Texas public schools don't need more money to waste
Dallas Morning News
March 16, 2006

Legislators should take closer look before giving billions

Lynn Woolley:
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 facts.

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 this year.

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 lynn@belogical.com.