Volume 1 Issue 1

More Money Won't Solve a Leadership Problem in Jeffco

by R. Eshbaugh

There has been a lot of discussion about teacher success and student achievement being tied to or connected with money—especially since the Amendment 66 tax hike proposal does not. I’ve managed and owned several businesses in my life and I’ve found that expecting better results just from getting more money turns out not to be the case.

In my experience, a good working environment for the employees leads to a successful operation. So, why does that seem to be different in the education “industry”?

The best way to test this theory is to find out if there really is a correlation between spending and success. Colorado, it has been claimed, is at the bottom of the list of state education funding. That is nonsense, but I’ll save that for another article. What I found is that Colorado is about in the middle of the states for education funding. Colorado stands somewhere between 26th and 38th in state-by-state rankings.

So, I took a list of states ranked by school funding and organized it from highest to lowest per pupil funding. Initially, I couldn’t really find much of a pattern or correlation, other than some states’ funding levels were similar by region. However, that also correlated to the cost of living in certain regions. In the northeast, where real estate and utilities are higher, faculty salaries need to be higher and in the southeast, where those same expenses tend o be lower, salaries tend to be lower.

Then, I set out o find a unit of measure of “knowledge” or student success in school. I found a chart of ACT scores ranked by state. Initially, reviewing the data, I found no glaring patterns to the states with higher ACT scores or lower ACT scores. This was puzzling. If the amount of money going into schools determines how successful or smart the students are, then there should be some connection between state education spending and ACT scores.

The next step in my investigation was to rank the states from highest to lowest ACT scores and rank the states from highest school funding to lowest school funding, and the results should be obvious. They were not. There was absolutely no correlation between states’ funding of education and higher ACT scores.

I’m not the only one to find these results. A Harvard professor and a Stanford professor teamed up to compare states’ increases in spending with their increases on national test scores over the last 20 years. They found “precious little support” in the data to suggest adding more resources helped students learn more.

Research consistently shows funding doesn’t increase scores. There is no correlation between the amount of money being spent to educate our children in public schools and their ACT scores. Some schools have lower funding yet higher ACT scores. What do they know or do that other states should replicate? I haven’t found an answer to that question. But, if I draw from my experience as a manager, a better working environment will lead to a more successful organization?

Organizations with major inefficiencies sap morale and stunt work. When people believe they are being paid a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, they are happier. When people have the tools they ned to do their jobs, they are happier. When people feel like they are working harder than their coworkers, but are being paid the same or less, problems in the work environment appear and resentment grows. Without major changes in policy and culure, more money won’t help the students in Jeffco Schools.