Excerpts from a Reason Magazine (February 2013) interview with “The Education Visionary” Khan Academy founder Salman Khan on the future of learning.
“Reason: In the book you mention that New York State spends about $18,000 per public school student per year….We’re spending $18,000 a year for flat results over the past 40 years for public schools. What’s wrong with the status quo?
Khan: The reason I highlighted that in the book is that a lot of times people make it sound like it’s a money issue. The problem is you can never say you’re spending too much on education. It’s such an important thing; if you can get a dollar of value in education, it’s worth it….and when you look at the $18,000 number (or even in the lower districts that spend less, $8,000 or $9,000), and you multiply that by how many students are in a classroom – someplace between 20 and 30 – you get a fairly large number. You get something [in the range of] $300,000, $400,000, $500,000. When you do that very simple back-of-the-envelope calculation, you realize how little of the money is actually touching the student. Very little of that is going to the teacher. Very little is going directly for the facilities. Most of that is going for lays of administration. We can actually professionalize teachers as they are, turn it into a career that pays as well as doctors. The money is there. There just has to be a major restructuring in how you spend that money…I think the general sense is that there’s a lot of lip service being given to teachers: oh, we need to respect you. We want the best of the best doing this. But society’s not sending that economic signal. In engineering I used to say: how come more people are going into finance than engineering? Well, look at the salaries, and you get a very clear picture of why. Now that’s actually changing in engineering. Engineers can do just as well as or better than people in finance. I think that has to happen in teaching. We are getting a lot of great talent in teaching, but we’ll get even more people who aspire to do this. And it will change the dynamic in the classroom to where the students say, I wish I had a chance of becoming that privilege to be with in this room….”