Home > Uncategorized > Bad Assumptions Lead to Worse Conclusion: Fundraising, Not More Taxes, Needed

Bad Assumptions Lead to Worse Conclusion: Fundraising, Not More Taxes, Needed

June 21, 2015

Thanks to Google Alerts I receive a wide range of newspaper articles on public education each day, which gives me an opportunity to see how various news outlets across the country are dealing with public education in their region. Today I read an article from Roger Ruthbert, the editor of the Quad Cities Dispatch Argus titled “Time for Public Schools to Embrace Private Fundraising”. Ruthbert opens his article with this assumption:

Let’s face it, revenue from local property taxes is climbing slowly if at all and increased state funding in Illinois seems unlikely.

And with tax-based funding off the table, where does Ruthbert suggest we turn?

As I noted several weeks ago, Chicago charter schools have been so successful privately funding school projects, it’s something public schools should copy.

If you start with a flawed assumption you will invariably reach a bad solution… and private fundraising is a terrible decision, especially if the goal of the State is to provide each of its children with an equal opportunity for school success. Private fundraising will invariably come with strings: a benefactor will insist that their donation go for a specific program (e.g. classical music) or a specific kind of student (e.g. a student-athlete) or a particular facility (e.g. lights for a stadium). The irony is that this flaw was evident in the Quad Cities:

In Rock Island, almost everyone in the community knows that the development director’s job has been a place to “justify” paying big money for the football coach. A $100,000-plus salary is justified because that person is also out raising money for the district.

The district had piled on three jobs in an effort to entice him here. He was trained as a math teacher, put up a sterling record as a football coach in the suburbs, and then was also given the development job.

But what has drawn the school board’s attention is that while the development director was paid $106,163 in salary and benefits in 2014-2015, only $119,510 was raised. After you figure in some additional expenses, that leaves $11,374 to be spent on students, or about a 10 percent return.

So Rock Island paid a football coach/math teacher to take on the role of development officer and, in doing so, barely covered his salary. But instead of seeing the futility of this effort, Ruthbert suggests a redoubling of the fund raising effort… and implies that every district and every school in a district could underwrite the costs of a development officer and raise more and more money from willing volunteers. Talk about an agreeable fantasy!

Here’s my bottom line: public schools are a public good and should, therefore, be underwritten with public funds. Every successful businessperson, parent, and voter benefitted from the public’s willingness to fund schools when they were children… and every businessperson, parent and voter should be willing to provide the same opportunity for the children in their town and for children across the state. Instead, those who oppose ANY government spending focus on the fact that money doesn’t “go into the classrooms”, it goes to teachers who, they assume, “don’t go into the classrooms”. As the title of this post indicates, bad assumptions lead to bad conclusions… and in this case the students raised in poverty are the ones who will suffer the most.

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