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Education United States

Wages Aren't the Only Reason Teachers Are Striking (axios.com) 514

An anonymous reader shares a report: Schools in 39 of 50 states have seen decreases in funding for instructional materials for their students, according to data from the Urban Institute. These conditions have sparked a wave of teacher activism across the country. Educators have had to pay for supplies themselves to provide new materials for students at times. Teachers' salaries aren't enough to pay for materials, either. In some cases they have to pay for materials for dozens of children. Teachers are having to teach students with materials that are defective, outdated and inefficient because of a lack of funding going to state education budgets -- particularly in Republican states.
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Wages Aren't the Only Reason Teachers Are Striking

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  • Parents? (Score:2, Informative)

    by sickre ( 917795 )
    In my country its up to the parents to buy textbooks and materials for their children. Why isn't it like that in the USA? Or do only rich White or Asian parents do that, not the poor or Black or Hispanic parents?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grasshoppa ( 657393 )

      In part, because our tax money ( and a percentage of lottery winnings ) are supposed to go to the schools.

      But of course politicians get their grimy little hands on a budget, and it all goes to shit. This is in part why I

      A) Almost always vote against the incumbent
      B) *ALWAYS* *ALWAYS* *ALWAYS* vote against tax increases.

      They have enough of my cash. If they can't pay for basic services with the stacks of green they pull out of my ass, that's they're fuck up not mine, and I won't fund any further idiocy.

      • They have enough of my cash. If they can't pay for basic services

        How do you know they have enough of cash? What are they spending the money on that you want to not spend money on.

        • How do you know they have enough of cash?

          Because this nice table [ed.gov] convincingly shows, that the per-pupil spending in America's public schools has quadrupled since 1960ies (inflation-adjusted).

          There is amply enough money being spent. We are just doing it wrong [TM].

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2018 @02:05AM (#56527053)

        It is likely that your quality of life would improve if you paid significantly MORE taxes. In addition to you paying more taxes the rich would pay more taxes. That additional tax would outweigh your contribution. And then you could get roads, bridges, working schools, police, etc.

        When everyone is supported by proper public funding, everything works properly. You would prosper despite your selfish inclination.

        This idea that everyone should pay nothing in taxes is why we can't have good things. If we pay too little tax, the system decays and we get nothing. If the roads work and the trash system works and the air is clean and the schools are well supplied and safe then the world is great and everything improves. And paying tax does that.

        • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@tpno-co.oLISPrg minus language> on Monday April 30, 2018 @02:13AM (#56527093) Homepage

          This idea that everyone should pay nothing in taxes is why we can't have good things

          Except I pay more in taxes than even last year and I still don't have nice things. Roads are shit, PD/FD response times are worse than ever, teachers don't have the materials they need.

          So where's that money going? It's not going to infrastructure or support. This has been the trend for the past decade, probably longer. So enough's enough; they can make do with what they have and go fuck themselves if they want to whine about not having enough.

          ( I liked your joke about how the rich will pay their fair share. I'll giggle about that one for a while, especially since the rich are usually the ones making the laws. )

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by meglon ( 1001833 )

            So where's that money going?

            Establishing and maintaining a global military hegemony, and tax breaks for the wealthiest... you know, good old conservative values: murder and looting.

          • Maybe stop voting for idiots who can't handle your money properly?

          • It is easy to have that attitude, much harder to actually fix the problems.

            The issues, at least as I see them are: historical trend of pushing costs forward to balance books today; focus on funding new things rather than maintaining existing infrastructure; and ignorance of the population of the cost/benefit of services provided.

            The biggest point on pushing costs forward are retirement plans and bonds that run the duration of something's life, rather than a more logical "major maintenance interval."

            The next

      • Re:Parents? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by The Cynical Critic ( 1294574 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @03:31AM (#56527281)
        Sheesh... Talk about completely un-productive voting habits...

