Children get on the school bus in Miami, Florida.

Children get on the school bus in Miami, Florida.

It’s back-to school time. But many districts around the u-s do not have the financing they need to run their schools. Cutbacks in education in many states have led to frequent reports of staff shortages and large class sizes. According to data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 25 states are spending less per student than before the recession. Several states, including Kansas, cut income taxes recently, creating further shortfalls. But a few states, like Minnesota, are bucking the trend by earmarking new taxes for education. Diane and a panel of guests discuss taxes, state education budgets and the quality of public schools.


  • Stephen Moore Senior fellow on economics, The Heritage Foundation; senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign
  • Joseph Bishop Senior policy advisor, Learning Policy Institute, an education think-tank in California
  • David Sciarra Executive director, Education Law Center
  • John Waldron Public high school teacher, Booker T Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Tulsa Teacher of the Year in 2003; Democratic candidate for the Oklahoma state senate


  • 10:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Many students across the country are returning to school in districts facing large budget shortfalls. The results in some states are drastic. In Oklahoma, for example, some schools have started the year with a four-day work week. Here in the studio to talk about state education, budgets, Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation. Joining us from an NPR studio in Culver City, California, Joseph Bishop with the Learning Policy Institute.

  • 10:07:31

    MS. DIANE REHMAnd joining us by phone from Newark, New Jersey, David Sciarra with the Education Law Center. Such an important topic, I hope you'll join us, 800-433-8850. Send an email to Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And thank you all for being with us. Good to have you. Joseph, let me start with you. Give us a snapshot of what the data about state funding tells us.

  • 10:08:10

    MR. JOSEPH BISHOPWell, good morning, Diane. Thank you for having me.

  • 10:08:13


  • 10:08:14

    BISHOPWe know from a recent Center on Budget for Policy Priorities report that at least 25 states today are spending less per student than they were in 2008 when the recession hit. And if we look at funding for public education across the country, we know that between 2008 and 2014, support for public education has decreased by 6 percent. And you mentioned Oklahoma being one of those states that has decreased funding significantly. And as we think about -- go ahead.

  • 10:08:45

    REHMAnd David, tell us -- I want to turn to David and get you to talk about the impact of those shortfalls on schools.

  • 10:08:59

    MR. DAVID SCIARRAYeah, the biggest problem, Diane, is not just the reductions in spending since the recession, but the states really haven't improved their financing systems to make sure that funding is driven by student need. So the biggest impact is on districts that are serving significant concentrations of children who require extra programming and interventions. So these are low income children who come to school with different at-risk factors, English language learners who have to learn English in school, students with disabilities.

  • 10:09:35

    MR. DAVID SCIARRAAnd what we see across the country is not just cuts in funding and the failure of states to build their budgets back to pre-recession levels, but we continue to see what we call regressive funding or unfair funding, which is less money for children who have greater needs. The consequence as we start school today is dramatic for these children across the country. You mentioned a four-day work week in Oklahoma, but if you go across the country, what you see are districts unable to hire teachers, cuts in instructional programs, class sizes going up, an absence of remedial interventions to kids who need it.

  • 10:10:26

    MR. DAVID SCIARRANot enough programming for our English language learner students and so forth and so on. So this has real practical implications for resources in schools across the country and the ability of these schools to give these children the opportunity to meet the very academic standards that the states are telling them they have to meet.

  • 10:10:49

    REHMAnd to you, Stephen Moore, tax cuts have been blamed for some of these cuts around the nation. You've been advocate for the cuts in Kansas and elsewhere. Have you taken into account what these tax cuts are doing to our educational system?

  • 10:11:16

    MR. STEPHEN MOOREWell, I think it's wrong to blame the school financing problem that these gentlemen have just talked about on tax cuts. I mean, I'm from Illinois. Illinois had the biggest tax increase of any state in the last five years a few years ago and it has horrendous budget problems. Another state is Connecticut. Connecticut had massive tax increases. They thought that was going to solve their budget problems. And as everybody knows, Connecticut is kind of fiscal Armageddon right now.

  • 10:11:43

    MR. STEPHEN MOORESo most states right now are in financial problems. There's no question about it. And then, you ask the question, why is that happening? It's not associated with tax cuts. It's associated with a lousy national economy. And when -- I mean, this is the reason we've got to get the economy growing faster because when you get the kind of growth we had in the '60s and '80s and '90s, states are big beneficiaries of that and they can spend more. These gentlemen mentioned the fact that over the last six or seven years, we have seen cuts in education, no question about it, in the states.

