WAYNE – Vermont is currently spending $14,500 per pupil on K-12 education, and Maine cannot be far behind.

While newspaper editorials in both states acknowledge the crushing tax burden this is imposing on property owners, they contend that current spending merely reflects growing awareness of the vital role that education plays in the nation’s economic future.

Hence, they say, the focus should be on spending our education dollars more effectively.

And while recent polls reflect concern with the quality of the education being offered, they also reflect the belief that more spending is the answer to our problems. So let’s do the math.

Here’s a high school curriculum that integrates all of the humanities as well as math and science. Teaching it to 200-240 students would require eight teachers, including a teaching head of school, each of them with two classes a day.

With even 10 teachers averaging as much as $75,000 in salary-plus-benefits, this amounts to (at most) $750,000. If we (quite reasonably) require that half the school budget go to academic instruction, my total operating budget tops out at $1.5 million and a per-pupil cost between $6,000 and $7,500.

Does this drastic cost-cutting compromise educational quality? Arguably the most important thing one can say about our current public school system is that it has manifestly failed to create a stimulating, coherent academic program that engages all students and inspires and challenges the best and brightest.

My humanities curriculum attempts to do just that. It opens with a ninth grade course on classical civilization that blends literature (Homer, the lyric poets and the tragedians) with the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides, the moral and political thought of Plato and Aristotle, and the fine arts. Is such a course being offered anywhere in Maine?

The sequence continues with a 10th grade course that takes up the Renaissance and the Reformation, the Age of Discovery and the Copernican Revolution, and ends with a major unit on Shakespeare and the Elizabethans. The 11th grade course deals with the Enlightenment ( including the philosophical foundations of modern democratic thought), the Romantic reaction in music, art and literature, and the Industrial Revolution. The final course for seniors on American civilization mirrors the course on classical civilization.

Every new idea that students encounter in this sequence is set in a rich historical context and thereby given a deeper meaning. For example, students read the political works of Plato and Aristotle against the backdrop of the Peloponnesian war, as dramatically recounted by Thucydides, and the subsequent collapse of Athenian democracy. For education to leave a lasting impression, it must reach down to the deeper aesthetic and emotional centers of the brain.

The keystone of the math-science program is a two-year introduction to the physical sciences. I use the history of physics as a vehicle for teaching mathematical modeling and scientific method through telling, memorable examples.

The ninth grade course is organized around three major units on ancient science — the scientific revolution of the 17th century, the atomic-kinetic theory, and heat. The story it tells of the overthrow of Aristotle’s physics and cosmology is as powerful as it is instructive. This is academic beefsteak!

The sequel for sophomores continues with units on optics, electro-magnetism and relativity, and modern atomic theory. I have not the space to describe the math part of the program.

The 11th grade course begins with a survey of the evidence for evolution, which is drawn from almost every corner of biology and thus affords students a bird’s-eye view of the entire field as well as a central organizing principle, with much to teach about the marshaling and weighing of evidence.

It is followed by units on Mendelian genetics, population genetics and ecology, the molecular biology of the gene, and developmental biology. The capstone course for seniors on biology and behavior takes off from a close reading of Richard Dawkins’ book “The Selfish Gene,” and incorporates a substantial amount of game theory.

Here, then, is a math-science program for the new century that is accessible and inviting to the general student. Of course, major changes need to occur at the lower grade levels to properly support it.

Though assuredly not everyone’s cup of tea, my program would offer those who chose it as good a preparation for college-level study as one could hope to find anywhere. Indeed, an academic colleague joked that “it’s better than a Harvard education.” (My son went to Harvard, and it’s no joke!)

Programs like mine would offer Maine parents a real choice at a very affordable price. It could also be counted upon to attract tuition-paying students from away, making the price even more affordable.