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StaffEditorialsCost of Learning an /a/: A 65 Percent Solution

Cost of Learning an /a/: A 65 Percent Solution

What does it cost for a student to learn /a/? How much non-instructional support must that student have to learn /a/?

Missionaries, Peace Corp volunteers, field teachers, homeschooling parents, among others for centuries, have taught students successfully to criteria for literacy in less time and less equipped settings than probably any of today’s U.S. public schools.

In June, 2005, columnist George F. Will suggested that taxpayers and state legislatures consider requiring school districts to assign 65 cents of every dollar to classroom instruction.

Entrepreneur Patrick M. Byrne (President and Chairman, Overstock.com, Inc.) suggested the 65 percent solution.

He applies a common business logic to education to suggest school spending guidelines. Spend money on the primary purpose of your enterprise. In schools, that is student learning. So, spend most money directly for student learning.

As a result of the 65 percent allocation alone, Will suggests school districts could assign one personal computer to each student without increasing revenue.

Nora Carr, another columnist, suggests that the 65 percent solution is a cynical attack in the war against public schools.

She calls for school administrators and teachers to fight against such impositions, calling it partisan politics. Apparently she reflects the view of many educators who object to the 65 percent solution.

About a decade ago (I didn’t take time to look up the specific reference, but I think it was in 1993) Peter Drucker observed that Western civilization had entered a 100 year era of groups competing with each other.

Many scholars consider him the father of the scientific study of management, including of the MBA and of affects and interactions of social institutions such as economics, politics, religion, and education.

He considers school (as well as hospital and church) productivity dismal. Innovation, constant change, and turmoil are the true constants of a progressing economy, and by inference, education.

I wonder if discussions about the 65 percent solution fits into his competition model? Carr’s rhetoric infers competition.

Does competition inevitably include educators against students for costs and results of schooling?

What does it cost for a student to learn /a/? Does it require more overhead than 35 cents of every school dollar?

Robert Heiny
Robert Heinyhttp://www.robertheiny.com
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in The Encyclopedia of Education (1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for TuxReports.com.

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