  • 10:12:14

    MR. STEPHEN MOOREWhy is that happening? Because states don't have much money and we've got to get the national economy growing faster. But I don't think there's any association with tax cuts. I mean, there were tax cuts in Kansas, but the Kansas economy has improved a bit as a result of that. But when I look at the states that raise taxes, as some education advocates want to see the states do, I see them actually making their economies worse.

  • 10:12:37

    REHMStephen Moore, he's senior fellow on economic policy at the Heritage Foundation. Joseph Bishop, many state education budgets do rely on income taxes. So what have states that have cut income taxes, how have those tax cuts affected schools?

  • 10:13:09

    BISHOPWell, to maybe -- to focus on what some states have done to increase their revenue, Diane, if you look at, for example, the state of California, which has received a lot of focus in recent years, their state proposition called Proposition 30 increased annual funding by $6 billion to actually support -- to provide more target support, to David's point, to the highest needs schools, to support English learners, foster youth and low income students. And that formula is so groundbreaking because the idea is more of a needs-based approach to funding schools as opposed to a fairly arbitrary formulaic way that most state historically have funded schools.

  • 10:13:58

    BISHOPSo that's all based on public support and tax revenue whereas in California, for those making over $250,000, the highest income wage earners agreed to tax themselves and voters agreed. And if you look at, in Minnesota, Diane, where they supported a similar tax increase and used that funding to support full-day kindergarten statewide, there's quite a bit of support for actually tax increases for schools. In fact, PDK just released a poll today showing that funding is the biggest priority or concern for voters on education and there is significant support for local tax increases to support public education.

  • 10:14:44

    BISHOPSo in the midst of these cuts, public polling suggest that there actually is a great demand to support local schools.

  • 10:14:53

    REHMSo as I understand it, and please correct me if I'm wrong, both California and Minnesota targeted those tax increases for schools. Is that correct, Joseph?

  • 10:15:11

    BISHOPCorrect. Yes, for K12 education in California, also for community college.

  • 10:15:18

    REHMOkay. And what about Pennsylvania and Nevada, David?

  • 10:15:26

    SCIARRAWell, you know, I do want to say something about the tax issue.

  • 10:15:31


  • 10:15:31

    SCIARRAWe do an analysis of the fiscal effort that states make to invest in public education and we see that a lot of the state that have the lowest funding and the most unfair funding in terms of student need are states that really have the fiscal capacity to do better. So a state like Nevada, which is current -- which has some of the lowest funding in the nation, Clark County, Las Vegas, has the fifth largest public school system, large numbers of English language learners who need extra help, no extra funding.

  • 10:16:09

    SCIARRAThat's a state that, frankly, it's -- as a percentage of its GDP can do a whole lot better in investing over time in its public school, but the politicians simply refuse to do that, while, at the same time, they're turning around giving huge tax breaks to Tesla, to -- now, they're talking about a tax break for an NFL stadium. The point is that we have a lot of states that are low funding, not doing well for their poor kids and these are states that really do have the fiscal capacity to raise more state -- law-based state taxes and do what Joe just talked about.

  • 10:16:45

    SCIARRATarget those state taxes to the schools and the students that need it the most.

  • 10:16:49

    REHMSo David, I gather what you're concerned about is how various states are distributing these tax revenues and many are not going where you believe they're needed.

  • 10:17:07

    SCIARRARight. That's right. It's a question of the states aren't raising enough income tax or state revenue. You know, the lawmakers refuse to do that, to raise broad based state taxes. Texas is a good example of that. They could easily, over time, gradually raise state revenue. The second challenge is lawmakers have to do something that's very difficult to do, but they, frankly, have to come to terms with it, which is they have to target that state aid to the communities that are most vulnerable, the lowest income communities in the state where it's needed the most by those students. So it's a twofold problem in so many states.

  • 10:17:47

    REHMAll right. And we'll take a short break here. David Sciarra is executive director of the Education Law Center. He happens to be in an airport so that's why you're hearing that background noise. Short break. We'll take your calls, your comments. Stay with us.

  • 10:20:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about tax cuts and the loss of revenue for schools around the country. Here in the studio is Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation. Joining us from Culver City, Calif., Joseph Bishop. He is with the Learning Policy Institute. And David Sciarra is with the Education Law Center. Joseph, I wonder what you make of Stephen Moore's argument that perhaps taxes, raising taxes is not in any way going to necessarily change the school situation.

