May 18, 2004
by Steve Buckstein
People who argue that Oregon's public schools need more tax dollars lost another battle this month. Our Secretary of State just released an analysis of spending on school district support services.In 2001, the latest year for which nationwide data is available, Oregon spent more money than most other states in areas such as administration, transportation, operations and maintenance. Specifically, $162 million more. The report concludes, "Consequently a smaller portion of each dollar was available to be spent on instruction."
That $162 million could have been spent on instruction instead of support services. For example, that much money would have paid for more than 2,000 classroom teachers.This latest report follows earlier studies by the Secretary of State, Cascade Policy Institute, and the Oregon School Boards Association documenting inefficient spending in our public school system. Voters seem to have gotten the message, which is one reason they turned down new statewide tax schemes in early 2003 and 2004.
We don't need to increase school funding to improve outcomes. Evidence shows we can increase productivity and improve educational outcomes through competition and school choice. Approving more charter schools, and developing both public and private school choice opportunities are big steps in the right direction.Public schools have a spending problem. They don't need more money to get better results. Letting dollars follow the student is a proven way for students to get a better education.