Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sins of Educated Guessing

A group called the Alliance for Quality Education is out in front against education cuts-the first of what will be an avalanche of special pleaders concerned with the governor's plans to reduce the size and scope of government. Daily Politics has the story: "Flanked by more than a dozen lawmakers – most of them Assembly Democrats – the Alliance for Quality Education’s Billy Easton held a press conference this morning to release a study showing, among other things, that the state’s better performing schools spent $1,712 per pupil than schools classified by the state as needing improvement."

Once again, we are confronted with the confusion between correlation and causation-and in this case, the erroneous conclusion that there is some kind of cause and effect at work between per pupil educational spending and subsequent student performance: "The message from Easton and the lawmakers was simple: The massive education cuts expected in Gov. Cuomo’s budget would be devastating, especially to schools in poor areas, and the state should not think of cutting school funding without first renewing the so-called "millionaires’ tax."

We're a bit perplexed at what exactly is the relationship between the tax and school spending, but we are certain that whatever amounts are cut from schools wouldn't be devastating at all-and belies the extent to which we are currently getting  not a bang, but a whimper, from the beacoup bucks we are already laying out. In fact, the NYC schools budget has just about doubled, and the results are, to put it kindly, a bit less than stellar.

We are believers in empowering parents by giving them choices-and that includes both charter schools and experimental voucher programs like the one that the Obama administration scuttled in Washington D.C. We currently spend more money per pupil than any other country in the developed world-save Switzerland-and the results dramatize just why the correlation that AQE alleges between money and school performance flunks the smell test.