October 15, 2012

Curing Baumol’s Disease In Public Education

As I diagnosed in my last post, Baumol’s disease is running rampant in Missouri’s public schools. This means Missouri school districts continue to spend more and more on education, with little improvement in the actual quality of education.  How can we combat the growing expenses and near stagnant achievement?

Obviously, there are two ways to control Baumol’s disease. One is to slow the rate at which spending increases and the other is to increase output.

We are in a time of declining state budgets and Missouri already spends approximately 34 percent of general revenue on K-12 education. This may force us to curb or slow education spending, but the public has shown little interest in holding education spending constant or even decreasing spending.

The other option, increasing output, is easier to say than to actually do. And, as we have noted on Show-Me Daily, Missouri has seen very little in terms of gains in academic achievement.

Students and taxpayers cannot support this type of system indefinitely, but fixing Baumol’s disease is not as simple as saying “we will do better.”

If we want to cure this disease, by increasing achievement and putting education on firmer financial footing, we need to rethink schooling.

Harness the power of technology

We at the Show-Me Institute have written at length about the potential benefits of using technology more effectively.

Rethink how we staff and operate schools

The traditional education system is designed to treat teachers like widgets, because teachers are paid in lock-step fashion, they are almost entirely evaluated with high marks, and we retain low-performing teachers just as readily as high-performing ones.

Missouri schools need to do a better job of identifying and rewarding good teachers and removing the worst. Furthermore, educators must figure out how to expand the reach of great teachers so they can have an impact on more students, not just the 25 students in their class.

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