The school funding crisis is “phony,” writes James Guthrie, a professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt, in Education Next. Chicken Little reporters highlight “budgetary shortfalls, school district bankruptcies, teacher and administrator layoffs, hiring and salary freezes, pension system defaults, shorter school years, ever-larger classes, faculty furloughs, fewer course electives, reduced field trips, foregone or curtailed athletics, outdated textbooks, teachers having to make do with fewer supplies, cuts in school maintenance,” etc. But real spending on education keeps going up, even in recessions, while the number of students stays about the same.
For the past hundred years, with rare and short exceptions and after controlling for inflation, public schools have had both more money and more employees per student in each succeeding year. Teacher salaries have increased more than 42 percent in constant dollars over the past half century, while educators’ working conditions, health plans, and retirement arrangements have become ever more commodious.
In the last 40 years, as school funding increased and teacher-pupil ratios decreased, reading scores and graduation rates have not improved, Guthrie writes.