The 65% Solution

March 1, 2006
There's a lot of buzz surrounding the so-called 65 percent solution.

There's a lot of buzz surrounding the so-called “65 percent solution.”

No, it's not the latest television reality show or infomercial; nor is it a new curriculum being introduced in math classes. The 65 percent solution is a concept being pushed requiring school districts to allocate 65 percent of their budget to the classroom.

On the surface, spending at least 65 cents of every dollar in the classroom is appealing and makes perfect sense. However, defining what constitutes “in the classroom” is where much of the argument breaks down.

According to First Class Education, the group lobbying to change laws in every state and the District of Columbia to require that at least 65 percent of K-12 spending goes directly to the classroom, “in the classroom” includes spending on such things as teachers, instructional aides, general instruction supplies and activities. It does not include such things as plant operations and maintenance, transportation, food service, administration, librarians, teacher training, student support and more.

It takes many things to provide an effective education environment. Teachers, books and classroom activities are key to students getting a good education, but myriad other factors have a significant impact on what goes on in the classroom.

For example, if a classroom is too noisy because of poor acoustics or a loud HVAC system, the ability to learn will be affected. If students don't feel safe in school or come to class hungry, learning will be affected. If indoor air quality is bad, students and teachers will spend more time away from school, impeding learning. If teachers do not have the ability to receive regular training, the ability to teach new concepts will suffer. The list goes on, but according to the 65 percent solution, these would not fall under their definition of “in the classroom” even though they play a significant role in students' ability to succeed in school.

The nation's education system deserves a more serious attempt at addressing its financial and operational ills, not another little-thought-out quick fix or easy “solution.”



Number of states in the past year that have adopted the so-called “65 percent solution,” which requires school districts to spend 65 percent of their budget in the classroom.

Source: First Class Education


Percentage of the average school district's annual budget spent in the classroom.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics


Year that First Class Education, the group lobbying for the 65 percent solution, has set as its goal to change the laws in every state and the District of Columbia to require that at least 65 percent of K-12 spending goes directly to the classroom.


Additional estimated amount, in billions, that could have been spent in the classroom during the 2001-02 school year if the 65 percent rule had been required.

Source: First Class Education


Number of states recently analyzed to determine the impact of the 65 percent rule. The review of spending and test scores found no evidence that directing a certain percentage of money to the classroom would boost learning.

Source: Standard & Poor's

About the Author

Joe Agron | Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher

Joe Agron is the editor-in-chief/associate publisher of American School & University magazine. Joe has overseen AS&U's editorial direction for more than 25 years, and has helped influence and shape national school infrastructure issues. He has been sought out for comments by publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, ABC News and CNN, and assisted with the introduction of the Education Infrastructure Act of 1994.

Joe also authors a number of industry-exclusive reports. His "Facilities Impact on Learning" series of special reports won national acclaim and helped bring the poor condition of the nation's schools to the attention of many in the U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of Education and the White House.

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