Texas public schools don't need more money to waste
Dallas Morning News
March 16, 2006
Legislators should take closer look before giving
Among the universal truths of life are "death," "taxes" and "public schools
need more money." Of these three, two are true.
Let's discuss the third "truth," which is anything but true.
You may be thinking, "Everyone knows schools are underfunded." You
probably are thinking that because there's a steady drumbeat of news
releases and studies emanating from the education establishment designed to
convince you of just that.
But before the Texas Legislature and similar bodies in the other 49 states
reconvene to find a way to hand out property tax relief and (at the same
time) give several billions more to the school system – let's consider the
First, if you believe that any state can implement significant property tax
cuts while spending massive additional sums on schools, perhaps you might be
interested in purchasing a large bridge in New York. There is a way to do
it, but that involves soaking every taxpayer in the state – and that may be
exactly what is about to happen.
Another myth is the idea that schools are dying for lack of funds.
A Dallas Morning News poll revealed that 52 percent of those surveyed would
be quite willing to ante up more cash if the state would invest it in
education. Another poll, conducted for the Texas State Teachers Association,
unsurprisingly had the figure at 69 percent.
Regardless of any possible bias in the way these surveys were taken, the
people who answered obviously care about education. But would they be so
willing to pay higher taxes if there was more reporting of the facts?
In his book Education Myths, Jay P. Greene points out that education
spending has been on the rise for 50 years. The Department of Education's
records show that after World War II, in today's dollars, we spent about
$1,214 per student. By 1955, that had doubled to $2,345. By 1972, it doubled
again, to $4,479. Since then, it has doubled yet again, to $8,745. And ABC's
John Stossel, in his recent series "Stupid in America," says the per-student
outlay has now reached $10,000.
So how could you do with a class of 25 kids and a budget of a quarter of a
million dollars? The schools say it isn't enough.
But the schools have teachers unions and massive numbers of lobbyists, all
working to preserve the government schools' monopoly and to get unfriendly
politicians unelected. For that, they seem to have the cash. The unions
represent the teachers' interests, but who speaks for the children?
The children are not served by a system in which cookie-cutter
superintendents are handed rock-star contracts loaded with perks that most
of us could never imagine. Remember Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's
car allowance that he got along with a car and driver? He gave it up earlier
And what about former Dallas Superintendent Mike Moses, who always insisted
that his job was not about money? He walked away with more than $200,000 in
unused vacation pay and retirement incentives. In Fort Worth, Thomas Tocco
was reassigned after a billing scandal involving at least $10 million. But
his iron-tight contract allowed him to collect his salary of $314,212 plus
compensation for unused sick time and vacation days.
Then there's the incredible cost of educating children who are in the
country illegally. According to the Federation for American Immigration
Reform, the total national expenditure from grades K-12 for educating
illegal immigrant children is about $12 billion per year. If you add the
cost of those children who are born to illegal parents, the cost skyrockets
to more than $28.6 billion. Texas taxpayers pay $3.9 billion of that.
Presumably, if we didn't accept illegal immigrants in our classrooms, we
wouldn't need bilingual education, and another fortune could be saved. In
California, they tried that with Proposition 227, and tests scores shot up.
But the bilingual lobby is working to return the status quo.
And so it goes. If schools really hadn't gotten significant increases and if
they didn't waste money like drunken sailors, we taxpayers would obviously
want to do our part. But before the soaking begins, would the Legislature
please take a look at how our money is being spent?
Lynn Woolley is a syndicated talk show host. His e-mail address is