Spending more (probably) improves education

There’s new evidence in the old does-money-matter debate, write Kevin Carey and Elizabeth A. Harris in the New York Times. It suggests that spending more in low-income districts improves achievement and long-term outcomes.

Third-grade students work on reading at a Bridgeport, Conn. school. Connecticut, the wealthiest state, also has the greatest levels of inequality in its schools. Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

Third-grade students work on reading at a Bridgeport, Conn. school. Connecticut, the wealthiest state, also has the greatest levels of inequality in its schools. Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

Test scores rose more in states that increased funding to poorer districts, according to a study by Berkeley and Northwestern economists. “The changes bought at least twice as much achievement per dollar as a well-known experiment that decreased class sizes in the early grades,” write Carey and Harris.

Another paper, published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, “found that for poor children, a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year of elementary and secondary school was associated with wages that were nearly 10 percent higher, a drop in the incidence of adult poverty and roughly six additional months of schooling.”

“The notion that spending doesn’t matter is just not true,” (C. Kirabo) Jackson said. “We found that exposure to higher levels of public K-12 spending when you’re in school has a pretty large beneficial effect on the adult outcomes of kids, and that those effects are much more pronounced for children from low-income families.”

A series of education equity lawsuits have forced states to send more money to low-income districts, write Carey and Harris. This fall, a Connecticut judge “ordered the state to revamp nearly every facet of its education policies, from graduation requirements to special education, along with its school funding.”

For many years, research on the relationship between spending and student learning has been surprisingly inconclusive. Many other factors, including student poverty, parental education and the way schools are organized, contribute to educational results.

“How money is spent is equally important,” said Jennifer Alexander, chief executive of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now. “I don’t think we have enough information about that from these studies.”

Pension costs crowd out ed spending

Image result for teacher pensions

“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.”

Teacher benefits are eroding pay

Teacher Benefits Are Eating Away at Salaries, writes Chad Aldeman on The Quick and the Ed.

Public school districts spent less per student in 2010-11 than the year before, the first decline in nearly four decades, the Public Education Finances Report confirms.

The report also shows that “employee benefits continue to take on a rising share of district expenditures,” writes Aldeman. From 2001 to 2011, public education spending increased 49 percent: Salaries went up 37 percent and benefits 88 percent. “Benefits now eat up more than 20 percent of district budgets, or $2,262 per student, and those numbers are climbing,” he writes.

Unfunded pension and health care promises total $1.38 trillion, Pew estimates.

All your children belong to us

Is This the Creepiest Show Promo MSNBC Has Ever Run? asks Mike Riggs on Reason’s Hit & Run. Host Melissa Harris-Perry said:

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children.

So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s we start making better investments.

Hillary Clinton “made this same point more digestible for the public by ladling on warm-fuzzy sauce about a “village” raising a child,” writes Riggs.

Here’s your counterpoint, from 2011, on whether the U.S. is “investing” enough in education. Another half-trillion or so ought to turn things around, I think. No wonder Ron Paul’s getting into home-schooling.

Harris-Perry, a political science professor at Tulane, has a daughter. Or, I guess you could say that a female child with some of Harris-Perry’s genes belongs to the New Orleans collective.

Mo’ butter

Norway’s butter shortage illustrates the dangers of monopoly control, argues Andrew Coulson on Cato @ Liberty. The Christmas baking season is at risk for lack of butter. Russian smugglers are trying to bring black-market butter across the border.

Norway’s butter monopolist, Tine, is protected from foreign competitors by government-imposed import tariffs, writes Coulson. That’s why neighboring Sweden has plenty of butter at lower prices.

Angry Norwegians are threatening to dump the butter monopoly. Meanwhile, the U.S. has “its own $600 billion per year government protected monopoly that makes Tine look like small potatoes,” writes Coulson.

Stossel on ‘Stupid in America’

John Stossel’s Stupid in America, which criticizes the “K-12 monopoly,” will air tonight on Fox at 10 EDT. Education spending has soared since 1970, while reading, math and science achievement has remained about the same, Stossel reports.
Cost of Education Graph

Hey, big spender

The U.S. spends more on education than any OECD country except for Switzerland, according to Veronique de Rugy, a Mercatus Center senior research fellow.  The U.S. spends an average of $91,700 per student between the ages of six and 15, a third more than high-scoring Finland, she estimates.

Uneducated perhaps, but not unfunded

If you want accurate information on education spending, rely on comedian Jon Stewart’s Daily Show not on New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, writes Andrew J. Coulson on Cato @ Liberty.

In The Uneducated American, economist Krugman writes that, “for the past 30 years our political scene has been dominated by the view that any and all government spending is a waste of taxpayer dollars.” As a result, U.S. education has been “neglected” and “has inevitably suffered.”

Spending per student “has more than doubled since 1970, after adjusting for inflation,” Coulson responds.

Paul Krugman may not be an “uneducated American,” but he’s certainly a badly misinformed one.

Coulson wondered how Jon Stewart, the most trusted news source, handled the issue. In the Daily Show’s on-line forum, he found a commenter’s claim that spending per pupil has risen by a factor of 10 since 1945, after adjusting for inflation.

That’s not too far off the mark. The actual multiple is just under 8. So folks who get their facts from the Daily Show’s website will be better informed on this subject than those who trust the Nobel Prize winning New York Times economist.

Higher public school spending doesn’t spur economic growth, Coulson adds, because higher spending doesn’t lead to higher academic achievement.

Schools average $9,666 per student

Public schools spent an average of $9,666 per student in 2007, an increase of 5.8 percent from the previous year, the Census reports. The federal share was 8.3 percent.

New York schools spend the most per student ($15,981) while Utah sepnds the least ($5,683). “Also in the top three were New Jersey at $15,691 per pupil and Washington, D.C. at $14,324,” reports the New York Times.

The stimulus funds will stimulate the appetite for more federal education spending, predicted Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

”Once you start giving money to people, you create the appetite for more. I think the 2009 numbers will be a lot different than the 2007 ones,” Whitehurst said.

In Louisiana, 17.6 percent of education funding comes from Washington; in New Jersey, it’s only 4 percent.