  • 10:20:59

    BISHOPWell, Diane, I think Stephen's bigger point was -- what I heard was that so tax increases and raising revenue is critically important and we know we need to increase the size of the pie to support schools. But on a deeper level, we also know that we need to invest in education well and need to make wise use of the resources that we do have. We know that money is all tied to smaller class sizes, well-prepared teachers put in every school and additional supports, including early-childhood programs for students and teacher compensation, which we know, based on research, supports a well-resourced school system with the right conditions to support students.

  • 10:21:43

    BISHOPSo taxes tend to be the more controversial issue. And we know that we need to increase revenue. But at the same time, we also need to be sure that we do use the resources that we have within schools wisely, as taxpayers expect of the public school system.

  • 10:21:58

    REHMIndeed. So I would assume you're in agreement with both California and Minnesota, who have decided to earmark those tax revenues to special education needs and to education per se, as Governor Jerry Brown wants to do. Is that right?

  • 10:22:24

    BISHOPYeah. Absolutely. And we know that investing in publication -- in public education in our young people has enormous economic positive impact over a lifetime, Diane. There were two researchers at Berkeley and Northwestern who found that actually, if you make a 20 percent increase in overall spending, graduation rates can increase by 23 percent, poverty can fall by up to 20 percentage points, and the overall effects for a family in terms of a lifetime in adult income can improve by making those early investments in the public education system.

  • 10:23:05

    BISHOPSo the tax revenue from an educated student or workforce is exceptional or significant. But we have to make that investment on the front end in order to increase the state revenue. But that ultimately begins with education.

  • 10:23:20

    REHMAll right. Stephen, didn't taxes from property originally pay for education? What happened to that?

  • 10:23:32

    MOOREWell, a couple of points. You know, first of all, I -- the reason I'm here is I wrote a book last year with Art Laffer called the "Wealth of States." And we looked at, you know, why some states are prospering so much than others. And what you're seeing, you know, is a trend that's been going on for about the last 25 years, where the blue states, to put it simply, are losing out to the red states. So states like California and Minnesota are losing people and jobs and capital investments to states like Tennessee and Texas and Florida. And this is happening, we estimate about 4 million people on net a year are leaving blue states to red states.

  • 10:24:09

    MOORESo why is that important to this discussion? Because those states that are losing are states with high income taxes. So I disagree with this idea that California and Minnesota did the right thing on raising their income taxes. California and Minnesota are losing their people. That's the problem. You know, it was mentioned about states like Texas and Nevada, that have had problems keeping up with their population growth. Well, in some ways, that's a good problem to have. If you've got a lot of people coming into your state, that means that they're prosperous. California, amazingly, in the last 10 years has lost a million people on net. California, the greatest place on this earth to live, is losing people in a large part because of its taxes.

  • 10:24:52

    MOORESo my point is you don't want to, you know, kill the goose that lays the golden egg. You want a prosperous economy. California, Minnesota, Illinois, Connecticut, don't have that right now. And I do think, our research shows that income taxes have a very, very negative effect on the economic prosperity of the states.

  • 10:25:09

    MOOREOne other quick thing, if I may, and that is that this idea that more spending will lead to better education, it's highly controversial. Look, obviously if you're going to spend more money, you're going to get some better results. But that doesn't always happen. I was looking before this show -- three of the states that have some of the best economic education performance are Tennessee, Iowa and Utah.

  • 10:25:29

    MOOREAnd those are all very low tax states and they spend much less than -- if you want to look at the places in the country that spend the most on education per capita, Newark, N.J., Chicago, Ill. -- my home state that practically spends $20,000 per student -- and here, where we're sitting right now, Diane, Washington, D.C., is spending almost $20,000 per kid and we have the worst public schools in the country. I'm not saying that money doesn't matter. I'm saying, we should -- we need to look at other things like teacher tenure laws. We need to look at things like charter schools. By the way, the teachers' unions are against charter schools. And all the evidence are that those have a very positive impact on educational performance.

  • 10:26:04

    REHMDavid Sciarra, do you want to comment?

