As Congress considered the unprecedented federal spending increase on education programs, Members should take the time to check out the American Legislative Exchange Council’s new Report Card on American Education. The report examines the condition of public schooling in the states and offers policymakers lessons from the experience of our laboratories of democracy. One key finding: simply spending more on education doesn’t guarantee better student outcomes.
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett summarized this point in a foreword to the report:
The fact is that more dollars do not necessarily guarantee better schools. Some schools spend more and get lackluster results, while other schools with fewer funds and tools give children quality educations. In our country’s case, results are in the basement, while spending is through the roof. With education spending as the veritable black hole of state budgets, legislators should take heed. Per-pupil expenditures in 1983 were 56 percent less than they are today, but student performance has improved only slightly. Even those states placing in the top 10 of the ALEC Report Card – including number one – should pause before jumping for too much joy. Too many of their students are still below national proficiency levels in fourth- and eighth grade math and reading. High school results are just as grim.
We reached a similar conclusion in our 2008 paper: Does Spending More on Education Improve Academic Achievement?
Parents, taxpayers, and everyone concerned about the condition of our nation’s public schools should recognize the urgent need for serious reforms to get more out of the considerable dollars our nation spends on public education. If history is any guide, simply spending more alone isn’t the answer.