“Per-student spending on K-12 education has risen steadily over the last two decades, but student test scores, and teacher salaries, are stagnant,” editorializes American Interest. Where’s the money gone? “The cash infusion to K-12 has been used largely to pay for irresponsible pension promises politicians made to teachers’ unions and justified to the public with shoddy accounting.”
The editorial cites Feeling the Squeeze: Pension Costs Are Crowding Out Education Spending, a new Manhattan Institute report by Josh McGee:
Per-pupil spending on equipment, facilities, and property fell by 26% between 2000 and 2013, likely resulting in a growing backlog of expensive repairs and replacements that will need to be made sometime down the road. Spending on instructional supplies (e.g., textbooks) declined by 10% per pupil. More than half of states (29) spent less per pupil on instructional supplies in 2013 than in 2000. […]
The vast majority of taxpayer contributions into teachers’ pension plans are now used to pay down pension debt owed for past service rather than to pay for new benefits earned by today’s teachers. As the value of this debt has increased, most current teachers have experienced stagnant salaries and reduced retirement benefits, while spending on classroom supplies, equipment, and building upkeep has declined relatively or even absolutely.
“Education ought to be a great equalizing force in our society and, in theory, an efficient way to invest in the future,” concludes American Interest. But, in many states, new education spending is really “a transfer payment to retired employees of the public schools who have been promised untenable lifetime pension benefits.”