In every corner of the country, discussions about funding for school districts often revolve around the perceived need for more money. You commonly hear complaints from underperforming school districts that their schools are underfunded, and that if they only had more money, student performance would improve. 

While there may be some loose correlation between school funding and student performance, there is a significant gap between one and the other. It’s like saying: ‘If I pay more money for a hamburger, it will taste better.” The only way that is true is if the cook uses the money to purchase better ingredients, improve the recipe, and enhance the method of preparation. Money, by itself, has no bearing on the end product. 

History shows that, in districts across the nation, as school district funding increases, performance remains spotty. With increased funding, student performance does not automatically improve. While some may claim that this means that funding is not the answer, I take a different approach. My position is this: better funding can translate into better student performance only if the funds are invested in the right way. 

The reality is that financial resources do play a pivotal role in education. But paying teachers more money does not make them better teachers, and new gyms will not improve a basketball team’s win-loss record. While this does not mean we should ignore teacher salaries or dilapidated gyms, the better strategy is to determine how to use funds to improve teacher performance and the basketball team’s skills. In other words, we look for better ingredients, recipes, and preparation.

The Coeur d’Alene School Levies

In our community, the recent approval of the school levy has raised optimism about the prospects of enhancing our local schools. But that optimism can only be justified if we provide value to our constituents who are paying that levy. We have an obligation to use that money wisely.

One of the most critical factors in improving student performance is the quality of our teachers and school leadership. Research consistently shows that the impact of a great teacher on a student’s academic achievement is profound. Investing in the recruitment and retention of effective educators should be a top priority, and we should help good teachers to become great teachers. Attracting and keeping such educators means offering adequate salaries, professional development opportunities, and a supportive work environment.

Improved Performance Through Accountability

Teachers need to be held accountable regarding student performance, and it is the job of the school administration and the school board to enforce it. At the same time, we need to give teachers the right tools and the right environment to teach, and only then can we hold them responsible for the results. If teachers need additional training or resources, we should provide them, and measure the results. Only when teachers are allowed and encouraged to use their abilities to the fullest can we accurately measure success or failure.

Learning happens in the classroom, so when it comes to student performance, the focus should be on what happens in that environment. However, this does not discount that other factors can influence student performance outside the classroom. Administrative staff at both the district and school levels are essential. Still, they should be kept at a level that abolishes bloat and unnecessary bureaucracy for students, teachers, and parents. Every dollar that doesn’t directly benefit our students’ education is a missed opportunity.

We should target investments towards fundamental student skills in core subject areas. As stated elsewhere, I fully support extracurricular activities and clubs that help our students to become well-rounded citizens. However, we should not allocate funds to programs or materials that are more preoccupied with social programs outside the purview of a school’s mission. Schools are not parents and cannot be parents; they should not aspire to be. The primary focus must be core subject instruction, and the supplementary focus is common interest extracurricular activities that provide positive experiences for the students,

When prioritizing core academic skills, we empower our students to succeed in higher education and the workforce. This not only benefits them individually but also strengthens our community as a whole by producing more capable, knowledgeable citizens. Encouraging extracurricular activities is also beneficial, as it allows students to recognize their critical role in contributing to their communities in pursuit of common goals. Academic and extracurricular activities should not compete but complement each other.

We can make the most of our financial resources by prioritizing the recruitment and retention of effective teachers and school leadership, ensuring that funds directly benefit the classroom, and focusing on core academic skills. Our goal should always be to provide the best possible education for our students within our budget. With careful planning and targeted investments, we can achieve just that. It’s not about how much we spend, but how we spend that truly counts. 

The voters who approved the recent levy deserve to get value for the trust they placed in our district by agreeing to fund it with their tax dollars. If you vote for Jimmy McAndrew for School Board Trustee Zone Two this November, you can count on me to do my utmost to ensure our school district uses its funds wisely. 

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