Philadelphia schools have $5/student/year for supplies


the republican party has been working for several years to try to eliminate what they call “government schools” (what i would call public schools) by using vouchers and charters to pull funding away from public schools in order to eviscerate their budgets. here’s rick santorum in 2011 describing his feelings about public schools-- . after all, what better way to demonstrate that government is the problem and not the solution than by making the government and its subsidiaries as dysfunctional as possible. it’s worked in congress, so why not with public schools? add to that the money coming from the lobbyists representing the for-profit school business and you have a combination leading directly to what is happening in philadelphia. evangelical groups are taking advantage of this to try and move public money to religious schools as well. here’s a fairly typical example of how that works and a fairly naked description of their feelings about public education--

here in texas we suffered a loss of $5 billion dollars to the state education budget two years ago so that our “rainy day” fund would not be depleted. obviously it’s more important in my state to be able to bribe businesses to move to texas than it is to fund public education. that’s what that fund is for, by the way, offering incentives and tax breaks to businesses to either move here or stay here. it’s all rather frustrating.


If I were a foreign sleeper agent looking to undermine the global dominance of the US in economic and technological terms, I could do worse than find ways to shatter your education system through faux-rational attacks on ‘socialized’ schooling.

Sadly for US folks, you don’t seem to need any outsiders to convince you to shoot yourselves in the collective feet. You are doing it just fine on your own.


Yes, there’s not much more to say than that, except what we can do about it.

The greedheaded money-hoarders want access to the public coffers, including those that support public education. And increasingly, and ever more steadily, they’re getting it. The promise of a good education for all in the U.S. has become a cynical, sick joke.


It’s never made sense to me that when schools get criticized for “failing students” the solution always seems to be to cut funding for those schools, as if taking money away from a school will magically help. Then when the governor of Tennessee ordered the city of Nashville to grant an application for a charter school in a wealthy neighborhood, and withheld $4.3 million in education funding when the city defied him it made perfect sense. They want students to fail.


That must be why there’s such a big push to shift these kids into Pennsylvania’s prison system, where funding is far more abundant. They’re so flush that they think nothing of spending well over $42K per prisoner every year.


People on the left question the motivations of charter schools and people on the right question the motivations of teachers’ unions.

People on the left say they don’t think standardized tests should be used to judge teachers (a position I agree with), and then they use their results to illustrate that charters don’t do better than traditional schools. People on the right want to judge teachers based on the tests, while ignoring the desires and preferences of the students.

People on the left think public education doesn’t get enough money and people on the right think it gets too much (reverse this for the military).

But every discussion involves talking past the people who matter most: the students. And no matter which side wins, most of the students are going to lose. Because the paradigm will be the same. Compulsory attendance to memorize mostly arbitrary subjects, at arbitrary rates, with arbitrary goals.

People are fighting fiercely for their ideological teams, ignoring the well-known fact that millions of kids hate school for reasons that cannot be addressed with money.

Charter schools are not the answer to this problem, so long as they embrace the traditional paradigm. And the traditional paradigm will continue so long as most students are not given the freedom to choose what, when, and how they will engage in one of the most profoundly personal endeavors any of us ever undertake: learning.

While not unimportant, disagreements over charter schools, testing, unions, funding, etc., are, in my opinion, distractions from the most enduring problems associated with schooling.


I disagree with your “A pox on both their houses!” approach.

The problem is money, and the lack of it going directly toward per capita student instruction. Greedheads are starving public education (thus, less and less $ spent per student), and charter schools are run for profit (thus, less and less $ spent per student).

Many students do clearly care about and appreciate a traditional education, especially if it means far fewer students per classroom, and thus far more individual attention from teachers, as well as more available subjects, as well as less overworked teachers, and thus, more freedom for students to pursue their own talents and interests. But yeah, that all takes $, that thing that the greedheads want too much of.


Sounds like the same rationale that schools use to punish students; not behaving well in class and failing to get a proper education? Let’s suspend students from school and deny them an education!


I don’t think charter schools will solve what’s wrong with public education. I wouldn’t send my own son to a charter, unless that was what he really wanted. Other people should have that kind of freedom, too. I respect the education choices of people who would make choices different from my own.

Considering that Philadelphia spends more per-pupil running non-charter schools than the vast majority of other developed countries, I think it’s reasonable to suspect that the problem is less about funding than it is about how the funds are spent.

It’s true there are greedy charter school supporters who oppose all public schooling. But it’s equally true that many, many charters are non-profits started by liberal Democrats in poor and middle-class neighborhoods, where the traditional school has been unsatisfactory to thousands of families for generations. This, along with comparative funding, is one of several simple facts we have to consider.

