Part 2: Education spending and educational achievement are at odds – Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold
September 7, 2012
When addressing the American people, or assemblies of teachers and their unions, President Obama is correct in his rhetoric that education may be the largest expense of state and local governments, but, as Obama has proposed in his 2013 budget, is there a need for even more money to be allocated?
As Obama related on July 28, 2011: “A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs, but whether American can out-compete countries around the world. America’s business leaders understand that when it comes to education, we need to up our game. That’s why we’re working together to put an outstanding education within reach for every child.” www/whitehouse.gov/issues/education
All well and good,. President Obama, but is your request to increase education spending to $69.8 billion in your proposed 2013 budget, a 2.5 percent increase over the current budget of 68.1 billion, justified? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/post/federal-budget-2013-how-obamas-budget-plan-affects-each-agency/2012/02/13/gIQAsDH4AR_blog.html
Will an increase of spending at the federal spending (or state or local) improve the dismal rank of the U.S. as 26th in school performance in the world, as determined in a recent international assessment which averaged out the mean scores in reading, math and science out of 75 participating countries or economies? <http://www.politifact.com/new-jersey/statements/2012/feb/03/jim-whelan/unted-states-ranks-26th-school-performance-world-/>
Average national per-pupil spending reaches $11,400
How many taxpayer dollars will be poured into public education this year?
According to a Heritage Foundation blog post of August 27, the national average per-pupil spending for students headed back to school this fall (includes funding from federal, state and local sources) will exceed $11,400 for the 2012-2013 school year, for a grand total of $570 billion of spending for this year’s K-12 education. A child entering kindergarten today can expect to have no less than $148,000 spent on his or her education by the time the child graduates high school. <http://blog.heritage.org/2012/08/27/back-to-school-some-surprising-education-numbers/>
The average per pupil spending in Illinois for FY’10 was slightly higher than the national average of $11,400 and registered at $11,537 across its 892 districts (FY’12 funding wasn’t available). Of this amount 67% came from local taxes; 22% from state; and 12% from federal funding. <http://my.ilstu.edu/%7EIteckri/PublicSchoolFundingInIllinoisFy12.pdf>
A CATO study, however, has concluded that the real per-pupil spending is on average 44 percent higher than the stated figure reported by district publications or personnel. Furthermore, that more than one out of every four state and local tax dollars collected goes to fund the government-run K-12 eduction system.
If a taxpayer is lucky enough to find a section on the school district website that states what is spent per child, according to the CATO study, it is likely that the figure will be misleading in the extreme. On average, the districts examined in the CATO study that reported $12,500 in spending, spent nearly $18,000 per student. <http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa662.pdf>
The reasons for this discrepancy varies from district to district, and the way funds and expenditures are not subject to uniform accounting standards. It is necessary to examine budget documents, which are seldom published on line and often very difficult to get even in person. The “official” cost of education often includes pre-school and adult education programs, which cost much less per pupil and deflate the reported figure. The CATO report excludes all programs other than K-12 education.
Most districts also exclude funds used for teacher (and employee) retirement and benefits and the cost of borrowing, which ultimately come from taxpayers, directly or indirectly, to support public education. Teacher retirement and benefit costs are major factors in the budget deficit in most states, notably in California and Illinois, whereas states like Wisconsin have transferred part of that burden to the employees (for parity with private business).
Institutions funded, children short-changed
Has the continual increases in money spent per child over the years led to increases in academic achievement? If not, who then is benefiting from the largess in education spending?
Due in large part to the lack of control (transparency) over how allocated funds and tax money is being spent in local school districts, instead of funding the children, institutions are being funded.
This is compounded by years of local school boards giving in to teacher union demands for more and more generous wage, retirement and benefit packages, which have become unsustainable with the burgeoning number of living retirees, in return for support in their bids for reelection. Compensation in the form of wages, retirement and benefit packages comprise a sizable portion of the education monies available. The overall cost applies to teachers within a system and also those negotiated for school superintendents and others administrative personnel, where all too frequently there is an excess of these high paying administrative positions.
Who, in private business, retires with the same wage the last year they worked (typically only one-third of that amount), with yearly cost-of-living increases?
Vouchers as a competitive solution
What would happen if a child could put the $11,400 average national per pupil amount in a funding “backpack” and take the money to any school in form of a voucher — public, private, or virtual? Although public school teachers and teacher unions (notably the NEA) reject vouchers, arguing they would erode educational standards by reducing funding to government-run public schools, vouchers have accomplished just the opposite. On the contrary, government schools systems have improved as a result of competitive pressure. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_voucher?
It costs about $6000 to educate a student in a Chicago Catholic school for a year. Why is it that the Chicago Public Schools System can barely get by on $35,000? What is more, the dropout rate in Chicago schools is offset by not counting those incarcerated without formally quitting. ANY LINKS, ED?
Overall view of education, 2012
Politics aside, what is the need faced by the education system? The number of public school students of all ages is approximately the same as it was in 1970, after a low which occurred in the mid-80′s. The number of teachers has increased approximately 30% in that time frame. The pupils per teacher ratio has dropped from 22.3 in 1970 to a little over 15 in 2009. Enrollment is expected to rise only about 10% over the next 10 years.
In regard to a college education, its cost has increased at a rate 3 times that of inflation. By some accounts, that is due to the requirements piled on by the government, and more important, by the amount of money funneled into the system in the form of grants, scholarships and loan subsidies. If the college business is booming, it’s not because of the job opportunities which awaits the graduates. ”Back to School Statistics: Teacher Trends”: http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=28
The unemployment rate is 51% among new graduates, even higher for those with law degrees. It appears the industry of litigation is faltering along with manufacturing. Yet students are encouraged to attend college, even if prospects are dim. It’s as though we measure our nation’s standing in the world’s economy by matriculation rates, rather than productivity. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-bonnie-snyder/unemployment-college-graduates-_b_1536195.html
We need engineers, scientists and mathematicians to make our nation run, but those disciplines are very demanding. What we get are athletes, politicians, and well-rounded liberals, eager to spend someone else’s money.
A self-made education “crisis”
In short, the “crisis” in education is a product of our own making, not that of the students or increasing enrollment. We reward teachers for advanced degrees in administration, but not in the subjects they teach. Teachers are not rewarded nor promoted on the basis of performance, rather by seniority, a practice which is firmly entrenched in union dogma. In cutback, a teacher skilled in mathematics or science (art or music) can be displaced by someone meeting minimum requirements for those subjects but with more seniority. Teachers who approach their students with enthusiasm and creativity are resented by the less ambitious, and are often held back or even punished for their efforts with reduced responsibility and more difficult assignments, and sometimes harassment by their peers. Those who have essentially retired-on-the-job with tenure, are often held in high regard by administrators as long as they maintain discipline, and don’t make waves.
It is folly to believe that more money thrown the way of education will cure its ills!
In Part 3 a comparison will be made between what is described as President Obama’s Education Budget Buster plan and the Romney/Ryan plan to reform America’s ailing education system.
Part 1: Will education be used as a wedge issue against Romney/Ryan team at DNC - Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold