Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Open Discussion- Is There an Educational Laffer Curve?

I've been doing some research with a friend on educational spending and performance in the key areas of math, science, technology, etc. We have stumbled upon an interesting anomaly, a correlation with the less a school spends on education and higher performance in these key areas. If you are not aware of the Laffer Curve, this is a economic theory that lower taxes generate more revenue (think of this as a farmer planting more corn versus eating it himself.) This trend can be seen comparing public schools in the US to other parts of the world, as well as comparing to private schools and home schools.

Of course, there is a limitation to this where a lack of funding can obviously not support education, but this does seem to counter the trend of constantly putting more money into the system.

Some of our theories as to why this happens include:

  • Lower funding forces focus on the important subjects.
  • This requires teachers to be creative and innovative in educational approach.
  • Less waste creates an environment of efficiency and productivity, creating a culture that ends up in the classroom.
  • It is a coincidental relationship. The first rule of statistics is correlation does not equal coordination. More funding is the result of existing poor schools, not the cause.

What are your thoughts? Why do home schools or private schools who spent a fraction per child continually outperform higher funded public schools?

Of course, these are all general statements and not to say that there are not creative, innovative, and overachieving teachers out there in public schools (I know, I'm married to one). I just feel this is something we should step back and look at. Is more funding the solution to failing schools? Is there another, unrelated issue? If you where to start from scratch with the US Public School system, what would you do differently?

1 comment:

HowieC1968 said...

I believe you have a point but you may have it backwards. Money is thrown at schools because they are failing. I've noticed the difference in USA and Canada education, you all down there have a lot more administration than we do.

I do like your thoughts though on how lower funds force teachers to be more innovative. While I don't want to force them, the focus needs to change. There is just too much politics and not enough education.