Common cents

It's not news when interest groups ask legislatures for more money, but it's certainly worth noting when they ask legislatures to spend money more wisely. Up-and-coming school reform group First Class Education is doing just that. Funded by Patrick Byrne of Overstock.com fame, the organization advocates for targeting spending on actual classroom instruction. The group is challenging states to meet the "65 percent threshold" - that is, to ensure that 65 cents of every education dollar is directly used for student education and not spent on, say, landscaping at district headquarters. (Of course, as our charter school finance report illustrated, figuring out how much money is actually reaching the school level is an arduous task.) In much the same vein, policymakers in Michigan are also debating how to increase funding without raising taxes or shortchanging students. One suggestion is to implement school "federations" that would allow individual districts to maintain their identities and gain advantages of group spending while cutting back on wasteful administrative fees. Or dollars could be re-routed directly to principals, thus placing "the power to decide how to spend money in the hands of those closest to the needs of the school." Common theme: less administration and more fiscal autonomy for the schools. Sounds like a plan.

"'65 cent solution' takes on ed establishment," by Kavan Peterson, Stateline.org, October 28, 2005

"Trimming bureaucracies will save schools money," by Barry McGhan, Detroit News, October 27, 2005