The Agenda's author left a comment at EdWahoo, to a post "Money, it's a gas..." (14-Dec.-2005), which the auto-editor truncated. Whether or not that's enough excuse to re-post that comment here, here goes...
1. The economist Eric Hanushek contends that, above a rather low level, money doesn't matter much to school system performance. We see this between districts within States, between States across the US, and between countries: the top spenders (per pupil) are not the top performers. We see this inter-temporally: per-pupil funding, in inflation-adjusted dollars, has more than doubled since the 1970s, and performance (as measured by mean SAT or top 10th percentile SAT) has improved marginally or not at all.
2. While State (government, generally) school financing varies considerably from (US) State to State, local property taxes have not contributed 50% or more to the total, across the US, since before 1990. Across the US, within States, the correlation (district enrollment, $/pupil) is positive in all but three or four (US) States with five or more districts over 15,000 enrollment (or 20,000, depending on which year of the Digest of Education Statistics you use). Across the US, within States, the correlation (district % minority enrollment, $/pupil) is positive in every single State. The myth of the under-funded, inner-city minority school district (Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities) is a lie (scroll down 4 titles). Kozol may not have known better, but school district financial officers must. Kozol is cited as a (the) source of this assertion as to fact in numerous Ed. school textbooks which promote this myth. The Digest... says otherwise. Dilapidated buildings and obsolete textbooks are not due to insufficient taxpayer generosity; the bureaucrats steal taxpayers' money and poor kids' life chances.
3. Local control matters more than money. The correlation (%20K+dist, score) is negative, where "%20K+dist" is the percent of a (US) State's total State school enrollment assigned to districts over 20,000 (or 15,000, depending on which year of the Digest... you use) and "score" is NAEP 8th grade Math score. Large districts drag scores (and students) down. You can use composite scores, Numbers and Operations scores, or Algebra and Functions scores. You can use percentile scores, proficiency scores, mean scores, or mean scores by parents' race and level of education. With one exception, mean scores of children of college-educated White parents, district size is negatively correlated with student performance. 10th percentile scores are more negatively impacted than are 90th percentile scores, by increasing district size. Black mean scores are more negatively impacted than are White mean scores. Districts which surrender local control for "equity" will see increased costs and greater inequality (as measured by the difference between 90th and 10th percentile NAEP Math scores, or the White-Black mean score) of result. Political control of school harms most the children of the least politically adept parents ("Well, duh!", as my students would say).
4.1) Across the US, the correlation (%20K+dist, rate) is positive, where "rate" is juvenile violent crime arrest rate.
4.2) In Hawaii, juvenile arrests --fall-- in summer, when school is not in session. Beth Clarkson, a PhD candidate at Wichita State U. Math Dept., found a similar result in Wichita, Ks.
5. Inflexible district-wide salary schedules inflate costs. It makes no more sense to pay elementary school teachers, high school Physics teachers, Biology teachers, History teachers, English teachers, and Electronics Shop teachers the same salary, just because we call them all "teachers" than it does to pay bicycle mechanics, auto mechanics, a/c mechanics, and jet engine mechanics the same, just because we call them all "mechanics".
6. School in the US has become an employment program for dues-paying menbers of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, a source of padded contracts for politically-connected contractors, a source of campaign support for cooperative politicians, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination. If this is not so, why cannot any student take an exit exam (the GED will do) at any age, and apply the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition or toward wage-subsidized OJT at some private-sector employer (call it "school-to-work")? It does not take 12 years to teach a normal child to read and compute.
The correlation between parent SES and student performance is higher than the correlation between per pupil budget and student performance. Beyond some low level, taking money from parents and transferring it to schools --reduces-- overall system performance. US taxpayers spend --too much-- on school. Taxes drive both parents into the workforce, and taxes drive mothers of young children back into the workforce earlier than is healthy for children. The correlation (age start, score) is positive; States which compel attendance at age 7 have --higher-- 4th and 8th grade NAEP Reading and Math scores than States which compel attendance at age 6.
The $400 billion/year K-12 budget is a small part of the total cost of the US "public" (State) school system. Who gets the wretched schools in the US? Blacks and Hispanics. Who's overrepresented in prison in the US? Blacks and Hispanics. Who gets the wretched schools in Hawaii? Hawaiians and Samoans. Who's overrepresented in prison in Hawaii? Hawaiians and Samoans. The total cost of the US "public" school system includes reduced life expectancy, losses due to crime, and the cost of prison for the poor kids whose lives we trash.