This continuing trend of public school closings in urban areas is alarming. I realize that these school systems are facing deficits and they feel that they have no choice, but it also makes me cringe to think about how we undervalue that which we should be investing the most in.
Our investment in public education is not insignificant. But it is also only 10% of what we spend at the national level on war and related defense spending. And our spending as a percentage of GDP is small compared to other countries.
I don't mean to say that we should only throw public money at that issue. But I also think that these financial troubles at public institutions are too often used as arguments for privatization and that those who would benefit from privatization are all too willing to either engineer the continuing skyrocketing costs or at least act as flies in the ointment towards efforts to stem the tide of rising costs. It is incumbent on those who see the benefit of public institutions to get the fiscal house of public education in order before we find that it has been foreclosed on and acquired by wall street. Sadly we're at a place where some of our most prominent politicians can campaign on a platform of abolishing funding for education entirely.
I subscribe to Jane Jacobs' idea of a separation of moral syndromes within civil society that makes clear from an academic angle what we all know to be true from a common sense angle: systems that require the incenting of profit over all other motivations are not well-suited to long-term investment, and systems in which consumer choice is naturally limited do not function under the laws of laissez-faire capitalism. Examples of such (guardian) economic systems include health care, education, and public infrastructures.
Considered in this respect, the privatization of our public education system is a moral hybrid system. Once we agree that it behooves us all to provide a quality K-12 education to all children, regardless of their parents' ability to pay for it, then we must concede that education does not align with a commercial paradigm.
Total expenses per pupil in public schools have risen from $2,000 in 1978 to over $13,000 today, while inflation would have seen that number only rise to half of that. So where is the additional $6,500 going?
I suspect that less is going to the actual instruction of kids through the direct support of empowered teachers, but rather to an endless parade of consultants who have been for that past few decades seemingly causing more problems than they are solving, while dictating prescriptive methods and lobbying for new legislation that can increase their bottom lines. And the additional money that does reach instruction support and teacher salaries is not efficiently utilized as a result of the morass of policies that have been developed since no child left behind.
I'm curious to know what everyone thinks about the state of our education system.