’t everything. Louisiana, despite its ranking of 47th by Wallet Hub, ranked seventh on the PPI, thanks to a very vast network of school vouchers, online, and charter schools. Massachusetts does spend the most per student (over $14,000) and has the best results, but New York is #2 in spending and has the 34th best education system overall – Alaska respectively ranks 4th in spending with an overall ranking of51.
Utah is only underspent per student ($6,200) by Arizona while having the 14th best education system. Utah also ranks at number six on the PPI. Could money influence such a discrepancy between spending and outcomes?
This article was written by a contributor of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.