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School Finance Paper

Connie Findley University of Phoenix June 14, 2010 School Finance Issue Paper There is a popular myth that government sponsored public education is cost free to students, families and teachers (Darden, 2007). The economic crisis has resulted in a wave of reduced funding sources for school districts around the country. As state and city budgets have been slashed, the consequences for districts are dire (Trainor, 2010).

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Debates about how to improve public education in America often focus on whether government should spend more on education.

Federal and state policy makers proposing new education programs often base their arguments on the need to provide more resources to improve opportunities for students (Lips at el. , 2008). The increasing number of budget cuts have left teachers, administrators, families footing the bill for classroom materials. The challenge has become to provide essential school supplies and classroom materials despite millions in budget cuts. Many districts has raised dozen of school fees for various students activities and added many items to school supply lists every year (Dyrli, 2008).

In recent years there has been a great interest in the effect of school resources on academic achievement ( Froese, 1997). Answering whether spending more on public education improves academic achievement begins with establishing how much the United States spends on education. In 2007, the federal government spent $71. 7 billion on elementary and secondary education programs. These funds were spent by 13 federal departments ad multiple agencies. The Department of Education spent $39. 2 billion on K-12 education.

The largest programs in the Department of Educations budget were education for the disadvantaged and special education (Lips at el. , 2008). The monies dedicated to states from the federal government is earmarked for certain programs. Allotted monies for school resources do not always equate to materials for classroom instruction. Many people believe that lack of funding is a problem in public education, but historical trends show that American spending on public education is at an all-time high (Lips at el. , 2008). Acknowledging that education excellence cost money, the vast majority of school districts have a tough time keeping pace.

Schools are tempting to use several solutions to combat the budget crisis. Schools are collecting fees from parents, they can pretend not to notice as teachers quietly bear the expenses as an act of caring, or solicit or accept dollars that come from third-party sources (Darden, 2007). Academic researchers have sought to answer the question of whether education expenditures are correlated with student performance. However, there is a lack of consistent evidence on whether education expenditures are related to academic achievement.

Despite the lack of consistent finding, leading researchers in the area acknowledge that any effect of per-pupil expenditures on academic outcomes depends on how money is spent, not how much money is spent (Lips at. el. , 2008). Existing evidence indicates that the typical school system today do not use resources well at least if promoting students achievement is the purpose. The high and increasing percentage of funding is allocated to non-classroom expenditures is evidence of the need to improve resource allocation in the nation’s public schools.

According to the National Center for Public Education Statistics, only fifty two percent of public education expenditures are spent on instruction. This percentage has slowly been decreasing over recent decades (Lips at. el. , 2008). One problem school districts are facing is shrinking enrollment. These school districts are left with vacant buildings and hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in desk, chairs, office supplies and equipment, computers and textbooks that may eventually find their way to the dump.

At the same time, districts in growing communities struggle to accommodate an enrollment expansion with limited funding, facilities and equipment. Administrators may be forced to purchase and temporary classrooms (Trainor, 2010). One of the major areas that school administrators are focusing on is technology in the classroom. While many teachers are bearing the cost of glue, paper, pencils and other classroom materials essential for achievement, school officials are providing funding for instructional computer programs to help increase reading and math achievement.

While purchasing new computers is not always an option many school districts are finding ways to provide computers without overspending. In an effort to reduce cost, some school technology leaders have formed groups to negotiate pricing with firms selling refurbished computers. Because every computer in a school setting does not need the most sophisticated capabilities, refurbished models provide access as well as word processing and other basic programs at an affordable price (Trainor, 2010). Providing updated and current textbooks is another recurring cost that school systems face.

There is a large used textbook market which has existed for decades. Districts around the country regularly sell retired textbooks. Sometimes school systems replace relatively new textbooks because of a change in curriculum requirements (Trainor, 2010). School systems are wasting money of textbooks each year due to purchasing books that are already retired or by purchasing an older edition of a textbook. Teachers are using creative ways to supplement curriculums and information not found in textbooks but are required by the state to teach.

School districts need a willingness to explore the possibilities of learning about the other three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle (Trainor, 2010). When budgets are tight, district administrators must sometimes choose between supplies and other needs. To help bridge the gap, many teachers are buying more material than ever for their classrooms. The most recent study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that in the 2005-2006 school year, teachers spent and average of $552 on school supplies and instructional material (Dyrli, 2008).

Some school systems have found themselves in court over the idea of providing a free education while asking parents to pay for school activities. In April 2006, the Indiana Supreme Court struck down Evansville-Vanderburgh School Districts $20 school activity fee, saying it was the equivalent of tuition charge and therefore violated the state constitution. The money was used to pay for music, drama, nurses, school counselors, alternative education and other needs. This fee was an attempt by this school system to balance the budget (Darden, 2010).

One of the perks that teachers could look forward to during tax season is the tax credit offered to teachers. California Public School teachers in 2004 found out right before school started that they would no longer be able to deduct the cost of school supplies from their taxes. California cancelled its Teachers Retention Tax Credit, hoping to save about $400 million over two years (Vail, 2004). Nationally, teachers have similar, though much lower tax program for supplies. Most school districts have classroom budgets for such expenses, but teachers frequently dip into their own pockets to supplement the budget.

The general public does not understand how much teachers spend out of their own pockets just to be able to do their jobs, but they do it because it’s the best for the students and they want the students to learn, achieve and be successful (Vail, 2004). Tax payers have invested considerable resources in the nation’s public schools. However, increasing funding if education has not led to similarly improved student performance (Lips at. e. , 2008). School systems across the country are now looking for ways to supplement their restricted and strained budgets.

Many are looking at purchasing refurbished computers, recycled classroom materials, charging fees to parents and adding more supplies to back-to-school list. While these efforts are not in vain they are only a starting point. School district are going to have to solicit funding from private corporations, form partnerships with business in community and find raise to help supplement declining funds. What does this mean for students and teachers? Teachers continue to purchase classroom materials essential to help students master core goals.

Students are having to adjust to larger classrooms, sharing materials and equipment while goals and standards continue to rise. Teachers will have to bear the burden to meet federal mandates while working with less than adequate supplies. These barriers will force teacher and parents to provide creative alternatives for learning and building stronger relationships with each other in order to provide students with more learning opportunities.

Reference Darden, E. (May, 2007). School law show me the money. American School Board Journal, 44-45. Dyrli, K. (2008). School supplies on a budget. World Wide Web. htp://www. DistrictAdministraton. com. Froese, V. (1997). The relationship of school materials and resources to reading literacy: An international perspective. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Lips, D. , Watkins, S. , and Fleming, J. (2008). Does spending more on education improve academic achievement? Backgrounder: The Heritage Foundation of America, 2179. Trainor, C. (2010). The other three rs. American School Board Journal, 50-51. Vail, K. (2004). Tax credit for school supplies? Maybe not. American School Board Journal, 8.