On military children and education

by Wm. Robert Johnston
April 2003

Jim Hightower's editorial of 4/21 may be fairly routine in launching a baseless diatribe against President Bush. But it is unique in stooping to insult military families, making them pawns in his storytelling.

Hightower claims that school districts serving the children of military families suffer as a result. In particular he claims that the children of servicemen and women require so much counseling during wartime that the districts suffer.

Does he honestly not know how little most districts do to comfort such students? The fact is that many school districts have variously attacked and stigmatized these children because their parents are guilty of serving their nation. Teachers in Maine actually had to be instructed to stop telling students that parents in the armed forces are evil. Many other districts have encouraged students to skip out of academics to make anti-American political statements.

This insult occurs in the context of Hightower's claims that Bush is making budget cuts devastating to military-serving districts. These claims are equally false. Federal funds represent only 10% of public school revenues, and only 6% in Virginia, a state Hightower singles out.

In particular, Virginia Beach's superintendent is quoted regarding the impact of a stated $7.5 million cut in federal funds. Ignoring whether any other federal funding changes offset this, this is only 1.7% of his district's budget. If they don't know how to avoid "devastation" from this, Virginia Beach needs leaders that can cope with routine economic changes. Perhaps they could cut their spending on administrators, an area where Virginia exceeds the allocation of all its neighbor states.

This cuts to the real issue: the myth that more money is needed for educational success. Expenditures per student vary by 100% between the 50 states, and if anything spending is negatively correlated with performance. For those in public schools, this means that more school spending usually means lower academic results.

© 2003, 2008 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 29 January 2008.
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