  • 10:26:08

    SCIARRAWell, I take issue with a lot of that. I mean, look, the highest-performing states in the country, which is Massachusetts -- achieving states in the country, Massachusetts and New Jersey, these are states that achieve on par with the highest nations of the world. And their low-income populations, the minority populations, students of color, students with special needs, also perform well above the national average. These are high--powered educational states that actually power their economies. And what they've done in these states is not just raise taxes and, you know, as some people say, throw money at schools.

  • 10:26:46

    SCIARRAWhat they've done is they've strategically, over time, invested additional state aid in the schools and the resources and the places that need it the most, they've targeted those resources to programs that we know are going to have a big impact. I think Joe is right. You can either pay now or pay later. And no one's talking about, you know, vast increases in income taxes. But if states like Texas and Nevada, as has been pointed out, have the capacity, over time, to start to make strategic investments, to take systems that are some of the worst in the country, some of the worst schools in the country, gets an F constantly, are the schools in Nevada.

  • 10:27:28

    SCIARRAA lot of these states that are low spending, they don't raise enough revenue and they don't target that revenue, are essentially educational basket cases and dragging the whole nation down academically. So, look, we can either decide we're going to do this now or we're going to do it later.

  • 10:27:45

    REHMAll right. Stephen, do you want to comment?

  • 10:27:48

    MOOREWell, this is the first time I've ever heard that New Jersey is a model for anything. I mean, New Jersey is in a state of economic collapse right now. And I think the last thing we want to do is the -- make the nation look more like New Jersey.

  • 10:27:58

    REHMBut hold on a second. He's talking about education levels...

  • 10:28:03


  • 10:28:03

    REHM...and success in New Jersey.

  • 10:28:05

    MOORESure. But look what's happening to their economy. I mean, look, you can't -- what these gentlemen are saying, raise taxes to improve your education. No, that doesn't happen anywhere. The states -- that's my point is the states with high income taxes, like New Jersey and California and Minnesota, New York, are falling apart economically. And if you don't have a strong economy in your state, you can't pay for the kinds of things you need. Now, look, it's true, Texas and Nevada probably do need to invest more in their education. They've got a huge increase in population, both immigrant population and in migrants from other states.

  • 10:28:40

    MOOREBut, you know, again, how do these gentlemen explain these school systems like Washington, D.C., Chicago? I mean, my gosh, I go to the Chicago inner-city schools and I've visited them and they're horrendous. And why do these gentlemen never talk about anything but money? I mean, why can't we have more charter schools? Why can't we have more school choice? Why can't -- and I'll give you just one example and then I'll shut up, Diane. In California last year there were something like five teachers out of 10,000 that were fired. I mean, that's an abomination. Why in the world can't we get rid of bad teachers?

  • 10:29:14

    REHMJoseph Bishop.

  • 10:29:14


  • 10:29:15


  • 10:29:15

    BISHOPYeah. You know, I was going to bring you back to David's point of New Jersey. New Jersey actually is the national model for early education, in terms of not only -- it's not about what they spend. And I think we're getting caught up in the divisive conversation of, is spending worthwhile? New Jersey has become a model for really a very comprehensive strategy to supporting children and families from the early years. And other states, including, you know, Tennessee, Iowa and Utah, which I heard Stephen reference, have looked to New Jersey for guidance. And they -- a court case in New Jersey had to take place in order for that funding to kick into gear.

  • 10:29:58

    BISHOPI also want to point out, in California, it's the sixth largest economy on the planet, surpassing France. So the notion that taxes inherently, or income taxes are a bad thing to support public education or that people will leave is not necessarily true. But I think we need to take a step back and think about what types of resources do students need in order to be successful? And I think we get caught up in the numbers. But let's look beyond the budget sheet and think about what comes with an investment in education. Does it mean more music, more after-school activities, more enriching activities and, say, advanced-placement courses or language courses. So I think we can get stuck in the debate. But let's think about, what do students need today to be successful...

  • 10:30:47


  • 10:30:47 today's economy and today's world?

  • 10:30:50

    REHMAnd joining us now by phone from Tulsa, Okla., John Waldron. He's social studies teacher at Booker T. Washington High School. He's also a Democratic candidate for state senate. He says he decided to run for office in part because he was upset about the state budget cuts to education. John Waldron, thanks for joining us.

  • 10:31:22

    MR. JOHN WALDRONThanks, Diane. I'm glad to be here.

  • 10:31:23

    REHMI know Oklahoma has made repeated income-tax cuts, leading to education budget shortfalls. Tell us about that and how it's affecting students.

