The Governor’s proposed 07-08 State Budget is online — 613 pages, a 3.4 MB PDF download (right-click, “save target as”). Certainly, most of us won’t master the details of the mammoth document, but it’s worth a peek. Maybe worth perusing the highlights, keeping the document on hand to reference as the session goes on.
Pie charts to the left and right illustrate where state revenues come from, and where the general fund revenues go. Click either one to bring up a larger, more readable version.
The largest part of the revenue pie (left), is sales tax revenue. The green slice (right) is funding for education — both K-12 and higher ed. Note that the largest slice of the expenditures pie is health & social services.
If education were a larger share of the pie, I suspect that over time, the health & social services part could shrink substantially, and people would still be better off.
If education were a larger share of the pie, our graduates would very likely have greater earning power, thereby contributing even more to the sales tax revenue part of the State’s general fund.
More money is not the answer by itself, but it’s a crucial part of the first steps needed to begin the process of improvement.
In Oak Ridge, we enjoy good standing in terms of educational quality; as such, we have a bit of experience regarding what works (and unfortunately, a little hard-earned experience with what doesn’t). The examples are many, varied, and quite specific, but the common thread is that all require the services of professional educators. The very best professional educators we can buy.
Just a couple of the programs utilized to gain measurable achievement are the reading recovery program in elementary schools, and the Algebra 1-T class at Oak Ridge High School. Reading Recovery provides one-on-one intervention for struggling readers in the earliest years, to prevent “losing” kids by third and fourth grades. From Kindgergarten to first and second grades, we learn to read; from third grade on, we read to learn.
By third grade, if you can’t read, you’re not learning, and falling faster and faster behind.
Algebra 1-T is a course at Oak Ridge High School for those students who struggle with math to the point that they are identified as being at risk of failing Algebra 1 — the “most often failed subject in the history of learning,” according to Dr. Bailey. Rather than being a one-hour class, as all other classes are, Algebra 1-T meets for an hour and a half (half takes up a “lunch class,” which all Freshmen and Sophomores have since they can’t leave campus for lunch), allowing extra time with the teacher each day, learning at a slightly slower pace.
The results have been outstanding.
The State must elevate education in its budgeting priorities, but perhaps a tiny part of that expenditure should be to catalogue programs that have been proven to work in school systems across the state. What works for one is not necessarily the panacea for another, but to have a list of proven resources available at the state level would be beneficial to all.
First though, we have to be able to begin moving forward rather than backward.