The most common thing we hear regarding education all the time is: “We need to put more money into our schools. We don’t spend enough money on education.” Though our initial reaction to that is usually in agreement, we should step back from our emotional reaction and study to see if that is actually true.
The average amount spent on public primary school education in Connecticut is over $18k per student per year. Of course, this is one of the highest. The US average is $10k per year. Utah comes in the lowest (or is it the most efficient?) at $6k per year. Utah also has the 3rd fastest growing economy in the United States, so their low (or highly efficient) spending on education is clearly not holding them back. A good friend of mine here in high cost Stamford sends his 2 kids to an excellent Catholic parochial school. Cost? $6k per child per year, the same as Utah. Of the $18k per year spent on public school students in Connecticut, over $5k per year is going to teacher’s retirement and benefits.
Let’s look at this another way. With 25 students in a classroom, at $18k per student, the State of Connecticut is spending $450k per year to educate one classroom of children. In Utah and in the Stamford parochial school, that figure is $150k, with the same general results. What is giving the Connecticut education system $500k per classroom or $600k per classroom going to accomplish that $450k cannot?
What happens when you look at every issue through the lens of how the Most Entrepreneurial Government in the country would go about things? Do we start to ask the following questions:
- For home schooled kids and kids going to private schools, shouldn’t the parents be getting $3 to $4k per student per year? Most pay enormously into taxes for education, yet now receive nothing. If the State and local towns and cities saved $14k per student per year, giving $3 to $4k per student should be looked at as a great deal for all involved. How many more parents would home school or send their kids to private schools if this incentive was applied?
- If a mother or father decides to stay home and home school, is there any reason why they shouldn’t be able to home school a few of their nieces or nephews, or children of their close friends? In this scenario, a parent homeschooling 4 kids saves the State and towns $56k Per year. Did you know that homeschooled kids consistently outperform students enrolled in traditional public schools?
- Should there be year long schooling and Saturdays? Should we make the school days shorter and spread out the work load, taking a lot of pressure off of the kids and perhaps improving performance and knowledge retention?
- I’ve had the good fortune of being able to travel extensively throughout the US (49 States (sorry Iowa)) and to over 40 foreign countries. In several instances I’ve learned of parents sending their kids to private schools where they go 6 shorter days per week, and year round. In some schools they have 2 sessions per day. This greatly maximizes facility and administrative and overhead costs. We have $60 billion in State debt now. A lot of this is accounted for by spending on new school facilities, yet if you consider waking hours, holidays, vacation breaks and summers, these expensive facilities sit empty 50-60% of the time. Is this most efficient?
- Only roughly 30% of us are on the path to finishing a 4 year university degree. This is probably much more than we even need. Even so, 70% of us are going on to the work force sooner, ideally getting as valuable and as needed technical training beforehand. Once a student is 16 years of age and not going to a 4 year university, what are they getting out of a junior and senior year in high school? Are they gaining much of anything at that point that will better prepare them for the workforce? Should they receive a small incentive to graduate early or start their technical training earlier, saving the state again enormous sums of money? Also, in Washington State where I lived for many years most of the high schools now offer junior and senior year community college classes for university bound students. Students are now leaving high school with the first 2 years of university completed, with $0 in college costs or debt incurred.
These are just a few of the many ideas we have. If collaborating with the teachers, schools and towns who have this same passion for efficiency and performance, how many potentially great ideas are out there? What would the cost of education potentially be, while maintaining or improving outcomes, if the entire system was looked at with an eye for efficiency and innovation?