Less Spending Equals Better Education According to State Figures

Educrats (Education Bureacrats) are salivating to sink their teeth into more money and appear to be out in full force, spending money on ads to encourage Blount Voters to support the sales tax increase.  More money equals a better education is their mantra.  We’ve heard this nonsense before.

The poster boy, Director of Schools Rob Britt is a selfish example, receiving a six figure salary a recent 4% raise when many received 3%, a car and FREE health care.  Over 86% of current education spending is on salaries and benefits excluding County debt, which much of is school related.

State figures shatter the false rhetoric that more money equals a better education. 

Eric Holcombe reports:

Britt and BCEF should choose their poison more carefully. Some simple points to stump the faulty “more money = better academics” logic:

1. Britt claims Blount Co. is among 21 out of 136 TN school systems in one metric, “gap closures” on TCAP test scores for one academic year to sell the “we are doing exemplary with too little money so we deserve more”. Did we find out how many school systems of the exemplary 21 spend the same or less than Blount County? If they exist, shouldn’t we be interested in emulating them instead of spending more? Let’s take a look at the very data Britt is using to make his case. See the attached table that ranks these 21 exemplary systems by per-pupil spending. There are 11 systems that spend even less than Blount County on this list and 18 of the 21 districts spend less than the state average we keep comparing to. All these spending numbers come from the state’s website here. It would appear that if there were any correlation to spending and academic achievement in this metric that Britt chooses to use, it is that spending less than the state average is the key to success.

2. How many school systems were behind Blount County in this metric of improving TCAP scores yet spent more to achieve less? Why didn’t the extra spending help them out with TCAP scores? A few notables off the top of my head: Rob Britt and BCEA’s favorite scapegoat: Alcoa City Schools @$10,827; Memphis @ $11,324; Davidson County @ $11,080. These figures can all be verified here. If more spending is the key to academic success, there are many examples using Britt’s chosen metric that prove this to be false.

3. If the metric is measuring closing a “gap” on TCAP performance, i.e., a change in score vs. the actual scores, would not the system furthest behind have the most potential to “close the gap”? After all, the press release states “the new system acknowledges that districts are starting from different places and rewards those that show the most growth“. So, not everyone has the same starting point, but the students from all systems are taking the same tests so the systems are comparable to one another. Basic, Proficient and Advanced all mean the same thing to the systems. If we are “exemplary” what is our “gap” that we are closing? Well, go here for the TCAP scores Blount County improved upon and you can see for yourself. This is a poor metric to use to argue funding for academic performance, because if the school improves, the gaps close and you cannot show as dramatic improvement the next time. It’s like saying “I improved my math score 50%!”, but you moved from a 30 to a 45. You are still failing, but in “exemplary” fashion. If you are already scoring 90, there is only a 11% “gap” to work with even if your goal is to achieve perfect scores, so you never will make the “exemplary” list. Digging on this metric will cause the school system to quickly abandon it as a bragging right, because it reveals the real proficiency is low, thus allowing us to report big gains in closing the “gaps” – at least for the one-year snapshot this metric provides. It also isn’t repeatable for very long if the scores improve:

TCAP scores for Blount County by subject showing % of students counted as Proficient and Advanced:

Grades 3-8 Math – 49.8%
Grades 3-8 Reading – 50.9%
Grades 3-8 Science – 64.8%
Grades 3-8 Social Studies – 85.2%
Algebra 1 end of course – 54.2%
Algebra 2 end of course – 33%
Biology end of course – 61.5%
English 1 end of course – 66%
English 2 end of course – 61.7%
U.S. History end of course – 96.2%

Remember, these are our TCAP “Proficient and Advanced” student percentages AFTER the “exemplary” work. These ratings do not tell you what is required to be “Proficient” in the eyes of the state. Is it merely a 45% “passing” grade like the Gateway end-of-course exams were? I don’t know. In my report card days, those scores earned one “A”, a “B” and eight “F”s. Not exactly the kind of performance that would get you a raise in your allowance. Telling your neighbor his children have a 50% chance of being Proficient in reading and math by high school isn’t very reassuring. You will find that most all the state systems score well in social studies and U.S. History. In fact almost no system is below a 90 in U.S. History (i.e., the test isn’t very hard) regardless of what they spend. The lowest social studies score is a 63.8 by Memphis and the lowest U.S. History score is a 87.3 by Memphis. How much do they spend again? More than anyone else in the state.

4. The claim for funding needs is (as always) textbooks, technology, instructional resources, “tools for the 21st Century”  and “in the classroom”, but never salaries (unless you recognize the redundant newspeak “instructional resources”) which represent 86%+ of our current spending. Would the county schools be willing to legislate that the local option tax increase can only be used for textbooks and computers?

5. The state’s reported per-pupil spending number for Blount County does not include our $15M+/year debt service on the school buildings which actually brings us to $9,689 spending per pupil currently, well above the “state average”. Alcoa is raising their sales tax to build a school. We’ve already done that.

6. If more money = better academics, then what specific academic improvements should we expect to see for that tax increase and funding? Maybe they aren’t worth the money to us. Let us decide.

7. If the school system cannot produce the implied academic results (again, what are they?) with more money, shouldn’t the tax rate be subsequently returned to its current level? Let’s legislate that too.

I found it interesting that the Knoxville News Sentinel is involved in hosting the web page embedding BCEF’s video. I wonder if they are considering advertising to raise our taxes as a charitable donation to BCEF?

School District Spending per pupil in 2011 Report Card
•          McKenzie Special School District $6,941
•          Smith County Schools $7,580
•          Sequatchie County Schools $7,611
•          Trousdale County Schools $7,982
•          Rutherford County Schools $8,095
•          Milan Special School District $8,120
•          Hollow Rock-Bruceton School District $8,172
•          Fayetteville City Schools $8,203
•          South Carroll Special School District $8,276
•          Marshall County Schools $8,309
•          Rogersville City Schools $8,391
•          Blount County Schools $8,401
•          Loudon County Schools $8,543
•          Sweetwater City Schools $8,614
•          Claiborne County Schools $8,678
•          Henry County Schools $8,812
•          Union City Schools $9,023
•          Sevier County Schools $9,063
•          Fayette County Schools         $9,426
•          Newport City Schools $9,795
•          Franklin Special School District $11,839
11  systems spend less than Blount County, while only 9 spend more AND
All but three systems are below the state average of $9,084

2 thoughts on “Less Spending Equals Better Education According to State Figures

  1. Great research!
    If these people truly believed in “for the children” they would give up some of the benefits (say donate $100 per month for health care); stop buying new cars and use existing old ones, the list goes on
    One plank of the ad in the KNS is that if we don’t hurry and vote this in the state will come in and take it for their use; the state can’t do that; this portion of the allowed sales tax is reserved for local use
    If per pupil spending was the key to success, Memphis would be near the top; instead they are near the bottom with all F’s; lots of room for improvement, but it never seems to happen even tho the spending remains there

  2. Pingback: Debunking my Fake Rob Britt letter | Blount County (BC) Public Record

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