        If you vote out your politicians regardless if they do a good job that doesn't exactly promote responsible government as you don't have the chance of being voted out if you do a bad job driving you to actually do a good job. Instead you have the certainty of being voted out ensuring that you really don't need to give as damn as any issues you end up causing, like say a serious budget shortfall due to excessive tax cuts, is going to be the your replacement's problems.

        As for the "no tax increases, never!"-attitude, that really doesn't work at all for tax revenue drops or increased costs, particularly unexpected ones (like natural disasters). The only options that leaves you with are cutting down on essential services, taking on debt or moving around money in the budget like how they move away money that's supposed to go to education into other essential services when lottery money starts coming in.
        • If you vote out your politicians regardless if they do a good job

          That's not really the problem. The problem is that once they get in it's damn near impossible [politico.com] to get them out of office no matter how badly they do. Incumbents get re-elected at rates over 90% thanks to a combination of voter apathy, gerrymandering, confirmation bias, and other factors.

          As for the "no tax increases, never!"-attitude, that really doesn't work at all for tax revenue drops or increased costs, particularly unexpected ones (like natural disasters).

          Of course you are correct but good luck getting that fact to penetrate the skull of your typical "taxes = evil" republican or worse, one of the tea party variety. So now we have a national debt of around $21 Trillion which

        • As for the "no tax increases, never!"-attitude, that really doesn't work at all for tax revenue drops or increased costs, particularly unexpected ones (like natural disasters). The only options that leaves you with are cutting down on essential services, taking on debt or moving around money in the budget like how they move away money that's supposed to go to education into other essential services when lottery money starts coming in.

          You left out the obvious option: cutting non-essential services. This is what every business and household does when revenue drops. Maybe we don't eat out as often or see movies in the theater. Maybe 500 cable channels aren't so important. We don't quit eating, but we do cut stuff that we don't need.

          Education has a lot of bloat in it, but mainly at the administrative level. What we see time and again is that giving more money to "education" doesn't end up as raises for teachers. It ends up with non-es

      • Re:Parents? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fred6666 ( 4718031 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @10:38AM (#56529177)

        In part, because our tax money ( and a percentage of lottery winnings ) are supposed to go to the schools.

        But of course politicians get their grimy little hands on a budget, and it all goes to shit. This is in part why I

        A) Almost always vote against the incumbent
        B) *ALWAYS* *ALWAYS* *ALWAYS* vote against tax increases.

        They have enough of my cash. If they can't pay for basic services with the stacks of green they pull out of my ass, that's they're fuck up not mine, and I won't fund any further idiocy.

        The USA is one of the less taxed developed country. Don't be surprised if your public services suck. You get what you pay for.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • We take care of our books and save them for the next generation of students. That's the idea, anyway, and it mostly works.
    • In my country its up to the parents to buy textbooks and materials for their children. Why isn't it like that in the USA? Or do only rich White or Asian parents do that, not the poor or Black or Hispanic parents?

      Buy their own binders, papers, and pencils sure. But textbooks?

      I'm not sure what country you live in but that seems like a bizarrely inefficient system. Every student needs the same textbooks and they don't serve the student after the end of the school year. Forcing the parents to buy them just creates a big inefficient resale market where there's no need for one.

      Making the parents buy the textbooks is effectively just a poorly administered tax on parents.

      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

        Universities and colleges in the US don't provide textbooks out of tuition costs. Pushing it down a level or two makes just as much sense as not doing so.

        • Re:Parents? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2018 @01:54AM (#56527021)

          Yeah, At university you buy the textbook at a ridiculously high price. There used to be all kinds of excuses such as the high cost of making an archival quality book, etc. but those have mostly fallen by the wayside. At the moment, it just seems to be accepted that they have you over a barrel and that's that. A lot of universities also simply require that you buy the textbook at the university bookstore, rather than online, or from another student who has taken the class, etc. At the end of the semester, you may be able to sell the book back to the university bookstore for a small fraction of what you paid, then they'll sell it used for a tiny discount off the new price.

          It's basically an exploitive, captive market. Seeing the same thing happen to pre-university education would be a tragedy.