  • 10:31:39

    WALDRONWell, first, I'd like to say that I'm a proud -- I'm proud to have been born and raised in the great state of New Jersey. I want to give a shout out to all my family out there. Here in Oklahoma though, we began cutting taxes several years ago, when the economy -- for us, that's based -- oil is largely responsible for our state fortunes. And when oil was high, we were cutting taxes. When oil was low and we're crashing, we're still cutting taxes. The result has been that, when times were good, budgets were lean. And now, when times are bad, we're having to make really draconian choices about what to do with public schools.

  • 10:32:17

    REHMSo, as a teacher, tell us the impact that these budget shortfalls are having in your school and other districts in Oklahoma.

  • 10:32:32

    WALDRONWell, I teach at an inner-city school in Tulsa that sends students out to universities all over the country, including Princeton this year. But I'm finding that my advanced classes are getting packed to the gills with students. We're cutting teachers in core departments. Schools around the district are losing arts programs, they're losing science opportunities, they're losing electives. There are even four school districts within driving distance that are down to four-day school weeks because they can't afford to keep the lights on five days a week. So it's hard to imagine how that can happen in this country at this time.

  • 10:33:09

    REHMI gather you became so upset about that, you decided to run for office.

  • 10:33:15

    WALDRONThat's right. I got tired of asking nicely for the legislators to be responsible for the future of our state, to look after the students. And so I've knocked on 18,000 doors in my district now to let people know that there's a better choice.

  • 10:33:28

    REHMAll right.

  • 10:33:29

    WALDRONWe've got to invest in our people.

  • 10:33:30

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I gather, in November, voters there will have a ballot measure that would increase sales tax to fund education.

  • 10:33:48


  • 10:33:50

    REHMAre you in favor of that?

  • 10:33:53

    WALDRONYeah. I think it's the only option on the table. What we're seeing in Oklahoma right now is a kind of dust bowl migration of teachers out of the state. They can earn $20,000 more by moving to Texas. And if we don't do something about that soon, then education ceases to be a profession in Oklahoma and it becomes more of a hobby people do for a few years. So the people of Oklahoma have taken it upon themselves, in the absence of legislative responsibility, to raise their own taxes to pay for education.

  • 10:34:20

    REHMOn the other...

  • 10:34:21

    WALDRONThat's really inspiring.

  • 10:34:22

    REHMYeah. But on the other hand, don't critics say that that could be devastating to cities because they rely on those sales taxes.

  • 10:34:34

    WALDRONAbsolutely. And if the legislature would do its job and fund education properly, people wouldn't have to do this. But it's also -- the people who pay the sales tax are the ones who benefit the most from public education. I mean, I've seen the impact that has on employment, on reduced crime, improved health care outcomes. We're going to have to make a big sacrifice, I think, for the greater good.

  • 10:34:58

    REHMWhat do you think, Stephen Moore, about an increase in sales taxes to pay for education?

  • 10:35:05

    MOOREWell, you asked me the question earlier that I never actually answered about property taxes. Because traditionally, you're right, Diane, that's the way, you know, for the last 100 years or so, most school funding has been financed. And I happen to think -- look, I don't like any taxes -- but I think property taxes are a good way to fund schools, because you live in the community. And it's true that, if you have good schools, that raises the value of your property. I mean, people move into areas in no small part because they want to send their kids to good schools. So I do think property taxes are a good way to finance schools.

  • 10:35:38

    MOORESales taxes -- the other thing I like is I do like local control of schools and local financing to the fullest extent possible. Now I know these gentlemen are saying, well, look, you've got poor areas that can't, you know, afford those.

  • 10:35:51

    REHMRight. Right.

  • 10:35:52

    MOORESo you do need some redistributional element, no question about that, where you have some state support for education. I'd get the federal government out of the education business. But to the fullest extent possible, I mean, the studies do show, the more local control you have and the more parental involvement, the better the schools are.

  • 10:36:09

    REHMAnd, John Waldron, you're saying that taxpayers themselves have brought this initiative to raise sales taxes.

  • 10:36:20

    WALDRONYeah. They gathered a record number of signatures in record time to do it. Because I think they recognize the crisis.

  • 10:36:27

    REHMJohn Waldron, he's social studies teacher at the Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Okla. We're going to take just a short break here. And when we come back, it's time to open the phones. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send your email to Or join us on Facebook or Twitter. Stay with us.

