The hate mail is coming in to ABC over a TV special I did Friday
(1/13). I suggested that public schools had plenty of money but
were squandering it, because that's what government monopolies
Many such comments came in after the National Education Association
(NEA) informed its members about the special and claimed that
I have a "documented history of blatant antagonism toward
The NEA says public schools need more money. That's the refrain
heard in politicians' speeches, ballot initiatives and maybe even
in your child's own classroom. At a union demonstration, teachers
carried signs that said schools will only improve "when the
schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to
hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."
Not enough money for education? It's a myth.
The truth is, public schools are rolling in money. If you divide
the U.S. Department of Education's figure for total spending on
K-12 education by the department's count of K-12 students, it
works out to about $10,000 per student.
Think about that! For a class of 25 kids, that's $250,000 per
classroom. This doesn't include capital costs. Couldn't you do
much better than government schools with $250,000? You could hire
several good teachers; I doubt you'd hire many bureaucrats. Government
schools, like most monopolies, squander money.
America spends more on schooling than the vast majority of countries
that outscore us on the international tests. But the bureaucrats
still blame school failure on lack of funds, and demand more money.
In 1985, some of them got their wish. Kansas City, Mo., judge
Russell Clark said the city's predominately black schools were
not "halfway decent," and he ordered the government
to spend billions more. Did the billions improve test scores?
Did they hire better teachers, provide better books? Did the students
Well, they learned how to waste lots of money.
The bureaucrats renovated school buildings, adding enormous
gyms, an Olympic swimming pool, a robotics lab, TV studios, a
zoo, a planetarium, and a wildlife sanctuary. They added intense
instruction in foreign languages. They spent so much money that
when they decided to bring more white kids to the city's schools,
they didn't have to resort to busing. Instead, they paid for 120
What did spending billions more accomplish? The schools got
worse. In 2000, five years and $2 billion later, the Kansas City
school district failed 11 performance standards and lost its academic
accreditation for the first time in the district's history.
A study by two professors at the Hoover Institution a few years
ago compared public and Catholic schools in three of New York
City's five boroughs. Parochial education outperformed the nation's
largest school system "in every instance," they found
-- and it did it at less than half the cost per student.