Questioning Future Tax Increases For Education

To the Editor:

As we approach a new school year, there are many parents and residents in Newtown who seem to be upset over the fact that the current school budget did include the customary tax increases seen in the past. It is remarkable that we continue to believe that increased spending on education will protect our students from getting an inferior education. “It is wrong to deprive our students of the education they deserve.” The idea is apt to make parents anxious and even angry.

It almost seems un-American to consider spending less in order to get a better return on our investment in education. Americans tend to spend without considering alternatives because they believe spending more makes things better.

In the decades before the start of the new millennium, American automobile manufacturers continued to manufacture those huge chrome-laden gas guzzlers, believing that Americans would never change their love for these classic cars. But an unknown Japanese manufacturer would soon offer an alternative, a less costly/efficient model and consequently dominate the car sales in the United States. Toyota redefined the American automobile market by focusing on producing a model that satisfied new American wants and desires. It took Ford many years to produce a car that could compete.

Now we are competing with other countries in the global market. We spend an average of $11,000 per student, double the amount allocated in other countries. Yet in international testing, our students score poorly when compared with other countries in science, reading, and mathematics. Many of our high school graduates need remedial instruction in the language arts when they enter college. Some never complete the four-year college program. And when they graduate, they are unsuccessful in finding sought-after positions because they lack the skills and preparation demanded by corporations. Then because there is current shortage of thousands of professional engineers and scientists, we are obliged to issue special work visa to foreigners to fill the current positions. Yet we continue to believe that our current operating school model is fine so long as we continue to spend more. But I cannot understand why this “spending myth” continues because it only perpetuates an “operating model” that is seriously flawed depriving our students of the skills necessary for a successful entry in the work place.

Now everyone involved in education is focused on improving teaching, learning, and assessment, especially with the introduction of the Common Core Curriculum which was hope to be “instructional cure: that would raise student test performance. The New York Times published in their Sunday magazine edition of July 27, an excellent analysis of this new program that is not very successful. Here again we are faced with having spent more money trying to find a solution for a problem that goes unresolved because we fail to realize that students and teachers need the higher level cognitive skill training.

Rudy Magnan

60 Watkins Drive, Sandy Hook                   August 13, 2014

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