The 65 Percent Deception

The 65 Percent Solution forgoes real solutions for funding reallocation, but 65 percent of inadequate is still inadequate.

Six states will vote this Tuesday on initiatives that would reallocate school resources, requiring at least 65 percent of funding to go to classroom instruction. Conservatives tout the “65 Percent Solution” as a way to improve student achievement by increasing classroom spending without raising taxes. But there is no evidence that simply reallocating school resources has a positive effect on academic performance.

Standard and Poor’s SchoolMatters conducted a study last year showing that in nine states where the 65 Percent Solution is currently under consideration—either in state legislatures or on the ballot—there is no empirical evidence that spending on classroom instruction is linked to student achievement. Some of the highest performing districts spend less than 65 percent of their budgets on classroom instruction, and some of the lowest performing districts already spend 65 percent or more.

Placing 65 percent of resources into classroom instruction would harm many schools. The plan narrowly defines classroom instruction as including only teacher salaries, general instruction supplies, instructional aides, and activities such as field trips, athletics, music, and arts. Necessities like building maintenance, school lunches, transportation, heat, nurses, counselors, and librarians must compete for the other 35 percent of scarce funds.

The Center for American Progress released a report last week showing that many high schools currently succeeding at raising student achievement by extending learning time either through a longer school day, robust after-school programs, or a lengthened school year. Unfortunately, the 65 Percent Solution would not include many valuable expanded learning opportunities like off-site internships, programs and classes on college campuses, and community service.

Teachers, parents, and administrators across the country are standing up against the 65 Percent Solution this election. The National PTA, American Association of School Librarians, National School Boards Association, and American Association of School Administrators have all come out in opposition to the initiative, which is on the ballot in Arizona, Washington, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, and Ohio.

The Texas State Teachers Association—which is already experiencing the effects of the 65 Percent Solution, passed by an executive order by Gov. Rick Perry—sums up the problem saying “65 percent of inadequate is still inadequate.” The problem isn’t misallocation, it’s lack of funds.

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