This is probably a terrible oversimplification of the school funding complex (and rest assured, complex it is). Local taxes, generally property taxes are a significant funding source for local primary and secondary public education. In some states it looks as if local property taxes are the primary funding source for local schools – thus some grumbling about the inequality of education in some states. In other states there is substantial state funding running from the state’s general revenue to the local schools. This serves to relieve the property tax burden in favor of income taxation, an idea much appreciated in a land-rich but cash-poor agricultural economy like rural Iowa. Nonetheless there is significant federal money in the local and state education pot for specific education programs on the order of vocational training and technology (computers) and special education.
The federal largeness is some what balanced by things like the testing and measuring required by the No Child Left Untested program which requires local schools and states to spend tremendous amounts of money to develop every pupil standardized tests, develop and implement education standards (ever kid leaving 3d grade should know and successfully do long division, or how to bisect and angle or something else – figuring out what a kid of a given level should know or know how to do) and do the follow up to make sure that all the children are above average. That is a mandated federal program and its teeth comes in the form of loss of federal funding if the school does not bring its kids up to standard. Unfortunately the feds have not funded the No Child program to balance the cost of putting the thing together and running it. Thus No Child is a net loss to the school and presents a potential disastrous loss of funds if the school does not measure up to an often arbitrary standard.
In Iowa (disclaimer, as I understand it, and I am no educator) the state has an every pupil test and has had them for years for years. The state adamantly resists state wide (meaning state imposed) standards and has talked the feds into accepting the state’s every pupil test as the required standardized examination. The catcher is that somebody has decided that the acceptable level of achievement is the 44th percentile level on the test. In other words in order to preserve federal funding for technology, vocational training and god knows what else for East Harness Buckle Community Schools every last mother’s son and daughter in that system must score at or above the 44th percentile on the state wide test.
There are a couple obvious ways to deal with this particular insane assignment. One is to just flat cheat – falsify the test scores. Another is to strongly encourage kids who are not likely to be on the good side of 44 to drop out of school. There are other dodges but those two are the most apparent. How does that help the stated goal of improving public education?
Do you see the insanity of this?