Stating the Obvious

Gee, who would have ever thought that Thornton money might be inefficiently spent?

Money sent to school systems under a landmark funding law is not being used for specific programs that help low-performing students, according to a new report by a child welfare advocacy group that wants lawmakers to tell school systems exactly how to spend the funds.

State and local education officials criticized the report, saying it was agenda-driven and failed to take into account across-the-board gains in student performance.

The analysis by Advocates for Children and Youth found that despite the 2002 law known as Thornton — which was intended address inequities in education with a $1.3 billion increase in state aid to public schools — two of Maryland’s three largest school systems are spending less money on programs for low-performing students than they did before the law was passed.

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Now, I will give you that Thornton is a very unusual issue, when you consider that it was a large, statewide money redistribution system phased in without a revenue source.

But this speaks also to the concept of funding public education in a general sense. I for one have been very critical about the ever increasing demand for funding for public schools. Not because we shouldn’t be funding public education, but because we have no idea whether or not existing public education funds are being spent responsibly or efficiently. One of my longstanding criticisms of Anne Arundel Superintendent Kevin Maxwell is the fact that Maxwell insists that only more money can fix our county schools. He rarely, if ever, talks about the need to evaluate existing programs and existing programmed funds in order to see if we are getting the best bang for the buck.

While the story may not provide the best picture regarding the efficiency of Thornton dollars, it does show how much objective and subjective research can be to determine the utility of education dollars already spent. Our leaders owe it to us to study current spending patterns, determine their success, and determine their value to the taxpayer before they commit to throwing good money after bad just to score political points with the MSTA…


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