More Money, Same Problems in K-12 Education

As the US invests more in education, student performance remains the same while student performance in other countries surpasses us. Where will Maryland end up in the policy debate on the future of education?

As described by Len Lazarick in the Maryland Reporter‘s article, Education commission not just about money, but how it’s spent, and what it achieves, Brit Kirwan, Chair of the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, revealed a more layered charge for his commissioners than merely assigning a new minimum price tag to Maryland’s education model.

National Expert Testimony

The Commission heard testimony from Mark Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy, who described the need for a complete renovation of the US education model for the next generation of Americans to compete in the highly-skilled workforce. He also outlined the potential for wealthy states like Maryland to lead a revolution in education with a list of possible recommendations.

Tucker emphasized the lack of return that we have received for additional investment in education, and the need for a new model to be able to compete in the international marketplace.


Despite increased education spending, American student performance has not increased, and other nations have surpassed us, according to the National Center on Education and the Economy.


The US spends more per-pupil than most other industrialized countries, yet student performance lags behind those that spend less, according to the National Center on Education and the Economy. 

Some of the Recommendations from the National Center on Education and the Economy

  • End the current “low-quality model” of “hiring cheap, poorly educated teachers” and “giving up on students early”
  • Get first rate teachers in front of every student and set very high expectations for all students, teachers
  • Create a first rate curriculum and make sure you are measuring the right stuff
  • Spend your money for maximum return
  • Offer affordable preschools
  • Dedicate more resources for students who are harder to educate

“About local autonomy: The fact of the matter is that our schools here in the United States have less autonomy than schools in any of the countries we’ve studied. That is because they don’t have school districts like we do. There is nobody sitting on top of them telling them what to do. There is a relationship between the school and an entity that is at a much higher level. So it turns out that there may be local control in the United States, but not at the school level. The opposite is true, and this is a real problem.

I’ll show you the problem in another way. In the United States roughly half of our costs and people (because most of our costs are people), about half our total education staff is in our schools, the other half is not. In Japan, 90% is in the schools, only 10% is not. And most of these top performers look much more like Japan than we do. We have a system that was designed for teachers who were supposed to be women, who were supposed to be docile, and who were supposed to be gone when they got pregnant. And the idea basically was that therefore the system was going to have to be run by smart professionals, all of whom were assumed to be men and that’s how we built school districts. That was 100 years ago, it’s the system we’ve still got. These other countries have built systems to attract men and women to teaching with really rewarding careers and they are expected to drive the process of running their schools.” -Mark Tucker, National Center on Education and the Economy

Maryland’s Education Adequacy Report

It will be interesting to see how the Commission squares this report with the recommendations of the adequacy study performed by consultants hired by the State. The final report on education adequacy will be presented to the Commission by the consultants at their next meeting, on December 8.

The draft adequacy study report recommended an increase of $2.6 billion annual spending on K-12 education. The draft study would re-distribute funding throughout the state, and increase funding overall.

Some Elements of the Adequacy Study Recommendations for $2.6 billion in Additional Funding

  • Increase the per-pupil base cost from $6,860 to $10,880 per student
  • Enhance Pre-K programs
  • Increase funding for special needs students

“Schools and districts are being asked to make meaningful progress in ensuring all students meet high standards each and every year and making available resources to provide the support and services to do so. Further, since 2002, there are additional requirements for schools and districts, such educator evaluations that require additional resources to accomplish.” -Maryland’s education adequacy study consultants, APA

For more information about the reports recommendations, see K-12 Funding Consultants: Spend $2.6B More, Huge Winners/Losers.

For more information about this week’s hearing, watch the video of the hearing. (Mark Tucker begins at 1:34)


As you can see above, there is some overlap in the recommendations of the draft adequacy study and the report of the National Center on Education and the Economy, namely, increasing dedicated resources for early childhood and special needs students.

The question will be whether the Commission will seek to tackle some of the most fundamental reforms raised by Mart Tucker, or if they will advocate for additional funding for the K-12 system we have in place.