          • Yeah, At university you buy the textbook at a ridiculously high price. There used to be all kinds of excuses such as the high cost of making an archival quality book, etc. but those have mostly fallen by the wayside. At the moment, it just seems to be accepted that they have you over a barrel and that's that. A lot of universities also simply require that you buy the textbook at the university bookstore, rather than online, or from another student who has taken the class, etc. At the end of the semester, you may be able to sell the book back to the university bookstore for a small fraction of what you paid, then they'll sell it used for a tiny discount off the new price.

            It's basically an exploitive, captive market. Seeing the same thing happen to pre-university education would be a tragedy.

            That's what the internet is for. As long as you know the citation you don't need to actually own shit.

          • Agreed. Though, as a student you can make a stand and teachers (who do not get a cut typically) don't care if you use a book that you bought on Amazon for $9 that is a five years old. They mix up the chapters a bit but it is still doable. I refused to keep buying new text books for $120 when I could get the same thing for literally $10. Navigating the mixed up chapters was not a hindrance and the teachers didn't mind if there was a small blip in content. Most of them hate the text book system. My math

        • Re:Parents? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hazem ( 472289 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @02:23AM (#56527113) Journal

          > Universities and colleges in the US don't provide textbooks out of tuition costs. Pushing it down a level or two makes just as much sense as not doing so.

          I worked at a rural school district for a while and part of my job was doing analysis of student performance compared to various out-of-school factors. I was stunned and humbled to find out how many of the kids literally had no permanent home. They'd move throughout the school district several times a year because their families were couch-surfing from house to house. And these weren't high-school kids (almost adults)... these were kids younger than 10. Their only regular meals came from the school.

          With kids in this kind of situation, there's no way their parents are buying books when they can't even feed them and put a roof over their heads.

        • Re:Parents? (Score:4, Informative)

          by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @03:02AM (#56527219) Journal
          The US university textbook system should not be used as a model for anything.
      • In my country its up to the parents to buy textbooks and materials for their children. Why isn't it like that in the USA? Or do only rich White or Asian parents do that, not the poor or Black or Hispanic parents?

        Buy their own binders, papers, and pencils sure. But textbooks?

        I'm not sure what country you live in but that seems like a bizarrely inefficient system. Every student needs the same textbooks and they don't serve the student after the end of the school year. Forcing the parents to buy them just creates a big inefficient resale market where there's no need for one.

        Making the parents buy the textbooks is effectively just a poorly administered tax on parents.

        Yeah we had a name for this at my school. In addition to the classroom books that every student used there was the big room full of lots of books on lots of subject you could go and borrow if you needed, the name totally escapes me now.

    • by cyn1c77 ( 928549 )

      In my country its up to the parents to buy textbooks and materials for their children. Why isn't it like that in the USA? Or do only rich White or Asian parents do that, not the poor or Black or Hispanic parents?

      I like how you worked a racist comment into that last (incomplete) clause.

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      In my country its up to the parents to buy textbooks and materials for their children. Why isn't it like that in the USA? Or do only rich White or Asian parents do that, not the poor or Black or Hispanic parents?

      That's what college students do, and book publishers realized that they have a captive audience of consumers that *have* to buy books every year (thanks to (often) unnecessary to book editions that ensure used book are nearly useless), and books end up costing over $1000USD/year.

      It turns out that when a business is faced with a consumer that *has* to buy their product, they don't have any incentive to keep prices low.

      • book publishers realized that they have a captive audience of consumers that *have* to buy books every year (thanks to (often) unnecessary to book editions

        It would be simple enough for the school to keep using the old edition.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @12:38AM (#56526719)
    after many years living in a borderilne slum (cheap rent from relatives who owned the place). The first thing he noticed is he didn't have to buy nearly as many school supplies as he did when his kids went to a poor district.

