Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Less Money Mo Problems

Many of the new education reformers will tell you that money doesn't matter. Right now, everyone tells you that teachers are the only factor that matters. The truth is, teachers are the biggest "in school" factor in student achievement. BUT, that doesn't mean that there aren't other "in school" factors. If money weren't a factor, then why would a wealthy suburban district outside my city spend 50% more per pupil than my urban district?* If they could do just as well while spending less, would they spend more? That's bad capitalism!

Of course, these numbers for expenditures per student don't factor in how much teachers spend of their own money on materials for their pupils. According to this CNN article, 97% of teachers report spending some of their own income on materials for their pupils, and, on average, they report spending $350 of their own money per year. That's $100 more than the maximum amount the federal government allows us to deduct from our taxable income. (And, by the way, when you have it written into your tax code that educators spend their own money on their students, shouldn't that tell you something is wrong?) So, our public education system is being funded in part (even if it's a small part) by the educators themselves. And if you believe that teachers are underpaid, then you will think that's a travesty. Of course, there are those out there that believe that teachers are overpaid.

Take my students, for example. They're always pointing out to me that I make money, and they don't. They're also always pointing out that all adults seem to get paid, which is way better, to their way of thinking, than not getting paid. I have a student who is writing a persuasive essay about why students should get paid for all the work they do studying in school. I routinely have students tell me that they don't need to pick things up off the floor because the custodial staff in our building is paid to clean. And, my favorite, this conversation I had, while passing out index cards to my students to make flashcards:

Me: You all do know that I buy these cards with my own money, right? I don't get money from the school to buy them. I buy them with my own money.
Student: Yeah, but you get money from the school.
Me: No, that's just what I'm saying. The school doesn't give me money to buy classroom supplies. I use my own money.
Student: Yeah, but the school pays you.
Me: Yes. They pay me. And I use that money to eat.

So, herewith, my list of emergency supplies that you absolutely must keep on hand for students:
-notebook paper
-hand sanitizer
-healthy snacks for cranky first period students who eat hot chips for breakfast
-feminine hygiene products

*My district spends approximately $21,000 per student; the suburban district that boasts the #1 high school in the state spends $32,000 per student. These numbers are the sum of the average "instructional expenditures" and the "operational expenditures" per student, from the state report card.

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