Who Should Be Funding Schools, Again?

A quote from Ron Paul, of all people:

“You always wonder why your kid comes home from school and they say, ‘Mom, we need to raise money for pencils and computers and pens and paper.’ You wonder…”

As the Legislature grapples with how they will “fund” schools for the next two years, I’m led to wonder about this very idea. It used to be that students raised money to go on band trips or tours of Europe with the French class. Then came athletics, of all things. Being approached by a football player for money was a surprise to me. My hometown has a popular football team, with full stands every night of the “Friday Night Lights” season. Why would such a popular program need more money than the huge amount they must be generating?

Now my own children come home excited about the latest fundraiser for their elementary school. If they sell enough magazines…or candy…or decorative items, they get some plastic toy or something that will get caught in our vacuum cleaner. Parents are put in a tough position, wondering how polite it is to ask friends and family to buy over-priced items to fund schools.

I read conservative policy paper after conservative policy paper. They see this situation as an “opportunity.” A new bill filed in the Texas House would create the Center for Financial Accountability and Productivity in Public Education. This will consist of a grand total of three people, who will have whatever funding is necessary, and they will report which schools (if any) are acting in a fiscally responsible manner. The bill states, “A board member may not be a member of the board of trustees or an employee of a school district.”

It also says, “The center shall represent business, finance, public policy, education, and other interests considered appropriate by the center.”

Really? Then why isn’t an actual teacher (or even a school board member) allowed on this committee? We really need business leaders to tell us how to run districts in a fiscally sound manner?

Here’s a commentary on why schools are not businesses:


Businesses use human capital to produce products and services. Schools use human capital to create…human capital. This comparison has never made sense. The further a state or district heads down the “schools as businesses” model, the worse-off they find themselves.

And you begin to wonder how much worse it can get. Right now, Texas is actually using child labor to fund its schools.

About Paul T. Henley, Ph. D.

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