  • 10:40:03

    REHMAnd it's time to open the phones, 800-433-8850. First to Dayton, Ohio. Mack, you're on the air.

  • 10:40:14

    MACKThank you for taking my call, Diane.

  • 10:40:15


  • 10:40:17

    MACKI want to point out something with respect to Ohio. The Ohio legislature over the past two budget cycles has made a concerted effort to reduce the amount of revenue available for -- would be available to fund various public service projects, both municipal and educational. And some of these have been quite pointed. I'll give you a couple of illustrations. It's reduced -- or excuse me, it's eliminated the estate tax entirely. It has reduced the residency requirement for an Ohioan to be exempt from state income tax, from over half to five months. A person could live, for example, in the state of Florida for five months, declare that as their residency and be exempt entirely from state income tax.

  • 10:41:07

    MACKAnd probably most egregious, it has given businesspeople who have businesses organized as pass-through entities or sole proprietorships a tax deduction up to $250,000. In other words, they pay no income tax at all on the first $250,000 that they make in their business. Now that's been estimated to be approximately a $700 million loss in revenue in the state. This has forced both school districts and municipalities to go to the ballot box this fall. The municipalities are increasing their -- trying to increase their city income tax, and the school districts have property issues on the ballot.

  • 10:42:02

    REHMJoseph Bishop, are you seeing lots of these initiatives around the country trying to address the issue of education?

  • 10:42:14

    BISHOPYeah, well, if we look at -- inevitably all families are connected, to the caller's point, to different public services. So we know that a record number of children are living in poverty and going to our schools with great need. So if we cut services surrounding public education and public education, the impact is felt in a huge way. And I think Diane, one thing we haven't talked about today is really how schools are funded, and every state is different, but it's always been mostly a state and local effort.

  • 10:42:54

    BISHOPSo even if property, or if taxes are raised locally, and there isn't enough state revenue to support local tax increases, then schools are still put at a disadvantage. So again, it's 10 percent of federal funding, roughly 45 percent state funding and 46 percent local revenue that supports schools across the country.

  • 10:43:16


  • 10:43:18

    BISHOPSo I think that context is really important to keep in mind.

  • 10:43:22

    REHMAnd what about the lottery money that was supposed to be a boon to education? That's a tweet from Sheila. David, can you answer that?

  • 10:43:36

    SCIARRASay that again, Diane?

  • 10:43:38

    REHMWhat about the lottery money that was supposed to be a boon to education?

  • 10:43:43

    SCIARRAYeah, so just a couple points. The financing systems and the public education systems are the state's responsibilities. State constitutions guarantee a right to education to all children. The amount of money that's raised for public education, 90 percent of it is determined by the states, the amount you raise off the local property tax, the amount of state aid that goes into it, whether it's adequate or not. These are all decisions that are made in state capitals across the country.

  • 10:44:11

    SCIARRAYou know, the problem is, as Joe pointed out, is that when you cut state taxes, like in Ohio or in Kansas or in Oklahoma, that impacts the districts that need it the most and have the poorest number of kids and low property wealth because when you rely on the property tax, those communities are unable to make up the difference, where affluent communities can do that, so you wind up with these great disparities in educational resources.

  • 10:44:42

    SCIARRASo states really need to look at an array of revenue of sources, lottery, oil taxes, mineral taxes, income taxes, broad-base taxes, and they need to start thinking about what their capacity is to increase those taxes. And like in Ohio, and in -- as has been mentioned in Oklahoma, raising those taxes and then making sure that those taxes actually get delivered to the schools that need it the most.

  • 10:45:11

    REHMAll right, let's go to Linda in St. Louis, Missouri. You're on the air.

  • 10:45:17

    LINDAGood morning, Diane. I wanted to share with you something that we're doing in Missouri. I work with the Alliance for Childhood Education, which is a business organization but focuses on education issues, especially increasing investment. And so we were looking at the problem we have in our state with labor shortages and workforce issues and how it relates to early childhood. And in fact there was a story years ago on Planet Money about the economic benefits of early childhood.

  • 10:45:41

    LINDASo we spent the last two years putting together an initiative called Raise Your Hand for Kids, and we have Amendment 3, actually will be on the ballot in November, which will increase the tobacco tax in Missouri, which is the lowest in the country, to fund early childhood health and education. And actually Missouri is one of the worst states for funding early childhood. And this language will create a grant program so that communities all across our state can apply for grants and solve the local problems in their own communities, and we're really excited. And so this is just another -- a way to kind of approach the funding issue but focused 100 percent on birth to five.

