The State of Education: Bigger Budgets Don’t Mean Better Results

By June 18, 2006General

Been reading John Stossel’s new book, “Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity“, debunking scores of popular myths and scares. Along the way, he he hits lots of topics and has an entire chapter on schools. Our interest was piqued by some charts he puts up about per-pupil spending and test scores, and so we went hunting for the most recent data.

Here’s the chart on spending per pupil in the US. You’ll see it has doubled in absolute terms since 1990 and has quadrupled in constant dollars over the last four decades. If you read the popular media, folks are always saying that we need to increase spending in order to improve education, so it would be logical to assume they are related, right?


Here are some scores. You’ll see some that show a marginal improvement, but none show improvement commensurate with the increase in spending. Just click on each to follow the link:

4th Grade Reading
4th Grade Math
4th Grade Science

8th Grade Reading
8th Grade Math
8th Grade Science

12th Grade Science

As you can see from the above, educational improvement doesn’t necessarily follow the money. As the biggest end user of the product of American education, manufacturers have a real stake in the end product. NAM President John Engler is fond of saying that every manufacturer uses more metrics in one day than any school system uses in a year. It’s time the schools started using some metrics, and started demanding results — and not just bigger budgets. It’s time for a little accountability in the schools.