    In America we use property taxes to fund individual school districts. This means we've got nice, rich districts and lousy poor ones. This is by design. I've read one of the Scandinavian countries has laws about schools being funded equally to prevent just these kind of shenanigans. I'd love to see those kind of laws here in the States. As an added bonus it'd make forced busing pointless outside of specialty magnet schools.
    • California does that: schools are mostly funded by the state instead of the city to even out inequality. There can still be some issues of inequality (like, the parents can come together to pay for a new football field or multi-purpose building, or parents can actually volunteer in schools; also, finding good teachers for bad schools can be hard). Overall it seems to work well.
    • Not just Scandinavia, that's pretty much the norm in Europe. To be honest, I never thought something like you describe was possible in the first place.

    • That sounds correct in theory, except that some of the worst school districts in the U.S. spend more per student than many much better districts. Those bad school districts are indeed in poor neighborhoods. The difference is that the parents, and taxpayers, in wealthy school districts hold the school district more accountable for how they spend that money. In wealthy school districts, the parents expect that there will be money available for the important things, and when those things are not there, they ra
  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @01:02AM (#56526821)

    has a projected budget that averages out to about $37,400 per student.

    I know there are considerations like property upkeep, and administration, but holy moly, why not just bus them to a nearby community college at that rate?

    • has a projected budget that averages out to about $37,400 per student.

      I know there are considerations like property upkeep, and administration, but holy moly, why not just bus them to a nearby community college at that rate?

      I'm not sure where you live, but your numbers seem to be wildly off.

      The average is close to $11k [washingtonpost.com], with the highest state at $21k [governing.com].

      • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @01:52AM (#56527009) Journal
        Some school districts in CA are pushing $40K in expenses per student [ca.gov], with the high being New Jerusalem Elementary School District coming in at $119,000 per student. Even it it was an average of $13K (which is about the average for California), the average class size is around 22, meaning close to $300K per classroom. A bit of math will show that teacher salary is around 20% of all student spending. That's the issue - so much money is going to things beyond education.
        • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          My local district, with an enrollment of 6000 students, just published their $175M budget ($29K/student). The top spending categories are:

          $52.1 million for employee benefits
          $43.1 million for regular school teaching costs
          $30.4 million for programs for students with disabilities
          $11.9 million for general support.
          $9.2 million for debt service
          $8 million for transportation, up 4.5 percent.

          The two main things that throw off your 20% calculation is the ridiculously high 'employee benefit' spending, and the disabi

  • Budgeting Hell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @01:27AM (#56526907)

    My take on it is that the budgeting at public schools is as big of a mess as budgeting at NASA. Way too much is wasted on legacy make-work boondoggle cronyist handouts. In the last slashdot discussion of this, someone linked to this image [heritage.org] which pretty succinctly summarizes the problem. This is magnified by the problem of school administrators getting a large salary increase in the last year or two of work before retirement, because their pension is based on their salary at the point of retirement; and thus they get an inflated pension.

    I was thinking that regulations could mandate a maximum portion of a school's staff that is non-teaching administrative staff, but then those staff members would teach 1 hour a year to be classified as 'teaching staff' thus gaming the system, so there'd need to be a stricter definition of 'teaching staff' as well. Aside from a nurse, janitors, principal, career counselor, and social worker, how many other administrators do you need?

    A book I read years ago on how to fix America's schools advocated using zero-based budgeting [wikipedia.org] and cutting non-academic 'side-shows' like sports teams, then starting school a couple hours later, once children are actually awake enough to learn. A related book ('The End of Homework') also advocated eliminating homework as a way to save time that'd be better spent on one-to-one assistance.

    • Re:Budgeting Hell (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @02:13AM (#56527095)

      That graph starts in 1970... just before all the special needs rules went into effect. I think a huge percentage of school funding is spent on that... mostly on staff.

      I don't see any point to zero-based budgeting schools. You think math is going to go out of vogue?

      • That graph starts in 1970... just before all the special needs rules went into effect. I think a huge percentage of school funding is spent on that... mostly on staff.

        That's an interesting point ... except that the trend in university budgets looks very similar as well. How many special needs universities are there?

        • except that the trend in university budgets looks very similar as well. How many special needs universities are there?

          At universities, it's probably due to Title IX's expansion of athletics for women. After all, since the dollars spent have to be the same, and football/men's basketball are expensive, that's a lot of cash. Plus, football/basketball coaches now make millions a year in universities. College sports are a big business.

