In this country we seem to be in love with simplistic, sound-byte solutions to every problem. Take, for example, the “65% solution”, which supporters say will make sure that tax money is spent on students in the classroom, not on that evil, nasty infrastructure stuff that supports teachers.

Like library books.

This incredibly stupid approach to school funding has reared its ugly head in Georgia where the General Assembly is considering a bill that would mandate the program for all state schools.

Gov. Sonny Perdue and Republican leaders are pushing a controversial mandate through the Georgia General Assembly that would force school systems to spend nearly two-thirds of their funding on “direct classroom expenditures” — a definition that excludes nurses, guidance counselors, librarians, principals and other school staff.

Under Senate Bill 390, benefits and salaries of teaching assistants would be included in the 65 percent allowed for classroom expenses, but those of principals would not. Field trips would be covered, but the costs of running buses between homes and campuses wouldn’t.

Construction paper, glue, markers and other supplies would fit the bill’s definition, but not library books. Neither would heat to warm classrooms or electricity to light them.

Electricity for classrooms? What a waste!

The primary force behind the 65% plan is an outfit called First Class Education run by a Republican consultant named Tim Mooney. To support the concept, he claims that “top-performing states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress also spend the most in the classroom”.

Except that he’s wrong.

Both Maine and New York [the only two states to top the 65% threshold] scored above the national averages on the NAEP reading exam in 2003. But so did dozens of other states [which spent less than his formula], many of which matched or beat their scores.

I’m not going to tell anyone that there is no waste in school spending in this country. You could go into most districts and find some budget items that make no sense and could be cut. But nurses, librarians and busses do not qualify.

This plan which tries to set one magic number for every classroom is just one more example of the one-size-fits-all assumptions about American schools and students that seems to be driving educational policy these days.