American Demographics & Education Spending

In The 74 I have an op-ed today about education spending. You wouldn’t know it from the rhetoric, but we’re really at the tail end of a golden age of education spending. Demographics are going to introduce real pressure on that.

Although I did not get into it in the op-ed, there is also a political angle. Public education leaders should be thinking about how to make the system as broadly desirable as possible. The Supreme Court’s Janus decision was not a light switch, but absent legislative changes, the long term trends for teachers’ unions point to less political power even as right now the unions can flex their muscles. That’s a mixed bag as far as education goes but it definitely means less pressure for education spending.

Conversely, more families with a direct stake in the system means more political support for education spending. Antagonizing the charter sector is a luxury public education can ill-afford:, more high-quality choices within the public sector from charters, magnets, theme schools, and autonomous school district -run schools are vital ways to maintain strong support from parents. Likewise fights with home school families about access to courses or high school sports makes adversaries out of possible allies. To compete effectively for resources, public schools will need all the allies they can find and there is a real opportunity to genuinely make public schools a provider of first choice in more communities.

Instead there are too many examples of making adversaries out of would-be allies. Political support alone doesn’t obviate the demographic challenge, it’s one part of any strategy to address the consequences.