          • As a non-American, I find the whole concept of universities organizing sports teams bizarre. I went to university to get an education in my field, not to get involved in basketball or some other sport I don't care about. Other students, who were interested in those activities, could simply use their own money and get membership of an appropriate club and play in their free time.

      • by mentil ( 1748130 )

        The basic argument for zero-based budgeting is that if you start with a blank sheet of paper and add the things you really need in a school, you'll end up with a short list with a relatively small bottom line. However, if you use incremental budgeting, starting with a multi-page sheet of every current itemized cost, you end up with a much larger bottom line, even if you tweak each item's budget a little. The implication is that many items on the budget aren't crucial to education but are part of the budget

  • by tgibson ( 131396 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @01:28AM (#56526913) Homepage

    Teachers are having to teach students with materials that are defective, outdated and inefficient because of a lack of funding going to state education budgets -- particularly in Republican states.

    Are the comparatively flush budgets in Democratic states producing better outcomes for their students?

    • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @02:02AM (#56527047)

      The overwhelming factor in overall educational results does not seem to be the school budget. It is the presence of two parents in the home. And that is more common in the Democratic states. A New York Times article, with citations, describes some of this. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/1... [nytimes.com]

    • by Ayano ( 4882157 )
      You can actually take a look at the graduation rates by states and in rank... You won't like what you see if you're looking for partisan validation.
      • California has about average graduate rates, yet its school system ranks near the bottom in the country. Graduation rates are a poor measure of performance.

  • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @01:33AM (#56526927)

    A well-run democracy requires educated citizens. The state of school systems in poor neighborhoods is by design. Those in charge want only the "right" kind of voters to be educated.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    First: Their big unions are so powerful that they are some of the biggest campaign contributors in many states, which results in the people the union bosses want running the state education bureaucracies. The individual teachers may object to this idea and claim they do not like the people in charge, but those denials are false. By supporting their union bosses who in turn pick and support the education burueacrats they are in fact selecting the policies.

    Second: In places like California, the teachers suppo

    • by stealth_finger ( 1809752 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @04:20AM (#56527393)

      that the pay is for only about 9 months per year of work

      If you think all teachers are just idle during the school holidays you're either surrounded by shit teachers or know nothing about teaching, I wonder which it is.

    • First: Their big unions are so powerful that they are some of the biggest campaign contributors in many states

      You mistakenly believe this because "rich people" are not lumped together as a single contributor. They vastly overwhelm spending by all unions combined.

      which results in the people the union bosses want running the state education bureaucracies

      Um....no. The unions are not interested in "school choice reformers" running the state education bureaucracy, since the for-profit schools they set up siphon even more money out of the system. Yet such people are put in charge in many states, and have been for a long time.

      Second: In places like California, the teachers support all the other state workers (who respond by supporting the teachers) and ALL these state workers collectively use their political might to get incredibly generous pensions

      That's because they collectively decided to forego more salary in favor of pensions

    • but they also love to have the public not notice that the pay is for only about 9 months per year of work

      Hi, husband of a teacher here. Not only does my wife *work* for 12 months of the year she also *works* in the evenings, after hours, answering student questions, marking assignments, exams, and preparing the next class. She only attends a classroom for 9 months of the year.

      But thanks for mentioning this. With this one line you have instantly shown the Slashdot readership that you simply don't have the slightest clue about teachers or teaching. That's assuming people bothered to read through the rest of the

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @02:09AM (#56527081) Homepage

    The problem isn't the amount of money allocated for schools. The problem is where that money goes - namely, to bloated administrative costs. Fire half of the non-teaching staff, set the salaries of the rest so that no one earns more than the teachers, and - magic - suddenly schools will have plenty of money.

    Of course, that's only the first problem with public education in the US. There are a whole lot of other problems: the culture of passing students who ought to fail, the inability to fire incompetent teachers, discipline problems, etc...

    • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @08:17AM (#56528345)

      The problem isn't the amount of money allocated for schools. The problem is where that money goes - namely, to bloated administrative costs. Fire half of the non-teaching staff, set the salaries of the rest so that no one earns more than the teachers, and - magic - suddenly schools will have plenty of money.

      Of course, that's only the first problem with public education in the US. There are a whole lot of other problems: the culture of passing students who ought to fail, the inability to fire incompetent teachers, discipline problems, etc...

      While that is some of the problems, there are others than need to be addressed. I know a number of teachers and the complaints are the same. Parents who blame them for their child's problems in school; the homework's too hard, too much, the teacher doesn't know how to teach, it's never that their snowflake is lazy and or undisciplined. Overcrowded classes without enough desks or books, the administrations reply is to think outside the box. Having a contract for X days and then being told, "oh, we need to save money so you are getting a bunch of unpaid furlough days." One teacher had a parent expect her to monitor what the child was eating because she was getting fat; of course the parent sent the kid to school with extra lunch money so the kid bought cookies and Cokes. They are going to a merit bonus system and teachers have been told no one can get higher than a 3 out of 4 because the county doesn't want to pay out bonuses. It's no wonder teachers in my district retire on the first day they can, even in the middle of the school year, as a final FU to the system. A recent survey showed over 70% would retire tomorrow if the could, and actively discourage anyone, especially student teachers, from entering the profession. They can't keep match and science teachers, and most new teachers leave after a couple of years; the veterans are marking time until they can retire.

      We simply do not value education and are getting what we pay for.

    • by John Taylor Gatto: https://archive.org/details/Th... [archive.org]

      From the summary:

      John Taylor Gatto is a former New York public schoolteacher who taught for thirty years and won multiple awards for his teaching. However, constant harassment by unhelpful administrations plus his own frustrations with what he came to realize were the inherent systemic deficiencies of our `public' schools led him to resign; he now is a school-choice activist who writes and speaks against our compulsory, government-run school system.

      THE

  • I do that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 30, 2018 @02:49AM (#56527179) Journal

    I buy office supplies and even software for my work because the administrative headaches of ordering such are often not worth the hassle. I'd rather work on IT than procurement paperwork. I've done this at multiple companies. Bad apples often cheat the procurement such that many orgs end up putting in lots of roadblocks.

    True, I'm probably paid better than most teachers, though. Still, for smaller things, it often just makes life easier to go get them yourself.

  • Are they still talking about arming teachers?
  • by Salgak1 ( 20136 ) <salgak AT speakeasy DOT net> on Monday April 30, 2018 @06:56AM (#56527993) Homepage

    OK, showing my age here, but I remember when paper and pencils and such were provided by the school. You could, at your option, bring in your own (and notebooks, ring binders, and such, and we did. . . ), but basic materials were provided by the school.

    I also remember being a little shocked when I enrolled my daughters in public school (this was early-to-mid 1990s) they were given a list of supplies to bring in. A list that grew longer every year.

    At the same time, I noted that the libraries lacked recent books, and there were nearly as many "resources" as there were teachers. A K-5 elementary school had **3** secretaries and a vice-principal.

    In retrospect, I suspect the two are related, and also to the growth of administrators in post-secondary education.

  • It's a myth that you can solve problems in education by just giving schools more money. It's not the amount of money that schools have, it's how they spend the money they have.

    Spending more money doesn't improve quality.
    https://www.americanexperiment... [americanexperiment.org]

    Schools actually spend more on minority students than white students
    https://www.brookings.edu/blog... [brookings.edu]

    The GAO has something to say:
    https://www.gao.gov/products/G... [gao.gov]

    Even NPR came to the conclusion that simply adding more money doesn't neccasarily help:
    https://www.npr.org/sections/e... [npr.org]

    "Money alone does not guarantee success any more than a lack of it guarantees failure. Paul Reville, the former Massachusetts education secretary, says not all districts there were able to translate funding increases into academic gains. Often, the difference was how they spent the extra money."

Ya'll hear about the geometer who went to the beach to catch some rays and became a tangent ?

Working...