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Dollars needed to improve education

How can public education be improved?

I began writing opinions back in the early ’70s for the Superior Telegram while serving on the Superior School Board. Those were my early years on the University of Wisconsin-Superior staff. I came to Superior after teaching in junior and senior high for six years, superintending schools 13 years and college lab school director for two years.

Education has been my life.

I haven’t written about education for several years because of having retired, but the field never left me. I truly believe that education is one of the very most important phases of life.

Why am I writing today? An opinion published March 25 in the Telegram by Matt Pommer stimulated this response.

He is just one the latest I’ve heard speaking of educational needs. But like so many other writers about education, he misses the main factor. Maybe he just feels that it is sacrosanct or politically impossible so there is no use discussing the need for more money.

He may be right, but I think the needs are too important to let skid by. We need to spend more on education, especially in districts without sufficient local capability. Wealthy districts have and are doing okay.

Let’s consider the three main needs.

Before the student is in school, family home life is ultra-significant. Parental expectation, guidance and financial wherewithal is often inadequate. Books, pictures, camps, writings, and other activities need to be available and experiences discussed. Single parenting, sadly, is a negative factor.

Where the school is located matters. Many districts do not have the necessary funding to furnish materials necessary, or hire and retain teaching staff.

Is the school district in a state where education has the ability to subsidize financial aid to the school district? We call that state aid, equalization aid. Equalization it does to some extent, but not sufficient to equalize educational opportunity. It is a problem we face throughout our country. Poverty remains because we are unwilling to tax higher levels of wealth.

Money is the problem. Shuffling the other factors about may be helpful. More time devoted to schooling is an important factor. Some schools around the world that are doing better than we are often have longer school years.

You are already saying to yourself, but we don’t have sufficient funding.

Matt Pommer said that in the Superior opinion, which drew me out of my lethargy,

“Taxpayers can’t afford more taxes.”

I have two quick answers for that:

We can afford an unbelievable defense program even though we are the best equipped of any nation in the world. Sen. Bernie Sanders says that we spend almost as much on defense as the total world countries combined.

We could avoid phony wars if our economy hadn’t allowed the Military Industrial Complex to run the show. Remember President Eisenhower’s warning about the Military Industrial Complex.? He knew, first hand. as a World War II top general and later as president.

We shouldn’t keep taxes low on the wealthy elite who can afford unbelievable luxuries such as magnificent properties in wealthy locations, money in tax havens to avoid taxes, yachts, expensive art collections, planes and more.

In summary, if it is known and available, they can get any luxurious item they want. (And we say we can’t afford better education for our children)

As Warren Buffet, himself a very wealthy man, says he should be paying taxes at the same or higher rate than his secretaries do and that someone should write a book on (How To live Comfortably On $50 Million A Year).

How much more should they need?

One other more recent factor is charter schools have come on the scene. No problem at all with that, we’ve always had special schools for people who could afford them. The problem is that they are now getting tax money for those private schools, which reduces the pot keeping poor school district even less able to properly finance their public schools.

Bernie Hughes, Ed.D, is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at