Tuesday, October 08, 2002

There's a letter on the campus listserv today to support the local levy referendum for the school district. Why this passes the test for not being political advertising (which listserv rules prohibit) is unclear, but I'd rather focus on the lack of merit in the current plan.

Caroline Hoxby, an education economist at Harvard, writes in a paper called The Low Cost of Accountability that the cost of accountability in any state has not totaled more than $34 per pupil (in Delaware -- the national cost is well under $20). The cost of reducing class sizes by 10% (about 2 students per classroom) is about $615 and the cost of raising teacher salaries by 10% is about $437.

So where does the money in the district's plan go? (Link needs Acrobat Reader.) Of the $4.5 million per year, only $50,000 (for 10,400 students) goes to assessment. (Get past the first page of the plan, where they bury assessment in a load of other expenditures and make it look much bigger than it really is.) That's 1/7th the expenditure on instructional supplies. It's 1/20th what will be spent on reducing class size (read: hire more teachers) and most of the rest means paying teachers more for what used to be called "preparation" and now is called things like "enhance curriculum services" or "enhance staff development" (read: pay teachers more.) And it's little more than 1/3rd of the cost of a new principal, also embedded in the plan. Even the advert placed by the FA today includes the statement from the levy drive's chair that the levy "...will mean hiring additional staff and lowering targeted class sizes; it will allow funding of activities vital to the development of young people; it will allow some restoration of curriculum development and staff development programs; it will restore some of the district�s budget reserve..."

The levy comes a year after a larger levy was rejected by voters. The message people took from the rejection was that we wanted to know where the money was spent. Now we know -- it won't be spent on making teachers and the district accountable.