Friday, June 26, 2009

More Money Does Not Equal Better Education

After a recent post about the quality of education in the U.S., I received a lengthy comment. You may wish to return to that post and read the comment. At the heart of the criticism was the following statement made about student's need to learn history and math, and I quote:
*Should* they know? of course they should. everyone should. but it won't happen until we spend more money on education - until we actually treat education as a priority. right now, schools are basicly "teaching" students how to take tests, because this is the cheapest way to do it. the whole system needs an overhaul.
This started me thinking about school funding and whether or not there was a correlation between increased spending in education and student learning. I was surprised to learn that there is a correlation, but it is a negative correlation. Actually, the more we spend the less we get for our tax dollars and the less the students learn and know.

At the beginning of this post there is a chart showing the increase in spending per-pupil over the past thirty years or so. The Heritage Foundation examines statistics from The National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education, which publishes extensive data on education in its annual Digest of Education Statistics.
The conclusion from an examination of the statistics is summarized as follows:
Many people believe that lack of funding is a problem in public educa­tion, but historical trends show that American spending on public educa­tion is at an all-time high. Between 1994 and 2004, average per-pupil expenditures in American public schools have increased by 23.5 percent (adjusted for inflation). Between 1984 and 2004, real expendi­tures per pupil increased by 49 percent. These increases follow the historical trend of ever-increasing real per-student expenditures in the nation's public schools. In fact, the per-pupil expen­ditures in 1970–1971 ($4,060) were less than half of per-pupil expenditures in 2005–2006 ($9,266) after adjusting for inflation.
From the figures I previously quoted concerning actual declines in academic performance, it is clear that throwing more money at the problem is not the answer, although as expressed by the commentator it is the traditional radical liberal solution to every social problem, either form a new governmental agency or spend more money.

Driven by the need to justify the expansion of spending, the education establishment has focused on extremely narrow indicators of student competence, i.e. standardized testing. It would not look good to the American public to have all that increased spending going to waste, would it? Let's make sure our standardized test scores show that the students are actually learning something, even if what they are learning is drivel.

Who benefits from this increased spending? The teachers? Median annual earnings of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers ranged from $43,580 to $48,690 in May 2006; the lowest 10 percent earned $28,590 to $33,070; the top 10 percent earned $67,490 to $76,100. Median earnings for preschool teachers were $22,680. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average salary for traditional public school teachers increased 4.5 percent in 2006-07 to $51,009, according to the AFT's latest teacher salary survey, marking the first time average teacher pay exceeded $50,000 and the first time since 2003 that teacher salaries surpassed the annual rate of inflation. American Federation of Teachers.

In short, even the teachers are being paid more, but money does not seem to address the real issues here.

More later.


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  2. Let's make sure our standardized test scores show that the students are actually learning something, even if what they are learning is drivel. educational technology