The initiative, yet to be numbered, may turn out to be wildly popular, simply because it's simple. Schools will be obligated to spend sixty-five percent of their income on classroom instruction.
Classroom instructional spending is defined in the proposal as including teacher and aide pay, textbooks, distance learning expenses, field trips and supplies. The initiative excludes construction costs, principal salaries and interest payments on debt.Sixty-five percent seems eminently reasonable. Sixty-five. The bulk. Almost two thirds. That's where the money ought to go, right?
I'm not quite sure.
A few observations.
First, can we forever banish 50-state ranking statistics, throw them in the burn barrel where they belong? Someone has to be ranked fiftieth, unless all states spend the same amount, dollar-for-dollar, which will never happen. Imagine if every state spent upwards of $15,000 per student per year. Would the citizens of Mississippi really care if they ranked last at that point? Furthermore, rankings that don't factor in cost-of-living adjustments are worse than useless. Let's talk about benchmarks, baselines. Relative assessments are essentially meaningless.
Second, why sixty-five percent? The reasoning behind the initiative: the top four states all spend at least 65% of their funds "in the classroom." But when we look at what "in the classroom" means, we find some interesting descriptions.
Classroom Teachers, PersonnelThe "activities" portion is a trifle disingenuous. While activities undoubtedly boost academic performance--you'd better pass if you want to head the lacrosse squad--they're hardly in any normal definition of a "classroom" expenditure. Note, importantly, that the KOMO article doesn't specifically mention sports as an in-class "activity."
General Instruction Supplies
Activities -- Field Trips, Athletics, Music, Arts
Tuition Paid to Out-of State Districts & Private Institutions for Special Needs Students
Lastly, I won't complain if the initiative passes and leads to real changes in the standard delivery model. But I'd imagine that creative accounting practices would be the first resort of districts hard-pressed by debt or otherwise pressed for cash.