Money Does Make A Difference In Education

I’ve worked in education for more than 15 years both at a junior college and a high school.  And I’ve heard the old canard repeated over and over again, that we have to stop throwing money at education because it doesn’t make a difference.  I’ve come to believe that it is bull-o-ney.  Money makes ALL the difference.

How did I come to this realization?  I’ve taught journalism and media at the same campus for the last 14 years.  The campus is in a working class section of a major metropolitan area.  The students come mainly from blue-collar homes.  Their parents are pipe-fitters, truck drivers, electricians, carpenters, janitors and secretaries.  They are not poor, but they are surely not wealthy.  They can not provide their sons and daughters with private lessons or expensive extras for school.

There are a number of schools in our metro area where the majority of the students do come from wealthy homes.  One school has a two-decade long record of winning a major academic competition both at the state and national level.  Many of their tennis players play on full sized courts in their back yards at home.  And of course their journalism/media lab lacks for nothing.  It has all the most up-to-date hardware and software.  Is is any wonder they dominate the state journalism competition?

This year, our school was able to win a silver medal at CSPA and just missed a gold medal.  We just won a national photography award.  I am very proud of my students, but I am also mindful that our recent success is due to better facilities and funding, especially in photography.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that my students don’t deserve the awards or didn’t work hard to earn them.  They did, but so did many of the students who came before them, but lacked the proper resources to do the job.  And there is the rub.

I’ve had talented photographers before, but they were forced to use equipment that couldn’t get the job done regardless of the talent of the photographer.  Fourteen years ago, my staff had four, tired, old computers and little in the way of software or photographic equipment.  Today we have enough DSLRs to equip all of our staff photographers.  We have a full lab of 20 computers.

We have the tech.  We may not always have the most up-to-date software, but we have tools that are new enough to give my students a chance to learn how to create compelling media.

But it takes a sustained effort and a sustainable money stream.

Too many times in education, we think that equal is what we should be aiming for, when in reality it will never be equal.  What we really need is funding that will give each student the chance to make up for the inequities they bring with them to school.  So many students can’t read the alphabet when they come to kindergarten.  Others don’t speak English.  Many don’t have two parents at home, which means that the one parent they have has less time to help them with homework.

Schools can overcome these problems, but it is not cheap.  It requires money to hire qualified staff, to train or retrain staff, to keep competitive salaries to retain staff and more money for technology, both up to date hardware and appropriate, well-designed, easy to use software. But lower-income, urban schools are often give the same or even lower funding than schools in well to do suburban neighborhoods.  And many teachers flee urban schools for “better” schools as soon as they have sufficient experience, even when pay is less.  Teaching in urban schools can be challenging, when you have so many students who need more help, not less.

But anyone in business knows you don’t get any results you don’t pay for, and too often we are getting exactly what we pay for in education.  And we can’t blame it on local school boards.  They can only work with the resources they have.  It is the states and the Federal government who seem hell bent on starving poor schools, while sending them marching to the firing squads of mandated testing.

I think this also goes far to explain why the US is slowly losing its grip as a world leader.  First, as the tools of technology become cheaper, more of the developing world will have access.  But, if we don’t help our own middle class, working class and working poor rise – we are bound to see our own fortunes fall.  It all starts in the classroom – with teachers and with parents.  If there is one thing that our new president can do to improve our long term economic health – it is improve education.

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6 Comments

  1. Very nice post. I teach in an urban school, and it’s always interesting when I get students from different parts of town in my classroom. Some of them can, for instance, afford DSLR cameras of their own, so I see them improve far more than other students (who mainly have to use the cameras in-class) – simply because they can afford the equipment and shoot all over town. I wish all my students could take the cameras home for the quarter – but it’s not realistic.

    Money itself doesn’t fix everything. We also need more outside-the-box teachers with the creative juice to create magic in the classroom. Unfortunately, those teachers with the most talent don’t always last too long – finding the money not worth the time and effort to truly making a difference. It’s not that they are bad people – just that having a family and pursuing dreams of our own cost money, and there’s often much more money for these teachers to be had elsewhere.

    And the focus on testing? I like your “firing line” quote – very appropriate.

  2. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad English, I’ve just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  3. Hi !!!! :)
    I am Piter Kokoniz. Only want to tell, that I’ve found your blog very interesting
    And want to ask you: what was the reason for you to start this blog?
    Sorry for my bad English:)
    Thank you!
    Piter Kokoniz, from Latvia

    • Thanks Piter,

      The reason I started this blog was to have a place to keep sites I wanted to revisit again later in my teaching. Then I decided to share my experiences as a teacher with others and now my blog is the center of my online life. Along with Twitter and Facebook, my blog is a way to connect with other teachers and create a PLN for myself.

  4. [...] 3 – Money Does Make A Difference In Education [...]

  5. I Chose the name Benjamin Franklin because he has a most compelling story of his life were the system di not interrupt his growing up and the responsibility for making money at an early age and reinvesting in order to have more time to have creative pursuits.
    There was a New york state and New york city teacher of the year back in the early 90′s named John Taylor Gatto, he was invited to the White House and many corporations; he wrote an article to the Wall Street Journal which got the attention of many. He resigned from the system. He can be found on you tube. He worked in schools which have money and those who do not. It gave him a perspective on what and how the Prep schools taught compared to inner city schools.
    I have learned much from this man and Benjamin Franklin (inventor,statesmen of 1776)


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