Why support for education doesn’t mean support for more education funding

Victor Joecks

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores had another interesting tidbit in her interview yesterday with the Las Vegas Sun that I want to examine.

Everyone always talks about how they are for education. You don’t ever find anyone who is against education. So what I tell people is the question should not be: Do you support education? The question should be: Do you support funding education? Because at the end of the day, that’s where the parties diverge. That’s where you’re either for education in action or you’re just about education in words. I think for a very long time we’ve been about education in words.

Now this is a very common argument in education policy, but it’s also one that misses the point, which you can see clearly by examining the same argument in a different context. The article notes that Flores has completed multiple marathons so let’s apply her argument to running.

Just like education, nearly everyone supports running. There are also certain costs to running, including running shorts, shirts and shoes, and food items like bananas, energy bars or Gatorade.

Do you care about running less if you buy Gatorade for 69 cents a quart instead of $1.19? Do you support running less if your bananas cost 33 cents per pound instead of 56 cents? Does running matter less to you if you wait for New Balance shoes to go on sale before buying them?

Of course not. It’s ridiculous to even suggest this, because it’s so obvious that the goal is completing your run and that spending money on food or clothing is just a means to that end.

You’re not “for” running if you pay more for supplies or “against” it if you seek out the best deal, but that’s exactly the argument Flores is making about education.

Do you see the error in that argument and way of thinking?

The goal must be student achievement.

And since the goal is student achievement, let’s examine ways to increase student achievement. We’ve tried spending more money, and Nevada has nearly tripled inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending in the last 50 years. With the lowest graduation rate in the country, however, spending more hasn’t worked. Spending more hasn’t worked nationally either.

Fortunately for the children you know, we know what does work. School choice has the biggest impact on increasing student achievement. Twenty-seven random-assignment studies have found that school choice increases achievement for either students who use school choice programs or remain in public schools. No random assignment study has found a negative impact for either group.

In 1998, Florida enacted a series of reforms, including school choice, that produced these results.

We should all run to embrace proven education reforms.