More Money for Schools? Take a Hike, Kid.

Categories: Buzz

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Students from the Hutto high class of 1980 head out for school.
Texas public schools are barely squeaking by, The New York Times reported this morning in a heart-rending story about state budget cuts. Things have gotten so dire that the Times led its story with the horrifying tale of a youth in Hutto, northeast of Austin, who must now walk a mile to classes because the school district there can no longer afford to bus students who live less than two miles from school.

Hey, hey, hey! You older-than-40 readers out there, is that any kind of language to use when talking about a Texas youth? There's nothing in the Times' story to suggest that the young man in question is, in fact, a "pampered, lazy, God damn whiny lard ass," as you just muttered under your breath. Uh-huh, right ... "in the snow," "uphill both ways," "surrounded by wolves." Sure you did.

What caught our eye in the story -- beyond the decadent state of today's youth -- was this little factoid: Texas spends an average of $8,908 annually per public school student, $538 less than last year. The national average is $11,463. New York spends $15,592 and California $9,710. The implication is that cheap-ass Texas is raising up a generation of poorly educated ignoramuses with thick calf muscles and empty heads. But is that true? What is the correlation between dollars spent and educational outcome? I spent a busy morning making calls and reading dense educational reports trying to find an answer. Here it is in all its glory:

Who the fuck knows?

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal agency that compiles statistics on student achievement, doesn't draw correlations between state spending and test scores, a spokesperson told us. And the NAEP, which offers a ton of data online, also advises anyone who looks at its numbers to take care drawing broad comparisons among states, largely because different student populations, different school curricula and different everything else influence results. (Different average wages, real estate prices, utility costs etc. equally skew the spending numbers.)

Still, just as a sample of NAEP's data, we'll point out that in 2011, Texas eighth-graders outscored both New Yorkers and Californians in math. Whether that makes you Texas proud or doubt the scores depends on how long it's been since you stood in line somewhere watching a teenager try to make change.

Other groups, from Education Week and the Pew Center to the American Education Legislative Exchange Council, have taken careful looks at measurements of spending vs. outcome -- call it the dollars to dummies ratio. They too, are careful not to draw much in the way of hard conclusions leaving to policymakers to grasp about in the dark as they decide how much money for schools is enough.

You know, the SOP.

In the slurry of stats, contextless factoids and policy mongering, only one clear truth rings out like a bell: Them lazy-ass kids need to get out and take an effin' walk. Do they think we're made of money?

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18 comments
mynameisURL
mynameisURL

I was forced to take the bus to my home schooling.

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

Considering we're also one of the most obese populations, on average, I don't see a big problem here.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I rode my bike about a mile to elementary school in Plano in the late 80s every day.

Didn't bother me one bit.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

1. Add me to the list of people who had to walk to school. And, I walked almost 2 miles one way. In Mesquite ISD at the time, you had to live at least 2 miles from school to ride the bus. If I lived 3 houses further down the street, I would have been able to ride  the bus. To be honest, I think I preferred walking most of the time. I could stop at a convenience store and pick something up (the one I stopped at sold burgers) and I could take shortcuts through fields and woods. And, when I rode my bike, I often beat the bus to and from school.2. As to the correlation between spending per pupil, they are right that it is very hard to eliminate other factors. In most school districts that spend more per student, that average income and education level is higher. Both of these have also been shown to have a positive influence on student outcomes. Also, when comparing states, you also need to adjust for cost of living. Both California and New York have a higher cost of living than Texas.

Patrick Williams
Patrick Williams

 Well, since everyone else is sharing, I guess I will too. I mostly walked to school except for sixth grade, when I was allowed to ride the bus because the school was about ... um ... one mile away. (That helps explain the man I am today -- a lard ass who pants from the effort of SITTING DOWN IN A CHAIR.)

On that other point -- that figuring out the relationship to per student spending and outcomes is difficult if not impossible -- David Brooks has an interesting column in today's Times. Not about that subject exactly, but he has some good points about productivity and efficiency in a bifurcated economy. (Bifurcated: Riding the bus allowed me time to learn words like that, see?) You can check out the column here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04...

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I used to ride/walk to school in Duncanville daily when I was a kid...I will say, however, in my day (im old LOL)  I carried a ton of books on my back as well, which has lead to some current issues with my back.  I'll say it this way: If the bus is available, take it..

scottindallas
scottindallas

Patrick, umm, for the record, I walked to and from Jr. High and High School nearly every day, and it measured out at exactly one mile.  The RISD busses didn't run within a one mile loop.  Today, I live one block from an RISD elem. where my kids go.  I got calls that my son was walking to school alone.  We live literally across the street from the school, one block away.  The crossing guard helps them cross the street.  We've come a long way baby, and much of it ain't for the best.  

primi timpano
primi timpano

If we don't have better schools we'll end up with more prisons.  Each inmate costs 18,000 per year.  That does not include costs of investigation, county holding pre trial, adjudication expense, or victim expenses.  Texas has it all upside down and backwards.

Stunts for Runts
Stunts for Runts

These little punks don't know how to ride a bike? Or is it their parents afraid they will get run over by some drunk sex offender texting while driving?

Achin For Some Bacon
Achin For Some Bacon

I don't know that I'd be really comfortable sending my kid walking to school knowing he'd be wearing a polyester uniform, probably in pants, and walking home in the 100-110 degree heat on August, September, and May afternoons. Call me a coddler, but I thought the heat was bad when I walked a mile to and from school nearly every day during my own bepantsed high school years in a more northern state where summers weren't always absolute hell.

Hanibal Lecter
Hanibal Lecter

When I started elementary school in the RISD the schools didn't even have air conditioning.

Paul
Paul

 Yep ... and school did not start until after Labor Day and was out before the end of May and we still managed to have 180 instruction days.

carlmac
carlmac

Direct relationships between money spent per student and outcomes are available specifically for Texas students.

http://www.texastribune.org/li...

Per student spend in Texas is based on school district, and yes Virginia, there are huge discrepancies. This and the fact that Governor Rick has bled local districts are the reasons MALDEF and others will be seeing the state in court this fall.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Per-student spending is not the same thing as dollars spent ON each student.  How many dollars per student does it take to build and maintain indoor football practice fields, 20k seat football stadiums, separate soccer fields, baseball facilities, etc.  I'm sure this counts in the per student spending, but one can hardly argue that these expenditures do anything to enhance education.

Alfredo
Alfredo

Yes, let's send more tax dollars to the  bottomless rat hole known is the DISD

Guest
Guest

When I was 16, I lived just over two miles from my school. The district didn't offer any busing service for any school kids except for the ones from the "other side of town" who kept the school from only having one African-American student.

Same deal with my Junior High School, which was 1.5 miles from where I lived.

If I wanted a ride to school, I had to go with my Dad who would drop me off almost two hours before school started (and an hour before the doors opened for us to wait in the cafeteria (and man, some of those mornings were mucho cold - very frequently below freezing, a few times below zero), and then I was on my own for the trip home and usually walked.

I'm not sure whether the walking or very early and cold mornings had any effect on my education, but it sure sucked when I was having to do it.

Guesto
Guesto

 When I was their age.. bluh bluh bluh....

Heywood
Heywood

If you replaced New York Times  with Dallas Morning News or Fort Worth Star-Telegram, would the Observer be so fast to wonder if the 'sky is falling' must be kick started?  Heck, you ought to nudge them about Walter Duranty ot the fact that the island of Manhattan has a vague phallic shape. 

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