Government Spending

"Investing" in Education

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Obama is all about investment, so in this coming age of more and more federal education spending, the Heritage Foundation reminds us that spending on education doesn't equal an investment in much:

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…

A basic comparison of long-term spending trends with long-term measures of student academic achievement challenges the belief that spending is correlated with achievement….from 1970 to 2004…spending per pupil has more than doubled, reading scores [as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress] have remained relatively flat…..

Nor has all the increased spending done much to ensure more students actually get through the travails of American public education successfully:

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average freshman gradua­tion rate for American public schools has remained relatively flat over time. In 1990–1991, the average graduation rate was 73.7 percent. By 2004–2005, the rate had increased modestly to 74.7. How­ever, the most recent estimate for the 2005–2006 school year shows that the national freshman grad­uation rate has dipped to 73.4 percent…

A Reason magazine oldie from January 1994 by John Hood on how educational statistics are often skewed by interested parties to make "education investment" seem like a constant need.