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Funding for Education


Program 2 Segment 1 – Ralph Martire

Program 2 Segment 2 – Henry Levin

Program 2 Segment 3 – Walter McMahon

The topic of this second program is School Funding: who is and who should be responsible for funding public education.

The purpose of this program is twofold:

1) to inform the audience of what the current state of affairs is in the country in general with a focus on Illinois as an example.

2) to inform them of the possible alternatives and counter arguments.

Ralph Martire, Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability

Ralph Martire explains that public schools are funded by a combination of local, state, and federal funds. Studies, he tells us, have determined the base level of funding per student that is necessary in order to provide an adequate basic level for the individual student. He claims that schools in districts with low property tax revenues have never been adequately funded. Huge disparities among districts exist. States such as Illinois that provide a foundation level of funding for poor districts, set the level far below what is necessary. He argues that the answer at the state level is a higher foundation level of funding. He believes that if the federal government would fund the mandates it issues, as for example in special education, school funding problems at the local level would be mainly solved.

Henry Levin, Professor of Economics and Education, Director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Columbia University

Henry Levin takes us through a variety of examples, nationally (Milwaukee and Cleveland, for example) and internationally, (Chile and the Netherlands) where schools have been privatized and vouchers have been used. He also coveres private schools run for profit such as the Edison Schools. He concludes that although privatiziation offers many more choices to families, it doesn’t appear to be more efficient or equitable or improve student achievement or decrease government involvement in funding.

Walter McMahon, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Education Organization and Leadership, University of Illinois

Walter McMahon reviews Martire’s and Levin’s presentations and finds nothing he disagrees with. He discusses the most current international evaluation of school achievement that seemed to show United States students perfoming very poorly in comparison to other industrialized countries. He cites a study of these scores which concluded that the real problem was poverty. When the scores were examined in more detail and the high poverty levels of many schools districts in in this country were accounted for, our students were equal to or better than comparison countries. Comparison countries, apparently, do equalize the funding of their public schools and so do not have the extreme economic disparities that exist some school districts in the United States

Program 2 Follow-up

Ralph Martire

Ralph Martire’s organization is the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. For more details about school funding in Illinois visit its website at http://www.ctbaonline.org/Education.htm

Martire also mentions a study by Chris and Sarah Lubienski that indicates public school students perform better on math assessments than private school students. For more details see http://news.illinois.edu/news/09/0225math.html

Henry Levin

Henry Levin is Director of the Center for Privatization in Education. For more information and studies about privatizing education go to his center’s website at http://www.ncspe.org/

During the program Levin mentioned a study of vouchers in Milwaukee. See an article written by Alan Boursuk and published in the Journal Sentinel for more details.


Walter McMahon

McMahon referred to the scores of students in the United States on the PISA test. PISA stands for the Programme for International Student Assessment and is a worldwide evaluation of 15 year old school pupils’ scholastic performncve. It was first given in 2000 and is repeated every three years. For more information go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment

The United States students have been reported as doing poorly on this test when compared to other countries. McMahon, however, referred to a study which showed that when analyzed more closely, students in the United States actually performed quite well. Poverty, not poor schooling, seems to be the determining factor.

See the following websites for an analysis of the economics behind the scores.







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