  • 10:46:17

    REHMThat's really interesting. Now I know, Stephen, that you don't like most taxes, but how do you feel about an initiative to raise taxes on tobacco?

  • 10:46:29

    MOOREWell, I'm not a smoker, so it wouldn't affect me. Look, I have to say, look, we're all for better schools, and there's no doubt about it, the better schools you have, the better your community and the better the economy is going to grow. We need more talented and skilled and educated people if our economy is going to be a superpower economically. There's no question about that.

  • 10:46:51

    MOOREBut I think the thing that disturbs me as I listen to this conversation is all I've heard from the callers and from my fellow panelists is spend, spend, spend, tax, tax, tax. And, you know, we have a situation right now where the average American worker hasn't seen a pay raise in 15 years. American families in the middle class are financially stressed out right now. And this message that we're just going to go and tax you more and more, I don't know, I just don't think that's going to be a winning issue.

  • 10:47:16

    MOOREWe'll see that in some areas, people will say look, I'm willing to pay more taxes for school performance, but I've mentioned three or four things throughout this conversation, get rid of teacher tenure, let's have more charter schools, let's have vouchers. We have a great voucher program here in Washington, D.C., that has been a sterling success. We should do that in every city in America.

  • 10:47:36

    MOOREThose kinds of things would make a big difference. Discipline in the classroom, you know, all these things don't require more money, they just require smarter spending.

  • 10:47:45

    REHMJoseph, how do you feel about the issue of teacher tenure as something that would help to improve schools?

  • 10:47:57

    BISHOPWell, there's actually -- there's no evidence that shows that changing teacher tenure policies actually supports student achievement. I think we -- we can't lose sight of what the caller brought up earlier from Missouri was that if we invest early, states are actually going to save money down the road. So early interventions, typically say if we're identifying students who have a special need, if we provide supports to them early, it will actually cost states less money down the road.

  • 10:48:30

    BISHOPI heard Stephen talk about school discipline. We know that zero-tolerance policies in schools actually can cost schools more money by pushing students out. There was a study in California that showed it cost up to $700 million a year we spend as a country just by suspending students at the secondary level. So I think we -- I absolutely agree with Stephen that we have to be smart about the resources that we do use, but I think we have to be careful as to where we focus or concentrate our efforts with student learning and student impact and achievement being the focal point of our work.

  • 10:49:03

    REHMNow we've gotten several tweets, Stephen, saying people are trying to find proof that California has lost population over any period during the last 50 years. Where are your figures coming from?

  • 10:49:21

    MOORESo let me be clear on this. What I'm talking about is internal migration, that is American -- California is a high immigration state. So its population continues to increase because a lot of Central Americans and Mexicans and Asians go into California. What I -- what we look at is within the 50 states where are people moving to and from. And the most amazing thing, I mean this is startling because it's the first time that it's happened in 100 years in California, in the last decade more -- about a million to a million and a half more Americans left California than came to California.

  • 10:49:54

    MOOREAnd I believe that's because the California -- and what's happened in California is you're getting a kind of rotting out of the middle class. So it's a great place to live if you're really rich, like in Silicon Valley, and it's actually -- if you're poor, it's a better place to live than a lot of places because they have high welfare benefits. But the middle class is being hurt, and partly that's because of high taxes and high costs.

  • 10:50:14

    MOOREOhio, by the way, very quickly, I helped design the John Kasich tax cut. It's been a big success. Ohio went from having a $2 billion budget deficit, today Ohio has a surplus, it's gained about a half-a-million jobs over the last five years. I mean, it's an economic success story. It's one of the reasons John Kasich ran for president. People...

  • 10:50:35

    REHMBut how about the schools there?

  • 10:50:37

    MOOREYou know, I have to say, I don't know what they've done with school funding, but my point is that you need -- I just keep going back to this point. You need a healthy economy. That's the best way to provide funding for schools.

  • 10:50:50

    REHMBut on the other hand, here's an email from Heather in Dallas, who says it sends the wrong message to our young future leaders when we can't invest in them and their educations. What models of school funding, whether in our own states or abroad, do work. David Sciarra?

