Publisher's Note: Education is the key
More than a sports arena, low taxes, an advertising slogan or even weather, a great public education system ó aided by a great college system ó is key to growing a stateís economy.
New Hampshire has long enjoyed some of the nationís best high school test scores, but those numbers include the stateís numerous private schools. Take those private school kids away and New Hampshire doesnít do as well. New Hampshire still has an advantage over other states in that its student base comes from wealthier families. When wealthy towns are stripped out of the numbers, the education system doesnít look as strong. And youíre only as strong as your weakest link.
No, New Hampshire hasnít found a way to spend less and produce superior students. Just like every other state, New Hampshire faces serious challenges in keeping kids in school and moving those at-risk kids on to college or a vocation. Just look at Manchester, which has about 20 failing schools as judged by the federal governmentís No Child Left Behind legislation.
In Manchester and Nashua (and many other towns), the discussion by most of our elected officials hasnít been about how can we improve our schools, but about how can we spend less on them. The argument is that weíre already over-taxed and schools can do more with less.
While itís true (as I argued last week) that government does a poor job of explaining what it does and why and could use a serious dose of managerial reforms, that doesnít mean we need less government, and, particularly in this case, less school funding. We need better schools. And surely itís clear that less money wonít lead to a better education system.
Looking at the issue of funding, New Hampshire communities now spend about $10,304 per pupil per year on their public schools, some more, some less. Thatís far less than New York, which spends almost $15,000 per pupil per year.
In Manchester this year, the school district spent about $147.3 million, or about $8,290 per kid (half what New York spends). That works out to between $40 and $45 a day or about $6 an hour to educate a kid.
For $6 per hour Manchester keeps kids off the streets for most of the day and allows parents to work. That alone is worth the $6 per hour.
Of course we donít pay to have kids housed for the day, so we can all go out and work. We expect our kids to be educated too for that $6 an hour. Those with kids see the value in that. A good education leads to college and/or a well-paying job.
Other than feeling good about ourselves, what good does that do a community?
A good school system, including colleges, is the engine to any economic growth because it provides the fuel: an educated workforce. Try as it might, business canít function without a skilled workforce.
How can we talk about a knowledge-based economy, when we cut funding to the place where knowledge is dispensed?