School Ills Attributed to Insufficient Use of Resources

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Washington--America's "critical education problem" is not that its schools are underfunded, but that they are unproductive and have not made sufficient use of modern technology, a report from the Hudson Institute argues.

The paper issued this month by the Indianapolis-based think tank seeks to refute the findings on the country's relative level of education spending contained in a widely publicized report by the Economic Policy Institute. The earlier study concluded that the United States--contrary to frequent assertions by Bush Administration officials--lags behind most major industrialized4nations in spending on precollegiate education. (See Education Week, Jan. 24, 1990.)

Lewis Perelman, a senior research fellow at the Hudson Institute and the author of the new report, attacks the e.p.i. conclusions in much the same terms that were employed by the Education Department earlier this year.

He contends that it is "meaningless" to measure countries' expenditures on schools as a percentage of national income, as the e.p.i. researchers did in placing the U.S. 14th among 16 nations in spending on precollegiate education.

Instead, he favors using per-pupil spending as the standard for comparison. Under that benchmark, U.S. expenditures trail only those of Switzerland among the top industrialized nations.

Mr. Perelman, in discussing his conclusions at a press briefing here, asserted that the real problem for the American education system is that it does not make efficient use of the considerable resources it has. The system has resisted restructuring, has not altered the curriculum to meet modern needs, and operates with "11th-century technology,'' he said.

"Public schools are America's collective farms," he told reporters. "Restructuring is analogous to perestroika," the drastic systemwide overhaul being attempted in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Perelman's report, entitled "The Acanemia Deception," calls for:

  • Increased use of technology, such as computer-based instruction and distance learning, that allows schools to serve more students with fewer teachers and less money.
  • Greater use of parental choice and other means of promoting competition that give schools an incentive to be more innovative and productive.
  • A much bigger investment in educational research and development.
  • Development of assessments that measure "workforce-relevant knowledge and skill" as well as "academic" achievement, and of performance-based systems of promotion for students and teachers.

Copies of the report are available for $5 each from the Hudson Institute, Herman Kahn Center, P.O. Box 26-919, Indianapolis, Ind. 46226; telephone: 317-545-1000.

Vol. 09, Issue 35

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