  • 10:51:19

    BISHOPDiane, so we have some good states with model statewide formulas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, and these are states that are unique, and what they've done is sat down and tried to figure out what the costs of education children are. On the balance, school funding in most states is just dollar driven, it's what the legislators decide they want to spend based on politics, and no one has any idea of what it actually costs to educate students.

  • 10:51:51

    BISHOPAnd secondly, the additional programs and resources that we've been talking about, like early childhood education, full-day kindergarten, remedial programs for kids that are behind, the cost of those programs for kids that are low-income. So we do have formulas that are built on these costs and are weighted to provide additional funding, driven by student and school need.

  • 10:52:15

    BISHOPSo what we need is a real flowering in this country of states really deciding that they have to modernize their financing formulas and build these formulas based on evaluations and assessments of what it costs to actually educate kids. We need that in order to reach the academic goals that we all agree that the nation needs to meet.

  • 10:52:37

    REHMDavid Sciarra, he's executive director of the Education Law Center, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And Joe, here's an email from Susan, who says, are you aware that the Texas legislature has limited what local school districts can raise to fund their own schools?

  • 10:53:09

    BISHOPYes, and I know this has been a -- Texas has had a challenging school finance history. As the caller said, the locals are hamstrung, but then the state legislature is not increasing funding for schools. And if we think about need, as a state Texas has a large number of -- a significant number of English learners and low-income students who are in schools that are -- that can barely keep the lights on. So yes, absolutely, and it's -- what's the case in Texas is happening in Mississippi, too.

  • 10:53:47

    BISHOPThere was a ballot initiative last year that would have required the state of Mississippi and the legislature to fully fund education for the first time in 18 years. So sadly enough, Diane, what's true in Texas is true in Mississippi and states across the country, and as we think about our nation, we are still one of the most unequally funded school finance systems as a country in the world. So we have a long way to go.

  • 10:54:10

    REHMThat's extraordinary. All right, let's go finally to Crystal River, Florida. Dave, you're on the air.

  • 10:54:21

    DAVEFirst of all, let me say thank you for taking my call.

  • 10:54:22


  • 10:54:23

    DAVEMy comment or question is in Florida they have charter schools, as well as public schools, and they were talking about that earlier. Down here, as far as I'm aware, the funding, some of the school fundings, are split equally among the charter and public schools. My question is when you have, as an example, one charter school and two private schools, and they split that funding evenly, 50 percent goes to the charter school, and the other public schools have to divide the other 50 percent. So each public school gets, as an example, let's say $100,000, the charter school gets $50, the public school has to get $25,000 each. I'd like to know how that's fair.

  • 10:54:59

    REHMAnd are you also looking at the lottery, Dave?

  • 10:55:06

    DAVEYes, that's the second question, if there's time. I'm curious as how the lottery is supposed to supplement. They are actually making -- the school actually gets less now with the lottery than they did when the state used to provide funds.

  • 10:55:17

    REHMJoe, can you talk about the division of money for charter versus public schools?

  • 10:55:30

    BISHOPYou know, it really depends on the state, Diane. I think the bigger is that states need a sustainable -- schools need a sustainable source of revenue to plan ahead based on the needs of their students and school systems. So lottery systems or lottery-funded education can be really challenging. We saw this happen in Georgia, where a number of programs became dependent on the state lottery system. So I think we have to be careful, and as we think about overall funding for public schools, we have to be clear that there are some quality standards that we think about when funding or resourcing different models, be it public schools or public charter schools or charter providers.

  • 10:56:16

    REHMI must say overall, Stephen, it seems to me that you've got a situation where schools are simply not being given the resources they need. If they have to turn off the lights and go to four-day work weeks, I mean, what does this say about our public school system?

  • 10:56:45

    MOOREWell, I think it -- look, I hate to see that. That's a tragedy if that happens, no question about it, and by the way, I've learned a lot from these gentlemen about what's going on in the states. I'm not an education expert. I am somewhat of an expert on how do you allow states to grow. And I'll just put this statistic out there for everyone just to think about.

  • 10:57:05

    MOOREWe've been talking about schools not being financed. We spend, adjusted for inflation, two to three times more per student in the school system than we did in the 1960s, and the schools were better then than they are today.

  • 10:57:17

    REHMAll right, we'll leave it there. Stephen Moore, Joseph Bishop, David Sciarra, thank you all.

  • 10:57:23

    BISHOPThank you, Diane.

  • 10:57:25

    MOOREThank you, Diane.

  • 10:57:27

    REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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