The U.S. “is one of the world’s biggest spenders when it comes to education,” but is not keeping up with other nations, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The United States spends 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on education from pre-kindergarten through the university level, the fifth highest in the world. “But other countries have done a lot better at getting their resources where they will make the most difference,” said Andreas Schleicher, an education policy adviser to the OECD.
America used to have one of the highest college completion rates for young adults in the world. It has now dropped to 14th place, behind countries including Korea, Russia, Ireland and Canada, according to the OECD report
The United States also falls behind in early childhood education. Just half of 3-year-olds were enrolled in preschool in 2011 compared with more than 90 percent in nations such as France, Italy and Norway, according to the report.
In kindergarten through 12th grade, meanwhile, the U.S. posts middling test scores, dragged down by the high numbers of children living in poverty whose schools tend to receive lower revenues from property taxes.
“The U.S. is one of the few that invests in a regressive way,” said Schleicher. “Children who need (public funding) the most get the least of it.”
The U.S. spent $15,171 per student in kindergarten through college in 2010 — including more than $11,000 for K-8 students and more than $12,000 for high school students — more than any other nation in the OECD report.
Switzerland’s total spending per student was close at $14,922; Mexico averaged $2,993. The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person.
Public spending accounts for 70 cents of every education dollar in the U.S., down from 72 cents a decade earlier. Parents picked up another 25 cents and private sources paid for the remainder in 2010.
The average OECD nation spent 84 cents of every education dollar, down from 88 cents a decade earlier.
In the U.S., taxpayers pick up 36 cents of every dollar spent on college and job training, compared to 68 cents in other OECD nations.
The average high school teacher in the United States earns about $53,000, well above the average of $45,500 among all OECD nations. But other countries are raising teachers’ pay more quickly than the U.S.