Some charter schools and some public schools are run by people without the students’ best interests in mind.

Some public schools and some charter schools are run by selfless people devoted to the education and improvement of students.

There are many students and parents happy with their public schools and there are many students and parents happy with their charter schools. There are unhappy students and parents at both kinds of schools, as well.

Considering these facts, it seems to me that reflexive opposition to charter schools is no really different than reflexive opposition to public schools. It’s not constructive or fact-based. And, again, it ignores the problem with the conventional paradigm, which condemns millions of kids every year to misery and poor educational results.


i’d be intrigued to know what learning and education would have to look like in order to address what you see as the problem. i’m finding it very difficult to picture what your ideal system would look like based on what you have written. the implications in your statement indicate, or at least imply, that the free choice of students would allow for a curriculum reflective of each student’s preferences to be tailored but i don’t understand by what mechanism this would happen or how it might be implemented.


Students are future citizens. They want to take the fight out of them.


Nope. Not the motivation of. the NEED FOR.

I wouldn’t send my own son to a charter, unless that was what he really wanted. Other people should have that kind of freedom, too.

Oh, well I wouldn’t take an escalator to the moon, but other people should have the choice? Yeah… nope.


I recommend looking into the Sudbury Schools, or the various kinds of unschooling, both of which involve kids directing their own learning and going on to become happy, productive adults.

I also recommend this video.

And these articles.

While not for everyone (no kind of education is), the mechanisms and implementations over the last few decades have proven these alternatives to be demonstrably viable.

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On this thread, an opinion on the motivation for charter schools (greed) has already been expressed.

And even as a former educator, I’m not comfortable telling happy, healthy families what kind of education they NEED.

There are lots of families and students who are very, very happy with their charter schools. Again, I don’t feel so superior to them, even with my professional experience, that I would tell them they’re wrong for being so satisfied.

I have family members who are teachers. They spend a portion of their own salary to buy school supplies, and sometimes books and other educational material, for their classrooms. I am glad for their charity, but as someone who works in the private sector as an engineer, and take it for granted that my employer will reimburse most of my job related expenses, that seems crazy from an efficiency and human resources standpoint let alone a social wellfare standpoint.

What is amazing to me is that I have these first and second hand stories about poor or at least ‘non wealthy’ school districts, struggling to keep their students equipped with basic books and office supplies – meanwhile, most of what I read online is about are how ipads are integrated into education, and lab based experiential learning, and other things which are no doubt wonderful, but reflect that these people live in very different worlds. I’m currently childless, but I’m starting to see why people fight so much over real estate in good school districts. It’s one thing to overcome being surrounded by better or worse students, but it would be challenging indeed for the ‘shares a text book, no paper’ crowd to compete with the ‘everyone is loaned an ipad’ crowd.


When I was in high school someone came up with the slightly better idea of “in-school suspension”. Maybe they got the idea after the first kid I knew who got suspended (it was a pretty rare thing at the time) would wave to the afternoon bus as it went by. He would be on his bike, grinning, and it was pretty obvious he looked at us and thought, “Suckers.”

The problem with in-school suspension was that aside from homework kids weren’t allowed to do anything else. They had to sit there and do nothing, watched over by a babysitter teacher. So they were still being denied an education. I guess social isolation was supposed to be a motivation for improvement.


school districts in texas use in-school suspension as a way to isolate students but the students are provided work and material to keep them up with their classmates. there are many times when teachers at my school give up their planning and conference time to give one-on-one instruction to students in i.s.s.when it is not possible for the student to acquire new knowledge or skills by themselves. as a science teacher, i do this most frequently when the student is missing a lab activity. since around 40-50% of my class is lab and activity based i greatly prefer for students to avoid i.s.s. time.


And yet people still vote for the republicans.

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you do realize that the vast majority of those who want to eliminate so-called “government-run” schools either want children to be in more restrictive environments with less freedom to explore topics outside of those within the scope of particular religious denominations or to have them enrolled in schools run by for-profit educational corporations owned by cronies or campaign contributors? i would find it personally very rewarding to be able to teach in a setting like some of those described by ms. vangelova but that is not the direction i see the republican party taking the educational system.

you seem to find teacher unions as an entrenched interest with a vested interest in the status quo but in texas, and throughout the south, teacher unions are not only non-existent, they are illegal and have been for decades. it is somewhat hard to understand their significance to the dynamic here.