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State-Level Legislative Alert

NASP Members Need to Be Aware of “the 65% Solution”

“The 65% Solution” is a fast moving economic policy proposal that is sweeping the country. The goal of the movement is to shift education funding to the classroom by mandating that a minimum of 65% of all educational expenditures go directly to classroom instruction. This movement is supported by an advocacy group called “First Class Education.” Three potential benefits of this movement are suggested: (1) increasing the amount of money spent in the classroom without increasing taxes; (2) reducing the amount spent on “wasteful” administrative costs by making districts accountable for how they spend their money; and (3) improving student performance by focusing on classroom activities. The group’s founder, Tim Mooney, believes that by mandating this level of funding in all 50 states more than $14 billion a year will be generated for things like new teachers and computers. He also argues that state legislation supporting this movement is necessary because of the current decline in classroom instructional spending. He has the support of many prominent columnists such as George Will and numerous legislators and policy makers. To date, support for this funding proposal has come in the form of bills, resolutions, and in at least one state, Texas, by executive order.

Opponents of this movement make several important arguments. One is that legislation of this type is overly intrusive by state governments into local school district activities and that school boards should retain the power over decisions like this. Historically, budgets and program allocations are controlled by school boards according to the individual needs of districts. Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association, noted that “Schools have a variety of needs, and they have very, very different spending habits. There is no evidence that spending 65% of your budget on classroom spending will produce high academic achievement” (New York Times, Jan. 4, 2006). Another argument is that the categories classroom activity versus non classroom activity are not carefully aligned with academic student performance but, instead, are categories created for other purposes by the National Center for Education Statistics. Critics addressing this issue note that athletics count as a classroom activity, including  coaches’ salaries, but the services and salaries of school mental health professionals (including school psychologists, social workers, and counselors), librarians, and other related services providers do not.

However you feel about this issue, it is important for school psychologists to be active advocates at asserting our importance in supporting teachers, students, and classroom activities that help reduce barriers to learning and ensure safe and civil learning environments.  Research clearly supports that students who receive social-emotional support and prevention services achieve better academically in school (Greenberg, et al., 2003; Jennings, et. al., 2000; Welsh et al., 2001; Zins, et. al., 2004;). Without effective advocacy on the state level, it is very possible that school psychologists will be left out and considered a part of the “wasteful administrative costs” commonly referenced as being “outside of the classroom.”

Standard and Poor’s Analysis of the 65% Solution

“Standard and Poor’s analysis revealed that there is no minimum spending allocation that is a “silver bullet” solution for improving student achievement. Spending more on instruction is generally thought to help raise test scores; however, the data reveal no significant relationship between instructional spending at 65% or any other level and student performance. While the data do not support mandating a minimal instructional spending threshold applied uniformly across all districts, monitoring the percentage districts allocate to instruction is a useful benchmark in assessing the district’s return on resources.” (School Matters, 2005, p.8; see www.SchoolMatters.com)