George W. Bush is no underfunder on education, writes Frederick Hess. In fact, Bush is a big spender who’s boosted federal spending on schools with poor children by 52 percent.
In fact, this entire NCLB spending debate is serving to obscure the fact that American schools are actually well-funded, by any reasonable standard. After-inflation education spending in the U.S. more than tripled between 1960 and 2000.
Compared to other industrial democracies, the U.S. is at the top in school spending, at the middle in achievement. (Finland, which aced the latest international survey, spends only $5,000 per student and has class sizes of 30 in elementary school, says the New York Times.)
The steady growth of spending in the past decade, as in previous decades, has allowed schools to avoid cutting fat even as other organizations have slimmed down. In 1949-50, schools employed one non-teacher for every 2.36 teachers. By 1998-99, there was a nonteacher for every 1.09 teachers. In Washington D.C., the school system employs 11,000 people (for 65,000 students), less than half of whom are teachers. Meanwhile, school systems resist proposals for outsourcing support functions, shuttering unneeded school buildings, terminating ineffective programs, or installing technology-assisted methods of instruction and assessment that reduce the demand for personnel.