No, you can't spend your way to academic success, but neither can you reasonably assert that funding inequities play no role in the perpetuating low-performance, or in limiting the efforts of those who seek to reverse the tide. My school has lengthened the day to provide increased instructional opportunities. This costs money. We used a High Priority school grant for two years, quadrupled the number of proficient students, and lost the money because we're no longer High Priority. Does this make sense? In areas where kids have more needs, longer days and after school programs are more critical, ADA is relatively less and funding scarce. Does this make sense?These are all good arguments that deserve closer scrutiny. Let's take each one in order.
You can't reasonably assert that funding inequalities play no role in perpetuating low-performance.
That depends on the schools' actual funding levels. There's a good argument to be made that we live in a time of super-funding of schools. First, you need to know how much money it actually takes to education a student. The estimates I've seen are in the neighborhood of $8,000 per student for a typical public school. Most schools are funded well above this level. If poor school only has $9,000 per pupil, that's enough to educate. If rich school has $16,000 that's way more than enough and will likely buy lots of window dressings. What it doesn't buy is a better education; once you account for SES effects rich schools perform about the same as poor schools.
Urban schools are the worst offenders. Typically they are funded up with the richest schools in the state and yet their facilities are decrepit and crumbling and supplies are scarce. This is pure fiscal mismanagement.
I don't buy into the argument that it's more expensive to educate low SES kids either. Good teaching is no more expensive than poor teaching. However, the result of poor teaching is vastly more expensive since the underperforming kids will be shuffled off to the uber-expensive special ed. Just because a kid starts off well behind his middle class peers does not mean that he can't learn at a sufficient clip to keep-up. That requires good teaching, a commodity in short supply in most schools no matter how well they are funded.
You can't reasonably assert that funding inequalities don't limit remediation efforts
TMAO gives the example of lengthening the school day, which is labor intensive and expensive, to significantly raise student performance.
Certainly this is one way to increase student achievement (output) -- teach for more hours at the same rate (input). The efficiency (input/output) remains the same with this reform, so it is much more expensive. Another, more preferred way to raise student achievement is to increase the efficiency of the school -- teach more in the same time. To this you need an accelerated curriculum and effective teachers. Accelerated curricula are in short supply, but they tend to be no more expensive that other curricula. In the private sector, companies pursuing path one would quickly be put out of business by the companies pursuing path two.
Let's put the argument in layman's terms by analogizing education to a rally race. TMAO is saying that he has to start the race far behind the rich school district's race car but he can catch up to the rich race car by driving the car for longer hours. The rich race car has lots of extra money which it uses to pimp out the car. Instead of using the money on bling, he can use the money on paying the drivers and for extra supplies needed drive the car longer. My argument is that all you need is better drivers to drive the car faster so you can catch up to the rich race car by the end of the race.
Extra money and being in the noncompetitive public sector affords the rich school districts the luxury of inefficiency. So in a sense, TMAO's options are being limited because his school can't be as extravagantly wasteful as the rich school district. But, this is a race to the bottom and is financial impractical. Given more funds, most schools will merely piss them away rather than improve their product. Witness every big city school. Witness the tripling of school funding in inflation adjusted dollars since the 70s.
There's also another argument that all schools, including the poor schools, could be spending their existing money more efficiently and initiate their expensive reforms on their own There's nothing to say that there is not sufficient funding in existing budgets to achieve this. Poor schools, however, want the freedom to continue to operate as inefficiently as they've always done.