Monday, January 30, 2012


Alabama spends less, so do Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Massachusetts.  Ohio spends $8 more, but Wisconsin, Arizona and Virginia spend less.  In fact, 33 out of the 50 states and District of Columbia spend less.  Some big rich states like New York, Texas, California and Florida spend more, but surprisingly, the biggest spenders are Wyoming and DC. 

According to the February 6th, 2012 issue of Time Magazine, $1,092 is the amount the average US worker spends on coffee each year.   I like coffee as much as the next person.  In fact, people worry if I don’t get my coffee in the morning.  I like straight forward coffee, that is, I like it black without sugar.  I do indulge the fact that I spend a lot of my time in Seattle – coffee town USA and home of Starbucks – by ordering quad Americanos, but I eschew more extravagant and expensive coffee drinks.  I do not know how much I spend on coffee, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I spend at least $1,092.  Many people I know have several coffees a day and likely spend more than I do.  How much do you think you spend?

But this post isn’t about coffee, is it?

The 21st Century School Fund just published a report on capital construction spending in every state and the District of Columbia.  It ranks the states by how much they spend per student.  The range of expenditure ranges from a high of $2,355 per student in DC (Wyoming is second at $2,066) to a low of $298 per student in Hawaii. The study gives additional information such as how much the state contributes versus local school districts, how funding occurs in each state, and how much debt for capital construction is outstanding in each state. 

There are, of course, regional variations in construction costs that explain some of the difference, but the variation across the country makes a statement about both economic health and the value each state places on building schools.  I think it also goes further than this to make a statement about how we value education.  The facilities in which students learn go far beyond just providing shelter for the activities of learning.  Fundamentally, they tell students and teachers how we value what they do.  We build palaces for our sports teams often at public expense because we value sports in our culture.  We spend money on our military facilities because they are important.  We select our homes with the idea of maximizing space and utility but also to make a statement about our status and values.  The physical manifestation of our stadiums and homes reflect our values.  Why should the physical manifestations of our schools be any different? 

If we are serious about improving results in our schools, part of the solution is to let students know that we value learning and the places that house it.  The condition of our schools sends students a message, and whether that message is positive or negative is up to us.

$1,092 is a lot of money to a lot of people, especially in this economy.  Having the little pleasures that get us through each day is important, but aren’t student’s futures even more important than our daily dose of coffee? 

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