Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America's Public Schools

Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America's Public Schools

Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America's Public Schools

Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America's Public Schools

Synopsis

Spurred by court rulings requiring states to increase public-school funding, the United States now spends more per student on K-12 education than almost any other country. Yet American students still achieve less than their foreign counterparts, their performance has been flat for decades, millions of them are failing, and poor and minority students remain far behind their more advantaged peers. In this book, Eric Hanushek and Alfred Lindseth trace the history of reform efforts and conclude that the principal focus of both courts and legislatures on ever-increasing funding has done little to improve student achievement. Instead, Hanushek and Lindseth propose a new approach: a performance-based system that directly links funding to success in raising student achievement. This system would empower and motivate educators to make better, more cost-effective decisions about how to run their schools, ultimately leading to improved student performance. Hanushek and Lindseth have been important participants in the school funding debate for three decades. Here, they draw on their experience, as well as the best available research and data, to show why improving schools will require overhauling the way financing, incentives, and accountability work in public education.

Excerpt

Neither of us have ever taught or worked in a K–12 school or school district. Therefore, one might reasonably ask, why should anyone want to read our book on how best to reform American education? There are three answers to this very sensible question.

First, both of us have been active and important participants for over twenty years in the debates, policy discussions, and litigation over how to improve education in America. We bring to the table a vast reservoir of knowledge, including intimate familiarity with the research and experts involved in these debates. As a college professor and researcher, one of us (Hanushek) sparked a national debate over the role of money and funding in bringing about improved student achievement, a debate taken as an expert witness to the most important school finance trials of the last four decades. the other (Lindseth), in his role as an attorney representing states as diverse as New York, Florida and North Dakota, has played a lead role in many of the most important school finance cases of the last twenty-five years, advising governors, elected officials, and state education leaders on topics related to school finance and reform.

Second, it is precisely because we are not part of the traditional educational establishment that we believe this book is valuable. We have not hesitated to challenge the present way of doing things, unlike powerful forces in the educational community deeply vested in the status quo who resist any significant changes in the operation and funding of schools, despite strong evidence that the system is not working well for millions of students.

Third, the major focus of our book is not about what educational theories or strategies work best in the classrooms, which the authors readily leave for decision to the educators. It is rather about creating an integrated education and funding system that encourages, promotes, and rewards good decision making by edu-

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