Monday, September 17, 2012

School Spending

Interesting piece of information from David Brooks' commentary on the Detroit teacher's strike:

"...In 1960, Americans spent roughly $2,800 per student, in today’s dollars. Now we spend roughly $11,000 per student. This spending binge has not produced comparable gains in student outcomes."


At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tying spending to student outcomes is illogical. The two greatest indicators of student achievement are the income and education level of the parents. Roughly half of Americans are low income today, and the issues in student achievement are seen in every town in every state across the nation where there are students in low income/poorly educated homes.

The issues in public education are predominantly societal issues, not the teaching abilities of instructors or anything inherently wrong in schools.

I'll throw out a few things that have raised the cost of education since the 1960s... computers (and the endless upgrade cycle), software, textbook prices, mainstreamed special education, background checks, uniform bussing, breakfast and lunch meal programs, and changes in virtually everything that is done out of fear of lawsuits -- from building design or upgrades to classroom configurations and instructional materials. To compare public education in the 1960s to public education today you might as well be comparing two different planets.

Oh, and of course, schools employ psychological counselors because there are MANY kids coming from troubled homes. A single disruptive student pulls an entire classroom down, and today every classroom has a handful of such students, at a minimum... but conversely, classroom aides are being eliminated and class sizes ballooned, leaving teachers to be not much better than zoockeepers.

You probably noticed the mention of breakfast programs... that's not just because kids from poor families who come to school without having eaten breakfast make for very poor learners, but because some of these parents don't have their act together enough to even be thinking about preparing a breakfast, or getting their kid to school on time, etc. Sit in a school office for a morning and you'll see the same students coming in 30 minutes, an hour, or two hours later on a regular basis, and their parents dressed like they just woke up.

And, since public schools began accepting students with special needs (this started in the 1970s with legal battles), hey, a single student can cost a school district $30K/year if he needs his own separate teacher, which some do.

Virtually nothing politicians are doing today to 'fix' public education will work because they don't even understand the problem (in fact, much of what they're doing is making the situation profoundly worse -- but that's a separate rant). Shouting "accountability!" and casting blame is the quick fix they're looking for, but after several decades, it's clear they are clueless about what's happening to America. The smokescreen is fading, and they'll need to get their heads out of their asses soon.

But, uhh, school spending? I could write volumes about how we're not spending remotely close to enough. The caveat, of course, is that they shouldn't poor money into public education until they know where the money should be spent. Giving billions to testing corporations isn't the answer.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Indeed. So much of school spending has little if anything to do with actual learning, as you say. Like any government operation, they become a catch- all for everything.

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The short version of my rant is that public education doesn't need fixing. Society needs fixing. If you're an educated parent, your kid will do great in any public school that provides a physically-safe education.

Finland is often cited as an example to follow, but the funny thing about Finland is that when their public school system was failing in the 1970s, they decided to push equity in education, not teacher accountability... and it's been a tremendous success.

Public education needs MORE money, not less, which is what set me off about your post. Instead, a multitude of reforms, pushed by conservative think tanks, have been busily stripping public education of resources for close to 20 years now. I'm not suggesting politicians are aware of the issues; many of them sign on for the idea of ending teacher unions. These reforms... standardized tests with literally impossible goals, charter schools, vouchers, etc. are all part of the same plan... declare public education a failure and privatize it. Philadelphia and all of Louisiana are the first to fall.

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous grackle said...

The U.S. census has more information than you could possibly want at

From table 8, it says California spends $5,643 per pupil on instruction per year (as of 2010) and $3,371 pp on support services. This makes California 35th in spending among the states on a per pupil basis. In terms of revenue California is 40th.


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